‘A Lovely Way to Burn’ by Louise Welsh

A Lovely Way to BurnAny regular readers of my blog will know that I have a thing for dystopian fiction. I also love a good crime novel. Louise Welsh’s new novel, ‘A Lovely Way to Burn’, is a mash up of these two genres and so was always going to be hit in my book.

Stevie Flint is horrified when she discovers the dead body of her boyfriend, Simon. But having reported it to the police, she’s immediately struck down by a debilitating flu-like illness. When she recovers, she emerges to find that people across the country are being struck down by a mysterious, and in most cases fatal, sickness known as the ‘sweats’. It soon becomes clear that people are dying in droves – and there’s nothing that the doctors can do.

Despite everything that’s going on, Stevie is determined to find out what happened to Simon – and when she finds a package addressed to her hidden in Simon’s flat, she is convinced there’s more to the story. Continue reading

Jane Casey’s ‘After the Fire’

After the fireA fire rips through the top two floors of a tower block, leaving three people dead. One of the dead happens to be the controversial right-wing MP Geoff Armstrong – one who has no business being in those flat that night, so far from home. Of those who made it out before the blaze took hold, a young boy is separated from his mother, an illegal prostitute flees the scene with nothing but the clothes on her back and a child from one of the block’s more dubious families suffers horrific burns.

To make things worse, it soon becomes clear that the fire is arson and Geoff Armstrong may not have jumped to his death to avoid the flames – he may have been murdered. With such a high profile death, the force are under increasing scrutiny and pressure to get to the bottom of the situation as fast as possible. But with any number of motives, potential suspects and possible intended victims, narrowing down the search is an enormous ask. Continue reading

‘A Place called Winter’ by Patrick Gale

a place called winterWhen Patrick Gale’s latest novel opens, protagonist Harry Cane is incarcerated in a mental asylum. As we read on, we find out more about his life and how he ended up there.

Born as raised in England as the eldest son of a wealthy businessman, Harry lives a relatively idle life. Shy and with a stammer that embarrasses him, he enters into a happy but platonic marriage. When he enters into an illicit, passionate affair, he starts to discover more about himself and his sexuality.

When he’s inevitably discovered, he’s forced to leave his family behind under the threat of scandal and imprisonment. Harry emigrates to Canada, where he’s allocated a remote homestead in a place called Winter. It’s a harsh environment, and to succeed in his new life Harry has to learn a whole new set of skills – building a home from scratch and clearing his land for farming.

On his travels he meets Troels, a dangerous and sadistic man who makes a living from exploiting the many homesteaders that fail in their efforts to start afresh in the Canadian prairies. His relationship with Troels is dark, twisted and unsettling, and his negative influence pervades the whole book, even after Harry forms a new bond with his neighbour, Paul, and his sister, Petra. Eventually, this troubled relationship forces Harry to make a terrible decision.

Harry at the beginning of the novel is shy, withdrawn and has no real purpose in life. He drifts aimlessly, whiling his days away as best he can. His marriage and its breakdown, plus the irrevocable spilt with the only family he has, shakes him to the core – but it also wipes the slate clean in a sense. After his enforced new start in Canada, he discovers the value of working for himself, a sense of achievement and real love and friendship for the first time. Continue reading

London’s top literary locations

London is jam-packed with inspiration for literature lovers. If you’re in need of inspiration, here’s my top five literary locations worth a visit in the city…

IMG_14981. If you want to combine some literary attractions with socialising with your not-so-book-geeky friends, Fitzrovia’s pubs are overflowing with literary history. The historically bohemian area has been home to many literary greats – from Virginia Woolf to George Bernard Shaw. The Fitzroy Tavern and the nearby The Wheatsheaf were both frequented by some of the UK’s literary stalwarts in their day. The Fitzroy Tavern in particular is full of photographs and steeped in history and tradition – George Orwell and Dylan Thomas were regular drinkers here.

2. The British Library often hosts literary events and talks. They currently have an exhibition on called ‘Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination’, which looks the impact of the gothic theme has had on our culture, featuring iconic works like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula and going all the way through to Twilight! I haven’t been yet, but it’s on my to do list! If you explore the events page on the library’s website, there’s usually something on to suit all ages and interests.

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3. For second hand book-lovers, the book market under Waterloo Bridge is a must see. It’s open every day and usually offers a huge selection of pre-owned or antique books for great prices. It’s just outside the Southbank Centre and the river bank itself often plays host to events and food festivals, meaning there’s always plenty more to do and see in the surrounding area.

4. Southwark’s Shakespeare’s Globe theatre is another one that has to feature on this list. Today’s theatre is a reconstruction of the famous Elizabethan playhouse. Performances of Shakespeare’s works are as authentic as possible – there are no spotlights or microphones and all music is performed life – and all of the materials used in the building mirror the original, right down to the fact that the theatre has the only thatched roof allowed in the city since the Great Fire of London in 1666. Although plays are only performed during the summer months, thanks to the open-air nature of the building, educational tours are available all year round.

5. Finally, Bunfields Burial Ground is the resting place of some of the UK’s literary greats, including William Blake and Joseph Defoe, and is always worth a visit. It may seem macabre, but it’s just a short walk from Old Street tube and the park attached to the cemetery is a beautiful spot to enjoy on a sunny day.

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