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M. John Harrison – The Sunken Land Begins to Rise again




….Meanwhile there was coming and going on the stairs, especially at night. Voices were raised. Two in the morning, someone dropped a heavy object on the landing, while downstairs someone else leaned on the bell-push or shouted indistinctly from the street. Next door’s sash window, its frame warped by years of river fog, slid up with a long grunting sound. Next day Shaw might glimpse a figure making its way quickly across the landing to the communal bathroom, which it occupied for longer than a normal person; afterwards there was a smell in there. (p 9-10) Continue reading M. John Harrison – The Sunken Land Begins to Rise again

Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol



He was checked in his transports by the churches ringing out the lustiest peals he had ever heard. Clash, clang, hammer, ding, dong, bell. Bell, dong, ding, hammer, clang, clash! Oh, glorious, glorious!

Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious. Glorious!

And may we all be filled with compassion as Scrooge was after his visitation from the three Spirits. As Dickens says in another part of this book

It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.



Elizabeth Berridge – Rose Under Glass

Penelope Hinton is sunk in grief. For twenty-five years she and her husband Jamie, an artist, have had a passionate relationship that is the most important aspect of her life. Jamie has his art, and Penelope gives that primacy over the life of their family She is the conduit between him and his admirers and colleagues. Their children know where her first loyalty lies. When Jamie absent-mindedly steps off the kerb into the path of a lorry she is ‘amazed and affronted.’ She is isolated in her grief because she and Jamie ‘had a special kind of communication which excluded everyone else.’ Continue reading Elizabeth Berridge – Rose Under Glass

Every Third Thought – Robert McCrum

In 1995 Robert McCrum, literary editor of The Observer and former editorial director at Faber and Faber, suffered a massive stroke. He was only forty-two years old and had just got married. There followed a long struggle to rehabilitate and regain the use of his left side. By 2013 he had been through deep depression and his marriage had ended. Continue reading Every Third Thought – Robert McCrum

Sigrid Nunez – What are you going through

Sigrid Nunez  is usually a writer I enjoy and respect, but in her attempt to address friendship, illness and death in her latest book I feel she never goes beyond the superficial.On the second last page of the book she tells us her title, What are you Going Through, taken from a quote by the French philosopher Simone Weil, means in French quel est ton tourment?Tourment’ can be translated as, torment, pain, or suffering, more extreme one would have thought than the bland English words of her title. And, sadly, I felt there was something bland and random about this book. The characters don’t come alive. Is the fault in the writing, or is it that affluent white American society can be like this; a sterile life of focusing on appearances, a fetishisation of sex, a lack of closeness ?  Continue reading Sigrid Nunez – What are you going through

Tara Westover: Educated



“I have been teaching in Cambridge for more than thirty years,” he said, “and this is one of the best essays I‘ve read.”

I was prepared for insults, but not for this…

I could tolerate any form of cruelty better than kindness. Praise was a poison to me; I choked on it. I wanted the Professor to shout at me, wanted it so deeply I felt dizzy from the deprivation. The ugliness of me had to be given expression.

Continue reading Tara Westover: Educated