Book Review: One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson’s One Good Turn (Black Swan, 2007) opens on a rainy Tuesday in Edinburgh.

A man calling himself Paul Bradley arrives during the madness of Festival. We are told immediately this is not his real name and so can infer that the unspoken errand he’s here to perform may not be above board. He makes a wrong turn in his rental Peugeot and finds himself on a narrow street with a crowd of people milling about ‘like the end of a war has just been declared’.

Martin Canning, a meek and unassuming writer of twee mysteries published under the nom de plumeAlex Blake, is taking the long route to his ‘office’ (quotation marks his own) to put in another day’s work on his latest Nina Riley novel (‘The blighter’s getting away, Bertie. I need a weapon –  throw me that hockey stick!’). Continue reading


Book Review: Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

Let Me Lie (Sphere, 2018) by Clare Mackintosh opens with a young woman named Anna grieving the loss of her parents. It’s the one-year anniversary of her mother’s death, Caroline’s suicide a carbon copy of her husband’s suicide eight months prior to that. The phone, shoes and keys in a neat pile at the top of a cliff overlooking the sea. Neither parent had shown signs of depression or despair, and Anna has never come to terms with these losses.

Anna is a new mother herself. Mark, the psychologist she originally sought out to help her deal with her grief, terminated the counsellor-patient relationship after a few sessions in favour of a love affair. He wants marriage and the white-picket-fence life, but she is not ready, still consumed by the hundred little things she wishes she could share with her parents.

On this fateful day, the post is delivered and alongside the kind remembrances of her parents’ passing, there is a gaudy ‘Happy Anniversary’ card with one line inside: ‘Suicide? Think again’. Continue reading

The Art of Walking with Henry David Thoreau

I believe in the forest, and in the meadow and in the night in which the corn grows.

There have been many times I’ve stood before the vastness of nature – taking in the valley views from a mountain top, watching the ocean throw its waves against the shore – and felt myself small, even insignificant. It’s a feeling I cherish, knowing that, in the grand scheme of things, my worries and quotidian affairs are unimportant.

It is the perspective that I seek when I go walking and one that Henry David Thoreau captures so eloquently in his essay Walking (free e-book | public library). It is the essay that contains one of my favourite quotes:

I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit. In my afternoon walk, I would fain forget all my morning occupations and my obligations to Society. But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village. The thought of some work will run in my head and I am not where my body is – I am out of my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?

Continue reading

Book Review: The Horseman by Tim Pears

On the Devon-Somerset border in 1911, twelve-year-old Leo Sercombe watches the world with dark eyes, a silent tongue and the desire to see and understand things for himself. As the year unfolds, keeping only to the timetable set by the seasons and the requirements of the land, Leo follows in the footsteps of his father, a carter on Manor Farm, one of the farms belonging to the estate of Lord Prideaux.

There were six farms on the estate. No two fields among them were of like size or configuration. No tracks ran straight but dipped and wove around the tumps and hummocks of land. Some hedges were laid, others left tall and wild. Conifers grew in neat yet oddly shaped plantations. Oak and ash and beech trees seeded themselves in hidden combes. Streams meandered in no discernible direction, cutting deep narrow gullies here, trickling over gravel beds there. Erratic walkways criss-crossed the estate. The boy’s father Albert told him that when God created this corner of the world He’d just helped himself to a well-earned tipple. His mother Ruth derided that blasphemy and said that much of their peninsula was so contoured, her husband had seen little of it.

Continue reading

Book Review: The Boston Girl

‘Ava, sweetheart, if you ask me to talk about how I got to be the woman I am today, what do you think I’m going to say? I’m flattered you want to interview me. And when did I ever say no to my favorite grandchild?’

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant (Simon and Schuster, 2014) is the life story of Addie Baum, as recounted by the 85-year-old woman to her youngest granddaughter. A descendent of Russian Jews who immigrated to America before the turn of the century, Addie was born in Boston in 1900 and her story touches some of the major events of the 20th century – World War I, the flu epidemic, Prohibition and the Great Depression – as well as the more quotidian experiences of women at that time. Told in first person narration, Addie tells Ava about her early struggles as a girl growing up in a Boston tenement, her introduction to love, her pursuit of meaningful work and self-sufficiency and the relationships that defined her. Continue reading

Book Review: Streets of Darkness by A.A. Dhand

In an episode of the BBC Books and Author’s podcast that aired in July 2017, Abir Mukherjee sent in a report from the Bradford Literature Festival. In one segment, he interviewed A.A. Dhand about his crime series starring Harry Virdee, a Detective Inspector working the streets of Bradford while trying to keep the dark secrets of his past and his family from encroaching on his day job.

As a son of Bradford, Dhand spoke about how the city is always evolving, comprised of many facets: monoculture meets multi-culture, East meets West; there is beauty as well as darkness. For Dhand, it’s the perfect setting for a crime series. I was intrigued, and with our move to West Yorkshire imminent, I wanted to dive into the modern literature of the north. Continue reading