The Secret River


Read 09/01/2018-21/01/2018

Rating: 4 stars

I’ve had The Secret River on my library wishlist since the Olympics Reading Challenge on the Reader’s Room in 2016. Weezelle reminded me of it when she mentioned that she’d received it as a gift recently. That spurred me on to reserve it at the library.

Kate Grenville has written just the sort of book I love. Think Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites, or Shirley Barrett’s Rush Oh!, or even Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda. It’s historical fiction that records the painful lives of the poor in all its sorrowing detail, but which manages to also capture the indomitable spirit and resourcefulness of some when faced with adversity. More than that, it examines how humans judge each other by the colour of their skin, and how brutally the British treated the indigenous people of Australia. Continue reading


Six Degrees of Separation – from The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency to The Mill on the Floss


I’m sitting in a freezing cold departure area (I can’t dignify it by calling it a lounge) at Dublin Airport, waiting for my connecting flight home. The café, which is more of a hot beverage kiosk, is closed. There is a pillar that invites travellers to use three smiley face buttons to express your satisfaction with the facilities. I might warm myself up by hammering on the red sad face button later.

Meanwhile, to pass the time, I thought I’d do this month’s Six Degrees of Separation. Continue reading

Brad Pitt’s Dog


Read 16/01/2018

Rating: 3 stars

I’ve had the occasion to travel to New York for work, to meet a man who collects the ephemera of counter culture. We’re hoping to acquire the collection of another man, a British man who also collects the ephemera of counter culture in order to comment on it. He’s a man I like very much. I can’t name names yet, because the acquisition isn’t secure.

The man I’m meeting in New York is Johan Kugelberg. He created the Cornell Hip Hop Collection, as well as Punk archives at Yale and Cornell. He has documented The Velvet Underground. He’s a collector, an academic, an archivist, a curator.

I thought I ought to read something of his work before we met.

Brad Pitt’s Dog is a collection of essays written between 2001 and 2011 in which Kugelberg reflects on the meaning of celebrity and the death of celebrity, and what makes a counter culture. Continue reading

City of the Lost


Read 04/01/2018-09/01/2018

Rating: 4 stars

Strong female lead? Check.
Passes the Bechdel Test? Check.
Positive representation of People of Colour? Check.
Passes the Wallander Test*? Check

City of the Lost was one of two books chosen for me by my SantaThing Secret Santa this Xmas just gone. I hadn’t heard of Kelley Armstrong before, so I was curious to find out what her style is like.

City of the Lost is a crime thriller in the hard boiled mode. Detective Casey Duncan is a brilliant heroine. She’s sassy, determined and focused, in control of her life, but a dark incident from her past is about to catch up with her. Continue reading

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman


Read 02/01/2018-04/01/2018

Rating 4 stars

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman is a strange tale, but compelling in its strangeness. Author Denis Thériault’s background in screenwriting enhances the imagery conjured by his words. Each place in the story is like a film set, each character like an actor viewed by an audience. Continue reading

21st-Century Yokel


Read 28/12/2017-02/01/2018

Rating: 4 stars

I’ve been reading Tom Cox’s nature writing for a while now, first through his columns in The Guardian and more recently via his website. He’s an interesting writer. He writes about nature in a way that makes sense to me. It’s difficult to describe, but it has to do with nature being entwined into life rather than held at bay and experienced for leisure. His writing style reminds me of W G Sebald. He’s whimsical without it being a pose.

I pledged for his latest book on Unbound. I haven’t read any of his other books, despite four of them being about his life with a clowder of cats and me being the sort of person who has to stop to say hello to any cat I encounter. 21st-Century Yokel, though, seemed the kind of book about nature, folklore, understanding the place where you live, walking, landscape, myth, and sheep cuddling that I’d been waiting for. Continue reading