Heroes’ Welcome by Louisa Young

louisa young

Published by The Borough Press

Book Review Rating ♥♥♥

The review for this book can be found here. Or alternatively go to the left hand side column, place your mouse over ‘Review of non-Bailey’s books by author, (U-Z) and there you will find the review.


When Vanity Publishing Turns Dangerous

Originally posted on Lady Fancifull:

I know that it seems progressively harder to get published, as more and more books seem to become yet another commodity, and fabulous advance bidding wars are fought over the rights of (sometimes mediocre) books which are snapped up for megas because someone sees FILM RIGHTS or MERCHANDISING.

Meanwhile, the role of the carefully crafting book editor, nurturing a talent, working with a writer over decades, seems to be in decline

Inevitably the ‘well I can publish this myself on digi’ beckons, and clearly some writers find this hits the sweet spot – 50 Shades the classic example.

Now I’m sure there are wonderfully written books out there which failed to get publication the normal route, and the authors of them are desperate to get reviewers to try their free downloads to see if genuine enthusiasm can get the work read, as it absolutely deserves to be.

But it is…

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Say it with me: Ulyyyysssseeeeeeeees

Originally posted on Bluestalking:

Blogger Chris Sullivan of Women’s Prize for Fiction Book Reviews and I are collaborating on what will hopefully be a scintillating group read of Joyce’s Ulysses.

No, no don’t be scared! We’ll make it worth your time! Besides, didn’t you vow to yourself you’d read this book before you died? Won’t you feel incomplete if you don’t? Could I bribe you somehow?

Oh, be that way.

Chris of Edinburgh and I of Chicago will soldier on. We want you to come along but I won’t plead (first typed “please”). At least not TOO MUCH.

Oh please oh please won’t you?

Whatever. It’s going to start in August. Be there or be… somewhere else, I guess. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be sobbing. Heartbroken without you. But no, no. That’s not important. You obviously have better things to do.

Oh please oh please won’t you?


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A Crime in the Neighbourhood by Suzanne Berne


Published by Penguin Books, 1998.

Book Review Rating 

Shortlisted for the Orange prize for Fiction in 1999.

In the long hot summer of 1972, three events shattered the serenity of ten year old Marsha’s life: her father ran away with her mother’s sister Ada; Boyd Ellison, a young boy, was molested and murdered in a woodland area behind a shopping mall; and Watergate made the headlines.

Marsha Mayhew lived with her mother and two siblings in the Spring Hill neighbourhood near an East Coast city. With its box shaped lawns, square trimmed trees and doors left unlocked at night, the Spring Hill neighbourhood was ordinary. The closest the term ‘crime’ in Spring Hill and its adjacent mall could be used in association with any wrong-doing was shoplifting or a dog being run over and the driver not stopping.

Boyd Ellison and his parents lived in that neighbourhood. Young twelve year old Boyd’s death would palpably alter Spring Hill. Subtle forms of vigilantism permeated the neighbourhood with local men patrolling the streets at night in pairs and even Marsha in her own small, naive way becomes part of that vigilantism by recording everything that happens in her notebook. Those recordings will not only impact on her and her mother but on the neighbourhood as a whole and especially on Marsha’s neighbour, Mr Green.

Suzanne Berne’s debut novel, her most recent The Dogs of Littlefield being long-listed for the 2014 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, is a well-crafted, well observed slice of not only suburbia but America in the early years of the 1970s. The author captures a societal collapse instigated not only by the death of local boy but by the ongoing realization that the Watergate scandal will change the United States forever.

The author captures a more delicate societal collapse within a family through the eyes of a ten year old in a way that mirrors, to some extent, Harper Lee’s, To Kill a Mockingbird. Suzanne Berne has instilled Marsha with a voice as resonant and ironic as touching as that of Scout Finch. The author bravely portrays Boyd Ellison as a bully and a boy who would continually ask children to borrow their things or would simply take it. Marsha wonders if all this asking meant that he had ‘asked’ to be killed. 

“this…is how life can change: you can ask for what happens to you, without realizing what you’re asking for. Perhaps, this is supposed to be fate…Fate might be no more than a mischance…the decision to take a shortcut…through the woods behind a shopping mall.”

Despite dealing with the sombre and sensitive issues of the death of a young boy and the break-up of a marriage the novel is capable of emitting tenderness and humour. The author has managed to combine all these ingredients without allowing one to overpower the other and so spoil the recipe. Added to this recipe is the subtle undertow of satire that permeates the novel. The Watergate scandal will profoundly affect the American people and bring them out of their political complacency. But, like the men who patrolled the neighbourhood of Spring Hill after Boyd Ellison’s death people will eventually come to the conclusion that these events are not the norm, America is still a great country and these events are anomalies. Marsha’s mother will become one of statistics in the increasing divorce rate of the 1970s which will result in driving her and other women to increase their education and work experience.

This winner of the 1999 Orange Prize for Fiction is written in a simple, lucid ineluctable style. The novel evocatively recreates the sights and sounds of the Spring Hill suburb to such an extent that one can almost smell the manicured lawns and feel the heat of the summer sun as it shines down incongruously on a neighbourhood where a dark shadow now looms on the streets and in the homes of the residents.

Suzanne Berne’s novel shows how a neighbourhood can be affected and changed not only due to local events but larger national events within or without the country one lives in. These events are mistakes. Mistakes not only created by oneself but by others  can impact on your life. Mistakes can leave us feeling vulnerable due to us not always knowing how much they will affect us. 

“Because the truth is, mistakes are where life really happens. Mistakes are when we get tricked into realizing something we never meant to realize, which is why stories about mistakes. Mistakes are the moments when we don’t know what will happen to us next. An appalling, exhilarating thought. And while we entertain it, the secret dreaming life comes groping out.”


First Line – “In 1972 Spring Hill was as safe a neighbourhood as you could find near an East Coast city, one of those instant subdivisions where brick split-levels and two-car garages had been planted like cabbages on squares of quiet green lawn.”

Memorable Line – “I believed that my father’s departure had deeply jarred the domestic order not just in our house, but in the neighbourhood, and by extension the country, since in those days my neighborhood was my country.”

If you enjoyed this review or found it helpful and you have the time, click here  to go to my review on Amazon.co.uk and hit the helpful button. Thank you.


No’ of Pages – 248

Sex Scenes – No

Profanity – No

Genre – Fiction

The next 1999 shortlisted book I will be reading is;


Edinburgh Book Festival


I have now received all my tickets for the Edinburgh Book Festival. I have bought tickets to see Audrey Magee (who wrote, The Undertaking, recently shortlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. Click here for my review of that book), Richard Dawkins, Denise Mina (one of the judges of the 2014 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. She kindly answered a questionnaire which can be found here), Helen Dunmore (Click here for a review of her book A Spell of Winter), Michael Schimdt, Dave Gorman, Martin Amis plus a few others. There are a few writers I would have liked to see but unfortunately they were sold out when I applied. I’m hoping to nab some returned tickets.

One of those I had hoped to see and hear was Haruki Murakami but apparently the tickets sold out in seconds. Here’s hoping someone returns their tickets because they cannot make the day of the talk. Schadenfreude at work, sorry.

August cannot come quick enough, not only because that is when the festival is held but my daughter also returns from Germany.

Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed.


Published by Lake Union Publishing

Book Review Rating - ♥♥♥

The review for this book can be found here. Or alternatively go to the left hand side column, place your mouse over ‘Review of non-Bailey’s books by author, (Q-T) and there you will find the review.

Love, Like, Hate, Adore by Deirdre Purcell.


Published by Pan Books

Book Review Rating - ♥♥♥♥

Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 1998

Angela Devine has raised her nineteen year old brother, James, since he was three months old. Her mother, a substance abuser, died leaving behind five children, all the progeny of different fathers. Angela persuaded the social workers to allow her to raise James instead of being taken into care as has happened with her other three siblings.

It’s now Dublin, 1996, and Angela keeps her head above financial waters by working three jobs; as a cleaner, kissogram and wedding singer. Angela loves her brother as if he was her own son, trying to protect him from everything that is bad in the world. However, that ‘motherly’ protection becomes much more difficult when James is accused of rape. 

“…you’ll forgive if sometimes I use what you might think are inappropriate words. Or at the least words above my station! I’m not all that educated and my grammar or tenses may not always be the best…But I adore words…I have to squish a lot of them when they pop into my mouth in case people think I’m showing off.”

Angela not only has to ‘squish’ words but also her thoughts, emotions and relationships. She also squishes her own desires, like finding her father, so that all her energy is focused on giving James all the love and attention that she never received from her own mother. Like a ‘mother’ she refuses to acknowledge that James is now a nineteen year man and still perceives him as a young boy.

Angela is an ordinary woman but has an extraordinary strength of character and resilience. That extraordinary strength is pushed to its outer limits when James is arrested on the charge of rape. Angela can’t and will not believe it and she begins to ask questions that she knows she shouldn’t be contemplating; was it the girl’s fault by leading James on or was she lying to cover up her own indiscretion; 

“Do you know what I think? I think she got in a row at home about where she was that afternoon – maybe they started getting on her case about mitching from her bookkeeping course. Or the mother found grass stains on her – or even the torn knickers. Yes, that would have been it. She had no way to explain the state of those knickers without implicating herself. So to defend herself she cried rape.”

Deidre Purcell has written an astonishing novel about the ordinary. An ordinary woman leading a prosaic life, invisible to others, walking a road well travelled but possessing an inner strength that will come to the fore in a three month period that will change her life. Angela Devine is a wonderful character written in an unapologetically honest manner. This honesty is why this reader allowed their emotions to be dragged through the proverbial ringer, bleeding profusely but still willing to follow Angela through to the end.

The honesty that pervades the book not only comes in the writing of Angela’s character but also the character of Dublin in the 1990s. No clichéd holiday brochure like mention of the warm welcome, the pubs full of music and the engaging craic. 

“Shut up, shut up, you don’t know. It’s like effin’ Beirut out there. You can’t walk down a street any more with any of your friends. You can’t have a drink in a pub, and it’s not only at night, it can be the middle of the day, you don’t have to do anything to them, you only have to be minding your own business. It’s all right for women, they don’t get hassle-“

Ms Purcell has written a novel that one can honestly write about as being genuinely difficult to put down. The author has managed to avoid all those clichés that appear in so many modern Irish novels: the religiously zealous mother, the alcoholic father, the abusive uncle and the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland is mentioned only in passing. It is a genuinely powerful book that doesn’t resort to literary tricks or contorted techniques to capture the reader’s attention.

Angela has a love of language that shines through the novel like sun through stained glass. She also has a sharp sense of humour that punctuates a novel that could have easily allowed itself to drown in Angela and James’s despair. However, the novel’s humour, warmth and audacious writing do more to help one to understand the nature of the startling, unquestioning love one can feel for another person even when that person has been accused of a heinous crime. 

First Line – “Every second of this summer hammered a spike into my memory.”

Memorable Line – “It’s funny how people can just slip out of your life. You’d think you’d have some clue. In a film you’d have all the music, telling you it was significant. It’s always a humbling experience to know that something terrifically important to you is of no importance whatsoever to the world at large.”

Number of Pages – 483

Profanity – None

Sex Scenes – Yes but not explicit

Genre – Fiction

So, Deirdre Purcell’s novel brings me to the end of the shortlist for 1998. Below are the five other books that made up the 1998 shortlist:

Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirstin Bakis

The Ventriloquist’s Tale by Pauline Melville

The Magician’s Assistant by Anne Patchett

Larry’s Party by Carol Shields

The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve

The winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction for 1998 was Larry’s Party by Carol Shields. My own choice for the winner for 1998 would have been Anita Shreve’s, The Weight of Water with Anne Patchett coming a very close second.

So, now onto the 1999 shortlist and the six novels chosen were;

A Crime in the Neighborhood by Suzanne Berne

The Leper’s Companions by Julia Blackburn

Visible Worlds by Marilyn Bowering

The Short History of a Prince by Jane Hamilton

The Poisoned Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Paradise by Toni Morrison.