BRIT(ish)

1911214284.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 17/01/2019-26/01/2019

Rating 4 stars

In BRIT(ish), Afua Hirsch has written a sort of memoir, sort of political appraisal, sort of social history of race and racism in the UK. There’s a bit of travelog in there as well. I struggled to get to grips with it at first, finding it a little piecemeal in its approach, jumping from personal experience peppered with historical context to historiography peppered with personal experience to journalistic investigation of specific aspects of racism in Britain. Each piece had its merits, but for me they didn’t always hang together as a whole. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it. It’s articulate, it draws out different strands of the issue, there were lots of things that I learnt from reading it. Hirsch clearly has something she wants to say, and has struggled to understand her own existence, and there is value in what she extracts and shares from that personal struggle. Continue reading

H(A)PPY

1785151142.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 12/01/2019-17/01/2019

Rating 5 stars

I follow Nicola Barker on Twitter. She posts infrequently, but when she does it’s usually oddly satisfying pictures of her view from various London public telephone boxes or things she’s found while mudlarking along the Thames. There’s nothing in her feed that suggests she’s an author, and I didn’t know her as a writer until H(A)PPY was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2018.

The blurb for H(A)PPY intrigued me. The reader is invited to imagine a utopia in which all knowledge is open, and doubt, hatred, poverty and greed no longer exist. Everyone lives within a System that nurtures and protects, part of a Community that nourishes and sustains. There’s no sickness, no death, no fear.

Sounds good? I wasn’t so sure. I like my privacy. I also like that it’s our differences and individualities that cause the negative things that Barker’s post-post-apocalyptic society has banished. I don’t know that I’d enjoy a world without individuality or opportunities to learn.

This is Barker’s twelfth novel. It seemed like as good a place as any to introduce myself to the writing style of the woman who is mildly obsessed with phone boxes.

It’s slippery at times, the tale she’s written, but it kept me wondering what was going on, curious to find out how it would end. I know how it ends now, of course. I’m saying nothing. I’m glad that I didn’t read any reviews, any judging comments, any opinion pieces before I read it. I imagine it might have spoiled the experience. I enjoyed it greatly. I’d recommend it wholeheartedly. If you want to read it with no prior knowledge, don’t read any further here. My reading experience and my reactions to the book might take the edge off the pleasure of this unusual novel. Continue reading

The Secret Life of Cows

0571345794.01._SX142_SY224_SCLZZZZZZZ_

Read 09/01/2019-12/01/2019

Rating 5 stars

Oh, my heart! Rosamund Young expresses everything that I have ever thought about the intensive farming practice in the UK. She has more knowledge than I possess, because Rosamund is a farmer and has chosen a very particular way of raising livestock. The Secret Life of Cows is a chronicle of the adventures of her bovine livestock and their interactions with the other animals who live on the farm, including the humans. Continue reading

The Crimson Petal and the White

0857860011.01._SX142_SY224_SCLZZZZZZZ_

Read 22/12/2018-08/01/2019

Rating: 5 stars

I loved the BBC adaptation of Michel Faber’s novel about life in Victorian England from both sides of the wealth divide. It was a pleasure to finally read the book. Faber writes with fluidity and poise, balancing a phrasing appropriate to the era he describes with a tone that suits the modern ear.

I truly loved this book, Continue reading