In briefs: Homeland Elegies; What You Can See from Here; The Accidental Footballer – review

Ayad Akhtar
Headline, £8.99, pp368

A searing survey of a conflicted, ultra-capitalist, increasingly xenophobic US, Ayad Akhtar’s remarkable blend of memoir and fiction sees his narrator – named after himself – battling with his Pakistani heritage and a “culture that didn’t want us”. There are fascinating paradoxes and intriguing twists: his cardiologist father treats Donald Trump for a heart scare and is later seduced by his politics, while Akhtar profits from a get-rich-quick scheme. Homeland Elegies is a multilayered assessment of what it means to live in an age of “thoughtless and obsessive suspicion”.

Mariana Leky (trans by Tess Lewis)
Bloomsbury, £8.99, pp336

When Selma dreams of an okapi, it means someone is about to die. The charmingly strange 1980s West German village in which she lives is consumed by this omen, yet Leky’s international bestseller – beautifully translated by Tess Lewis – is witty, generous and optimistic. As Luisa, the narrator of the novel and Selma’s granddaughter, grows up, the darkness, loss and hardship is replaced by healing, transformation and acceptance. Leky’s vision of the world might sound whimsical but there’s something bigger, more bittersweet at play here – as Luisa puts it: “You can’t always choose which adventure you’re made for.”

Pat Nevin
Octopus, £20, pp352

The clue is in the title. Whether it was his love of jangly 1980s indie music, Chekhov or art, the former Chelsea and Everton winger Pat Nevin was different. He was a well-rounded human being playing a sport he enjoyed, rather than defining himself entirely as a footballer. Full of interesting social context – he grew up in a socialist, religious, working-class Glaswegian family – The Accidental Footballer makes the act of being fundamentally decent and broad-minded seem almost countercultural in a sport that, until recently at least, appeared suspicious of intelligence and individuality. Refreshing.

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