Skip to main content


There is a good debate going on over at Charlotte Higgins' Guardian culture blog, who asks what is the greatest British post-war novel. The usual suspects come to mind, but for me it would have to be my own personal favourites (how can these things ever be definitive if even a fraction of the whole of the post-war output hasn't been read!?) like The French Liutenant's Woman, even more recently Georgina Harding's debut The Solitude of Thomas Cave and David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. Graham Greene's The End of the Affair, Kazuo Ishigaru's The Remains of the Day would also need to be a contender but who else? I also got quite angry when Sam Jordison and Pongothecat (!) from GU claimed that Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis, could be considered a serious contender. Pah! I replied, how on earth could anyone think such a thing of this much over-rated piece of flabby pseudo-angry lad-lit crap?

And if anyone has spotted pieces of yellow note paper on their travels today (with scribbled quotes) then the explanation is that it's because it's Russell Hoban day! Apparently. I only read about a third of the way through Riddley Walker.

I'm not well, nausea, weakness, bad headaches (for the past week only yesterday did I finally feel like collapsing) hence the day in bed, taking advantage of the delivery of the Sebald novels - Austerlitz and The Emigrants. I've started on the latter and so far the character of Paul Betermeyer reminds me a lot of a young Austrian man who also served as a while as a teacher in a remote village - that man was Ludwig Wittgenstein. I'm not sure if that is who it is based upon - maybe not, but that's who keeps coming to mind the more I read of him.

Popular posts from this blog

Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

Booker Shortlist announced

It's been a while... I know. Dog walking on the Downs, a bit of theatre, a bit of baking, a bit of writing etcetera etcetera. I also managed to read two complete books in the past month, which I was so pleased about. I had not read a whole book for about a year. The first was A Lie About My Father by Scottish poet/writer, John Burnside; a very well written memoir about father and son, but like all memoirs, some unreliability I felt. Poignant and tragic in equal measure. Then my husband returned from Cyprus (too hot for me this time of year, I can barely cope with England!) with Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong. He loved it. And then I read it and also loved it. I had originally picked it up several years ago but didn't get beyond Amiens, where the first section is set, but was really glad I did this time around. Another incredibly well written book in the style of a good Victorian! I felt a bit unsure about bits of Elizabeth, in the later section, but I have never learnt so muc…

Days Without End and Mosul's Avengers

So fed up am I of buying books that I don't finish, that I decided I would go to the local library for a copy of Sebastian Barry's latest novel, Days Without End, which has just been awarded the Costa Prize. Unfortunately, I could only borrow it on the proviso that it was return by 1 February. I returned it the day after, without having finished it. I was about three quarters through, and will now have to go out and buy it for the final quarter. I loved Barry's The Secret Scripture, and on every publication of a new work, his star rises. Days Without End follows two boys, one descended from native Americans, and the other having arrived on one of the notorious coffin ships from famine struck Sligo. The tale is brave, funny, touching, but most of all Barry has achieved the perfect pitch. It is quite remarkable.

Another remarkable work comes in the form of reportage in the New Yorker (February 6, 2017) The Avengers of Mosul, by Luke Mogelson 'A Reporter at Large'.