Book Review – Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain

Annie Proulx

Fourth Estate Publishing

GPB 3.99

‘Dawn came glassy-orange, stained from below by a gelatinous band of pale green. The sooty bulk of the mountain paled slowly until it was the same color as the smoke from Ennis’s breakfast fire. The cold air sweetened, banded pebbles and crumbs of soil cast sudden pencil-long shadows, and the rearing lodgepole pines below them massed in slabs of somber malachite.’ Continue reading “Book Review – Brokeback Mountain”

Book Review – Ellipsis Three

Ellipsis Three

www.EllipsisZine.com

Compiled by Steve Campbell and Amelia Sachs

Print edition: GBP 5.00

Digital edition: GBP 3.00

Ellipsis ‘Three’ is, unsurprisingly, the third digital zine produced by Steve Campbell and his team of editors. It is a collection of forty-five pieces of flash fiction, with a limit of three-hundred words or less to test their submitters’ pith and discipline.

What results is the perfect coffee table magazine. Five minutes to kill until you leave to pick the kids up from school? Desperately fighting off the weekly house clean? Then Ellipsis is your friend.

Some of my highlights are as follows…

Continue reading “Book Review – Ellipsis Three”

Book Review – To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee

Arrow Books

GBP 6.99

‘Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.’

 

It is with some trepidation that I, the author of just shy of a dozen published short stories, attempt a critique of one of the great American novels. What can I possibly add to the already deafening din of praise? What new slant can I eke out from one of the most analysed books ever written? What can I write that hasn’t been written in exam halls and in high school essays across the western world? Maybe nothing, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t all be said again.

Continue reading “Book Review – To Kill a Mockingbird”

Book Review – Reservoir 13

Reservoir 13

Jon McGregor

Harper Collins

GBP 8.99

‘There were dreams about her walking home. Walking beside the motorway, walking across the moor, walking up out of one of the reservoirs, rising from the dark grey water with her hair streaming and her clothes draped with long green weeds.’

Reservoir 13 is Jon McGregor’s fourth novel. It is extraordinary.

Rebecca Shaw is thirteen years old when she disappears on a family walk on the moors. Walking behind her parents, one minute she is there, the next she is not. Villagers rally around to search for the child, fanning out around the reservoirs and prodding through the undergrowth.

It is tempting for the reader to slip into the whodunnit mind frame, but that would be to miss the point of McGregor’s narrative. The girl is not found, not after a week, not after a month, not after a year. What follows is a forensically beautiful exploration of grief seen through the lens of a small village. The inhabitants move on, as they must; teenagers mature, marriages dissolve, and feuds escalate. All of these events are however set against the backdrop of unresolved tragedy.

McGregor uses beautiful, simple language. Huge, rambling two-page paragraphs do not serve to stilt the pace, but rather build a rhythmic, seasonal repetition. Each chapter starts at the new year bells. We follow a plethora of characters through the rural year, their tribulations interspersed with updates on badgers, foxes, bats, and swallows. This relentless changing-of-the-seasons heightens the tension of the piece and mimics the small-town claustrophobia threaded through the novel. What is left unsaid is as important as what McGregor chooses to commit to copy. Characters’ motives are often left only partially explored, tantalising the reader with the question ‘could it have been him/her?’

The time frame in which the novel is set in allows McGregor ample time to develop his characters. This development is particularly poignant in the case of the four teenagers who were briefly friends with Rebecca. We watch them dream, stumble, and finally accept their differing roles, becoming accustomed to grief and guilt in their own ways. The greatest achievement of the novel is to lull the reader into equating characters’ idiosyncratic worries and tribalisms with an undoubted tragedy. People move on; they must, and as such Rebecca fades into the background of village life, swallowed into folklore like so many other events.

A novel like no other I have ever read, and one which will stay with me.

For other book reviews featured on my blog please see

A Gentleman in Moscow

The Underground Railroad