Under the Skin

Under the Skin is Michel Faber’s debut novel. I borrowed it from a friend after watching the film of the same title, directed by Jonathan Glazer and starring Scarlett Johansson. I’m glad that I read the book after the film, because there is only a loose connection between the two. I love the film, but I wonder whether I would feel the same if I’d read the book first and seen the film as an adaptation of the book.

Continue reading

Bollocks to Alton Towers

Bollocks to Alton Towers is a guide to visitor attractions in the UK that are a parallel world to the identikit theme parks and desperate-to-entertain you museums that top the visitor attraction lists and vie for awards.

This small book of “Uncommonly British Days Out” is a friend lend. I’ve only had it for three years. We’re off to stay with the friends who lent it soon, so I thought I’d make it the first book in my new personal reading challenge.

Continue reading

Variations

Variations is a collection of short stories inspired by real events that explore transgender history in Britain. The stories take a variety of forms, from diaries, letters and oral history interviews to blogs and screenplays. Across the collection, Juliet Jacques follows a series of trans people and their experiences from the 19th through to the 21st century. She opens each story with a paragraph that contextualises what follows and regularly includes footnotes with further context. This gives such an air of authority that I began to question whether this book gathered together fiction or fact. In a way, it does both. Jacques has written a history of trans experience but disguised it as fiction.

Continue reading

The Fell

It’s November 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic is taking its toll on the residents of a village in the Peak District. Told in the form of a running commentary on the actions and thoughts of a small set of neighbours, there’s something oppressive in the narrative of Sarah Moss’s pandemic novel The Fell.

Continue reading

Ways of Living

Gemma Seltzer’s collection of short stories centred on the lives of female Londoners is in some respects more Ways of Leaving than Ways of Living. Its principal characters are seeking escape. In their escape, they’re also looking for understanding, whether that’s understanding themselves or being understood by others. The nature of friendship is placed under a microscope and found to be largely a matter of convenience.

The women could be anywhere. That they are in London adds a different flavour – the proliferation of people performing an artistic life and vying for attention, the particularities of multicultural working class life in the unmonied areas – but the lives portrayed here could be lived in any city. Even a global city is parochial, when you dig down into it. Perhaps the London-ness of these stories is that the strangeness of the characters’ behaviour is normalised.

Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation: From Wintering to The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock

Here we are again and already at the first Saturday in the month. July this time, and a new round of Six Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.

I’ve read this month’s starting book, Katherine May’s Wintering. It’s a bold choice with which to start our chains, and it took some thought for me to find a thread. I forged my chain late on Saturday night, but chose sleep over wrangling it into a post. Only a day late with that.

Continue reading

Into The Wilds

Into The Wilds is an anthology of short stories from British South Asian writers and the first publication from new imprint Fox & Windmill. Set up by two graduates from the University of Huddersfield as a start-up company, this independent publisher aims to publish works that reflect British South Asian culture. Habiba Desai and Sara Razzaq, like many readers from a non-white background, didn’t often see themselves in the fiction they read and decided to do something about it.

Continue reading

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

51edhw97nl._sx540_sclzzzzzzz_

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