Mid-Year Review


The solstice has passed and we’re into the second half of 2015, and it is the dreaded time of lists and banal, meaningless round-ups of books that people have read so far this year. And here I am to jump in on the bandwagon.

The only reason I’d say this is significant in any way is that already this year I’ve read a few books that I would probably (but time will tell) list amongst some of the best I’ve read. Quite a claim yes, but life is short, so claims have to be big to instil anything but dread in the claimer.

The book that I would say has the greatest claim to join the pantheon of the best books I’ve ever read, is the trilogy from Agota Kristof ‘The Notebook/The Proof/The Third Lie’. Published by the great indie publisher, CB Editions, the books are simply designed, as if wrapped in a brown paper bag, smuggled into somewhere where their contents may be subversive. The trilogy has a quiet power, so subtle yet with such a forcible punch to the gullet of the reader. Just read them, you don’t need me to tell you what they’re about.

Another book that struck a real chord with me this year was Lee Rourke’s ‘The Canal’. I was sitting on the 38 bus from Hackney when the character in the book joined me on the top deck in a wonderful collision of the real and fiction. Again a book of such adept simplicity, but with such depth and a rich sense of place. Rourke is surely one of the best British writers we have at the moment, and I can’t praise this slim book enough.

From the canal I made my way to Hackney Marshes, picking up a copy of Gareth E Rees’ ‘Marshland’, from the brilliant indie publisher Influx Press. I’ve recently moved to Hackney, so in many ways it was great timing to read Gareth’s book of time-travel, surrealism and myth, set around Walthamstow and Hackney Marshes, as it evokes such a vivid picture of the landscape that was new and undiscovered to me. It’s such a brilliant intertwining of humour, history and fables, and Gareth balances the real with the surreal giving the reader the freedom to discover their own history of the area. Surely already an essential London text.

There’s two other books that I would also mention, ‘The Museum of Unconditional Surrender’ by Dubravka Ugresic and ‘Sphinx’ by Anne Garreta. Two very different books in some ways, but they both resonated with me in terms of feeling lost in an urban space. In Ugresic’s case, being an exile and in Garreta’s the fallout of love, but both explore how the City accompanies our trials and tribulations in life.

Without going on and on, two others are ‘The Dead of Winter’ by Dominic Cooper and the ‘Afterimage’ story in ‘Suspended Sentences’ by Patrick Modiano. You’ve run out of attention here, so just read them.


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