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

Six Degrees of Separation: From Our Wives Under the Sea to Mothlight

2 April 2022, the first Saturday of the month, and another Six Degrees of Separation rolls into view. This meme is hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.

For this month’s Six Degrees of Separation, Kate has chosen a book that I own but haven’t read yet.

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In the Pines

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Read 01/01/2022

Rating 4 stars

Paul Scraton is a British writer who lives and works in Berlin. I’ve read his psychogeographical novel Built on Sand, which is still one of the best books I’ve read in recent years, and his walking travelogue Ghosts on the Shore, that tells the history of Germany’s Baltic coast via a personal cartography.

I’ve been eager to read his fiction collaboration with German photographer Eymelt Sehmer since it was announced by the publisher back in spring. In the Pines continues Scraton’s exploration of our relationship with landscape and what it says about us. Continue reading

Where the Wild Ladies Are

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Read 04/05/2021-16/05/2021

Rating 5 stars

Where the Wild Ladies Are, Matsuda Aoko’s collection of short stories, translated into English by Polly Barton, is a reimagining of different traditional Japanese folk tales as told in kabuki plays and the comedic tradition of rakugo. Matsuda introduces a feminist slant to the stories, which I enjoyed.

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The Bloody Chamber

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Read 04/04/2019-11/04/2019

Rating 4 stars

Angela Carter’s collection of re-imagined folk tales and fables presents tales originally told to the detriment of women as bold stories of female resilience and triumph. Inspired by, among others, Bluebeard, Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty, Carter has her heroines rise up against their male oppressors and find freedom. Continue reading

Help the Witch

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Read 31/10/2018-14/11/2018

Rating: 5 stars

Last year, Tom Cox published his wonderful book of nature writing, 21st Century Yokel, through Unbound. Having loved that book, the writing, the design, the entire spirit of the thing, as soon as he announced his first collection of fiction, I pledged.

The book arrived a couple of weeks ago. I saved it to take on holiday, to read on my birthday. Hallowe’en seemed an appropriate moment to read a collection of spooky short stories. I didn’t read it all on my birthday. I ended up drawing it out for as long as possible because I wanted to relish the stories. Continue reading

21st-Century Yokel

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Read 28/12/2017-02/01/2018

Rating: 4 stars

I’ve been reading Tom Cox’s nature writing for a while now, first through his columns in The Guardian and more recently via his website. He’s an interesting writer. He writes about nature in a way that makes sense to me. It’s difficult to describe, but it has to do with nature being entwined into life rather than held at bay and experienced for leisure. His writing style reminds me of W G Sebald. He’s whimsical without it being a pose.

I pledged for his latest book on Unbound. I haven’t read any of his other books, despite four of them being about his life with a clowder of cats and me being the sort of person who has to stop to say hello to any cat I encounter. 21st-Century Yokel, though, seemed the kind of book about nature, folklore, understanding the place where you live, walking, landscape, myth, and sheep cuddling that I’d been waiting for. Continue reading