The House of the Seven Gables


Read 07/03/2018-14/03/2018

Rating: 3 stars

I bought The House of the Seven Gables for £1 from the book shop in the café at Mrs Gaskell’s House. Once upon a time, it had cost five shillings, and its purchaser had given it to a friend. There’s an inscription inside the front cover. The recipient is nameless, the donor signs themself M.L. and it’s clear that the book meant a lot to them. Continue reading


The Lonely City: Adventures in the art of being alone


Read 28/02/2018-07/03/2018

Rating: 5 stars

The Lonely City by Olivia Laing is more than I expected it to be. I thought I would read some personal reflections on navigating a strange city on your own mixed with a bit of art criticism. Instead, between the pages of this wonderful book, I found understanding, thoughtfulness, sorrow and love. Continue reading

Revolutionary Road


Read 09/02/2018-21/02/2018

Rating: 5 stars

This is the first Richard Yates novel I’ve read. I own it thanks to the Willoughby Book Club which, once I whittle my to read pile down, I intend to subscribe to again.

My first thoughts were that Yates is an Updike with charm, and that his prose style is the equivalent of Meryl Streep’s acting – a bubbling effervescence lying across hints of darker depths. Revolutionary Road is set at a similar time to Rabbit, Run. Its main male protagonist has similarities to Rabbit Angstrom, but he’s also more mature. Continue reading

Three Short Reads


I slowed down my reading during January, trying to get more depth of engagement with what I read, relishing it more. This includes books of less than 150 pages that I would typically zip through. Recently I read three short books from Penguin, all of them full of big ideas. It took longer than I expected, and I found strong links between the three, so I’m reviewing them together.

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On the Narrow Road to the Deep North


Read 21/01/2018-31/01/2018

Rating: 5 stars

My 300th post! How good that it should be a five star review of a book that celebrates the 300th anniversary of something.

After the bleakness of The Secret River, I felt in need of something calming, and what could be more calming than an account of a pilgrimage undertaken on the 300th anniversary of Basho’s 1689 journey to the Tōhoku and Yamagata regions of Japan? Continue reading

The Secret River


Read 09/01/2018-21/01/2018

Rating: 4 stars

I’ve had The Secret River on my library wishlist since the Olympics Reading Challenge on the Reader’s Room in 2016. Weezelle reminded me of it when she mentioned that she’d received it as a gift recently. That spurred me on to reserve it at the library.

Kate Grenville has written just the sort of book I love. Think Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites, or Shirley Barrett’s Rush Oh!, or even Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda. It’s historical fiction that records the painful lives of the poor in all its sorrowing detail, but which manages to also capture the indomitable spirit and resourcefulness of some when faced with adversity. More than that, it examines how humans judge each other by the colour of their skin, and how brutally the British treated the indigenous people of Australia. Continue reading