Thursday, 30 June 2016

A Northern Gentleman by Lane Everett

Reviewer: Barbara Scott Emmett, author of Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion, The Land Beyond Goodbye, and Don’t Look Down.

What We Thought: Drucker May is twenty-five years old and the privileged son of a wealthy banker. In line to take over the bank's presidency, he fritters away his time at his desk pretending to work. Determined not to repeat his father's life, he leaves the boredom of a certain future behind and sets off to find himself in 1890s America.

Through a series of adventures in various towns along the railroad line west from his home in Atlanta to the Californian coast, he comes to realise who he is and what he is capable of. This realisation is not always a pleasant one.

Drucker has many talents and abilities, deception of others and himself not being the least of them. Misunderstandings and uncorrected assumptions lead the various people he meets to thrust roles upon him; roles which, like that of future bank presiident, he soon wishes to escape.

Mistaken for a detective, he solves a mystery – though it takes him longer than it should since he's blinded by lust. Next he becomes a campaign manager for a politician, falls in love and gets stung in a disastrous poker game. Spiralling ever downward, he is led into further deceptions making the reader wonder just how far he will go before he finally sees himself in his true colours.

Drucker May is an engaging, if somewhat naive, character and A Northern Gentleman investigates his self-delusion and ultimate search for truth. Though set in the late 19th century, the historical aspect is lightly touched upon and hardly seems to matter. This is a story that could be happening any time, anywhere.

Part picaresque, part Wizard of Oz, this is a well-written (if occasionally overly explanatory) novel that carries hope even in the depths of despair. I read it with a dawning delight.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Novels dealing with Coming of Age and Self-Realisation.

Avoid if you dislike:
Episodic novels.

Ideal accompaniments: Cold cucumber soup, a glass of Mule Skinner whiskey and a railroad timetable.

Genre: General/Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction.

Available from Amazon







Sunday, 26 June 2016

Kal by Judy Nunn

Reviewer: Liza Perrat, author of Spirit of Lost Angels, Wolfsangel and Blood Rose Angel

What we thought: Kal tells the story of two families spanning two generations: Giovanni flees the Italian Alps after his part in a family tragedy and Caterina is banished to the other side of the world in order to protect her family’s honour. Both of them end up in Kalgoorlie, Western Australian town that sprouted up from the red desert dust and the world’s richest vein of gold in the late 1880s. Kalgoorlie was a place for people looking for adventure; a place to start life anew and possibly find one’s fortune in gold. Here the Italians cross paths with the Australian Brearley family: Maudie, who runs a miners’ pub and her husband Harry, charismatic conman, and his son, Jack.

The Australian population of Kalgoolie resents the hardworking Italian miners, and a terrible, life-long vendetta is ignited between the two families when the Italians feel they have been cheated out of their mine.

Apart from the tale of these two families, Kal is also a moving romance and a suspense-infused adventure story. With its twists and turns, the plot is rich in characters, and brilliantly evokes the atmosphere of Kalgoorlie and its goldfields, the desolate and unforgiving landscape, WW1 and Gallipoli, and the people whose lives were shaped by these events, both in Australia and in Europe.

A rollicking great read!

You’ll like this if you enjoy: Easy to read, well-researched Australian family sagas filled with romance and action.

Avoid if you don’t like: Australian and European modern history. Outback towns.

Ideal accompaniments: Beer and a comfortable chair.

Genre: Historical fiction.

Available from Amazon

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes


Reviewer: Gillian Hamer, author of The Charter, Closure, Complicit, Crimson Shore & False Lights. (www.gillianhamer.com)


What we thought: Okay, hands up, before we start I will be honest and say this book made me cry. Twice. And I don’t cry at books.

So, you probably can tell from the opening that this is going to be an enthusiastic review. In fact, it was the media hype about the new film of the novel, that prompted something in my brain to remember I'd downloaded this book on my Kindle an age ago when it was on promotion. Between reads, I thought I’d give it a try and see what all the fuss was about. And boy, oh boy, am I glad that I did.

This is a story of humanity. It’s a story of people. It’s a story of love, connection, reality, loss and many, many more human emotions that come under the spotlight to be examined and presented by one seriously talented author.

Read the synopsis alone and you would assume this story would be totally depressing … it’s actually anything but. Lead character is Louisa Clark, a bright but aimless girl, who drifts between dead-end jobs until she takes a post as carer to a quadriplegic man. Will Traynor was a high-flying business man in his previous life and is unable to adapt to his disability. Consequently, Will’s not the easiest person to be around, his family are more hindrance than help, and within the first twenty-four hours Louisa comes to realise she’s made a serious mistake.

But over time something between Will and Louisa connects. Yes, they like each other. Eventually there’s even an attraction. But it’s more than that, it’s a soulmate-type connection and a deep understanding that fuses them together. When it stops being just a job to Louisa, and she acknowledges her true feelings about Will, the future seems bright. But then she hears the truth the family have been hiding from her about Will’s plans, and she knows her life will never be the same again.

Yes, I cried. The first time the couple sat down and talked honestly about their feelings and Will opened up about his life. And secondly, the closing scene was so perfect that it was hard to close the page (or power down the Kindle) and I’m pleased to hear there’s a follow-on book to turn too.

So, Me Before You should 100% be on your summer reading list. I don’t read very much in this genre but it’s one of the reads of the year so far for me.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Paula Hawkins, David Nicholls, Emma Donoghue.

Avoid if you don’t like: Human beings.

Ideal accompaniments: Fish and chips wrapped in newspaper on the beach.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction.

Available on Amazon

The Open Arms of the Sea by Jasper Dorgan

Reviewer: David C Dawson www.davidcdawson.co.uk.

What We Thought:

As a pacifist, I detest war stories. But despite the book cover, this is not a war story; it is a love story, beautifully told, set amongst the folly of fading colonial values in the Aden Emergency of 1967.

Once I had started reading, I could not put this book down. I needed to know what would happen to the two wonderful central characters, Lieutenant Harry Deacon and his aide-de-camp Corporal David Lockett.

Deacon has joined the army to try to escape his guilty feelings of forbidden love back home. But he is only running away from himself, a futile endeavour that makes him hate himself, and hate his actions. It also makes him lonely. There are some marvellous descriptions of being in a crowded room and feeling utterly alien and alone.

He leads a small band of men, part of the British occupation of what was about to become the People’s Republic of South Yemen. Deacon is a compassionate leader, fiercely protecting his troops from the stupidity of senior ranks. He just about has it all under control, until the arrival of the dashing Captain Villiers and the beautiful Clemmie Rogers. Deacon is attracted to both in different ways and, as the Aden rebels bring their fight closer to the occupying British, Deacon’s world begins to fall apart.

Jasper Dorgan has created a protagonist who perfectly embodies the fear of being alone forever without hope. Through Deacon’s eyes, we see actions of horror, savagery and thoughtless destruction, justified by the British army chiefs through spurious rank and nobility. Dorgan portrays this world of madness using great wit and humour. Corporal Lockett has the best lines, and I wish that I had written them. As each character is introduced, they are given time to develop and live. They are fully rounded, with multiple dimensions making them real and vulnerable.

Jasper Dorgan is a poetic writer; this is his first book and I eagerly await his second.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Captain Harding’s Six Day War by Elliott Mackle

Avoid if you don’t like: Some description of graphic war action

Ideal accompaniments: A good whiskey

Genre: Love in War, LGBTQ

Available from Amazon

Friday, 17 June 2016

Floodtide by Judy Nunn

Reviewer: Liza Perrat, author of Spirit of Lost Angels, Wolfsangel and Blood Rose Angel

What we thought: Floodtide takes the reader on the journey of four men and their families over a span of four decades, in Western Australia. Beginning with their carefree childhoods in the prosperous post-war 1950s, through the Vietnam War and hippy years of the 60s, into the mineral boom of the 70s and ending during the corrupt years of the 80s, which saw the birth of WA Inc.

There is an environmentalist fighting to save the stunning Pilbara from greedy mining companies, a crippled Vietnam war veteran who finds his talent elsewhere, and the ambitious geologist who joins forces with the shady businessman, both of them having a great impact on the rise and development of Perth from sleepy coastal town to important, booming city.

But the 1990s sees the four friends swamped by a floodtide of change, and with their opposing personalities, combined with their life choices, things will never be the same for any of them.

I enjoyed Judy Nunn’s captivating story and her compelling descriptions of Perth and the Pilbara, regions I have always wanted to visit. I also enjoyed learning about the history of Western Australia.

I felt the ending was the only weak point in the story. There was a little too much unnecessary factual information that took over the story, and I wasn’t happy with the way the main character’s issues were resolved. It seemed quite “out of character”. However, that didn’t deter from this overall great yarn, with its true blue Aussie flavor.

You’ll like this if you enjoy: Easy to read, well-researched Aussie tales. Tim Winton’s Cloud Street and Dirt Music, family sagas.

Avoid if you don’t like: Western Australian modern history and politics.

Ideal accompaniments: Beer and meat pie. Champagne and canapés, preferably whilst sitting on a yacht.

Genre: Contemporary fiction.

Available on Amazon

Easy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What We Thought:

Leye Adenle’s Easy Motion Tourist is a crime drama set in the dark underbelly of Lagos, where the inhabitants of the wealthy enclave of Victoria Island are more concerned with preserving their luxurious lifestyle than solving the murder of an unknown woman.

The Easy Motion Tourist of the title is Guy Collins, a British journalist who goes to Nigeria to cover elections for an obscure cable channel. One his first night in Lagos, he stumbles on the murder and mutilation of a young woman, is mistaken for a much higher powered journalist by the woman who runs Street Samaritans, a charity that aims to protect the city’s prostitutes, and is sucked into the hunt for men running a sinister trade in body parts.

The Lagos that Guy discovers is more dangerous and more bizarre than he could possibly have imagined. As he stumbles in the wake of Amaka – a woman who seems to know exactly what she is doing – he has his preconceptions repeatedly turned on their head. Almost nothing he believes about the country turns out to be true.

The story is told from multiple points of view, but it is to Guy that we return time and again. The viewpoint of the naive foreigner gives European readers a way into the story. We follow in his footsteps: nervous, disoriented and, by turns, horrified and fascinated.

The blurb for Easy Motion Tourist describes it as ‘Tarantino lands in Lagos.’ It’s a fair description. The scenes have a filmic quality, and the characters have that extra twist of lunacy that would fit well in a Tarantino cast. But while the world of Easy Motion Tourist is brutal, violent and not a little crazed, at its heart is a profound compassion for the sex workers trapped in a life where selling their bodies is the only alternative to destitution. Adenle gives these women a face and a voice and a story of their own.

You can read here how an accidental encounter with a sex worker while on a business trip to Lagos inspired Adenle to write Easy Motion Tourist.

You’ll Enjoy This If You Loved: Purple Cane Road by James Lee Burke, All Involved by Ryan Gattis, A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

Avoid If You Dislike: Graphic Violence

Perfect Accompaniment: Fish Pepper Soup with lots of chilli

Genre: Crime Fiction, African Fiction

Available on Amazon

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

Reviewer: Gillian Hamer, author of The Charter, Closure, Complicit, Crimson Shore & False Lights. (www.gillianhamer.com)

What we thought: This is one of those gems of a book that you know, instinctively, from the very first page that you are going to be reading it every spare moment you can find – and even making spare moments just to bury your nose back into the story!

It’s a psychological thriller but without any hard edges, written from the perspective of a distraught mother and a missing child. And I think for me it’s the clever, and different, choice of POV that make this book stand out from the crowd. There’s an outpouring of human emotions that feels so tangible at times you could reach out and pull handfuls of it from the page, like candyfloss from a stick. This book touches you in places you don’t often choose to venture.

When Carmel Wakeford vanishes from her mother’s side at a local festival, at first it’s not too serious. She’s ‘that’ type of child, wayward and vague, likes to disappear, has a tendency to be different and a little strange. But when the search reveals no sign of her, and no witnesses come forward, police are called and Beth, Carmel’s single mother, is left to cope in the hands of family liaison officers. In reality, Carmel has been abducted by a man posing as her estranged grandfather, and taken to America where she’s renamed Mercy and becomes involved in his church due to what he sees as her gift.

As days stretch into weeks, weeks into months, months into years … we share the highs and lows of both sides of this story. There’s no violence in this novel, no abuse, no cliches, no dark themes. Yet, still with the lightest of touches, the reader is taken on a journey of fear, deception and horror. We feel Beth’s pain and we understand Carmel’s lonely confusion. And yet … we know, deep down, there’s an inner spark and gutsy gene pool in both of them that will see them saved. But of course, you have to read on just to be sure!I loved this book, and in the style of recent thrillers like The Girl on the Train I can see this debut novel carrying this author to equally dizzying heights … and I’m glad because she so deserves it.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Paula Hawkins, Gillian Flynn, Jojo Moyes.

Avoid if you don’t like: Human weakness and human strength in the face of adversity.

Ideal accompaniments: Coca cola and chocolate cake.

Genre: Psychological thriller.

Available on Amazon





Friday, 10 June 2016

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What We Thought:

Like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Chinelo Okparanta is an Igbo from the southern part of Nigeria, and like Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, Under the Udala Trees takes us inside the Biafran War. This, however, is no a war story, but a love story and a plea for compassion and tolerance.

Ijeoma is a child when her father is killed by a bomb blast and her mother sinks into depression.

She shed us all like a bad habit. Or maybe, simply, the way one casts off a set of dirty, thorn-infested clothes.

Ijeoma is sent away to live with a teacher and his wife, to work as their house girl. There she meets Amina, a Hausa refugee, a Muslim girl, one of the ‘enemy.’ Ijeoma persuades the teacher to shelter Amina and, living together in a tiny hut in the grounds of the teacher’s house, the two fall in love.

But in a deeply religious country, their relationship is considered an ‘abomination’ and when they are discovered, Ijeoma is packed off back to her mother. The war is now over and her mother has become a small shopkeeper. Ijeoma is subjected to endless Bible reading sessions and exhortations to pray, each a twisted lesson designed to prove that same-sex relationships are a sin beyond any other, even rape and violence.

What in another setting could be a simple LGBT coming of age story takes on a different complexion here. We are left in no doubt what openly pursuing such a relationship could lead to when a friend is hacked to death for attending a clandestine lesbian nightclub held, ironically enough, in a church.

Ijeoma tries to comply with what society expects of her. She agrees to marry her childhood sweetheart. But the effect on her is devastating. She withdraws further and further from the world, until she is no longer capable even of caring for her own child. Her alienation, the drying up of her soul, echoes Okparanta’s description of wartime destruction of the countryside.

Before the war ... the hibiscus flowers painted the bushes red and it was barely a remarkable thing, that deep redness of theirs. But now almost all the plants had withered and the wind carried in it only traces of destruction.

The poetry and freshness of Okparanta’s language brings to life equally moments of ecstasy and depression, horror and beauty.

Under the Udala Trees is set fifty years ago, yet little has changed for lesbian and gay Nigerians. As Okparanta points out in her afterword, in January 2014, Nigeria’s then President, Goodluck Jonathan, signed a bill criminalising same-sex relationships. Violators face up to 14 years of prison and in the northern region, risk death by stoning.

Yet the story is not one of despair. Love is not extinguished and the book ends on a flicker of hope.

You’ll Enjoy it if You Loved: Oranges are not the Only Fruit, by Jeanette Winterson, Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Avoid if you dislike: Untranslated words and phrases in a foreign language

Perfect Accompaniment: Roasted yams with pepper sauce.

Genre: Lesbian and Gay, Literary Fiction, African Fiction

Available on Amazon

All Things Nice by Sheila Bugler

Reviewer: Gillian Hamer, author of The Charter, Closure, Complicit, Crimson Shore & False Lights (www.gillianhamer.com)

What we thought: Delighted to get back into the DI Ellen Kelly series and see her face another murder investigation with the usual grit and tenacity that makes her stand out from the crowd. As always, Ellen finds herself juggling her personal and professional lives, struggling with the balance she has declared she will stick too following the traumas faced by her son in the previous book. And in terms of love life - that seems to have evaporated which did raise a few questions as I read.

Here a body is found outside a raucous birthday party venue. There are dozens of potential killers, but apparently no witnesses. When the investigation into the dead man's girlfriend and her celebrity family hit the headlines, it appears everyone has their own secrets and lies to hide. But does that make any of them a killer?

The author has a refreshingly clear and concise writing style, her word choice and language are unique I think. But she also handles each story and narrative so adeptly that you can't help but be carried along by the investigation. Each character is handled to perfection, whether carrying over baggage from previous novels, or introducing new people for the first time, each character becomes real and believable throughout.

There's a true art to writing strong crime fiction that this author appears to ooze in bucketfuls, giving enough clues to satisfy the reader when you come to the big reveal, and yet holding enough back so there's that element of surprise too. I admit I correctly guessed the murderer quiet early on, but was still entertained by the numerous twists and turns added along the way that kept me gripped until the final pages.

Highly recommended and entertaining read and I'm very much looking forward to the next in the series!

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Sophie Hannah, Jo Nesbo, Robert Galbraith.

Avoid if you don’t like: Deception, murders and police procedurals.

Ideal accompaniments: Cappuccino and Danish pastry to go.

Genre: Crime Fiction.

Available on Amazon

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton

ReviewerJJ Marsh

What we thought: Both a novel and a philosophical case study, this short work will take you just as long to read as something twice its size, as you will frequently put it down to consider the theories the author interjects. Not to mention comparing the couple’s behaviour patterns to your own relationship(s).

De Botton takes on love once more, but this time, what happens after ‘happily ever after’? Romanticism is focused on the start, the initial impetus and chemical imbalance which brings two people together and convinces them this state will last. Rabih and Kirsten meet, like each other, fall in love and marry. They have two children, they work in ordinary jobs and encounter very average problems. They are unexceptional, which makes them and their fictional love a perfect specimen to put under the microscope of reality.

As the relationship skips or stumbles, the author’s voice takes us aside to analyse hypothetical alternatives to their reality, for example, how the situation might play out if both were better communicators. Sex, jealousy, irrational behaviour, children, the influence of their own childhoods, comparison to others, marriage counselling and contentment all exert a pull on this couple and the reader.

This is a conflict in itself. We want to grow involved with the story and the characters, but the author reminds us to step back and think about what we are witnessing. Once used to this rhythm and intent, the ‘interruptions’ encourage reflection and even discussion, with insights and moments of illumination thrown over one’s own life. The book itself makes us wonder at the meaning in the mundane.

You’ll enjoy this if you liked: Any other of de Botton’s works, Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, Milan Kundera’s The Joke

Avoid if you don’t like: Slow pace, fractured narrative, thinking

Ideal accompaniments: Salmon jerky, iced water and Mahler’s Leider und Gesänge

Genre: Contemporary, philosophical

Available on Amazon


Friday, 3 June 2016

Mailbox by Nancy Freund

ReviewerJJ Marsh

What we thought: The tagline on this book says ‘A Scattershot Novel of Racing, Dares and Danger, Occasional Nakedness, and Faith’. That and the scuffed Converse trainers on the cover might lead you to think you were in for a teen romance. However, there is a great deal more to this book. Sandy Drue is thirteen and has just moved with her family to a small town in the USA.

In a series of short vignettes, she tries to make sense of the world through her observations and life lessons, which are by turns funny, perceptive, thought-provoking, sad, intense and unnerving. There’s nothing saccharine about this inbetweener’s view of the world. Her voice is clear and serious, allowing the reader an immersive experience of what it’s like to be young in a confusing, contradictory society.

Sandy is a wonderful character; her curiosity for words, her love for her ‘upside-down’ family, her rapid judgement on what is ‘stupid’ and ‘ridiculous’, her logical and very personal attempts to answer the question ‘what are you’ all combine to make this a character you are sorry to leave.

So if you pick up this book and think you’re stepping into a shallow puddle, be prepared for hidden depths.

You’ll enjoy this if you liked: Judy Blume, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

Avoid if you don’t like: A young narrator, 1970s’ small town America, tough questions

Ideal accompaniments: Root beer, the soundtrack to Grease and divinity with walnuts

Genre: YA (but for everyone)

Available on Amazon

Cross and Burn by Val McDermid


Reviewer: Gillian Hamer, author of The Charter, Closure, Complicit, Crimson Shore & False Lights (www.gillianhamer.com)

What we thought: Another gritty crime thriller from Val McDermid that takes us through the highs, and mostly lows, of a serial killer investigation in fictional Bradfield.

At the start of this novel, Tony Hill and Carol Jordan are still reeling from the impact of their last investigation. Jordan has lost her brother to a killer she couldn’t stop, and has blanked Tony from her life as she holds him responsible. But when Tony finds himself falsely incriminated in another series of murders by a bizarre series of coincidences, it’s down to intermediary DS Paula McIntyre, a former member of Jordan's MIT squad, to try and heal the rift and bring the two closer together again. If anyone can save Tony from the power-hungry, promotion-seeking new DCI … then surely it’s Carol.

As usual in McDermid’s novels, you aren’t spared any details of the goriest details of the crimes committed against a series of unconnected women. We are cleverly introduced to these individuals enough so that we feel compassion for their suffering. The characterisation is well-handled and the dialogue works for all characters. But for me, it’s the understanding and interaction between the main protagonists that really bring the novel to life. Pace, style and voice are perfect here, suiting the genre and series, and you feel in the hands of a gifted, competent author which adds to the enjoyment of the novel.

Another huge thumbs up from me for this novel, and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys character driven dark crime.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Ian Rankin, Peter James, Tess Gerritsen.

Avoid if you don’t like: Serial killers.

Ideal accompaniments: Full English breakfast and strong black coffee.

Genre: Crime Fiction.

Available from Amazon

Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

I first encountered Sudanese author, Leila Aboulela, via the always wonderful World Book Club on the BBC World Service. I came across her again at the opening session of Bare Lit – a panel discussion entitled Can Literature Liberate? Lyrics Alley was one of a bundle of books I took away from Bare Lit.

Unlike Aboulela’s first two books, whose focal characters were Sudanese immigrants in contemporary Britain, Lyrics Alley takes place wholly in the past and (almost) wholly in Egypt and Sudan.

It is the 1950s, and Sudan is under the colonial rule of an Anglo-Egyptian condominium. Independence is on the horizon, and the young Sudanese are eager to carve out a new identity for themselves.

Mahmoud Bey, the patriarch of the family, seems to stand as a metaphor for Sudan itself. Married to two women, one Sudanese and traditional, one Egyptian and modern, he stands poised on the cusp on change, valuing the traditions of his country, while admiring and, in part, emulating the modernism represented by Egypt and Britain.

The younger generation seek new freedoms. Women fight for their right to education. The men enjoy music and poetry, occupations seen as decadent by their parents. They seem to hold the future in the palm of their hands – until a terrible accident cuts short the dreams of Mahmoud’s younger son, Nur. Can a tragedy that slams so many doors in his face open one more that he never expected?

There have been many books about the last days of the British Empire written from the point of view of white ex-patriots, retreating or clinging on. Much rarer to view that period through the eyes of those feeling their way towards freedom and self-determination. Lyrics Alley is rich with details of what life was like for a middle class Sudanese family of the time.

Aboulela paints a picture of daily life in the hoash – the communal open space in the family compound where the women and children of the household cooked, ate and often slept.

“The women move with their cooking utensils to the dim far corner of the hoash. They fry and stir and Zaki staggers back and forth carrying dinner trays. The heat is intense, even this late at night. Water is sprinkled on the ground time and time again. It dries immediately, after releasing a tepid coolness.”

This world is contrasted with the more modern, Westernised life espoused by Mahmoud’s Egyptian second wife. To begin with, it is implied that life in the hoash is backward, stuck in the past. But as the novel unfolds, the picture becomes much more nuanced.

Like many of the characters in Lyrics Alley, Aboulela is of mixed Egyptian and Sudanese heritage. Lyrics Alley was inspired by the life of her uncle, Hassan Awad Aboulela, who after a golden future was cut short by an accident, turned to writing poetry. Many of his poems were set to music by a new wave of Sudanese musicians and are still influential in Sudan today.

Aboulela uses her own translations of her uncle’s poetry, especially his first poem, Travel is the Cause, with includes line, “In you Egypt are the causes of my injury. And in Sudan my burden and solace.” This line served as the kernel of inspiration for the story. It also comes to represent Sudan’s striving for independence.

Lyrics Alley is a love story, the story of the birth of a country, and also a story about the well-spring of creativity.

You can read more about Aboulela’s inspiration for Lyrics Alley here http://www.leila-aboulela.com/books/lyrics-alley/inspiration/

You’ll enjoy this if you loved: Where the River Parts by Radhika Swarup, Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Under the Eye of the Clock by Christopher Nolan

Avoid if you dislike: Stories that deal with serious disability

Perfect Accompaniment: A pot of cinnamon tea

Genre: Historical fiction, African fiction

Available from Amazon