books

Two versions of interwar pastoral

August 27, 2021 0 Comments
Two versions of interwar pastoral

The charity shops have yielded two beautiful books in succession.  Both, as it happens, are novels in which first-person narrators look back, many years afterwards, to painful turning points in their lives in the English countryside between the two world wars. Melissa Harrison was much praised in 2018 for her astonishingly detailed picture of a […]

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‘Zounds!’: Tristram Shandy’s rude bits

August 6, 2021 0 Comments
‘Zounds!’:  Tristram Shandy’s rude bits

In the gallery at Shandy Hall at the moment is an exhibition of ingenious ceramics by Katrin Moye.  Entitled Filthy trash, it takes its inspiration from an aspect of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy that’s obvious, but often skated over by scholars more interested in its grander themes, like time, digression and reflexivity – its sly […]

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Father Toban, the greatest scholar in the world

July 30, 2021 0 Comments
Father Toban, the greatest scholar in the world

It’s late summer, 1854.  George Borrow, walking around Wales, has arrived at Holyhead.  He stays overnight at the ‘Railway Hotel’ – reluctantly, because he detests railroads and never takes a train if he can do the same journey on foot.  In the morning he explores the town and then finds himself on the breakwater at […]

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Happy birthday Michael Rosen

May 7, 2021 0 Comments
Happy birthday Michael Rosen

When I consider how the government of our country – I mean the one with the satirical name ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ –  has fallen under the control of a set of unscrupulous and heartless gangsters, who lack any kind of moral standard or basic competence, and when I consider that […]

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Sir Humphrey Mackworth, ‘a genius richer than thy mines below’

March 20, 2021 0 Comments
Sir Humphrey Mackworth, ‘a genius richer than thy mines below’

The earth, thy great exchequer, ready lies is the title of a superb new collection of stories by the Welsh writer Jo Lloyd, who won the BBC National Short Story Award in 2019.  The nine pieces are very different one from another, in subject, setting and register.  But they all share at least two things. […]

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Some books I read in 2020

December 11, 2020 1 Comment
Some books I read in 2020

One of the very few consolations of Covid lockdowns has been that more people seem to have read more books during 2020.  In the first half of the year fewer print books were sold, since bookshops were often closed, but UK sales of e-books increased by 17%, and audio books by 47%.  I’ve certainly read […]

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Richard Owain Roberts’s ‘Hello friend we missed you’

November 20, 2020 0 Comments
Richard Owain Roberts’s ‘Hello friend we missed you’

Hello friend we missed you is Richard Owain Roberts’s first novel.  Published by Parthian, it was nominated for this year’s Guardian ‘Not the Booker’ prize.  It duly won the award in October 2020 after a readers’ vote. In the book Roberts sets himself a big challenge: how to engage us as readers with a protagonist […]

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Emily Dickinson’s ‘What care the Dead’

July 24, 2020 3 Comments
Emily Dickinson’s ‘What care the Dead’

When I’m distracted or glum I often reach for the poems of Emily Dickinson. I’ve an old copy of Thomas H. Johnson’s complete edition, published in this country by Faber.  It’s less of a book and more of a box.  With its stocky build and 770 pages it looks like a box of postcards.  You […]

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Cymru a W.G. Sebald

June 12, 2020 0 Comments
Cymru a W.G. Sebald

Cyhoeddodd W.G. Sebald Austerlitz, ei nofel olaf (os mai nofel yw hi) yn Almaeneg yn 2001.  Pan ddaeth y fersiwn Saesneg allan yn 2002, roedd yn syndod i ddarllenwyr yma i ddarganfod mai Cymru yw un o’i phrif leoliadau, mewn llyfr sy’n crwydro dros rannau helaeth o gyfandir Ewrop.  Hanes dyn o’r enw Jacques Austerlitz […]

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‘Reports of my death’: the many lives of Jean Rhys

April 25, 2020 1 Comment
‘Reports of my death’: the many lives of Jean Rhys

False news is now so natural a part of our world that few people are surprised to read about the deaths of people who remain stubbornly alive.  There are plenty of examples, many of them recent.  Wikipedia lists over 300 in one of its more amusing pages, List of premature obituaries. The ‘reported death’ people […]

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