Book review – Catherine Carswell – “The Camomile”


I normally love a Virago book but have I read too many written in the early 1920s about women trying to escape their bounds?

Catherine Carswell – “The Camomile”

(20 August 2019)

Apparently named because the plant flourishes however much it’s trodden on, I couldn’t unfortunately really engage with this tale of a woman who returns to Glasgow after two years at music school in Germany (shades of Dorothy Richardson’s “Pilgrimage” here and also in the constant unending meanderings about her internal narrative and musings over whether/what to write) and frets against her bonds and boundaries which actually, although having lost her parents, that trope enabling a more interesting story for a character, has quite a free life, with a room of her own to write and play the piano in, a job, and the freedom to associate with a penniless writer she befriends. She’s not a New Woman as such and never gets round to even proposing Free Love to her fiancé.

Her life changes when she suddenly becomes engaged to  her friend’s brother, off stage during a break in the journal she’s writing to her music-school friend. Very irritatingly, she claims she can no longer write the journal:

Shall I ever be able to write any more in my journal to you? I don’t think so. Now that Duncan and I are engaged, the poor thing’s back is broken for good. Now that my thoughts are centred round him, I cannot set down a record of them for anyone else to read, not even my dearest friend. (p. 212)

But she does, of course she does, in the journal and then going over the plain facts in another letter to he friend. She does at least rail against Duncan’s racism, but she does this while being gigantically anti-Semitic and plain snobbish and mean, then agonises about what engagement means and what she can do. I wasn’t really able to whip up any sympathy for her and was glad when this book was finished.

I’d love to hear from others who got more out of this or “got” what I clearly missed! The portrait of early 20th century Glasgow was interesting, but that feels like when I said I was glad to learn more about Czech history after reading “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”!

I’ve been reading the fascinating “Kitted Out”, about youth culture and fashion during the Second World War, have a depressing book about bullying in the police force to review later in the week, and am currently reading about the sea.

Book review – Elizabeth Eliot – “Cecil” @DeanStPress


September 01 2020 TBRI’m up to July 2019 in my TBR – another few books and I’ll only be a only a year behind, even if that year is made up of almost two shelf-worths of books – and here’s another Dean Street Press book from their Furrowed Middlebrow imprint, this time passed to me by lovely Ali when she realised she had somehow got two copies (follow this link to see all my DSP reads so far). Back on form with Elizabeth Eliot for the last of her novels I own, with an exciting mystery twist, too!

Elizabeth Eliot – “Cecil”

(30 June 2019 – from Ali)

Back to the first person here as we watch with his sister in law Anne as her husband’s half-brother is systematically ruined by his narcissistic and semi-invalid mother. That he doesn’t have a chance is clear from the start, and Anne, Charlie and wry American cousin Nealie can only look on in horror, try to help, and speculate as to what can be done.

Set in 1917, looking back at the 1880s onwards, there’s an unexpected plot twist when the inevitable happens, and the attractive narrator, calm and firm although somewhat unnerved by her stepmother-in-law, with her own two children who she sees with a loving but not suffocating eye, balances out something of a monster in Edythe and the acerbic charms of Nealie:

‘Very noble,’ Nealie said, ‘but then the young always have such high ideals. I suppose that’s natural. Having lived for a shorter time than we have, they have had less to put up with.’ (p. 81)

I loved Nealie’s arrangement of her admirer’s affections and her provision of a sardonic chorus, dear, solid Charlie who is always there in a crisis and provides a supportive background for Anne, and Cecil’s manservant Thompson in this intriguing and fun book with a psychological edge and a cracking plot, about which I can’t write any more without giving that plot away!

Book reviews – Nadiya Hussain – The Amir Sisters trilogy


I read these three on Kindle over a number of months but thought I’d review them together as they’re pretty light and didn’t produce very long reviews. These are all ghost-written by Ayisha Malik to Nadiya’s story ideas and feature the four Bangladeshi-British Amir sisters, most of whom live in a small town in Southern England with white neighbours and their own scattered community around them.

Nadiya Hussain – “The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters”

(7 July 2020)

We meet the four Amir sisters and laern about their lives and family. Fatima is the eldest and eats a lot of Primula cheese spread and fails her driving test repeatedly, Farah has married but something is not adding up, Bubblee has escaped to be an artist in London and 16-year-old Mae records everything on her mobile and writes a “secret” blog that you know is going to end up causing trouble.

The voices are well-done and there’s a good plot but there’s a fair amount of somewhat disappointing food-shaming from Mae (although I love her dad undermining her smoothie obsession with his own offbeat creations), which sits oddly with Nadiya’s foodie brand. I wonder if we’re going to find there’s an underlying issue with Mae in one of the other books.

I liked a lot of really small points that were popped in, like Farah’s white neighbour Alice carefully getting halal chicken in, nice little pointers.

“The Fall and Rise of the Amir Sisters”

(22 July 2020)

Set a few years after the first book, Farah is settled in a new tiny flat, bad brother Jay has a legitimate job, Fatti is settled and happy, Bubblee is reconsidering her art career and is offered a big decision by the family and Mae is off to university. Mum seems rather unsettled, though, and her amusingly told marital woes and attempts to resolve them, egged on by her hitherto unexpected friendship with a white woman, provide a light counterpoint to the really serious concerns that arise in one relationship – with a really shocking and horrible incident taking place. It gets really dark and difficult at times, while treating depression seriously, respectfully and well. Not one to read for a comforting time and if you’re feeling a bit wobbly yourself, I have to say.

“The Hopes and Triumphs of the Amir Sisters”

(22 July 2020)

In the third book, set a few weeks after the last one, we concentrate on Mae, the younger, feisty sister who was always doing her social media projects, living on celery and smoothies. She’s gone to university to do media studies and discovered kebabs and pizza, but …

Uni was going to be her time to flourish, away from the family’s fold, for her to spread her so-called wings and fly. Except it soon became clear that, out of the family’s fold, Mae wasn’t exactly sure what her role was. At university, she wasn’t so much flying as flapping.

There’s even another social media post gone viral, but this time it’s shaming her, not by her, and it erodes her self-belief even further. Meanwhile, her sisters are all bound up with their new families and leaving her out, and mum and dad’s marriage seems to have hit a new and embarrassing lease of life.

Encounters with two pivotal people she becomes close to as she tries to negotiate university life and then the summer at home with her family, as well as an unexpected animal companion, help her to work out who she might just grow up to be. I liked the issues she faced up to in this one and there was nothing too traumatic apart from a very icky scene when she’s fed a baby something age-inappropriate ….

A decent series on the whole, more hard-hitting and with less baking and more fat-shaming than I’d have perhaps expected.

Book review – Paul Magrs – “Exchange” #magrsathon @paulmagrs


Liz with almost all her Paul Magrs books

Me with almost all my Paul Magrs books

Did you read my exclusive interview with Paul last month? I’m back onto reading my way through a good number of his books now, and spent a very pleasant afternoon in the garden at the weekend re-reading “Exchange”. This is the book that literally introduced me to Paul – I’d read his Phoenix Court novels and others but it was when I came across the concept of BookCrossing being mentioned in this novel that I tracked him down to the university where he was then teaching creative writing, dared to email him (I’ve only sent fan mail to him, Iris Murdoch and Erica Jong …) and now can call him a friend! Hooray!

I read this book previously in 2006 (I first read it VIA BookCrossing!) and 2012 – rather amusingly, I’d forgotten a big plot point around how the characters got to discussing BookCrossing but remembered the hero and the Book Exchange and the feel of the novel. And I’m pleased to say it was just as delightful, third time round!

Paul Magrs – “Exchange”

(28 April 2009)

Simon’s living with his grandparents after, in the grand tradition of young adult and children’s books through the ages, his parents are killed in an accident (I don’t mean to downplay that but it’s such a common way of freeing up your protagonist, isn’t it?). He spends Saturdays on days out to different towns, and bookshops, with his gran, Winnie:

It’s all tea cakes and Earl Grey and bags of sweets and lovely novels. What more could we want, eh? What more could we possibly want? (p. 25)

But Simon does want a little bit more, it turns out, so it’s exciting when they find a new Book Exchange and make some new friends (I loved fierce Kelly even more this time). This time around, this passage seemed to sum up the book for me:

Bitter and black. It sounded cool. Like a vampire or a hardbitten detective. Really, though, Simon liked his coffee with frothy milk, two sugars and a jaffa cake or two. (p. 71) (this has reminded me of my review of “The Diary of a Dr Who Addict“)

It’s funny, because last time it was this passage:

He was wooing her with gateaux and frothy mochas and the tender ministrations of his plastic hands …

although both are very “Paul Magrs” ways of putting things.

This time round I liked Ada, the writer Winnie knew in her childhood, a lot more, and I drew from the book the messages that it’s OK not to rush into things, that friendship is sometimes so very much the best option, and that we all need time to find ourselves. That’s a pretty good set of precepts to get out of a book, isn’t it. Simon is a typical Magrs hero, shy and sensitive and buried in books (cf “Starlight and Snow”, “Dr Who Addict”, “Strange Boy”, “All the Rage” and I love having such a gentle character at the centre of this rare non-magical Magrs read.

You can find Paul online at Life on Magrs and he also has a Patreon for exclusive new content.

Book reviews – Gareth E. Rees – “Unofficial Britain” and Sarah Maslin Nir’s “Horse Crazy” @ShinyNewBooks @eandtbooks @simonschuster #bookbloggers


Two high-quality and well-written books I’ve reviewed recently for Shiny New Books, and I was slightly unnerved by both of them when I received them, but was OK in the end!

GUnofficial Britain gareth reesareth E. Rees – “Unofficial Britain”

The worry: too scary and uncanny for feeble little me?

Another excellent and exciting read from Elliott & Thompson. I gladly accepted this when I was offered it as I do like a bit of psychogeography, then I got a bit worried when I read the opening, set in a mystical area of Olde Worlde Britain and descending into a scenario like a horror film, and then read it was going to feature housing estate poltergeists, trading estate catmen and wolf-like figures perambulating around liminal areas. But the quality of the writing and especially the bringing together of old phenomena and new drew me in, and as long as I read it in daylight, preferably outdoors, I was fine (I am notably easy to alarm!).

The central premise of the book, that modern spaces a) attract as much myth and storytelling, emotion and nostalgia as older ones and b) often overlay and/or echo those older spaces, is a powerful one that pulls the book together and gives it shape. Not just a collection of weird tales, it’s an explanation of the power of story in our lives today, and the attraction of unloveable spaces.

One of the themes throughout the book is the link between older traditions, myths and stories and modern ones, whether that’s community memories of housing estates being built on graveyards, the placing of real or ersatz standing stones within motorway junctions, links between scary wolf figures of previous centuries and those which pop up today, the “thin places” of Celtic myth and the liminal places of the modern day where you could slip into … anything, or the arrangements of motorway junctions and their reflection of the layout of ancient sacred sites. Rees does really good work on this and it’s fascinating. He also does a good job of weaving his own memories in with the ones he tracks down and researches here without making the book tediously all about himself; this is most notable in his return to the M6 motorway in the final chapter, which also manages to pull together all the themes of the book

Read my full review for Shiny here.

I have to say that I found myself waiting in a liminal space between the bit of the canal that features the remnants of a swing bridge to a road that now goes nowhere and a large and secretive-looking mineral works, by its abandoned former building, for a friend who was having a comfort break in a nearby wooded area, and thoroughly unnerved myself, which I feel the author would have appreciated!

Thank you to Alison from Elliott & Thompson for asking me if I’d like to read this and sending it over in return for an honest review.

Sarah Maslin Nir – “Horse Crazy”

The worry: All the horses will die and I’ll have to read awful things about the Holocaust!

I received this book via NetGalley and it seemed like a good fit for Shiny so I proposed to review it for them, too. It’s about a woman who loves horses but feels she’s not in quite the right horsey set. In addition, she’s labouring under a huge load of survivor’s guilt because her father escaped the Holocaust as a child. I hadn’t realised about that aspect when I requested the book, and when I realised that each of the chapters was named after a horse that had been important in her life, I really worried that I’d be wading through terrible stories and horse deaths.

I needn’t have worried. There were no graphic details of the war and of course horses are long-lived beasts, so apart from a couple of demises, off-stage and copable-with, many of the ones described and commemorated are living out their retirements or still going strong. It was a fascinating read and recommended.

While there’s a fascinating chapter of the weird-eared Marwari Horse (look them up and be prepared to be surprised; this is not a horse breed of which I was aware before), a horse which you won’t see outside India as there’s a ban on exporting them, most of the stories in the book centre around American people and their horses – and those horses rather fascinatingly range from little plastic models at actual shows for … little plastic models, to giant work horses used to patrol Central Park. We meet the real Misty of Chincoteague and the horses used on urban farms, to dish-faced Arabs and the ubiquitous racing thoroughbred.

Read my full review for Shiny here.

Thank you to Elizabeth from Simon & Schuster for making this one available to me on NetGalley in return for an honest review.


Book review – Paul Jepson and Cain Blyth – “Rewilding” @IconBooks #Rewilding #NetGalley


Another NetGalley win, a book by an academic and a practitioner respectively in conservation and ecology, and part of the “Hot Science” series which looks at exciting new topics in the scientific world.

Paul Jepson & Cain Blyth – “Rewilding: The Radical New Science of Ecological Recovery”

(19 May 2020)

A fascinating book that explores the science and research that underpins the theories and practicalities of rewilding, understood in various ways but basically the practice of returning landscapes to a previous, more diverse and “natural” iteration – although what that iteration should be is a matter of discussion and controversy, much like rewilding itself can be.

The book concentrates on the idea of reintroducing megafauna (animals over 40kg such as wild cattle and horses up to rhinos and at its most extreme, re-created mammoths etc) to landscapes, which produce not the tree covered land we might think of as natural but more of a patchwork of grasslands and scrublands. This also includes the controversial idea of introducing non-native but similar species to replace extinct ones (this has already been done with giant tortoises but requires very careful consideration).

Some big schemes that are already going on are explained in detail, so we can see how the theory can be applied, and what changes can be made, the political issues that arise and what possible mitigations can be introduced. “Protect the best, rewild the rest” is a central theme, with charismatic predators and more prosaic beavers and wild cattle being reintroduced, and those herbivorous megafauna, allowing habitats to adjust and smaller populations to burgeon.

The use of very new technology, for example very small trackers and zones used to follow bison movements, is described in fascinating detail. It’s not at all dry theory but illustrations of very interesting practical measures that are going on now. The final chapter ends with predictions for the next decade, when questions will be answered and rewilding will become more mainstream, in the authors’ eyes.

Thank you to Icon Books for making this book available to me via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Book review Angela Thirkell – “Growing Up” @ViragoBooks #Bookconfessions


Three Thirkell novelsI’ve been continuing to work my way through Thirkell’s Second World War novels, which basically tell the story of the war as it’s going on, this one being published originally in 1943 and now republished by Virago, in a funny order but finishing off the series (I have two more to read before I get to “Peace Breaks Out”, the third one published this August, one of which I acquired in 2018 and the other in 2019, as they came out!). I’m finding I’m falling in love with her work all over again, as these books are detailed, careful and very poignant, with little of the snobbery, xenophobia and racism we can find in her novels. Just two book confessions after the review …

Angela Thirkell – “Growing Up”

(20 August 2020)

The young people we’ve been encountering in the novels are growing up and assuming responsibility for people, houses and their own ongoing lives in this installment. Even more poignant than the previous ones, as the war grinds on (it also opens with the death of a cat; however, I’m glad to say that his replacement flourishes), we’re at the Priory near Winter Overcotes with its fascinating two-level railway station, and Sir Harry and Lady Waring take in their niece Leslie after her health breaks down, plus Noel and Lydia Merton, Lydia so much more sensible than when she was Lydia Keith but still a jolly and attractive character who always tries to do her best for people. The Warings lost their son in 1918 so are old hands at grief and loss, but also know that the Priory will pass to Leslie’s brother, and both Lydia and Leslie have much-loved brothers overseas; the station master, Mr Beedle, has a son in a prisoner-of-war camp and everyone is trying to keep their spirits up but showing the strain. The feudal responsibility we saw in the last novel is strong here in Sir Harry:

What a weary business it all was, giving one’s best to a place where one’s widow wouldn’t even have the right to live. Still, one could keep the place going … and there were old men about the place who had known his father, and young men who looked to Sir Harry to get them out of trouble … One must keep going  for them. (p. 33)

As well as the interweaving stories of finding work and finding love, making friendships (that of Lydia and Leslie, both practical women, is particularly nicely done) and the amusing incidents of the convalescent troops from the big house at the kitchen door of the attractive housekeeper we have lovely set pieces, for example Mrs Morland’s attempt at a lecture to the troops (and I loved the passage about how difficult she’s finding it writing novels through the war when all her heroes and heroines have got separated), the young woman porters bringing new life to the railway station, the quick mentions or scenes with characters from previous novels (even Captain Barclay gets a mention, and Mrs Spender and Octavia put in an appearance) and the nods back to Trollope’s own Barsetshire novels.

A good and absorbing read.

Kitted OutOne book in from the publisher, The History Press, to review for Shiny New Books – they sent a PDF but then very kindly sent me a hard copy too, which is useful, because there are some lovely illustrations and I’ll be wanting to flick forwards and back to them as I read. “Kitted out: Style and Youth Culture in the Second World War” by Caroline Young looks at young people around the world taking part in the war, whether on the home front or the land or in active service, and how they perceived, adapted and wore the uniforms, official or unofficial, of their times. It looks fascinating and I will be reading it soon as it’s out already.

Then I spotted Neil Price’s “Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings” on NetGalley and even risked going under my 80% review rate to request it. I can’t resist a book on the Vikings and that’s all there is to say about that. This was published in August so another one I hope to get to soon.

I’m ahead of myself in terms of reading vs. reviews, so by the time this is published I may well be on to the next volume (“The Headmistress”). I’ve read my Paul Magrs for the month and review a very interesting book on the science of rewilding in a couple of days …

Book review – Elizabeth Eliot – “Mrs Martell” #20BooksOfSummer20 @DeanStPress


September 01 2020 TBRI reached the end of my 2019 birthday books with this one (and then I seem to hop to April and quickly to August – I can’t have bought many books in mid-2019, unlike this year!), another Dean Street Press book from their Furrowed Middlebrow and the other one my best friend Emma gave me (follow this link to see all my DSP reads so far). This wasn’t my favourite of Eliot’s novels but is still sharp, readable and engaging.

Elizabeth Eliot – “Mrs Martell”

(21 January 2019 – from Emma)

Mrs Martell looked at him inquiringly, reprovingly and seductively, all at the same time. She managed this by raising her eyebrows, opening her eyes very wide and by throwing her head just a fraction backwards, and on her beautiful mouth – partly opened to show her beautiful teeth – there was a suggestion of a smile. (p. 26)

This tells you all you need to know about the calculated nature of Mrs Martell and her beauty. It’s a fictional portrait of a truly dreadful woman  akin to Elizabeth Taylor’s “Angel” or Mrs Bankes in “Not at Home“, who we meet in her late 30s, a suburban daughter made slightly good but wanting more, a brittle woman who we meet as she speculates on a murder in the shop downstairs, then see in flashback as she grows from her teens then follow as she convinces her distant cousin Laura that she’s mentally ill (there’s a great bit of pacing here where we slowly build and then jump through time so we’re as confused as poor Laura for a moment) so that she can get her claws into Laura’s husband.

There’s great observation of her relationship with her equally disappointed mother, trying to get her attention as she lives out her years by the sea in an Elizabeth Fair-like boring town; it’s all very well-observed and slightly malicious, but doesn’t have that artless first-person voice I’ve loved in the author’s other novels. I did cheer when Laura fought back in her own way, while Mrs Martell is found out when she lets the facade slip and loses her temper (Laura seems without artifice, which is both her problem and her saving grace), and the ending is a triumph for the woman woh can gather herself up and start again.

Book review – Gideon Defoe – “An Atlas of Extinct Countries” #NetGalley @4thestatebooks


I do like a book on geography, and I also like an amusing book. I think some of this book’s good qualities might have been diluted by the massive pain that was using the NetGalley Shelf App for the first time …

Gideon Defoe – “An Atlas of Extinct Countries”

(11 August 2020 – NetGalley)

I was attracted to this book by the maps on the front cover and the fact it’s about countries that no longer exist.

Countries are just daft stories we tell each other. They’re all equally implausible once you get up close.

It was OK, it was very light, and there were a few selected facts on each country. One thing I can’t fault the author on is his insistence on pointing out the white, patriarchal, colonial and mendacious identity of most of the people who founded these countries – and when it’s not an individual, it’s a scribbling of lines by post-war administrators. Some countries were formed by their inhabitants as a protest against or escape from larger ones but the majority are from the former category and this is one bit of repetition that is welcome.

Some reviewers have mentioned this is one to dip into rather than read right through and they may be right, as I found the very short chapters and the darting around the world and history a bit bewildering reading through it. There are chapter headings on political creations, etc. (East Germany and the horrendous fake countries South Africa created within itself, etc.) but within each chapter we jump around in time and place and I couldn’t make out how it was ordered. There are sections on flags and national anthems at the back which offer more amusement. There are references occasionally in footnotes (not organised in the same way) and a comprehensive bibliography: some reviewers have mentioned inaccuracies, but I am not expert enough to spot these.

The maps of each country were nicely done, with little pictorial details, but many were in too large a scale to really get the context of where they were. I can see looking at the book website listings that they come out beautifully in the print edition of the book.

An OK read that could bring someone in to studying more closely histories of colonialism or various continents.

One for Bookish Beck’s synchronicities: I rarely read two books in a row featuring Ghengis Khan!

Thank you to 4th Estate for making this available to me via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

A word on the reading experience: while the loss of the detail of the maps wasn’t too bad, having to read this on the new NetGalley Shelf app was a pain. The publisher didn’t make it available for sending to Kindle (and I slightly panicked that I was going to have to read all my NG books like this, but no, all the subsequent wins have been available for Kindle, phew!) but you never seem to realise this until you’ve been accepted for the book. Knowing how irritating the previous Adobe Digital Editions was, I feared the worst. I got the app downloaded on my tablet OK and once logged in all my books were there. So far so good.

The reading experience is not fun, though. Even though the user guide that suddenly appeared did have flip pages, I could only read this book by endlessly scrolling down, which is annoying in itself – I like reading a book like a book, sorry! Then there was no facility like you have in Kindle or even ADE to mark a certain portion of text to return to when you’re reviewing. You could only bookmark a whole page by tapping on the bottom of the screen (this was also the only way you could see your progress through the book, which I found disconcerting) then hope you remembered what interested you on that page when you returned to it (I read this book over two days and had forgotten some when I sat down to write my review). When you wanted to look at the bookmarks, you had to tap at the bottom again and go to “Table of Contents” (of course! Thank  you user guide or I’d never have found them) and there was a tab with the bookmarks, but no text, just position. This did detract from my reading experience – not sure if anyone else has tried the app for reading books yet, but I will be sticking with my Kindle for the time being, for sure!

Book review – Vijay Menon – “A Brown Man in Russia” #amreading


September 01 2020 TBRThe lovely Kaggsy of the Ramblings sent me this book when I mentioned I’d like to read it (and I note that she was very prompt at sending it over to me, a mere few days after she published her review!) I will admit this isn’t one of the two first books on my shelf, which will be read next, I promise, but was a tall book that was getting in the way of my Thirkell Pile sitting comfortably!

Vijay Menon – “A Brown Man in Russia”

(20 May 2019, from Kaggsy)

The narrative of 20-year-old Vijay’s journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway with travelling companions Jeremy and Avi, another American of Indian heritage. Each short chapter about their trip is followed by a TED-talk-style learning point, and indeed this book started life as a TED Talk. These are fairly obvious and didn’t add a huge amount to the narrative, although I was amused by the references to contemporary trendy thinkers and rappers that peppered them: he does state at the end that he wrote the book to make people think, and there were some decent sentiments about kindness, etc. I also found his language hugely over-flowery – it actually surprised me to read that he was born and raised in the US as it was more reminiscent of Indian English than American (that’s not a criticism: it’s a different register of English, a different variant, not any less worthwhile). Although what I say in the parentheses stands, it does get in the way of the narrative at times.

It is however a valuable record of their journey and especially their stays in a couple of cities along the way and then in Mongolia, and of the kindness of strangers and the huge value of kindness. There are many amusing moments, such as when they are sitting in an “Indian” restaurant in Mongolia, constantly being asked by the staff what they think of the food and realising that Avi and Vijay must be the only diners of Indian heritage to have made it there.

Vijay accepts and checks his privilege and is clear on the requirement for the privileged to help those who have been dealt a less kind hand. Then he also reflects on his position as, as he says, a “brown man in Russia” and models dealing with humour and graciousness when confronted with open racism or just questions and queries. I would have liked to have read more about this aspect, as it was very interesting indeed.

I liked the update on their lives since the journey in 2013 that we get at the end, and the fact that they continued to travel together after this trip – presumably with Avi continuing to be the one who got round to learning the language/alphabet required and Jeremy doing his gently mocked ‘white saviour’ bit as necessary. All the photographs were reproduced after the epilogue, which I wish I’d realised when I started reading it.

A decent and interesting book that I’m glad I read.

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