The Heeding by Rob Cowen


Orgin: Middle English Heden, Old English hedan, Old Saxon Hadian


  1. To mind, to regard, to take note of, to attend to; to observe.
  2. to pay attention, care
  3. To guard, protect


  1. Paying particular notice or careful attention tp advice or warning.

The Heeding is another of the longlist books for the Wainwright prize and is the second book of Poetry I have reviewed in the 13 years of doing this blog, it isn’t that I don’t like poetry but maybe I don’t sit and dole I had here and read Rob Cowen collection. He is a poet based in North Yorkshire, which I passed through quickly yesterday on my way up to the Northumberland where we are on Holiday and when I arrived I sat and read this collection of 35 poems that followed a year like another book win the collection it was written during the lockdown year and sees row Observations of this unique year and how it changed the world for tat one moment of time and both Nature and also the Nature of people. The book is also accompanied by a wonderful collection of bold and eye-catching illustrations from  Nick Hayes.


Indigo sky pressing down like debt.

All cars quietened; nothing stirs.

Late spring status, abandoned, wrecked.

Hell of a thing to be afraid of air

Of touch of family. Of friends. Of work

To not leave home for four days straight.

This is the opening verse of Noise off

I’m never overly sure how to describe a collection of poems but in this one, I just decided I would mention a few of the poems and how I as a reader connected to them. First is the second poem which is called Noises off and is about the new silence of Lockdown we all remember the clarity of sound we all got during the day when there is no cars, no planes in the sky factories are silent the world but also a world of new fears and worries is as it once captured here b Rob and his words far better than I can. Then we have starling which is an ode to that little coal-black bird ( which seemed apt as I am staying in a former colliery village at the moment) this described maybe seeing afresh this little bird which is yes noisy and often in loud groups but when you actually look at this little bird it is so beautiful with as Rob puts it the iridescent purples, greens and blues, the rare hues of petrol on water when describing its feathers. I loved those images and yes they are as soon as I read those words I saw them I was also reminded that I want to see the murmurations (the patterns in a flight of starling of which a large roost near to me is meant to be a place to see this wonder of nature.

We forget that you one shimmered through the frozen air; ripple bird.

Shape-shifter, dusk dancer. Murmurer, sh=ky writer,

Endlessly becoming in the darkening Gold;

Animals, patterns, waves.

And how e wonderstruck, witnessed a nightly unity against death

The second verse of the poem starling mentions their flight of them in groups and the patterns and shapes they make which is so eye-catching and one of the true wonders of Nature.

Well I just mentioned two from this collection in depth the collection is bookended with two poems called the duel about hawks hunting and Hawks reoccur in another Poem that I loved about seeing them in flight whilst driving and Like Rob how often does this happen on a motorway I always nearly crash and often think which bird it was I know Kestrels well as I have seen so many of the years but as for other hawks and how to know which is which glimpsed against the sky I am never quite sure. He also shows how he was touched by ovoid from his personal experience to that off the loss of those around him near and also faces in a crowd like a man at his allotment. Rob captures those mad twelve months in these 35 poems with a poet’s eye that ability t see beyond to describe and in a time like that is what is needed in a time of Madness and the uncertain nature of the world we need a poet to be are guide to cross the river of covid to make sense of the currents and eddies of that river to show us what we missed those little moments in that time like a collection of items which ties into the start of the book which sees Rob describe his desktop and the collection of items he has a stone, musket ball an otter print. Well, this is his desktop of that year his collection of items picked up along that year. Do you think poets can be beacons in dark times to guide the world around us?

Winstons score – + A, a stunning collection that captures in Amber a once-in-a-lifetime year of wonder and fear.



The Blue Bedspread by Raj Kamal Jha

The Blue Bedspread by Raj Kamal Jha

Indian fiction

Source personal – copy

As it is Jubilee weekend here in the Uk I decided to try and read a couple of the books from the Jubilee list and this is the first one I choose to read as I just love the title of this book that is the only reason I had to on my TBR pile it was in the small shop in Bakewell that sells second-hand books and it just caught my eye with the title and then being described as an Indian coming of age novel on the front cover(which I think is maybe deceiving ) The writer Raj Kamal Jha has written five novels and is editor in chief of The Indian express. This was his debut novel he has won a number of prizes and his literature has been said to take its lead from the news he works on as an editor in a newsroom.

I could begin with my name but forgot it, why waste time, it doesn’t matter in this city of twelve million names. I could begin with the way I look but what do I say, I am not a young manny more, I wear glasses, my stomach droops over the belt of my trousers.

There’s something wrong with my trousers. The waist, where the loops for the belt are, folds over every time, so if you look at me carefully while I am walking by, on the street or at the bus stop, you will see a flash of white, the cloth they use as lining, running above my belt, peeping out

The opening lines of the book as he sits to write to the baby that is to be adopted tomorrow

The blue bedspread is a bedspread from a family and this night it has a small newborn baby on it and we are in a house in Calcutta as we see a man writing a long note to this babe the babe is the daughter of his dead sister and is due to be adopted in the morning and what he is writing here is a description of the events that lead up to that moment. In the story of a lower-middle-class Indian family. As the brother recalls the events of the past the blue spread iOS is a sort of recurring motif in the book. As the past and what has happened within the family are slowly revealed. the book is formed of chapters around each family member but starts with the narrator’s visit. the police station after a call telling him of his sister’s fate that she has died. What happens is we see what lies behind those curtains and here in this family it is a broken twist and as the book moves on becomes more so to its shocking last story of the last eight words of the narrator!

Blue bedspread

The bedspread was ten feet by nine feet, dark blue, almost purple, but her the years it had faded until it was blueish white, like our breakfast of milk and cornflakes. When we returned from school in the afternoon, we would lie on the bed, sister and I, our cheeks pressed against the thick fabric, our eyes fixed along the surface, imaging we were looking at the sky. And that the discoloured patches were clouds

The Blue bedspread I also think the fact they are on the bed together is maybe more than it seems!

This is a slow-burning book that sees what has happened in the family and between this brother and sister and their parents to get to that night as our unnamed narrator sits and writes this note to this newly born babe. As he puts it He could begin Wirth his name but he has forgotten it. This is a book that lingers with the reader long after you put the book down it is lifting the curtain into a family broken and twisted. The last book I remember hitting me so hard was Besides the sea although on a totally different subject it has the same impact and this book has an ending which is horrific. The book iS at times here and there in how the story is told,  but for me, this was the style it was meant to be as our narrator is a drinker and to me, this was how his mind was remembering events not in order in a linear way but as he thought of one person then he connected it to the next and as he kept longing at the babe and the blue bedspread it was as thou was the Proustian Madeleine as it was part of the family home and like the memories, it is worn and old. I was reminded in part of the Beautiful south song “The table” where a table is almost a character and this is the same the bedspread keeps cropping up and recurring in the stories this is a style I have also seen in the story collection Timoleon Vita come home where a dog is a recurring motif in the stories. Have you read any book like this that lifts the lid on a dysfunctional family?

Winstons score – B is an interlinking collection of stories told over the course of a night a family history that is horrific in parts.

The people Opposite by Georges Simenon

The People opposite by Georges simenon

Belgian  fiction

original title – Les Gens d’en face 

Translator  – Sian Reynolds

Source – review copy

I am as you may know a huge fan of simenon both his crimes and no crime works which over the last decade or so Penguin has been bring out in new translations. I have reviewed 11 from the books that have. come out so far and my intention is to try over time read all the books Penguin has brought out from him a long term project for me not a race as I find myself reviewing two or three a year from him and I do have a couple on my shelves. But was happy when I was asked if I was interested in reviewing this which is an early book in his writing life being written in 1933 and is also for Simenon a political book it came after he had a trip to Stalins Russia in 1933 and came back and wrote this book.It was originally published in seven parts so there is that pacing of a serial work.

The only newcomer present was Adil Bey, and he was so recent that he had arrived in Batumi that very morning. At the Turkish consulate, he had found a single official from Tbilisi holding the fort.

The official, who would be leaving again that night, had brought Adil new along to the Italian consulate, to introduce him to his two colleagues.

Adil is the new boy in the town.

The book was written on his return and what we get is the Stalinist Russia caught in a small Black Sea port and we are introduced to the New Turkish consul AdilBey who has been sent to the port town which is a multi cultural place. But he feels out of place  and why did his previous consul turn up dead and why did thethe other Turkish staff disappear back to his base as soon as he appears. there is a sense of poverty the town, even thou it is near the oil rich fields of Russia. Adil is alone in this town and so when his Russian secretary appears Sonia she has been sent to help him and this sparks Aldi how falls for `Sonia and gets obsessive around her as he watches her in the room opposite his office.But is she trying to tempt him ? we see the two grow close but there is always a sense of more to this relationship she lives with her brother a member of the GPU( the state police). The action slowly unwinds you cans see where this relationship is going and it isn’t going end in wedding bells and roses !!!

This girl, Sonia, could hardly be more than eighteen years old. She was a slip of a thing, with a pale face, fair hair and light blue eyes, yet she had a calm and self assured strength that panicked the consul. The door had remained open and he walked over to watch, as she told the crowd to leave.

She was standing very upright in. the middle of the office, pen in hand, and speaking Russian, without raising her voice but gesturing to stress what she wanted. Since the woman nursing the the baby had remained sitting in her corne, she walked straight up to her, removed the child from the breast, and buttoned up the woman’s blue herself

His initial meeting with Sonia his secretary when she arrives you sense his wonder at this young woman.

For me has caught what must have been the soviet world at times where everyone at some point seems to be spying on one another. It has a slow burning as we see the two grow closer I was remind of the relationship in tinker tailor soldier spy with Ricky and the Russian wife there is always a sense that this isn’t going be a good outcome. He slowly unfurls their relationship but then you figure there may be more to it than first meets the eye this is of course Stalin’s Russia and there is the under running current of fear and worry in the book and the way people act at times.It also capture a lonely man a women in a situation that is caught between love and duty. I liked this book it is different to his other books but he is very good at what makes people tick at times and he has caught that here the way the characters although obvious show how the system was and also the effect of a system like stalinism on those inside it and also coming into it from the outside was there a similar Sonia figure that maybe caught Simenon eyes when he was on his trip too Russia. There is an intro where he does say a bout his time in Russia. I do wonder  how ,such pop Adil is him in disguise as he wrote this straight after his return. Have you a favourite Simeon or book in Soviet Russia written from someone that visited Russia at the time ?

Winstons score – A a solid afternoon read that deals with Stalinism through the prism of two characters one inside and one outside the regime.


The New Men by CP Snow

The New Men by CP Snow

English fiction

Source personal copy

it is the 1954 club this week I have a pile of books I hope to get over the week but I start with this from the writer CP Snow I had long wanted to start his stranger and brother series of which this is one so when it was announced the 1954 club I looked at the various list around the net and discovered that this was on the list of books published that year. I looked at the book blurb and yes it is part of the series but seemed to be a self constant story. CP snow was a writer that tried to connect as he called it the two cultures of Art and science here is a book that is an example maybe of that idea as it is about science in a way as it follows two brothers as they are involved with the search for atomic fission which is what powers Nuclear power but also is used in atomic weapons. a group of scientist from Cambridge try and make the discover in the early 40s

Martin gave a friendly, sarcastic smile. I went on. He met each point on the plane of reason. He had reckoned them out himself; np one insured more carefully against the future. I was telling him nothing he did not know. I became angry gain.

“She’s pretty shallow, you know. I expect her loves are too”

Martin didn’t reply.

“She’s bright, but she’s not very clever”

“That doesn’t matter to me” He said

“You’d find her boring in time.”

I”I couldn’t have done less so up to now”said Martin

The book like the others in the series revolves around the life and times of the Elliot brothers here we see them get the chance to be involved int he search for Atomic fission. The book opens as the two brother meet and Martin has a new lady friend he introduces Lewis to his new lady friend but when Lewis dismisses this lady as unsuitable and says his brother will bore of her over time the two fall out. Then Martin as he says in the meeting with Lewis is starting to look at fission and he is called to a group in a small village called Barofrd near Warwick to study and try and perfect the research. in what is called Project Mr Toad as the group splits up into a couple of teams doing slightly different things he decides to try and reconcile with his brother and get him to join him at Barford.What follows is the journey in try to discover but also a side story of maybe someone spying. As part of the project connects with Nuclear weapons.The story is about the morals of what they did as well as s=what different characters in the book around the brothers see as the moral rights and wrongs

Though Hector Ross had left me in suspense about his intention, I did worry much. Despite our mutual dislike I trusted his mind, and for a strong mind there was only one way to open,

Thus Luke, in the midst of disapproval, got all he asked for, and went back to playing his piano. There was months to get through before the pile was refitted. He and Martin had set themselves for another wait.

It was during this wait I had my first intimation of a different kind of secret. one of the security branches had begun asking questions. They had some evidence( so it seemed though the muffled hints) that there might be a leaked

The later part of the book follows this revelation around the brother and the project

Now this is part of a series and in the middle of the series it seems but for me it did work as a standalone story of the two brothers and there journey from initially falling out the both getting involved in Mr toad as the project is called (I just loved the fact the project was called mr toad). Snow used a mixture of real facts around the discovery of fission.He also question the outcome of some of the research which lead to the Atomic bomb in a small part. Snow worked in the government around the time the part involving government officials and parts of the government feels very real in the way he portray it. The project is set in  Barford is an actual village in warship in fact I was very near it this weekend when I was away but didn’t get chance to pop and take a pic of the village sign. The rest of the series is around Lewis Elliot. I will hopefully read the other in the series. I chose this as my first for Club1954 as it  made me finally get to snow and this series I had listen to him on Desert Island disc when he was on in the in 1975 here is a link to that episode. I felt I had to read him and also the idea of science and art working closer together appeals to me and I’m sure he’d liked books like Benjamin Labatut  When we cease to understand the world a recent book (see what I’ve done there manager o link to a book in translation). Have you read anything from CP Snow ?

Winstons score – A a lost gem of English lit

Phenotypes by Paulo Scott

Phenotypes by Paulo Scott

Brazilian fiction

Original title – Marrom e Amarelo

Translator – Daniel Hahn

Source – personal copy

Now I am back on the long listed books for the Booker international. This time it is a book from Brazilian writer Paulo Scott. I thought I had reviewed his earlier book nowhere people but I hadn’t when I looked back so this is the first book I have reviewed by him he studied public law and taught it for a number of years, he was also involved in student politics and was involved in the re-democratisation of Brazil. He has now written six novel and seven collections of poetry. This book use the tale of two brother to put under the spotlight the question of race in Brazil which is something I hadn’t know a lot about or thought much about.

I was an important researcher into the so-called hierarchy of skin colours on pigmentocracy and its logic in Brazil, on the perversity of colourism, on compensatory policies and their lack of understanding among Brazilian elites, that I’d advised NGO’s in Brazil, in Latin America and the rest of the world, that I’d consulted for Adidas, oh yes that’s right , Adidas the famous German-founded company making High performance sportswear, the man was foolish enough to emphasise, as if that were the high point of my biography, and did consider interrupting him, saying like hell did I ever consult for Adidas, That I’d merely acted as intermediary for an agency that did advertising for them

This was how he was introduced but also shows how facts can be twisted and rewritten so easily.

The novel focuses on Federico and his brother Lourenco. They have a father who is black and mother that is white.The brother  have a huge difference in the skin tones and are different Federico is much light in his skin tone than his brother he could pass as white as the book opens we see him in his late forties as he is the last member of a government appointment committee that is dealing with quotas in High education as he is introduced in the opening lines we see how much he has done but also maybe a bit up himself as he complains how they talk about him getting his name wrong a small project with Adidas that they seemed to think more important but as the project he is involved with grows he starts to question what is happening he grew up in Porto Alegre and hadn’t much been touched by race mainly due to his light skin tone and the fact he hadn’t been touch  by racism as much. But when events from within his own family and the fact that som thing that happens with his brothers family makes him question the nature of race but also how absurd some of the solutions to this problem can be and how maybe a software program isn’t the answer. This is a novel that asks to question the hard question of race and also look under the skin of a nation.

It isn’t a gremlin match day, but it’s the eve of the eleventh, the last day on which let December the Gremio team won the Intercontinental cup, the Toyora cup, the day on which, every month the Gremistas, en masse, go around in the club shirts to commemorate the historic victory. As it’s Friday, it’s not surprising to see a group of friends won’t be able to meet up in the Saturday marking the occasion in advance at domestic barbecues, in restaurants, in bars, on the streets

1983 was there greatest moment the home team of Porto Alegre not much to do with the story but I am a huge football fan so I like this celebration of that moment even after decades.

I enjoyed parts of this novel and in places not many I didn’t it felt as thou the message was more than the story at times.  I didn’t connect with, but the story it was telling is an important one and maybe in the use of a family it tackled it the best way as we see how the tone of the skin of each member of the family and also how they are viewed this is the question at the start does race effect the chance but then how do you deal with it the is a section where the program is mention then a fellow member of the group talks about skin tone as thought it was like the myriad of paint tones. What he is trying to do is lift the lid on the question of race in Brazil as Daniel explains in his after word this is hard to convey from one language to the next as it is a lot about the language used and maybe this is what is missed but I am not sure I like it in parts and others it wasn’t grabbing me. This is one I may reread at a later date and see if I connect more with it but in parts this is great the opening draws you in `and things like the discussion of the software has a touch of the comic at times. Then the family events around Federico niece grabbed me. race is a hard subject to tackle and for me a white male a hard subject to write from my perspective but I can see how hard this subject and how to make the system fairer is hard to tackle as it is so complex and this is an interesting insight into it. Have you read any books that try to tackle this subject.Have you a favourite novel around race ?

Winstons- score B a brave book about race

Paradais by Fernanda Melchor

Paradais by Fernanda Melchor

Mexican fiction

Original title – Paradais

Translator – Sophie Hughes

Source – Personal copy

Well I am on the next stop of this years Booker International longest and to a writer that cause a buzz last Time her book. was on the longest but I was one of the readers that just didn’t connect with the book. I didn’t even review it well I was a bit wary of reading her again. But actually connected a bit better with this her second book so much so I may go back and reread the first book of hers Hurricane season again and see if it was just my connection to the book on the first reading. Paradais is her second book to be translated to English. Also is the second book to be long listed. Fernanda Melchor is a journalist and has written about literary journalism in the past her first book was a collection of essays . In her debut Novel see used a fictional version of a murder in her home tow. This time she is using a gated community to show the class divide ion Mexico but also how young men on both sides of that class can be swayed into crime and violence in a world full of it.

Polo never told Fatboy anything during their drinking sessions; he never shared what he really thought of him or his ridiculous fantasies about señora Marian, at least not in the beginning during their first meetings down the doc, when Fatboy would get hammered and spend hours telling Polo what filthy shit went through his head, sparing no details and without a hint of embarrassment: about the porn he watched and how many times a day he masturbated, or the things he do to Señora Marian when he finally got his hands on her.

Fatboy and Polo early on as the two drink and Franco(Fatboy) tells polo about his neighbour

The book is the story of a relationship it would be hard to call it a friendship as it isn’t really that it is two young men on the cusp of adulthood at that age were woman or men become central to your life and also drink and drugs. But these two men are on different side of the fence in there lives their is Polo he is a Gardner at the gated Paradais community (that also gives itself to the title of the book)He just draws of a better life like most working class men he is doing his gruelling job but dreaming of a better life I was remind at times of Arthur Seaton another working class man that dreams of just escaping into drink at the weekends. He also had a thing about Married woman but had some charm about him. Then we Have the other main character Franco although he is mainly referred in the book as Fatboy, an overweight loner from one of the rich families on the Paradais estate this fat boy dreams of engaging in carnal acts with his MILf neighbour. The two connected I never viewed this as a friendship it isn’t but they bond over want to escape there now and come up with a plan involving the attractive wife next door as they drink and draw up this plan.

That was the kind of grief Polo woke up to each day before the sun had even appeared at the window, just as the neighbour’s cockerel was clearing its throat to complete with hi mother’s phone alarm. Polo would grumble and toss and turn on the floor, on the sweat soaked petite his mouth dry, his eyes glued together with sleep and his temples throbbing with the headache that now never went away, no matter how many Alka-seltzers he drankHe would aim to get up as early as he could.

Polo world far different from fanboys as he struggles with drinking all night and working hard all day takes its toil.

This is a story of two losers really they aren’t the nicest characters they each have huge problems . But they also have a lot of what we all have growing up that is been attracted to older women at times, like a drink and just wanting to escape our now to find a better then. The only difference is the Franco and Polo are from Mexico where the world they see is so juxtaposed Fromm the village of Polo with the drugs and everyday violence that is the norm this is something that she touched on in her other book with the murder in the village! do you become use to Violence when it is all around. But then there his the gulf between Franco and Polos world which is a chasm difference . I can’t imagine being Polo having to leave his world and enter this world of Paradais everyday no Paradais for him . Then there is Franco maybe he is a product of his environment a fat loner kid from money that because of the world he is trapped in isn’t able to form a normal relationship and uses porn with a mix of his neighbour imagine a relationship. This is a brutal book about two men on the cusp of adulthood both not fitting in their own worlds that come together and as we have often see this is a classic cliche for a film the two loser getting together against the world but it always ends up going wrong as it dose with this plan and the two men that have come up with it.  I will, go back and read Hurricane season again at a later date. I found this easier to connect to and read it in a single sitting. They show a machoest side of life that has gone out of control and what happens when you see sex and violence in a certain way. Have you read this book or Hurricane season ?

Winstons score – +B a solid novella about being in a world of two extremes

Archipelago books Fortnight May 9 -23 2022


I ordered a few books from the US publisher Archipelago I tend to try and get a few every year as I like the look of the books but also love some of there writers they do a lot of books in translation a mix of classic and modern writers from all around the world. They were the US publishers of Karl One Knausgaard they have books on there site that have been translated from 32 languages which is impressive. I have reviewed a number of there books over the years I have a small collection of them I have brought over the time I have been blogging I first got into them when I was looking for books for the original around the world in 52 books in January 2010 I reviewed wonder by Hugo Claus which is still my favourite book from them Have read 12 years later.I have also enjoyed the books they have brought out by Scholastique Mukasonga which they have brought out I have read two by her and have another on the tar to read Why Archipelago?  well it is just that over the years and that is 12 and counting. I have always enjoyed the books from them I have read. Plus I also have a number which is maybe to may for my liking ion the pile unread which gave me the idea of a reading fortnight I did mention it online a few times but never quite sure who reads me these days if anyone. I am doing this for a publisher I love and have enjoyed buying their books over the years. I have 26 of there books I found a couple after the pictures )on my shelves I think I may have a couple elsewhere but that was all I found to take the pictures with of those in the picture I have read


I am currently read the Halldór Laxness Wayward heroes as there is a new translations of one of his books due out in a few months like this one also translated by Philip Roughton. He is a writer I have reviewed once on the blog so I decide it was time to get this one read and with coming up with the idea of a reading fortnight I will review then. I also am reading Autumn rounds by the Quebecian writer Jacques Pulling he is a writer I want to read everything from after I read his book Mister Blue which I reviewed here about Jim and his cat his books do appeal so I got this this week and will get the other books to read maybe in other Archipelago books fortnight. I will also review that in this fortnight I will then maybe tackle another of the thick books I have from them or it may be Kin by Miljenko jergovic which has been on my radar since it came out but I just haven’t order it yet ( not that yet I will get this book it is near the top of the books I want to get) I will let you know which big book I choose as it be great to chat about it or any of their books even ones I haven’t read there is lots I would like to read do you have a favourite books from there back list ?

There was a recent Moose and gripes podcast about the publisher here

Here is there Website which is very good and has lots about the books and also has different quotes daily



More Than I love My Life by David Grossman


More Than I Love My Life by David Grossman

Israeli fiction

Original title – אתי החיים משחק הרבה

Source – Library book

This was one of two of the booker international titles this year that my local library had so when the list came out I was in town next day to collect this book which I had seen a couple of times in my twitter feed as someone had been reading it in the weeks just before the longest came out so it was on my radar as he is a writer I have read before and have reviewed three books from him the three are the the last three books before this he has published starting with to the end of the land which for me is his best book hands down. That is not to say this is a bad book no not is better than the a horse walk into a bar in my humble opinion.

Two days ago we celebrated vera turning ninety(Plus two months, she had pneumonia on the actual date and we postponed the party,)The family gathered in the Kibbutz clubhouse. “The family”, of course, means Tuvia’s family, which Vera had joined, but, over the course of four decades, she’d become its core. It’s always amusing to think that most of the grandchildren and great grandchildren who cling to her to compete for attention don’t even know that she is not their biological grandmother. Each child in our family goes through a little initiation rite when , usually around the age of ten, they learn the truth.

Vera is the heart of the family.

The book is the fictional account of a woman that he first met meet many years before he decide to write the book Eva whom Vera is based on had contact Grossman after a newspaper article almost twenty years before the story she first called him when she was 70. The novel is set in part when she turns 90. She was a settler living in a Kibbutz like the fictional version pop herself.Eve who had come from the former Yugoslavia is one of those figures that jumps of the page. When  she marries a widower Tuvia whom has lost his wife the story is focused on the family in the years after this marriage. He has a son Rafael Vera(the name Grossman has for the real person who is called Eva)has a daughter a similar age to Rafael the two connect over time this is one of the story Klines but when in adult hood Nina has a daughter she leaves Nina she is the third generation of the family we meet and the third that Grossman describes in the story. The action takes use around the world as we see them grow and also the haunted past of Vera which is hinted at as the book has another story and that is her return to Croatia.earleir we see the Croatia songs being sung in the kibbutz. We learn of how this woman suffered in the post war Yugoslavia of Tito a piece of history that hasn’t I haven’t read much in fiction there is a lot around Tito and the war but not a lot after that.

I am a fan of Grossman I have read three of his book in the time I have blogged and also have a few more on my shelves which I have brought over the years to read. As one of of Juror Paul point us in the direction of there is a documentary about Eve that maybe if you watch which I have gives you a problem that is the fictional Vera and the real eve are two different beings. I watch a Jewish book council interview with David about the book and he explained how he meet and was tempted to write the real eve story and over the years how she had hinted at the past she had each time the meet he knew a bit more she often ask if he would write the story when he did he said he would only writer her as a fictional character with her real life and his fictional version of the life mixing. Grossman is a perfectionist even in the translation which is by his usual translator Jessica Cohent that has translated all the books that I have read by him what he does is gets his main translators together and he reads the book in Hebrew to them and then they all work on the book what he said was hardest and that is the voice of vera from Hebrew where he says you can tell she is from the Balkans this is something he wanted to be felt in the translation and form it works(I am no expert but have spent a lot of time int he company of Balkan writers over the last 15 years so have an ear for the syntax and rhythm of some one from the balkans talking in English and Jessica cohen seems to have caught this very well. Grossman also for a male writer writes very strong Female characters and the three her are the same I remember in to the end of the Land that Ora was a strong character in that book. For me this wasn’t as good as To the end of the land which is his masterpiece for me but it has some interesting points to make about escaping the past politics. The post war Israeli and Yugoslavia post Yugoslavia world viewed through a single person a prism of this world that shows the many colours both light and dark of the times of this family. Have you a favourite book from Grossman or From Israel. (I am looking forward to Days of Ziklag when it comes out)

Winston’s score – +B a solid book from one of my favourite writers.

the book of mother by Violaine Huisman

The book of mother by Violaine Huisman

French fiction

original title -Fugitive parce que reine

Translator – Leslie Camhi

Source – Library book

Well this year there has been more books on the long listed I wasn’t very aware of this is another that had passed me by which is a shame as I have always had a soft spot for French auto-fiction. This is the debut novel from Violaine Huismann born in Paris she had lived for nearly twenty years in New York where she had organised the Brooklyn Academy of music Literary series and she also organised a number of art festivals. She had spent time on the side writing about her mother but it wasn’t to a number of years after her mother had passed and she herself had become a mother she felt in the right place to talk about her mother, her childhood and her mother’s death and how that had impacted on her and her sisters life. There is a great interview on YouTube about the book and how she want her mother to be remembered.

Maman often fainted due to the cocktail of medications that
she combined with alcohol. She hid her whiskey under her mattress,
in the back of kitchen cupboards that she imagined were secret, in
glasses of Coca-Cola that she forbade us from tasting, Coca-Cola
which we usually drank directly from the same family-size bottle, just
as the three of us dried ourselves with the same bath towel. The fact
that we possessed plenty of towels didn’t make a difference-_No one
around here has scabies as far as I know!

The young Violaine sees her mother faint when she is young due to the meds she is on.

The book has three parts the first is Violaine story in a way that of her and her sister growing up twith there mother that has very wild swings in her mood she had mental Health issues but as she said in the interview they are just a label and not how it was to live with mother. The book opens as her mother drives her and her sister through the centre of Paris in there car at high speed with the two children not wearing seat belts as a result of this her mother is sectioned for a time. Her mother had been married three times and was one of those characters that leaps of the page when you read her no matter how bad she can be with her children they still await her return this feels like the writer trying to explain her mother she said she just want her and the close family as real characters and some of the stuff that had happened with her mother where just too chaotic to appear in the book part of the problem was the fact that her mother was always struggling with the fact she had lost her place she had married a man from the upper class and never really fit in. The second [part of the book goes back to Maman as `Violaine calls her mother when Catherine grew up there was events that happened with her mother that she discovered via her fggrandmother she tries to get across her mothers child hood her from the piece she gathered growing up the last part off the book moves forward and sees the two sisters dealing with the mother death.

I was responsible for calling Maman’s lover with the news of her
suicide, and for telling him about the letter, where it could be found. I
was chosen by default, because I was the only one who had met him,
the only one to have gone to see firsthand Maman’s life in Dakar, First
he screamed, then he broke into tears. He asked me if he could see her
one last time. He could only see her here, in France, in Paris. We had to
find a way to get him here, we had to get a visa for him in time, while
Maman still had a body. We had to do the impossible, but my sister
and I were capable of that; nothing was impossible where Maman was
concerned, except for saving her. In less than a week we had mobilized
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French consulate in Dakar. In
less than a week he was in the air.

This hit me hard remind me of when we found about about my brother in law when he took his life. a day I will never forget

This is one off those books that could have gone so wrong and either been to rose tinted about her mother or the other extreme that it could have made her mother into a monster. But she seems to have caught her mother just right and that is as a human with both a bad and good side and also made her memorable she is one of those people that is larger than life through the young Violaine eyes and in the latter part after her mother death shows the effect she had one them.In the interview she said  this is how she wanted to put her mother across in the book as a person but want to use fiction instead of memoir for this. She said she had used Proust as how she wanted to write the book  about how he wrote about his life. For me the use of the three part works as it shows the events over time but also part of the reason her maybe why her mother was the way she was. It also shows how they got over such horrors in their youth. Then also managed to break the cycle of abuse. This could easily have been the writers own life as her experience could like many have been passed down as this is how a childhood is. The Proust connection is also there in the title which is a line from proust ht full line is Every woman feels that the greater her power over a man, the more impossible it is to leave him except by sudden flight: a fugitive precisely because a queen which maybe capture what she tires to do with her mother story. The book is a classic slice of Auto fiction Ala proust but not with the bitterness that we saw in a writer like Knausgaard yes it is a bad childhood but her mother is never painted as a monster and sometimes as my job has shown it is hard when someones head is just so messed up swings of mood can never quite be controlled. Have you read this or do you have a favourite piece of Autofiction

Winstons score – -A childhood and larger than life mother caught warts and all.

After the sun by Jonas Eika

After the Sun by Jonas Eika

Danish fiction

Original title – Efter Solen

Translator – Sherilyn Nicolette Hellberg

Source – personal copy

Every time the booker or old IFFP list comes out there is always open or two books on the list that have just passed me by I especially this last couple of years don’t keep my ear as close to the ground as I once did. So this was one I wasn’t aware of which was the same for the title last year from Lolli editions it seems like a publisher I should maybe keep a closer eye on. This is the first book by Jonas Eika to be translated and is his second book this won the Nordic council Literature prize as Paul on our shadow jury point out this is a prize that has former winners such as Dag Solstad, Son, Kim Line and one of the other Longest writers Jon Fosse. So  for me it must have something about it so I picked it up last week and read the first story but just didn’t connect so I decided yesterday to just sit and read it cover to cover it is under two hundred pages and is a collection of five stories but two are the same story at different angles.

He was sickly pale in the way that people tend to be in pictures from the nineties. “This is me at KFC when the first one opened in Denmark.. Me at the first Burger King, did you know they proposed a whopper-big Mac mash up, in the name of world peace?.. Here I am at subway.. dominoes..The bagel company when they opened their first shop on Gothersgade in 94 I sear, tasting these things for the first time was completely…How should I say unique. Like I was tasting them and only them.I always take pictures for the first time

This description of various fast food and the whhoper Mac mash up made me smile.

I think the reason I didn’t connect with it initially is  the style of his writing which is fast and jarring at times and the first story Alvin our narrator arrive back to fix the bank software as that is his job this is where his path is halted as he arrives the servers he is due to work on and the bank its self has collapsed the story follows the aftermath of this but then like most of the stories in the collection go here and there. The one story that really caught me is the middle story in the collection Rachel Nevada which to me had one of the greatest change of plot in a short story I have ever read and the story follows an elderly couple who had lost both there daughters and then decided the only way for them to cope with this is to sell up and hit the road and this is how they end up at Rachel Nevada this leads to the Husband in the story getting drawn to an object in the desert that seems to be calling out leading to Antonio want to find out more about it.This small town is just near Area 51 the heart of what is UFO country even down to the A’le inn the local pub. But then there is a great plot change and a minor character that had already appeared just in passing we get a bio of her career as a singer songwriter I found myself trying to find if this was an actual singer as the bi was so real. Other stories deal with beach boys and rich customers on the seats.

Antonio awoke almost choking on his own breathing. The pain burned sour in his throat. coughing made the plastic tube writhe in the wound. He took it out of his mouth, leaned his head back and opened the passageway. Then he got back up on his legs and shock the images out of his head, images of jackrabbits with long erect ears and black spotted coats.Hundreds of jackrabbits hopping across the steppes, dry lakes and mountainsides, the jackrabbit being a kind of Totem anti animal in Karen Ruthio’s universe.

Antonio in the desert sees images and also links to the latter part of the story Rachel Nevada.

There is a lot of talk of the Maximalist novel well I think what we have hear is the maximalist short story what Jonas has done is pack lots of ideas they just fall of the page as we see a mind that drifts here and there in the stories hence they seem at times chaotic but isn’t modern life chaotic at times. In an interview I saw with him and his translator he talk about writing just after his nights and just having to get the words out but also means it was a hard book to translated as it has a a feel of being here and there but that is how it was written I was reminded of Burroughs and the effect was like the first time I read Burroughs I remember just eating up Naked lunch then his two trilogies which used the cut up technique this has a feel of that as I said it had a feel of his work also Kerouac that energy you get from On the road which I am just reading at the moment as well.As I said this is the opposite of a the likes of the craved down Raymond craver this is like as he said in the interview the Ursula le Guin essay about writing sci as being like a carrier bag and that is what this is a bit of this and that all stuck together it a fusion of ideas a story that could be a dozen novels in one. This is one of those gems from the longest that I wouldn’t discovered it maybe is chaotic and disorienting but it is also brilliant vivid captures the zeitgeist of the moment and a fresh view of the world.Have you read this book ?

Winstons score – +A one to watch so much energy in these stories maybe the first collection of Maximalist short story collection.

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August 2022


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