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Fiction THERE BUT FOR THE by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton) pounds 16.99 THERE But For The is the fifth novel by Scottish author Ali Smith, who has been twice shortlisted for the Man Booker prize for Hotel World and The Accidental.

Her latest book centres around Miles's selfincarceration in a family's spare bedroom, narrated by four characters, each with their own tenuous links to him.

The protagonists include a woman with a short-lived childhood friendship with Miles, a child living close to the house he's locked inside, and an infirm elderly woman, who all have their own personal battles to contend with while uncovering a little more about Miles.

The novel examines people's perceived and inner identities, especially relating to their place in the world, and brims with playful language exploring the meaning behind words and actions, taking apart the middle-class pretensions that the characters are trapped within.

It's a strong offering that dissects the heart of modern life.

Ben Major Fiction THE GIRL IN THE POLKA DOT DRESS by Beryl Bainbridge (Little, Brown) pounds 16.99.

LAST year the literary world lost a doyenne of contemporary fiction to cancer, but Beryl Bainbridge showed no signs of waning when completing her swansong.

The result is an uncompromising novel that begs pardon to American history by marrying a road trip across the States with the spirit of a typically English outing.

and A wistful, young Londoner called Rose arrives in the US in the summer of 1968 to meet Washington Harold. They are both in search of the almost mythical, and at times metaphorical, Dr Wheeler, who is part of Robert Kennedy's time campaign entourage.

Rose's motives are purely nostalgic while Harold's concern the past, too, but for different reasons.

The author's economic language effortlessly captures the characters' frailties as they become embroiled in both political and social conspiracy and struggle to escape previous events despite living in a time of transition.

Denise Bailey Non-fiction OCTAVIA, DAUGHTER OF GOD by Jane Shaw (Jonathan Cape) pounds 18.99.

THEY say God moves in mysterious ways. But even still, you could be forgiven for not expecting the new messiah to be a vicar's daughter called Mabel who lives in Bedford.

But unbelievably, this was the foundation of the Panacea Society, a community of women formed in the wake of the First World War.

Central to their belief that they would achieve immortality here on Earth was that Mabel Barltrop, a vicar's widow who had spent time in psychiatric hospitals, was the new messiah.

Jane Shaw tells the story with a great deal of respect for the women, and a few men, who lived together, following their own rules and regulations, and sought a new way of living.

She gained the trust of the few remaining members of the Panacea Society, giving her access to a vast quantity of material, and pays them back through this responsible re-telling of their fascinating history.

Lauren Turner
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jun 25, 2011
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