Under Solomon Skies

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Read 31/03/2021-03/04/2021

Rating 3 stars

Under Solomon Skies is Berni Sorga-Millwood’s first novel. It’s an environmental story that describes the devastating effects of global operations exploiting the Solomon Islands’ natural resources and the wider impact of climate change. Sorga-Millwood has drawn on her experience of living and working in the Solomon Islands as a teacher with VSO in writing the novel. Jacaranda published Under Solomon Skies last year as part of its Twenty in 2020 collaboration with Words of Colour Productions to publishing twenty Black British writers in one year. Continue reading

Self Portrait in Green

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Read 28/02/2021

Rating 5 stars

Written in 2005 and first published in English translation in 2014, Marie NDiaye’s hypnotic fictional memoir Self Portrait in Green follows an unnamed narrator, who is a writer, and her encounters with mysterious green women. Continue reading

famished

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Read 16/12/2020-23/12/2020

Rating 4 stars

famished is a collection of ultra short stories by Anna Vaught. The minimalist, modernist cover contains 17 baroque horror stories, all centred on food or eating, and influenced by writers from Angela Carter, Henry James and Edgar Allan Poe to F Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner and Carson McCullers.

These tales are strongly feminist, peopled by women who are taking control. The subtext is often ‘eat, or be eaten’. Continue reading

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

Ghosts on the Shore: Travels along Germany’s Baltic Coast

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Read 23/11/2020-06/12/2020

Rating 5 stars

Ghosts on the Shore is a travel book partly inspired by family history. Paul Scraton is a British writer who has lived in Berlin since the early 2000s. His wife grew up in the GDR and spent her early years on the Baltic Coast. Scraton became fascinated by this part of Germany, in part thanks to his wife Katrin’s family photographs and her childhood memories, but also because of the Baltic Coast’s place in the wider history and mythology of Germany. And so he decided to take a trip. Continue reading

Exercises in Control

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Read 22/01/2020-26/01/2020

Rating 3 stars

This slim volume of short stories by poet and fiction writer Annabel Banks is one of my chosen books from my Influx Press subscription. It’s a challenging and entertaining read. There are moments of real discomfort mixed up with the laughs provoked by Banks’s ability to skewer human nature. Continue reading

The Waiting Room

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Read 01/04/2016

Rating: 2.5 stars

I was given this book by the author after I cheekily replied to her comment about hoping I’d read her book with a “can’t promise but maybe if you sent me a copy.”

I read it in a couple of hours, while waiting for a train. It diverted me, and here is my honest review.

For a first novella, this isn’t a bad effort. The idea is an intriguing one – what happens to us when we die, and what happens to the ones we leave behind? And what would it be like to be stuck in limbo waiting for the one we left behind to join us, all the time having to witness them going on with their life? And what if this kept on happening? Continue reading

The Known and Unknown Sea

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Read 21/12/2015-23/12/2015

Rating: 3.5 stars

The Known and Unknown Sea is the second novel by Alan Bilton. I read it to fulfil clue 18 of the Winter Scavenger Hunt, which asked us to read a book published by an independent publisher. Cillian Press in based in Manchester, and I was intrigued by the blurb for this book. It was unsettling and made me feel sad, but I’m glad that I read it. It’s the memoir of a man who can only recall events as he experienced them as a child. It is surreal, nightmarish, darkly funny and poignant. Continue reading