Winding Up the Week #106

An end of week recap

WUTW3This 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 read and reviewed The Stepney Doorstep Society, Kate Thompson’s vivid and moving collection of stories about the women who ruled London’s East End when the men were sent to war. >> BOOK REVIEW: The Stepney Doorstep Society >>

Coming soon is my review of Guinevere Glasfurd’s forthcoming novel The Year Without Summer, set 1815, the year in which a supervolcanic eruption led to a massive climate disruption.


* Lie Back and Listen *

Here I recommend engaging podcasts and other digital recordings I’ve come across during the week. Hopefully you too will enjoy them.

adorable blur cat close up

* For the first time in over a decade Margaret Atwood is going to publish a new poetry collection, entitled Dearly, which will be available worldwide on 10th November. In the meantime, you may like to listen to Atwood herself reading Siren Song from her collection Eating Fire (Virago, 1998). >> Siren Song by Margaret Atwood >>

* Women’s Prize for Fiction has launched the first of 25 new episodes of their podcast. Hosted by Zing Tsjeng, VICE Executive Editor, this series will “celebrate the best fiction written by women, welcoming influential names on to the show to discuss and debate the diverse back-catalogue of Women’s Prize-winning books and explore the bookshelves of inspirational women.” Episodes will appear fortnightly and feature guests such as Gemma Cairney, bestselling writer and cook Melissa Hemsley, Chair of Judges and businesswoman Martha Lane Fox, writer and Prize Co-Founder Kate Mosse, influencer Liv Purvis, and comedian Jessica Fostekew. “The first episode is available now and features Liv Little, Founding Editor-in-Chief of Gal Dem magazine, in conversation with Zing about the five books by women that have shaped her.” >> Bookshelfie: Liv Little >>


* #OURSEA Campaign Update *

OURSEA LOGOFollowing my recent post about a twelve month #OURSEA campaign to help save the Baltic Sea, a set of Moomin postage stamps were issued in Finland on 22nd January depicting various characters from Tove Jansson’s wonderful books. You can see and purchase the whole set on the official Moomin website. The head designer, James Zambra remarked: “For Moomins, the sea stands for freedom and adventure, but it is also an element that inspires respect and can sometimes even be dangerous. I personally spend a lot of time on the archipelago, so a campaign and stamps to protect the Baltic Sea felt like a meaningful assignment.”

* Lit Crit Blogflash *

I’m going to share with you three 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:

GIRL TREEThe Girl In The Tree – The forthcoming novel from award-winning author Şebnem İşigüzel, is “raw and poetic” says Amalia Gavea, The Opinionated Reader. She fully expects it to be among “the finest reads of 2020”.

Here and Elsewhere: Copenhagen – Marcie from BuriedInPrint found the language in Tove Ditlevsen’s Childhood “spare and sharp”. What’s more, she spotted “aspects of [herself]” in the stories from this first volume in The Copenhagen Trilogy.

The Listening Walls by Margaret Millar – Millar’s 1959 mystery contains “insights into the secrets and petty disagreements of suburban life” with “some darkly comic touches”, says Jacqui of JacquiWine’s Journal. She declares it “a very welcome addition to the Pushkin Press/Pushkin Vertigo list”.

* Irresistible Items *

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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:


EUROPEANSThe New Criterion: Cosmopolitan cocktail – Brooke Allen shares her thoughts on Orlando Figes’ The Europeans: Three Lives and the Making of a Cosmopolitan Culture.

TLS: A quiet roar – Emma Butcher celebrates the 200th birthday of Anne Brontë.

Esquire: Architecturally Bound: The World’s Most Stunning Libraries – “The way we house human knowledge takes on many impressive architectural forms”, finds Tim Newcomb.

The Guardian: If a novel was good, would you care if it was created by artificial intelligence? – “The first computer-generated screenplays are promised within five years. Fiction can’t be far behind”, says Richard Lea.

Book Riot: 6 Ideas For Nancy Drew’s 90th Birthday (That Aren’t Killing Her) – Fans of Nancy Drew are preparing to celebrate the 90th anniversary of The Secret of the Old Clock.

Moomin: Lead cast and national premiere for the first feature drama film about Tove Jansson announced – Alma Pöysti will play Tove Jansson in the first feature film about the author and artist.

The Atlantic: Let’s All Read More Fiction – “Over the centuries, [The Atlantic] has prized great storytelling. Now [they’re] recommitting [themselves] to publishing short fiction, beginning with a story by Lauren Groff.”

BBC News: Jack Reacher author Lee Child passes writing baton to brother – “The author of the best-selling Jack Reacher novels is handing over the writing duties to his younger brother.”

The Washington Post: New York Public Library’s most checked-out books say a lot about what we read and why – Ron Charles with the NYPL’s 10 most checked-out books in its 125-year history.

Observer: Introducing our 10 best debut novelists of 2020 – “All first-time authors dream of becoming bestsellers. The Observer’s past picks have included Sally Rooney and Jessie Burton – who among this year’s crop will make it big?”

DW: Anti-nuclear author Gudrun Pausewang dies – “Gudrun Pausewang wrote about environmental destruction, escape and war. “The Cloud,” her 1987 book for teens, was a must for the anti-nuclear movement. The German novelist has died at the age of 91.”

The Irish Times: Australia’s First Nations poets map possible path of atonement – “The mainstream stories of who an Australian is can be quite damaging if you’re not part of that privilege”.

Harvard: Eat, Drink, Read – Nell Porter Brown explores Boston Public Library’s cosy winter hideout.

JSTOR Daily: Ray Bradbury on War, Recycling, and Artificial Intelligence – “As the 21st century unravels, Ray Bradbury remains a fundamental figure of the sci-fi genre”, finds Franco Laguna Correa.

The New York Times: How Ursula K. Le Guin Fooled the Poet Robert Hass – “‘I thought that I had discovered that I loved science fiction,’ says Hass, whose new collection is Summer Snow. Then he ‘read a lot of it and discovered that I just loved Ursula Le Guin’.”

Aeon: Love is a joint project – “For Simone de Beauvoir, authentic love is an ethical undertaking: it can be spoilt by devotion as much as by selfishness”, writes Kate Kirkpatrick.

Clever: Have We Reached Peak Literary Parading? – “There’s no denying books make great décor”, says Linne Halpern. “But are we buying them for their substance or their cover?”

GENIUS INKBrain Pickings: Virginia Woolf on Why We Read and What Great Works of Art Have in Common – “Genius and Ink: Virginia Woolf on How to Read is a book which, “had I not been too consumed by rereading beloved books of yore to realize its publication, I would have ardently included among my favorite books of 2019”, writes Maria Popova.

The Guardian: Counting and Cracking: Belvoir Street’s standout hit wins Australia’s richest literary prize – “First-time playwright S. Shakthidharan and associate writer Eamon Flack share the $125,000 prize, while Christos Tsiolkas won for fiction”.

The Point: On the Hatred of Literature – Jon Baskin suggests: “The hatred of literature, though it remains almost unheard of among the general reading public, has become the default mode in the upper reaches of our literary culture.”

History Today: Pause and Effect – Florence Hazrat on the “past and future of punctuation marks.”

BuzzFeed: 28 Little Free Libraries That Are So Adorable It Hurts – Lauren Yapalater is a little in love with “these little things.”

Literary Hub: 14 Books You Should Read in February – “Recommended reading from Lit Hub staff and contributors”.

The Japan Times: Is Japan enjoying a new literary golden age? – “With more and more Japanese novels in translation achieving commercial and critical success, Nicolas Gatting and Damian Flanagan argue over whether a new wave of writers are transcending Japan’s literary past”.

Fine Books & Collections: The Lives of Book Collectors (and Booksellers, Publishers…) – Rebecca Rego Barry on two recent books by the preeminent historian Nicolas Barker, which document the lives of mid-twentieth century bibliophiles.

NPR: Latinx Critics Speak Out Against ‘American Dirt’; Jeanine Cummins Responds – The controversy over American Dirt shows no sign of abating. Jeanine Cummins responds to her critics.

Cultured Vultures: Rereading The Great Gatsby in 2020 – “What can the classic novel tell us about the world in this new decade?” asks Natasha Alvar.

Book Riot: What Is Speculative Fiction? – “You may get a different answer depending on who you ask”, finds Lyndsie Manusos.

Publishers Weekly: WI15: Treeline Readies Targeted E-Marketing Product for Indies – Above the Treeline have launched Edelweiss360, giving independents a simpler way to send out customized emails in lieu of Mailchimp or Constant Contact.

The Guardian: Costa prize: Jack Fairweather wins book of the year with The Volunteer – Lanre Bakare reports that the winner of the Costa prize, which has been “hailed as extraordinary”, is the biography of Witold Pilecki, “a Polish resistance fighter who infiltrated Auschwitz”.

CBC: New award to recognize Yukon’s literary community: The Borealis Prize – “A new literary award called The Borealis Prize will be dedicated to the Yukon’s writer and literary community”, says Oliver Thompson.

VERGETime: Lidia Yuknavitch Mines the Lives of People on the ‘Verge’ – Nicholas Mancusi finds the characters in Verge, Yuknavitch’s first collection of short fiction, is filled with misfits.

Penguin: The books all Jane Austen superfans should read – “You’ve finished the novels, so where next?” asks Matt Blake. “From insightful biographies to modern fiction, the Pride and Prejudice author has inspired plenty else worth picking up.”

Vulture: Why Is Everyone Arguing About the Novel American Dirt? – “It was supposed to be the season’s big novel. Suddenly it’s an argument starter”, says Rebecca Alter.

Ipswich Star: New independent bookshop opening in Ipswich – Emily Cashen reports that Dial Lane Books is opening in the English town of Ipswich on 3rd March.



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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29 replies

  1. American Dirt certainly seems to be a good example of the old adage “all publicity is good publicity.” The more controversy, the more people hear about it.

  2. Thank you so much, Paula!

  3. I already have a copy of Ink and Genius and trying to work it into my queue.

  4. Thanks as always Paula. I’ve just clicked The Point link and read it, so interesting and I would not have found it without you 🙂 Now to the other fascinating links you’ve provided…

  5. Super links Paula – thank you. I live in the vicinity of Dial Lane Books so I’m very excited…. ;D

  6. So many interesting reads, thanks Paula!

  7. A privilege to hear Atwood being so poetic. Such a charismatic individual, and an excellent reader of her own work. Hearing her voice reminds me of one of the interviews she gave about her last novel. The questions were quite unfair, and she responded with a intelligent courtesy instead of being too dismissive. It’s no wonder that she still seems to be one of your favourites.

  8. Thanks for the link to my review of the Margaret Millar, very kind.

  9. Terrific round-up as per usual. Btw – that volcanic eruption was one of the reasons for all the post-Waterloo unrest in England. Including the Pentrich Revolution.

    Things were bad. And then the crops failed.

    “The Tambora (Indonesia) volcano of 1815 wrought havoc with global weather patterns and darkened the skies across the northern hemisphere. There was frost throughout the year, in Derbyshire snow fell in June and 1816 was known as the year without a summer. Starvation loomed and people were desperate.”

  10. I love Margaret Atwood’s poetry, so that’s exciting news! My husband read one of her poems at our wedding and it was absolutely beautiful. Thanks for all the great links, I enjoyed reading about the 2020 debut authors profiled in The Guardian.

  11. Always a treasure trove of information!!

    • Thank you, Rebecca. I see you had an adventure on the Isle of Skye. I spent several months there as a young person doing voluntary work at a seal sanctuary (The Environmental Centre in Broadford) – such a beautiful part of the world. I enjoyed many happy hours watching wild otters in the sea. 😊

      • It must have been a wonderful time for you. The first time we visited the Isle of Skye was 2008. It was relatively quiet. We returned in 2017 and what a difference. The place was humming with activity, which is due in part to “Outlander.” Ah, the power of a story!!!

      • There was no bridge over to Skye when I was there (it must have been very early 90s), so I’m sure far more people visit these days!

  12. Thank you so much for including a link to January’s Here and Elsewhere post. so far, I’ve been really enjoying the ritual of reading to correspond with the city that the artist has drawn for specific pages on my calendar. And here I had to make a real point of distinguishing between Scandinavian writers’ countries, whereas in my mind they tend to blur (without a personal experience of any of them). I’m not going to give away February’s scene, but I will say that I had no trouble finding candidates! 😀

    And I’ve also picked out my read for next month’s Dewithon too!

    • It’s a pleasure, Marcie. I love the concept behind Here and Elsewhere. I can see you’re having great fun with the calendar and it is providing inspiration for your posts.

      Delighted! I can’t wait to discover your choice for Dewithon. 😃


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