Six Degrees of Separation: From Sorrow and Bliss to How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House

From the posts in my WP Reader, I see it’s time for Six Degrees of Separation, the book meme hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.

I have lost track of the days because Britain is in the middle of an extended weekend that started on Thursday with a reallocated Bank Holiday Monday, moved through a Bank Holiday Friday that felt like Sunday, and now it’s anyone’s guess what day it is.

It is the first Saturday of the month, though. Really.

For our starting book this month, Kate has chosen Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason.

I haven’t read Mason’s debut, so genned up on it by reading a review. I now want to read it.

Continue reading

Staying Home: Short Stories

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Read 02/06/2022-03/06/2022

Rating 4 stars

Staying Home is a collection of four short stories selected from the 2020 Comma Press Short Story Course. These course collections are available exclusively in Kindle format for 99 pence each, and are often the first time the included writers have been published.

The 2020 course collection features four women writers, one of whom is a friend. The course took place online in the thick of the coronavirus pandemic, and this is reflected in the subject matter of one the stories. Continue reading

How to Bring Him Back

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Read 29/05/2022

Rating 3 stars

How to Bring Him Back by Claire HM is a single story in the Fly on the Wall Shorts series. It follows Cait, a writer from Birmingham, as she tries to conjour up the man she wronged almost a quarter of a century earlier. Its form is that of a writer’s confessional, an attempt to shape the past into a semi-fictional narrative. It left me wondering how close Cait is to Claire HM. Continue reading

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

10 Books of Summer

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Cathy is running the summer reading challenge that aims to clear some books off your To Read pile again this year – hooray! I’m joining in with my usual ten book goal. As a target, it worked out well for me last year, despite being fooled by some tiny old books into thinking they were short reads. I only missed my goal by one. I’m confident that I’ll hit my goal this year, though, especially since I’ve averaged a book a week so far.

The challenge runs from 1 June to 1 September and you can find out more about what’s involved in Cathy’s introductory post on 746 Books. The main rule is that the rules aren’t tightly binding. So if you choose a book and then don’t fancy it, it’s more than okay to swap it for something else. Or if you have a bit of a reading slump and your target starts to feel like a stretch, then you should feel free to recalibrate to something more realistic. As long as something gets cleared off the To Read pile, you’re golden. 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

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