Flesh and Blood, Stephen McGann’s medical memoir of his family, is a book I was convinced that I had read, but I hadn’t. I’d read about it because of McGann’s work as a science communicator who has spoken at the Cambridge and Cheltenham Science Festivals, and bought it on Kindle where I promptly left it languishing in the digital doldrums.
McGann is from Liverpool, part of the troupe of acting brothers that includes Joe, Paul and Mark. The family traces its origins to Ireland, with an earlier generation emigrating to Liverpool in the mid-19th century as a result of the Great Famine. McGann appears in the tv show Call the Midwife, which I’ve never watched. His role as Dr Turner, alongside a childhood full of illness, sparked an interest in medical science, leading to him undertaking a Master’s degree in Science Communication. The introduction to the book is a wonderful combination of McGann’s artistic, actorly brain and his science brain. As an actor, his job is to tell stories by imagining himself into the character he is portraying, feeling his way into that character’s being. When he began researching his family history, he says he did the same, imagining what might fill the flesh and blood gaps in the documentary data to try to form an idea of a recognisable personality for each ancestor he will never truly know. For this book, he has married that storytelling with his academic interest in the relationship between health and society.
I’ve been perusing my stack of books that I have yet to read, and have decided that I’m going on another book trip. I enjoyed “holidaying” over the summer via the books I’d bought on recent holidays. As it’s unlikely that I’ll get to Europe for a while (thanks pandemic, thanks Brexit), I thought I’d knock a few titles off the stack that are by European authors and head off on a virtual tour of the continent.
Hello June, here so soon. I’m a day late for this month’s Six Degrees of Separation because summer arrived in Manchester this week and yesterday was too glorious to pass up the chance to read in the garden. Kate, who hosts the meme at Books Are My Favourite and Best, has chosen the Stella Prize winning book The Bass Rock for the first book in the chain.
I chose Hannah Kent’s The Good People for my next read because it seemed like the direct opposite of The Book of Strange New Things. Set in rural Ireland in the heart of Munster, it’s the story of a small community of farmers. The year is 1825. Life is hard. For Nóra Leahy it gets harder still. Continue reading →
I’ve missed a couple of the Six Degrees of Separation meme because of life, but I’m back for June and only a day late! I’m not letting the fact that I haven’t heard of let alone read the starting book for this month put me off.
I loved Kit de Waal’s debut novel, My Name is Leon, so when I heard that she had her second book out and it was on the longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, I slung in a library reservation. I had a bit of a wait. Lots of people wanted to read it before me. Were we all justified in our anticipation? Continue reading →
Read for the Reader’s Room March Madness Challenge
I didn’t enjoy this book. I was looking forward to it, because I’d enjoyed Brooklyn and Nora Webster is set in the same town, Enniscorthy, that Elly Lacey leaves for Brooklyn. I had no patience with the title character in this companion piece.
There was something lackluster about the writing, almost as though Tóibín was too familiar with the characters and setting, and couldn’t be bothered injecting any passion into the narrative. It felt too safe, steadily going along, describing one woman’s life in the aftermath of her husband’s death. I found my mind wandering as I read. Continue reading →
The Giant, O’Brien is Hilary Mantel’s reimagining of the story of Charles Byrne, an 8-foot tall Irishman who travels to London to seek fame and fortune but ends up becoming the quarry of John Hunter, the doctor whose collection of medical curiosities, accumulated under the aegis of promoting the development of scientific knowledge, form the basis of the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in London. Continue reading →
My husband bought me this book, before I became his wife. He had read it and liked it, and wanted to share it with me. I didn’t get around to reading it at the time. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because there are always other books making their way to the crest of my book pile, pushing short story collections further down.
MacCann was apparently one to watch when this, his debut work, came out. As far as I can tell, he hasn’t published any other books. He’s been more focused on journalism. I read an article he wrote about being an alumnus of Malcolm Bradbury’s Creative Writing course at UEA. MacCann doesn’t seem to be a satisfied customer.
This collection of stories is filled with outsiders, people who internalise their dissatisfaction with life, or who try to numb it in some way. They are almost abstract as characters. MacCann plunges you straight into the heart of a story, without context or exposition. I felt like a voyeur, given a glimpse of these characters’ lives through a crack in a door, or a moment’s eavesdropping on a conversation. Continue reading →
Lisa McInerney won the Bailey’s Prize last year with this, her debut novel. I liked the reviews I read on other bookish blogs, so it went high up on my to read list.
It had a slow start. It felt a little so-so, a little studied at first. I didn’t much care for Ryan and his girlfriend Karine, or Jimmy and his mum Maureen, or Ryan’s dad Tony, when they were first introduced.