Tag Archives: Book Review

How to Be Human by Paula Cocozza

How to be Human Paula Cocozza

Shortlisted for this year’s Desmond Elliott Prize awarded to debut novels published in the UK, ‘How to Be Human’ by Paula Cocozza tells the story of Mary Green, a woman in her thirties who has recently separated from her partner Mark. Now living alone after buying him out of their home in Hackney in east London, she becomes captivated by an urban fox who regularly visits her garden. Meanwhile, her next door neighbours, Michelle and Eric, regard her new visitor as a pest while Mark makes an unwelcome return into her life. Continue reading

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The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken

The Secret Barrister Stories of the Law and How It’s BrokenMedical memoirs such as This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay have vividly illustrated the highs and lows of working in the National Health Service and the importance of funding it properly. The Secret Barrister, an anonymous junior barrister practicing in London, now lifts the lid on the realities of the English and Welsh criminal justice system in ‘Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken’. Continue reading

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MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

MaddAddam Margaret AtwoodThe final part of Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy brings together the bioengineered Crakers from Oryx and Crake and the eco-religious cult known as God’s Gardeners from The Year of the Flood. Picking up from where both of these books end after the human race has been almost entirely wiped out by a man-made plague, Toby takes centre stage once again, leading the small community of survivors along with Zeb, a mysterious minor character from ‘The Year of the Flood’. Continue reading

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Brainstorm by Suzanne O’Sullivan and Also Human by Caroline Elton

Brainstorm Suzanne O’SullivanI enjoyed reading It’s All In Your Head by Suzanne O’Sullivan a couple of years ago, a collection of case studies about patients with psychosomatic illness in which medically unexplained physical symptoms are found to be caused by emotional stress. O’Sullivan is a consultant neurologist and her latest book ‘Brainstorm: Detective Stories from the World of Neurology’ focuses on the vast array of symptoms and types of seizures which can present in patients suspected of having epilepsy. Rather than the fits that many associate with the condition, some seizures manifest themselves in unexpected and dangerous ways which are not easy to explain to strangers. For example, August is a bright young woman who bolts and runs when she has a seizure with no awareness of her surroundings, often into the path of traffic. Others experience them in the form of bizarre auras, such as Donal, a school janitor who learns that he might be at risk of losing his job due to cuts, starts experiencing hallucinations of cartoon dwarves. Continue reading

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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles Madeline Miller‘The Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller is a modern retelling of ‘The Iliad’ and won the Women’s Prize (then Orange Prize) for Fiction in 2012. Whereas Homer’s epic was told from the perspective of demi-god Achilles as the warrior hero of ancient Greece, it is the exiled prince Patroclus who takes centre stage here, having been a minor character in the original. In Miller’s interpretation of events, Achilles and Patroclus are inseparable childhood friends who later become lovers, and when the time comes for Achilles to fulfil his destiny, Patroclus follows him to war with the Trojans. Continue reading

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Three Non-Fiction Books About Books

I have been reading more non-fiction than ever recently, moving away from the science and medical themed books I covered for the Wellcome Book Prize shortlist to memoirs about all things literary, specifically writing, libraries and children’s literature. Here are three titles I recommend to bookworms everywhere:

Bleaker House Nell StevensBleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World by Nell Stevens is an account of her attempt to write a novel by living in the Falkland Islands for three months using funding from her Global Fellowship at the end of her creative writing course at Boston University. After arriving in Stanley where many of the 2,500 residents are based, she lived in self-imposed isolation on the uninhabited Bleaker Island for several weeks, believing that a total lack of distraction would be beneficial for her levels of creativity and productivity. For her stint on Bleaker Island, she had to pack all of her food supplies, restricting herself to just over 1,000 calories a day living mostly on instant porridge and Ferrero Rocher with just a copy of the film ‘Eat Pray Love’ on her laptop for company. Despite the unusual setting, Stevens’ experience of writing procrastination will resonate with anyone who has ever had an essay deadline to meet, even if her expectations and lack of preparation for some aspects of her trip are a tad infuriating in places. Extracts of her fiction are interspersed throughout and while these chapters are variable in quality and pad out what would otherwise be a very slim book, I think they are worth reading to get a sense of her creative output at the time. Overall, this is an interesting and often very funny account of a unique travel experience which proved to be inspiring for Stevens in the end, even if it wasn’t quite in the way she had initially bargained for. Continue reading

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You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis SittenfeldThe blurb of ‘You Think It, I’ll Say It’ describes the unifying themes of Curtis Sittenfeld’s first collection of short stories as “how even the cleverest people tend to misread others, and how much we all deceive ourselves”. Specifically, the passing of time tends to distort the memories of the protagonists who are often flawed and naive, yet with just enough self-awareness to recognise these traits in themselves. This allows Sittenfeld’s natural gifts for convincing character portraits and satire (especially where class snobbery is concerned) to shine through in this contemporary collection. Continue reading

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