Winding Up the Week #103

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.


I shared a few thoughts on the fifth book in the Moomin series, Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson – my second Janssonian contribution to the Tove Trove project. >> TOVE TROVE: Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson >>

Look out for my forthcoming review of Kate Thompson’s The Stepney Doorstep Society – a collection of true stories about the matriarchs who held London’s East End together during two world wars and remain the backbone of the area to this day.

Coming soon is another book from The Classics Club list: Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach.


* Mini Persephone Readathon *

MINI PRJessie B at Dwell in Possibility has announced a Winter 2020 Mini Persephone Readathon, which will run from 24th-26th January. “The goal”, she says, “is simply to enjoy reading and discussing all things Persephone Books.” She hopes this reading jolly will be a welcome break from the “unrelentingly bleak” news at the moment and she can think of no better way to do so than by burying oneself between the “pages [of] certain iconic grey covers”. If you would like to take part, please head over to Announcing the Winter 2020 Mini Persephone Readathon for all the gen. The event’s Twitter account is @ReadPersephone and the hashtag is #PersephoneReadathon.

* Lit Crit Blogflash *

I’m going to share with you five 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:

JANE EYREJane Eyre – a retelling by Tanya Landman – Landman’s retelling of this classic novel captures Jane’s “wonderful spirit”, says Anne Thompson, the Library Lady. She thinks it “the perfect way to introduce this wonderful classic to readers who may be put off by the length of the original”.

T.S. Eliot In His Youth – Rennie Sweeney at What’s Nonfiction? doesn’t think Robert Crawford’s 2015 biography, Young Eliot: From St. Louis to the Waste Land “is for anyone with just a passing interest” in the subject, but it is “sometimes highly amusing” and she’s “already looking forward to the second volume”.

Letters of blood by Rizia Rahman – “This book […] does what I think great novellas do well” and gives the impression of being “an epic trapped in a small book”, writes Stu from Winstonsdad’s Blog of this story set in a Bangladeshi brothel.

Social Media and Spirits in Fiction – Novelist, Paul Butler examines three recent novels that focus on “the effect of social media on our lives” and which “transcend the difficulties in distinct, yet effective, ways.”

On the Edge by Lesley Strutt – James Fisher of The Miramichi Reader finds this “novel of a young person determined to take matters into their own hands” an “adventurous read for all ages”. It is “part of Inanna Publication’s Young Feminist Series” and James recommends it to “all young adult readers and sailing aficionados.”

* Irresistible Items *

beverage book caffeine cappuccino
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:


BUTTERFLIESPublishers Weekly: Insects of Beauty and Hope: PW Talks with Wendy Williams – Michael Zimmerman speaks to Wendy Williams about The Language of Butterflies, which explores and celebrates the world of butterflies.

London Review of Books: What I did in 2019 – Publishing extracts from Alan Bennett’s diaries has become a much-anticipated January tradition with LRB readers.

The Guardian: 2020 in books: a literary calendar – “Sally Rooney’s screenplay, Hilary Mantel’s final Thomas Cromwell novel … what to look out for this year”.

BBC News: Elizabeth Wurtzel: Prozac Nation author dies aged 52 – Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of the best-selling 1994 memoir Prozac Nation which detailed her struggles with depression and addiction, has died aged 52.

CrimeReads: 8 True Crime Podcasts to Listen To in 2020 – Lizzy Steiner recommends some of the best crime podcasts to listen to this year.

Xinhua: Japan’s Tsutaya bookstore to open branch in Shanghai – “Japanese bookstore chain Tsutaya has picked a century-old building in Shanghai as the site of its new branch which is planned to open this year.”

Book Riot: Authors Support Australia Fire Services With #AuthorsForFireys – Authors in are working to raise money for firefighters battling the country’s raging bushfires.

The Millions: Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2020 Book Preview – The editors hope this “semi-annual Millions tradition will be a bright spot” in a year that got off “to a rocky start worldwide”.

Zora: The ZORA Canon – “The 100 greatest books ever written by African American women”.

The Bookseller: Galway’s Kennys Bookshop marks 80 years of trade – “The independent family-run Kennys Bookshop & Art Gallery in Galway, Ireland, is celebrating 80 years in business”, reports Heloise Wood.

N+1: This Babushka Has Talons – Nell Zink takes a literary trip in the footsteps of Robert Walser and others.

Smithsonian: Researchers Recover an Early Copy of a 19th-Century Gay Rights Essay – A once-lost copy of A Problem in Greek Ethics is only the sixth of its kind”, finds Katherine J. Wu.

The Telegraph: My bookshelf: Elizabeth Strout’s top reads – “Elizabeth Strout, author of six novels, reveals the books which mean the most to her”.

Stack: Do I dare to eat a peach? – Kitty Drake examines Sand, a Berlin-based literary magazine.

Public Books: Internet Dystopias after Trump – “Fitting chaos into form is what genre was made for. But what does it mean for our literature?” asks Eleanor Courtemanche.

The Japan Times: The books and translations about Japan to watch out for in 2020 – Iain Maloney thinks “2020 promises to be another spectacular year for translations and books about Japan with some familiar names and some newcomers gracing the stage in the 12 months ahead.”

EVERY LITTLE SCRAPCBC: Why Carla Funk finally wrote about her small-town Canadian upbringing – Carla Funk speaks to Shelagh Rogers about writing Every Little Scrap and Wonder.

The Curious Reader: Finding Inspiration In Books And Libraries – Nandini Patwardhan explains how books and libraries have inspired her and given her a sense of community.

Publishing Perspectives: Wales’ International Dylan Thomas Prize Expands Jury for Its 15th Year – “The £30,000 award for writers 39 and younger is scheduled to produce a longlist by January 24.”

Stylist: Why Jane Austen is as relevant and beloved as ever – “With feminist novels, a film, a TV series and a play all inspired by her work arriving this year, [Francesca Brown] investigates the enduring influence of Jane Austen.”

World Literature Today: Translation’s Trends and Blind Spots: An Interview with Elisabeth Jaquette – Veronica Esposito with the first En Face: Conversations on the Future of Translation features, in which she interviews “emerging translators who are changing the way we read world literature”.

DCist: She Was One Of America’s Most Successful 19th-Century Writers And Largely Forgotten, Until Now – Mikaela Lefrak wonders why Emma Southworth, one of the most successful writers of the 19th century, fell into obscurity?

The Point: Sorrows of Influence – Brandon Kreitler on poetic education and Harold Bloom.

ABC News: For Keeps! Atlanta’s home for rare and classic black books – “The owner, Rosa Duffy, wants it ‘to represent the vastness of blackness and allow people to read about their history in a welcoming space.’”

Literary Hub: At Nancy Mitford’s Grave, Where Romanticism Meets Reality – “Laura Thompson on a novelist’s dreams of beauty and death”.

Variety: Restored Footage at Centre of ‘Mishima’ Documentary on Controversial Literary Figure – “Restored footage of an infamous Tokyo University debate between controversial Japanese poet and novelist Yukio Mishima and university students is the centrepiece of a documentary”, finds Patrick Frater.

SF Gate: How two women quietly reading books in an SF bar started an introvert revolution – “Silent Book Club, otherwise known as ‘Introvert Happy Hour,’ started in San Francisco in 2012 with two friends reading together in a bar”, says Madeline Wells.

The Sydney Morning Herald: From fire evacuation rooms, Diary of a Wombat author pens her message to Australia – Author and 2015 Senior Australian of the Year, Jackie French has issued a call to action: “Do not forget that when we acted together we achieved miracles… We must not forget.”

MIDDLE ENGLANDBBC News: Jonathan Coe’s Brexit-themed novel among Costa Book Award winners – Jonathan Coe’s book Middle England, which takes a humorous look at life in Britain before and after the Brexit referendum, has been named the best novel of 2019 at the Costa Book Awards.

The Paris Review: Feminize Your Canon: Mary Heaton Vorse – In her regular column, Joanna Scutts explores the lives of underrated and under-read female authors.

The Guardian: John le Carré wins $100,000 prize for ‘contribution to democracy’ – “Spy author, who rarely accepts honours, says he will give the Olof Palme prize money to Médecins Sans Frontières”.

Now Toronto: BMV Books is closing its Queen West store – “Long-running Toronto bookstore to shut down its most recent location”.



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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36 replies

  1. Thanks for some fab links again! I really must try to join in with the Persephone event!

  2. It is really interesting that a spy writer has won a cash prize for serving democracy! He opposed Brexit, and trashed the leader of the Labour Party. In most English constituencies, you had to vote Labour if you were realistic about stopping Brexit.

    I suppose his political activity highlights some of the contradictions of 2019: the People’s Vote campaign ultimately failed to get its second referendum, but it did change the focus of the Labour Party. Momentum is urging Labour people to vote for the Rebecca Long-Bailey and Angela Rayner ticket. Personally, I think it’s time for a female Labour leader to take charge, but I fear that Sir Keir Starmer will win. What’s the betting that ordinary people will not win prizes for serving democracy?

    • Sir Keir Starmer seems a decent enough chap but I agree, he probably isn’t the one to move the Labour Party forward. I like what I’ve seen of Rebecca Long-Bailey, but will her close association with Corbyn be a problem? I would hate to see the RW media whip up panic against her among potential voters in the way it did with Corbyn. How about Emily Thornberry? I know she’s a slow starter in the race for the leadership. but I always rather liked her. As I’ve said before, I’m a dyed in the wool Greenie, but a weak Labour Party is in nobody’s interests. Let’s hope they can pick themselves up and move on.

      • Of course, RLB is the most ecological candidate- having worked so hard on that bit of the manifesto. As for the media, it would go after Sir Starmer or Ms Thornberry for a perceived lack of patriotism. That said, if Thornberry gets through to the final shortlist I’d rank her way above Starmer- I think he lacks her straightforward style.

  3. Thanks for sharing some posts about our fires, Paula. Much appreciated.

    Loved the why Austen is still popular one. Have shared it with my local group.

    • Oh, it’s the very least I can do in the circumstances. We’ve all played our part in warming the planet – now is the time for us to pull together. I’ve supported a couple of the charities helping people and wildlife affected by the wildfires and I’ve signed umpteen petitions, but like many others, I feel frustrated that I can’t do anything practical to help.

      I thought of you when I found the Austen piece! 😃

  4. Looking forward to your thoughts on Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. I’ve heard a lot about this one and it was in my ‘birthdays’ list this year, but I haven’t read it yet.

    • It has always been viewed as something of an old ‘hippy’ classic and as such, hasn’t always been taken seriously, which is sad. I read and loved it many years ago, since when a missing section of the text (Part Four and ‘Last Words’ by Richard Bach) was rediscovered, so a re-read is well overdue.

  5. Good news re Wales International Dylan Thomas Prize 🙂

    • It is, Gretchen. While it’s not ranked amongst the world’s most coveted literary awards, it has certainly become far more important over the last 15 years. Without a doubt it’s one of the biggest prizes for young writers. I’m looking forward to the longlist announcement later this month. 😃

  6. Here I was thinking I had the 2020 releases covered and you’ve pointed out the Guardian’s literary calendar and the list from The Millions! (I’m not really complaining!)

  7. Many thanks for the mention Paula

  8. Great links Paula! I’m hoping to join in with the Persephone readathon – fingers crossed…

  9. Thanks for that link about new releases from Japan – perfect timing for the Japanese Literature Challenge which is running now until end of March.
    I’m getting into Japanese fiction but mostly have read some of the older books so these contemporary writers are particularly interesting to discover

  10. As always, Paula, thank you for the great list of links for me to follow. I’m especially interested in knowing more about the true crime podcasts.

  11. Thank you very much for including my review of Tanya Landman’s Jane Eyre retelling Paula. I’ll be very interested to read your views on the Kate Thompson collection of short stories.

  12. Every January on my first day back in work, I print off that Guardian 2020 piece and highlight like mad! Great list of links Paula, thank you!

  13. Indeed, Paula. Even though I don’t always say thank you, enough, I really enjoy my visits here because of your link selection. It’s a mini education for a Sunday surf session.

  14. Glad you liked the Eliot bio review, thanks for linking to it! Have you read that one?

  15. Such a wonderful collection of links! Tx for visiting my blog — wishing you the best with yours for 2020 🙂

  16. I think the CN Tower stood up a little straighter at your explicit mention of Toronto in this week’s links. Hah. And, yes, it was a little disappointing to see that BMV has closed their Queen West location. They’ve only recently (within the last year) started to add cafes to each of their locations and so I wondered if maybe it was a case of too-much-too-quick…but, still, why can’t more people just go to shops and buy books instead of always striking that BUY button online (when they live in cities with shops, when they have money for books to begin with). Still, they’ve other locations which seem to be doing well. *fingers crossed*

    In other news, what interesting “favourites” for Elizabeth Strout – I love the combo of classic and contemporary. And, of course, I love it when writers read. They should! 🙂

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