Stinging Fly Stories: A Review

This collection of short stories was published in 2018 and takes some of the best stories published in the pages of The Stinging Fly since its inception in 1998.  Featuring works by writers who won, were shortlisted and longlisted for the 2019 Sunday Times Short Story Award, (Danielle McLaughlin, Kevin Barry and Wendy Erskine respectively)…

A Book of Migrations

From the opening anecdotes comparing the veins on a stranger’s hands to earthworms, it’s clear that Solnit intends to dig under the topsoil and put the notion of ‘Irishness’ under the microscope. That it is so enjoyable to read is due to the beauty of her descriptive prose and her knack for breathing life into…

Yiyun Li, ‘A Thousand Years of Good Prayers’

In this collection of short stories, Li examines the reality of daily life in modern China, opening our eyes to a world where society is trying to balance the weight of tradition with the fast pace of modern life. In ‘Extra’, a lonely middle-aged woman finds herself abandoned in a wilderness of strangers, dehumanised and…

Lethal White: A Review

Unsettling from the very start, the fourth book in the Cormoran Strike series takes a little while to find its feet. When a mentally distressed young man explodes into Strike’s office requesting help on finding out about a crime he may have witnessed as a child, Strike feels compelled to help, in part due to…

The Weather in Normal

This is a collection centred around space – the space in time between now and Etter’s childhood, the space of the great Illinois prairies and the space on the page that Etter uses so masterfully. ‘Night Ode’, the opening poem in the collection sets out the stall – the poems that follow will explore nostalgia,…

Selfie

At the risk of using hyperbole, this book will change the way you look at the world. I can say, without exaggeration, that it is possibly the most interesting book I’ve ever read. Storr sets out to examine raised suicide rates in the west by studying our relationship with the notion of self, starting with…

Carol Ann Duffy, The World’s Wife: A Review

Although published twenty years ago, this collection still feels incredibly fresh and contemporary. Due to its place on A Level set text lists in the UK, the poems in this collection are probably familiar to many poetry fans, so there’s no need for a long introduction. In this collection Duffy takes a whole host of…

Florist at Midnight

This is a sublime collection, redolent of a masterfully arranged bouquet – no sparsity, beautiful details and gathered together in a way that draws out every nuance. The title poem is full of darkness, sinister in its use of anthropomorphism. This is a feature across the collection as Maguire humanises a number of different plants…

Asylum, Sean Borodale: A Review

Before beginning the collection, I was struck by the title. I knew that it was written while Borodale explored the Somerset caving systems, but I wondered what the connection with Asylum could be – is Borodale making the suggestion that we are safer underground? The sheer number of questions in the opening poem ‘Rehearsal at St Cuthbert’s Swallet’…

John Burnside ‘All One Breath’

Published in 2014, this is Burnside’s 13th (!) collection and weaves familiar topics (death, perception) with the grounded detail so typical of his work. Divided into four sections, the collection moves through a journey of self-exploration – it’s an emotionally tiring read, unsettling and enlightening in equal measure. The opening section is titled ‘Self-Portrait as…