Fiction From Across the Pond

Excited about the television series Downton Abbey?  Want to learn more about that small country across the pond where people almost speak our language? This sampling of contemporary novels includes work by some of the best British novelists working today.

Compiled by:
Keith C.
Arthur and George

Julian Barnes

This novel channels the voices of two Englishmen: Sir Arthur  Conan Doyle, lawyer and famous mystery writer, and George Edalji, who was  accused of mutilating animals. Sir Conor Doyle actually represented him in  court. A novel focused on guilt and honor.

Children of Men

P.D. James

In this dystopian novel, men's sperm count drops  precipitously, and women can no longer have children. However, twenty-five  years later Julian mysteriously becomes pregnant and fifty-year old Theodore  Faron must step out of character to involve himself in other people's lives. An  absorbing read that shows humankind at its bleakest and most hopeful.

Cloud Atlas: A Novel

David Mitchell

This rollercoaster of a novel features linked narratives of  a 19th century lawyer, a 1930s composer, a California journalist, a  future slave, and a British vanity publisher among others that all have a  birthmark in the shape of a comet. A mix of voices, stories, histories and  futures that is multidimensional and strives to tell complicated tales of being  human.

Juliet, Naked

Nick Hornby

In the dreary seaside town of Gooleness, Annie puts up with  a boyfriend who spends all of his free time discussing or listening to the  American rock star, Tucker Crowe. After Annie writes a negative review of her  boyfriend's hero, the couple split, and amazingly, the rocker contacts her. A  music-world triangle that examines how our obsessions both free and bind us.

Never Let Me Go

Kazuo Ishiguro

At thirty-one, Kathy reconnects with other students from her  boarding school. But Hailsham was no ordinary institution. There clones were  educated with an emphasis on the arts and health--to be organ donors. Now this  group of young adults can't find its place in the world. A novel about  expendable lives that are really not at all expendable.

On Chesil Beach

Ian McEwan

Newlyweds, Florence and Edward begin, a honeymoon by the  sea. They discuss their future and very different pasts--she's a rich violinist,  he's poor man from the country who has managed to earn a history degree. They try  to meld their differing sexual and family styles and ideals. This novel focuses  on how two people forge a bond shortly before the sexual landscape is  revolutionized by the tumultuous 1960s.

Ordinary Thunderstorms

William Boyd

Climatologist Adam Kindred visits London for a job interview  where he meets a stranger in a restaurant. Afterwards, he visits him at his  home --this is where this literary novel turns into a Hitchcock-like thriller.  Someone has stabbed an acquaintance and he is dying. Kindred is the prime  suspect. Follow his descent into the London underground to solve the mystery  and save himself.


Anita Brookner

Until she recently retired, Brookner taught art history, but  in the summers she took to the pen. In this, her 24th outing, she  presents the story of an elderly man whose social circle has shrunk  dramatically. She shows how a new friend reawakens him to art and feelings.

The Lost Garden

Helen Humphreys

During World War II, shy gardener Gwen Buchanan leaves her  quiet horticultural research station in London, to manage a motley crew of  young female partiers at a huge country estate.   There she cajoles the women to grow vegetables for the war effort. In  the process she discovers a secret garden with a mystery within that deeply  connects to her own life. A novel about how life circumstances push us into  new, vulnerable territories.

The Master Bedroom

Teresa Hadley

Kate Flynn, professor of Russian literature, returns home to  a village in Wales to care for her senile Mom. Suddenly, she must confront  everything that has not gone right with her life.  She meets a married man, the brother of an  old friend, and simultaneously begins a relationship with his teenage son. A  novel about how life's changes force one to confront both one's future and  one's past.

The White Garden

Stephanie Barron

American gardening expert, Jo Bellamy, retreats to England,  to study the famed garden of Sissinghurst, designed by Vita, Virginia Woolf's  lover. Bellamy's grandfather has just killed himself, and once in England, Jo,  believes there are clues that might reveal why. A spirited gardening romp with  interesting literary and historical references.

White Teeth

Zadie Smith

Smith's well-received debut covers the dynamic  world of two families in multicultural London. Archie marries a Jamaican woman;  they live near his army pal, Samad, a Bengali Muslim. In funny, richly detailed  scenes, Smith proves that families, although vastly different in background and  culture, share similar goals for their loved ones.

Yellow Dog

Amis Martin

Books by this author elicit strong responses from the public  and critics, but many of his books, including this one, have won awards. Yellow Dog examines the "obscenification of life" through stories of five men  including King Henry the X. Vivid writing but not for the faint of heart.