Books of the year 2011: Michael Holroyd

Island of Wings - Karin Altenberg


Karin Altenberg's Island of Wings (Quercus, £18.99) is a remarkable first novel by a talented Swedish writer. If anyone had told me that I would be gripped by a historical novel set on the bleak island of St Kilda in the first half of the 19th century, I would have protested strongly - and I would have been wrong. I was enchanted by the magic of the storytelling. This is a novelist with a future. Beryl Bainbridge's posthumous road book, The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress (Little, Brown, £16.99), which follows a mysterious quest through the United States in the late 1960s, has the oddness and illogicality of a dream from which there is no awakening. "We are all looking for something . . . Or someone," she writes. This is not vintage Bainbridge but it is poignant and self-revealing.

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