‘Attrib. and other stories,’ by Eley Williams

Fiction, 2017 Series of stories which examine and play with the way language works, is used and how meaning and intention can slip in the gaps. Streams of consciousness, digressions and other traits feature heavily and dominate over more traditional aspects such as plot and setting, giving moments of joy and exhilaration, but also a feeling – at times – of irritation, as narratives spin … Continue reading ‘Attrib. and other stories,’ by Eley Williams

‘Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper,’ by Donald Henderson

Novel, 1943 Part charming, part disarming and quite chilling character study of a serial killer, whose modus operandi seems to be brute strength and the desire to be caught and brought to justice. The charm of the book is largely driven through the domestic feel and a London in the throes of the Second World War, and while the boarding houses and social clubs should … Continue reading ‘Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper,’ by Donald Henderson

‘The Mist in the Mirror,’ by Susan Hill

Novel, 1992 Old-fashioned, but very effective ghost story, written in an almost ‘period tense,’ with a passed-on text from a mysterious protagonist and an array of phantom children, spooky characters, snowfall, spectres and some quite wonderful suspense. A book which may demand that its reader get in the mood and give themselves over to the generic thrills on show. Those who enjoy ghost stories should … Continue reading ‘The Mist in the Mirror,’ by Susan Hill

‘Pompeii,’ by Robert Harris

Novel, 2003 Historical fiction recounting the struggle of its central character, Attilus, as he attempts to repair the Augusta aqueduct, in the shadow of the corrupt officials in and around the Bay of Naples and the rumbling Mount Vesuvius. There’s a good deal going on besides, with a love story, murder plot and a cast of characters drawn from real life, although as the action … Continue reading ‘Pompeii,’ by Robert Harris

‘In The Miso Soup,’ by Ryu Murakami

Novel, 1997 Intense, brutal and disarming novel about an American tourist and Tokyo’s seedier nightlife. On the one hand, the tension builds and there’s a momentum which gives this book a thrilling, almost voyeuristic page-turning quality; on the other, both the chances of Kenji and particularly Frank, and the situations they operate in, feel lonely and hostile and so lend the book an almost meditative … Continue reading ‘In The Miso Soup,’ by Ryu Murakami

‘The Sellout,’ by Paul Beatty

Novel, 2015 Terrific, fast-paced novel, in which black identities, cultures and essences are examined and explored with and through old minstrel actors, vanishing city names in Los Angeles ghettos and various intellectuals and bus drivers, fighting questions of who they are and how they should behave. A real gritty and trippy ride, with some great angles and attitudes along the way; the questions of other … Continue reading ‘The Sellout,’ by Paul Beatty

‘Coroner’s Pidgin,’ by Margery Allingham

Novel, 1945 Crime mystery, set in the last knockings of World War Two, involving a tricky plot of art theft, kidnapping and a cast of fairly diverse and dastardly characters. London has a downbeat, authentic feel to it, with characters raising pigs and living in bombsites, so giving an example of how things are somewhat grim, but treated with a matter-of-fact humour. Albert Campion is … Continue reading ‘Coroner’s Pidgin,’ by Margery Allingham

“The Hearing Trumpet,” by Leonora Carrington

Novel, 1974 A blast of a novel, which promises a little more than it delivers, perhaps, although there are flashes of crazy playfulness and sinister goings on along the way. It’s hard to follow what should be a pretty easy thread of a narrative; of an old woman being committed to an old persons’ home-cum-asylum, but there are a number of asides which hang heavily, … Continue reading “The Hearing Trumpet,” by Leonora Carrington

“Gertrude,” by Herman Hesse

Novel, 1910 A book about a young man and his pursuit of music and love. The universal themes, multi-faceted and gloomy characters, and the determination of the first-person narrator counteract the old-fashioned feel of this book. It’s a compelling read, too, really taking the reader in and building attachment to the story’s twists and turns. A strong example of traditional, engaging writing with much to … Continue reading “Gertrude,” by Herman Hesse

“A People’s History of London,” by John Rees and Lindsey German

Non-fiction, 2012 Very decent book looking, essentially, at protest movements based or operating in London. Some of the events are more well-known than others, although the streets upwards viewpoint, rather than a view looking down from the point of view of the power structure, will be unfamiliar to most. Occasionally, an edit or two may have helped things appear more objective, and inevitably, the more … Continue reading “A People’s History of London,” by John Rees and Lindsey German