What unites Katherine Mansfield, Charlie Chaplin, Shakespeare, Rilke, Beethoven, Brexit, the present, the past, the north, the south, the east, the west, a man mourning lost times, a woman trapped in modern times?
Spring. The great connective.
With an eye to the migrancy of story over time, and riffing on Pericles, one of Shakespeare's most resistant and rollicking works, Ali Smith tells the impossible tale of an impossible time. In a time of walls and lockdown Smith opens the door.
The time we're living in is changing nature. Will it change the nature of story?
Hope springs eternal.
Smith is an iconic storyteller. Her mastery of language and imagery continues in the third of her Seasonal Quartet. A long reaching tale with evocative characters and realistic relationships.
A deeply important work of fiction for the heated and troubled times we live in, and yet Smith imbues this story with hope for the future.
Ground Breaking. If ever a book deserved the title of masterpiece Spring is just such a book.
Spring is nature's season of rebirth and rejuvenation. Earth's northern hemisphere tilts towards the sun, winter yields to intensifying light and warmth, and a wild, elemental beauty transforms the Highland landscape and a repertoire of islands from Colonsay to Lindisfarne. Jim Crumley chronicles the wonder, tumult and spectacle of that transformation, but he shows too that it is no Wordsworthian idyll that unfolds.
Climate chaos brings unwanted drama to the lives of badger and fox, seal and seabird and raptor, pine marten and sand martin. Jim lays bare the impact of global warming and urges us all towards a more daring conservation vision that embraces everything from the mountain treeline to a second spring for the wolf.
The Nature of Spring continues Crumley’s seasonal writing series. Just like Autumn and winter, Spring is beautiful and extraordinary. There is a softness to the cover, with bluebells in the undergrowth. Ye
Crumley reminds us that nature is not the cheery, purple petunia, yellow fluffy Easter duckling we have come to think it as. It can be harsh, jarring, with the sudden thaw of winter snow. Or the hungry hibernators emerging from their dens. He reminds us how temporary it is and the realities of human habitation and global warming.
Nature is both personal and global. The intimate approach to the animals and environments he comes across result in almost tactile prose.
In the end, I found it hopeful. The Nature of Spring is an excellent addition to the world, worth every moment of your time and enjoyment.
London, 1941. Amid
the falling bombs Emmeline Lake dreams of becoming a fearless Lady War
Correspondent. Unfortunately, Emmy instead finds herself employed as a typist
for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt at Woman's Friend
Mrs Bird refuses to read, let alone answer, letters containing any form of Unpleasantness, and definitely not those from the lovelorn, grief-stricken or morally conflicted. But the thought of these desperate women waiting for an answer at this most desperate of times becomes impossible for Emmy to ignore. She decides she simply must help and secretly starts to write back - after all, what harm could that possibly do?
A joyous read. Absolutely uplifting, with one of those lovely sorts of characters that grows from frustrating to beautiful. There are many charming and funny moments,
Pearce gives genuine insight and emotional gravity to the London Blitz, capturing the spirit of the times, as well as the emotional gravitas. A good comfort read.
Alina’s brother-in-law defects to the West. The couple become persons of interest to the secret service and both of their careers come to a grinding halt.
Under the strain, Alina turns to her aunt – wife of a communist leader, and a secret practitioner of the old ways.
Set in Communist Romania, Bottled Goods sets out to explore the impact of government and control over the individual. Alina’s choices are hard, harder still because she is a woman at a time of social oppression and yet transition.
It was a fantastic, unexpected work of fiction, combining quality writing with the exhilarating Cold War drama. Can’t recommend enough!
Published by Fairlight Books, Bottled Goods is Long Listed for Women's Prize for Fiction 2019.
In quiet Berkley Cove, North Carolina, a young man is found dead. The illusive ‘Marsh Girl’, Kya Clark, is the suspected murderer.
But what starts as a bayou-style murder mystery quickly unfolds, revealing itself to be a deeper story of family, survival and coming-of-age against tremendous odds.
Kya is an abandoned child, nurtured by the brutal lessons and magnificent beauty of the natural world all the while remaining an authentic, endearing individual. Her very real desire to be loved, both by the family she has lost, and her eventual male suitors’ heart is the emotional driving force of the novel.
Still the looming specter of Chase Andrew’s death hangs, driving the plot through Kya’s complicated life. Owens has taken great care in maintaining illusion and mystery, resulting in pages that could not turn fast enough, and an utterly unexpected ending.
This is her first work of fiction after many years of being an accomplished nature writer and it is evident she has done her research on character, plot, and place. Her style is evocative of Barbara Kingsolver all the while remaining firmly steeped in her natural roots. Tender descriptions of the marshlands are outstanding, so rich you can almost smell the salted ocean or hear the gulls cry. Like Kya, Owens loves the marshes, they are a part of her.
From the outset, I was enraptured. Owen’s gripping pace and talent for deep emotional characters against the backdrop of the lush swamplands left me engrossed and inspired.
If Cats Disappeared from the World
By Genki Kawamura
Reviewed by Kelsey Ward
Our narrator's days are numbered. Estranged from his family, living alone with only his cat Cabbage for company, he was unprepared for the doctor's diagnosis that he has only months to live.
But then the Devil appears with a special offer: in exchange for making one thing in the world disappear, he can have one extra day of life. And thus, begins a very bizarre week and an extraordinary book.
This is a steady, emotive story, with an easy rhythm and a modest ensemble, Cabbage included. The Devil is beguiling and yet it is the mortal characters who give the story its depth and power. Kawamura has a tender approach to these few people (and cat) resulting in realistic, heartfelt relationships.
Plenty of authors have written novels five and six times the length of this yet fail to achieve the emotional gravity Kawamura has woven into these few pages. His writing is as generous as it is precise. While not without flourish and a pinch of humour (fortunately not lost in translation) so much is said with so little. The dead weight and unessential baggage of the rest of the world fall away, allowing an authentic understanding of humans and humanity to rise in its stead.
It is easy to see why it has sold over a million copies in Japan. Easier still to see why it has been, rather skillfully, translated into English. If Cats Disappeared from the World is a universal story of love, understanding and what it means to be a family.
To say I read it in its entirety with dry eyes would be a lie. I’ve already turned to read it again, pleased to gain so much from such an unassuming book, worthy of every inch of praise and acclaim.