What We're Reading

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Neil

Whaea Blue, by Talia Marshall (THWUP, 2024)

Whaea Blue is a fierce, fiery and original memoir, with a distinctly Māori perspective. It jumps backwards and forwards in time, takes in inter-iwi conflict, dispossession and racism, Ans Westra and her work, as well as a having a fearless and honest approach to her own life story. It's written in frenetic prose, propulsive and wild. It's a terrific book, a book like no other, and could only have come from Aotearoa.

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Neil

Tremor, by Teju Cole (Faber 2023)

Teju Cole is a Nigerian-American novelist, photographer and critic. Tremor is a collage of a novel, it takes in art history, race, the legacy of slavery, life in Lagos. It's reflective, passionate, moving; there are shifting narrators, some of whom address the reader, who has to work to fully appreciate this marvellous book. It's a joy to read this profound book.

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Neil

You Are Here, by David Nicholls (Sceptre, 2024)

David Nicholls is the master of relationship novels, and this latest one doesn't disappoint. It tells the story of two very different people, both damaged by recent relationships, who find themselves walking across the north of England together, over about 10 days. They endure bad weather and misunderstandings, but form a new friendship together. But could it be more? Will it be more? That's the central tension in this atmospheric, plausible, dialogue-rich novel, and the ending is very satisfying.

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Neil

Hagstone, by Sinead Gleeson (4th Estate 2024)

Hagstone tells the story of Nell, an artist living on an unnamed remote island off the coast of Ireland. She finds the isolation a powerful source of inspiration for her conceptual art. She is commissioned by the head of a mysterious commune of women who have gathered on the island, to create a commemorative work. It's a passionate, somewhat gothic novel, surprising and original, mesmerising and a little supernatural. It's very, very good.

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Neil

First Things, by Harry Ricketts (THWUP 2024)

In what I understand will be the first of a two part memoir, Harry Ricketts takes the idea, made implicit in the title, of his first experiences of various aspects of his life, as a platform to tell a terrific story spinning off in unexpected directions. It's at time hilarious, self deprecating, moving and charming, always beautifully evoked, nostalgic and bright. I'm looking forward to the second volume.

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Neil

In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss, by Amy Bloom (Granta 2022)

In 2020, Amy Bloom and her much loved husband travelled to Switzerland, where Dignitas helped Brian to end his life, due to his diagnosis with Alzheimers disease. It's very honest, surprising, heartbreaking, compassionate, angry, and funny. A beautifully written, passionate memoir, that fills a bit of a gap in the available literature around euthanasia.