Lori & Joe, shortlisted for the 2023 Goldsmith Prize for innovative and experimental novels, is inspired by Amy Arnold’s own walks over the fells and being attentive to her landscape, to her movement, and to her thoughts. The novel is a beautiful representation of the mind’s meandering quality, jumping through a person’s history without warning….
The water all around us is Lynn Michell’s fifth novel. Set on a remote Hebridean island, it deals with personal loss, loneliness and the environmental crisis facing our seas. The author is Director of Linen Press, a small, independent women’s publisher, recently moved from the south of France to North Uist. No doubt Michell’s new home was the inspiration for the novel’s setting….
iam Bell’s Man at Sea is a genre-defying delight that interrogates and reimagines the classic war novel. A domestic mystery set in Malta across the 1940s and 1960s, Man at Sea, follows the story of a former airman trying to reunite his old friend, Beth, with the son of her late wartime husband. The narrative is split between the airman, Stuart, and Beth’s stepson, with the former narrating the investigation alongside Beth during the 1960s. Beth’s Stepson acts as the second narrator, following his experience of the Siege of Malta through the 1940s. More than anything, this story is about the bonds people form through pain and fear and how complicated the love and relationships that arise from these shared experiences can be: ‘Could you not have left them a letter, huh? Just a word or two?’
The Absent Therapist is a collection of narratives which defies straightforward definitions. It is composed of numerous fragments, with no singular story or plotline. Threads are returned to, picked up and re-spun, before being laid down again and the process repeated. This cyclical returning and exploration of numerous threads deposits the reader into the various perspectives displayed, engaging them in an honest portrayal of humanity: ‘Separate gates are a good idea, because ferrets tend to want to escape as a group.’
Carys Davies is a novelist and writer of short stories with an impressive array of accolades. I approached her latest novel The Mission House with curiosity and found myself completely immersed in the wistful, gently paced narrative. That is not to say that the novel is lacking; Davies weaves the plot in a temporal structure that comfortably outpaces the reader, and while the lyricism and imagery in the tightly pruned chapters project a magical aura of India, the allegory is a backdrop of post-colonialism and modern political rumblings which hang in the air like humidity; not quite visible yet distinctly discomforting.
“Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown”, Virgina Woolf’s manifesto for a new kind of fiction, starts with a small, seemingly innocuous figure who teases her, “Come and catch me if you can”. A General Practice presents a tableau vivant of brief encounters between doctor and patient in a clinic in the forgotten back streets of an unnamed French city, “tucked away behind a row of bargain shops and fast food outfits”. In its imaginative attentiveness to place, suggestion of character, and its sensitivity to the passing of time, the world that we enter in these pages is luminous with the lives of those forgotten, ignored or made invisible.
Maggie O’Farrell(Tinder Press, 2021); pbk: £8.99 As an avid William Shakespeare fan, I thought I knew most everything about his life. I have studied him inside and out for years. I have heard the earworms of his work in the background of my mind for hours on end. Yet, Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet completely changed what Read More
The world constructed in the pages of Mandrake Petals and Scattered Feathers situates itself quite comfortably between the dirt and hardship of real medieval life and the strange otherness of half-remembered myths. This is a world where you’d pay a man to hang both animals and people, but also a world where girls can magically transform into birds. These two elements from two different stories feel complimentary rather than contradictory.
In the era of the instant communication that comes with the ever-advancing technology it is easy to forget the art of letter writing where relationships were built, and destroyed, on well-travelled paper. With texting, emails, or messaging through social media, exchange is almost instantaneous. The miles between the conversation matter little in this form. Letters, however, are a somewhat forgotten mode of communication that involves more thought-out conversations, triggering also a certain amount of suspense between delivering and receiving. Jeremy Cooper’s Bolt from the Blue revives the letter as dialogue in capturing the complicated relationship between a mother and daughter.
Dark Neighbourhood is a collection bound by dread. ‘Dark’ is an appropriate word, as these stories enter the dark recesses of the minds of troubled characters as well as dark places.