Posts tagged fiction

“The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz

I quite liked this book. I think that, perhaps, if I had come upon it by chance in a neglected corner of a bookshop and read it without any preconceptions, I would have really liked it. But I did have preconceptions. A couple of years ago this was a hot book, recommended in all the end-of-year newspaper reviews, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, winner of the American National Book Critics Circle Award. I was expecting something “Astoundingly great” (Time), “Technical breathtaking” (Time Out), “A triumph of style and wit” (San… Read More

“Southcrop Forest” by Lorne Rothman

I’ve always been interested in stories with non-human characters. I have an idea to write a story one day about a city – not the people in it, but the city itself, as a living character with its own actions and motivations. Trouble is, I’m not really sure where to start. So I was intrigued by this book, in which the main characters are trees. Trees can’t move around or do very much, so how could a whole novel be written about them? Well, Lorne Rothman manages it, and it… Read More

“Commonwealth Short Stories”, part 4

In the final part of this series of posts, I’m reviewing stories by Mavis Gallant, V.S. Naipaul, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Hal Porter and Chinua Achebe. Mavis Gallant (Canada) – Orphans’ Progress According to the introduction, Gallant’s work mostly deals with broken families, and this is no exception: two girls are taken into care because their mother is irresponsible. They go to live with relatives, and then at a school run by nuns, until finally they have forgotten where they came from. At the time it seemed normal – it was… Read More

“Commonwealth Short Stories”, part 3

Continuing the series, here are my notes on the short stories by Randolph Stow, Janet Frame, Andrew Salkey and Ezekiel Mphahlele. Randolph Stow (Australia) – Magic This is based on the ‘sulumwoya’ myth of the Trobriand Islands, where incest between a brother and a sister is the supreme sexual taboo. The introduction says he took the myth and added psychological realism and more description of the setting. But I couldn’t see much evidence of either – it felt like a traditional myth. The lust was heavily foreshadowed from the first… Read More

“Commonwealth Short Stories”, part 2

This is a continuation from yesterday’s post, which was becoming too long! Today, I’m reviewing stories by Mordecai Richler, Lee Kok Liang, Wilson Harris, Frank Sargeson and Amos Tutuola. Mordecai Richler (Canada) – The Summer my Grandmother was Supposed to Die The story is a narrated by a child, and starts with his grandmother being diagnosed with gangrene and a doctor saying “She won’t last a month.” Gradually she lasts longer and longer, and there are some good observations about how the family is prepared to help for weeks or… Read More

“Commonwealth Short Stories”, part 1

There are some excellent stories in here, from big names like V.S. Naipaul, Patrick White,  George Lamming, Chinua Achebe and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o (although this book is so old he is credited as James Ngugi, his birth name which he rejected as a sign of colonial influence). Also some good ones from writers I didn’t know, like R.K. Narayan from India and Amos Tutuola from Nigeria. The editors, Anna Rutherford and Donald Hannah, have also provided for each of the 18 stories a couple of pages of introduction giving background… Read More

“The Lazarus Project” by Aleksandar Hemon

There are three separate stories in this book: one is the killing of Russian Jewish immigrant Lazarus Averbuch by the Chicago Chief of Police in 1908; another is the struggle of the narrator, Bosnian immigrant Brik, to adapt to life in contemporary Chicago; a third is the 1990s war in the former Yugoslavia, as told mostly by Brik’s friend Rora. At first the different stories are told in separate chapters, but as the novel progresses they gradually merge, so that the narrative shifts abruptly between the different times and spaces…. Read More

“If on a winter’s night a traveler” by Italo Calvino

Reviewing this book in the New Yorker, John Updike said that it “manages to charm and entertain the reader in the teeth of a scheme designed to frustrate all reasonable readerly intentions.” I don’t think I can put it any better, so you may want to stop reading now. But I’ll put down the rest of my thoughts anyway. The most striking thing about this book is that addresses you, the reader, directly: the opening line is, “You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a… Read More

Article in The Bookseller

There was a nice piece about my novel On the Holloway Road in The Bookseller recently. It’s the main business magazine for the book industry in the UK, so hope it will get some people’s attention. There’s a scan of the article below, and you can also read it on my publisher’s website. Gives some good information about the book and the prize I won to get it published. (Scroll down to the bottom – it’s not “How to talk to girls”!)