Precious Bane

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Read 29/06/2021-21/07/2021

Rating 5 stars

For my third summer read, I headed to Shropshire with Mary Webb’s novel Precious Bane. There’s an excellent preface in the Virago Modern Classic edition that I bought from Well-Read Books in Wigtown. Written by Michelene Wandor, it gives a feminist context for the book, describing a little of Webb’s life alongside the history that surrounds her character Prue Sarn’s 19th century existence. Although set at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, Wandor tells us that “national events appear to be outside the concern of the isolated, rural and largely illiterate community” and “the backdrop to Prue’s story is the three centuries of intense and virulent witch-hunting all over Europe.” Continue reading

Frankenstein Unbound

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Read 10/06/2021-28/06/2021

Rating 4 stars

My second read for the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge is Frankenstein Unbound by Brian Aldiss. I’ve known Aldiss’s name in relation to science fiction for a while but never read anything by him. I picked this novel up in Bookmark, a second hand bookshop in Falmouth, drawn by its cover art.

It is simultaneously, as with most science fiction, a reflection on concerns about the contemporaneous era, and a projection of where current science might lead. It is also a meditation on Mary Shelley’s gothic masterpiece, Frankenstein.

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Random Thoughts: The transitory nature of praise

My reading life is in a minor slump. I’m enjoying Frankenstein Unbound, but not enough to feel compelled to pick it up each day and finish it. Today I read an interview with the actor Rafe Spall that I’d missed when it was published back in May. I wouldn’t have had the same response to it back then, mind you. It was one of those serendipitous stumblings that spoke to me in a particular moment.

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Cornish Short Stories: A collection of contemporary Cornish writing

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Read 01/06/2021-09/06/2021

Rating 4 stars

My first read for the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, hosted by Cathy at 746 Books, is a collection of contemporary short stories by Cornish writers. It arose from a Falmouth literature event called Telltales, where the book’s editors, Emma Timpany and Felicity Notley, met Nicola Guy, an editor with The History Press, and an anthology was born (http://www.cornishshortstories.org.uk/). Continue reading

White Horses

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Read 31/05/2021

Rating 5 stars

White Horses is a modern production of a book that never was, a new imagining of a work that should have been, featuring autolithograph reproductions of paintings by one of my favourite artists, Eric Ravilious, and text by Noel Carrington. Continue reading

Cockfight

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Read 25/05/2021-31/05/2021

Rating 4 stars

Cockfight is the debut collection of short stories by Ecuadorian writer María Fernanda Ampuero, translated by Frances Riddle, that explores the violence and exploitation that comes with being a woman in Ecuador.

The writing is lyrical and Riddle’s translation chooses words and phrases with care, capturing the visceral nature of Ampuero’s original narrratives. Continue reading

Blood Wedding

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Read 16/05/2021-25/05/2021

Rating 3 stars

Blood Wedding is a psychological crime novel by French writer Pierre Lemaitre. It concerns Sophie, a woman with severe memory loss who, at the start of the book, is looking after a young boy on the days and nights that his busy parents can’t be there. When we meet Sophie, disaster has struck. Continue reading

Where the Wild Ladies Are

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Read 04/05/2021-16/05/2021

Rating 5 stars

Where the Wild Ladies Are, Matsuda Aoko’s collection of short stories, translated into English by Polly Barton, is a reimagining of different traditional Japanese folk tales as told in kabuki plays and the comedic tradition of rakugo. Matsuda introduces a feminist slant to the stories, which I enjoyed.

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