Review: Milkman, Anna Burns (2018)

img_0580Milkman is an intense and claustrophobic novel. Anna Burns skilfully evokes a repressive social atmosphere, with constraining codes of appropriate behaviour and heavy social policing, saturated by the pervasive threat of serious violence. The struggles of her young female protagonist to both remain herself and remain safe by fitting in are affecting, while the eponymous Milkman generates real menace.   If that sounds heavy and gloomy, it’s not (or not all!): there’s also plenty of humour and wit, even while the tension is maintained. Continue reading “Review: Milkman, Anna Burns (2018)”

Review: The Word for World is Forest, Ursula K Le Guin (1976)

img_0465I picked up a 1976 paperback edition of this novel from the wonderful Ubu Books in Brighton’s Open Market.  Brighton used to be full of great second-hand bookshops: I have very fond memories of many of them from a period on the dole twenty years or so ago, when I’d spend afternoons wandering around town meandering through them, before taking my purchases to the Great Eastern pub and ensconcing myself in the corner there to read.  The great joy was the unplanned nature of the browsing, and the accidental discoveries it allowed.  Sadly, these biblio-havens are thinning out – but Ubu remains.  I recommend you visit if you are ever in that part of Brighton.
In my youth I read a fair few of Le Guin’s books, hooked by the A Wizard of Earthsea trilogy.  This was one I missed. Reading it now both took me back, through its recognisable style, and encouraged me to revisit more of her work. A happy accidental rediscovery. Continue reading “Review: The Word for World is Forest, Ursula K Le Guin (1976)”

Review: To Have and Have Not, Ernest Hemingway (1937)

HAHN CoverI have fond memories of this book from reading it in my late teens.  In the following few years I read a few other books by Hemingway, but To Have and Have Not has always remained my favourite. I was surprised to subsequently discover that it is widely regarded as by far his worst book.  I was therefore a little nervous picking this up to reread it, but having seen the battered, and to me evocative, front cover of my ancient copy during some book re-shelving, I had to do it. Continue reading “Review: To Have and Have Not, Ernest Hemingway (1937)”

Losing at Chess. (A Lot. And Loving It.)

A couple of months ago I started playing chess on chess.com. I hadn’t played regularly or at all seriously since school – probably 30 years or so ago. Nonetheless, being an arrogant sort I felt sure I’d pretty quickly become reasonably good.  Instead, I’ve had the far more valuable and humbling experience of consistently losing.  I’m currently on a 12-game losing streak.  Surprisingly, I am really enjoying it. Continue reading “Losing at Chess. (A Lot. And Loving It.)”