Six Degrees of Separation: From Beezus and Ramona to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

It’s May Day! Beltane, if you will. I wish I’d been clever enough to do a folk horror Six Degrees of Separation this month. Kate, who hosts the meme at Books Are My Favourite and Best, has chosen a children’s classic, Beezus and Ramona, for the first book in the chain. Read on to see how I end up in a submarine with Captain Nemo.

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

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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

Under Solomon Skies

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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

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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

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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

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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