Hit Factories: A Journey Through the Industrial Cities of British Pop

1474607403.01._sx540_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 05/04/2021-18/04/2021

Rating 3 stars

Hit Factories is a curious and eclectic book. The title and the flyleaf blurb suggest a social history of pop in industrial cities – how the industrial landscape influenced the music and vice versa. It’s not that, though. It’s more personal, built around an attempt by author Karl Whitney, a Dubliner transplanted to the North East of England, to understand Britain differently.

Whitney has drawn on a travel writing approach of exploring the relationship between landscape and community, finding the out of the ordinary and drawing on the voices of those involved in the story. The book examines why certain industrial cities developed, or didn’t, distinctive music scenes and represents the condensed musical histories of 11 cities across just over 300 pages. Continue reading

The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

1841958395.01._sx540_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 04/04/2021-05/04/2021

Rating 4 stars

My most recent Six Degrees of Separation chain reminded me that a friend lent me Michel Faber’s collection of short stories The Apple. These are stories about characters from his novel The Crimson Petal and the White, “little worlds of their own”, as he says in the Foreword, that leave the mysteries at the end of the novel largely intact. Continue reading

Under Solomon Skies

1913090094.01._sx540_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 31/03/2021-03/04/2021

Rating 3 stars

Under Solomon Skies is Berni Sorga-Millwood’s first novel. It’s an environmental story that describes the devastating effects of global operations exploiting the Solomon Islands’ natural resources and the wider impact of climate change. Sorga-Millwood has drawn on her experience of living and working in the Solomon Islands as a teacher with VSO in writing the novel. Jacaranda published Under Solomon Skies last year as part of its Twenty in 2020 collaboration with Words of Colour Productions to publishing twenty Black British writers in one year. Continue reading

The Life of Rebecca Jones

085738712x.01._sx540_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 28/03/2021-30/03/2021

Rating 5 stars

Angharad Price’s novel The Life of Rebecca Jones is a fictionalised memoir born of family documents and photographs, some of which appear in the text. It’s a clever and affecting book that paints a picture of farming life in the Maesglasau valley in Merioneth across the 20th century. Written in Welsh, the original novel has the title O! Tyn y Gorchudd, which can be translated as O! Pull Aside the Veil. I read Lloyd Jones’s excellent translation into English. Continue reading

The Owl Service

517f16dff1a580e59326f355267416341674141_v5

First read 1982/3

Re-read 21/03/2021- 27/03/2021

Rating 3 stars

Alan Garner’s The Owl Service is set in a Welsh valley not far from Aberystwyth. The valley contains an ancient, mysterious power. Teenagers Alison, Gwyn and Roger somehow unlock that power and have to deal with the consequences. Continue reading

A Glastonbury Romance

c4d6163ac59beda592b56475377416341674141_v5

Read 01/03/2021-14/03/2021

Rating 4 stars

A Glastonbury Romance is an incredible piece of literature. It won’t be to everyone’s taste. It rambles and gets bogged down in verbiage at times, but it also soars. I was utterly absorbed and entertained by it. The story examines the nature and meaning of life on Earth through the peccadilloes of its characters and John Cowper Powys’s commentary on various philosophical ideas, from religion to politics via environmentalism. I think it portrays human nature honestly, for the most part, but also reveals that Powys at best didn’t understand women, and at worst was a chauvinist. Continue reading