The Island of Missing Trees

Elif Shafak’s part-magical realism novel about family, ancestry, war and the inner thoughts of trees is a wonderful wintery read. The Island of Missing Trees crossed my path thanks to Emma’s review at Em with Pen. Emma’s thoughts on the novel made me want to read it, so I reserved it at the library.

The story starts with a history of an island divided by war. The island is Cyprus, its long history bound up with legend, its recent history one of violence. In a well lies a pocket watch and the chained together bodies of the joint owners of a tavern. The tavern is significant to the story in this novel.

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Lee Miller and Surrealism in Britain

Lee Miller and Surrealism in Britain is a scholarly tome from the team at the Hepworth Wakefield. Written to accompany an exhibition there in 2018, which I didn’t see, it attempts to position the photographer Lee Miller at the heart of the British surrealist movement in the 1930s and 1940s.

I can’t remember where I first encountered Miller’s photography. It was in an exhibition many years ago. I recall seeing solarised images she had made in collaboration with Man Ray alongside the photographs she took as a war correspondent during and at the end of the Second World War. I bought a postcard of her image ‘Portrait of Space’, depicting a landscape seen through a torn piece of netting with an empty picture frame hovering over the sky, because it made me think of Magritte. I was drawn by the framing and lighting of her images, that borrowed from the world of fashion she had experienced as a model and that also had a theatrical feel to them.

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Christmas with Dull People

A quick Christmas read, courtesy of one of my Christmas gifts from Mr H. I’d never read any Saki until this collection of four festive short stories that document bad behaviour during an Edwardian holiday period.

I knew the name Saki, and that the author was a satirist and short story specialist. I’ve now learnt that his real name was Hector Hugh Munro, that he was influenced by Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll and Rudyard Kipling, and was an influence on A. A. Milne, Noël Coward and P. G. Wodehouse. Despite being officially too old for service, he enlisted during the First World War and was killed on the Western front in 1916.

The front fly leaf to this slim collection states, “These stories present Saki at his inimitable, satirical best as he addresses the most perilous aspects of the holiday period: visiting dull relatives, tolerating Christmas Eve merriment, receiving unwanted gifts, and writing ecstatic thank-you notes.”

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Saving Lucia

When I plucked Saving Lucia from my To Read pile, I wasn’t expecting another time travelling novel that takes imagination and rethinks reality. I also wasn’t expecting such a slim book to be so dense with ideas and feelings.

The Lucia of the title of Anna Vaught’s book is the daughter of James Joyce, incarcerated in St Andrew’s Hospital for Mental Diseases in Northampton in 1953. One of her fellow residents is the Honourable Violet Gibson, daughter of a Lord Chancellor of Ireland and famous for her attempted assassination attempt on Benito Mussolini. Violet makes it the work of her last few years to save Lucia from the pain of life in a psychiatric institution.

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The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending concerns Tony Webster, retired, divorced, father of one, grandfather of two. It also concerns his school friend Adrian Finn, who died by suicide aged twenty-two. And his first girlfriend Veronica, her mum, his school friends Colin and Alex, and the ways they are connected through the past they shared.

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A Pale View of Hills

A Pale View of Hills concerns Etsuko, a Japanese woman living in England, and the story of her past in Nagasaki. It opens with a visit from her daughter, Niki, and a conversation about her older daughter, Niki’s half-sister Keiko. This conversation triggers a memory for Etsuko of when she was pregnant with Keiko and developed a friendship with a strange, independent woman living in a run down old cottage with her young daughter.

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The Good Journal Issue One

June 2018 seems such a long time ago. So much has changed, so much hasn’t. The Good Journal launched in June 2018, to build on the success of The Good Immigrant and provide British writers of colour with a showcase for their work. Unlike The Good Immigrant, issue one of The Good Journal has a mix of fiction and nonfiction. The writers are a mix, as well, of established and never published before.

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