Modern Times

Cathy Sweeney

Reviewed by Alison Burns

In ‘Flowers in Water’, Sweeney makes a whole story out of a man’s devotion to making invisible films. When he watches these with his estranged daughter, you believe that they are seeing the same things. In ‘The Woman Whose Child Was A Very Old Man’, a revolutionary and perfectly effective solution to childcare is suggested. The married couple in ‘The Chair’ develop a routine that helps them to deal with their anger (Doris Lessing would have loved this one) [Read more...] in Reviews

Miss Mole

E.H. Young

Reviewed by Lesley Glaister

Hannah Mole is brave, well-meaning, optimistic and warm-hearted as well as being gloriously, humanely and realistically flawed. Hannah is nearing forty and hardly a beauty, having sallow skin, ‘a satirical nose’ and a questionable wardrobe. She’s one of the class of women, who, having no husband or home of her own, is forced to move from situation to situation, the predicament of so many women of her class: ‘A sad multitude … with carefully pleasant faces, hiding their ailments, lowering their ages and thankfully accepting less than they earned’ [Read more...] in Reviews

Frying Plantain

Zalika Reid-Benta

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Kara is shaping up to be a most appealing character: strong, observant, conflicted, lonely. Her mother and grandmother (‘Nana’) don’t get on, partly perhaps because Eloise herself got pregnant at 17 – a fate Eloise is determined to spare her daughter. Nana spends her time when she’s not at church obsessively cooking and vacuuming; when her obstinate husband (Kara’s grandfather) turns up, she ignores him and refuses to feed him. Everybody else shouts and screams, while food is forced upon them [Read more...] in Reviews

The Housing Lark

Sam Selvon

Reviewed by Zoë Fairbairns

Teena is sceptical about the boys’ housing lark. ‘You know the distresses we have to go through, you know the arse black people see to get a roof over their heads in this country, and yet, the way you all behave is as if you haven’t a worry in the world… Just full your belly with rum and food… walk about, catch women, stand up by the market place talking a set of shit day in and day out. That is what you come to Brit’n to do? Fellars like you muddy the waters for West Indians who trying to live decent in the country [Read more...] in Reviews

Blasted Things

Lesley Glaister

Reviewed by Elizabeth Hilliard Selka

Blasted Things is a clever title. It references explosions on the battlefield, relevant to the field hospital setting and personnel, but the phrase is also a slang expression of dismissal which one might use referring to any object or possession or garment which is in the way or a nuisance or unfit for purpose. In her PTSD distress, Clementine herself feels detached, dislocated and unfit for the life to which she has returned, a life in which it is men who ostensibly call the shots and shape the narrative [Read more...] in Reviews

Man of My Time

Dalia Sofer

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

The gift of Hamid’s father’s ashes in a peppermint tin, which the son must carry around in his pocket – Hamid has been tasked with taking them back to Iran for burial – is but one of the bitter notes of humour and lingering symbols to be found in this melancholy but fully-fleshed portrait of inescapable taint. Hamid’s account of becoming the man he is offers no exculpation. Instead his ashy vision wraps all the characters in a cloak of greater or lesser complicity, misfortune and corruption [Read more...] in Reviews

The Lost Lights of St Kilda

Elisabeth Gifford

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

Gifford’s writing is lyrical, drawing the reader into the extraordinary world of St Kilda, with its exceptional beauty and close-knit community. She does not shy away from the many hardships of island life, nor the inherent dangers: high winds can blow sheep (and people) over the giant cliffs to certain death. The relationships are finely wrought, the love triangle between Chrissie, Archie and Fred especially [Read more...] in Reviews