Saturday, March 30, 2013

'Get Over It' by F.Linday

Get Over It is Fiona Linday's YA debut. Johnny is a teenager who hardly knows his dad. All of Johnny's life his father has been working for the Navy, but now Johnny's mum has died and as a 'bonding trip' father and son have gone off on a sailing holiday in Greece, a chance for them to get to know each other. As is expected, there is resistance from Johnny and awkward forced jollity from dad.

Product Details

This YA book takes us on the journey that has to be experienced when a young person comes to terms with the loss of a parent. Linday's writing has a Christian message which is both unusual these days and some young readers may find unfamiliar. Despite this, if they recognise from this book the comfort they can get or can give in times of loss through any spiritual reading be it Christian or any other then this has to be a positive message.

Linday provides the reader with several websites that can be useful in child bereavement counselling that could be explored with a younger child through a parent or a teacher or by the teenager on their own. It would be interesting to see feedback on the potential role of this book from teachers and counsellors.

Get Over It is published by Onwards and Upwards Publications

Review: 'The Scattering' by Jaki McCarrick

The Scattering is Jaki McCarrick's debut collection of short stories, several of which have received awards and been published in literary magazines. This first collection is beautifully presented. The cover carries a reproduction of the painting The Badminton Game (1972) by David Inshaw, in reference to the second story 'The Badminton Court'. There are nineteen stories and they are diverse in their subject matter but all carry a dark resonance which is complemented perfectly by McCarrick's spare but emotive writing style.

Jaki McCarrick lives in Dundalk and the northern border towns, long-term impact of the Troubles and the darker side of life are all subjects that are explored in her stories. As with many of the best of short story writers, McCarrick leaves some questions unanswered. Coming into a story mid scene and leaving it with a situation hanging only adds to the atmosphere and leaves the reader in a delicious state of uncertainty of how the situation developed. This is certainly the case in the opening story 'By The Black Field' which tells of Angel and his expectant wife Jess, not long returned from London to settle in Angel's childhood summer home. '1975' cleverly uses the basis of a father watching his daughter wait for a bus home to think back over the impact of past tragedy on the family life. 'The Scattering', the titular story tells almost beautifully the story of a brother's ashes being scattered at sea, the atmosphere of the coastal area a background for his thoughts.  The darkness of the story '1976' is affecting and in fact this is the general feeling throughout this collection, that one is being affected by the reading of these stories, in a moving and thoughtful way.


There is no doubt that Jaki McCarrick is a talented writer. The connectivity of several of these tales is most satisfying for the reader and the unaffected, straight-talking writing style gives a credibility to the stories. The darkness of the subject matter only adds to the attraction of this collection and I look forward to seeing more of her writing in the future.

The Scattering is published by Seren Books

Review: 'One-Inch Punch' by Oran Ryan

One-Inch Punch is Oran Ryan's third novel after The Death of Finn (2006) and Ten Short Novels by Arthur Cruger (2006). A Dublin writer, the city plays a role in the story, in particular as the opening location for the meeting of the two main characters, Gordon Brock and Ed Frasier. The immediate animosity towards Ed that Gordon expresses creates the basis for the exploration of how this situation came about and how a young boy can be scarred by his tormentors.

Gordon Brock is a gifted child and as with many children in this situation he does not fit in with the other kids. With parents who are keen for him to socialise and make friends even though he is happy in his solitude, he encounters Ed, a bully, who exposes his motives of trying to be 'normal'. This questioning of the self and inability to just get on with life in an unthinking way sets Gordon out as different and his actions through his life, relationships included, are all dredged up for questioning.

Ryan is an intelligent writer. The book is by no means lightweight and challenges the reader to question society with its structures and accepted paths. In the post-modern way of writing, this is a book about someone writing a book and also has footnotes to expand on the text. Ryan's own obvious serious consideration about life and the way of relationships experienced between children, lovers and friends comes through in the novel. There is also a humorous undertone to the novel, in a black sense where Ryan sees the ridiculousness of some of the things that go on in everyday life.


Above all, One-Inch Punch is about a genius, not an easy gift to be born with. The early acknowledgement by the main character that basically everyone else operates at a different thought speed to himself cannot fail to affect. That it has a negative impact makes him a victim of his genius and removes any belief in the world at large projects onto those he encounters. The reader cannot fail to leave this book with questions about how such people, those with exceptional talent, do manage to function in an average society. That many do in fact feel isolated by their gift or become disillusioned and opt out of the mainstream never meeting their full potential cannot be a surprise.  The subject of genius is obviously one of great interest and one I left this book thinking I would have to explore more.

One-Inch Punch is published by Seven Towers

Friday, March 29, 2013

Women's Prize for Fiction 2013

The longlist for the Women's Prize for Fiction (formally the Orange Prize) was announced two weeks back and it's a very fine list indeed. Twenty books will be whittled down to a shortlist to be announced on 16th April and the winner will be announced on the 5th June.

With a great judging panel of actress Miranda Richardson (chair), author Jojo Moyes, writer and activist Natasha Walter, editor and journalist Rachel Johnson and BBC broadcaster Razia Iqbal this is one prize that is always guaranteed great long and shortlists to read through.Whilst I may not have always agreed with the choice of winner, the selected novels always bring intelligent and challenging reads and this year is no exception.

245533_Book_Scans_S1 245533_Book_Scans_S19 245533_Book_Scans_S12
 Flight-Behaviour 245533_Book_Scans_S7 Honour
 245533_Book_Scans_S6 Ignorance Lamb
life after life 245533_Book_Scans_S11 May-We-Be-Forgiven
245533_Book_Scans_S18 245533_Book_Scans_S10 The-Innocents
 The-Light-Between-Oceans 245533_Book_Scans_S3 The-People-of-Forever-Are-Not-Afraid
 245533_Book_Scans_S13 Whered-You-Go-Bernadette
Longlisted Novels
A Trick I Learned From Dead Men by Kitty Aldridge (Jonathan Cape-Random House)
Alif The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson (Corvus Books-Atlantic)
Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantell (Fourth Estate-Harper Collins)
Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver (Faber and Faber)
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Wiedenfeld and Nicolson-Orion)
Honour by Elif Shafak (Viking-Penguin)
How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti (Harvill Secker-Random House)
Ignorance by Michele Roberts (Bloomsbury)
Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam (Hutchinson-Random House)
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Doubleday-Random House)
Mateship With Birds by Carrie Tiffany (Picador)
May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Holmes (Granta Books)
NW by Zadie Smith (Hamish Hamilton-Penguin)
The Forrests by Emily Perkins (Bloomsbury Circus-Bloomsbury)
The Innocents by Francesca Segal (Chatto and Windus-Random House)
The Light Between Oceans by M.L.Stedman (Doubleday-Random House)
The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber (Sceptre-Hodder)
The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu (Hogarth-Vintage)
The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Cogan (Virago)
Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple (Wiedenfeld and Nicolson-Orion)

Good luck to all the shortlisted authors and their publishers and watch this space for the updates.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

'Lagan Love' by Peter Murphy

Lagan Love is a Dublin story. Based around the city in the bars, coffee shops, streets and houses, it is a story of disappointment in love, discovery of self and of the characters that make up Dublin. It is Peter Murphy's first novel.

In many ways Lagan Love consists of many Dublin stereotypes. There is the tortured poet Aiden who meets Janice, a student who has come from Toronto to study history at Trinity. She befriends Sinead who used to go out with Aiden and whose parents are struggling to maintain their relationship while their views differ on the revelations of the Catholic church. In this mix are the characters that Aiden, Janice and Sinead mix with when they drink in Grogans, the Dublin institution where writers search the bottom of their glass for literary inspiration, and Gwen and Maurice, the moneyed art supporters with the poetry press looking for up and coming talent to take under their wings.

Despite these obvious stereotypes Lagan Love is a good story. It has some unexpected turns and comedic observations of Dublin phraseology. Aiden's knowledge of Irish history is worked into the novel well as he tells Janice the visitor the relevance of place and people's position in society. History is merged with myth and superstition to create an atmosphere of uncertainty about the character's true motives for their actions.

The title is curious; 'Lagan' initially made me think it would have some reference to the North, Armagh in particular. With hindsight having read the book I think it symbolically refers to lagan of the flotsam and jetsam type, cargo lying on the ocean floor marked with a buoy to be reclaimed later, maybe referring to the abandoning of love. The cover also is not that appealing to the eye and maybe something more obviously Dublin related would draw the reader  to pull it from the shelf.

This aspect aside, Lagan Love is a well constructed novel with an unexpected end. Peter Murphy has drawn on what he knows to bring this story together, his knowledge of Dublin, its pub life and his own move to Canada as well as his knowledge of Irish history and poetry (in particular Austin Clarke) which is sprinkled through the novel via Aiden in his Behan-esque characterisation.

Lagan Love is published by Fiction Studio Books

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Kip Carroll exhibition "Journey's"

Opening this evening at The Doorway Gallery on South Frederick Street is a new exhibition of the works of photographer Kip Carroll. With a career in Ireland and the UK, he also travelled in Nepal as a child which had a lasting impression on him. Returning as an adult he has recorded his 'journey' in his photographs.


The exhibition runs until April 9th. The Doorway Gallery is a very pleasant and casual gallery to visit and is always worth popping into if you are around the Grafton Street area.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Trace Two- Different worlds, one story.

I came across this on the CFCP (Centre for Creative Practices mailing and think it is a really nice idea. 'Trace Two' is a photographic project developed by CFCP in conjunction with Dublin City Council's Office for Integration.
   "CFCP’s TraceTwo Project is a home to migrants living in Ireland, bringing them together through photography. Shared images allow people to glimpse different cities and environments whilst defining the similarities among culture, architecture and people in different parts of the world with their relationship to the host country."


Basically, you register to the website . From there you can upload two images from different countries, distant places or time that have some similarity, as in the photo above. You can also add a photo to an existing one and create a new similarity. The project is Dublin based (CFCP are at 15 Pembroke Street Lower, D2) and aims to connect people through photography.

As it's a new project there aren't that many photos uploaded yet but it looks like it could be really interesting to follow.

Monday, March 18, 2013

'I, Malvolio' on Peacock Stage

If you promise yourself one thing this week make it to go to the Peacock theatre, the smaller side stage of the The Abbey, for the final two performances  tomorrow or Thursday to catch the performance by Tim Crouch of I, Malvolio. It is nothing short of brilliant.


Connecting intimately with the audience, Tim Crouch engages with you from the outset. His sympathetic portrayal of this outside character from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night brings with it hilarity and also compassion. Coming to the show even with no previous knowledge of the Shakespeare play he is from the audience is cleverly filled in with the role of Malvolio and the absurdity of the plot of the play. Carrying the play alone (it was also written by Crouch), it never flags, and quirks of the audiences are brought into the show, be it a cough in an inappropriate moment or the particular action of the member brought onto the stage to assist. This free structure of course stems from Crouch's overt confidence with his script and the ultimate aims of the show.
The show was a joy and a welcome break from the structured expectations of the standard theatre experience we have come to expect.

The Sea Change and Other Stories by Helen Grant

The Sea Change and Other Stories brings together the works of Helen Grant spanning seven years writing (2005-2012) for the first time. The title taken from one of the seven stories sums up well the nature of her writing; they are stories about radical change or transformation, as well as being about subjects "rich and strange" as Ariel, Prospero's airy spirit says in The Tempest; "Nothing of him that doth fade/ But doth suffer a sea-change/ Into something rich and strange." The stories are ghostly and supernatural and have the feeling of that great early 80s TV series Tales of the Unexpected.

The first story 'Grauer Hans' was inspired by the figure who accompanies Saint Nicholas in Germany on the eve of 6th December. A tapping at the window of a child's bedroom and the appearance of an apple-cheeked old man after her mother has sung the bedtime song 'Grauer Hans' leads into a spooky tale. 'The Sea Change' is particularly memorable, as a diver starts to go off diving solo rather than with a partner as diving code demands, returning repeatedly to the same site and for ever more extended periods of time underwater.

'The Game of Bear' recalls the reason why an uncle in his house where the children are playing noisily would be upset by their sudden outbursts and shouts. Interestingly this was an unfinished story by the ghost story writer M. R. James (1862-1936) which was used in a competition to have the story completed. 'Self Catering' involves a character called Larkin who under pressure from his boss sets off to book a holiday. Wanting something suiting his rather pompous self image, he enters into a rather unusual travel agents dealing in holidays of a supernatural kind. An image of the shopkeeper in the children's programme Mr Benn comes to mind, as he tries on a new costume and has an adventure. Needless to say, Larkin's holiday does not go as he planned.

'Nathair Dubh' is a tale told by an old man in a bar to two young climbers. He tells them of one of his climbing experiences as a young man with unsophisticated equipment as he and his friend set off to climb the Nathair Dubh - the black snake. His experience on that day had never left him. 'Alberic de Mauléon' was written as a prequel to another M.R. James story. A seventeenth century tale it tells of two brothers- Henri de Mauléon, the first born twin son who inherited everything, and his brother Alberic who entered the church. This is a tale of love and revenge.

The final tale is 'The Calvary at Banská Bystrica' which tells of a man searching for his lost brother and his journey to Slovakia. Both mysterious and ghoulish in turn, the description is superb.


I really enjoyed Helen Grant's collection. With three novels behind her (The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, The Glass Demon and Wish Me Dead) she is currently working on a trilogy set in Flanders, the first Silent Saturday due out later this year, which I will certainly look out for.

The Sea Change and Other Stories is published by The Swan River Press

Friday, March 15, 2013

Love and the Goddess by Mary Elizabeth Coen

Love and the Goddess is Mary E. Coen's first work of fiction having worked as a teacher and a PR consultant and has set up a website to complement it where she shares her love of cookery, fashion, mythology and blogs It's almost ironic that I started this book on March 8th, International Women's Day because the main character, Kate, is one who finds herself empowered after her very smart and finicky older husband pushes her aside for a new model.


Love and the Goddess addresses that problem that is faced by separated and divorced adults of how you go about coming to terms with your new situation and how you meet new people. Kate Canavan is a woman that has been hiding her inner self in order to please and conform to her husband's expectations. His bombshell request for a divorce coincides with her student daughter's departure for Boston for a three month placement with a law firm which leaves Kate to have time alone to consider her new life. Whilst some encourage her to take time to be alone with her thoughts and to consider her real feelings about herself as a person, her best friend Ella encourages her to get right out there immediately and to sample the new world to Kate of Internet dating. So sets the scene for some disastrous dates and some which show early potential. It is a world that some readers will relate to and even those unfamiliar with the process will find equally funny, sad and sometimes downright disturbing. Overall however, Kate's attitude to her situation is one that is inspirational through the positive attitude she seems able to bring to it.
Kate's love of mythology carries through the novel, in particular with her online identity of 'Persephone' and two other Goddesses  Also ever present is her openness to a more alternative holistic approach to life. This makes itself known when Kate's health is called into question and she takes control in an unconventional manner as her voyage of self-discovery takes her far from her native Galway home .


Mary E. Coen's book Love and the Goddess is a very enjoyable read. The main character Kate is most likeable and her friend Ella the perfect foil with her lighter more playful approach to life. It has been self-published and is for sale on Amazon, at Easons and Dubray bookshops and online at Kennys Bookshop (free post).