Blog Posts

Where have I been?

I’ve been quiet lately, and haven’t read much since I wrote my review of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, back in January. I’m reading a few short story collections by Graham Mort, Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, Ray Bradbury, and John Steinbeck, so I’m not completely idle, but they are taking some getting through.

My main reason for being quiet is a novella I’ve been editing. I wrote it over twenty-five years ago, but when I went through it last year, I felt I should work on it some more. During the edit, I cut about fifteen percent, and think I have a much tighter piece of work now.

I’m also waiting to hear about the novel I wrote last year, provisionally titled A Different Path. After several rounds of edits, I’m expecting some professional editorial feedback which will help me determine the next steps to publication.

In addition to all the above, at the back end of last year, short stories were flowing out of me at a rate, and I’ve been submitting a few to online literary magazines this year. I hope to share some good news on that front, very soon.

So, you could say I’ve been busy.

Photo by Francesco Gallarotti on Unsplash.

Book Reviews

Book Review: High Fidelity

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Nick Hornby’s debut novel, High Fidelity, is the story of Rob Fleming, the thirty-something owner of North London record shop Championship Vinyl, who is going through the breakup of a long-term relationship. We join him as he tries to work out where he has gone wrong, going back over his five most memorable split-ups, some dating back to primary school.

The book is fundamentally about relationships, but it’s packed with twists and turns, lots of will he or won’t he, and it kept me guessing to the end. Rob himself is a likeable character, and throughout the novel I found myself rooting for him to find happiness. I loved the music and cultural references, and the top five lists he constantly compiles. A few times, I even looked up the tunes and listened for myself.

I’m struggling to find things I didn’t like about this book, but there aren’t any. After reading lots of dark fiction over the last few months, it was great to let my eyes flow over something light-hearted.

I recommend this novel as the perfect antidote to the current world situation. It’s sad in places, such as when Rob tries to come to terms with the idea that his ‘little boy notion of romance … had no basis in reality at all’, but overall it’s a great fun read that just might take you back to simpler times.

View all my reviews.

Blog Posts

Top Three Novels of 2020

I’ve read lots of fiction this year, including a mix of great novels and short stories. I’ve been keeping track of everything through Goodreads, and I thought it would be a good idea to try to pick out the top three books I’ve read in 2020.

One of my favourite authors at the moment is Andrew Michael Hurley, and I’ve read all three of his novels this year, two of which definitely qualify for this list. However, to keep some variety, I’m going to limit myself to one book per author.

1st – Winner – Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley

Devil’s Day is a masterpiece of folk horror fiction from Andrew Michael Hurley, and one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. Boiling the plot down to a single sentence, it’s the story of a man and his wife who return to his family farm for a funeral, and help with preparations for an annual festival in advance of bringing their sheep down from the moors for winter.

My full review of Devil’s Day.

2nd – The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

The Discomfort of Evening is narrated by Jas, a ten year-old girl who lives on a dairy farm with her parents and siblings in a northern village in the Netherlands. Her brother dies after falling through ice while skating, and the family begins to fall apart as her parents become depressed, first over the death of a son, then over the loss of their entire herd during the foot and mouth outbreak. Jas tries to make sense of these events and deal with them through a series of uncomfortable rituals.

My full review of The Discomfort of Evening.

3rd – Luke and Jon by Robert Williams

Luke and Jon is a debut novel by Robert Williams, first published in 2010. Luke and his father, struggling after the death of Luke’s mother, move to a remote run-down cottage on the fell overlooking the northern town of Duerdale. They soon meet Jon, the strange boy with a secret who lives in the next house on the fell, wears 1950s clothes, and goes to the same school as Luke.

My full review of Luke and Jon.

There are a couple more novels that I loved, but didn’t quite make it into my personal top three for the year.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People is the story of Marianne and Connell who grow up in a small town in the west of Ireland. The novel covers their relationship over four years as they finish school and go on to study at Trinity College in Dublin.

My full review of Normal People.

Friend Request by Laura Marshall

Friend Request is the story of a woman who receives a Facebook friend request from a girl she used to know at school. A girl who died twenty-five years ago.

My full review of Friend Request.

There are lots more novels on my want to read list on Goodreads. I can’t wait to get started in the new year.

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash.