Posts tagged book review

Review of Sworn Virgin by Elvira Dones

Did you know that there’s an Albanian tradition in which, if there are no male heirs, a woman can choose to become a man, as long as she swears herself to virginity for life? Neither did I until I read Sworn Virgin, a fascinating novel by Albanian writer Elvira Dones, translated into English and published in 2014 by And Other Stories (a wonderful not-for-profit, largely reader-funded UK publisher). I’ve been interested in Albanian literature ever since I discovered Ismail Kadare (who wrote the foreword for this book) many years ago, and… Read More

Review: The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

The self-fulfilling prophecy is an ancient and fascinating component of literature. From Oedipus to Macbeth and beyond, characters have wrestled with disturbing or tempting prophecies, often with tragic results. As we survey the wreckage of their lives, we wonder to what extent the events were indeed fated or foreseen, and to what extent the characters’ own actions brought about their downfall. It’s a great device for exploring the concept of free will. A recent addition to the literature is The Fishermen by Nigerian writer Chigozie Obioma. In a way, this is a simple… Read More

Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun by Sarah Ladipo Manyika

I read this book back in the spring, before it got shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize and got a fair bit of attention. But, as you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t been blogging very regularly, so I’m only writing about it now. What I liked about Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun was the way it explored the contrast between the internal and external life of its main character. We all have an internal life, don’t we? A set of memories and desires and fantasies that often don’t bear much… Read More

Review of Dodge and Burn by Seraphina Madsen

Imagine Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Hunter Thompson engaging in a wild, drug-fuelled orgy somewhere out in the Arizona desert, and by some mystical process conceiving a daughter who then turns around and gives them the finger, inverting their male-dominated world and creating a road trip novel for the 21st century, complete with a strong female lead who might have made a great companion for Sal and Dean if they hadn’t been so busy gunning for girls and turning their patronizing male gazes on beautiful honey-haired darlings. Actually, don’t imagine… Read More

Review of All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

The first thing to say about this book is that the prose is just stunning. It had me hooked from the first lines: Another sheep, mangled and bled out, her innards not yet crusting and the vapours rising from her like a steamed pudding. Crows, their beaks shining, strutting and rasping, and when I waved my stick they flew to the trees and watched, flaring out their wings, singing, if you could call it that. I shoved my boot in Dog’s face to stop him from taking a string of… Read More

Jacks Hill Road by Jennifer Grahame

We’ve all driven down one of those streets, haven’t we? One of those streets where the lawns are manicured, the pavements are clean and uncracked, and the houses are hidden away behind large gates. One of those streets where you can feel money dripping from the trees. Jacks Hill Road is that kind of road, and it’s the Jamaican setting for an entertaining novel by Jennifer Grahame. We’re introduced to it through the eyes of the housekeeper, Louise, as she struggles up the hill in the heat of the morning… Read More

Review of The Pimlico Kid by Barry Walsh

Writing about Indian Magic recently reminded me of another book set in the 1960s, one I read a while ago and wanted to write about, but never got around to. That book is The Pimlico Kid by Barry Walsh, a beautifully written tale about a dramatic childhood summer in 1960s London. Billy Driscoll starts the summer as a boy, peeping over a neighbour’s garden wall with his friend Rooksy, watching the beautiful Madge Smith hang out her washing. By the end of the summer, he’s experienced love, excitement, danger, a couple of… Read More

Review of Glow by Ned Beauman

Glow is a wonderfully inventive book, with some beautiful writing. Unlike Beauman’s previous two books, this one has a contemporary setting, and it’s very contemporary, taking on things like corporate globalisation, drug culture and surveillance. The plot is entirely implausible, but that’s part of the fun of it. Beauman seems to delight in setting up his complicated scenario involving a rare drug called glow, disappearances in the Burmese immigrant community of south London, an evil corporation, a pirate radio station foxes exhibiting strange behaviour patterns, and much, much more. He succeeds,… Read More

Under the Tripoli Sky by Kamal Ben Hameda

Peirene Press is known for publishing contemporary European literature in translation, but its latest offering takes us a little further afield, to Tripoli in the 1960s. Author Kamal Ben Hameda lives in Holland and writes in French, but this novella is set squarely in the Libya of his youth. As a child growing up in England in the 1980s, the only time I ever heard about Libya was in news stories about Colonel Gaddafi. These days the news stories are different, but still it’s a country I know very little about beyond… Read More