“Melmoth”

Although its geographical setting is very different, Sarah Perry's excellent "Melmoth" tackles some themes similar to those in "The Essex Serpent": the semi-isolation of an individual in community; guilt and sin; the threat of the unknown; how people manage - or not - their interaction with something intangible, ephemeral, threatening. The words you might see associated with the... Continue Reading →

The Perennial Question: What Next?

It's that time of year again. As seems to have been the case for - what? - the last two or three years now, I arrive into December putting the finishing touches to the final drafts for new books that will see the light of day in February; all that remains is the generation and... Continue Reading →

“After the Formalities”

Anthony Anaxagorou's "After the Formalities" is a 'difficult' volume of poetry. Difficult in a number of senses: in some of its themes and narratives; in the structure of many of the individual pieces; in some of the language and punctuation. It is also difficult in its variability. There are a small number of exceptional pieces... Continue Reading →

The mood music of editing

When we write fiction - and especially when we are steeped in revision - it would not be unreasonable to assert that our primary goal is to land on the 'right' words, that elusive combination which tells the story we want to tell and does so in the perfect way. Not unreasonable, surely? Indeed. I... Continue Reading →

“The Cockroach”

It was with a degree of surprise that I realised last night I hadn't read any Ian McEwan for a long time - something which was accompanied by a recognition that I needed to read more. The catalyst? "The Cockroach": a sublimely unfiltered, undisguised and scathing satire on the state of UK politics - and... Continue Reading →

“Circe”

I need to learn my lesson. If the cover of a book says "The #1 International Best Seller" then just leave it on the shelf. Madeline Miller's "Circe" is one such book. If it starts out as a dull retelling of ancient Greek mythology - told from the perspective of the title character - one... Continue Reading →

“Mantissa”

John Fowles' "Mantissa" is a child of its times. Written in 1982 at the peak of popularity for modernist literary theory, deconstruction, Lacan, Foucault, Derrida, it is a novel that attempts to explore the relationship between author and text both in itself and also as the theme for the narrative within the book. In some... Continue Reading →

Is there room in the market for a new literary journal?

The idea is simple enough. A bi-annual literary compendium containing prose, poetry, and literary non-fiction. It would be produced in paperback book not pamphlet form, and probably run to about 200-pages long. Significantly, the bulk of the content would most likely come from writers capable of crafting high-quality material yet who are struggling to get... Continue Reading →

“The English Patient”

There can be no doubt that my reading of Michael Ondaatje's marvellous "The English Patient" benefited from me having seen the film. It was as if the story he was sketching was being laid down on pre-tinted paper which made his images and backdrop all the more convincing. It was reading "Warlight" that made me... Continue Reading →

Free books this weekend!

For this weekend - 1st - 4th November - Amazon is offering three of my books in Kindle version absolutely free! Take a look and help yourself! "An Infinity of Mirrors" Given his profession as a Historian, it was inevitable that Mark would find himself one day writing the story of his late father, the... Continue Reading →

“The Gravity Wave”

There is much to admire in Peter Sirr's "The Gravity Wave", a range of subjects, of styles that keeps the collection from becoming - as so many can be - a little bit repetitive. Having said that, however, I found myself not quite 'grabbed' by it; to my taste it was a book that felt... Continue Reading →

Snippet

She now realised she had moved through her adult life with an increasing sense of self-obligation; she was operating against a default equation which meant every time someone changed one of the variables she was forcing herself to re-solve the algebra. Having left the draft to mature for a small number of months, I'm currently... Continue Reading →

“The Shipping News”

It's probably quite rare that you can legitimately praise a book for being bleak, but "The Shipping News" is one such book. Not only through the medium of the story and the sparse picture painted of Killick Claw, the somehow elemental nature of the people who live there, but also through the language she uses.... Continue Reading →

“Now We Shall Be Entirely Free”

I never read historical novels, so why I chose Andrew Miller's "Now We Shall Be Entirely Free" is consequently a little beyond me. It must have been a review somewhere, or being seduced by the fact that it was shortlisted for a prize and Miller was already a Costa winner. Indeed, when I started reading... Continue Reading →

“At Maunston Quay” – chapter 1

The sea is the only constant. Grey waves indulge a brief white collar when they curl and fold inwards, foaming as they stretch up the shallow incline of the beach, striving to reclaim the land. Accompanied by the rhythmic pummelling of the shore, theirs is an onslaught that fears nothing in its perpetual motion. The... Continue Reading →

“Unknown Soldier”

I confess that in the beginning I struggled with Seni Seneviratne's "Unknown Soldier". There was something about the two voices in the first section that didn't quite work for me, and I wonder if using the photographs (from the third section, 'Album') proved as much a straitjacket as an inspiration. However, in the second section,... Continue Reading →

“Nocturnes”

One of the things at which Kazuo Ishiguro excels is writing first person characters who have flawed views of themselves; they believe they are perfectly rational, charming, intelligent, while all the while they are something other. And he depicts them in such a way as to allow us to see both sides, permitting us to... Continue Reading →

Goodreads ‘Giveaway’ – 2 days left!

For my friends in the U.S., Goodreads.com is currently running a 'Giveaway' where 100 copies of my novel "At Maunston Quay" are available for free. The 'Giveaway' runs until 15th September - so just two days to go! To be in with a chance of a free Kindle version of my book all you need... Continue Reading →

“The Diary of a Bookseller”

Given the format of this book - the daily diary over a year of a second-hand bookseller - there should be much repetition in "The Diary of a Bookseller". And there is. But one of the things that gives Shaun Bythell's book its quality is that this never gets in the way; he handles it... Continue Reading →

“The Million-petalled Flower of Being Here”

Vidyan Ravinthiran's "Million-petalled Flower" may well be a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, but I'm afraid it didn't work for me; a little too flat and uninspiring. So much so that I couldn't finish it. I dislike abandoning poetry books, but there you go... It - and a number of other recent dissatisfactions with my own... Continue Reading →

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