All Reviews

Fish Scales

Zoe Gilbert, Folk

reviewed by Jessica Sequeira

Against the recent tide of first-person narrators with a direct voice and contemporary worries comes a book interested in traditional folk stories, narrated in thick, unhurried prose. Zoe Gilbert’s Folk is a set of interlocking short stories (which the publisher prefers to call a novel) based in a single location, ‘Neverness.’ This place is perhaps inspired by Inverness and the Isle of Man, somewhere northern at any rate, but it is an invention. So thoroughly has Gilbert created her... [read more]

Mothers, Alligators and Bad Men

Lauren Groff, Florida

reviewed by Hannah Williams

Motherhood is an act that must always be discussed, must always be weighed and measured and judged, in a way that fatherhood has never been. When we talk of motherhood, we talk of breaking a part of yourself. We talk of vomiting, sickness, even death. We talk about flipping cars, of fighting bears, of improved smell and hearing and sight. One of the most talked-about recent books on the subject has been Sheila Heti’s Motherhood, a meditation on how to make a decision where there is no answer.... [read more]

‘Whoever believes it, feels it’

Sharlene Teo, Ponti

reviewed by Leon Craig

‘Today marks my sixteenth year on this hot, horrible earth. I am stuck in school, standing with my palms pressed against a green wall. I am pressing so hard that my fingers ache. I am tethered to this wall my own shame.’ Sharlene Teo’s Ponti has one of the best opening chapters I have read in a contemporary novel in a long time. Szu’s voice is immediately audible, her concerns intelligible, her physical presence palpable. Szu is eccentric, clever and irreverent. She is miserable at... [read more]

Sinister Shapes Emerge

Ann Quin, The Unmapped Country: Stories and Fragments

reviewed by Liam Harrison

Ann Quin’s writing has been largely neglected since her untimely death in 1973. She died by drowning in her hometown of Brighton, just as her precursor Virginia Woolf had died in the same county 32 years earlier. Quin was part of the British avant-garde scene of the 1960s, which included BS Johnson and Christine Brooke-Rose, who were interested in pushing beyond the narrow confines of ‘realist’ literature. She travelled to Mexico, Greece and the US, and the landscapes of these countries... [read more]

Shadows and Flights

Rupert M. Loydell, Talking Shadows

reviewed by Martin Casely

Anyone who’s keen to follow the many publications of poet-artist Rupert M. Loydell needs to pick up on his limited-run, small press productions as well as his more accessible, orthodox publications. Fugitive editions abound, mail-art proliferates and every so often, a nicely-produced booklet like Talking Shadows appears in the letter-box. Loydell has been wildly productive ever since his days running Stride magazine in the 1990s and the recent Stride website, and he shows no signs of... [read more]

Nobody's Muse

Whitney Chadwick, The Militant Muse: Love, War and the Women of Surrealism

reviewed by Xenobe Purvis

Look through the work of the male surrealists in the first half of the 20th century and you will find a wealth of female bodies. An orgy of them. They are objectified by the artists’ lustful gaze. They are sliced up, decapitated, and distorted. They are reduced to children, to Alices in Wonderland. Over and again, we see how significant women were to the surrealist movement – as muses, giving their bodies up to be picked over by the men. Max Ernst’s collage novel Une Semaine de Bonté,... [read more]

Unravel, ravel, unravel

AK Blakemore, Fondue

reviewed by Jenna Clake

‘If you are a woman, writing about your experience of being a woman, you are part of one of the most avant-garde literary movements there has ever been,’ writes AK Blakemore in her manifesto for the Poetry Review. Fondue, her second full-length collection, explores the experience of being a woman: what it means to desire, to be desired, and to try to reconcile this desire with feminism and feminist thought. The title, Fondue, suggests dipping into something, oozing, being covered; it... [read more]

In the Absence of Facts

Alex Pheby, Lucia

reviewed by Genevieve Sartor

The shadowy figure of Lucia Joyce, James Joyce’s supposedly schizophrenic daughter, offers a fascinating and underdeveloped topic ripe for imaginative reconstructions of who she was and what she may have experienced. A number of fictive portrayals of Lucia have been instigated by the only biography written on her, Carol Shloss’s Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake (2003). This text remains a principal reference for those curious about Lucia despite the fact that it has been unfavourably... [read more]

One Guided Meditation

Will Eaves, Murmur

reviewed by Oscar Yuill

‘My own predicament – a mathematician and homosexual who has done serviceable work in logic and computational theory but who has run foul of an illogical system of justice – seems very unremarkable.’ Readers in search of anything as straightforward as the above had better avoid Will Eaves’s fourth novel, Murmur, for it has achieved the holy grail of modern prose: conveying consciousness. And being in the stream of another’s mind would not be a coherent experience. ‘What is it... [read more]

Who is Kathy?

Olivia Laing, Crudo

reviewed by Matthew Turner

It’s often said that we don’t read anymore, but look around any coffee shop, park or commuter train and people are constantly scanning and reading various feeds on their phones. Even people reading a physical book will often have a phone perched in front of it – hidden in the gutter margin like a dirty magazine – reading from both as if they are conjuring a real-time cut-up or montage between screen and page. It seems there’s a distinction between reading a novel and something such as... [read more]