Saturday, 31 December 2016

Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick


Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick
First published in America in 1979.

One of my Top Ten Books of 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Borrowed

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Sleepless Nights a woman looks back on her life—the parade of people, the shifting background of place—and assembles a scrapbook of memories, reflections, portraits, letters, wishes, and dreams. An inspired fusion of fact and invention, this beautifully realized, hard-bitten, lyrical book is not only Elizabeth Hardwick’s finest fiction but one of the outstanding contributions to American literature of the last fifty years.

Elizabeth Hardwick was a new-to-me author when I spotted this novella, Sleepless Nights, in with other borrowable books at our Tarragona Airbnb apartment. Inappropriate titling aside(!), I chose it mainly because its brevity would allow me to easily finish reading during a busy long weekend and I was not prepared at all for just how superb the writing would be. I don't often quote from books I read, but to give you an idea, here is a sentence that grabbed my attention early on:
"I was then a 'we', that tea bag of a word steeped in the conditional".

Sleepless Nights is essentially a fictional memoir, written in a nonfiction style, which results in an unusual book for its time. I understand from reading up about Hardwick and her work since finishing, that it was considered experimental when published although this approach is now far more widely used. Our narrator, also named Elizabeth, is an older woman looking back over her life, recalling people and places that once meant a lot to her. Sometimes we read Elizabeth's thoughts as though she is speaking directly to us. Sometimes we read old letters she wrote. Combined, the effect is to give an immensely powerful read. I would recommend Sleepless Nights to anyone who enjoys literary fiction purely for Hardwick's gorgeous turns of phrase, but also because she creates such an fascinating persona in Elizabeth.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Elizabeth Hardwick / Contemporary fiction / Books from America

Friday, 30 December 2016

Cogling by Jordan Elizabeth


Cogling by Jordan Elizabeth
Published by Curiosity Quills Press on the 25th January 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the author

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When fifteen-year-old Edna Mather tears an expensive and unfamiliar pocket watch off her little brother’s neck, he crumbles into a pile of cogs right before her eyes. Horrified, Edna flees for help, but encounters Ike, a thief who attempts to steal the watch before he realizes what it is: a device to power Coglings—clockwork changelings left in place of stolen children who have been forced to work in factories. Desperate to rescue her brother, Edna sets off across the kingdom to the hags’ swamp, with Ike in tow. There, they learn Coglings are also replacing nobility so the hags can stage a rebellion and rule over humanity. Edna and Ike must stop the revolt, but the populace believes hags are helpful godmothers and healers. No one wants to believe a lowly servant and a thief, especially when Ike has secrets that label them both as traitors. Together, Edna and Ike must make the kingdom trust them or stop the hags themselves, even if Ike is forced to embrace his dark heritage and Edna must surrender her family.

I enjoyed reading my first Jordan Elizabeth book, Escape From Witchwood Hollow, so was delighted to also be offered a review copy of Cogling. I especially love the fabulous cover art which was created by Mandie Manzano.

Cogling is billed as steampunk and is set in Victorian era sort-of-England. It does rely more of magical and fantasy elements rather science fiction, but Elizabeth's premise of witch-like hags replacing children with automata counterparts is a wonderfully steampunky idea. When her young brother, Harrison, becomes one of the taken children, Edna Mather sets out on a quest to discover his fate and rescue him. On the way she is mostly helped - and sometimes hindered! - by Ike, a young man of dubious honesty. Ike also provides a burgeoning love interest for our Edna although, as this is a YA novel, their romance is suitably muted.

I liked Elizabeth's descriptive prowess and, as with Escape From Witchwood Hollow, I found it easy to immerse myself into the world she created. I wasn't so convinced by all the characters this time around though, mainly because most of the magicals and animals weren't given complete personalities. Perhaps a couple of the journey twists and turns could have been sacrificed in order to allow readers to get to know certain of the hags and ogres in greater depth? On the whole, however, Cogling is an entertaining and fast-paced read and I would follow Edna and Ike on further adventures should a sequel be in the pipeline.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jordan Elizabeth / Fantasy fiction / Books from America

Thursday, 29 December 2016

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness


A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
First published by Walker Books in May 2011. Bolinda audiobook edition, narrated by Jason Isaacs, published in 2011.

One of my Top Ten Books of 2015

Where to buy this book:
Buy the audiobook download from Audible via Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought the audiobook from Audible

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming....This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

I spotted A Monster Calls as part of an Audible two-for-one offer back in 2015. A relatively short audio book at just under four hours, I listened to it in two chunks whilst walking around Mojacar in Spain. Had I known what an amazing listen it was going to be, I think I would have arranged to complete the whole tale in a single walk! I understand that the printed version has some excellent illustrations which are obviously not included in the audio, but, for me, Jason Isaacs' superb narration more than compensated. His voice and style are perfect.

Patrick Ness has an uncannily accurate understanding of the guilt and anguish of slow bereavement. His story is told through the eyes of a teenage boy yet Conor's emotions are universal and not restricted to someone of his age. I found myself identifying with his anger and dread despite having been more than twenty years older when going through a similar experience. Although intended for a younger audience, I think A Monster Calls would be a powerful listen for most adults as well. Conor's grandmother's tight-lipped reactions as she copes with both her grandson and her daughter are heartrending.

The portrayal of the tree is fantastic in all senses of the word and I loved the device of the four stories, both their non-traditional fairytale quality and Conor's contemporary retorts to them. Stories Are Important! I was surprised by how much I was affected by this story. It was a struggle to keep my tears at bay during the final chapters and I have been thinking back over it in the days since finishing. I now have a clearer view of my own experience and, thanks to that fourth story, an appreciation that it's not just me who has felt as I did. A Monster Calls is simply an intense and brilliant audio book.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Patrick Ness / Audiobooks / Books from America

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

The Courtship Of Jo March by Trix Wilkins + Giveaway


The Courtship Of Jo March by Trix Wilkins
Self published on the 5th December 2016.

Trix Wilkins is currently running a Goodreads Giveaway to win a signed paperback copy of The Courtship Of Jo March. The Giveaway is open until the 15th January 2017 and you can Enter Here!
She also has a special offer on the pdf ebook whereby for $4.95 you get not only the ebook, but also downloadable bookmarks, letter paper, a poster and postcard. The special download is available until the end of January 2017.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook (pdf) or the paperback from Payhip
Buy the ebook in other formats via Books2Read

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the author.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Set in the early 1870s, this re-imagining of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is for all who have ever wondered how things might have worked out differently for the beloved March sisters - the life Beth might have led, the books Jo might have written, the friends they might have made, and the courtship that might have been...
Authoress Jo March has lost her elder sister Meg to matrimony. When the aristocratic Vaughns – elegant Kate, boisterous Fred, thoughtful Frank, and feisty Grace – re-enter their lives, it seems her younger sisters Beth and Amy, and even her closest friend Laurie, might soon follow suit.
Yet despite the efforts of her great-aunt March, Jo is determined not to give up her liberty for any mortal man. What else is a writer to do but secure music lessons for her dearest sister, and befriend aspirant journalist Tommy Chamberlain?
The Marches' neighbor Theodore “Laurie” Laurence was born with looks, talent, and wealth – and Jo is convinced he has a promising future in which she has no part. He is as stubborn as Jo, and has loved her for as long as anyone can remember. But what will win a woman who won’t marry for love or money?
"

I was pleased to discover The Courtship Of Jo March not long after my readings of the original Little Women and March by Geraldine Brooks. Wilkins story complements the other two beautifully and I appreciated the care she has taken to mirror Alcott's own evocative writing. Jo March is most definitely the same determined young woman and I love that acerbic Aunt March gets her fair share of our attention too. The Courtship is, as its title suggests, a more romantic read so our characters are frequently preoccupied with marriages or the potential for them. The will-they-won't-they storyline between Jo and Laurie is both fun and suitably exasperating and contrasts well with the heart-breaking sadness of Beth's situation.

As I haven't read the other three of Alcott's novels for decades, I am not sure what in Wilkins novel is from the originals and what is her own invention so I will avoid mentioning other plot points so as not to spoil the story. Enough to say that this is a very well-written book with a strongly flowing and ultimately satisfying narrative. I think Alcott fans would enjoy The Courtship Of Jo March immensely, especially those who wanted a more traditionally romantic ending, and it may well appeal to Jane Austen fans too.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Trix Wilkins / Romance / Books from Australia

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Guest Review: Valencia Noir by Isis Sousa and Ove Neshaug


Valencia Noir: The Beautiful, the Fantastic and the Grotesque of Valencia, Spain by Isis Sousa and Ove Neshaug
Published by Tragic Books on the 5th June 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the physical book directly from Tragic Books

Guest review by Harry Whitewolf
Harry Whitewolf is a poet of contemporary cutting-edge pop prose and a storyteller of true crazy travelling tales that read like fiction. I have enjoyed both his travel memoirs (my reviews here) so was delighted when Harry agreed to share this one of his reviews on Literary Flits. You can find out more about Harry and his writing on his own website, www.harrywhitewolf.com

Harry's rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Dark art book with 160+ black & white photographs!:. A beautiful book edition printed in glossy paper and with hardcover. ~~~~~ City of bats, dragons and gods. City of artistic daring throughout the centuries of history. This is Valencia, a Spanish realm where all fantasies – be they innocent, adventurous or obscure – take shape on canvas, wood, metal and stone. Wherever you go, a thousand archetypal faces and winged heraldic chimeras follow you. In this art book you will take a fully illustrated tour through medieval towers, gothic temples, strange artistic wonderlands, and the city of the dead. Embark on a trip which will take you to distant places and allow you to indulge the feelings and thoughts you’ve been trying to hide.

Harry says: "What a wonderful book this is. I spent a few days in Valencia many years ago, and as much as I was enthralled by the architecture and art of the city, I now realise just how much I missed as well.

First and foremost, this is an art book which, as the blurb says, “will take a fully illustrated tour through medieval towers, gothic temples, strange artistic wonderlands, and the city of the dead”. The photographs included aren’t just picture postcard photos though – they are noir artworks in themselves which have been taken by a skilled artist with an eye for detail. This is what makes this book such a joy.
Not only are there over 160 gothic-like photos in this book, there are also lots of snippets of information about the sites and the history and folklore of Valencia; just the right amount in my opinion – enough well-written accompaniments to keep it all interesting, but never shying away from the main visual aspect of the book. Sure, travellers to Valencia would be able to use this book in conjunction with their visit, but this isn’t designed to be a tour guide.

If you don’t know where to look, you might miss most of the faces, gargoyles and gory gothic ornamentations that are hidden in the nooks and crannies of Valencia. But if you do start looking, as Isis Sousa has, you’ll discover there is an abundance of such things – including many things you wouldn’t expect to see at all, such as (this description of): “…a female gargoyle opening her private parts, and a devil introducing some strange object into the anus of a dog held by a nun”.

I’ve always been interested in Christian architecture which features pagan symbols, gargoyles and The Green Man, and Valencia is a prime example. As the author writes: “In Valencia there are recurring motifs such as the dragon, the bat, Green Men, pagan gods (and) Christian deities” and “in the cemetery you also find…owls (and) Masonic pyramids”.
So, I recommend this book to anyone who’s fascinated by hidden faces and occult symbols as much as I recommend it to anyone who’s been to Valencia or is going, and to anyone who simply enjoys beautifully crafted photographs.
This isn’t a side of Valencia that you’ll find easily in your Lonely Rough Planet Guide."

Thank you Harry!

Do you have a book review that you would like to share on Literary Flits? Details of how to do so are Here. I look forward to hearing from you!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Isis Sousa or Ove Neshaug / Travel books / Books from Brazil or Norway

Monday, 26 December 2016

Nineveh by Henrietta Rose-Innes


Nineveh by Henrietta Rose-Innes
First published by Umuzi in South Africa in 2011. Published in the UK by Aardvark Bureau in 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Katya Grubbs, like her father before her, deals in ‘the unlovely and unloved’. Yet in contrast to her father, she is not in the business of pest extermination, but pest relocation. Katya’s unconventional approach brings her to the attention of a property developer whose luxury estate on the fringes of Cape Town, Nineveh, remains uninhabited thanks to an infestation of mysterious insects. As Katya is drawn ever deeper into the chaotic urban wilderness of Nineveh, she must confront unwelcome intrusions from her own past.

At face value Nineveh is an interesting novel about a working woman trying to overcome the demons of her childhood whilst running her own business in the unusual field (literarily anyway) of pest control. What I liked about the book though is that, as we get drawn further into Katja's Cape Town, Nineveh becomes more an exploration of 'home' - whether we identify place or people by that term and how we decide who (or what) has the right to live in any particular place. I could see this book provoking fascinating discussions in book club circles!

Having grown up with an itinerant father who was often drunk and sometimes violent, Katja has no memory of a single childhood home. In response to this, her sister, Alma, has created a perfect family environment for herself whereas Katja is proud of her own (rented) tumbledown house, but lives with it furnished exactly as it was when she moved in. It is a home, but Katja hasn't made it her home.

Outside, a group of homeless people are evicted from 'their' park and the space is demolished to build luxury apartments. Katja is called to remove caterpillars from a tree and rehomes them instead of destroying them. A huge brand-new gated community sits empty due to a beetle infestation while just beyond its walls people live in a derelict shanty town.

Katja is a great character with whom I could easily empathise and I like that Rose-Innes draws out the minutiae of her life - a long bath, the difficulty of getting her uniform to fit. I could understand her inability to resist Len although I struggled to believe the sexual encounter with Mr Brand. Cape Town itself also has a strong part to play and provides a varied backdrop to the story. I liked ideas such as nephew Toby's young mind easily finding Nineveh when Katja's older brain is too set in its ways to believe the instructions.

I think that Rose-Innes has written a strong and original tale here. Perhaps it isn't a great reading choice for anyone with insect phobias as a couple of beetle scenes do get pretty intense! However, I enjoyed the book and would happily search out more of Rose-Innes' writing.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Henrietta Rose-Innes / Contemporary fiction / Books from South Africa

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Silver Bells At Moonglow by Deborah Garner


Silver Bells At Moonglow by Deborah Garner
Published in America by Cranberry Cove Press on the 2nd December 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Gift from the author via Beck Valley Book Tours

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Christmas at the Timberton Hotel arrives each year with a unique set of guests, some returning, some new. When this holiday brings a celebrity seeking reprieve, sisters who are distant yet closer to each other than they think, a widow approaching a new horizon, and an eclectic smattering of local townsfolk and visiting relatives, the season is certain to be eventful. Add in a hint of romance and there's more than snow in the air around the small Montana town.
Elegant decor and exquisite cuisine from resident artist and chef, Mist, form a backdrop to much needed camaraderie, bringing strangers and friends together. When the last note of Christmas carols has faded away, the soft whisper of silver bells from the front door's wreath will usher guests and townsfolk alike back into the world with hope for the coming year.

Silver Bells At Moonglow is set exactly a year after Mistletoe At Moonglow - even though there has only been a couple of weeks between my readings of the two books. In a way, I wish I had left this second volume until next year because reading it did feel very much like returning to friends and I think I would identify even more strongly with the scenario by visiting Timberton each Christmas. Hopefully Garner will have a third installment ready for next year!

Again Garner creates a perfect Christmas atmosphere and I love how she takes time to describe colours, scents and sounds within a short novella. The food sounds divine too! If the Timberton Hotel is based on a real place, I want to go there soon! As for this year's Moonglow guests, I would have liked to know more about the antagonism between the sisters. Its cause was hinted at, but not really explained. Also what did go on between Maisie and The Parents? The various romances are nicely portrayed and I like that the Christmas tale is satisfyingly completed, but with a couple of loose (tinselly) strands left open towards the future. As with Mistletoe At Moonglow, Silver Bells At Moonglow is a lovely seasonal novella which, if you want to get away from all the fuss, is perfect to while away a couple of post-dinner armchair hours.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Deborah Garner / Women's fiction / Books from America

Saturday, 24 December 2016

The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore


The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore
Published in the UK by Hammer on the 2nd February 2012.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Borrowed from a friend

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the winter of 1952, Isabel Carey moves to the East Riding of Yorkshire with her husband Philip, a GP. With Philip spending long hours on call, Isabel finds herself isolated and lonely as she strives to adjust to the realities of married life. Woken by intense cold one night, she discovers an old RAF greatcoat hidden in the back of a cupboard. Sleeping under it for warmth, she starts to dream. And not long afterwards, while her husband is out, she is startled by a knock at her window. Outside is a young RAF pilot, waiting to come in. His name is Alec, and his powerful presence both disturbs and excites her. Her initial alarm soon fades, and they begin an intense affair. But nothing has prepared her for the truth about Alec's life, nor the impact it will have on hers.

My friend Marta lent me her copy of The Greatcoat and I am transferring its review over to Literary Flits today because I think it is a perfect chilly ghost story for Christmas Eve. I read the whole book practically in one sitting and think it really should have been published as a novella rather than a 239 page novel because there are such wide margins that I found myself turning pages ridiculously fast! If you've already finished all your Christmas wrapping, settle down with this book!

The Greatcoat is set in a small 1950s East Riding community. Reminders of the War are everywhere yet the people have frequently chosen to look ahead rather than back. It is not so much a case of forgetting the horrors and loss of wartime, as simply choosing to spend as little time as possible remembering. Into this community come Philip and Isabel, the new doctor and his wife; he eager to throw himself into his new professional life, she encouraged to turn away from her qualifications and settle instead for lonely domesticity. Even without the supernatural aspect which pervades every page, Dunmore has written an insightful description of the weird normality of Isabel's life that would have made a good book on its own. Instead, we also begin to glimpse another woman's life, through Isabel's eyes, when she inadvertently opens the door to a ghost.

I love how Dunmore evokes all the senses in her writing. Alec's ghost is not just seen, but smelt, heard and touched. Tension is heightened by the landlady's perpetual pacing overhead. The supernatural begins to seem more real than reality. Timeshifts are wonderfully handled and I would not be surprised to see The Greatcoat turned into an amazing film (is it already?).


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Helen Dunmore / Horror fiction / Books from England

Friday, 23 December 2016

Christmas Is Murder by Carolyn Arnold + Giveaway


Christmas Is Murder by Carolyn Arnold
Published by Hibbert And Stiles in 2015.

Carolyn Arnold is currently giving away ebook copies of Christmas Is Murder. I spotted the offer on her Twitter feed - specifically This Tweet Here! The giveaway is open until the end of December 2016!

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the ebook from Smashwords
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
InstaFreebie download

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Albany’s the perfect image of a winter wonderland, and Sean and Sara’s friend Jimmy is going to be Santa Claus for the upcoming Christmas parade. The trees and decorations have been selected and the gifts have been purchased. The season has truly cast its magical spell--until Sean and Sara’s neighbors die in a horrible house fire. While the fire department ruled holiday-related hazards as the cause, Sara suspects there’s more to it. Her determination to find the truth has her and Sean toeing the line between what’s legal and what’s not. As they sort out fact from fiction, the McKinleys make the final decision about whether or not they should open a private investigation firm.

Christmas Is Murder is the seventh in Arnold's McKinley Mysteries series. The solving of the mystery is a self-contained story so I could happily follow what was going on in this novella without having previously read any of the others. There are frequent hints to the backstory though and it wasn't until near the end that I understood why everyone seemed to let Sara and Sean McKinley get away with pretty immoral behaviour - they're on TV!

Our suitably seasonal tale gives Arnold the opportunity to create a perfect winter holiday atmosphere, American style, with a grand parade and lots of falling snow. I wasn't convinced by Sara's overriding desire to investigate the fire, especially as she had only met her neighbours the once, and the methods the McKinley's choose for their investigation didn't strike me as ethical or even completely believable. However, if you can overlook that, then Christmas Is Murder is a fun novella with lots of entertaining humour and a dash of romance too. Read it while listening to seasonal songs and with a glass of mulled wine, and you'll be in a Christmas mood in no time!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Carolyn Arnold / Crime fiction / Books from Canada

Thursday, 22 December 2016

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka


The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
First published as Die Verwandlung in German in 1915.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought the audiobook from Audible

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'The Metamorphosis' is often cited as one of the seminal works of fiction of the 20th century and is widely studied in colleges and universities across the western world. The story begins with a traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa, waking to find himself transformed into an insect.

This was my first Kafka book and I approached it with a little apprehension as I wasn't sure I would understand the story. My fears were unfounded as The Metamorphosis is a very accessible story. I listened to it on audio and I think that hearing the words at speaking pace was good because I tend to rush when reading which, in this case, would have meant missing a lot of the more subtle meanings.

Gregor Samsa's physical transformation is the most obvious in Metamorphosis, but all the family undergo a change in their characters caused by his situation. I found myself able to identify with aspects of his sister's behaviour and his father's distance, as well as Gregor's sense of isolation.
Metamorphosis was an excellent introduction for me to Kafka's work and I shall seek out more of his stories.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Franz Kafka / Fantasy fiction / Books from Czech Republic

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Road To Purification: Hustlers, Hassles And Hash by Harry Whitewolf


The Road To Purification: Hustlers, Hassles And Hash by Harry Whitewolf
Self published in June 2014.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Downloaded the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'When Mad Harry spontaneously books a flight for Egypt, he doesn't know that he's about to embark on a fate given pilgrimage. In fact, he's not even sure why he's going, or what he's going to do when he gets there. All he knows is he's got to get away. Guided by signs in numbers, names and otherworldly encounters, Mad Harry's trip often seems to be a magical manifestation of his mind. A crazy headed, hassle driven, sleep deprived, dope smoking journey with non-stop tests of trust and temptation. A holiday this is not. This good humoured true story is told in a frank, rhythmic and playful voice. Set in 2010, shortly before the revolution, it's a backpacking odyssey through tremendous temples, towering pyramids, chaotic cities, small villages and dirty beaches, with a backdrop of ancient spiritual gnosis! A post-modern, pot smoking Egyptian pilgrimage...'

I love the rhythms and poetry of Whitewolf's writing throughout The Road To Purification. Much of his extraordinary life-changing journey is written in very short paragraphs which, in style, fit perfectly with the recounting of his broken-hearted and sleepless stoner month in pre-revolution Egypt. Whitewolf sees more than the average package holiday tourist would expect to encounter so we get to read an unusually skewed and shrewd view of Egypt and her people. He is armed with his trusty (and useless!) guidebook, but frequently chooses to place his faith in guidance from the Universe instead.

The spirituality in Whitewolf's previous travel memoir, Route Number 11 (my review here), often baffled me, but I found a much stronger affinity with his ideas here and appreciated statements such as 'Naming someone makes them real. It just depends what we mean by reality, and which reality we are living in.' His encounters with both darkness and light direct his Egyptian month and I could clearly see his personal and emotional growth as the weeks progress. This book is as much about a mental journey as it is a physical one. That said, we do also see several of Egypt's most famous historical sites through backpacker eyes. I don't think I would have the stamina for so much haggling though. It seemed as though there is no such thing as a fixed fare in Egypt!

The Road To Purification takes place along many roads. There is a lot of mild drug use described so if you are opposed to that, this isn't the book for you! However, if you appreciate off-beat accounts of independent travel or unorthodox ideas of spirituality and faith appeal to you then I think, like me, you would find this an interesting memoir to experience.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Harry Whitewolf / Travel books / Books from England

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The Playhouse On The Park by Edward Thomas


The Playhouse On The Park by Edward Thomas
First published in the UK by the Friends of the Devonshire Park Theatre in 1997. Second (updated) edition published in 2009.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the paperback via Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

How I got this book:
Received as a birthday gift

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Written by Friend of the Devonshire Park Theatre Edward Thomas, Playhouse On The Park is an amazing resource, a detailed history of Eastbourne's Devonshire Park Theatre in all her glory from her very beginning in 1884 until 2009. The book is a little dry in places but the sheer volume of information packed into the fairly dense tome kept me occupied for hours as this was my local theatre at the time I received the book.

I particularly liked the reproductions of vintage posters and programmes and the stories of 'Names' who have graced the Devonshire's tiny stage. Even Bela Lugosi had appeared on that steep rake stage! The theatre keeps going despite changing fashions and economic worries and the present day is not the first time that low audience numbers have been cause for concern. But there are many triumphs too and it was fascinating for me to learn about the Devonshire Park's extensive history.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Edward Thomas / Theatre / Books from England

Monday, 19 December 2016

Brodeck's Report by Philippe Claudel


Brodeck's Report by Philippe Claudel
First published in French as Le Rapport de Brodeck in 2007. English language translation by John Cullen published by Quercus in 2009. Winner of the Prix Goncourt de Lyceens and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought at a charity shop

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From his village in post-war France, Brodeck makes his solitary journeys into the mountains to collect data on the natural environment. Day by day he also reconstructs his own life, all but lost in the years he spent in a camp during the war. No-one had expected to see him again. One day, a flamboyant stranger rides into the village, upsetting the fragile balance of everyday life. Soon he is named the Anderer, “the other”, and tensions rise until, one night, the newcomer is murdered. Brodeck is instructed to write an account of the events leading to his death, but his report delivers much more than the bare facts: it becomes the story of a community coming to terms with the legacy of enemy occupation. In a powerful narrative of exceptional fascination, Brodeck's Report explores the very limits of humanity.

Another surprisingly excellent book which was just £2 in Oxfam! Brodeck's Report was the first Philippe Claudel nov I read and it is still my favourite for its incredibly powerful and mysterious writing. The story of how an isolated mountain village copes with the aftermath of war is horribly real and all too understandable. We see through the eyes of Brodeck who was exiled to a concentration camp at the start of the war. He returned to find his name on a monument of the dead, his wife mute, and his position within the community irrevocably changed.

Although the synopsis names the country as France, it is never explicitly mentioned and identifying details could apply to any number of countries and any number of eras. Brodeck's Report is a powerful book of the depths to which humanity can and does sink when driven by hate or fear, or in search of power. Not an easy read in any sense, but I think this book is brilliant.


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Books by Philippe Claudel / War fiction / Books from France

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell


Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
First published as Mordare unte ansikte in Swedish in Sweden by Ordfronts Forlag in 1991. English language translation by Steven T Murray published in 1997.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought from a charity shop

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One frozen January morning at 5am, Inspector Wallander responds to what he believes is a routine call out. When he reaches the isolated farmhouse he discovers a bloodbath. An old man has been tortured and beaten to death, his wife lies barely alive beside his shattered body, both victims of a violence beyond reason. The woman supplies Wallander with his only clue: the perpetrators may have been foreign. When this is leaked to the press, it unleashes a tide of racism.
Wallander's life is a shambles. His wife has left him, his daughter refuses to speak to him, and even his ageing father barely tolerates him. He works tirelessly, eats badly, and drinks his nights away. But now Wallander must forget his troubles and throw himself into a battle against time and against mounting racial hatred.

Twenty-five years after it was first published, I have finally read the first in the highly-praised Kurt Wallander crime series by Henning Mankell. What was most surprising for me was how topical this book still is. Its themes of anger against refugees and public paranoia being whipped up by irresponsible media outlets mean much of this book could have been written in 2016, not 1991. I liked how Mankell portrays Wallander although at some points I found it difficult to believe that the detective could keep functioning in such a battered state and with so little sleep! His burgeoning relationship with Brolin seemed a tad far-fetched too. I understand why he was attracted to her, but why on earth would she leave her family for him?

The Lunnarp case is an interesting one to follow. I liked seeing its ramifications spread and appreciated that it wasn't an easy case to crack and that Mankell didn't resort to dragging Wallander's close relations into improbable situations! With regards to actual police procedure, this novel felt far more realistic than many thrillers and the lack of 21st century technology meant we could focus on the police carrying out painstaking investigation work. I would have appreciated getting to know Wallander's colleagues better, but perhaps they will be more fleshed out as the series progresses. Overall though, and especially considering all the Wallander hype, I was disappointed by Faceless Killers. It is well-written, but I expected an amazing novel and this, I think, is only a good one.


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Books by Henning Mankell / Crime fiction / Books from Sweden

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Guest Review: The Land Without Color by Benjamin Ellefson


The Land Without Color by Benjamin Ellefson, illustrated by Kevin Cannon
First published in America by Beaver Pond Press in December 2015.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook via Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Guest review by John Darryl Winston
I am delighted to introduce the first Guest Book Review to Literary Flits today. It's also the 200th book review posted on this blog! I have enjoyed and reviewed two YA scifi books by author and educator John Darryl Winston: IA: Initiate and IA: B.O.S.S. (my reviews here) and now John has kindly has penned his thoughts for us on a great magical adventure story for children, The Land Without Color by Benjamin Ellefson. This book is intended for children aged between 7-10 years old.

John's rating: 5 of 5 stars

Floating into the air with an enormous gum bubble, Alvin lands in a strange world where everything is gray. The trees, the flowers, the dirt, the sky, the animals, and even the people are all missing their color.
Confronted with the mystery of the missing color, Alvin teams up with some unexpected friends to battle man-eating plants, outsmart the bumbling Crimson Guards, cross the Sugar Desert, overcome the two-headed dragon, and find the color-stealing goblins to restore color to the kingdom.

John says: "The Land without Color (TLWC) is a literary Avatar crossed with The Wizard of Oz perfect for kids. It’s a beautiful book full of mystery, suspense and, adventure with a reluctant hero (12-year-old Alvin) and a Journey. At its core, TLWC promotes problem-solving and eating right: fruits and vegetables to be exact and the negative effects sugar in any form can have on you. All this occurs without being preachy and within the narrative of the story.

Great villains (dragons) and wholesome sidekicks (incorporating talking animals in the process, which means you can’t miss with kids), this one has it all. It celebrates working together as a team to accomplish more. I love it. There are also rudimentary political undertones that parents and/or teachers can address. Benjamin Ellefson has crafted a chapter book fit for upper-elementary school students with everything a young reader needs to develop a love for the written word; vivid descriptions, good dialogue, and great character development.

It addresses multiculturalism naturally as it should without a bang or huge fanfare. There’s even an introduction to Spanish embedded in the midst of this little tome. Ah … and red and blue do make purple (have to read the book). There’s also a map at the beginning of the book that I felt compelled to go back to as the story progressed and think the kids will, too. Ellefson does a great job with pacing as well as he throws increasingly difficult challenges at our young protagonist until the climatic end. Highly recommended for the kiddies!"

Thank you John!

Do you have a book review that you would like to share on Literary Flits? Details of how to do so are Here. I look forward to hearing from you!


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Books by Benjamin Ellefson / Children's books / Books from America

Friday, 16 December 2016

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga


The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga  
First published in America by Simon And Schuster in 2008. Winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought at a book sale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Balram Halwai is the White Tiger - the smartest boy in his village. His family is too poor for him to afford for him to finish school and he has to work in a teashop, breaking coals and wiping tables. But Balram gets his break when a rich man hires him as a chauffeur, and takes him to live in Delhi. The city is a revelation. As he drives his master to shopping malls and call centres, Balram becomes increasingly aware of immense wealth and opportunity all around him, while knowing that he will never be able to gain access to that world. As Balram broods over his situation, he realizes that there is only one way he can become part of this glamorous new India - by murdering his master. 
The White Tiger presents a raw and unromanticised India, both thrilling and shocking - from the desperate, almost lawless villages along the Ganges, to the booming Wild South of Bangalore and its technology and outsourcing centres. The first-person confession of a murderer, The White Tiger is as compelling for its subject matter as for the voice of its narrator - amoral, cynical, unrepentant, yet deeply endearing.

I know I read The White Tiger soon after it came out in paperback and my OH bought a copy from Waterstones. It's even got a rating on my Goodreads. Unusually for me though, reading the synopsis brought back absolutely no memories of the story and I didn't have a single deja vu moment throughout this re-reading. I'm not sure what that says about the book. Obviously I got to enjoy it this time around without suddenly realising that I knew how it would all end, but I wonder whether it wil fade from my memory so completely second time around!

For what essentially is a murderer's confession, The White Tiger is very funny. There is frequent dry humour covering all aspects of Indian life from well-known stereotype characters to unexpected scenarios and I liked Balram's voice which is convincing and sympathetically portrayed. Adiga does highlight disturbing moments of extreme poverty, violence and corruption, but the overall lightness of his writing mean these swiftly slip from view, much like Balram's driving past countless homeless beggars in his sealed car. Is this a good thing? From a distant Western reader's point of view, it meant I wasn't distracted by thoughts of needing to Do Something About This, but thinking back now to write this review, the extremes of social station are shocking.

While I certainly don't condone murdering your employer to get ahead, Balram's story leads neatly and understandably to that point, and the previous exaggerations and seemingly outlandish occurrences make his actions seem perfectly natural, all things considered! I didn't like the overarching device of emails to the Chinese premier and found this increasingly irritating as the book progresses, but it crops up mostly only at the beginning of chapters so can be pretty much ignored and I did find The White Tiger to be a very entertaining novel.


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Books by Aravind Adiga / Contemporary fiction / Books from India

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Saigon Dark by Elka Ray


Saigon Dark by Elka Ray 
Published by Crime Wave Press on the 15th November 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good and bad. Life and death. Some choices aren't black and white.
A grief-stricken young mother switches her dead child for a Vietnamese street kid, then spends the next decade living a lie. She remarries and starts to feel safe when she gets a note: 'I know what you did'. Can she save her daughter from her dark secret?

Saigon Dark is a satisfying psychological thriller which, due to its Vietnam setting and its unusual storyline, manages to step away from crime fiction norms. I liked that the emphasis was on the family and Lily's state of mind as her actions cause her world to unravel around her. Lily Vo is a wonderfully damaged lead. A successful career woman - a plastic surgeon - she is also a single mother to two young children and still grieving the collapse of her marriage which has left her isolated in Saigon. Brought up in America, Lily speaks Vietnamese but is culturally a foreigner with few, if any, friends even on the same continent. When her daughter dies as the result of an accident, Lily's shock leads her to make a series of impulsive decisions, each one leading her further into a deception from which it is ever more difficult to extricate herself.

I was gripped by this process especially because Ray keeps Lily completely believable throughout. I could always understand her choices, however insane they seemed! Following Lily and 'her' children as they become a tight family made for a good novel in itself so when the note appears, I was as anxious as Lily! Ray has already set up numerous suspects which kept me guessing as to the truth until it is revealed and I liked her conclusion although I did feel that this part of the tale swept past far too quickly. Maybe I was page-turning too fast in order to find out what happens next?


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Books by Elka Ray / Crime fiction / Books from Canada

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Mistletoe At Moonglow by Deborah Garner + Giveaway



Mistletoe At Moonglow by Deborah Garner
Published in America by Cranberry Cove Press on the 6th November 2015.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Received a copy through Beck Valley Book Tours

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Timberton Hotel has always provided a perfect Christmas retreat for regular guests, as well as newcomers. But the small town of Timberton, Montana, hasn't been the same since resident chef and artist, Mist, arrived, bringing a unique new age flavor to the old western town.
When guests check in for the holidays, they bring along worries, fears and broken hearts, unaware that Mist has a way of working magic in people's lives. Old-fashioned time spent together, exquisite food, conversation and a snowball or two offer guests a chance to trade sadness for hope. One thing is certain: no matter how cold winter's grip is on each guest, no one leaves Timberton without a warmer heart.

More a long vignette than a full story in its own right, Mistletoe At Moonglow is nonetheless perfect seasonal fare to get readers into the Christmas spirit. Garner has created a charming atmosphere for her small-town hotel and all the essential Christmas elements of excessive food, carol singing, disparate people forced together and, ultimately, good will and good cheer are presented in this lovely novella. It treads a fine line of sweetness, never slipping over into sickly(!) and I thought the inclusion of a dozen or so cookie recipes at the end was a cute touch. There are nods to other books set in Timberton and presumably back stories are covered there so we only get immediate portrayals of the hotel's staff and guests. These are nicely done though so I found it easy and pleasant to slip into their company for a couple of hours - with a glass of mulled wine to hand!

About the author
Deborah Garner is an accomplished travel writer with a passion for back roads and secret hideaways. Born and raised in California, she studied in France before returning to the U.S. to attend UCLA. After stints in graduate school and teaching, she attempted to clone herself for decades by founding and running a dance and performing arts center, designing and manufacturing clothing and accessories, and tackling both spreadsheets and display racks for corporate retail management. Her passions include photography, hiking and animal rescue. She speaks five languages, some substantially better than others. She now divides her time between California and Wyoming, dragging one human and two canines along whenever possible.

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Books by Deborah Garner / Novellas / Books from America

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

The Dead Girls by Jorge Ibarguengoitia


The Dead Girls by Jorge Ibarg├╝engoitia
First published in Mexico in 1981. English language translation by A Zatz published by Chatto And Windus in 1983.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the paperback from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the Spanish language paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Bought at a charity shop

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this novel in my local Oxfam bookshop in English translation. It was only £2 so I didn't have great expectations but was pleasantly surprised. The story, fiction but inspired by a true event, is written with dry humour in a style that often reads like police reports interspersed with witness statements. Set in 1960s Mexico, it tells of two sisters, Los Poquinchis, who ran a number of brothels with the tacit approval of the local authorities and whose decade-long killing spree came to light in 1964. The plot is not that of a standard crime thriller however and incorporates a lot of black humour. The characters develop as we discover more about them and all their actions are completely believable given the circumstances in which they find themselves. The Dead Girls is very readable and Jorge has great understanding of human nature and motivation. An enjoyable read and a satisfying novel.


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Books by Jorge Ibarguengoitia / Crime fiction / Books from Mexico

Monday, 12 December 2016

IA: B.O.S.S. by John Darryl Winston


IA: B.O.S.S. by John Darryl Winston
Published in America by Purple Ash Press in November 2015.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

How I got this book:
Won an ebook copy in a Goodreads giveaway!

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The most important thing in the world to thirteen-year-old orphan "Naz" Andersen is keeping his little sister, Meri, safe from the mean streets of the Exclave and insidious foster parent, Miss Tracey. Until now, he's done just that. After losing his best friend to suspicious circumstances, Naz turns his attention to ruthless gang leader, Roffio Styles, and the Incubus Apostles. To find out the truth, Naz will need to once again summon the world within, and with the help of Meri and his therapist Dr. Gwen he begins to discover that the voices in his head, his nightmares, and sleepwalking are actually telekinesis and telepathy at play: a gift from his father of whom he has no memory. But when Naz gets too close to the truth and tragedy strikes again, he is compelled to unleash his newfound abilities, wield his own unique brand of destruction, and bring his friends' murderers to justice.

IA: Boss starts pretty much exactly where IA: Initiate left off which ensures strong continuity. Winston does indulge in recaps of important information, but these are concise and placed at relevant moments so they don't slow the story's pace unnecessarily. Naz is coming to terms with his new-found chess playing skill and wonders at what else he may unknowingly excel. This, and a glance from an attractive girl, leads him to try out for the basketball team. Much of IA: Boss' plot is driven by action on the basketball court or centred around interactions between the team members and Coach Fears. Knowledge of the game would definitely help understand these scenes in depth, but, as a complete ignoramus(!), I don't think I actually missed any vital story elements and I did enjoy watching Naz's personal growth as he learns to trust his team mates. Winston does a great job of promoting qualities such as loyalty and reliability without ever seeming to preach to his readers.

IA: Boss did feel much like part of a larger tale rather than a story in its own right so I wouldn't recommend reading it as a stand-alone book. It concentrates more on Naz's school life so we see less of the wider city this time around. I felt this created a more claustrophobic feel to the prose, as though the outside world is closing in. We get more mysterious glimpses of Cory, Naz's father, and I am intrigued by foster mother, Miss Tracey. (Not just wondering who on earth thought she was a suitable carer for troubled children either!) Emotionally charged events (no, I won't say what happens) are well-handled considering the YA target readership and it was interesting to see Naz's responses and increasing maturity. I will admit to being shocked by the ending and according to Goodreads, the third novel, IA: Union, isn't out until 2017. I am hoping Winston writes faster than that!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by John Darryl Winston / Young adult fiction / Books from America

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Good People by Nir Baram


Good People by Nir Baram 
First published in Hebrew in Israel as Anashim Tovim by Am Oved in 2010. English language translation by Jeffrey Green published by The Text Publishing Company in 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s late 1938. Thomas Heiselberg has built a career in Berlin as a market researcher for an American advertising company. In Leningrad, twenty-two-year-old Sasha Weissberg has grown up eavesdropping on the intellectual conversations in her parents’ literary salon. They each have grand plans for their lives. Neither of them thinks about politics too much, but after catastrophe strikes they will have no choice. Thomas puts his research skills to work elaborating Nazi propaganda. Sasha persuades herself that working as a literary editor of confessions for Stalin’s secret police is the only way to save her family. When destiny brings them together, they will have to face the consequences of the decisions they have made.

The recent Brexit and Trump victories have made the 2016 English language publication of Good People scarily timely. I read a statistic that 89% of a population will keep their heads down and not dispute their government's actions if there is a chance of repercussions against themselves or their families. In this novel, Baram explores two everyman characters in 1939-41 Germany and Russia. Thomas, in Berlin, and Sasha, in Leningrad, aren't special people, despite how they like to see themselves. They wouldn't have made any great impact except for the fact of their existing when and where they did. They could be any one of us and, in times of fear when totalitarianism and fascism become the norm, they are likely to represent the great 'silent' majority.

Thomas lives for his marketing career and surely simply marketing government propaganda doesn't hurt anyone? Other people are actually doing far worse and Thomas only brandishes words, not guns. It's not his fault that his glib ideas are being taken seriously. Sasha is even less to blame for the horrors in her country. By encouraging prisoners to confess their crimes against the state and interpreting their stories clearly, she sees herself saving them from physical torture and more extreme punishments. Her parents' friends might not see it that way, but they are all guilty anyway.

I found it impossible to like either Thomas or Sasha, but frighteningly easy to empathise with their initial decisions. Neither considers themselves part of their state's oppressive apparatus, yet both aid the imprisonments, exile and deaths of many people. From the safe distance of reading about them in a book, I can judge both as amazingly selfish, blind and naive, but having seen the ease with which anger has been recently whipped up against Muslims (in place of Jews) and poor immigrants (in place of affluent intelligentsia), their actions are depressingly predictable. Who wouldn't try to protect themselves and their family before (or instead of) going to the aid of Others?


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Nir Baram / Historical fiction / Books from Israel

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Shadows On The Downs by Pam Hughes


Shadows On The Downs by Pam Hughes, illustrated by Harold Mockford
Published in the UK in August 2008.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the paperback via Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

How I got this book:
Bought the paperback at an art gallery

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Shadows on the Downs is a celebration of the poetry of Pam Hughes and the painting of Harold Mockford, both of whom live in Seaford and are devout Quakers. I bought the slim volume of poetry at the Towner Gallery during their 2012 Harold Mockford exhibition, however the book was originally published in 2008 to coincide with an exhibition of the same name at the Hop Gallery in Lewes.

The pairing of Hughes and Mockford produces some interesting results through the book and I like the way the poems and paintings complement each other. I believe that all existed in their own right before the project so it would be coincidental that Song Of A Refugee is so perfectly illustrated by The Visitor and Baked Beans by Miss Andrews. I found the poetry interesting in that some poems I can completely identify with - Please Do Not Place Things On This Altar expresses my feelings on visiting Christian churches as an outsider to the religion - whereas others I don't think I understood at all. The award winning Jawbation is for me the standout poem, written in Sussex dialect and telling of a family reduced to debtors when their hen stops laying eggs. I also particularly like Seaford Lament, a short-lined description of little people in a huge natural world, and Whispers which is a wonderful piece about thoughts while walking on the Downs.


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Books by Pam Hughes and Harold Mockford / Poetry / Books from England

Friday, 9 December 2016

The Angels Die by Yasmina Khadra


The Angels Die by Yasmina Khadra 
First published in French in France as Les anges meurent de nos blessures by Editions Juillard in 2013. English language translation by Howard Curtis published by Gallic Books in 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Award-winning author Yasmina Khadra gives us a stunning panorama of life in Algeria between the two world wars, in this dramatic story of one man’s rise from abject poverty to a life of wealth and adulation. Even as a child living hand-to-mouth in a ghetto, Turambo dreamt of a better future. So when his family find a decent home in the city of Oran anything seems possible. But colonial Algeria is no place to be ambitious for those of Arab-Berber ethnicity. Through a succession of menial jobs, the constants for Turambo are his rage at the injustice surrounding him, and a reliable left hook. This last opens the door to a boxing apprenticeship, which will ultimately offer Turambo a choice: to take his chance at sporting greatness or choose a simpler life beside the woman he loves.

In The Angels Die, Khadra asks how much of a person 'belongs' to their employer and where we should draw lines between career and life. Turambo, nicknamed for a mispronunciation of his village name, has absolutely nothing going for him except his fists. After working himself to the bone in any number of dead-end jobs, he eventually goes against his family's wishes and starts learning to be a professional boxer. He is good and could be a champion which leads influential men to invest in his training and career, but does money give those men rights over every aspect of Turambo's life? Even his best friend would rather keep profiting financially than see Turambo leave the boxing ring and the family seem far less critical once the cash starts rolling in.

I liked the philosophical aspects of this novel, considering to what extent Turambo should be grateful for his life-changing opportunity and whether he owes his trainers anything at all. At one point he likens himself to a historical Roman gladiator and I could understand the allusion. Khadra evokes cosmopolitan 1930s Algeria well although particularly from a male point of view. I wasn't always convinced by the female characters. We only see out through Turambo's eyes though so relationships and friendships are filtered accordingly. The frequent racism Turambo suffers as a result of his Arab ethnicity is upsetting to read and I could certainly empathise with his barely restrained fury at his treatment.

It took me a while to get into The Angels Die. I far preferred the book from when Turambo begins to box because the story has a stronger focus. Earlier chapters, like Turambo himself, seemed to lack a direction, but were necessary for the complete narrative.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Yasmina Khadra / Historical fiction / Books from Algeria