National Poetry Day, 2017

  Yet did I never breathe its pure serene Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold: Then felt I like some watcher of the skies  When a new planet swims into his ken;                                                   (John Keats) The first time I realised people attached significance to poetry, other than it being something that just … Continue reading National Poetry Day, 2017

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Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West – a quiet challenge

This novel, whilst timeless in its depiction of people forced to leave their homes because of national and religious uprisings, feels very important right now. As in today. Angela Merkel has won a fourth term – but Germany, like many other countries in the past few years, has seen a surge in popularity for more … Continue reading Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West – a quiet challenge

Lincoln in the Bardo – a master craftsman at work

At the time of reviewing, George Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo seems to be the hot favourite to win this year’s Man Booker Prize, and I can see why it has its staunch supporters. I’m ashamed to admit that this is the first time I’ve read Saunders’ work and, based on this one, I’ll certainly be seeking … Continue reading Lincoln in the Bardo – a master craftsman at work

Fiona Mozley’s Elmet – a very strong contender.

Mozley’s writing is so perfect in its tone and depth that it’s hard to believe that this is her first novel. It is literally breath-taking – I found myself holding my breath as I read the concluding chapters – and rich in its details. The novel’s epigraph, taken from Ted Hughes’ Remains of Elmet, is fitting … Continue reading Fiona Mozley’s Elmet – a very strong contender.

Charlie Laidlaw’s The Things We Learn When We’re Dead – Clever and Thought-Provoking

This is a brave novel, juggling the BIG questions with a confident voice. Laidlaw gives us a double narrative: we follow Lorna Love’s story, with her life as a Law student in Edinburgh, and all the people she loves, works with, and loses, and we also have Lorna’s ‘afterlife’ sections – something the reader has … Continue reading Charlie Laidlaw’s The Things We Learn When We’re Dead – Clever and Thought-Provoking

Emma Donoghue’s The Wonder – Claustrophobic brilliance

A warning – this review mentions specific plot details, so look away now if you have still to read this brilliant novel (just make sure you do read my piece eventually!) Emma Donoghue’s protagonist, Lib, is a highly competent English nurse who is out of her depth in a Catholic Irish community in the mid-Nineteenth … Continue reading Emma Donoghue’s The Wonder – Claustrophobic brilliance

Elisabeth Hobbes – A New Voice in Historical Romances

Hobbes’ novels have a rich depth of historical knowledge – and there are no jarring anachronisms – which means a reader is quickly immersed in the medieval world of her work. She writes very successful romances, with all the dramatic tension and passion we demand of such stories, but leaves us in no doubt that … Continue reading Elisabeth Hobbes – A New Voice in Historical Romances

Maggie O’Farrell’s This Must Be the Place – A Rich Supporting Cast

In Farrell’s seventh novel we circle around Daniel's and Claudette's stories, slowly working through the layers of their lives in order to arrive at a clear sense of their marriage, if such a thing is possible. The chapters, offering perspectives from different characters, don’t follow an obvious chronology and the effect is that of a … Continue reading Maggie O’Farrell’s This Must Be the Place – A Rich Supporting Cast