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Gnarled Bones | Tam May

Review: Gnarled Bones Tam MayPublished by Dreambook Press

ISBN 9780998197906 (print)

ISBN 9780998197913 (ebook)

‘The past does not exist, so it cannot hurt me.’ How many desperate people, I wonder, have muttered some such mantra under their breaths in the hope they can stop brooding about things dead and buried? The trouble is, of course, very few things are dead and buried. Each of us lives with the consequences of the past; its deeds are all around us. And if we insulate ourselves from the pain it can cause, we can also miss out on its pleasures and joys.

The stories in Gnarled Bones are much concerned about the past’s persistence through time, whether through learned and internalized ways of seeing oneself and the world, as in the opening story, ‘Mother of Mischief’, or the power of a single event to derail a life, as in ‘Broken Bows’, or – implicitly and explicitly throughout – a semi-malevolent maternal love that seeks to control and cripple a child’s natural urge to explore and engage with the world.

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Edenland | Wallace King

Edenland by Wallace KingPublished by Lake Union Publishing

Edenland is the evocative title of an evocative novel set in the early days of the US Civil War. Its story plunges us into the Great Dismal Swamp that straddles Virginia and North Carolina, and never quite allows us to escape the treacherous waters that threaten to engulf its protagonists.

The Great Dismal and other swamps were places where runaway slaves could hide from their pursuers. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s second novel, after Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp (1856). Thus, the literary and historical sources of Edenland flow across the years in currents swift, deep and wide.

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Reading for Life

Jack Messenger

Reading requires a delicate combination of absolute concentration with complete relaxation – a rare and precious thing akin to meditation. The advanced posture I have adopted here is only possibe after decades of intense training: do not try this at home.

Anna Karenina | Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy, Anna KareninaPublished by Alma Classics

Translated by Kyril Zinovieff and Jenny Hughes

This is a wonderful new translation of Tolstoy’s great novel that should enthrall a new generation of readers. It is beautifully presented by Alma Classics, and includes an interesting preface and translators’ note, informative notes to the text and useful extra material on Tolstoy’s life and works. Continue reading

The Arrival of Missives | Aliya Whiteley

Aliya Whiteley, The Arrival of MissivesPublished by Unsung Stories

Aliya Whiteley’s short novel begins with the sentence ‘I cannot sleep’ and ends with a stirring declaration of intent. In the hundred or so intervening pages we follow the development of Shirley Fearn, a schoolgirl who nurses a love for the teacher at her village school, the appropriately named Mr Tiller, who has been horrifically wounded in the First World War, recently ended (‘He isn’t a real man, of course, not after that injury’, says a village gossip). Shirley’s relationship with Mr Tiller, the exact nature of his injury and what it portends, and her own growth into awareness form the backbone of the novel, which is set in an isolated English rural community. Continue reading

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