Category Archives: Contemporary Reviews

The Arrival of Missives – Book Review

 

Aliya Whiteley’s short novel begins with the sentence ‘I cannot sleep’ and ends with a stirring declaration of intent. In the hundred or so intervening pages we follow the development of Shirley Fearn, a schoolgirl who nurses a love for the teacher at her village school, the appropriately named Mr Tiller, who has been horrifically wounded in the First World War, recently ended (‘He isn’t a real man, of course, not after that injury’, says a village gossip).

Shirley’s relationship with Mr Tiller, the exact nature of his injury and what it portends, and her own growth into awareness form the backbone of the novel, which is set in an isolated English rural community. Continue reading The Arrival of Missives – Book Review

The Fugue – Book Review

 

While reading Gint Aras’s novel The Fugue the image that came to my mind was not of an eternal golden braid, but of a broken mirror, cracked and fragmented, each tiny slither reflecting a different aspect of a multifaceted narrative. It’s an image of stasis, of everything at once, eternally present, blindingly coeval.

And it turns out that this image is not entirely inappropriate, for the novel features mirrors of more or less importance, and characters who inhabit the present and the past simultaneously, and whose lives are splintered beyond endurance and yet who, for the most part, continue to endure. Continue reading The Fugue – Book Review

He Runs the Moon – Book Review

 

Themes of identity and belonging disturb the calm surface of Wendy Brandmark’s collection of short stories, which are set in Denver, New York and Boston in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Many of the stories concern characters who have been displaced geographically and emotionally: young or old, successful or unsuccessful, their lives have slipped their moorings.

For some, it is because they have left part of themselves behind in the Old World, where memories of fear and suffering coexist with recollections of family and personal authenticity. For others – particularly the young – it is because they have moved to a different city and found or lost friends or lovers. Continue reading He Runs the Moon – Book Review

Painting Blue Water – Book Review

 

Painting Blue Water by Leigh Fossan

Katherine Ross, a struggling artist-turned-successful-businesswoman, has a life many would envy. At only thirty-one years old, Katherine runs one of the top luxury real-estate firms in Manhattan, and she lives in a fabulous loft with her dreamy husband.

Continue reading Painting Blue Water – Book Review

Raking the Dust – Book Review

 

Recently, I mentioned to an author that writing can sometimes seem a trivial and frivolous occupation. She replied that she never thought of it that way. It made me wonder if insecurity about writing is more of a male problem than a female one.

Rather like male film actors who indulge in ‘manly’ excesses to compensate for their lack of self-esteem, there are male writers who embrace a lifestyle based on alcohol or drugs or sex or danger and any combination thereof in order, it seems, to bolster something within themselves that whispers in the night that making up stories is unworthy of real men. Continue reading Raking the Dust – Book Review

The Snail’s Castle – Book Review

 

Carl Jung’s concept of the Shadow is one of many intertwined and mutually reinforcing themes in Mark Gordon’s complex and absorbing novel.

The Shadow comprises the negative, primitive and morally reprehensible emotions and impulses inaccessible to the conscious mind: among them, lust, greed, envy, rage and the pursuit of power. It is at its most dangerous when habitually repressed and rejected, eventually manifesting itself in mental disturbances such as neurosis, psychosis or irrational hostility.

Continue reading The Snail’s Castle – Book Review

Mister Spoonface – Book Review

 

Fred Pooley has returned to London after six years in Hong Kong. He has worked hard and saved a little money, but something is wrong. He can’t settle down, he avoids visiting his mother, and there’s an emptiness inside him.

Petra, a new girlfriend, tries hard to bring Fred out of himself, yet he is irresistibly drawn to his former partner, Sally, and her young daughter. He grows increasingly certain that children are what he needs to fill the void in his life. When he decides to act on that need, he is led imperceptibly into illegality, obsession and self-destruction. Continue reading Mister Spoonface – Book Review

Call Me By Your Name – Book Review

 

I’ve always believed that a book’s power lies in its ability to make it’s readers feel. As someone who’s been both an avid book reader and an extremely emotional person all my life, feeling for the stories I’ve read has never been a problem for me. Its probably why I spent my first 10 years as a reader reading romance novels because they always guaranteed a happy ending; they were probably so far off the mark as far as realism is concerned, but they were relatively painless and angst-free.

This book is not painless and angst-free.

Continue reading Call Me By Your Name – Book Review

To Swim Beneath the Earth – Book Review

 

‘Sometimes it’s hard to know what you’re seeing,’ Megan Kimsey remarks as she prepares to fly from Denver to Bogota at the beginning of Ginger Bensman’s ambitious novel. It’s an appropriate statement from a young woman prone not only to premonitions, but also to visions of a past life lived centuries ago in a different culture.

These episodes are naturally interpreted as symptoms of mental illness by Megan’s mother, a physically attractive woman who instinctively colonizes everything and everybody, and whose need to control extends to hiring a dubious psychiatrist to cure her daughter of her hallucinations.

Megan can depend on her father’s love and support, until his loss precipitates a personal crisis and the start of a quest to find the truth about herself. Continue reading To Swim Beneath the Earth – Book Review

After the Fire – Book Review

 

After the Fire by Will Hill

Usborne Publishing Ltd., 2017

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction

 

“The things I’ve seen are burned into me, like scars that refuse to fade”.

I picked up After the Fire without reading the blurb or having prior knowledge of its subject. Coming to the book raw and without preconceptions I was quickly immersed in an intense atmosphere of fear, suspicion and confusion. The disjointed memories of survivor Moonbeam are filled with gunshots and burning fire. It is not clear how her family of Brothers and Sisters – the Lord’s Legion community – reached this devastating and tragic crisis.

Continue reading After the Fire – Book Review