Date Archives November 2010

Reading binge

I was on a panel recently at Whitechapel Idea Store with Alex Wheatle and Mark Piggott, discussing “London: fact and fiction”. When I heard a week in advance what the topic was going to be, I thought about all the famous London books I hadn’t read, starting with Alex Wheatle’s and taking in other big books like Brick Lane and The Buddha of Suburbia. How could I go on a panel and not have read all these books? Well, in truth I probably could have managed OK – the discussion… Read More

“Ashes” by Matthew Crow

The opening image of Ashes is a powerful one – a group of kids trying to stone a cat to death. The reason? “Something to do”. The tone is set for the rest of the novel. Bleakness, lack of hope, pointless violence, misdirected anger, innocent victims. The setting is Meadow Well council estate in North-East England in the early 1990s, site of a real-life riot which Crow fictionalises in this debut novel. One interesting technique in the book is the way that characters are drawn almost with equal weight. There… Read More

“The Dark Child” by Camara Laye

This is a fairly short and simple autobiographical account of a boy growing up in Guinea in the 1930s and 40s. Camara Laye wrote it in 1954 while studying in France, and you can feel the nostalgia for his homeland. Although the writing style is quite understated, the emotion is communicated quite effectively, and it’s very moving in places. As the title suggests, the book only deals with his childhood, and it is faithful to a child’s outlook on the world. At the start, his entire world is the veranda… Read More

“The Sea” by John Banville

John Banville is a magnificent prose writer. I loved his earlier book Birchwood, so thought I would try out The Sea, which won him the Booker Prize in 2005. I liked it, but did feel a little bit disappointed. The writing was still beautiful. The blurb on the cover from the Daily Telegraph was not an overstatement: “They are like hits of some delicious drug, these sentences.” I really enjoyed the descriptions, the rhythm of the prose, the unusual words, the constant freshness of the language. The characters and plot,… Read More

“Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman” by Friedrich Christian Delius

A novel in a single sentence. That was what intrigued me about this book. To be honest I generally avoid World War Two books – not because I don’t think it’s important, but just because I feel as if I have already overdosed on books, films, TV programmes etc etc exploring every angle of the war, and I’d need a really good reason to read about that again, rather than any of the infinite number of other places and times. The innovative narrative structure gave me that reason. It turns… Read More

Buy Bitmead Books

As regular readers will know, my novel On the Holloway Road was published as a result of winning the Luke Bitmead Writers’ Bursary, an award set up by the family of Luke Bitmead, a writer who died tragically young. My publisher, Legend Press, is doing a special offer at the moment, comprising both of Luke’s books, plus mine and also this year’s winner The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall, all for £25. If my sums are correct, that’s more than 20% off the retail price. The offer is only… Read More