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Eddie (London, UK)

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The Colour of Milk
The Colour of Milk
by Nell Leyshon
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A convincing voice & compelling story, 17 Jun. 2012
This review is from: The Colour of Milk (Hardcover)
This book is a tightly crafted exercise in narrative voice - an utterly convincing, compelling voice that makes the book very readable and, at times, beautiful.

"This is my book," the farm girl narrator says. "Every word i spelled out. every letter i wrote." Fourth daughter to a father who wanted sons, Mary is sent to a vicarage and learns to write. It's 1831, and her life begins to change...

This is a slim book, and not as ambitious as it could have been, but in its small scale and single narrative voice it achieves a great deal. A well put together, moving story which is highly recommended.


Ilustrado
Ilustrado
by Miguel Syjuco
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An ambitious, sprawling debut novel, 17 July 2010
This review is from: Ilustrado (Hardcover)
Syjuco's debut novel is, for the most part, an exciting read. The first chapter introduces a literary thriller in which well sculpted prose shapes a compelling story. Crispin Salvador, a well known Philippino writer, is found dead in the Hudson River. That's the premise that this book - winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize - takes off from.

The main body of narration is from Miguel, a protégé of Salvador's who investigates both Salvador's death and the simultaneous disappearance of his unfinished manuscript, a book which the once-great writer hoped would take him back to the dizzying heights of his earlier literary success. But there is no simple plot at play here. Instead, Syjuco has fun taking the narrative off in all kinds of directions, some more successfully explored than others. I enjoyed some of the extravagant stories within stories (for example the one about Salvador cutting a literary critic during a knife fight). Some of the other meanderings, for example into digressive family history - stuff that's tangential to the main story - lost my interest a little. All incredibly clever. All beautifully written. But I felt, at times, that the book was carried away with its own cleverness, occasionally (though by no means always) at the expense of narrative tension

All the same, reaching 150 years into Philippine past, the book slowly unwinds a compelling history of Salvador's family's past. And Miguel's research, taking him back to the islands, and into contemporary Manila, is portrayed in beautiful, lucid detail.

It may occasionally put 'literariness' over simple narrative pleasures, but this still announces a major new talent. Perhaps not the work of genius some critics have painted it as, but Syjuco's next novel might just tick that box ... The signs are good, and he deserves full marks for attempting so much in this vast, sprawling, exciting novel.


After the Fire, A Still Small Voice
After the Fire, A Still Small Voice
by Evie Wyld
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific prose & characterisation, 12 July 2010
This is a lovely little book. The characters come to life by virtue of Wyld's clear and honest eye for detail - she notes their quirks, flaws and foibles with precision and empathy.

Frank behaves in such a way that his girlfriend leaves him, then moves into his grandparents' abandoned Queensland home. As soon as he has settled there, the public and private come to clash: he begins to open up to the locals, and in the process has to adjust his own personality and rediscover who he is deep down.

Australia's east coast is beautifully painted. The writing is lyrical without being showy, wild yet pared down. One of the best debuts I have read in recent years.


John the Revelator
John the Revelator
by Peter Murphy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A solid, compelling debut, 4 July 2010
This review is from: John the Revelator (Paperback)
This is a compelling first novel which deserved its place on last year's Costa First Novel Award shortlist.

It's a story that centres on ideas of love, family and betrayal, and it's the narrator's voice that allows Murphy to make these subjects quirky. The voice is that of an introverted adolescent, an outsider watching the world. Marooned in a tiny town, fussed over by his lonely, chain-smoking mother, John is looking for an escape route. Then Jamey Corboy arrives in town, and suddenly John is torn between his attachments to his old life and the possibilities of a new one ...

The child narrator presented with a coming of age moment is a well-trodden path. This may not be the best novel of its kind, but as a fan of debut fiction I'm always on the lookout for new voices and there is something natural, well paced and balanced in Murphy's prose. One to watch, I'd say.


The Wilderness
The Wilderness
by Samantha Harvey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A delicate, beautiful little book, 4 July 2010
This review is from: The Wilderness (Paperback)
This a wonderful debut - literary fiction at its best. For a young, first time novelist Harvey shows a real lightness of touch and great gifts for detail.

I felt the structure of the book, somehow whimsical and fleeting yet purposeful, perfectly suited the subject matter - we are inside the head of an Alzheimers sufferer, and the memories and fictions which the book invites us to piece together are the memories and fictions which the protagonist himself is determinedly trying to shore up. 'The endless drudgery of the days' is captured in a way that somehow manages to be anything but dull - the reader wills Jake forward despite the knowledge - sad and true - that he has nowhere to go.

If I had a criticism, it would be that the passages which take place in Jake's 'present' are at times less intricate, poetic and compelling than those set in his past. But this is a very minor quibble - Harvey has huge talent and it will be fascinating to see what she does next


The Five People You Meet In Heaven
The Five People You Meet In Heaven
by Mitch Albom
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

3.0 out of 5 stars At times edges toward senitementality, but an absorbing read nonetheless, 3 May 2010
This a well written book with a deceptively simple plot line. It draws you in quickly and doesn't let go until the end.

The Five people You Meet In Heaven is curiously moving, and although it edges toward sentimentality in places it's a very accomplished book. Funny and affecting.


The Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon)
The Lost Symbol (Robert Langdon)
by Dan Brown
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good simple fun, 10 Mar. 2010
Yes, the prose is awkward, yes the style is irritating at times ... But the plot keeps the pages turning. It's no literary masterpiece, but it's a good, simple read.


Journalism: A Career Handbook (Professional Media Practice)
Journalism: A Career Handbook (Professional Media Practice)
by Anna McKane
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great source of info, 10 Mar. 2010
This is a great resource for established and would be journalists alike. Packed full of helpful info. Unlike a number of other books in this area that attempt to give a comprehensive overview of key skills, it manages to do the job without being desperately dull to read.

Good all round.


The Paris Review Interviews: Vol. 3: v. 3
The Paris Review Interviews: Vol. 3: v. 3
by Philip Gourevitch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.59

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for the would be writer, 25 Jan. 2010
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Superb. Buy all four volumes for an aspiring writer friend and they'll love you forever.

The thing Paris Review does best is get down to the nuts and bolts of the writing process, drawing back the curtain on the mysterious workings of great authors' thought processes and daily routines.


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