The Last Children of Tokyo by Yoko Tawada


This is a most unusual dystopian novel.

There is little or no violence. There is a heartfelt sadness that is like a sob, suppressed as a lump in the throat. Yoshira and Mumei are great grandfather and young son. The exploration of their relationship is gentle and thoughtful. In this damaged world the old live extraordinarily long lives while the children often do not reach adulthood. The pleasures in life such as food and being in the natural world are absent. Language is perverted, renaming things to make reality appear less awful.

Tawada makes us think about a horrific future which we the responsible adults might have to live with. It is a thought-provoking novel and that is always good.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

summer book

This is a most unusual  and enjoyable read.

It focuses on the relationship between a grandmother and her grand-daughter.

There is no big plot, no great character development and yet it is comforting in its gentle observation of life on a tiny island in Scandanavia.

The unusual aspect is that it deals with the important events of real life in a subtle, gentle way.

The reader comes away from this understated book with a real sense of privilege.

It is very special to be given an insider view of the importance of the relationship in this physical location. It is like the reader accepts the island as a integral part of the story, an unassuming trio of two people at opposite ends of life and small island which gives them the space to explore their relationship in a natural way.

An unusual read certainly, but worth it absolutely.

Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronán Hession


This is a rare gem of a book. I enjoyed every gentle moment with it.

The skill of the author is to engage the reader with ordinary people doing ordinary things.

Both Leonard and Hungry Paul are unassuming and unlikely heroes. They speak their truth quietly and calmly.

They accept lifes limitations and challenges. They have known grief and misunderstanding, they have balanced their lives with solidarity and the joy of feeding the birds.

Finding meaningful work, meeting a partner and a family wedding are all part of their gentle tapestry.

Ultimately this is a feel good read which allows kindness to exist in the world.

Treat yourself to this well written story of everyday life being lived with kindness.

A Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo


An excellent novel which explores how language shapes relationships.

It is very current, set in Brexit and post-Brexit England with many locations, London, Berlin, China and Australia.

A couple negotiate the cultural and linguistic barriers to a relationship. The two characters allow us to laugh at misunderstandings and pause at serious gaps of meaning. There are many divides to be bridged, the sexual differences, the cultural norms and the language barriers.

We explore what it means to have a home, to have roots in a place or society.

Guo writes in a staccato style, a snipet of conversation here and there. A fast change of location to bring us from accademia to factory workers in China, back to middle class Berlin and hippy style barge living in London. This style helps to underline how language is delivered in small parcels must be unpackaged slowly to have meaning revealed.

In 2013 Guo was Granta’s best young British novelist, do not let her novels pass you by. “A Lovers Discourse” could be the one for you.

Get Lucky by Katherine Centre

get lucky

This is a modern romance. It deals with modern issues: surrogacy, exploitation of women, divorce, blended families and the morality of the advertising industry.  The author approaches these issues with a light hand, and so we can get carried away with the humour while the issues are gently teased out.

“Get Lucky” has some of the elements of the classic romance: girl meets boy, problem occurs, all is resolved. The modern element allows the characters to move through problems and be happy to cope with the new life situation.

I had a problem with some of the extreme characterisation. The sequin wearing, line dancing deep southern divorcee and the ultra fit, super tanned “man eating” Barni are over the top in my opinion.  The writer is American so maybe, big and bold are beautiful and credible to her readers at home. I could have coped with a little subtlety.

This book is worth a read, it may not be a keeper but it has a freshness  and energy which is engaging.