The Trick is to Keep Breathing

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Read 22/08/2021-28/08/2021

Rating 5 stars

The Trick is to Keep Breathing is book eight on my summer reading challenge list, part of Cathy’s 20 Books of Summer reading challenge. It is the story of Joy, a Drama teacher whose life is unravelling. It combines narrative with text layout, font weight and insertion of illustrative elements to represent Joy’s unravelling. There’s a feel of concrete poetry to it, and the sort of textual play that Nicola Barker used in her novel H(A)PPY. There’s also a feel of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine to Joy’s story, superficially in the way Joy looks to women’s magazines to distract and instruct, and more seriously in the way her immediate family has treated her, and the damage not having a safety net can do to a person. 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

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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Mortimer and Whitehouse Gone Fishing: Life, Death and the Thrill of the Catch

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Read 31/08/2020

Rating 4 stars

Book 10 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge.

Mortimer and Whitehouse Gone Fishing is a companion book to the BBC series of the same name. You don’t need to have watched it to enjoy the book (although I hope you do watch it, it’s quite the antidote to much of the rubbish on the box). Nor do you need to be an angler or interested in fishing. You don’t even particularly need to be a fan of either Bob Mortimer or Paul Whitehouse. The book is more than the sum of its parts. Continue reading

His Bloody Project: Documents relating to the case of Roderick Macrae

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Read 26/04/2020-03/05/2020

Rating 3 stars

I’ve had Graeme Macrae Burnet’s book hanging around on my Kindle for three or so years. A friend’s recent review of Burnet’s debut novel reminded me that I hadn’t got round to reading His Bloody Project.

I was in the mood for some historical fiction after the last book I read, so I charged up my neglected Kindle and opened His Bloody Project up. Continue reading

A Chancer

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Read 06/10/2019-16/10/2019

Rating 3 stars

First published in 1985, A Chancer is James Kelman’s second novel. It’s an examination of working class Glasgow life through the eyes of Tammas, a young man of twenty.

We meet Tammas at the end of an unproductive factory night shift, playing cards and winning money from a co-worker that the co-worker doesn’t have. The factory is short on orders and it looks like redundancies are imminent.

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