What Concerns Us

What Concerns Us is Laura Vogt’s second novel and her first published in English translation. Her translator Caroline Waight has done an excellent job of maintaining the poetry of Vogt’s story of three women.

I was offered the opportunity, by the publisher Héloïse Press, to read and review Vogt’s novel ahead of publication in August, as I’d loved Erica Mou’s Thirsty Sea. I was intrigued by the description of the novel as “A book without filters, a blunt depiction of pregnancy, sex, maternity and relationships through the lives of three women.”

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Staying Home: Short Stories

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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

The Book of Ramallah

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Read 29/05/2022-02/06/2022

Rating 5 stars

Comma Press in Manchester publishes a series called Reading the City, in which stories from cities around the world are brought together in an anthology, often stories that have not been translated into English before. I picked up The Book of Ramallah at the recent Northern Publishers’ Fair at Manchester Central Library.

During the pandemic, I’d watched Mayor, the 2020 documentary by David Osit that follows Mousa Hadid as Mayor of Ramallah over a two year period. Hadid comes across as that rare thing – a man of honour in politics. It’s a moving, funny, heartwarming look at what it means to be a Palestinian in a city hemmed in by occupation. It made me want to know more about Ramallah. This collection seemed a good place to start. Continue reading

How to Bring Him Back

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Read 29/05/2022

Rating 3 stars

How to Bring Him Back by Claire HM is a single story in the Fly on the Wall Shorts series. It follows Cait, a writer from Birmingham, as she tries to conjour up the man she wronged almost a quarter of a century earlier. Its form is that of a writer’s confessional, an attempt to shape the past into a semi-fictional narrative. It left me wondering how close Cait is to Claire HM. Continue reading

Mothlight

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Read 13/05/2022-18/05/2022

Rating 5 stars

Mothlight is Adam Scovell‘s first novel and it’s pleasingly weird. It concerns the memories held by a young man of a woman he met in childhood. Later, their lives become further entwined through a shared profession and the young man becoming the woman’s carer. Walking in the landscape of North Wales is an important part of the lives of both protagonists, forming a self-referential connection between them.

The woman, Phyllis Ewans, is a lepidopterist, overlooked by her male dominated profession because she is a woman. The young man, Thomas, also researches moths. He comes to believe that Phyllis has possessed him and is haunted by her both before and after her death. Continue reading

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

Random Thoughts: The different routes to publication

I went to a literary event not so long ago at which the two authors talked about the risk aversion present among the major publishing houses. David Peace and Tom Benn are both published by majors, Faber & Faber and Bloomsbury respectively. It was refreshing to hear two established authors speak on a subject that has been rolling around in my brain for a while. It got me thinking, and now I’ve committed my random thoughts to the page.

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Fauna

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Read 01/05/2022-03/05/2022

Rating 4 stars

David Hartley’s collection Fauna gathers together twelve short stories that explore the relationship between humanity and the rest of the living world while also imagining a variety of futures that have tilted in favour of one side over the other. Continue reading

Where We Find Ourselves: Poems and Stories of Maps and Mapping from UK Writers of the Global Majority

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Read 29/04/2022-30/04/2022

Rating 5 stars

My friend Dipika has a story in this anthology, which gathers together poems and stories of maps and mapping from UK writers of global majority communities.

These are tales of place, covering diaspora, exile, identity, childhood and family. The writers are all based in the UK and are from a wide range of communities. After finishing The Good Immigrant, I wanted to sink my teeth into more writing from communities that are underrepresented in the literary world, and this offering from Arachne Press gave me the opportunity to do just that. Continue reading