Winding Up the Week #95

An end of week recap

WUTW2This is a weekly post in which I summarize books read, reviewed and currently on my TBR shelf. In addition to a variety of literary titbits, I look ahead to forthcoming features, see what’s on the nightstand and keep readers abreast of various book-related happenings.


For this year’s Margaret Atwood Reading Month, I reflect on the author’s 1969 proto-feminist debut novel. >> MARM 2019: The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood >>


* Lit Crit Blogflash *

I’m going to share with you six of my favourite literary posts from around the blogosphere. There are so many talented writers posting high-quality book features and reviews, it’s difficult to limit the list to only these few – all of them published over the last week or two:

RING HILLRing the Hill – Jan Hicks at What I Think About When I Think About Reading admires Tom Cox’s “wry view of the world” and “his grasp of the beauty that exists within the mundane.” She found reading his words took her back to her childhood.

Novels That Shaped Our World – Clare from A Little Blog of Books was one of the bloggers “invited to celebrate the launch of the BBC’s ‘Novels That Shaped Our World’ campaign”. She gives the low-down on this event and the 100 books selected by a small group of writers and critics.

The Priory of the Orange Tree – Angharad at Tinted Edges finds Samantha Shannon’s epic fantasy novel has “plenty of highlights” but requires “culling”.

Broadside 2019 – Zadie Smith – Kate from booksaremyfavouriteandbest was electrified by the “rapid-fire” discussion which took place between Jia Tolentino and Zadie Smith at Melbourne’s Broadside Festival. The topics they covered were “big and intense” and it took her some time to “reflect on all that was covered.”

The Spectre of Alexander Wolf by Gaito Gazdanov – Simon Thomas of Stuck in a Book discovered the “premise [of this Pushkin Press novel] is handled well” and its “psychological intensity […] is unwavering”.

Great Cat Books – Kirsty at The Literary Sisters picks a selection of ten books devoted to an animal she refers to as the “furry feline”.

* Irresistible Items *

black open book on the brown wooden bench

Umpteen fascinating articles appeared on my bookdar last week. I generally make a point of tweeting my favourite finds (or adding them to my Facebook group page), but in case you missed anything, here are a handful of interesting snippets:


HOWLSVox: In praise of Diana Wynne Jones, the fairy godmother of children’s fantasy – Constance Grady discovers the “bracingly commonsense magic of Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle is on full display in the new Folio Society edition.”

The Atlantic: Margaret Atwood Bears Witness – “Over the course of her writing career, she has explored the power and limits of personal testimony in times of crisis”, finds Sophie Gilbert.

BBC Culture: What are the best first lines in fiction? – “From the pithy to the provocative, the classic book opener comes in many different forms. Hephzibah Anderson explores the art of the perfect first sentence.”

Dublin Review of Books: Pulling back the curtains – Emer Nolan wonders what might have happened if heroines of the Victorian novel had received access to education.

The New York Times: On a Greek Island, a Bookstore With Some Mythology of Its Own – “Over the last 15 years, as cruise-ship hordes and souvenir schlock have overrun the village of Oia on Santorini’s northern tip, Atlantis Books has become an oasis of authenticity”, writes Jason Horowitz.

NPR: ‘I Am Happy Because I Survived’: Refugee Writer Is Free After Years In Detention – Behrouz Boochani won Australia’s richest literary prize earlier this year but the asylum-seeker was detained offshore and couldn’t accept it in person. Now, he has made it to New Zealand with a message.

Wales Arts Review: Writers’ Rooms | Richard Gwyn – “In a new series of the popular Writers’ Rooms series, novelist and poet Richard Gwyn gives a peak into his Spanish workspace.”

The Guardian: Rushdie and Atwood join calls to restore citizenship to critic of Modi – “More than 250 authors urge India’s prime minister to reinstate overseas citizenship of British journalist Aatish Taseer”, writes Alison Flood.

The Sydney Morning Herald: Next-gen book reviewers embrace video – Jane Sullivan finds an increasing number of literature lovers are reviewing books on YouTube, with subscriber numbers growing steadily.

The Star: Beloved author Alice Munro isn’t dead — but a hoax Twitter account has been suspended – “Don’t believe everything you read”, warns Deborah Dundas – “beloved Canadian author Alice Munro is alive and well.”

Spine: University Press Cover Round-Up – Designer, Jordan Wannemacher, with the latest selection of recent university press cover designs.

Penguin: Books to help you win every family argument this Christmas – “The big day is coming,” says Matt Blake, “and with it, the guarantee of rows with your nearest and dearest […] from Brexit and the NHS to the climate crisis and vegetarianism”. He suggests the ideal books required “to win any festive dispute this year.”

The Oprah Magazine: What is Magical Realism? – “Award-winning author Ramona Ausubel offers an introduction to the fantastical literary genre.”

The Moscow Times: Alexander Pushkin’s St. Petersburg Home Goes on Sale for $860K – “A part of history just went on sale for less than $1 million in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-biggest city and former capital.”

Longreads: This Month in Books: The Book Is an Escape Tool – “Sometimes telling a story is the only way to escape it”, finds Dana Snitzky.

Los Angeles Review of Books: Who Needs Literature? – Is reading fiction a waste of time? Isaac Bashevitz Singer seems to think so.

Literary Hub: On the Unpublished Ending of Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Other Mysteries – “Romy Ash wanders through an iconic Australian novel”.

REVISIONElectric Literature: Two Women Navigate Racism, A Hundred Years Apart – “In Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s The Revisioners, a woman and her great-great-great-granddaughter navigate family and racial dynamics”, says Sarah Neilson.

Treehugger: Which is greener, books or e-books? Neither. – Lloyd Alter believes borrowing books is the greenest way to read.

Martha Stewart: The Smell of Old Books Could Actually Help Experts Preserve Them – “You either love or despise the smell of wrinkled, weathered pages in well-used books, but scientists have discovered a way to harness that odor to help preserve rare texts”.

The Literary Tourist: A SHARP Conference in Amherst, MA. – Nigel Beale is the Literary Tourist in Massachusetts.

The London Magazine: Interview | Quentin Blake: Anthology of Readers – Oliver Bayliss speaks to Quentin Blake about his latest exhibition: Anthology of Readers.

Metropolis: ‘The Wilds of Shikoku’ by Peter Orosz – Paul McInnes examines a “psychogeographical masterpiece on Japan’s wilderness”.

New Statesman: Why Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport won the 2019 Goldsmiths Prize – “Lucy Ellmann has been awarded this year’s Goldsmiths Prize, in association with the New Statesman, for her 1,000-page novel Ducks, Newburyport. Judge Anna Leszkiewicz explains why it won”.

The Paris Review: German Lessons – Margaret Drabble on learning German in her mid-seventies.

Read it Forward: 8 Must-Read Feminist Historical Fiction Novels – Lorraine Berry hopes to inspire you with tales of “female courage and empowerment” from the past.

Sunday Times SA – Forget sci-fi, cli-fi is the terrifying theme of many new books & movies – “Worries about climate change are fuelling the popularity of a fresh genre of fiction”.

Tor: This Wonderful Map Charts Out The Wide World of Literature – Andrew Liptak on a fabulous map charting thousands of years of literary history.

The Irish Times: Nobel and Booker Prize winners on 2020 International Dublin Literary Award longlist – “Anna Burns, Sally Rooney, David Park, Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke vie for €100,000 prize”, reveals Martin Doyle.

The Times Literary Supplement: Genius and ink – “Francesca Wade introduces Virginia Woolf’s writing for the TLS”.

The Outline: Canon fodder – “Please, I am begging you, stop telling me which good books are actually bad”, pleads Brandy Jensen.

Slate: Selling Their Stories – “This is the way democracy ends, not with a bang, but with a book deal”, says Dahlia Lithwick.

WOMEN WRITINGMelville House: New book argues that Englishwomen were writing literature as far back as the eighth century – According to Dianne Watt’s forthcoming book, Women, Writing and Religion in England and Beyond, 650-1100, not only did women in the eighth century contribute to the literary tradition but “they were purposely excluded by men who discredited their writings”.

The New York Times: A Toronto Bookstore Amplifies Marginalized Voices – Wadzanai Mhute visits Another Story Bookshop, which is “focused on social justice and diversity, continuing the mission its founder established over 30 years ago.”

BBC News: Walter Scott Prize launches search for favourite historical novel – “A search has been launched to find readers’ favourite historical novel of all time.”



If there is something you would particularly like to see on Winding Up the Week or if you have any suggestions, questions or comments for Book Jotter in general, please drop me a line or comment below. I would be delighted to hear from you.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I wish you a week bountiful in books and rich in reading.

NB In this feature, ‘winding up’ refers to the act of concluding something and should not be confused with the British expression: ‘wind-up’ – an age-old pastime of ‘winding-up’ friends and family by teasing or playing pranks on them. If you would like to know more about this expression, there’s an excellent description on Urban Dictionary.

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22 replies

  1. A great selection as always Paula. Particularly keen to check out the piece on Diana Wynne Jones – such a wonderful and underrated author!

    • Many thanks, Kaggsy. I know what you mean. Diana Wynne Jones is almost a cultish author with fantasy readers, which seems odd because I know there are quite a few folk in the book blogging community who really enjoy her work.

      • She was one of my fave authors as a kid!

      • I tweeted your link to the DWJ article and have been amazed at the number of likes, retweets and positive comments, all because I used the hashtag #DianaWynneJones! Great article, incidentally, not just a review.

        And I’ve also enjoyed a couple of other links you’ve given here, and must look at others (the one on cli-fi catches my eye). A superb public service you offer here, Paula!

  2. Thanks for the link to the piece about opening lines in novel. There’s a good point in the article that lines taken in isolation often don’t sound that impressive. I tried an experiment years ago looking at the 1st sentences of the books I liked the most -the 1st sentence was definitely not what grabbed me ….

    • So glad you found it of interest, Karen. 😊

    • Many years ago I wrote a magazine article about openings to Arthurian novels — good, bad, and indifferent — which I’m tempted to dig out and stick online. I agree with much of what was said in this link, especially with the comments on ‘Call me Ishmael’ and the opening to Jane Eyre as I’m currently starting the first and finishing the other.

  3. Thanks for the link-back Paula.

    I loved that article about German lessons. I harbour plans to improve my German… it’s all about time for me… although perhaps I’m not brave enough to join a conversation class! The bit in the article that made me pause was right at the end – “German is a fine language for grief.” So true.

    • You’re most welcome, Kate. 😊

      I’m afraid I’ve never had an aptitude for learning other languages – I so wish I had. It would be wonderful to speak French, Spanish and German as it would open all kinds of literary doors.

      • I learnt French for more years than German and yet can remember nothing. For whatever reason, German made sense and I’ve been fortunate to have had enough trips there to keep myself from losing what I know entirely. I would like to get beyond the basics though.

  4. Outstanding list, Paula! I was interested in ‘Next-gen book reviewers embrace video’ because I have been following Elaine Howlin Literary Blogger and she does YouTube vblogs. Not something I aspire to 😉

    • Thank you so much. 😊

      I’m with you there, Gretchen. I would be hopeless at vlogging. I long ago concluded that YouTubing is best left to charismatic and extrovert-types who can look a lens in the eye and speak sensibly at the same time. I’m perfectly content sitting in front of my PC on a Sunday morning wearing my favourite giraffe onesie with only the dogs to pass comment! 🦒

  5. Oh, I don’t know about that, Paula. I think you’ve hit on the perfect vblog scenario. A Sunday morning book chat, cosy ambience, a cuppa and toast, the quirky outfit and loyal dogs add up to a powerfully relatable image for introverted readers.

  6. So many things to explore as usual Paula, you are a gem! I’m definitely a blogger who will not be stepping on front of a camera any time soon – I had to have media training for my job recently which involved being interviewed and watching it back on a 12 foot screen as a group – horrific!

    • That’s very kind of you, Madame B. 😊 Goodness, that sounds mortifying. If I was asked to do such a thing I fear I would scarper in a state of terror! 😱 You deserve major kudos for going through with it!

  7. Thanks for featuring my review and some great links in this post! I read that article about Diana Wynne Jones recently as well and it is so on point.

  8. That Bahrooz Boochani memoir (about his time in detention as a refugee, before his release in New Zealand) was just amazing. As you know, I’m not so easily smitten with NF, but this was such a powerful and poetic read. Definitely worthwhile (and inspiring, not disheartening). Thanks for collecting another great set of links. And, also, including another reference to MARM along the way. Much appreciated.

    • You really tempt me to read Boochani’s memoir.

      I’ve also tried to include one or more links to MA content in every WUTW through November. It wasn’t too difficult as there have been some marvellous articles published about her in recent weeks.


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