Liz Writes


America City by Chris Beckett review – dark vision of our future

The Arthur C Clarke winner’s dystopia is set in a future US ravaged by climate change and war The signposts have been around for decades, and the territory is increasingly well mapped. So while the past may be a foreign country, the future is an increasingly familiar one – in which we continue to be […]


Courage is fear that has said its prayers*

I know a glaciologist who spends much of her time deep in ice. Like many of her colleagues, Birgitte has found and measured pieces of the climate jigsaw for herself. She can see how and where they fit in the future picture of our shared home, to the point where she sometimes wishes she knew less.

The Egg-Timer Challenge

There’s nothing like willing slavery. Every week, I set my fiction writing students one, two or sometimes three timed writing exercises in class. I am always impressed by the quality of first-draft work they produce in these short, intense bursts. When I say quality, I am not talking about beautiful sentences (though these can emerge […]

Family Death in the Alps: a double family puzzle

On a Swiss holiday in 1937, Liz Jensen’s grandmother and 19-year-old uncle had a row. He stormed out and vanished. Four days later, she was found dead. Eighty years on, the family is still in the grip of the mystery…

Seeing The Ninth Life of Louis Drax on screen is like meeting an eerie stranger

Fourteen years after my kid in a coma first appeared at the kitchen table, the film – starring Jamie Dornan, Sarah Gadon and Aaron Paul – is to appear at last At 12 and seven my sons were pyromaniacs, puzzle solvers, pond-life specialists and keepers of small, doomed pets. One day in 2002, at the […]


On the set of The 9th Life of Louis Drax

“The main character, a kid called Louis Drax, is in a coma. He’s fallen off a cliff on a family picnic. He might have been pushed by one of his parents. His doctor falls in love with his mother. Anyway, the kid does nothing but lie in bed and talk to a ghost with a […]

Call That a Mermaid?

The Birth of Denmark’s Most Famous Statue

So he wants sex with a woman who is half fish. But has he thought it through? wonders Eline Eriksen as she pours more schnapps for the visiting tycoon. Carl Jacobsen, founder of the Carlsberg Group and veteran art collector has come to her husband’s sculpture studio on a mission. “I want a sculpture that does justice to Miss Price de Plane’s curvaceousness,” Jacobsen is telling Edvard.

Vishful Sinking

Once upon a time, at the height of the Danish cartoon crisis, I was cycling down a Copenhagen street when I glimpsed something extraordinary on the kerbside: a miniature Danish flag, fluttering in a breeze of car-exhaust, planted firmly in the centre of a fresh dog-turd. I was impressed. There were various political demonstrations going […]

Liz Reviews

Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

Climate change: the spectre hanging over every child, is the single most urgent issue of our times – and a challenge to any novelist. But how to write fiction about the Earth’s storm-filled future without a whiff of the pulpit? Barbara Kingsolver’s paradoxical solution is to set her story on a sheep farm in the […]

The Prophets of Eternal Fjord by Kim Leine

Now out in English, Leine’s astonishing, hallucinatory journey into the frozen heart of Denmark’s colonial darkness is inspired by events during the reign of the mad Danish king, Christian VII. Read more (outside link)

Slade House by David Mitchell

“Tonight feels like a board game co-designed by MC Escher on a bender and Stephen King in a fever,” observes a spooked member of a university’s paranormal society in David Mitchell’s manically ingenious new novel, Slade House. It’s hard not to read the assessment as the author’s compressed verdict on his own Halloween-timed offering, but the book is much more […]

A Funny, Creepy Voyage for All Ages

In darkly interesting times, authors who can satisfy a previously unidentified hunger have the world at their feet. Writing as Lemony Snicket, Daniel Handler gave young readers a drug they didn’t know they craved until they tried it. The wild gothic of the Unfortunate Events series was the literary equivalent of a scorpion lollipop: a macabre treat. […]

Top 10 Environmental Disasters

“Drastic change, danger, mass destruction, lives upended, radical re-thinkings of the status quo, new societal rules, moral dilemmas, the grinding physicality of daily survival … what’s not to love? Environmental cataclysms open huge imaginative possibilities for any writer– and reader – with an interest in big ideas and a penchant for the apocalyptic.” Read more […]

The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman

In literature, nothing dates like tomorrow. The hypothetical readers of the late 21st century may look back on the Armageddon fixation of some of today’s dystopic fiction with an indulgent smile. But they may also be struck by how much of the political and physical landscape they recognise. That the radically altered world on the […]

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

“I wanted you to have an extraordinary life,” confesses Rosemary’s mother in Karen Joy Fowler’s wise, provocative and wildly endearing take on family love. Did no one warn Mrs Cooke to be careful what she wished for? Had she any inkling of the family cataclysm her innocent desire would engender, and the complex repercussions her daughter […]