My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON ELIZABETH STROUT Synopsis: Lucy is recovering from an operation in a New York Hospital when she wakes up to find her estranged mother sitting by her bed.  They have not seen each other in years.  As they talk, Lucy finds herself recalling her...

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE ANTHONY DOERR Synopsis: An ambitious novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. When Marie Laure goes blind, aged six, her father builds...

Two Recent Historical Fiction Heavyweights: Golden Hill v North Water

Golden Hill by Frances Spufford and North Water by Ian McGuire are both novels written by academics who have brought their considerable historical prowess to the field of fiction.  Interestingly, both books in their way are frontier stories, exploring the borderline...

A Brief Affair by Margaret Leroy

I’m a big fan of Margaret Leroy and think she’s a little under-rated – her prose has the poetic, luminous quality that I associate with writers like Helen Dunmore and the delicate worlds  she conjures into existence have a depth and resonance that belies...

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

  An uneasy yet ultimately rewarding novel,  The Trouble with Goats and Sheep offers a lethal look at human frailty that is softened but not blunted by childhood nostalgia, by the heat of a long ago summer and by a sense of our own complicity – that we are as flawed...

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

  Grief is the Thing with Feathers is a refreshingly original read.  It is a slim volume that packs extraordinary literary punch.  To use Max Porter’s own words it, “…eats sorrow, unbirths secrets and has theatrical battles with language and God.”...

I’m Reading: Brexit – What the Hell Happens Now? by Ian Dunt

Brexit – What the Hell Happens Now? By Ian Dunt If you are an unashamed Remainiac like me, Ian Dunt’s analysis of how we extricate ourselves from the European Union following the referendum in June 2016 is a compulsory read. Even if you voted to leave, it is a...

I’m Reading: My Name Is Leon by Kit De Waal

My Name Is Leon by Kit De Waal Told from the point of view of a nine year old boy in care, My Name is Leon is the only book I have read in the last twelve months that has left me feeling utterly shaken at the end, uncertain of where to put myself. It’s...

I’m Reading: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry Sarah Perry’s novel is a brilliant evocation of the Victorian age: its preoccupations about science, religion and superstition all find subtle expression in this wonderfully gothic tale of a young widow with an interest in...

I’m Reading: The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney Winner of the 2016 Bailey’s Prize for Fiction, Lisa McInerney’s debut novel is a theatrical tour de force: she captures with brio the voice of her young antihero, the drug dealing Ryan, and through him we are allowed...

A New Door Opens…

After a long period of writing, rather than writing about writing, I’m back in the blog again, with words of encouragement for people who are slogging away trying to find some kind of platform for their work.  Don’t give up.  I’ve spent the last...

I’m Reading: Shambala Junction by Dipika Mukherjee

Shambala Junction by Dipika Mukherjee A spirited account of one of the darker consequences of poverty in India, where babies are sold to orphanages for $25.00 then put up for adoption by wealthy westerners who pay $35,000 for the privilege. An unsentimental yet...

I’m Reading: The Muse by Jessie Burton

The Muse by Jessie Burton Having been slightly under-whelmed by The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton’s stratospherically successful first novel, I approached her second book a little warily. It tells the story of a picture that was painted during the Spanish civil war...

I’m Reading: Exposure by Helen Dunmore

Exposure by Helen Dunmore I’ve always been a passionate fan of Helen Dunmore and devour her books greedily as they are published. Having said that, I found The Greatcoat a little disappointing, so it is a great relief to be able to fall in love with her work all...

I’m Reading: The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie

The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie What a breath of fresh air The Portable Veblen is. Elizabeth McKenzie’s quirky account of a young woman whose obsession with squirrels provides her with some protection and diversion from her dysfunctional family (and...

I’m Reading: Everything Love Is by Claire King

Everything Love Is by Claire King I’ve just (reluctantly) finished reading Everything Love Is by Claire King.  This lovely book is set on a barge on the Canal du Midi, which is dear to my heart as we have spent time in Toulouse in our boating lives. It tells the...

I’m Reading: A Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

A Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George Still on a boating theme… I’ve got my nose buried in this at the moment, some delicious escapism for the summer.  It’s good to read something in translation – something I don’t do enough of –...
Back From the Drink

Back From the Drink

I’ve been travelling for a couple of months with only limited access to the Internet, which is why my posts have been few and far between, but I’m back from careering down the River Rhone, so wide they say you can see the curvature of the earth, and hot...
Health and Safety for Writers?

Health and Safety for Writers?

I took this photograph in a disused pottery in North East France. It’s a lovely old health and safety notice positively steeped in period atmosphere. Roughly translated, the exhortation reads, All injuries must be declared – good guidance for writers of fiction,...

A Sea Dog’s Tale….

A lazy post for a lazy summer’s afternoon – the Daily Mail has published my online account of a trip to New York my mum and I made on the Queen Mary 2 back in the spring, so I thought I’d share a link with y’all… Have a great...

Scouting for Locations

Think of all the novels you’ve enjoyed, and I’ll bet that a number of them are defined by a sense of place – not just defined, but enhanced. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking any one of the Brontë novels, anything by Thomas Hardy, The French...
Protective Clothing for Writers

Protective Clothing for Writers

In Scotland recently we visited Ballindalloch Castle, ancestral home of the MacPherson Grant family whose ancient coat of arms is carved above the entrance. I was intrigued by the family motto: Touch Not the Cat Bot a Glove, which I take to mean don’t do...

Starting as Story TS Eliot Style

In my beginning is my end… I love TS Eliot’s eloquent line from East Coker (The Four Quartets) – the melancholy in it is balanced and weighed and there is an inevitability about it which I find appealing. Eliot’s elegant summary of the trajectory of...

How to Create Tension – Am I Keeping You in Suspense?

Suspense is the tension that is created when you are waiting for something to happen. You might be waiting for news of a loved one; you might be waiting to see if the creak on the stair which sounded suspiciously like a footfall sounds again; you might be waiting,...