Book Review

Book Review: Of Things Gone Astray by Janina Matthewson.

OfThingsGoneAstrayMrs Featherby had been having pleasant dreams until she woke to discover the front of her house had vanished overnight …

On a seemingly normal morning in London, a group of people all lose something dear to them, something dear but peculiar: the front of their house, their piano keys, their sense of direction, their place of work.

Meanwhile, Jake, a young boy whose father brings him to London following his mother’s sudden death in an earthquake, finds himself strangely attracted to other people’s lost things. But little does he realise that his most valuable possession, his relationship with his dad, is slipping away from him.

Of Things Gone Astray is a magical fable about modern life and values. Perfect for fans of Andrew Kaufman and Cecelia Ahern.

The first thing that drew me to this book was that gorgeous cover. The synopsis sounded pretty great too, but this was absolutely a case of choosing a book based on its cover.

To try and describe this book is going to be incredibly difficult. It’s one of those books that needs to be read to be understood. It follows a number of characters who have lost something, the focus rotates between them for each chapter. The chapters are short, some less than a page long, each giving us another little glimpse into the character and their life since they lost whatever it is that is dear to them.

The things that each character have lost vary from physical objects to less tangible things – skills, feelings, purposes. The more we get to know the character the more we understand why they might have lost this, why it was so important to them and what its loss means to them. This made the book a captivating read for me, I love trying to understand characters (and people for that matter) and so this book appealed to the part of my brain that loves nothing more than to try and unpick someone’s make up.

The different characters’ stories do intertwine a little, the author manages this in such a way that it doesn’t feel forced or overly convenient. I enjoyed each and every character, I’d have to pick Mrs Featherby as my favourite I think. There are perhaps other characters whose stories are more obviously interesting, but she’s the one I wanted to keep delving deeper with.

Of Things Gone Astray is an impressive book, made all the more impressive by the fact it’s a debut novel. On the basis of this book I suspect we may be seeing quite a bit more of Janina Matthewson over the next few years.

Of Things Gone Astray is published by The Friday Project in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review: 21st Century Dodos by Steve Stack.

21stCenturyDodosWelcome to a nostalgic and sometimes irreverent trip down memory lane.

21st Century Dodos is a catalogue of well over 100 objects, traditions, cultural icons and, well, other stuff that is at risk of extinction. Some of which have vanished already.

Come inside and bid a fond farewell to cassette tapes, Concorde, handwritten letters, typewriters, white dog poo and many, many more.

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, something I always feel bad about, so when the publisher contacted me and asked me to consider 21st Century Dodos I jumped at the chance. I like funny non-fiction books that I can dip in and out of so this looked like it could be a good match for me. The only slight concern I had was my age – I’m in my early 30s so whilst I expected I would be able to identify with a good proportion of the Dodos in the book there were likely to be plenty that had reached or nearly reached extinction before I’d had the chance to become aware of them.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that actually I was familiar with the vast majority of the Dodos in the book, and those that I didn’t have first hand experience of were all things I’d heard about from family members. I was amused to find that a number of the more recent Dodos either still exist to some extent or have only recently disappeared from the sleepy corner of rural Worcestershire I currently call home.

The book itself is divided into 10 sections, each collecting together Dodos on a similar theme e.g. In the home, On the high street. The paperback edition I had to review is a “New and improved” edition with the addition of a section called Reader’s Dodos – all things that had been suggested by readers of the first edition. I liked the structure a lot, when I came to a new section I found myself wondering whether certain things would be included in it and was then pleased each time to discover that they were.

I had fully intended to dip in and out of this book, but after reading the first few entries in the first section I switched to reading it in an entirely linear manner – not wanting to risk missing out on any of the entries. I picked it up whenever I had a few minutes to fill, each time planning to read the next two or three entries before finding I’d read another ten or fifteen.

This book is a wonderful slice of nostalgia, I think any reader will find lots to enjoy. I particularly liked the entries on technological things which tend to offer a more detailed overview of how the various technologies evolved and died out. I’m going to be passing my copy on to a couple of family members I know will love this book, I think a couple of people may also get it as a present in the next few months.

21st Century Dodos is published by The Friday Project. Whilst I was provided with a copy of the book by the publisher all opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman.

TinyWifeA thief charges into a bank with a loaded gun, but he does not ask for money; what he asks for, instead, is the object of greatest significance currently in the possession of each patron. The thief then leaves, and the patrons all survive, but strange things soon begin to happen to them: One survivor’s tattoo jumps off her ankle and chases her around; another wakes up to find that she’s made of candy; and Stacey Hinterland discovers that she’s shrinking, incrementally, a little every day, and nothing that her husband or son do can reverse the process.

The Tiny Wife is a fable about losing yourself in circumstances and finding yourself in the the love of another.

I think this novella is one of the most quirky things I’ve read in a long time. It’s naturally a quick read, it’s 80 pages long, but the author fits so much story into them that I found myself thinking about it long after I’d finished reading. I’m still not entirely sure I’ve absorbed it all, I think this is going to be one of those books that is a real pleasure to return to and read again and find a whole new layer each time.

The book is narrated by Stacey’s husband, he begins by telling the story of the robbery that sets off the story. He wasn’t there, he’s very clear on this, he’s simply repeating the story as he’s heard it. The robbery in itself is pretty strange – the idea of stealing items that have sentimental rather than material value makes for an interesting robbery indeed.

The ways the characters were affected after the robbery are all very imaginative, after the first couple are described I found myself wondering what would come next. Some of the end results made me feel really sad.#

I think this book is probably going to be one that polarises opinions. I can see how some people will absolutely love it and how it’ll leave other people cold. I can’t say that at the moment I fall entire either camp, I liked it but didn’t love it, but I think over time and with more thinking I’ll end up in the love camp.

The Tiny Wife is published by The Friday Project in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.