Permafrost

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Read 21/02/2021-26/02/2021

Rating 5 stars

Permafrost is the first novel by Catalan poet Eva Baltasar. It’s a thing of beauty, visceral and uncompromising. It’s about depression, and being cared about but not loved; it’s the story of someone who tries not to let others in because being self-contained is safer. It’s also deeply, dryly funny.

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Wintering

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Read 09/11/2020-14/11/202

Rating 4 stars

Wintering starts as a memoir of a time in Katherine May’s life when she felt that she had been frozen. Margaret, who blogs at From Pyrenees to Pennines, included it in her August Six Degrees of Separation this summer. I immediately reserved it at the library.

I enjoyed May’s writing style. She is a clear communicator and observes her own experiences with an unemotional detachment. She reveals early on that she is autistic, which possibly explains the calm clarity she brings to her observations. I could imagine this book as a radio documentary. Continue reading

Random Thoughts on Lockdown 6

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I thought I’d finished with these random rambles about not going out, but July is a long time ago. Much can change in these weird old times between breakfast and what you probably call lunch but I call dinner. Since my last post in this accidental series, I’ve been reading, obviously, and working, mostly from home with the occasional trip into work. I’ve had a couple of trips out of the house, and a bit of a meltdown. 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

This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else

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Read 28/04/2019-03/04/2019

Rating 5 stars

This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else is a history of the Manchester band Joy Division, drawn from oral history interviews compiled by Jon Savage and from music press reviews and interviews, and fanzines. It made me nostalgic for a moment in my childhood where I could only ever have been an observer. Continue reading

The Girl Who Played with Fire

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Read 11/08/2018-08/09/2018

Rating: 4 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room European Backpacking Challenge

The Girl Who Played with Fire is the second book in the Millennium Trilogy (shut up, that ghost written fourth book and its followup is not part of the series) by Stieg Larsson. After my forays into Yrsa Sigurdardóttir’s and Jo Nesbø’s writing, it was a relief to be back in Larsson’s safe hands. Continue reading

In Cold Blood

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Read 26/09/2017-06/10/2017

Rating: 4 stars

As I started this book, it felt like I knew the story already, and yet I didn’t. I had watched the film starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote, based on his experience writing the book, which has left me with a strange half knowledge.

It took a while for Capote’s writing style to gel for me. I’d come from volume 7 of The Sixth Gun (review to come), and prior to that had read Peter Carey’s memoir Wrong About Japan, both of which were punchy and fast flowing in their own ways. In Cold Blood starts off more melodramatic in tone. It made me think of those true crime TV programmes where re-enactments take place and a man with a sonorous voice intones the story over the top of the action. A bit like Judge Rinder’s Crime Stories, for readers in the UK.

As I settled into Capote’s style, though, I found myself gripped by the scenes he was setting. Continue reading

The Marriage Plot

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Read 16/07/2016-19/07/2016

Rating: 4 stars

This book was a delight. The prose fizzed with exuberance. Experiencing Madeleine’s college life, her friendships, her romantic trysts, her wrestling with what to study and why, was like experiencing university again. Madeleine the character as Proustian cake.

Madeleine is confident and secure in her privileged background. She’s a loved daughter. She’s also somehow confident in her parochialism when moving among the aesthetes and pseuds. I warmed to her. She is sarcastic and engaged at the same time as being rudderless. For the first half of the book, she breaks her own rules and changes her perception of herself. She is trying to find out who she is and what she wants. Does she sacrifice herself on the altar of her great love for Leonard? Is that love as great as she thinks it is? Continue reading