Flaming Bodies

Impressions after a slow read: itemised wealth and pageantry of 18th century empire; the foregrounded fortunes of a maimed soldier and his seer beloved, book-ended by flaming bodies of the Inquisition. The human cost of building the palace of Mafra. Parades, processions, convoys – the royal entourage, bleeding barefoot novices, press-ganged artisans marched to Mafra, […]

The Gorgeous Grisly

#thebookonmytable Kevin Barry: Night Boat to Tangier, Canongate Books, 2020 (2019) Some novels, you think (improbably), “I could’ve written this.” But Night Boat to Tangier? Never. Neither the what nor the how of it. Gorgeous phrases, grisly world. Every line charged, explosive with danger, humour, menace, pain. The narrative swerving against expectation. A master class […]

No longer SO modern

#thebookonmytable Malcolm Bradbury (ed): The Penguin Book of Modern Short Stories, 1987 “Modern” in anthology titles is asking for trouble, if you ask me – like “final” in document file names. What’s dated and what still shines? I relished the stories by V.S. Pritchett, Angus Wilson, Muriel Spark and Rose Tremain. Unexamined sexism and othering […]

Volcanic Chill

#thebookonmytable In Reykjavik in the 1960s, Hekla, named for a volcano, is driven to write. But she hasn’t told her lover the poet that she writes and so she can’t get up from his bed to record the sentences that come to her in the night. I try to fix my gaze on the moon […]


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