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Book Review: Witch Bottle

Witch Bottle by Tom Fletcher.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Witch Bottle is the story of Daniel, a man who is haunted by an event that took place in his childhood. He isn’t just haunted in a figurative sense, he is literally pursued by a shambling hooded figure that turns up regularly until Daniel places a witch bottle beneath his patio. For a while, that helps, but it isn’t the end of his problems.

The opening chapter was worrying for me, because I found it too unbelievable, and if I had been in a bookshop I probably would have put it back on the shelf. However, this was given to me as a gift, so I persevered, and I’m glad I did.

Fletcher’s writing style is clean and tight, very appealing, with a strong sense of place. I loved the ordinariness and familiarity of the northern setting, and the everyday events as Daniel goes about his business delivering milk for The Bean and magic remedies for Kathryn, his witch girlfriend. It’s clear that something isn’t quite right about the area, but the reader is kept guessing until near the end.

I recommend Witch Bottle. It does have a supernatural element that more grounded readers might find hard to swallow, but having said that, Fletcher is an excellent writer, and that kept me hooked.

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Book Review: Touch

Touch by Graham Mort.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Touch is a collection of twenty-one short stories by Graham Mort. The book opens with two beautiful examples, A Walk in the Snow, and Annik and Serge. Daniel was also beautiful, but sad.

There are some dark themes in the collection, such as animal cruelty (Ducklings) and sexual abuse (Why I’ve Always Loved Fishmongers). A good number of the stories are unhappy, even miserable (Rain), and at times even I felt there was too much description, to the point that I struggled to hold onto the thread of narrative.

The prose was honed and well-crafted throughout, but I was disappointed to find a couple of the stories didn’t go anywhere, ending almost as if the writer gave up, or ran out of time or words. The title story, Touch, stood out as one of these, coming to a jolting stop that left several loose threads dangling. As a reader, I felt frustrated at having invested time in reading it, when there was ultimately no point.

Would I recommend Touch as a collection of short stories? Well, the above probably reads like a harsh review, but yes, I would recommend it. If, like me, you’re a fan of atmospheric scene-setting and description, you will enjoy most of these stories.

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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.

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