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…

Christmas in Austin: A Review

Centred around the four Essinger family as they descend upon their family home for Christmas, this is Markovtiz’s seventh novel and a typically incisive examination of the tensions in familial relationships. With each member of the family given their own turn at the narrative we get an insight into the conflict between living a life…

Big Sur – A Review

Big Sur is the quasi-autobiographical tale of Jack Duluoz who tries to escape his life in San Francisco by seeking solitude in a cabin the wilds of Big Sur. Expecting a lyrical exploration of adventures in the wilderness, I settled down in the dark night at Deetjens on Big Sur with the copy I’d picked…

Put that Phone Away! Review of Cal Newport’s ‘Digital Minimalism’

Everyone knows that social media is making us unhappy. If like me, you’ve tried to put your phone away, cut down on social media use etc only to fail miserably after a couple of days, you’ll understand the frustration of feeling like you’re controlled by the need to ‘stay connected’. What makes this book such…

Melmoth by Sarah Perry: A Review

It’s not very often that the protagonist of a novel is described with disgust but yet manages to elicit our sympathies, but that is just one of the many astonishing things about this wonderful book. The central character is Helen Franklin, a fairly pitiable woman in her early 40s working as a translator in Prague,…

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…

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…