I’m back and I have some short book reviews for you! I had a really busy semester so I haven’t had time to update this blog. I have a few posts drafted though so hopefully I will be able to post those soon. In the mean time, I thought I would do some good, old-fashioned book reviews. I’ve read these books in the last couple of months and all of them have been five star reads and I think everyone should read them. If you haven’t picked any of these books up, I highly recommend you do soon!
My reviews are going to be short and pretty informal. I’m in the middle of writing my dissertation so I’m using this blog as a chatty outlet to talk about books I like.
- Division Street – Helen Mort.
Division Street by Helen Mort is a debut poetry collection named after a street in Sheffield. Mort’s poems are personal but also tell a cultural story. Sheffield and Grasmere – which sections of the collection are dedicated to – are places I am familiar with and the collection made me feel very at home talking about landscapes and places I have visited. Although I felt connected to a lot of the poems, I could tell Mort was speaking to herself in many pieces.
Mort touches on the Battle of Orgreave in 1984 and the effect it had on South Yorkshire – ‘Scab’ is one of the the most powerful poems in the collection. ‘Scab’ is definitely the standout poem of the collection as Mort merges the personal with the political. This poem has stayed with me the longest, especially as the Battle of Orgreave is very present in not only art but general life in South Yorkshire. Overall, Division Street is brilliant and quite a few of the poems have stayed with me.
2. Elmet by Fiona Mozley.
Fiona Mozley is from York – my university city – and works in one of my favourite bookshops so of course I had to read her book. I adored Elmet. The pacing of the novel was interesting as it is fairly slow but quickly unravels towards the end. I read this towards the end of my deadline period so the slow pace was perfect to digest. Again, like Helen Mort’s piece, Mozley’s Northern landscape is very familiar to me, which made me feel very at home. Everything about the depiction of rural settings is poetic.
The story is about a boy called Daniel and he is looking for someone. We meet him in the present day at the beginning of each part of the novel and then flashback to the events leading up to where we meet him when we first open the book. When Daniel was younger, he lived with his sister Cathy and his father. Sometimes his father would disappear for days and Daniel would be unsure where his father went. The family move around the Northern landscape and one day some local men circle the family and their land. Although the depiction of landscape is what made this novel for me, Mozley’s writing of family life is brilliant and unsettling.
3. Death in Spring by Merce Rodoreda.
I think we all know I love translated fiction. Once I found out Penguin were releasing a European Writers series, I knew I had to get my hands on the books. After reading Death in Spring, I will definitely be picking the others up soon.
Death in Spring is easily one of my favourite books of this year. I love translated European fiction and it was great to return to it after so long. Death in Spring follows a boy in an isolated village in the Catalan mountains and the village holds strange and unnerving customs. The society he lives in is oppressive and the writing style certainly captures the claustrophobic atmosphere of the village. The story is filled with magical realism and, like Mozley, Rodorera writes rich descriptions of nature. As the story progressed, it became more and more creepy with so many twists and turns. Seriously, this is my Madonna in a Fur Coat of 2018.
4. Poetry Conspiracy Radicalism in Sheffield.
I want to thank Dr. Adam James Smith for being kind enough to send me this book. It’s beautiful put together book with amazing patterns and designs. A great introduction to eighteenth century Sheffield poetry.
This book is divided into four sections. First, a selection of poems, then commentaries on those poems, thirdly an essay on the poetry in the volume and finally an appendices. Although you can read this collection in any order, the book recommends reading the sections in order. The poetry selected in this volume is brilliant and all made me think about radicalism during the eighteenth century and reflect on my eighteenth-century module I completed in my second year of university. Reading the volume in order allowed me to build more and more layers of context onto the poems that start the book, which made the whole experience really enriching. This has definitely made me want to look further into poetry based in Sheffield throughout the centuries.
If anyone is interested in eighteenth-century studies, I highly recommend this collection!
5. The Adulterants by Joe Dunthorne.
I love Joe Dunthorne’s work; Submarine is one of my favourite books. The Adulterants has the same charm as Submarine and Dunthorne’s humour is brilliant. A lot happens in this short novella yet Dunthorne holds it so well. It is described as a 30-something coming-of-age novel and I completely agree.
The novel is about a guy called Ray. He is in his 30s and his wife is pregnant. He hates his friends, his career is unsuccessful and he is struggling to buy a house for his new family. Ray is incredibly immature and he is a bit like Oliver Tate if Tate was an adult. I really do not want to give too much away. It is just incredibly funny and I still think about this novella even though I read it in February. The plot goes down a path I would have never predicted and this novella further proves Dunthorne’s genius.
Let me know if you have read any of these books or which of these books you hope to pick up soon. If anyone has any reading suggestions similar to Death in Spring, please do let me know!
I am currently slowly reading The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari and both and giving me an existential crisis.