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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Between Beirut and the Moon

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Read 07/12/2020-16/12/2020

Rating 5 stars

Between Beirut and the Moon is Naji Bakhti’s debut novel. Set in Beirut roughly a decade after the civil war, it follows Adam Najjar and his dream of becoming the first Arab astronaut and the first Arab to walk on the moon. Bakhti is a wry observer of the universal oddness of family and the extra complexity that comes with a Lebanese adolescence. Continue reading

Mortimer and Whitehouse Gone Fishing: Life, Death and the Thrill of the Catch

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Read 31/08/2020

Rating 4 stars

Book 10 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge.

Mortimer and Whitehouse Gone Fishing is a companion book to the BBC series of the same name. You don’t need to have watched it to enjoy the book (although I hope you do watch it, it’s quite the antidote to much of the rubbish on the box). Nor do you need to be an angler or interested in fishing. You don’t even particularly need to be a fan of either Bob Mortimer or Paul Whitehouse. The book is more than the sum of its parts. Continue reading

The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons

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Read 28/08/2020-30/08/2020

Rating 4 stars

Read for Women in Translation Month.

Goli Taraghi is a popular Iranian writer, a best seller in Iran whose stories have appeared in a number of anthologies. The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons is a collection of her short fiction, her first collection published in English. The translation is by Sara Khalili. It brings together ten stories about Iran under the last Shah, and life in Tehran and in exile after the Revolution. Continue reading

Barn 8

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Read 12/07/2020-18/07/2020

Rating 5 stars

Book 6 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge.

I’d read a lot of praise for Deb Olin Unferth’s novel Barn 8 on social media and in the press and I finally decided to take the plunge.

It is as good as people say it is. This is my first encounter with Unferth, although this isn’t her first book. Continue reading

Boy Parts

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Read 11/07/2020-12/07/2020

Rating 5 stars

Book 5 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge, a substitution in the original list.

I find it hard to believe that Boy Parts is Eliza Clark’s debut novel. It’s confident, fiercely funny and its chattiness belies the darkness at its heart.

Not since Chuck Pahlaniuk have I felt so delighted to be entertained by the vagaries of human nature. Not since James Kelman has a writer captured so well for me the hard edge of working class play and working class survival. Not since the translation of Virginie Despante’s Vernon Subutex trilogy into English have I been so pleased to meet a character that is so grotesquely charming. Continue reading

Common People: An Anthology of Working Class Writers

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Read 07/06/2020-14/06/2020

Rating 4 stars

Book 2 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge.

Common People is a book I pledged for on Unbound in 2018. It grew from a radio documentary by Kit de Waal called “Where Are All the Working Class Writers?“, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in November 2017.

As well as securing high profile, established authors like Malorie Blackman, Louise Doughty, Lisa McInerney and Anita Sethi, de Waal as editor commissioned a search through regional writer development agencies for new working class voices to be included in the anthology. Continue reading