WHO Knew? - The Murder Mile By Lesley McEvoy

I don’t normally like psychological thrillers but this one was different and quickly captured my attention... well and truly. I knew from the start that it was an impossible scenario and that there would have to be a rational explanation, so I was happy to embark on the journey. Interesting fact (apparently): not all psychopaths go on to murder people; there are more psychopaths in business than in prison. The beginning of the novel affirms the professional competency of the main…

Poem Of The Week: 'At The Juliet House, Verona' By Chrissy Banks

At the Juliet House, Verona You can buy a heart. Plastic, sealed with a seam. It’ll sit in your palm, unbeating. You can rub the bronze of Juliet’s right breast, wish for a new love to come to you within a year. You can stand on the balcony in blue shorts or a wedding dress and call your Romeo’s name. But the balcony was carved from an old sarcophagus for a Hollywood film of the play. And history shows no Juliet – although, if you write to her at this address, Juliet will answer. Chrissy Banks’…

Review: Mrs Pinto Drives To Happiness, By Reshma Ruia

“Once you label me, you negate me”…Søren Kierkegaard David Sedaris once said, “A good short story would take me out of myself and then stuff me back in, outsized now, and uneasy with the fit”. Chekhov’s short stories partly derive their visceral force from thematic accretion. Seminal messages adroitly amplified by dint of imbricated narratives, set side-by-side to form an ideological integument binding his ideas into something larger than the sum of its parts. Another virtue of the short story collection…

Violeta By Isabel Allende - A Review

Violeta traces the life of our eponymous protagonist, born ‘one stormy Friday in 1920, the year of the scourge.’ The opening passages, depicting her country’s reaction to the Spanish flu pandemic now feel uncannily familiar – and it is perhaps this understanding that brings Violeta’s world firmly into the forefront of our imaginations. The narrative is a story told not to us, the reader, but to a person that is dear to Violeta’s heart. This is the story of her…

Poem Of The Week: 'Hunt' By Róisin Tierney

Hunt Say, as the springbok twists, say as it turns In contradictory prongs above the veld, say as it turns and twists, say as the sun burns the black earth and turns it into dust, say as the hooves electrify the air and tap the dust upwards in spiral twists, so turns the earth, so turns the yellow sun, so hefts the huntsman to his blue-barreled gun and twists to catch the springbok in its sights and lifts the gun to meet the leaping deer which warps the air, which…

A Spell For The Departed: How To Burn A Woman By Claire Askew

When John Berger indirectly suggested that Francis Bacon was a ‘prophet of a pitiless world’ it was as a mark of reconsidered respect for an artist whose percipience is made continually relevant by an extreme cogency of thinking. Bacon’s tortured figures embody inalienable and depressing human truths: looking into screaming mouths we find corruption, power, violent abuse and hypocrisy deformed in cages of the imagination. And the brutal honesty which shadows his most visceral work is manifestly present throughout Claire Askew’s…

Choices, We All Have Choices: Both Of You By Adele Parks

The weather having been what it has over the last week or two, and Covid having restricted activities just a little, it’s been a great opportunity to read, if only to escape yet another ‘Christmas Special’ on TV. And this book was a good one! It is a hard review to write without giving away the plot but I’ll give it a go without need of a spoiler alert! The novel opens with an unidentified woman waking up to find…

‘From Small Things, Greatness’: A Single Thread By Tracy Chevalier

It’s strange how books make their way to you. In this case, a passing remark to a friend about my sister-in-law hoping to join the embroiderers’ group that maintains the altar cloths at York Minster, led immediately to her offering to lend her A Single Thread. By odd serendipity, the novel begins with a service of dedication in Winchester Cathedral for the newly-stitched hassocks, provided by the society of broderers. Obviously, as it was passing through my hands, I had…

Christmas Poem Of The Week: 'Mistletoe' By Walter De La Mare (1873-1956)

Mistletoe Sitting under the mistletoe (Pale-green, fairy mistletoe), One last candle burning low, All the sleepy dancers gone, Just one candle burning on, Shadows lurking everywhere: Some one came, and kissed me there. Tired I was; my head would go Nodding under the mistletoe (Pale-green, fairy mistletoe), No footsteps came, no voice, but only, Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely, Stooped in the still and shadowy air Lips unseen—and kissed me there. A dismal year draws to a grateful close, like heavy curtains against darkness. The contagion proliferates, if weakened, but we needn’t despair…

Interview With Tiago Miller – Translator Of The Song Of Youth, By Montserrat Roig

I recently reviewed The Song Of Youth by Montserrat Roig for our pages. Published by Fum d’Estampa Press, the reader is plunged into a bubbling cauldron of social and cultural tumult, kept hot by the pernicious flames of General Franco’s persecutions, and the repressive credo mandated by his callous cronies and mendacious myrmidons. In a series of intimate vignettes, we see all humanity, albeit through the cynosure of individual Catalonians and their profoundly personal struggles with identity, authenticity, repression and…

Lost In Translation: The Art Of Literary Translation

Unless you happen to be a polyglot, the diegetic joys and stylistic triumphs of literature not written in your mother tongue can only be savoured when encountered in translation. As such, literary translation is of inestimable value and those who confront its myriad, byzantine challenges rightly deserve both our fathomless gratitude, and unadulterated respect. Simply put, the monolingual reader would be entombed in just one reading room within a vast global library, all other floors and their prolific contents enigmatically…

Optimism: A Useful Trait: A Man Of Honour By Barbara Taylor Bradford

Like every good girl in the (very) late 70s, I read A Woman of Substance (first published in 1979), followed by the rest of the Emma Harte saga, as each novel came along. Books became dog-eared as they were passed around an eager reading circle. Unlike many of my friends, however, I did not watch the televised drama when it was first aired and, although my finger hovers over the button on the remote as I peruse the TV listings…

Poem Of The Week: From 'The Rape Of The Lock - Canto II' By Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

From ‘The Rape of the Lock – Canto II’ But now secure the painted vessel glides, The sun-beams trembling on the floating tides, While melting music steals upon the sky, And soften'd sounds along the waters die. Smooth flow the waves, the zephyrs gently play, Belinda smil'd, and all the world was gay. All but the Sylph—with careful thoughts opprest, Th' impending woe sat heavy on his breast. He summons strait his denizens of air; The lucid squadrons round the sails repair: Soft o'er the shrouds aerial whispers breathe, That seem'd but…

Review: Girl One By Sara Flannery Murphy

Girl One is a vibrant piece of speculative fiction that explores the notion of ‘miracle babies’ – those born to a group of women housed in a secluded commune in 1970s America, under the supervision and direction of an experimental medic, a Dr. Joseph Bellanger. Our protagonist is known as Girl One, the first born. A child of virgin birth, for Bellanger she is the living proof that parthenogenesis in humans is possible; his ambition has begun to be realised. …

"Coincidences Are As Rare As Unicorns" : A Song For The Dark Times By Ian Rankin

I’m a sucker for a detective programme on television, from the quaint village activities of Midsomer to the academic musings of Morse, the realism of Vera and the wild remoteness of Shetland – and, it has to be said, most things in between. TV’s Rebus always struck me as one of the grittier series – a dour Scot revealing the murkier side of the beautiful city of Edinburgh. Ian Rankin is a prolific writer, and this is his twenty eighth…

Poem Of The Week: 'The Latest Decalogue' By Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861)

The Latest Decalogue Thou shalt have one God only; who Would be at the expense of two? No graven images may be Worshipped, except the currency: Swear not at all; for, for thy curse Thine enemy is none the worse: At church on Sunday to attend Will serve to keep the world thy friend: Honour thy parents; that is, all From whom advancement may befall: …

Poem Of The Week: 'The Drum' By John Scott Of Amwell (1731-1783)

The Drum I HATE that drum's discordant sound, Parading round, and round, and round: To thoughtless youth it pleasure yields, And lures from cities and from fields, To sell their liberty for charms Of tawdry lace, and glittering arms; And when Ambition's voice commands, To march, and fight and fall, in foreign lands. I hate that drum's discordant sound, Parading round, and round, and round: To me it talks of ravaged plains, And burning towns and ruined swains, And mangled limbs, and dying groans, And widow's tears, and orphans’ moans; And all that Misery's hand…

‘The Heart Of Most Murders is …’ : The Heron’s Cry By Ann Cleeves

By George, I needed something a bit less maudlin given my recent assortment of reading matter, so the prospect of a new murder mystery was just the job, and there being only three deaths, it seemed positively lighthearted! I like Ann Cleeves’ books and was keen to meet her latest detective. This is the second Matthew Venn novel and it was purely by chance that The Last Call was on TV at the same time – not necessarily a good…

A Dream Of String Vests: Ian Duhig – New And Selected Poems

If it was possible to extrapolate and catalogue every reference, every literary or historical allusion, every formal device from this glittering collection of old and new poems, you’d be obliged, at the very least, to doff your cap to a stupendous intellect. Not that forelock-tugging is Ian Duhig’s bag: the cleaving towards equity and redress that animates his poetic mandate, no less than that of Tony Harrison, is an instinctive corrective to the double-handed absurdity of obeisance. Of the sort…

Review: The End Of The World Is Flat – Simon Edge

For those familiar with the work of Simon Edge, his recent novel is not going to disappoint. The End of the World is Flat brings us a refreshingly pointed reflection on the zeitgeist: a light-hearted lampoon, underpinned with a wit and intelligence that gives resonance to the satire. Woven into the prose is an excoriating commentary on our current state of affairs, how easily we let intangible forces grip our consciousness. But none of this detracts from the humour that…

‘May This Curse End With Me’: The Song Of Youth By Montserrat Roig

Earlier this year I read Victoria Princewill’s astonishingly emotive debut novel, In The Palace Of Flowers. Set in the opulent Persian royal court of the Qajars at the end of the nineteenth century, Princewill’s novel addresses the fear of being forgotten. Her enslaved protagonists are forced to navigate omnipotent, profoundly malefic political and ideological forces, whilst simultaneously enduring the brutal suppression of their authentic selves. Princewill’s audacious triumph was to use her novel to deny history and those writing it, the…

The World Of Never Again: The Nine By Gwen Strauss

We are approaching a time of remembrance once again. I know many might not regard reading about the abhorrent treatment of fellow humans by the German SS during World War Two as entertainment, but sometimes it can be sobering and thought-provoking to reflect upon the trials and tribulations of others, to learn and to remember, and, sometimes, to put one’s own life into perspective. The heroines of this book were the same age as my own mum who volunteered to…

Poem Of The Week: 'Emily Writes Such A Good Letter' By Stevie Smith (1902-71)

Emily Writes Such a Good Letter Mabel was married last week So now only Tom left The doctor didn’t like Arthur’s cough I have been in bed since Easter A touch of the old trouble I am downstairs today As I write this I can hear Arthur roaming overhead He loves to roam Thank heavens he has plenty of space to roam in We have seven bedrooms And an annexe Which leaves a flat for the chauffeur and his wife We have much to be thankful for The new vicar came yesterday People say he brings…

Review: The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga

The White Tiger, winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2008, is a work of fiction expertly penned by writer and journalist Aravind Adiga – and it is a story that pulls no punches. Best described as a rags-to-riches story, our protagonist is an Indian entrepreneur who has clambered his way to the top of the greasy pole, one smeared with corruption and bureaucracy. The narrator relates the story of Balram Halwai (his identity prior to becoming a businessman), and its…

Poem Of The Week: 'The Beach Couldn't Be Found' By Katrina Naomi

The Beach Couldn’t Be Found Under the scorched weed and rubbish, the crows, the human shit they fed on. The water was so far out, nothing you’d swim in. Only the dogs sunbathed, their fleas popping in the heat like corn. The sea was no colour and there was no path through the broken things, flies wafting up and resettling. There could be no way through for us. The beach didn’t know it was a beach, didn’t know what was expected, that it had duties to perform. No one had…

Review: Stone Heart Deep by Paul Bassett Davies

I’m not usually a fan of psychological thrillers in any medium but never say never, so I picked this one up and was quickly engrossed in its compelling tale. Adam Budd (oh, what literary references could an English teacher weave into that name) is an ex-military man whose experiences are only shared with the reader little by little. He is also a "burned-out investigative journalist’" with a nose for a story and the courage to do what it takes to…

Dragging The Snare: All The Men I Never Married By Kim Moore

Kim Moore’s brave and open-hearted new collection does not offer any form of resolution to the significant questions it sets itself, but rather a working through of continuing anxieties and turmoil. Her disparate use of form stresses mending at point of fracture, of bones knitting but leaving surrounding scar tissue. And we should not underestimate her skill at formal representation which is often manifested in broken lines, radical indentation and reinforcement by repetition, as though to circumscribe defiance in a…

‘Writer, Maverick, Iconoclast, Visionary’: The Young H.G Wells, Changing The World By Claire Tomalin

The desiderata of satisfying literary biography, if ignored, causes clumsy, if erudite scribes to produce turgidly pharaonic doorstops which leave the unfortunate reader more soporific than stimulated. Worse yet, impartiality on the part of the writer often spawns a jejune encomium, or a biased exercise in fustigation. Combine a vacuous biographical subject with the authorial dexterity of a will-writer, and the reader risks mild boredom, or abject stupefaction! For a literary biography to be truly scintillating, engrossing and valuable we must…

Review: A Calling For Charlie Barnes – Joshua Ferris

A Calling for Charlie Barnes is a deliciously frank and unreserved account of one man, epitomising the American dream, who, if we are blunt, appears to have achieved diddly squat. A frisbee designed to look exactly like a flying Toupee? Why, surely that must simply be the best invention never to have reached its full potential? This one example of Charlie Barnes’ business ventures best sets out why so much has failed. He has ideas, he has great vision (or so…

“Love All, Trust A Few, Do Wrong To None”: Leave The World Behind By Rumaan Alam

Leave the World Behind is the third novel by US author Rumaan Alam. An urban family – mother, Amanda; father, Clay; and their two children, Archie and Rose – go to stay at an idyllic holiday home in the country. The home is hyperreal in its quaintness, eliciting Little House on the Prairie vibes: “The front yard was bound by a picket fence, white, not a trace of irony in it”. But a Lynchian air of menace is present from…