Mothlight

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Read 13/05/2022-18/05/2022

Rating 5 stars

Mothlight is Adam Scovell‘s first novel and it’s pleasingly weird. It concerns the memories held by a young man of a woman he met in childhood. Later, their lives become further entwined through a shared profession and the young man becoming the woman’s carer. Walking in the landscape of North Wales is an important part of the lives of both protagonists, forming a self-referential connection between them.

The woman, Phyllis Ewans, is a lepidopterist, overlooked by her male dominated profession because she is a woman. The young man, Thomas, also researches moths. He comes to believe that Phyllis has possessed him and is haunted by her both before and after her death. Continue reading

Villager

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Read 08/05/2022-12/05/2022

Rating 5 stars

Villager is Tom Cox’s first novel. I’m not going to call it a debut, because the author has a wealth of writing already in his back catalogue.

Cox is a writer of place. His books 21st Century Yokel and Ring the Hill explore landscape and folklore, mixed with Cox’s eye on the world and its margins. His short story collection Help the Witch marries that sense of place and love of folklore with fictions that open the door a crack to the other places hidden just behind what we experience as real.

His writing in Villager is a beautiful leap off from the coiled force present in some of the longer pieces in Help the Witch. There is folklore here, but also Bildungsroman, speculative fiction, diary writing and cultural reference points that span Mary Oliver, Mike Leigh, Oliver Postgate and Public Enemy. The story sprawls over time and place, slipping through the margins and brushing up against its own past and future. At its heart is a collection of songs written by an itinerant musician, and one ancient song in particular that echoes through the narrative. Continue reading

Crudo

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Read 03/05/2022-08/05/2022

Rating 4 stars

Crudo is Olivia Laing’s first novel. I read her excellent exploration of how loneliness informs art, The Lonely City, a handful of years ago and kept meaning to read more by her.

In The Lonely City, I liked the way Laing included memoir in what is, essentially, a biography of eight artists. Her first novel is a memoir of sorts, a fictional one this time. Inspired by Chris Kraus’s biography of Kathy Acker, as well as by Acker’s own approach to literature, Laing has imagined an alternative Kathy who is also partly Laing, too. Continue reading

Fauna

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Read 01/05/2022-03/05/2022

Rating 4 stars

David Hartley’s collection Fauna gathers together twelve short stories that explore the relationship between humanity and the rest of the living world while also imagining a variety of futures that have tilted in favour of one side over the other. Continue reading

Of Myths and Mothers

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Read 30/04/2022-01/05/2022

Rating 4 stars

Of Myths and Mothers is a collection of five short stories that mix folklore with futurism and question the nature of motherhood.

I went to the launch event a few weeks ago and heard readings from the stories that encouraged me to buy a copy on the night. Continue reading

Where We Find Ourselves: Poems and Stories of Maps and Mapping from UK Writers of the Global Majority

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Read 29/04/2022-30/04/2022

Rating 5 stars

My friend Dipika has a story in this anthology, which gathers together poems and stories of maps and mapping from UK writers of global majority communities.

These are tales of place, covering diaspora, exile, identity, childhood and family. The writers are all based in the UK and are from a wide range of communities. After finishing The Good Immigrant, I wanted to sink my teeth into more writing from communities that are underrepresented in the literary world, and this offering from Arachne Press gave me the opportunity to do just that. Continue reading

Muscle and Mouth

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Read 29/04/2022

Rating 5 stars

I heard Louise Finnigan read from her short story Muscle and Mouth at a literary event recently. The story is part of the Fly on the Wall Press Shorts series. It’s about Jade, an A-level student in Manchester who has ambitions to study at Durham University. Continue reading

The Good Immigrant

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Read 19/04/2022-29/04/2022

Rating 5 stars

The Good Immigrant is a collection of essays by 21 British writers who “explore what it means to be Black, Asian and minority ethnic in Britain today”. It was published by Unbound in 2016. In the six years since it first appeared in print, the world has moved on and the white devised acronym BAME is rightly seen as reductive now.

On the back cover is a question that each of these essays seeks to answer: “What’s it like to live in a country that doesn’t trust you and doesn’t want you unless you win an Olympic gold medal or a national baking competition?” Continue reading

Uncle Silas: A Tale of Bartram-Haugh

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Read 07/04/2022-19/04/2022

Rating 4 stars

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1864 novel Uncle Silas is a locked room mystery centred upon the black sheep of a wealthy family, the titular Uncle Silas. A young woman is sent to stay with her uncle at his estate Bartram-Haugh, the location of the mysterious death of an acquaintance of Silas’s that led to him being shunned by his brother. Continue reading