Book review – Alecia McKenzie – “A Million Aunties”

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Didn’t I do well – this is the last of the NetGalley books published this month that I undertook to read this month; I didn’t read or didn’t finish three but read and reviewed all the others, plus I have won two more within the month and read and will be reviewing soon one of them. I don’t think I’ll do so well for March books but that’s a story for tomorrow … I requested this one from an email because I liked the idea of a novel(la) set between the US and Jamaica, and also because Bernardine Evaristo had praised it on the info I had.

Alecia McKenzie – “A Million Aunties”

(9 Jan 2022, NetGalley)

Chris is reeling after the sudden loss of his partner, an interesting woman who had given up a business career for a job working with plants, and has come to Jamaica to recover himself, staying with his friend and agent Stephen’s “Auntie” Della. Della rescued Stephen from a children’s home and Chris must be careful to be polite and call everyone by their honorifics as he settles into life on a very remote part of the island, recently partially destroyed by a landslide. Chris needs space to work on his art, but also ends up visiting his own relatives in another part of the island, as his father was a US serviceman and his mother from Jamaica herself. He meets other residents, too, Della’s friends and neighbours, and other artists, as well, and thinks back over his early life and art development, including his great-uncle Tommy, a White man who passed as a light-skinned Black man to be with his own wife (I don’t ever remember hearing or reading about such a phenomenon, so that was an education!).

Moving on from Chris, we also have vignettes from his father, Stephen, another artist friend of theirs, Chris’s uncle, Miss Vera from across the road and Miss Pretty, a local eccentric who’s been woven into Stephen and Della’s life forever. I loved this multi-faceted approach, looking at Chris and Stephen from different angles; it did remind me a little bit of Girl, Woman, Other but also other narratives of chosen family (like Michael Cunning ham), because that’s what ends up forming, including a trans artist with Chinese heritage and various generations of American, Jamaican and French folk. There’s a trip that involves everyone to close off the story, with Chris in particular healing and bringing closure to his bereavement with the help of the others. Back home in Jamaica, Aunt Vera, who has lost interest in dressmaking after all these years, makes a tentative new friend, which is a lovely part of the story.

Some reviewers have complained this ends abruptly but I think it was just right, with new beginnings about to blossom. Worth mentioning that there is one scene of unpleasantness but it works with the story, and talk/some description of a terrorist attack (with nothing gratuitous or horrible), and there are many dogs at the beginning, all of whom are still there at the end.

Thank you to Little, Brown for selecting me to read this book in return for an honest review. “A Million Aunties” was published on 24 February.

Book review – Larry McMurtry – “Texasville”

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I’m late with this instalment in my Larry McMurtry 2022 Re-reading Project, but I don’t think anyone’s reading along with this bit of it (are you? Everyone seems to be planning to read “Lonesome Dove” at some point in the year) so I should get away with it. No reluctance to read this novel, just a glut of work cutting into my reading time (and it’s not quite the book you read over mealtimes, just in case …). I read the battered US edition you can see in the photo, which I bought on the same day I bought “The Last Picture Show”. I last read it in October 2012, when I was working my way up to reading the fourth and fifth volumes in the series, and handily typed my review from 2000 into that review from my notebooks.

Larry McMurtry – “Texasville”

(09 April 2000)

He had never supposed that people really lived as they ought to live, but he had gone through much of his life at least believing that there was a way they ought to live. And Thalia of all places – a modest small town – ought to be a place where people lived as they ought to live, allowing for a normal margin of human error. Surely, in Thalia, far removed from big-city temptations, people ought to be living on the old model – putting their families and neighbors first, leading more or less orderly, ore of less responsible lives.

But he knew almost everyone in Thalia – indeed, knew more than he wanted to know about most of them – and it was clear from what he knew that the old model had been shattered. The arrival of money had cracked the model; its departure shattered it. Irrationality now flowered as prolifically as broom weeds in a wet year. (pp. 323-324)

We’re 30 years on from the events of “The Last Picture Show” although shockingly the main characters still manage to be slightly younger than I am myself now, reading it! Duane has been married to the somewhat terrifying Karla for over 20 years and they have a range of slightly feral children, from Nellie and her many short marriages, through Dickie, who’s shagging everyone and selling drugs, to the terrible twins, Jack and Julie, who just cause mayhem. There are a couple of grandchildren in the huge house, and a succession of guests who move in and out. Oh, and a dog, Shorty, who makes it through the book, although not loyally. Sonny is still around, owning half the town but quiet and sad and a perpetual bachelor, and Ruth Popper is there, too, happily, running marathons and Duane’s office. A large cast of town characters, cowboys, oil workers and farmers complete the personnel, revolving around Sonny’s shops, the courthouse and the Dairy Queen.

It’s the 1980s and the bust years after the boom, and McMurtry’s central idea, set against the structure of preparations for the town’s centennial event, which allows him to pull in characters and set them against each other, is that everyone’s morals have been knocked loose by either all the money or the threat of bankruptcy. All the women appear to have left their husbands and set up with other men – often Duane’s son, Dickie, as it turns out, and are getting pregnant by men not their husbands. I have to say though that the women have far more agency in this one and are the lead characters, controlling both action and emotions. None more so than when Jacy, Duane’s old love, reappears, fresh from a career in Europe as a film star but also mourning a child. There’s a wonderful scene where they repeat their homecoming queen / football captain moment (which Duane recalls they mocked at the time) on a float in the centennial parade. Jacy’s a mystery and gradually adopts almost the whole town, and it’s only at the end that her real motives come through.

There are funny scenes, the tumbleweed stampede in particular (which I had forgotten again!), the bit where Duane is somehow forced to judge an art show, the visit to the psychiatrist, but also such poignant ones. Sonny’s in some kind of decline neurologically and is found sitting in his old picture show, mostly destroyed, up on the remaining seat, thinking he can see a film against the sky in what I feel is the central scene of the novel.

Long and sprawling, wide and somewhat wild, this was indeed worth a re-read.

Book review – Donna McLean – “Small Town Girl”

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I’m feeling quite accomplished, because I’ve read, or not read for a reason, all the NetGalley books I had won that are published in February (of course, I went and won another one during the month but …). I have finished “A Million Aunties” but you’ll have to wait for my review until after my Larry McMurtry, I think. Anyway, here we go with this fascinating non-fiction book that I must remember to pair with its fictional counterpart during the relevant week in Non-Fiction November this year …

Donna McLean – “Small Town Girl”

(1 December 2021 – NetGalley)

I had been aware of the SpyCops scandal, in which undercover police officers infiltrated activist groups in the UK systematically and eroded members’ human rights by lying to them, spying on them, forming relationships with them and even fathering children with them (as far as I know, all the police officers were male), but I hadn’t read anything about it until I was offered Alice O’Keeffe’s novel “Skylark” to read by the publisher. That was brilliant and fascinating but I was glad this non-fiction account caught my eye: in fact, reading it has also shown what great work O’Keeffe did in putting together bits and bobs from different women’s experiences in her novel.

This isn’t one of the early, main works on the scandal. In fact, McLean didn’t realise that her ex, Carlo, was a SpyCop until old activist friends got in touch and told her – the fact that they, all men, had suspected for three years but not advise her is pulled out and examined when she forms a tight support group with other women who were abused in this way. We then follow her path through putting all her memories and evidence together, joining in one of the big court cases and fighting for an apology and compensation, her lawyer the excellent Harriet Wistrich. Sometimes it’s a bit disjointed as she follows various memories or talks to friends and family but it’s well-written and easy to follow.

As well as a narrative of the events in her and Carlo’s life and the subsequent investigation, McLean brings various skills to the table which add to the book and give it depth. She’s a therapist who works with trauma and addiction and she’s very good at demonstrating the physical reactions she has to aspects of the process, and also at explaining how it affects her own work as a group therapy leader and her relationships with her mother, sister and daughters. She is also good at pen portraits, bringing the other characters alive, and she really gets across the support and care of the group of affected women that forms, sharing their joy as well as their pain as they go on writing retreats. In addition, she’s able to bring in the wider context very effectively: the blacklisting of unionised and activist construction workers and the shocking infiltration of the Stephen Lawrence campaign for justice, which I hadn’t known about.

An important and also readable book that I recommend.

Book review – D. E. Stevenson – “Anna and her Daughters”

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OK, this is entirely Ali’s fault. Yes, it’s an indie publisher for the ReadIndies challenge, but I have plenty of Dean Street Press books that I’ve acquired earlier than this one (a birthday present from this year!) but she read this and then I had to. It’s a terrible shame, isn’t it! On the ReadIndies theme, this is one of Dean Street Press‘s wonderful Furrowed Middlebrow imprint books; I have quite a few of these now and should really photograph them together at some point. D. E. Stevenson is such a reliable favourite with her gentle tales, often set in Scotland, although this one goes quite far overseas, too!

D. E. Stevenson – “Anna and her Daughters”

(21 January 2022 – from Emma)

What a lovely treat when you find a book is about those perennially interesting subjects, a set of sisters and a necessary move to save money. I love all the little details and we certainly get them here, and a really lovely first-person narrative in the slightly naive, wide-eyed voice of Jane, the youngest sister and the “plain” one of the family. Oh – it’s also a novel about writing novels! The joy!

So we open with selfish, lovely Helen breaking the news to Jane that their father’s death has left them with no money and they must move from the big London house to some dreadful flat. They’ve only known their mother, Anna, as a glittering socialite who’s good for her husband’s career, but lurking beneath was always a tweedy, practical woman who decides they will return to her home village of Ryddleton, where they can just afford to buy a little cottage. Helen and the middle daughter, Rosalie, a sort of weaker copy of Helen in looks and easily led, are horrified and try to get jobs in London but off they all go and Jane and Anna revel in their new life (even if Jane is rubbish at housekeeping). Helen is soon off, and Jane gets a job as a secretary to a local writer after she knocks her over on her bicycle which is the making of her.

Rosalie also gets a job, as the nursemaid to the doctor’s family and on holiday with them meets the doctor’s brother. Something for herself for once … until he catches sight of Helen. And then, in one of those leaps of faith we sometimes have to take, it turns out Jane has met him, too. From there, the plot winds up, with quite a lot of drama, including a side-trip to South Africa of all places; there are also fantasies fulfilled for Anna’s cousins and lots of delicious details of village life and kindness (and a mention of “Miss Buncle’s Book” in passing!).

I particularly liked the celebration of unconventional “families” with Jane setting up house with her aunt and someone from the next generation down, and the fact that an unmarried woman, instead of being left on the shelf and sad, can have a fulfilling life with hobbies and travel. That’s nice to read in this 1958 novel, which is a very good read!


This was officially my third ReadIndies read of the month, as I’ve read Mark Hodkinson’s “No One Round Here Reads Tolstoy” from Canongate, but that’s for Shiny New Books and the review isn’t out yet. In other challenge news, two very busy work weeks have left me Behind with my current Larry McMurtry, which I dearly hope to have finished and reviewed in the next week!

A rare DNF half-way through!

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I’ve not been massively lucky with my NetGalley books this month so far. I enjoyed “The Great Summer Street Party” (even though it was only one-third of the whole book) and “This Monk Wears Heels” and loved “Black Cake” but “Girl Transcending” disappeared before I could start it, “Influenced Love” didn’t catch my attention at all and I was sadly disappointed by Monica Ali’s “Love Marriage”. Because it’s a “big” book by a writer whose first novel I loved, and because I do like a DNF review from other bloggers, I’ve decided to pop a short review here.

Monica Ali – “Love Marriage”

(December 2021)

Yasmin and Joe are embarking on a mixed-heritage marriage, their parents thrilled at their characteristics on paper, but are they really right for each other and what will happen when their families meet?

I was really looking forward to this: I loved Brick Lane and I really enjoy stories about first- and second-generation emigrants and culture clashes. However, I was disappointed in this one. None of the characters were sympathetic and the author didn’t even seem to like them; in fact, worse, it felt like she was mocking all of them, from the White feminist mother fetishising the exotic to a shabbily dressed Muslim mum clinging to her prayer traditions. I don’t mind unsympathetic characters in a novel or a “cold” author but this gave me nothing to hold onto. The hospital parts seemed there to talk about junior doctors, which is fine, but so much detail about individual patients did bloat it a bit, and it seemed really patronising about Yasmin’s new sister-in-law (yes, this was through Yasmin’s eyes but then looking through the eyes of a judgemental snob isn’t that fun). I found myself more concerned about the post-event cleaning mechanics of the messy sex scene than the fact it had happened, and then at half-way realised I wasn’t bothered what happened or about any of the characters and unfortunately had to give up.

Was Ali trying to do a “state of the nation” thing by jamming in issues around junior doctors’ pay and elderly treatment / everyone having affairs all over the place / should immigrants live within a community or isolated elsewhere, feminism, parent issues, etc. etc.? I felt like it was all telling, not showing (even having scenes in the psychotherapist’s office to demonstrate Joe’s issues) – and I had really wanted to like this book!

I have (fortunately) read mixed reviews of this. I am short of reading time at the moment and wondered if I’d have given up so easily normally – but I think even if I’d been on holiday with all the reading time in the world, I’d have still abandoned it.

Book review – Charmaine Wilkerson – “Black Cake”

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I’d been looking forward to reading this novel about family ties and ruptures since I downloaded it in September; I do tend to like to read books around their publication date. And I can say this did not disappoint. I’m doing well with my NetGalley reading this month – well I wasn’t able to download “Girl Transcending” before it vanished and I didn’t get on with “Influenced Love” but I’ve read and reviewed three of the others with this one and am currently reading Monica Ali’s “Love Marriage”.

Charmaine Wilkerson – “Black Cake”

(22 Sept 2021 – NetGalley)

If you were born to Bert and Eleanor, you banked on your university degrees, you built your influence, you accumulated wealth, you quashed all vulnerability. In short, you became Byron Bennett.

Brother and sister Byron and Benny haven’t seen each other since Benny walked out after a family row about what their parents saw as her lifestyle choices and she saw as her own ways of loving and arranging her life. And just why are they expected to be so perfect? Byron’s angry with Benny as he’s over-achieved and pushed through his career, but at the expense perhaps of the freedom and love he sees Benny grasping. Now they’re in a lawyer’s office, being forced to pay attention to their late mum’s words and work out when (and whether!) to share the last black cake she made for them.

For their mum, the recipe for black cake was the only thing she took with her from her original life. We follow the story of several characters from a 1960s Caribbean island, loosely based on Jamaica, to the UK and the US, and at first we’re as confused as Benny and Byron as we all learn about people they’ve never heard of before. Who are these people and how are they connected with their parents? Did their parents have lives before them? Gradually events unfold and unfurl, hopping backwards and forwards through the timeline, but in a self-assured manner that works out fine, and touching on gender violence, mores in various countries, colourism, micro-aggressions, climate change and pollution, and privilege – but never in a heavy or preachy way.

The book is careful about colonialism, pointing out that black cake is an offshoot of plum pudding brought to the islands by the British and also discussing the way foods have travelled and mixed over the centuries through one particular character. It’s not po-faced though and there are laughs and smiles, for example when Byron and his mum experience an earthquake and one thing MUST be saved: the fruit steeped in alcohol waiting to go into a black cake.

But this was going too far. Now his mother was expecting her only son to risk his life by going back into their kitchen to pull a two-liter glass jar, sixty-eight ounces of ebony-colored slosh, out from behind the dried beans and rice and sugar and peppercorns, while a seismic event was in process, no less. Surely no good could come of this.

The author addresses us in an Afterword, recommending books to read to get a more realistic focus on life in the Caribbean in the 60s or in the UK for people who came here (including “Small Island” and “The Lonely Londoners“) – this is a good resource and she encourages people to read widely. She says here that she treated the story more like a folk story or fairy tale, though I felt it had a lot of emotional realism, too. A great story which is complex but understandable and some memorable characters and scenes – I can’t believe it’s a debut as it’s so well-done and self-assured, and it’s highly recommended.

Thank you to Penguin Michael Joseph for selecting me to read this book in return for an honest review. “Black Cake” was published on 3 February 2022.

Book review – Maya Angelou – “Mom and Me and Mom”

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Having finished the last volume of Angelou’s full autobiography, “A Song Flung up to Heaven“, in December, Meg and Ali and I continued on to this one, the last prose book in our box sets, “Mom & Me & Mom”, published in 2013 and taking a specific view of Angelou and her mother. Ali’s review is here.

Maya Angelou – “Mom & Me & Mom”

(April 2021)

Love heals. Heals and liberates. I use the world love, not meaning sentimentality, but a condition so strong that it may be that which holds the stars in their heavenly positions and that which causes the blood to flow orderly in our veins.

This book has been written to examine some of the ways love heals and helps a person to climb impossible heights and rise from immeasurable depths. (Prologue)

This book specifically takes Angelou’s relationship with her strong and doughty mother and revisits many of the episodes we’ve read in the memoirs before, but often taking a slightly different, and very often more understanding, viewpoint on them, as well as adding in extra scenes from those first 41 years and taking us all the way to her mother’s death, written in the year before her own passing. Vivian comes over as a more sympathetic character; she understands she could not have raised small children, passing Maya and Bailey off to her mother in law to be raised, and acknowledges the strength she showed and passed on to her children. Her and Bailey’s very different relationships with their mother are also highlighted.

There are photographs included in this book, which I don’t remember having seen in the other volumes, which add a lovely touch and also somehow legitimise the words in the book (I’ve seen the other volumes described as fictionalised memoir, not a description I particularly agree with, although of course I don’t know all the facts of her life, but having photos roots it back in truth). It was good to get a glimpse of what happened to Maya after the end of the straight memoirs and it was also lovely to see Vivian’s relationships with her several husbands brought out, including the last one, who seemed to have a lovely fatherly relationship with Maya.

It’s a lovely and lyrical book, and she pays tribute to Vivian’s strength, love and support in a way that doesn’t always come through in the other books (where she’s still strong, but a bit scary, maybe); she describes how she “fills a gap” and protects her automatically. I’m really glad I was able to read this one.

We have a volume of poems next, last in the box-set (then I have a celebration volume and three volumes of essays to read, hooray!). I’m not the biggest poetry reader so I might do one per evening for a while …


This was TBR Challenge 2021-22 Quarter 2 Book 8/53 – 45 to go!

Book review – Kodo Nishimura – “This Monk Wears Heels”

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Another NetGalley read and quite a quick one. I requested this because I saw Kodo on the Japanese series of Queer Eye and was interested in what he had to say about his life and Buddhism. I’ve already read two of my eight NetGalley reads for February so feel like I’m making progress …

Kodo Nishimura – “This Monk Wears Heels”

(26 November 2021, NetGalley)

I wear makeup and heels not only to demonstrate who I am, but to show that there can be somebody like me. There must be people out there who want to try wearing makeup and high heels but fear what others think. I want them an the world to see me and realise that it is OK or a male to wear makeup and heels, and walk like nobody’s business – which, by the way, I can!

Kodo is now a proudly out, gay, nonbinary (“gender-gifted”, in more of his words) person who didn’t get to see anyone like him growing up and is now keen to be visible to others coming along in Japanese society and elsewhere. He’s also a fully qualified Buddhist monk, like both his parents, coming to realise through being allowed to ask a rare question of his teacher that it’s OK to adorn yourself and be shiny and still be a practising monk. He weaves life lessons and Buddhist practices through his life story to give a whole that encourages self-respect and positivity, but doesn’t neglect the fact that he and others can have real faults that need to be addressed. His description of the Eightfold Path and other Buddhist concepts were explained well and clearly with relation to people’s modern lives. I also liked his careful consideration of others, making sure he squared it with his female friend’s parents that he was gay before rooming with her, etc.

As well as a largish section on make-up tips for which I wasn’t really the audience but seemed on the whole sensible, there was quite an emphasis near the end of the book of that thing where you visualise something and the universe provides it; I wasn’t so keen on that aspect as I don’t think it’s relevant or applicable to most people’s lives. It seemed a strange mix with the Buddhist emphasis on self-development and impermanence, too. But never mind, on the whole it’s a positive book that I’m sure many people can draw useful lessons from.

Thank you to Watkins Publishing for selecting me to read this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review. “This Monk Wears Heels” is published today, 8 February 2022.

Book reviews – Richard Osman – “The Man Who Died Twice” and Georgia Hill – “The Great Summer Street Party (Pt. 1)”

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Two light reads from NetGalley, one published ages ago and one out this month. I won the Richard Osman months ago but then Matthew wanted to read the books with me so we had to get hold of and get through “The Thursday Murder Club” first and then have a pause while he read some other ebooks. Then it got caught up with Christmas and some times when it was too dark and cold for him to do his normal morning walks, so we didn’t make rapid progress! But here we are, with two light reads done and one ticked off the NetGalley list for February.

Richard Osman – “The Man Who Died Twice”

(30 July 2021, NetGalley)

The sequel of course to “The Thursday Murder Club” and we still have our four protagonists at the flats, plus our two police officers, Donna and Chris, and Chris’ new love, Patrice. Much amusement is drawn from Chris’ new life of healthy eating and love, and there is a worrying moment when Patrice looks like she might be drawn into events in the plot.

The plot is fun and does have side-plots, but is less confusing than in the first book, with fewer characters and nothing I didn’t understand. Although they were a bit two-dimensional, I liked the small-town drug baron a lot, and we learn more about Elizabeth’s past when someone comes back from it. There were some really well-done moments, I thought, especially towards the end with two scenes with real twists (at a flat and an office, I’ll say) and I also liked the poignancy of Ibrahim’s situation. Light relief comes from Ron’s remarkable grandson, and everything wraps up satisfactorily. I’m not sure I can say much else without revealing the plot, but I did enjoy reading this with Matthew.

Thank you to Viking Books for selecting me to read this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Georgia Hill – The Great Summer Street Party (Pt. 1)

(20 Jan 2022, NetGalley)

I do get a bit annoyed with these books that are split into three parts but are really one book, however this one did seem on Kindle to be proper book-length and the story did have an arc, most of which ended with the end of the book, so it did feel like one book in a series rather than a bit of a book.

Ashley has arrived in the seaside village of Berecombe because she can stay in the independent flat of the house her cousin Noah is renting and have some independence while she continues to recover from a serious road accident. First meeting American Eddie when she has a panic attack hearing a car crash behind her as she paints on the front, she realises that everyone meets everyone in a small town, as she encounters him time and time again. Most importantly, he’s a kind man. Hooray!

Noah is running a memory project and much more for the local museum, gathering surviving people who experienced D-Day and even getting some American veterans over. He’s nearly subsumed under a wave of rather terrifying older women, but they have their kindnesses to offer, too. Ashley gets involved in publicising the plight of a local veteran who might not have anyone to attend his funeral, and meets some great connections of his as well as realising that he led a good and loved life even though he had a facial difference after Dunkirk – she also has scars (she is oddly described as calling hers and his ‘disfigurements’ which seems a harsh word these days) and this and her community involvement help her to heal and grow. She becomes closer to Eddie but he seems reticent about something going on back at home …

We get the D-Day celebrations in full, and the funeral, so you certainly don’t feel short-changed and I have ordered the other two parts … A nice, community-based novel which is about far more than just the romance between the two central characters; it’s also fundamentally about kindness and consent.

Thank you to One More Chapter for offering me this book to read in return for an honest review. “The Great Summer Street Party Pt. 1” came out on 3 February 2022.

Book review – Vera Juliusdottir and Becca Parkinson (eds.) – “The Book of Reykjavik”

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Well, it’s my last Nordics post for the time being, and this represents my tenth read for Annabookbel’s NordicFINDS challenge, as well as my first for Kaggsy and Lizzy’s ReadIndies challenge (two in one: hooray!). I’m so chuffed that I’ve basically got through all but one of the books I picked out for the challenge (and that eight of the books were from my TBR Challenge, too), and the one I didn’t finish was that humungous book of sagas, which I have at least got off the shelves and started!

I don’t seem to have recorded on this blog when I bought this book, but I know that I saw a piece about it on the Reykjavik Grapevine and just had to buy it! (regular readers might have grasped that I’m a tiny bit obsessed with Iceland).

Vera Juliusdottir and Becca Parkinson (eds.) – “The Book of Reykjavik”

(10 September 2021)

This is a short set of pieces by a range of writers, more established and newer, about the inhabitants of Reykjavik, whether they’re older former farmers who are building a new life with their skills, middle-aged women having one last burst of freedom or younger people fretting about life and relationships. I was expecting something a bit darker and grittier, probably because of my last grim reads, but also thinking of “Reykjavik 101”, a novel I failed to finish years ago. So it was sort of as expected, but less hard to read than I’d anticipated.

Lizzy from Lizzy’s Literary Life read this recently and commented that she didn’t really find a sense of place in it as someone who didn’t know Reykjavik. I found I did have a sense of place, but I also do know Reykjavik fairly well, having been to this small city four times since 2014. And when I read it with her review in mind, I could see what she meant – saying you’re living in a little flat on the main street overlooking the bustling street or midnight revellers is all very well, but if you’ve not been there it’s hard to imagine. In fact, the area I didn’t know so well, the suburbs, was quite well-described in the story “Two Foxes” which is set in a new development, failed to be finished after the financial crisis, lying in lava fields and surrounded by half-built flats.

The editors state in their introduction that they were careful to include a gender balance in the authors, and the stories do reflect a good range of experiences, too. “Home” by Friða Isberg stood out for me as a great, universal piece about the fears of a woman walking home late at night, made specific by it being set in the half-twilight “white night” of the summer season when the sun never sets, and general again by the variety of fears and outcomes in each paragraph. A lot of the stories seemed to be interested in the light nights, actually, and the opportunities to be out and about, whether that is looking at foxes and thinking of memories or going to do a ritual on your own you used to do with your wife in whom you’re no longer so interested.

A good collection that I thoroughly enjoyed, however bleakly negative Sjon is about Reykjavik in the Foreword!

ReadIndies publisher note: Comma Press is an indie publisher based in Manchester which specialises in short stories and fiction in translation. This book is part of their Reading The City Series.


This was my ninth NordicFINDS read and was set in Iceland (in Iceland week!).

It was my first ReadIndies read.

This was TBR Challenge 2021-22 Quarter 2 Book 7/53 – 46 to go.

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