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…

That They May Face the Rising Sun: A Review

Although published in 2002, McGahern’s last novel has no tangible sense of time – apart from a reference to watching ‘Blind Date’ and the recent Enniskillen bombing, this could be set anytime in the 20th century. Set in rural Leitrim amongst a smattering of houses around a lake, this is a novel where time is…

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…