It’s that time again…

….and the short list for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction is with us. I decided to try and read the long list this year, hoping to complete it before the short list was announced, but I failed by six! In my defence, two of those were a tactical play. When I knew I hadn’t given myself enough time to fit in all 16, I looked at the titles and banked on two of them definitely making it to the long list, that those two were also some of the longest reads on there was very helpful!

As the shortlist was announced I jotted the titles down and was pleased to see that I’ve read three, a further two are the books I’d deliberately not read, leaving one that I just haven’t gotten around to yet. So, let’s run through the books that are a bit closer to that finish line and taking the prize.

Dominicana by Angie Cruz (John Murray Press )

I have to confess I love a book that looks at a clash of cultures, the dreams of what moving to a land of opportunity could provide and then the realisation that it’s not all quite what we’ve seen in the movies.

We begin this book with 15 year old Ana living with her large, boisterous family in the Dominican Republic. Her brothers, sisters, and especially her mother, are alive on the page immediately. All have desires from life that they will noisily strive for. For Ana, well, she is enjoying school and her teenage crush on a kind, gentle, local boy, one who she knows would treat her right, who she’d have a good life with. Her mother has other plans.

Wanting a better future not only for her daughter, but for the whole family, her mother sees a ticket to the good life through one of the islands notorious Ruiz brothers, 30 year old Juan. Before Ana can blink she is being married off to a man she barely knows, so that she can follow the strict plan set before her. Move to New York with husband, devote your life to said spouse, while you work your fingers to the bone earning money that will, in turn, bring the rest of your family to the land where the streets are paved with gold.

I became so attached to Ana. From the moment she found herself in her new apartment, high above the city, looking down on a world she feels she will never fit into, I wanted her to win. With so much against her in her new home, a language she barely speaks, a culture she doesn’t understand and a husband who expects more of her than she could ever have imagined, will these daily battles simply be too much for a young girl far away from home?

Ana was so well rounded as a character for me, I felt I was getting a real insight into the cross over of the first generation of people moving into America at an intensely political time in history. For me this is fiction at its best, here is a life so far removed from what I have lived, a story representing so many others who really did experience this journey, and providing me with a level of understanding and empathy I could never achieve through a dry, historical textbook.

Delighted to see this has made its way onto the shortlist!

Weather by Jenny Offill (Granta)

For such a slim read this is actually the piece of fiction I haven’t yet made it to, and had not done so deliberately assuming it would be on the long list. This should not be seen as a slight to Jenny Offill, I have loved her past work (all hail ‘Dept of Speculation) but this years long list was simply too hard to call.

This is a story about a librarian, one who leaves work each day to go home to another job as carer for two family members. Things change when a former mentor arrives and offers her a new role, one that will be challenging in many new ways.

As I haven’t got to this yet I don’t want to ‘blurb’ this to you, BUT what I can offer is a link to an interview we had with Jenny Offill at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights. This was meant to take place in the shop itself, but with our current challenging times this had to turn into an online event. If we look for silver linings this means you can all now enjoy it from the comfort of your home wherever you may be. Just click below to read the interview.

‘For me, the only antidote for dread is collective action’: a Q&A with Jenny Offill

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (Penguin)

I would have been shocked not to see this title on the shortlist, after its more than deserving Booker win (and if you want to know, I think it should have won outright, alone *grumble grumble*)

It’s a funny old game these prizes, the books submitted need to have been published within a certain window to qualify for entry. This novel first arrived in our bookshops at the beginning of April 2019, in fact only ONE day after that window to enter opened! I received a proof copy of this book to read, with proofs usually coming out around 9 months before the book itself is published, I feel like I read this book a loooong time ago!

You’d think this would mean my memory of it would be a little hazy, but what is total testament to this book is that it is still with me as clear as day. The characters, of which there are many, still vivid and ready at a moments notice to go walking through my imagination again.

The book is split up so that we read, one by one, twelve characters experience of being a black woman in the UK. What makes it incredible is that these lives span an entire century, and gradually their stories all become interwoven, ending in something of an ensemble piece. The scope of showing so many sides of black womanhood from the early 1900’s through to the 2000’s is a feat that could be too much for many, ending up confused or laboured with so many voices, but Evaristo handles this so deftly that you start fitting the strands of each life together without challenge. I think a sign of excellent writing is when you become blind to how excellent it actually is, as you have become completely absorbed into the story.

There is always the question hovering whether winning the Booker means you are less likely to pick up this award, but as we know, Evaristo ‘shared’ the Booker, so who knows what it could potentially mean here! All I know is that if she does win, it couldn’t be more deserving.

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel (Harper Collins )

If you’re a betting sort it may not have taken too much working out that this is one of the books I assumed would make the short list, so saved to read a little later. I don’t know if I’ve ever waited so long, with such anticipation, for a novel to arrive. How can it be 11 long years ago since I first picked up Wolf Hall?!

So here we have it, the conclusion of Mantels trilogy, as we follow Thomas Cromwell through his last days. I decided that in readiness for this I would start the trilogy again, and got stuck back into ‘Wolf Hall’ (probably why I didn’t finish reading the long list in time eh?! It’s not a quick read at over 600 pages). Honestly, I got so much more from it the second time round and just revelled in her genius, it’s simply word perfect. I still need to reread ‘Bring Up The Bodies’ before I get to this final tome, but that’s hardly a chore. I honestly consider the first two in the series to be masterpieces of literature, and I have no doubt at all that the third will live up to its predecessors. I almost don’t want to start it as then I know the journey Mantel has taken us on will have to end.

I also highly recommend the BBC documentary ‘Hilary Mantel: Return to a Wolf Hall’, she is a constant delight through out, one minute making me laugh, the next making me cry. We should be so proud to have a writer of her calibre penning stories to send around the globe from our country, she’s one of our greatest exports. Also, it is worth the license fee alone to see her sitting firing a machine gun along a windy coast line, utterly glorious. Hunt it down on iPlayer.

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes (Pan Macmillan)

We seem to have had a real influx of Greek myth retellings over the last couple of years, Circe, Silence of the Girls, House of Names, I could go on. This is in no way a complaint, I love the retelling of myths and legends, how they can surprisingly lend themselves to the current dramas of the day. Natalie Haynes has previously written about the Greek Gods, one book being ‘The Children of Jocasta’ which I enjoyed while sitting in the Cretan sunshine (it helps if you can pair your setting with the book right?!)

‘A Thousand Ships’ sets out to tell the stories of the women who were caught up in the Trojan War, their voices generally not considered important enough to relay. ‘Silence of the Girls’, by Pat Barker, attempted a similar theme last year, but many found that after starting out with Briseis voice, it very quickly found its way back to Heracles being our narrator.

‘A Thousand Ships’ really does cover many, many of these women’s voices, and I have to confess I often got muddled as to who was speaking, as it went to and fro amongst them all. We meet and then keep revisiting these women as the war goes on in the seemingly never ending way it did, hearing from the mightiest beauty to the lowest of servants. What I found thrilling was how three dimensional Haynes made these women, we didn’t just hear their fear as they recounted their days but also their anger, their bitterness at what these men were putting them through, their sarcasm towards their husbands (managed to get lost coming home for TEN WHOLE YEARS did you dear?!) their gentleness towards some and their wickedness towards others.

If you have enjoyed reading Greek myths in the past then I really recommend this, it adds a whole new dimension to the Trojan War story and will raise many a wry smile in doing so.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Headline)

And last but by no means least we come to Hamnet, and if you’ve been keeping score, the second book I haven’t read yet due to me betting on it being on the long list. Now I have to admit I am something of a super fan which it comes to Maggie O’Farrell. I have always adored her fiction, but her last outing ‘I Am, I Am, I Am’, which was a memoir of her 17 brushes with death, blew me away, quickly going into my list of ‘favourite books of all time’. I was lucky enough to go and see her read from this, she chose the last of those 17 stories and when she read the last sentence, well, I scared a few people sitting around me as I burst into rather alarmingly snotty tears.

Her novels prior to this have all been contemporary, but ‘Hamnet’ sees her first foray into historical fiction (my favourite kind of fiction *rubs hands together with glee*). Now even though I haven’t read this yet I am going to introduce you to what it’s about, and even though the novel is based on actual historical events, I’m going to say – SPOILERS! Just incase you do not know about this story, which I very much didn’t, and don’t want to know anything going into the book.

So, Hamnet, who dis?! Well, turns out he was Shakespeares son, and yes it sounds like Hamlet, apparently the two names were interchangeable back then. Unfortunately he passed away while still a young boy, and this is very much a story exploring grief and the many ways different people experience it, even within the one family and their four walls.

I have trusted friends who have read this already and claimed it is exquisite, beautifully told and utterly heart rendering. I expect nothing less from O’Farrell to be honest, she can touch the coldest of hearts.

If you are a reader who also likes their books to be a beautiful object to behold, this hardback is stunning, from the gold foiling on the dust jacket to the designs underneath.

Again this is a book I can’t wait to get to, but also have that reader dread of not wanting to start it as once I have I’ll never get the joy of reading it for the first time again. Authors who make me feel this way basically have my dedication for life.

With The Globe theatre kindly streaming live plays to be watched during quarantine, why don’t you watch some of the bards work and then tuck up with this glimpse into his own story.

So there you go dear readers, our short list for 2020. I must confess I enjoyed a lot of the long list, it was a really strong year for me, and there are a couple of books I would have been just as delighted to see appear (if you’d like to know more about those give me a shout and I can do a post giving a nod to them, as still very much deserved).

Obviously we cannot get our to bookshops at the moment but many independents are still posting books out, and they need your help now more than ever. I’ll pop a link to Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights below (click home – sorry about the big pink box, the wonders of the internet popping it there for no reason!) but if you’d like to check your local independent bookshop just head to their website and they’ll inform you whether they can currently deliver.

More than ever dear friends, stay safe and well, and…

Happy Reading!


It’s that time again…

The Bell is Ringing, the Interval is Over

And we’re back, with the second part of the ‘Hitlist 2019’ 5 Star reads! Grab yourself a cuppa, or maybe some mulled wine – it is the season after all, get settled and let’s get straight back to business with the rest of the books.

Sal by Mick Kitson


The first we’re coming to was a novel I listened to on audiobook rather than read in the physical form, and I HIGHLY recommend taking this route for it, although I loved the book so much I immediately bought a physical copy and pushed it into my mams hands, so either way you’re winning. The reason I loved the audio so much is due to the most perfect pairing of narrator to text. This is a story of two Scottish sisters and their story is voiced by the talented Sharon Rooney (from My Mad Fat Diary, Sherlock, and Dumbo, amongst many others) her Glaswegian accent fitting the narrative like a glove. We follow the sisters, Sal aged 13 and Peppa just 10, as they runaway into the Scottish wilderness. Sal has prepared for this, hours spent watching YouTube survival videos, as they escape an abusive home and the potential involvement of social services. This book handles some heavy issues but the sisters are such a wicked delight it never feels too much, I became invested in them and it feels like they still live on outside of the pages for me. The bond between the two crackles off the page with life and the author transports you so vividly it is as if you’re sitting out there by a campfire with them. Easily one of my favourite books of the year and most definitely my favourite audio book experience ever.

Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation – Adapted by Ari Folman, Illustrations by David Polonsky

Penguin Books

I must confess I was unsure of this graphic adaptation before I opened the book, but I was immediately reassured within the first few pages at how sensitively this has been adapted and illustrated. Using all of Anne Frank’s own words, Folman has taken passages from her diary that then sit along some of the most beautiful and moving illustrations I have ever seen.

The simplicity of the drawings showing both Anne’s actual existence and the thoughts that were playing out inside her head made reading this hit home even more than previous reads of the traditional printing of her diary. If I could I would make sure every home had a copy of this, so deeply affecting it leaves an emotional imprint as to serve a timely reminder to us all to fight to stop stories like this happening again.

Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee


Something for our younger readers now, and those young at heart, with this utter gem. It got me hooked from the get go with the opener “Our mother had a dark heart feeling”, whadda line folks. Another pair of siblings to be found here, this time we have our title protagonist Lenny and her younger brother Davey. Life isn’t always so easy for these two, with Davey unwell and seemingly unable to stop growing, they distract themselves with the exciting thump through the postbox of the next instalment of their buildable encyclopaedia! After their mother signs up for an amazing offer for regular deliveries that’ll see her children working their way through the alphabet, she is appalled when after an issue or two the price suddenly shoots up to an extortionate amount. Lenny and Davey’s story is punctuated by their mothers letters to the firm that produce the encyclopaedia, increasingly frustrated at the growing divide between what they promised and what she is receiving, and possibly letting some of her personal worries spill out onto the page at the same time, the correspondence is recognisable to anybody who has been hooked by a ‘first issue £1.99’ deal. This is an incredibly warm book that made me laugh out loud and shed a tear, a perfect all rounder.

Heroes: Mortals and Monsters, Quests and Adventures by Stephen Fry


Stephen Fry is back with the second of his Greek myth series, and he has not let the standard slip from the first outing of Mythos. He brings these stories to life and had me laughing out loud the whole way through. No dusty retellings of antiquity here, if you’ve had no interest in the Greek gods and heroes before this is of no matter, it’s a riot of a read.

Lanny by Max Porter

Faber and Faber

There could have been the potential for bias here as the author of this book lives in my village, but I believe the accolades that have been heaped upon it more than support my claim for just how wonderful it is. Set in a small village (bearing no resemblance to our own, I couldn’t help but wonder if it would as I started!) we meet a young boy named Lanny, his mum and dad, and the collection of villagers who have quite the variety of quirks and eccentricities. Not only do we have the folk of the village, we have the ‘is it real/is it not’ folktale of Dead Papa Toothwort, something of a spirit that lurks around the area inspiring lore and ghost stories for centuries gone. Deciding that things have been calm a little too long around those parts, he decides to stir up a wind that will set things in motion, events that will shake the village, their trust in one another and put young, dream chaser Lanny in a most frightening position. The way Porter plays with language and prose is unique and always enchanting.

I cannot help but notice I still have 4/5 books left to go on this list, so I think best for us all if I don’t overload you all again so instead I’ll pop them into a third part! Apologies for dragging this out but there are books I simply can’t leave out, yet I’m also aware nobody wants a blog post that is going to take them an hour to read! So I hope you’ve enjoyed this selection and as ever, give a shout if you’ve read any and what you thought of them, or if you are now tempted to give one of these a go!

So until next time,

Happy Reading!

The Bell is Ringing, the Interval is Over

The 2019 Hitlist

Welcome back bookworms!

A little while ago I asked if a round up of my 2019 reads would be worthwhile and, receiving a resounding yes, here I am! After looking through the books I’ve picked up this past year (I diligently record and rate everything I read on Goodreads, so I can remember the highs and also think ‘what the hell was that about?’ over the lows) I’ve decided that this can’t feasibly be one blog post, it would be too much to expect you to sit through, so, if you’ll humour me, I’m going to split it in several pieces. We’ll start off with ‘5 Star Reads’, the big hitters of the year, over two posts, and then follow up with another post or two containing the ‘Best of the Rest’, books that although may not have reached the 5 star heady heights, still deserve a mention.

I’ve got my mitts on some great books in 2019 so even with this division I already fear for the length of these posts. I’d also like to add that I save some of my most anticipated reads for this time of year, as Winter/Christmas is my favourite reading season (yes I have a favourite reading season, don’t judge!) so you can safely go ahead and assume anything by Elizabeth Strout, Philip Pullman and Erin Morgenstern have got 5 stars, I am just reading them now or in the following week or two, so they won’t feature here. And one last caveat – the idea of sorting my 5 star reads into any kind of countdown to a number one spot was too much for my tired little brain, so they’re mainly being presented in the order I read them, from January to December. Well, with all that ado we best get on!

Milkman by Anna Burns

Faber & Faber

What a bloody brilliant start to my year this was. I’d been nervous of this winner of the 2018 Man Booker, whispers of it being difficult to read and stylistically challenging. I’m so glad I decided to see for myself as this book paid back tenfold in rewards for pushing myself that bit harder with this novel. We follow an 18 year old, quiet, book reading girl living in Belfast during the Troubles, and while we’re aware of the major political strife and violence occurring, the book focuses in on the more direct effects on her life at this moment. We see strict patriarchal structures asking her to be a person she doesn’t want to be, the stifling claustrophobia from her family and religious doctrine, and Milkman himself. No characters are named in this book, we meet mammy, boyfriend, the sisters, and then Milkman. A man much older, and powerful, than our protagonist, his presence is oppressive as he makes it clear he will be her partner. Architecting meetings so that the rumour mill will kick in and the town will believe his declaration and hold over her, her actual life and the one people believe she is living take two wildly divergent paths. This novel puts weighty problems within the pages, both on the shoulders of the protagonist and for the reader to work through, but it is worth it for the skill Burns has with her prose, how wickedly funny this book can be and the demonstration of the personal being political and vice versa.

Testament by Kim Sherwood


This sensitively handled first novel deeply moved me. Set across two time periods we follow the story of a Jewish artist, Silk, during the Holocaust. This is then interwoven with this the story of his granddaughter, Eva, in the present day. When Silk dies Eva is contacted by the Jewish Museum in Berlin. They have the testimony of Silk in their possession and wish to display it in the museum. Seeing on the page the questions posed to those liberated from the camps were asked to answer, sometimes only hours or days after they were freed, is heart rendering. Eva herself is unsure whether her grandfather would have wanted this document made public so travels to Berlin to see his testimony, where she finds much more about the man and his past than he had ever revealed. Sherwood has drawn from her own family history and the deep effect the holocaust had on them, and I believe this can be felt in the writing, bringing an honesty to it that is both upsetting and beautiful.

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden


The final instalment of this trilogy and, oh my, it did not disappoint. Each book improved on the last for me and this series has easily found itself on my ‘favourite books of all time’ list. I don’t want to talk about this book here as if you haven’t read the series I don’t want to spoilt what happens, and if you have read the first or second book, well, you don’t need me to tell you to get the third, you’ll already be doing so. What I will do for this who are wondering if they should get involved in this world of Russian dark magic and derring do is insert a link here to my review of the first in the series!

The Little Snake by A. L. Kennedy


Charmed doesn’t even come close to the effect this book had on me. For old and young alike this homage to ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is the most beautiful of fables. A young girl named Mary, happily living in the beguiling city she has always called home, befriends a small snake called Lanmo. He visits her as she grows older, providing comfort as the city around her begins to change beyond all measure as corruption and war take hold. Knowing there will come a day when he can no longer see Mary, the two try to accept the trials that can beset us in life with bravery and grace. Lanmo also visits others, more morally dubious than Mary, and dispenses just deserts that cannot help raise a wry smile with the reader, holding accountable those who have a striking resemblance to public figures we may also not feel so warmly towards. I could reread this several times over, almost a novella it could be consumed in one sitting, and I think you’d always come away warmed, remembering what really matters in life.

Brother by Matthew Dickman and Michael Dickman

Faber and Faber

Some poetry to wet the whistle now. This is a collection split down the middle, and flip reversed, with each half given to a brother. Both award winning poets in their own right, Matthew takes one half and Michael the other. This is the first time the two have had their work published together in a volume and it was devastating circumstances that led them to do so, after their older brother lost his life to suicide. The grief rings off every page, but there is also light to be found in the darkest of times as they remember the relationship they shared and the memories they made. An incredibly special collection.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang


Yas Queen!! Or Yas Prince should I say! I am SO HERE for this graphic novel. Set in France, an undisclosed time ago, a young woman named Frances is working as a seamstress in a shop where her talents are seriously undervalued. When one day her work is spotted by an appreciative eye she receives a job offer she can’t refuse, making clothes for a member of the Royal Family! Moving into the palace she meets her new employer, to find they will not let her see their face, simply passing on requests for the most extravagant of dresses. Eventually discovering she is providing show stopping fashion for Lady Crystallia, who is also known as Prince Sebastian during the day, the two work to keep his secret while also allowing him to live the life he feels most happy in. Will the demands set on a Prince prove to be too much to make this possible? This story is an absolute JOY and the illustrations are perfection. Perfect for ages 8 to 88!

To prevent you all from suffering fatigue I’ll stop here for the day, but I’ll be back soon with the final instalment of the 5 star reads of 2019, and then will follow soon after with Best of the Rest! Hope some or all of these have piqued your interest and do let us know what your reads of the year have been!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

The 2019 Hitlist

Queen of the swingers, the jungle VIP

You may or may not know two of my book loves, I’ve mentioned both before but then I mention a lot on here so they could be easily confused in the melee, however I have need to bring them both up in the one place today. First is one of my all time favourite reads, ‘The Letter for the King’ by Tonke Dragt, it has everything I desire in a book, adventure, good versus evil, a protagonist with derring do and a plucky best friend, the end papers even have MAPS, and Dragt herself has become something of an inspiration of mine (I suggest looking her up but if you’d like me to do a blog post on her, aka the Stefan Zweig piece, then just holler in the comments and your wish is my command).

A true book love of mine!

Secondly we have Pushkin Press, one of my favourite publishers. They publish fiction for older readers as well as having Pushkin’s Children’s Books. If I see their motif on the spine I will always pick the book up for a gander, they seem to find the most fascinating of writers and publish stories I didn’t know I wanted to read but that quickly become the ones I won’t forget for all the right reasons. What I love about their choice of children’s books is that they have a beautiful story telling heft to them, you know those great tales you will always remember? The protagonists that you reference at 80 despite having read them when 8? They are rich in their world building and have characters within that make you forget the rather less magical world outside the pages. These stories are as involving for an adult as a child, people can forget books like The Hobbit and The Book Thief are children’s books, you’re never too old to go on an adventure!

Incase you want to look out for the logo!

Pushkin Press published my beloved ‘The Letter for the King’ (how I wish I could be the one to read it to my nephew, but his mum has stolen that honour as she is a huge fan too!) and now they’ve come up trumps once again, getting me to set sail on another voyage, this time with…an ape! I saved ‘The Murderer’s Ape’ for the perfect reading conditions, as mentioned in a previous post, but wanted to make sure I spoke to any Dog Eared readers about it as the paperback has just hit the shelves. Get cosy under a blanket with this one, if you have any youngsters aged around 8 years onwards get them with you as well, crumpets and hot chocolate at the ready? Ok go!

Remember how we were told if a monkey was given a keyboard over an infinite amount of time that they’d eventually produce the works of Shakespeare? Well don’t wait for that nonsense, here we have an Ape who has sat down with her typewriter to tell us her own story, which I guarantee will have you more involved than Titus Andronicus will. Sally Jones is not only a storytelling ape, she is an exceptional engineer who worked on the Hudson Queen ship with her boss, and friend, the Chief. After quite the tumultuous few years she has decided it would be a good idea to get what happened to her down on paper, and kindly she shares the tale with us in the pages that follow.

If Philip Pullman gives a book his seal of approval you know I’m going to be getting it ASAP!

Sally Jones had her life turned upside down when her and the Chief, currently docked in Lisbon, accept a job from a rather nervous looking gentleman. They are hired to sail for some cargo, ceramic tiles they are told, to be returned immediately to Lisbon. With work in short supply the Chief snaps up the chance to earn some money and their ship sets sail. It quickly becomes evident that they have been duped however, when those loading the cargo prove to be unscrupulous and the ’tiles’ to be transported look a lot more like weaponry.

Sally Jones and the Chief quickly object to participating in such dubious dealings, but matters are taken out of their hands and things quickly take a more sinister turn. A dramatic unfolding of events finds the Chief being imprisoned for the murder the man who originally tasked them with this job, and although Sally Jones knows the charge against him is completely untrue, there is little she can do as the residents of Lisbon then turn against her, seeing her as the assistant of a murderer and an ape who should either be locked safely in a zoo or put down in due haste.

End paper maps – what every good book needs!

Hiding in the city, Sally Jones knows she cannot sit by and let her only friend rot in prison for the next 25 years, for a crime he most certainly didn’t commit, and her determination and loyalty put her on quite the remarkable path to seek his freedom. Our Ape will travel the globe to meet Indian royalty and find friends she never dreamed possible closer to home.

I was swept up by the escapades had by our furry friend, and amazed at how quickly I was willing her on while trying to play detective myself and unravel the many mysteries that were uncovered along the way. Anybody who dismisses this Ape is shown quickly to be a fool, and any reader who doesn’t pick up this book as a ‘children’s book narrated by an ape’ doesn’t seem grown up enough for them, well, you’re not much wiser!

As mentioned above the paperback of this book is out now, but if you can still find the hardback I think it would make a gorgeous gift, as along with stunning maps as the end papers, the book opens with illustrations of each of the main characters and they are beautifully done, while reading I kept turning back to them just to look at their faces and let my imagination run away with me.

Illustrations scattered throughout are blissful

My sister may have claimed reading ‘The Letter to the King’ to my nephew, but I am putting my marker on this one before she gets the chance!

The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius Translated by Peter Graves £7.99 (Pushkin Press)

As a bookworm I’m happy when readers get their books from any independent book seller or dedicated book shop (just not the dreaded online ‘a’ place!) but if you do want to quickly order online (and in all transparency I do work at this shop, although my blog is completely independent), you can hop to the Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delight site and find the book here if you so wish.

Are you intrigued by the Ape with the typewriter or have you already read it? And are you enjoying cosy evenings under the duvet yet and if so with what book? As usual chat away in the comments below!

If you’d like to receive an email notification when a new post appears just send and email to with ‘Subscribe’ in the subject box and we’ll add you to the list! No spam – pinky promise!

Until next time then,

Happy Reading!

Queen of the swingers, the jungle VIP

Step Into My World

Frolicking in the sun, hazy summer days and light nights, they bring joy to so many, including all the members of my immediate family. Me, well I’m missing that gene it seems, as I long for velvety, dark skies outside my window, the soundtrack of rain hitting the pane, a cuppa in hand as I’m tucked under a blanket reading a book. I also save books for Autumn/Winter reading, I’ll get certain novels and just think ‘this needs to be kept for the perfect reading conditions’. These tend to be my most favourite reads. Well, I have recently came across a book that not only fits the bill but exceeds it, I would like to give a real literary description here but what I want to actually say is it is just gorgeously perfect.

Anna James, book wonder, has just had her debut novel published and I knew it would be good but I didn’t expect to fall so deeply in love with it! ‘Pages & Co: Tilly and the Bookwanderers’ is the first instalment of a trilogy in which we meet Tilly, who lives in a bookshop which is that of all bibliophiles dreams, full of nooks, crannies and delicious sweet treats (all concoctions based on those found in some of our favourite stories, Moonfaces toffee shocks and pop cakes anyone?)

Anna James

The shop, Pages & Co, is run by our young heroines Grandma and Grandpa, who have cared for her since her mother disappeared after her birth. The love of all things bookish runs strong in this family and Tilly fills all her time outside of school reading in her favourite spot or helping out her grandparents in the shop. Things are ticking along as usual when some rather different visitors pop in and begin chatting to Tilly, they seem very familiar to her…infact, it’s as if they’ve walked straight out of her favourite novels. In surprise she welcomes to her world Anne (with an ‘e’) of Green Gables and Alice, just back from Wonderland. As if meeting these two wasn’t strange enough, she soon realises that she is the only one who can see them. As she befriends Anne and Alice they reveal to her that not only can they find their way out of their stories and into Pages & Co, they can transport Tilly back with them, so she disappears into the pages of her beloved books. Both delighted and shocked, on her return from a certain Madhatters Tea Party, she questions her grandparents on what is happening and soon learns that ‘bookwandering’ is something that can happen to only the truest of bookworms, those who get totally lost within a story, to the extent that they think, and even talk to characters, in day to day life.

As Tilly explores her new skill she soon finds that bookwandering may hold dangers she could never have anticipated and she begins to question all that she has believed about her past. As a dubious figure begins to follow her into each story, events are set in motion that cause turmoil not only for her but those she loves.

I adore fiction that celebrates the love of books and I was utterly charmed by characters that I hold dear popping up to see me again in a new setting. Just as I’ve always longed for my letter from Hogwarts, I now will be constantly yearning to join the legion of bookwanderers! Tilly immediately felt like a new friend, with whom I could chat about the important things in life, such as a soft spot for Gilbert Blythe, and her mischievous streak, which leads her into a fair few pickles, makes her even more loveable.

Despite being sent a proof of the book (perks of the job eh?!) I still bought a finished copy as the artwork is so very beautiful.

I recommend this book for any age, it’s too enticing to be missed, but I would love to be able to time travel and have read this when I was younger, I would have fallen head over heals. This is set to be a classic, and just as Tilly reminisces over her childhood favourites, bookworms of the future will do just this over her. I am already waiting longingly to start turning the pages of book two in Tilly’s adventures, and until then, excuse me as I go sit in the corner and try to summon up Lizzie Bennet, she’ll take me with her to Pemberley right?!

Pages & Co: Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James £12.99 (HarperCollins)

So dear readers, what characters would you like to meet in real life? Any books you would fancy disappearing into? As usual, let us know in the comments below!

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And until next time,

Happy Reading!

Step Into My World

Brought to you by Hermes…

Yassas friends, and welcome to a blog I have been thinking over for some time now. Over the last year there has been a dramatic rise in the amount of retellings I have been reading, fairytales reimagined, Shakespeare transported to the current day, Norse myth awoken again by Gaiman, but what really has captured me and took many of my reading hours is those stories looking at the Greek Gods.

Yesterday I arrived back in the UK from Crete, the land where Zeus grew and developed his strength to take on the Titans and also the home of the Minotaur. I was accompanied by my seven year old nephew, a serious Hercules fan (Disney making sure an interest in antiquity starts young!) Jack, said nephew, has had me seriously brushing up my Titan/God knowledge as at any moment I’m fired with questions like ‘which of his children did Zeus love the most?’, ‘how can they NEVER die?’ and ‘who put the glad in gladiator?’

I’m also just about to start reading yet another retelling this evening, which I’ll mention later, so I really thought it was time I talked about all the great books that are out there if you too have had your interest piqued by those living up on Mount Olympus.

So, where to begin? I think the most sensible place to start would be with my first official Greek myth purchase, from an author who many consider to be The Chosen One when it comes to reading about the immortals, Robert Graves. I collect the Penguin Deluxe Series so wanted this on my shelf both for topic and the smug satisfaction of seeing my series grow (not so smug now, these books are expensive and the ‘collection’ looks more like a small, happy coincidence) This is DENSE, both physically and in its reading, but if you want each Gods story as close to its ‘true’ form, then this is where you’re going to get it (although classicists will debate this, I think to a layman who simply wants the pleasure of the story this stands true) After each tale Graves expands on what we’ve read and his passion and commitment to a topic he clearly loved certainly is never in doubt.

Now for the book that really stoked my passion, and I imagine did so for many others after rightly winning the then Orange Prize for fiction, the glorious ‘Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller. Heavens if I could write one sentence in a lifetime as beautiful as any found in this book I’d be happy. It is utter perfection. Miller focuses on Achilles and the love affair he is often thought to have had with Patroclus, a minor character who creeps up often when Achilles is mentioned, but whose potential impact is much bigger and warrants more page space than that previously given to him. Miller made these characters so real to me my heart ached and it felt as powerful as an encounter with Gods should. I’m jealous of those of you who get to read it for the first time.

Next up is my beloved Colm Toibin. Now I will read anything Toibin publishes, I adore his prose and think he writes women beautifully (you’d think a good author could write men and women well with them all being, well, human after all but…*stares at you Murakami*) but I have to admit I was surprised when ‘House of Names’ came along and I found it was the retelling of a myth, it was not what I had expected from him, but then the magic of Toibin is you know you’re in good hands no matter where he’s going to take you. Used to his quiet Irish villages with women who keep their problems pushed down under a veil of conformity? Get ready for Clytemnestra to come smashing through your expectations and thrill you with vengeance and, well, some gore too! Her wait for Agamemnon to return home after his sacrificing their daughter for a few gusts of wind is tense to say the least, and his times in Troy will have little to compare to the wrath that awaits and the judgement of his surviving two children, Electra and Orestes. This book crackles throughout with energy, reminding you dabbling with those Greeks is a dangerous business!

Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, ‘Home Fire’ by Kamila Shamsie is another impressive retelling, this time of Antigone. Unlike the previous books this is set in modern times and cleverly uses the original plot to form a study on family, identity and religion when three siblings are put under strain due to a massive culture clash. The plot takes us from London, to Syria, to New York, to Iraq and despite its origins coming from around 440 BC, this novel feels entirely relevant.

I’m bringing out another big gun here, prepare for some Margaret Atwood please! ‘The Penelopiad’ is a slim little read but don’t let this fool you into thinking it’s not to be reckoned with. The pesky Battle of Troy raises its head again and Odysseus, as has been well documented, disappeared for a mere ten years afterwards, but what was it like for his wife Penelope back home? Atwood brings the chorus line to life, as it is made up of the famous twelve maids, in a way that brought goosebumps to my skin. I listened to the audiobook and the chanting of their sorrows and curses are the stuff of nightmares.

If Robert Graves seems a little intimidating to you then I highly recommend ‘Mythos’ by Stephen Fry. Equally as chunky of a tome but more accessible and this had me frequently laughing as Fry brings his own je n’ais se quoi to the telling. Again I listened to this on audiobook and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. The pleasure is in the story telling here, no assessment of the myth or scholarly inquiry, just perfect escapism if you want to listen to the delinquent behaviour of the Gods.

We will finish in not quite a full circle, but a somewhat wonky one with Madeline Miller again (so good we featured her twice) ‘Circe’ arrived in its golden glory this year, oh that gold leafed cover, those end papers, the embossing on the hardback under the dust jacket – be still my beating heart as I stare upon this book lovers dream. Naturally the pressure was on with all clambering to compare this to ‘Song of Achilles’, but these are two very different books to me. For starters Circe, for me certainly, is a lesser known God, so I felt like I did not have that built in tension that I did on beginning Achilles story. Always a bit player in the Odyssey, Miller has breathed life into a God I now find one of the most fascinating. Her battles with her position in life, what it affords her, what she rebels against and the consequences of this are beautifully told and the story is paced so well, never lagging, Miller unfolds the real depths of this character. It didn’t have the same burning intensity for me that I had on first reading ‘Song of Achilles’, but I think I was so swept up on the passion, ‘Circe’ has stayed with me though and has grew into a deep, unshifting love. If I am to point any reader to a Greek myth retelling I will always say Millers name first.

My list of Greek myth doth keep on growing however, and as it seems to be a real trend at the moment I can’t see it slowing down any time soon. So if you enjoyed reading about the above and would like another catch up in the future just let me know in the comments below!

I do want to do a shout out while I’m here. I’m an avid watcher of some very good booktubers, one of whom being Jean from ‘Bookish Thoughts’ on YouTube, you can find her by clicking here , and she has definitely encouraged my reading of Greek Myth. She is studying for her PhD currently and her passion for antiquity shines through every video she makes, I really recommend a watch if you is want to hear somebody talk who is infinitely more qualified than me!

Have you read any retellings? Are you tempted too? And what book is on your bedside table at the moment? As usual chat below and here comes the business bit…

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    and until next time all..

    Happy Reading!

    Brought to you by Hermes…

    Our Most Important Book Yet

    Over in Dog Eared Reads land we’ve been quite quiet for a couple of weeks, and for that please accept profound apologies, health gubbins is still making its presence felt and means reviewing has to be pushed to one side (the reading never stops mind you!) However I received some book post today that I felt had to be addressed on here immediately, a book that is raising money for a mental health condition that is actually the problem plaguing me at the moment – albeit arrived at for very different reasons, and a thoroughly kind hearted and moving project that I’d love if we could send some more readers their way.

    On the 14th June 2017 the country looked on in horror as Grenfell Tower went up in flames and so many lives were lost. Following on from the disaster the government have failed the survivors spectacularly, with the majority of those who lost their home that night still not rehoused. As has so regularly became the case over the last few years with food banks, housing for refugees and more, the public have stepped in to make up for the failure of the state.

    After the tragedy Steve Thompson, R. Martin, Paul Jenkins and Kathy Burke decided to take action. Using Unbound they began a crowd funding campaign to publish a book of short stories, 24 stories in total to represent the 24 floors of the building. They made the decision to have 12 of the works within to be by well known, published authors and the other 12 stories from yet unpublished writers who submitted their work and made the final shortlist. The main goal of this project however is to raise money. Realising that the survivors of this event would be left struggling with PTSD that can be utterly debilitating, the profits from this book will all go to helping out with the psychological damage that echoes long after the night itself.

    ’24 Stories’ came together and was printed on the one year anniversary of the disaster. The stories within are varied, moving, uplifting and upsetting. The team behind the project ensured you are getting a great read for your contribution, with exciting new names to look out for in the future and authors we know well already such as Irvine Welsh, A.L. Kennedy, Nina Stibbe and John Niven to name but a few.

    An acknowledgement to those who helped this happen

    Followers of this site will know how passionate I am about the books I read and love, with little else thrilling me more than when a reader gets in touch to say they’ve bought a book due to a recommendation on here, but I do very much realise not every piece of literature I feature will be the one that floats your boat, so some will be skipped over. With this special edition I implore you all, grab a copy and give it a go, you’ll be doing a great thing, karma will thank you and you get hours of reading to boot. I know some may cry out “I don’t read short stories”, but I reckon if ever there was a time to give them another go, well, this is it.

    I wanted to reassure you guys, I put my money where my mouth is & don’t expect you to shell out where I don’t. I backed this project when it was an idea & no stories yet existed, I believe in the power of the written word so strongly. Also please don’t think I went mad and circled my name in red pen in my copy – I did this with iPhone editing wizardry!

    You will be able to request this book from your friendly local bookshop but also please find the direct link below if you want to order online, I’ll pop the bookshop I work in on here but also a second option so I’m not accused of bias! The book is published on June 14th so you can order it now and have it arrive in a week or two as a nice book surprise!

    Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, my stomping ground! Click here and scroll down to ‘book experts at your service’ and fill in your details there!

    And to get it from another indie spreading book love, click here for a link to Foyles.


    Let me know if you get the book and also what you have been reading lately in the comments below. Are you off on holiday and wanting to compile a holiday reading list? We’re more than happy to help so just give a shout!

    As usual if you’d like to subscribe to the blog just send an email with ‘Subscribe’ in the subject line to and you’ll receive a notification when a new review appears.

    Until next time,

    Happy Reading!

    Our Most Important Book Yet

    A Reading Round Up!

    Lately I’ve been reading a lot of new publications and keeping bang up to date on what is coming out in the book world, but this last week or so, well, that’s gone out the window. A lot of books on my shelves who have been nestling there quite comfortably and quietly for some time began shouting to me all of a sudden, demanding their time had come to be read. As you may have seen in the previous post, this didn’t necessarily always work out for the best and some of those books should have blummin’ well shut up, but there we go, we live and learn.

    So I thought for this weeks instalment we’d have an overview rather than anything to in depth, my spring scattering of reads as it were.

    Let’s start with a book I read today in one sitting and that I heard a lot of fanfare about but for some reason didn’t rush to. More fool me. ‘Thornhill’ by Pam Smy is a combination of graphic novel and text chapters, alternating between the two forms, two different time lines and two stories as you go along. This might sound confusing but Smy has made it completely seamless. The illustrations are beautifully creepy, complimenting the dark story line of a young girl being tormented by a fellow resident in a care home.

    Smy was inspired by dilapidated, eerie looking buildings, The Secret Garden and Jane Eyre, and the nods to these classics are clever and clearly made by a true book lover. I thoroughly enjoyed this and the last few pages sent tingles through me, but hey, don’t take my word for it, PHILIP PULLMAN has only gone and endorsed it so what more do you need?!

    Thornhill by Pam Smy £14.99 (David Fickling Books)

    I went quite a few years back with the next story, a retelling of The Turn of the Screw, this gothic horror homage is executed well, enough connections to make the original inspiration clear but enough twists and changes to make it worth the read. Florence is an unreliable narrator at her best, although be warned, as she tells us of her story she uses some of her own ‘language’. Although easy to understand I did find it jarring at first, but after a couple of chapters it became second nature and I was unaware of its effect going forward.

    Florence and Giles by John Harding £8.99 (Harper Collins)

    Next up is actually a newbie, the latest offering by Amy Sackville, ‘Painter to the King’. Now this ticked many boxes for me, historical fiction, based on a true story and then art thrown in for good measure, but this box ticking all sounds terribly clinical, one thing this novel certainly isn’t. The two words I would use to describe it are rich and fluid. You may ask what I’m on about but bear with me. We chart the career of the great artist Velázquez from the moment he was summoned by King Philip IV of Spain in 1622 and his progression within the court both professionally and personally. His close encounters with the King mean that we also learn about the struggles of the royal family to produce an heir and keep control of a country with problems arising from every possible angle.

    As I say I found this book to be rich, in both lavish historical detail but also the masterful way in which Sackville describes the act of painting itself, smells and textures all but have you peering over shoulders looking at the canvas yourself. Fluid may seem an odd description but the prose was just that for me, every now and then our narrator changes and we skip to an unnamed woman looking at these art works in their current settings, but there is no real distinguishing between speakers, just a dash used to indicate a new viewpoint. This often reminded me of the great Hilary Mantel and her style in Wolf Hall, perhaps not for everybody but for me certainly making it an immersive experience.

    Painter to the King by Amy Sackville £14.99 (Granta Books)

    Last but by no means least a huge shout out to ‘Me Mam. Me Dad. Me.’ Now I promise there was no bias here, I may be a Geordie and this Newcastle based tale is chocker full of lush, local dialect, but I did not allow this to sway my opinion, this is just a bloody excellent book. It’s a slim little read and I don’t want to give away too much, but we have a 14 year old called Danny who quickly had me as a fan with his heart of gold. His mam has just recently got herself a new boyfriend and before he can blink they’re being moved in to his much bigger, much fancier house. It quickly transpires that this new addition to their family isn’t the blessing he first appeared however, and as Danny begins to learn about just how dangerous this could be to his beloved mam, he decides to take action. This is one of those books where the author hasn’t put a word out of place, a total gem.

    Me Mam. Me Dad. ME. By Malcolm Duffy £10.99 (Head of Zeus)

    So there we go, a summing up of a handful of my recent reads, I hope they intrigued and tempted you to go look them up! Let me know if any particularly takes your fancy and what you have been reading lately in the comments below!

    As always we have lots of great books coming your way so if you want to sign up for notifications, here are the details…

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    and until next time all..

    Happy Reading!

    A Reading Round Up!

    Murakami, Misogyny and Me

    Please note for this blog there will be huge spoilers littered through out in relation to the novels ‘1Q84’ and ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage’.

    A trigger warning also needs to be issued due to discussion of rape and sexual assault.

    Thirdly – usually on this blog we like colour, pictures etc. As you will read, the topics below don’t really lend themselves to fun related images, so please excuse the dense text.

    As an avid reader who likes to immerse myself every which way possible in the world of books, I have for some time known of the often revered Haruki Murakami. With his books selling in the millions all over the world, adaptations not just on the big screen but on stage, turned into song and even inspiring video games, his reach is certainly wide. It was around four years ago I decided to make my first literary encounter with him and I chose quite the challenge, for reasons that will make you judge me as either a person with long pockets or very shrewd.

    Having been given a token for a free audiobook I began having a look at my options. There were many that took my fancy, usually around the eight to nine hour mark and, if I’d been paying, costing around £10. I then happened upon 1Q84, released that week in its epic proportions, three books making the whole. I’d heard so much buzz around this book I flagged it as a potential option, then, working out with this choice my 1 token would get me around £35 of reading, I jumped straight in. See, tight purse strings, don’t judge me.

    Not surprisingly this book took a hell of a lot of listening too, but luckily I had a decent commute either side of work so I thought it would be some escapism from the office (this was before my time as a bookseller). The first two books were read by a single man and woman, then the third section had another man join in to voice a recently introduced character. I hated the way he played him, making him rasp and wheeze his way through every sentence, I found myself wincing every time he spoke. By the time I finished listening to 1Q84 my opinion was, to say the least, not good. I’ll go into my many qualms with it in more detail soon, but I did also acknowledge that maybe the style of reading had effected me and I may have enjoyed it more if I’d read the text instead of listening to it. Wary, I stepped away from his fiction for some time.

    Skip to this present week and I was deciding what I wanted to pick off my shelves. My eyes landed upon ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage ‘. Again I remembered this coming out to great fanfare and when a damaged copy had came up for grabs at work I’d taken it, thinking maybe this would be the novel that made me see the Murakami light. It came home with me and then sat there for an age, I never really wanted to open that first page until this week when it somehow ‘clicked’. I often feel like I can’t force reading a book, they seem to have their own magic to me that makes them suddenly want to be read, it’s not me choosing but in their instructing me that now is the time.

    Now I wonder if you’ve seen the film Silver Linings Playbook? There is a standout moment in the film where, in total frustration with an author, Bradley Coopers character smashes a window as he hurls a book through it. Good god was I close to doing that as I finished this novel. It now appears apparent I didn’t have simply a 1Q84 problem, I very much have a Murakami problem.

    To summarise the plot of 1Q84 is an incredibly difficult task, but this strand of the story is central to the whole and where I had the most problems. We are introduced to a woman, Aomame, who is basically an assassin, working for an older lady who has hired her to kill men who are harming women. She is incredibly skilled at carrying out these murders undetected and using a unique tool that kills quickly and efficiently. So far I could get with this story, we have an interesting antihero to follow here. She is asked to take on a case where her target will be an older man, known as ‘The Leader’, who is running some kind of cult. This cult is basically made up of very young girls (we first find out about its existence from a 10 year old escapee) who are raped and assaulted regularly by The Leader.

    When Aomame is about to carry out the killing of the Leader, she ends up in a discussion with him where he explains how he regularly goes into some kind of trance and basically cannot move/control what his body does when these rapes occur e.g. it is not his fault and is (according to him) not really rape. Aomame accepts this and the story goes on from there with this really not being explored or criticised further, we move on from here being expected to accept that other worldly forces make a man rape children and that he really didn’t mean to, so there we go, poor, helpless man.

    In ‘Colourless Tsukuru…’ the concept of the novel again begins intriguingly. A man in his mid 30’s, Tsukuru, had been in a tight knit friendship group with four others for many years of his youth. The five had a closeness few ever experience, believing that each part of them provided an essential part to the whole. When the time came for university Tsukuru was the only member of the gang to move away from their home town, and on a return trip finds out that his friends have all cut him off, refusing to speak to him or explain why they’ve made this decision. The story begins when, fifteen or so years later, it is suggested to him he should find out what happened. Through questioning three of the four friends we learn that one of the women in the group reported to the others that Tsukuru had raped her. None of them actually believed her but went along with it as they decided she ‘didn’t seem well’, even though they all admitted she had clearly been raped and left pregnant. Tsukuru thinks he didn’t rape her physically, but he also believes he might have done so in a ‘dream state’ of which he had no control of. This young women was later murdered , strangled to death, and he also thinks he may also have done this, again in his ‘don’t blame me I can’t help it dream-state’. He even goes so far as to suggest that she wanted to be strangled and murdered. Again, this is just kind of accepted by everyone in the book, he visits each of his past friends and their reaction can be summed up, to a fault, as, ‘oh yeah, she was definitely raped and said it was you, but we all knew it couldn’t have been, you’re just such a nice guy!’

    Now, you’re going to need to tell me Murakami readers – is the rape of women and children a common theme in the rest of his books? Do they all present a story line of ‘poor man, he just couldn’t help doing that bit of rape, there are greater forces he can’t control’? Obviously this is hugely problematic and the light handed way the topic is dealt with, each rapist given an apparently unarguable defence of their attacks therefore whitewashing them of any guilt, is completely sickening. It’s a very small step from those nausearing comments on line of ‘we have to have prostitution to help poor men. They have to deal with urges so uncontrollable if we didn’t have prostitutes of course it’s only natural they’d end up raping women’. When it comes to sex does Murakami similarly believe men have no agency over their actions? Can anything be excused?

    It will perhaps come as no surprise that along with such alarming plot lines, the characterisation of women seems to be extremely limited. I became so incredulous reading ‘Colorless Tsukuru…’ that I actually became slightly hysterical with laughter at one point, as within the space of a page one female characters breasts were described twice. This was not a scene that was in anyway sexual, but it appears to be a woman and appear in a Murakami novel you simply must have your breasts described every time you walk on to the page. I couldn’t tell you a huge amount about this character as she was stocky, not pretty, so didn’t warrant much discussion apart from a brief acknowledgment of being ‘quirky, funny in a dry way’. Of course she was, that’s all the comedy fat girl can ever be right?

    This is in stark contrast to the character who was raped. Again I’d like to tell you about her personality but I can’t. Her body was described in great detail, especially her breasts (of course), her slender, porcelain white legs and her long black hair. The repetition of these descriptions clearly signified that body parts equal the whole of a woman, there is no need to describe their character as your body is a signifier that explains the type of person you are anyway. Women, we’re as flat as the conversations to be found on the pages of this book.

    Let me not mislead you into thinking that this is an author who cannot write a well rounded, layered protagonist, hell no. Nuanced characters do walk these pages, but to be worthy of writing so they must have a penis. And heavens above does Murakami like to talk about this appendage, they may as well publish the book with a pop up Gherkin tower it is so unsubtle. Take this moment:

    And right then…he had an erection. A heroic, perfect, rock hard erection. So massively hard he could barely believe it.

    Give. Me. Strength.

    I do not believe, as some do, that male authors cannot write authentic female voices, Colm Toibin being a writer who in my option does so beautifully. What I do believe is that Murakami does not think women have a role that warrant a voice or an agenda of their own, they simply exist on the side lines of the main story, a vehicle for a man to use to move through his life when needed. Sexual objectification, belittlement and repeated, sanctioned violence against women is not fiction I want to be reading, and hold my hands up as to being totally lost as to why so many seem so eager to?

    In his back catalogue there can be found a book called ‘Men Without Women’, I have a horrible compulsion to discover what he has to say on this one, but in an act of self preservation Murakami has been removed from my shelves as I remind my self of the rule ‘fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me’.

    Let me know in the comments below if you’ve read any Murakami and if you’re a fan or not. Are any of his books less morally dubious?! I’m intrigued to hear your thoughts!

    It will be back to normal service on the book reviewing front next week I’m sure you’ll be relieved to hear, and thank you for bearing with me through my rant!

    Until next time,

    Happy Reading!

    Murakami, Misogyny and Me

    Is it Written in the Stars?

    I was first introduced to Nikesh Shukla through his fantastic work with ‘The Good Immigrant’, a collection of essays from fifteen British black, Asian or minority ethnic writers. Shukla brought this work together after a crowd funding campaign that quickly gathered momentum. It is a truly impressive book that I believe is essential reading for all.

    Now writing weekly columns for The Guardian that are thoroughly enjoyable, he is a writer who’s work I will now always investigate, and he didn’t leave me hanging long as just this week there has been the publication of his new novel ‘The One Who Wrote Destiny’.

    This is a novel that features several narrators, jumping from voice to voice just as we jump from one country to another. These stories all link to one central whole, the family of Mukesh. The book opens during his younger years, having just arrived in the UK from Kenya, then moving forward 30 or so years in the future as we hear from each of his children and others who are encountered along the way.

    The story of this family is an interesting one, where there is an emotional distance between all – caused by events in the past not easily healed, yet there still seemed to me to be love there too. Complex family relations reflect complex identity problems. Shukla again touches on the notion of being a ‘good immigrant’. When Mukesh arrives in England he quickly learns not all want to offer a hospitable welcome, the best way to get by is to be quiet, live life as the ‘good immigrant’, following the narrow idea of a what makes an acceptable resident of the UK if they were not born here. He finds himself confused and shocked by his children who often go against this, his daughter, Neha, being loud in a pub, not even considering implications this will have, his comedian son, Raks, standing on stage examining and laughing at what it is to be ‘other’.

    These now grown children have worries of their own however, with health problems that dog the family appearing with what seems alarming predictability, and a whole new set of questions to be looked at on discussing race and identity in the public sphere. The very visible, violent racism their father experienced now changed to daily ”micro-aggressions’ they endure. As you read their story you wonder if they will find the answers and acceptance they are looking for, and if old ghosts can be laid to rest.

    Other than the authors work I don’t know a huge amount about him, but moments of this story felt very autobiographical to me, even if it wasn’t the narrative arc that matches his own experiences it felt like the emotion and questioning over issues like identity were such an authentic voice, issues that have been thought over for days, months and years. Do we have to tap into the past to find our future or do we forge ahead and determine our own path?

    As a reader I loved this book for absorbing me into a story and introducing me to multifaceted characters who challenge me, as a person with no experience of immigration and the way this presents a whole new layer of life to navigate I am grateful to Shukla for helping to push my understanding a little further, knowing no two peoples experience is the same but that the journey is never an easy one.

    No matter what you think of destiny make sure it’s in your future to get a copy of this book!

    The One Who Wrote Destiny by Nikesh Shukla £14.99 (Atlantic Books)

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    Happy Reading!

    Is it Written in the Stars?