Author Archives: thelastword1962
Turbulent Wake – Paul E. Hardisty
Ethan Scofield returns to the place of his birth to bury his father. Hidden in one of the upstairs rooms of the old man’s house he finds a strange manuscript, a collection of stories that seems to cover the whole of his father’s turbulent life.
As his own life starts to unravel, Ethan works his way through the manuscript, trying to find answers to the mysteries that have plagued him since he was a child. What happened to his little brother? Why was his mother taken from him? And why, in the end, when there was no one else left, did his own father push him away?
Swinging from the coral cays of the Caribbean to the dangerous deserts of Yemen and the wild rivers of Africa, Turbulent Wake is a bewitching, powerful and deeply moving story of love and loss … of the indelible damage we do to those closest to us and, ultimately, of the power of redemption in a time of change.
The first things I have to say is that I am not sure my review will ever do justice to what I found a remarkable novel that took my breath away. Many will know the author for his previous crime novels but Turbulent Wake by Paul E. Hardisty is a breakaway from his Claymore Straker series.
Prepare to be totally immersed in a novel that will sweep you up and and carry you along on a journey that involves love, loss and grief. A story told in the past but also in the present. A very personal novel drawn from the authors own personal experiences.
Ethan Scofield is on a journey to the past, the past being home to the very place he was born as his father has died and he must confront the past as his relationship with his father has broken down. It is at this point during sifting through his father’s belongings and discovering some journals that his father had written. These are written for Ethan but inside of the main character there is a lot of anger and you feel it bubbling away on every page. A man whose anger at his father, his former wife and his own daughter. There is anger really at the world at large. A man searching for answers as to why his own father deserted him.
The journals that Ethan is now reading may contain the answers that he is looking for as this is the story of his father’s own turbulent life story. From a young man so full of promise as his travels take to different parts of the world to the woman he loved. There is regret in these journals as Ethan reads of what his father has lost with no chance of turning the clock back. So much pain in the words that his father has written.
I must pass on my gratitude to Paul E. Hardisty for writing a novel that held me on every page and was hard to leave at the end and left with trying to find the right words to describe a novel of such beauty. I am not one for ‘urging’ people to read books that I review but this I would urge you to read. You will not regret it. Find some quiet time and shut the world away and read Turbulent Wake one of my books of the year.
Thank you to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books and Anne Cater (Randon Things Tours) for the review copy of Turbulent Wake by Paul E. Hardisty
Turbulent Wake by Paul E. Hardisty was published by Orenda Books and is published on 16th May 2019 and will be available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
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Green Gold by Gabriel Hemery
In 1850, young Scottish plant hunter John Jeffrey was despatched by an elite group of Victorian subscribers to seek highly prized exotic trees in North America. An early letter home told of a 1,200-mile transcontinental journey by small boat and on foot. Later, tantalising collections of seeds and plants arrived from British Columbia, Oregon and California, yet early promise soon withered. Four years after setting out, John Jeffrey, and his journals, disappeared without a trace. Was he lost to love, violence or the Gold Rush? Green Gold combines meticulous research with the fictional narrative of Jeffrey’s lost journals, revealing an extraordinary adventure.
Since my early days in studying horticulture plant species I have always had an interest in those pioneers and plant hunters who travelled to far off lands to seek new species of trees and rare plants. So it great delight I was sent a copy of Green Gold (Unbound) by Gabriel Hemery.
This is the true story of the Victorian plant hunter John Jeffrey told in a fictional account of his epic solo adventure from Scotland to North America. It is 1850 and the journey begins after being asked and financed by a group of wealthy plant collectors. John’s journey would take him from the shores of Scotland to Canada through to Oregon and California the landscape was harsh and unforgiving from the frozen wastelands across mountains. He would send back on a regular basis specimens and seeds and also rare Beetles. It was requested by Edinburgh’s Royal Botanical Gardens that John Jeffrey would keep regular journals of his travels and findings to be sent back.
The story moves from present day to the past as John’s journals are discovered and from here the story is constructed in a fictional account. I have to say just how much I really enjoyed reading the account of John Jeffrey’s expedition even if it was told in a fictional narrative. The old plant hunter in me came out from the past as I read of the new specimens that John wrote about on his travels.
There is a real human story here not just a story of the plant hunter. The promise of sending back details of his travels and findings never happened and eventually the backers lost their faith in John Jeffrey but before they could take any further action, John had disappeared but disappeared without trace. Nothing was heard from the plant hunter. So many theories as to what happened to John Jeffrey. Did he get lost and perished, was he murdered, or did John find a love he could not leave.
I have to say that Gabriel Hemery has done an amazing job in telling the story of the plant hunter and his expedition through his journals. For anyone who loves history or the study of plants then Green Gold is a book you will enjoy reading.
@GabrielHemery @Unbound @Unbound_ Digital
Thank you to Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) and Unbound for the review copy of Green Gold by Gabriel Hemery
Green Gold by Gabriel Hemery was published by Unbound and was published on 18th April 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
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The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg
Meet Doris, a 96-year-old woman living alone in her Stockholm apartment. She has few visitors, but her weekly Skype calls with Jenny―her American grandniece, and her only relative―give her great joy and remind her of her own youth.
When Doris was a girl, she was given an address book by her father, and ever since she has carefully documented everyone she met and loved throughout the years. Looking through the little book now, Doris sees the many crossed-out names of people long gone and is struck by the urge to put pen to paper. In writing down the stories of her colourful past―working as a maid in Sweden, modelling in Paris during the 30s, fleeing to Manhattan at the dawn of the Second World War―can she help Jenny, haunted by a difficult childhood, to unlock the secrets of their family and finally look to the future? And whatever became of Allan, the love of Doris’s life?
Doris is 96 years-old and lives in Stockholm, when she was young her father gave her a red address book. Throughout her life Doris added names and addresses of all the people she had met into her red address book. Now she is housebound and living alone. She admits death is waiting for her.
Each week she looks forward to her weekly Skype with Jenny who is her American great-niece and at the same time Doris is writing her memoir which is based on her red address book and the names contained within it.
Sadly, the one thing that we all have to expect in life is losing those who come into our life whether that is family, friends or those that come into our lives for whatever reason and in Doris’s red address book there are names that are crossed out and the word ‘dead’ written against them. But each name means something, a friend, a lover or not so nice. The address book is not just a book of names it is a key to memories of times gone by, each name unlocks a part of a memory of happier times or sad times.
Doris has lived a life, she has made choices as we all do but for Doris she has lived through the good times and the worst of times, but she has learned to accept her decisions that have not gone well, she has also survived being torpedoed in WWII lived. The story moves between the past and the present. She never likes to listen to the carers who visit her and then one day she breaks a hip and Jenny then arrives at the hospital. It is Doris who ended up being a mother to Jenny after her own died when she was very young. This is deeply poignant story that left a mark on me. You know when Doris is lying in hospital not listening to the nurses or doctors because the end is coming. This is a woman who has lived. Now at her last she issues some wise words to Jenny “Don’t be afraid of life, Jenny. Live” As you read and especially towards the end you the reader will start to think about your own life and the people who have come into it for whatever reason. Love is a theme that pours out of the pages of The Red Address book. We all own an address book with names that are crossed out. Next time just take time to read those names and remember who they were. Beautifully written and uplifting a book to savour on a quiet Sunday sat in the garden. Keep hold of those old address books after reading this you will know why. “In the end all that matters is love”.
Thank you to The Borough Press for the review copy of The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg
The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg was published by The Borough Press and was published on 24th January 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Under the Rock – Benjamin Myers
Under the Rock is about badgers, balsam, history, nettles, mythology, moorlands, mosses, poetry, bats, wild swimming, slugs, recession, floods, logging, peacocks, community, apples, asbestos, quarries, geology, industrial music, owls, stone walls, farming, anxiety, relocation, the North, woodpiles, folklore, landslides, ruins, terriers, woodlands, ravens, dales, valleys, walking, animal skulls, trespassing, crows, factories, maps, rain – lots of rain – and a great big rock.
From the author of the awarding winning The Gallows Pole, Benjamin Myers now turns to non-fiction with his stunning Under the Rock. (Elliott & Thompson).
I was so looking forward to reading Under the Rock, the thought of the astonishing writing of Benjamin Myers now turning to the landscape and in particular a step craggy rock called Scout Rock, which overlooks Mytholmroyd near The Upper Calder Valley in West Yorkshire.
It is here that Myers spent a decade exploring the ten acres of woodland that has inspired this beautiful book. And oh that cover design. It is a thin g of real beauty.
This is a book of such incredible prose. In four parts: Wood, Earth, Water and Rock. The writer conjures up words that have been ‘Stories carved from the land’. Each of the four parts are very much in the form of poetry. After all this the part of the country were the poet Ted Hughes grew up.
This is a place that Ben and his wife have now made their home after leaving the noise of the big city behind them. This place is a land that was left and forgotten, scarred by the past and described as once being a toxic dump after asbestos was buried here. Now a place that wants to be explored and in a series of field notes that is poetry and also there are photographs through the book. I love this style of nature writing, maybe for someone like me who loves the writing by Helen Mcdonald, Amy Liptrot and Robert Mcfarlane to name a few and that this will also appeal to those who will really enjoy Under the Rock. This is an exceptional book, both compelling and elegant and one of my highlights of the year. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Thank you to Elliott & Thompson for the review copy of Under the Rock by Benjamin Myers
Under the Rock by Benjamin Myers was published by Elliott & Thompson and was published on 25th April 2019 in paperback and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshops.
The Blog Tour – Under the Rock by Benjamin Myers
Heart: A History by Sandeep Jauhar
Can you mend a broken heart? It is a real pleasure to bring you my thoughts on Heart: A History by Sandeep Jauhar which has been shortlisted for the 2019 Wellcome Book Prize.
For anyone who has as interest in this the most powerful of the organs in the human body yet many know and understand so little of the heart. For those of us who have experienced heart related problems and surgery you begin to take a closer interest on every beat in your chest. It is after all human nature.
For author Sandeep Jauhar he too has suffered as he tells his own story at the beginning of the book which led to a blockage in the main artery leading to the heart.
The heart is a very strong organ and it can withstand so much, as I found out reading Heart: A History it is the first organ to develop. Beginning to beat 3 weeks into life blood is not formed at this point. A remarkable fact that literally made me own heart skip at that thought. But when things do go wrong time is of the essence.
When Sandeep was young he knew of the problems related to the heart through his own family. It was as we learn when Sandeep was young did he take an interest in the heart and later decided he wanted to study Cardiology.
I became absorbed in the book as I learned more and more especially as Cardiology has been a fast paced part of medical study, it has advanced so fast in recent decades but yet there is still so much to learn and understand.
A few medical facts: The first coronary bypass operation I learned was in 1967 and the first coronary angioplasty was conducted as only in recent years back in 1977 yet this procedure seems to have been around for so much longer.
A fascinating and also moving book on the heart but one that is vital. A superb writer and Sandeep writes with such great prose. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Thank you to Charlotte Cooper from Midas PR for the review copy of Heart: History by Sandeep Jauhar
Heart: History by Sandeep Jauhar was published by Oneworld and was published on 27th September 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
The 2019 Wellcome Book Prize Shortlist:
- Amateur: A reckoning with gender, identity and masculinity (Canongate Books) by Thomas Page
- Heart: A history (Oneworld) by Sandeep Jauhar (India/USA) Non-fiction
- Mind on Fire: A memoir of madness and recovery (Penguin Ireland) by Arnold Thomas Fanning (Ireland) Non-fiction
- Murmur (CB Editions) by Will Eaves (UK) Fiction
- My Year of Rest and Relaxation (Jonathan Cape) by Ottessa Moshfegh (USA) Fiction
- The Trauma Cleaner: One woman’s extraordinary life in death, decay and disaster (The Text Publishing Company) by Sarah Krasnostein (Australia/USA) Non-fiction
The winner will be announced on Wednesday 1st May at Wellcome Centre, London.
How to follow the 10th Anniversary Wellcome Book Prize Blog Tour
Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech
Pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago – and her killer hasn’t been caught.
Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show. The theme is secrets. You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers.
Stella might tell you about Tom, a boyfriend who likes to play games, about the mother who abandoned her, now back after fourteen years. She might tell you about the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, or about her father …
What Stella really wants to know is more about the mysterious man calling the station … who says he knows who killed Victoria, and has proof.
Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything…
With echoes of the Play Misty for Me, Call Me Star Girl is a taut, emotive and all-consuming psychological thriller that plays on our deepest fears, providing a stark reminder that stirring up dark secrets from the past can be deadly…
I have been a huge fan of Louise Beech since her debut novel How to be Brave (Orenda Books) was released back in 2015. Just look how far this amazing writing journey has taken Louise to-date. Now comes her latest release Call Me Star Girl (Orenda Books) which hit the bookshops on 18th April. Now I read this back in February and have had to wait ever so patiently to post my review.
To put it simply Louise Beech has blown me away. It can be difficult when a writer changes genre style but Louise has done this effortlessly. Now a psychological thriller writer and it is just sensational. Anyone who has seen the Hollywood film Play Misty for Me starring Clint Eastwood will love this novel.
Stella McKeever is a radio show host and it is her last show and she decides she wants to end with something different. Stella asks her listeners to call in with their secrets, and in return Stella would share some of hers. Dangerous territory for a radio host to enter as you just don’t know how far it could go.
Then a local girl is found dead and it is clear this is murder and there has been a witness and this witness calls the studio to say they saw the murder. The beauty of this tight and pulse racing thriller is that there are not many characters in the storyline so you get to concentrate on the plot.
Stella has her own secrets and these include the relationship with her boyfriend Tom. Then there is her mother and the broken relationship between them both.
There is something about creating a storyline around a radio station at night it is dark and quiet. Just you and your listeners and you set the tone and you can hold them in the palm of your hand. There are many twists and turns in the plot that you just do not know where it is likely to turn next.
The tension builds so much that you could cut with a studio microphone, it is atmospheric and compelling. You might even say disturbing. But either way it is nothing short of brilliant. Louise Beech’s fifth novel is by far her very best and this is why I love Louise Beech’s writing. HIGHY RECOMMENDED
Thank you to Karen Sullivan (Orenda Books and Anne Cater for the review copy of Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech
Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech was published by Orenda Books and was published on 18th April 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
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On the 4th August 1914 Britain led by Prime Minister Herbert Asquith declared war on Germany after the call by the British government for Germany to get out of Belgium by midnight on 3rd August. So it was Britain went to war with the might of Germany.
Now the call went out for young men across the country to sign up and fight for King and Country. Britain’s Jews in the First World War by historian Paula Kitching tells the story of the Jewish community and how they contributed to the First World War.
At this time Britain had a global empire and navy with many ships but what it lacked was men on the ground to fight. To take on Germany on a European battlefield would take a huge army. Britain had only a small professional army during the run up to WWI. The Jewish community despite being seen as outsiders responded with more than 40,000 men to fight after the call went out.
With many more providing support on the home front both as nurses and doctors in hospitals and other support services the Jewish community had responded to the call.
In this well researched account it tells the story of the Jewish involvement in World War One. There is a chapter towards the back of the book that tells of the Awards and Bravery of some of the Jewish Community who served. There were 5 recipients of the Victoria Cross (VC), 144 were awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) as well as 263 recipients of the Military Cross (MC; Commissioned Officers only).
The story of Frank de Pass who on the 24th November 1914 was awarded the Victoria Cross for his conspicuous bravery in the face of a bombardment from the German line and then went about rescuing a wounded soldier. Sadly, de Pass was never to know he was going to be awarded the VC as he was killed the following day. Just one of the heroic actions by Jewish soldiers. His VC is held at the National Army Museum in London which I saw at the launch of ‘On Courage: Stories of Victoria Cross and George Cross Holders’ (Constable) in May last year.
Break of Day in the Trenches by Isaac Rosenberg
The darkness crumbles away
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet’s poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies,
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver -what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in men’s veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe,
Just a little white with the dust.
I have learned so much by reading Britain’s Jews in the First World War and if military history or history in general is something that you enjoy reading then I am more than happy to recommend.
Thank you to for the review copy of Britain’s Jews in the First World War by Paula Kitching
Britain’s Jews in the First World War by Paula Kitching was published by Amberley Publishing and was published on 15th February 2019 now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
The Pull of the River by Matt Gaw
What an absolute gem The Pull of the River by Matt Gaw (Elliott & Thompson) really is. Imagine two friends Matt and James decide to paddle their way through the waterways of the heart of Britain. This is exactly what they both do. Not only that but they build the canoe themselves.
The red canoe is christened ‘Pipe’ for reasons that become clear early in the book and after putting the canoe through some trials off they both set to explore the rivers and not only that but explore and discover nature.
The real beauty is that you can imagine the two in their red canoe silently paddling the waterways of Britain which gives them both the perfect way to get back to nature and to pause real life in their year long quest to examine our rivers and the wildlife that makes this their home.
Not in any way was this an easy relaxed year long quest there was at times real life drama and peril. Examining the rivers from The Waveney and The Stour and Alde, through to the Upper and Lower Thames to the River Severn.
At times you can almost hear the birdsong as they paddle gently through the rivers but at times you sense their real fear. The beauty of knowing that both become at one with our watery arteries of Britain but also at one with nature even glimpse of wild Beavers. There are Kingfishers, Otters and Damselflies to name a few that the reader discovers on the journey with Matt Gaw and James Treadaway.
I for one would not even dream of paddling some the extreme rivers and Lochs this is not for the faint hearted but the message that comes across to anyone reading this is simple. Life is for living and live in the now. Beautifully written and told but I would have loved a few photos as this would have made this book. Definitely one I would really recommend reading sat by a river when the sun shines listening to the birdsong.
Thank you to Alison Menzies for the review copy of The Pull of the River by Matt Gaw.
The Pull of the River by Matt Gaw was published by Elliott & Thompson and was published in Paperback on 21st February 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
On Tuesday 2nd April the shortlist for The 2019 Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize was announced. Always one of the most anticipated of literary prizes. The winner will be announced on Thursday 16th May. There will be a special event being held at the British Library on 15th May when all the shortlisted authors will be present. I am really excited at this year’s longlist and already looking forward the British Library event as I will be attending this year.
You can follow the prize via Twitter: @dylanthomprize #IDTP19
This year’s shortlist of 6 books comprises five novels, one short story collection.
The Shortlisted authors:
The 6 shortlisted books comprise 5 novels and 1 collection of short stories including:
- American-Ghanaian writer Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (27) for his debut short story collection Friday Black (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (US) and Riverrun (UK)) which explores what it’s like to grow up as a black male in America, and whose powerful style of writing has been likened to George Saunders.
- Debut novelist Zoe Gilbert (39) for Folk (Bloomsbury Publishing) which was developed from her fascination in ancient folklore and the resurgence of nature writing. She has previously won the Costa Short Story Award in 2014.
- British-Sri-Lankan debut novelist, Guy Gunaratne (34) for In Our Mad and Furious City (Tinder Press, Headline), longlisted for The Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for The Goldsmiths Prize, The Gordon Burn Prize as well as the Writers Guild Awards.
- Third time novelist, Louisa Hall (36) with her latest book Trinity (Ecco) which tackles the complex life of the Father of the Atomic Bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer through seven fictional characters.
- For the second time Sarah Perry (39) has been shortlisted for the Prize this time for Melmoth (Serpent’s Tail), one of The Observer’s Best Fiction Books of the Year 2018, and a masterpiece of moral complexity, asking us profound questions about mercy, redemption, and how to make the best of our conflicted world.
- Zimbabwean debut novelist Novuyo Rosa Tshuma (30) with her wildly inventive and darkly humorous novel House of Stone (Atlantic Books) which reveals the mad and glorious death of colonial Rhodesia and the bloody birth of modern Zimbabwe.
The winner will be announced on Thursday 16th May at Swansea University’s Great Hall, just after International Dylan Thomas Day on 14th May.
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is from Spring Valley, New York. He graduated from SUNY Albany and went on to receive his MFA from Syracuse University. He was the ’16-’17 Olive B. O’Connor fellow in fiction at Colgate University. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Guernica, Compose: A Journal of Simply Good Writing, Printer’s Row, Gravel, and The Breakwater Review, where he was selected by ZZ Packer as the winner of the 2nd Annual Breakwater Review Fiction Contest. Friday Black is his first book.
Zoe Gilbert is the winner of the Costa Short Story Award 2014. Her work has appeared on BBC Radio 4, and in anthologies and journals in the UK and internationally. She has taken part in writing projects in China and South Korea for the British Council, and she is completing a PhD on folk tales in contemporary fiction. The co-founder of London Lit Lab, which provides writing courses and mentoring for writers, she lives on the coast in Kent.
Guy Gunaratne lives between London, UK and Malmö, Sweden. His first novel In Our Mad and Furious City was longlisted for The Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for The Goldsmiths Prize, The Gordon Burn Prize as well as the Writers Guild Awards. He has worked as a journalist and documentary filmmaker covering human rights stories around the world.
Louisa Hall grew up in Philadelphia. She is the author of the novels Speak and The Carriage House, and her poems have been published in The New Republic, Southwest Review, and other journals. She is a professor at the University of Iowa, and the Western Writer in Residence at Montana State University. Trinity is her third novel.
Sarah Perry was born in Essex in 1979. She has been the writer in residence at Gladstone’s Library and the UNESCO World City of Literature Writer in Residence in Prague. After Me Comes the Flood, her first novel, was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Folio Prize and won the East Anglian Book of the Year Award in 2014. Her latest novel, The Essex Serpent, was a number one bestseller in hardback, Waterstones Book of the Year 2016, the British Book Awards Book of the Year 2017, was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award and Dylan Thomas Award, and longlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction 2017. Her work has been translated into twenty languages. She lives in Norwich.
Novuyo Rosa Tshuma grew up in Zimbabwe and has lived in South Africa and the USA. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her short fiction has been featured in numerous anthologies, and she was awarded the 2014 Herman Charles Bosman Prize for the best literary work in English
Meet the Judges
Professor Kurt Heinzelman is a poet, translator, and scholar. His most recent book of poems is Whatever You May Say and he has translated Demarcations, a collection of poems by Jean Follain. He has been the Executive Curator at the Harry Ransom Centre and the Director of Education at the Blanton Museum of Art. A Professor of English at the University of Texas-Austin specializing in Poetry and Poetics and a teacher in the Michener Centre for Writers, he is also the former Editor-in-Chief of Texas Studies in Literature and Language (TSLL), and the co-founder and long-time Advisory Editor of Bat City Review. [photo credit University of Texas at Austin/ Christina S. Murrey]
Professor Dai Smith CBE is a distinguished historian and writer on Welsh arts and culture. As a Broadcaster he has won numerous awards for arts and historical documentaries and from 1992 to 2000 was Head of Programmes at BBC Wales. He was Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Glamorgan from 2001 until 2005 and is currently the Emeritus Raymond Williams Research Chair in the Cultural History of Wales at Swansea University. He was Chair of the Arts Council of Wales from 2006 until 2016 and is Series Editor of the Welsh Assembly Government’s Library of Wales for classic works. In 2013, he published a novel Dream On and in 2014 edited definitive anthologies of Welsh short stories, Story I & II, for the Library of Wales. His latest fiction, the novella What I Know I Cannot Say, and the linked short stories All That Lies Beneath, was published by Parthian Books in 2017. Professor Smith is Chair of the Judging Panel.
Di Speirs is the Books Editor for BBC Radio, overseeing all London Readings, ‘Open Book’ and ‘Book club’ on BBC Radio 4 and ‘World Book Club’ on the BBC World Service. She has produced innumerable editions of ‘Book at Bedtime’ over two decades and produced the first ever ‘Book of the Week’ in 1998. Instrumental in the BBC National Short Story Award since its inception, and its regular judge, she has also chaired the Orange Award for New Writers in 2010, judged the Wellcome Prize in 2017 and twice been a nominator for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative (Literature). She is a member of the Charleston Small Wonder Lifetime’s Excellence in Short Fiction Award panel.
Kit de Waal was born in Birmingham to an Irish mother and Caribbean father. She worked for fifteen years in criminal and family law, for Social Services and the Crown Prosecution Service. She is a founding member of Leather Lane Writers and Oxford Narrative Group and has won numerous awards for her short stories and flash fiction. My Name is Leon, her debut novel won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2017 and was shortlisted for numerous other awards including the Costa First Book Award and the Desmond Elliott Prize. The Trick to Time, her second novel, was published in 2018 and was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.
My thanks to the team at Midas PR.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
I am delighted as part of the University of Swansea International Dylan Thomas Prize longlist 2019 to share my thoughts on Normal People (Faber & Faber) by Sally Rooney.
A little about Normal People by Sally Rooney:
Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years.
This is an exquisite love story about how a person can change another person’s life – a simple yet profound realisation that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel. It tells us how difficult it is to talk about how we feel and it tells us – blazingly – about cycles of domination, legitimacy and privilege. Alternating menace with overwhelming tenderness, Sally Rooney’s second novel breathes fiction with new life.
Normal People was THE most talked about novel of 2018 and is Sally Rooney’s second novel following Conversations with Friends which was showered with praise. This time around Sally Rooney has managed to surpass her debut novel. I cannot believe that I have managed to go this far without reading Normal People despite the many people urging me to read it. Once I started I really could not put this down. There is something rather special about Rooney’s writing and there is energy and something more the ease at how she writes. It is therefore no surprise when you consider the list of literary prize nominations that she has received for Normal People.
Some say beware of books that are lauded with praise and prizes but not in this case. For Sally Rooney has raised the bar to such a height that I am already excited to see how she manages to surpass her second brilliant novel.
Normal People is a compelling read. Set in a small town in Ireland and the two main characters in Marianne and Connell. Both are very different in personalities and background but they not only share the same school but also the same class.
Marianne is seen as a quiet loner somewhat different than the rest with her wealthy family she is somewhat left alone. Connell on the other hand is really popular among his peers his background could not be different as his mother is a single parent. It just took one moment and the spark was ignited and then we follow two different young people on their journey through the later school years and through their twenties.
There is at time passion and there is at times sheer intensity between the two young people as they go from school to University and then their first steps into the world of work.
When you read Rooney’s writing there is something so different yet sublime but there is something so unique that really attract the reader into the story. We find the two star-crossed young lovers bouncing from between the sheets to being friends and then back between the sheets again. Would this be because of their backgrounds and personalities? Is there a force that means that they were destined for each other as both Marianne and Connell seem to be inseparable?
So the couple mature from their school days to adulthood and the complexities of modern life and how they really begin to understand each other. A modern day love story and a testament of today. Brilliant and Outstanding and a book not to be missed.
The Shortlist will be announced on Tuesday 2nd April and I will be announcing this via my Twitter and Instagram feed during the morning.
WINNER OF THE COSTA NOVEL AWARD 2018
WINNER OF THE SPECSAVERS NATIONAL BOOKS AWARD 2018 (International Author)
LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2018
LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2019
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2019 SWANSEA UNIVERSITY INTERNATIONAL DYLAN THOMAS PRIZE.
Thank you to Agnes Rowe for the review copy of Normal People by Sally Rooney
Normal People by Sally Rooney was published by Faber & Faber and was published on 30th August 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Follow the 2019 Longlist for the Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize.