The Unmapped Country by Ann Quin
Quin took her own life in 1973 at the age of thirty-seven. Had she lived and written more she might well have been one of the century’s literary giants. Instead, her work fell into obscurity. But fear not because that mighty publishing house Salt has given us this collection of stories and fragments. And what a read it is. Her work feels … unsettled, open-ended. It questions and probes. I recommend it highly.
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
This is the tale of an elderly British couple living in the time just after the reign of King Arthur, when tensions between the Britons and the Saxons are waxing. It’s an interesting weave of myth, legend and mystery together with matters pertaining to all societies across all times: the nature of memory and how it is influenced by guilt, by the desire to forget and the urge to remember. Haunting.
Christmas Dinner of Souls by Ross Montgomery
Yes, I know it’s not Christmas, but I saw this at the library and thought it looked like a bit of fun. And indeed it was. If you like your Christmas stories warm and fuzzy, this isn’t the book for you! It’s full of murders, ghosts, betrayals and people trapped behind walls. It’s quirky and energetic. I loved it!
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
We love Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came To Tea in our house and when I looked into Kerr’s early life I found that she and her family had fled Germany under the Nazis – and only just in time too. This semi-autobiographical book tells the story of that escape and the life of the family afterwards. At the time the family left Germany, they thought it was a temporary move and took only a few essentials. When they realised they couldn’t go back, young Anna pictures Hitler playing with the beloved pink rabbit that she left behind. A fantastic book for children with questions about Hitler’s Germany.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
I’m so sorry, everyone, but I was a little bit disappointed with the first of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. I am only too aware of the high praise for these books, but it’s just one of those things; there isn’t, and never will be, a book that is universally praised and beloved of all because we all have different tastes and enjoy different things – and that’s how it should be. I adore Naples, but I just didn’t feel a strong sense of place until well into the book. I didn’t find the characters, on the whole, instantly engaging, although I grew to find them interesting. I am glad I read it, but I just wish I’d started enjoying it sooner than I did.
Mist Over Pendle by Robert Neill
Possibly the most famous work of fiction on the topic of the Pendle Witches of 1612. It covers the events of the early part of the year and leads up to the trial but stops short of it. Therefore it doesn’t cover the issue of the child, Jennet Device, who testified against her entire family and sent them all to the gallows. Shame, because that’s where it all starts getting very interesting really. But it’s still a really good read with lots of atmospheric writing evoking the creeping sense of evil and foreboding in the ancient Forest of Pendle in 1612.
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