Tag Archives: violence

The Secret Place: Because you like to read about violence.


I can see why some people read only mystery and suspense novels. They are so. fun. Or at least, Tana French’s The Secret Place was so. fun. I mean, if you look past the murder of a teenage boy and the fraught and disturbing presentation of adolescent femininity and friendship. Yep. If you can focus just on the investigation, the unravelling of who did what and when, the certainty that everyone is lying all the time (but why? to whom?) then it’s a lot of fun. Continue reading


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Filed under Bestseller, Fiction, Mystery

A Brief History Of Seven Killings: In which I quit reading the book


I didn’t finish Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings. I read enough of it that I’m okay writing a review, but if you find my incomplete reading problematic by all means – skip the review. (and I’m sorry M. though maybe you want to quit, too?)

So why did I stop? Continue reading


Filed under Book I'll Forget I Read, Prize Winner

The Library at Mount Char: 3 Life Lessons from Attending a Public Sci-Fi Book Club (and then an actual book review)


  1. You think you know the kind of people who attend an open-invitation Sci-Fi/Fantasy book club because you have ideas about the kind of people who a) read Sci-Fi/Fantasy and b) attend open-invitation book clubs. Your ideas are not charitable. And they have – for some reason – not expanded to include yourself (even though you are attending said club). Like most occasions when you confront your assumptions (about anything) you discover that there is much more variety involved and far fewer references to LoTR (though there is one).
  2. Your belief that you can power-read* a novel (in under a day) (the way you did in undergrad) is as steadfast – and as erroneous – as your belief that you can still drink the whole bottle of wine and not get a hangover. You learn that you are older than you once were, and older than you imagine yourself to be.
  3.  Open-invitation book clubs include 500% less conversation about pregnancy, childbirth and baby-rearing than all your other book clubs combined. Which is to say: none. Unless these conversations are relevant to the book. You realize these baby-less spaces are precious and that – right now in your life – you need them.**

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Filed under Fiction, Mystery

Mr Mac and Me: In Praise of the Small

Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Landscape Near Walberswick, 1914Esther Freud’s Mr Mac and Me sets out to tell the story of the impact of the beginning of the First World War on a British coastal village and the people who live there. Ranging from the introduction of blackout and rationing to the surveillance of ‘enemy aliens’ to grief in response to devastating casualties to the introduction of local building code restrictions the novel charts the pervasiveness of the changes. It does so beautifully, fully and quietly.

By focusing on the narrative of one – foot twisted – teenage boy, Thomas, the reader is offered a particular, if expansive, lens through which to view the depth and extent of the impact of the war. In the opening moments of the story Thomas befriends a tourist couple, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Margaret MacDonald, who speak German and use binoculars to look at flowers (dangerous, indeed). [Not being much of an art follower I didn’t realize Mackintosh (the titular “Mac”) was a “real life” artist until doing a bit of reading beyond the text. Turns out he’s a big enough deal to have his own “society” and a number of proper biographies]. The collected experiences of Thomas and Mac are not grand or typically heroic, they are, instead, small and sincere (for instance Thomas borrows Mac’s binoculars in an attempt to save him from prison). Yet in the smallness of their story are woven the titanic changes of the time and the contours of total war: shifting gender roles, cataclysmic technological changes, xenophobia, state control of movement/habit and economy and the uncertainty of what is to come (I found this most impressive, that as we readers know how and when the war will end, Freud achieves the opacity of the future for her characters in a subtle, yet masterful, way).

The uncertainty of what is to come concludes the novel. I am, myself, uncertain about how I feel about the conclusion. Rather than spoil anything, I’d encourage you to read Mr Mac and Me and to let me know how you reacted to its ending and what you think it means for the power – and limits – of self-actualization and imagination.


Filed under British literature, Historical Fiction