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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The Radetzky March

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Read 02/01/2022-09/01/2022

Rating 5 stars

Onwards in my European literary tour to Austria. Joseph Roth was born in a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that is now in Ukraine, but studied in Vienna and is considered to be an Austrian writer. I have his novel The Radetzky March in a Folio edition, which is no longer in print.

The Radetzky March is considered to be a political masterpiece that draws parallels between the elevation and subsequent fall of a military family and the decline and eventual collapse of the Habsburg monarchy. The focus of the novel is the Trotta family, Austro-Hungarians of Slovenian origin, the patriarch of whom rescues Emperor Franz Joseph I from death during the Battle of Solferino. This earns him an elevation to the nobility and the title Baron Trotta von Sipolje.

It’s a funny book that captures the camaraderie of military life, the ridiculous nature of civil service life, the generational changes in parent-child relationships, and the curious rigidity of friendship between men of a certain class. Having studied the causes of the First World War at school, it also provided a different, more social context to the political one I garnered from O Level text books in the 1980s.

It’s also a poetic book, in the way Roth describes landscape, seasons, thoughts and emotions. His turn of phrase is perfection. I loved the lightness of his touch, the humour and fondness for his characters, and the way he skewers the social structures of the time, while simultaneously mourning their passing. Continue reading

Hit Factories: A Journey Through the Industrial Cities of British Pop

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Read 05/04/2021-18/04/2021

Rating 3 stars

Hit Factories is a curious and eclectic book. The title and the flyleaf blurb suggest a social history of pop in industrial cities – how the industrial landscape influenced the music and vice versa. It’s not that, though. It’s more personal, built around an attempt by author Karl Whitney, a Dubliner transplanted to the North East of England, to understand Britain differently.

Whitney has drawn on a travel writing approach of exploring the relationship between landscape and community, finding the out of the ordinary and drawing on the voices of those involved in the story. The book examines why certain industrial cities developed, or didn’t, distinctive music scenes and represents the condensed musical histories of 11 cities across just over 300 pages. Continue reading

Notebook

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Read 27/02/2021-28/02/202

Rating 5 stars

I was all set to start a different book when Tom Cox’s Notebook arrived in the post. This is a book I’ve been waiting for, delayed by the pandemic, pledged for in 2019. Cox is an author who does his own thing, publishing through Unbound since 2017, and a writer whose work fits the contours of my brain so perfectly that I don’t think twice about pledging for his books.

Before I even opened the cover, an extract on the back sleeve made me laugh.

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Beastie Boys Book

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Read 17/05/2020-24/05/2020

Rating 5 stars

Beastie Boys Book opens with Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) talking about the best Beastie Boy – Adam Yauch (MCA). I loved MCA. He was a renegade. He seemed to live life at a million miles an hour, curious about everything, folding his experiences into his creative output. Horovitz knows Yauch was the best Beastie Boy, too. It’s a beautiful tribute to Yauch.

Beastie Boys Book is a collection of reminiscences by Horovitz and the other surviving Beastie Boy, Michael Diamond (Mike D), with essays by music critics, famous fans and musical collaborators mixed in. Continue reading

Set the Boy Free

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Read 03/05/2020-07/05/2020

Rating 4 stars

I love Johnny Marr. He’s an absolute peach of a human. Mr Hicks bought me his autobiography a while ago now. It’s a hefty hardback that I’ve been reluctant to carry with me on my commute. What better time than a lockdown to read it, then. Continue reading

Random Thoughts on Lockdown 2

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I read something today that contained a phrase I found pleasing. It’s in a blog post by Clare Fisher, author of How the Light Gets In. The post is part of a lockdown collaboration between Influx Press, Picador Books and Burley Fisher Books that brings together short story writers and highlights their work. It’s called Short Stories for Strange Times and is billed as a series of virtual events.

But what is the phrase I enjoyed so much? Continue reading