Jamaica Inn

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Read 20/07/2021-03/08/2021

Rating 5 stars

Jamaica Inn is almost as famous a novel as author Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. It’s the novel that established du Maurier’s reputation and the author drew on the Cornish landscape and history she knew so well. Set at a similar time to the last book I read, Mary Webb’s Precious Bane, it concerns coastal life in a very different landscape to rural Shropshire, but captures the same flaws in human nature as are found in Webb’s book. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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

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