A stunning pamphlet by poet Mark Pajak

Spitting Distance is a Laureate’s Choice pamphlet from 2016 that I bought after hearing the poet read at an event in Bristol last year. From the moment he finished reading the first stanza of his first poem, I knew it would be special due to the concision of the language and the way in which…

Olivia Laing’s To the River – A Midsummer meander

Laing’s To the River is a travelogue of sorts as the writer sets out on a midsummer morning to walk the banks of the River Ouse from source to sea. Peppered with memories of a failed relationship, this is a journey through memory, not just hers but those of Leonard and Virginia Woolf, whose diaries…

Underland by Robert MacFarlane – a fascinating passage into the underworlds.

Described by the Guardian as” A dazzling journey into deep time” this is a story about the worlds underground, which seems naturally more sinister in tone than his other books – perhaps because of the connotations with death, Hades and the spectres that haunt the underworld. It delves deep, both physically and metaphorically. This is…

Hotel du Lac – a light escape by Anita Brookner

Although set in a completely different part of France, this book reminded me of Bonjour Tristesse. Perhaps because of its central character – a female left to her own devices trying to find a foothold in idleness.   Narrated by Edith Hope, a middle-aged English writer of clever romance novels, Hotel du Lac opens with…

Amy Sackville’s Orkney – a haunting week by the seaside.

It’s difficult to decide whether the main feature in this novel is the relationship between the honeymooners or the Orkney seascape. This is a novel with a very voyeuristic feel – a nameless young bride with long, silvery hair sits for hours gazing out at the sea. Inside the rented cottage, her husband Richard, a…

A Journey round Suffolk – Sebald’s Rings of Saturn reviewed

It’s with some shame that I admit I’ve had this book on my shelf for years but only just got round to reading it. Described as an influence by many of the psychogeographers that fill my bookshelves, I was expecting great things. Based in August 1992, this piece of writing weaves history and landscape together…

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin: Selected Poems. A Review

This is an extensive selection of poems, many of which feel like the poetic interpretation of a Chagall painting, full of dream-like, surreal imagery haunted by ghosts and steeped in natural imagery such as ‘The Girl who Married the Reindeer’. The earlier poems at the beginning of the collection are filled with references to agriculture…

Lantern, Sean Hewitt: A Review

This debut collection feels very much like a prayer in praise of the natural world and the symbiosis between man and nature. Almost every poem is steeped in the language of the natural world and many make direct reference to religion. From the opening poem ‘Leaf’, we are treated to natural images that feel both…

All the Beggars Rising: Lucy Caldwell

Being Various was one of my favourite books in 2019, so I was intrigued to read more fiction from Lucy Caldwell. Enter All the Beggars Rising. Written from the point of view of Lara, a middle-aged woman with a chequered childhood, it’s a story about struggling to shrug off the ghosts of the past.  It’s…