What We're Reading

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Neil

This House of Grief, by Helen Garner (Text 2014)

In 2005, three young boys died when their father drove off the road and into a dam. He alone survived, and was subsequently charged with murder. Helen Garner describes the court case as a neutral observer, and examines the character of all the participants. It's an extraordinary achievement, a fascinating and compelling account of family psychology, the process of justice, and everyday grief. More than just true crime, this is a work of great compassion and insight.

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Neil

Year of the Monkey, by Patti Smith (Bloomsbury 2019)

This is the third of Patti Smith's memoir/jounals, following Just Kids and M Train. This is a little different to the earlier two, being briefer, meandering and dreamlike. It's no less powerful for its lack of formal structure. She writes beautifully, intelligently and movingly. It's a very timely book, as our time becomes less certain.

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Neil

All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr (4th Estate 2014)

This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2015, and has been a huge global bestseller. It's set in Paris and elsewhere in France during the Nazi occupation, and has two separate threads to the story. Marie-Laure, a young blind girl, who, with her father are trying to not be noticed by the Germans, and Werner, a reluctant teenaged German soldier. Over the 500-odd pages of this moving novel, the two are drawn ever closer to each other. The horrors of this terrible war are brilliantly evoked in this powerful novel, the effect of this great brutality on individuals has rarely been so well told.

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Neil

Dance Prone, by David Coventry (VUP 2020)

Dance Prone is ostensibly about a punk band touring the US in 1985, in a haze of drugs, violence and sex; and a narrative present in 2019, as Conrad, the lead singer, attempts to piece together the traumatic events of the past. It's a hugely colourful, passionate, energetic novel, bristling with anger and intrigue, a full on experience like little I've read. It's an astounding achievement which many people will hate for its profanity and eccentricity. I loved the evocation of playing live music, the violence of the punk crowds, the road, and the confusion of memory and reality.

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Neil

Names For The Sea: Strangers in Iceland, by Sarah Moss (Granta 2012)

Sarah Moss, a novelist and creative writing teacher, spent 2009 teaching in Iceland, with her family. The book chronicles their struggle to adapt to a somewhat strange and closed society and their gradual adjustment and eventual affection for the country. During their time there they travel around the country, and Moss writes elegantly about the landscape and weather, as well as the character of the people she meets and works with. A fascinating book about a fascinating part of the world.

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Neil

Patagonia Revisited, by Bruce Chatwin and Paul Theroux (Picador 1993)

In this very slight book, essentially a conversation between two great travel writers, Theroux and Chatwin exchange knowledge about Patagonia, exploring the history and mythology of this most mysterious and remote of regions. A curious and lively read, only 60 pages, and delicately illustrate with woodcuts by Kyffian Williams.