Mini Review: These Are the Names / Tommy Wieringa

Sometimes a book finds its way into your hands and you never quite know what to make of it. Dutch author Tommy Wieringa’s These are the Names is devastating and evocative despite – or perhaps because of – its eerily sparse writing. The novel’s dual narratives concern Pontus Beg, an aging police commissioner in the…

Mini review: The Fisherman / John Langan

Highly underrated and overlooked, The Fisherman is one of those chance treasures I am grateful to have forcibly thrust upon me by fellow reader friends. Having not read horror for some time – because it often feels like a guilty pleasure, I was intrigued to find this was a kind of literary horror that straddles…

Mini review: The Wasp Factory / Iain Banks

Another case of being late to the party, reading-wise. Although, in my defence, The Wasp Factory was published in 1984. Frank Cauldhame, sixteen years old, serial animal mutilator and multiple murderer, lives on a remote Scottish island with his incapacitated father. He has a ritualistic contraption in the attic, the eponymous ‘Wasp Factory’, and his…

Review: Salvage the Bones

The world is an ugly place at the moment. There seems to be hatred everywhere. I find myself needing to turn off the outside and find other worlds. I read.   This review of Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones may contain spoilers, but this is not a book of suspense. From the onset, it is clear something…

On domestic violence in Russia

I wish I could address this topic with more eloquence and more authority. It is hard to put into words the sinking feeling I had when I read recently about the progress of a law through the Russian courts, which will essentially make domestic violence permissible under Russian law. Again. I wish my words could be…

Birch: Hermitage Cats

One day, I went yet again to the State Hermitage Museum. It was well before opening and while I stood taking photos of the huge expanse of Dvortsovaya Ploshchad, Palace Square – the central heart of Saint Petersburg – a tabby cat wandered across the warming cobbles, brushing confidently against my leg. The cat perched…

Review: There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbour’s Baby

How have I never heard of Ludmilla Petrushevskaya before? Admittedly, my reading of contemporary Russian literature is dependent on the availability of English translations, since my Russian reading ability is torturously slow. The title of this collection of works appeared in my Goodreads suggestions: There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbour’s…

Birch: Memory External

Without intentionally writing it into the manuscript, the role of memory is a key driving force in Birch. Alyona, the central character, begins her story in purposeful denial of her family’s memory. She is forced to contend with the result of this denial when she becomes the primary caretaker of her grandmother, Irina Alexandrovna. Irina’s…

Birch: Hermitage (an introduction)

A mass of first and second hand research contributed to the material that resulted in the manuscript I’ve called Birch. Much of it didn’t make the final cut, and some is present only in small glimpses. I’m hoping to share the details and experiences I encountered in this blog. This first entry features one of…

Not from this place

I’ve recently finished reading a book set in Saint Petersburg. I find I’m deliberately seeking out contemporary writing in this setting, partly as vicarious way to be back there. I won’t name the novel, but it left me disappointed. More than disappointed, I felt dismayed. What bothered me so much was that the concept of…