The Human Fly and Other Stories

T C Boyle is a writer that I have intended to read more by since I read and loved his short story ‘She Wasn’t Soft’ in a Bloomsbury Quid edition in 1996.

A decade later, I was visiting a friend in New York and found the collection The Human Fly and Other Stories on a table in Strand Bookstore.

On the back cover it says, “His many and varied novels are part of the American literary landscape – but one of the best ways to appreciate T C Boyle is through his richly imagined short fiction.”

I bought it, and it has been on my bookshelves ever since. From time to time I’ve taken it down and pondered it as my next read but always put back. I decided to add it to my 10 Books of Summer list this year to ensure that I actually get round to reading it.

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Sugar and Slate

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Read 15/03/2022-29/03/2022

Rating 4 stars

Sugar and Slate is a memoir about growing up mixed race in North Wales. Paula chose it as this year’s Dewithon book and I managed to find a library copy. It’s partly fictionalised and the author’s reminiscences about her own life are punctuated by poetry and dramatic scenes that tell the story of her parents and the broader stories of nationality, race and belonging. Divided into three sections, Africa, Guyana and Wales, the book examines how these places have impacted and influenced the author’s life, and how their presence as points in the slavery triangle explain how the author came to exist. Continue reading

The Shadow King

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Read 18/04/2021-04/05/2021

Rating 4 stars

Hirut, a woman with a long scar “that puckers at the base of her neck and trails over her shoulder like a broken necklace”, waits in Addis Ababa station for a man she hasn’t seen in almost 40 years. They are connected by a secret, one from history, involving Mussolini and Emperor Haile Selassie. Continue reading

Unbowed: One woman’s story

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Read 27/07/2020-13/08/2020

Rating 3 stars

Book 9 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge, a substitution in the original list.

Unbowed is the memoir of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Muta Maathai. This remarkable Kenyan woman was a child during the period of the British war against the Kikuyu people. She became a scientist, educated in Kenya, the US and Germany. She joined the environmental movement and campaigned for the re-establishment of forest in Kenya and fairer representation of women in agricultural production. She was a powerful advocate for democracy in Kenya. Her ideologies put her in conflict with Daniel Arup Moi’s government, and placed her life in danger. She was the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This is what I gleaned from Maathai’s Wikipedia entry, after my best friend sent me a card printed by her sister, one in a series of inspirational women she had designed. Continue reading

Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya

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Read 26/06/2020-11/07/2020

Rating 5 stars

Book 4 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge, a substitution in the original list.

Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya is the US edition of Caroline Elkins’ book published in Britain as Britain’s Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya. It documents a particularly atrocious period in Britain’s history – the brutal suppression of the Kikuyu people in Kenya in the 1950s, through the use of detention camps and forced labour, and the subsequent attempts by British government to cover it up. Continue reading

Swing Time

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Read 11/04/2020-20/04/2020

Rating 3 stars

Zadie Smith’s Swing Time is a sprawling tale of how two girls’ lives intersect and separate over the years. It’s about growing up poor but aspirational, a tale of friendship and rivalry, and of the inadequacies of adulthood. Continue reading