Buzz: Follow up to the international bestseller The Book Thief.
Review: There is a very literal bridge at the centre of Bridge of Clay. It’s lovingly hand built and inspired by the Roman wonder Pont Du Gard — the UNESCO heritage aqueduct that spans a humble river in the South of France. That bridge has three tiers of carefully crafted archways, each building on the other, and gradually jigsawing together. Pont du Gard's hefty stone blocks hold together through friction alone, without the use of mortar.
I think it’s fair to say there’s lot in the literary structure of Bridge of Clay, that — probably both intentionally and unintentionally — mirror the structure of its famous Roman inspiration. You arch through the story, dipping your toes in here and there. Key events are hinted at, and circled around, long before they’re revealed, and many things are overstated or understated as they’re fed...
Buzz: The book was fought over in a seven-way publishing auction.
Review: I can’t remember seeing a more perfect cover for a book in a while. Everything you need to know about The Water Cure is there. The obscure water hiding all manner of unknowable things. The girl vulnerable, head lifted, neck exposed. The fleshiness, with the female body at the centre of everything. The unanswered questions. The spare and stark simplicity of it.
This is a book of atmosphere, rather than action. It reminds me a lot of Deborah Levy’s wonderful Hot Milk. The writing is similarly poetic, and it blisters with all the same drowsy heat and psychological instability. Added to that is an atmosphere of stagnation and decay. Things that have been still too long. “The tomatoes, nearer the house, have taken on a life of their own. Their fruit falls and attracts stinging insects. A jam of dirt, overblown globs and s...
Buzz: Second novel from the author of bestseller, and Irish Novel Prize winner, My Name Is Leon.
That feeling you sometimes get looking out to sea: a mix of calm and melancholy. Wistful, haunting; at peace. The Trick To Time captures all of those. It’s suffused with the feel of the sea. Shifting sands through an hourglass, emotional tides that rise and fall like a sigh. Only, in de Waal’s hands, it is also impossibly subtle.
The protagonist, Mona, grows up on the Irish coast and, as a child, escapes to the beach from the sadness, pressure and confusion of a dying mother: “...over the yielding dunes and down to the fringe of the Kilmore shore. Sand as soft as powder all around the curve of the bay.” When her father finds her there, he tells her: “‘one day, you will want these hours back, my girl. You will wonder how you lost them and you will want them back. There’s a trick to time.’”
We gave Amanda Berriman’s debut novel Home a rare ★★★★★ rating on Those Precious Stolen Moments, for “A humbling dose of empathy.” You can read the full review here.
The story is told from the perspective of four-year-old Jesika, whose life is uprooted when her mum and little brother get sick, thanks in part to the mould-ridden, dilapidated flat they’re forced to rent. At the same time, Jesika meets a new friend at preschool, Paige, who tells her a disturbing secret that neither of them really understand.
Amanda Berriman took the time to talk to Those Precious Stolen Moments, and explained to us her original aim with the book:
Amanda: I was trying to explore what ‘home’ is to different people and how it can look one way, but be something else. With the comparisons between Jesika and Paige: Paige lived in the nicer house, but Jesika lived in the safer house. I was deliberately trying to set...
Buzz: Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2018. Picked as a ‘MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2018’ by Vogue, Sunday Times, Observer, The Times, BBC Arts, Red Magazine, Stylist, and Independent.
I once passed through the most decadent and beguiling vintage shop in a cute little town somewhere. The mannequins were perfectly and precisely accessorised, and baskets spilled over with such beautifully textured fabrics it didn’t matter what they were for. And the smell. Just breathing there for two minutes left you enriched.
If I bought something, I never would have worn it. It was a place to stand in, dip your toe, soak up the luxury, and dream a little of an alternative life.
Reading The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock is a bit like visiting that shop. It, too, is classy and fascinating, stuffed with exquisite textures and perfectly placed details. The setting is so vivid you could almost sneeze with...
There is a murder in Rainbirds, and it’s certainly mysterious; but beyond that, banish any thoughts of a ‘murder mystery’. This is a book with drift.
It opens with post-grad student Ren Ishida transporting the ashes of his murdered sister, and then he drifts, passively, into her old life. He moves into her apartment in a small Japanese town, takes over her teaching job, even lies down on the path where her body was found. Clues to what happened float like those ashes on the wind, and Ren seems to experience life through a filter, a gauze. Hazy. Indistinct.
It may sound frustrating, but the effect is actually pleasantly hypnotic. Ren’s dreams are recounted more than once, and that dreamlike atmosphere soaks through to the rest of the book. It is sensory and compelling, and, despite the drift, there is a certain taut rope that tugs you through the shifting currents to the end.
Buzz: Praised by George Saunders and Kamila Shamsie. Vogue's debut novelist to watch 2018.
There are moments when Peach is stunningly realistic; the raw sensations capture a pure essence of trauma. But this is far from a realistic book. To read and enjoy it you need to be prepared to embrace the bizarre, the surreal and the downright ridiculous.
It’s a book of impressions, and language. The first line tells you, inescapably, that we’re setting aside convention. “Thick stick sticky sticking wet ragged wool winding round the wounds...” This novella is dense with alliteration, assonance, repetition and rhythm, and it shifts and slips around.
The best way to explain it is with examples, so here’s another: “The blotches blind me. I walk blind by Green’s side. Blind side. Blindsided. and I close my eyes seeing as I can’t see anyway. The orange blotches pin themselves to the inside of my eyelids....