Novel of the week: Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley
Fiona Mozley paints a ‘compelling’ portrait of city life in a novel set in a crumbling Soho town house
Fiona Mozley’s debut novel, the Booker-shortlisted Elmet, was a family saga “steeped in legends of the Yorkshire countryside”, said Katie Rosseinsky in the London Evening Standard. Her follow-up shows she is “equally well-attuned to the rhythms of urban life”. Set in a crumbling Soho town house, Hot Stew features a large, varied cast: a pair of prostitutes, Precious and Tabitha; a down-and-out couple known as Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee, who perform “lacklustre magic tricks” in the pub; and, of course, an “unscrupulous” property developer who wants to turn it into luxury flats. Mozley skilfully knits their “disparate stories” together, creating a “compelling” portrait of city life.
Although her characters tend towards caricatures, this doesn’t much matter, said Lara Feigel in The Guardian. “Like Dickens or Balzac, Mozley is interested in breathing life into clichés, using two-dimensionality to gain breadth and social reach.” At a time when so many young novelists are taking refuge in the dystopian, it’s refreshing to encounter a writer reinvigorating “large-scale social realism for our times”.
John Murray 320pp £16.99; The Week Bookshop £13.99
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