Escape from Earth: A secret history of the space rocket

1781259704.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 09/11/2019-24/11/2019

Rating 4 stars

Fraser MacDonald’s debut is a fascinating account of the birth of rocket science and space exploration. It’s a hidden history brought to light thanks to MacDonald’s interest in unlocking public records that governments have deemed secret.

This is a history of a group of people who came together in 1930s California, as Fascism was taking hold in Europe. Some were the children of immigrants, others were immigrants themselves, fleeing the persecution building across the Atlantic ocean. At the heart of the group is a scientist called Frank Malina. He was researching at the same time as Robert Oppenheimer, but he isn’t as well known as Oppenheimer, because he has been largely written out of the history of rocket science. Continue reading

Ring the Hill

1783528354.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 01/11/2019-09/11/2019

Rating 5 stars

Ring the Hill is a walking book, a history book, a nature book, a folklore book and a book about contemporary Britain viewed through a lens that seems to have almost disappeared from most other media. Tom Cox celebrates the little observed quirks of human nature that thread through the story of the British Isles, and in particular the South West corner of England. The story of Britain is a sprawling one, influenced by the landscape as much as by the doings of its inhabitants. Cox weaves together the folklore of our physical landscape with the ways in which we humans across history have tried to best that landscape.

Continue reading

Tokyo Ueno Station

1911284169.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 17/10/2019-20/10/2019

Rating 4 stars

Tokyo Ueno Station is a ghost story, an alternative history of Japan and a critique of Japanese society. Beginning among the homeless community who live in and around the busy commuter station near Ueno Park, it reaches back through time to the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, the post-war economic boom, the migration of workers to Tokyo to help build the Olympic park in 1964, and the devastating tsunami of 2011.

The narrator of the tale is called Kazu. Through him, we see a different Japan to the one portrayed in travel programmes and newspaper articles. It’s a harrowing story of loss and abandonment. Continue reading

A Chancer

0330296647.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 06/10/2019-16/10/2019

Rating 3 stars

First published in 1985, A Chancer is James Kelman’s second novel. It’s an examination of working class Glasgow life through the eyes of Tammas, a young man of twenty.

We meet Tammas at the end of an unproductive factory night shift, playing cards and winning money from a co-worker that the co-worker doesn’t have. The factory is short on orders and it looks like redundancies are imminent.

Continue reading

This Way to Departures

1910312436.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 04/10/2019-06/10/2019

Rating 5 stars

This Way to Departures is Linda Mannheim’s second collection of short stories for Influx Press. It’s the follow up to Above Sugar Hill, which I loved.

This Way to Departures spreads its net wider than NYC, both geographically and emotionally. If Above Sugar Hill is about the identity of a particular place and its influence on those who are entwined in its arms, then Departures is about the nomads who have no place of their own and find it impossible to become entwined, no matter where they go.

Continue reading

The Grey Man

904532c9c3d124d59704a747267434f414f4141

Read 20/09/2019-01/10/2019

Rating 4 stars

The Grey Man is an historical adventure novel set in South Ayrshire around the villages of Maybole, Girvan and Ballantrae and across the moorlands of Carrick and Kyle. Narrated by Launcelot Kennedy, it concerns the warring factions of the Kennedy clan, divided between the Earl of Cassillis and the Laird of Bargany, during the 17th century. Launcelot is of the clan that supports Cassillis.

I bought this book because we have holidayed a few times in the area, and I wanted to read a novel that revealed something about the history of the region. I couldn’t have chosen better. Continue reading