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 →
Angharad Price’s novel The Life of Rebecca Jones is a fictionalised memoir born of family documents and photographs, some of which appear in the text. It’s a clever and affecting book that paints a picture of farming life in the Maesglasau valley in Merioneth across the 20th century. Written in Welsh, the original novel has the title O! Tyn y Gorchudd, which can be translated as O! Pull Aside the Veil. I read Lloyd Jones’s excellent translation into English. Continue reading →
Alan Garner’s The Owl Service is set in a Welsh valley not far from Aberystwyth. The valley contains an ancient, mysterious power. Teenagers Alison, Gwyn and Roger somehow unlock that power and have to deal with the consequences. Continue reading →
This isn’t really a review. It’s more an overview. How Grey Was My Valley is a photo essay using images taken by Peter Halliday that explores various examples of post-war modernist architecture in Wales. It includes images and descriptions of buildings I have known, some in passing, others more intimately. Continue reading →
In Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, Jan Morris explores a place that had deep personal meaning to her. I picked it from my local library as my second book in this year’s Dewithon, hosted by Paula at the Bookjotter blog. It is my first experience of Morris’s writing. I thought it would be a travel book. It is, but it’s also a number of other things. Continue reading →
A Glastonbury Romance is an incredible piece of literature. It won’t be to everyone’s taste. It rambles and gets bogged down in verbiage at times, but it also soars. I was utterly absorbed and entertained by it. The story examines the nature and meaning of life on Earth through the peccadilloes of its characters and John Cowper Powys’s commentary on various philosophical ideas, from religion to politics via environmentalism. I think it portrays human nature honestly, for the most part, but also reveals that Powys at best didn’t understand women, and at worst was a chauvinist. Continue reading →
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.
The final installment in Virginie Despentes’s Vernon Subutex trilogy draws together threads from the previous books and has characters zigzagging into one another’s lives, turned there by coincidence and kismet.
For my next read, I travelled from the 17th century and Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and England fighting to control trade across East Asia, as fictionalised in Shōgun, to the 18th century and the rise of a trading corporation with violence in its constitution. William Dalrymple’s The Anarchy is a boiled down history of the East India Company and its violent occupation and control of the Indian subcontinent that laid the foundations of the British Raj.