â€œHuman beings are compulsive makers andÂ believers of stories,â€ Marcel Therouxâ€™s fifth novel reminds us. The author of Strange Bodies engagingly explores the act of storytelling and how it shapes our selves and societies, from religion to politics.
On one level, this is a pacy adventure moving from modern-day south London to 19th-century France, Russia and India, whereÂ a young man becomes a spy and discovers a manuscript holding a secret. Also interwoven are metafictional elements and musings on the nature of narrative and the connection between life and language. The â€œsecret booksâ€ are not only real but become a metaphor for stories that remain seething in silence, for paths not taken and â€œthe worlds that might have beenâ€.
â€¢ The Secret Books by Marcel Theroux is published by Faber (Â£12.99). To order a copy for Â£11.04 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over Â£10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of Â£1.99