Winding Up the Week #132

An end of week recap

WUTW3As Wales begins to emerge, sloth-like, from tough lockdown conditions, other parts of the UK are seeing a hotchpotch of local quarantine regulations reimposed after experiencing alarming spikes in COVID-19 cases.

Like a couple of trepidatious puffins snuggled safely in our burrow, we shuffle gingerly from our seaside hideaway only occasionally – usually to exercise the dogs – while all the time wondering when, if ever, a successful vaccine will be found.

Little has changed in our lives since we began isolating in March. Daily routines have been established, sporadically broken by the odd Zoom get-together or visit to see our mothers from a ‘safe’ distance. D, of course, is sheltering until 16th August, after which, we are assured, she can return to whatever the ‘new normal’ may be at that point. One cannot help but wonder how much touching of wood and crossing of fingers went on when this announcement was made.

Nevertheless, we have much for which to be thankful, not least D’s continuing good health, splendid sea views, a feast of online cultural events and, of course, books!

As ever, this is a weekly post in which I summarise 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.


* Look and Listen *

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

As regular readers will know, I’m a huge fan of the Finnish writer and artist Tove Jansson (1914-2001) and therefore wildly excited to report her birthday this year will be celebrated across the globe through a set of interesting and inspiring live stream sessions. According to the Moomin website, the “event will be streamed on the official Moomin Facebook channel” (the link is due to be announced any day now) and will be hosted by Caitlin Allen of Riot Communications – “a long-time Tove Jansson fan” who has also worked promoting her “life’s work in the UK for the past 4 years.” Check out the programme of events and join the party on Sunday 9th August. >> Tove Jansson’s birthday celebrations are to be live streamed to your home for the very first time on 9th of August >>


* 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:

MIGRATIONSAn Emotional Journey of Survival in Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy – McConaghy’s debut novel is an “all consuming […] story of loss and hope” says Jennifer Blankfein of Book Nation by Jen. Read her fascinating question and answer session with the author of this “love letter to nature.” 

Providence – Jeanne Griggs of Necromancy Never Pays can’t help but care about the characters in Max Barry’s latest science fiction story of a war with “hostile aliens”. She found the plot became steadily “more exciting” as she read and completed the 352-page novel in only “one day”.

The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson (1951) – Claire McAlpine of Word by Word read Carson’s “beautifully told narrative account of three creatures that live within the ecosystem of the sea” while “on holiday sitting next to a lake”. Born “of a great passion and love of the sea”, she discovered this “thrilling and insightful [non-fiction] pageturner” about the natural world presaged “climate change”. 

* Irresistible Items *

book on pink textile on sand during day

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:


FANTASYElectric Literature: How Fantasy Literature Helped Create the 21st Century – “Ann and Jeff VanderMeer track modern fantasy from post-war to pre-apocalypse”.

BBC News: Booker Prize 2020: Hilary Mantel makes longlist – “Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror & The Light is among the novels longlisted for this year’s Booker Prize.”

The Wall Street Journal: For Eons, Iceland Has Endured Calamity Through Books – “The island’s famed sagas were written out as early as the 12th century, and it now publishes the most books per capita of any nation”, finds A. Kendra Greene.

Brain Pickings: D.H. Lawrence on Trees, Solitude, and How We Root Ourselves When Relationships Collapse – “One must possess oneself and be alone in possession of oneself.”

Knowledge Quest: Using #Bookstagram to Enhance the Library – Karin Greenberg with tips on following and creating your own Bookstagram account.

The Cut: A New Magazine? In This Economy? – Emilia Petrarca is surprised and encouraged by the launch of Inque, “a large-format title dedicated to ‘commissioning and publishing diverse global writing next to extraordinary art, design and photography,’ but with a radical business plan.”

Al-Fanar Media: Black Saudi Author Focuses on Neglected History of African Migration and Slavery – M. Lynx Qualey on the cult Saudi novel Maymouna, written by Mahmoud Trawri and published in 2001.

Lapham’s Quarterly: The Power of Flawed Lists – Elizabeth Della Zazzera looks at how “The Bookman invented the best seller.”

Prospect: Vivian Gornick unlocks the pleasures of re-reading – “In the legendary critic’s rendering, re-reading isn’t just a portal to consolidation but exposes the emotional distortions that accrue through repetition”, writes Alice Blackhurst.

CBC: What reading and storytelling means to Maria Campbell – The celebrated Métis elder and author on the important role books and storytelling played in her life.

STRANGER CITYVirago News: London in Lockdown by Linda Grant – “With restrictions beginning to ease author Linda Grant [author of the 2019 novel A Stranger City] shares what she has discovered about herself, her neighbours and her city during lockdown.”

Book Marks: A Children’s Fable for Adults: Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince – “This week marks the 76th anniversary of the disappearance of French writer, journalist, and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.” BM “[takes] a look back at some of the earliest reviews of Katherine Woods’ 1943 English language translation of this beloved and deceptively profound novella.”

The Critic: How I discovered secondhand books – “A home with books is a launching pad for a life well lived, says Daniel Johnson”.

The First News: New Netflix Original film sees a powerhouse line up of writers including Nobel prize winner Olga Tokarczuk Erotica 2022, the first Polish film to be commissioned as a new Netflix original, “sees a powerhouse line up of writers including Nobel prize winner Olga Tokarczuk”.

The New York Review of Books: The Fiction of Winners & Losers – “All of narrative fiction […] can be sorted into four grand categories”, says Tim Parks.

The Times: Booker Prize 2020 longlist: where are the new male hotshot novelists? – “As the longlist for the literary prize comes out, James Marriott reports on the strange absence of young men writing breakthrough novels”.

BBC History: The Brontës: the unfortunate and unlikely tale of the world’s “greatest literary sisters” – Mel Sherwood recounts the story of the Brontë sisters. A former bookseller explains why bookshops will find the post-pandemic period especially difficult – “Ajit Vikram Singh, who owned and ran Delhi’s iconic Fact and Fiction bookshop, on the future of brick-and-mortar bookselling.”

Penguin: How my cancer diagnosis turned reading from a habit into a compulsion – “Confronted with news of a life-altering illness before she was 30, Alice Purkiss feared she’d run out of time to finish all the books she wanted to read. Here she shares what she learned about the power of reading on her road to recovery.”

Bomb: Cultural Hierarchies: Kate Milliken Interviewed by Lydia Kiesling – “On writing about California in the 1990s, embodying our experiences, and launching a novel during a pandemic.”

ORWELL IN CUBALiterary Review of Canada: North and South: Cuba’s Orwellian mystery – The subtitle of Frédérick Lavoie’s personal account of contemporary Cuba at a pivotal point in its history is How ‘1984’ Came to Be Published in Castro’s Twilight. It is reviewed here by Amanda Perry.

Zora: ‘I Wasn’t Taught Certain Things About My Ancestors’ – Morgan Jerkins in conversation with novelist Kaitlyn Greenidge.

Bookforum: Comedy of Heirs – Eileen Myles catches “a glimpse of heaven in the confines of Tristram Shandy”.

The Guardian: Authors condemn Saudi Arabia’s bid to host World Science Fiction Convention – “More than 80 writers sign an open letter protesting against Jeddah’s plan for the 2022 Worldcon, saying it is antithetical to everything SFF stands for”, finds Alison Flood.

Romania-Insider: Romanian online bookstore sees increase in orders during social distancing, summer holiday periods – “Online bookstore has seen a 27% [year-on-year] increase in the number of books ordered […], which coincided with the social distancing requirements and the summer holidays.”

Open Culture: 29 Free Short Stories from Some of Today’s Most Acclaimed Writers: Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell & More The Decameron Project provides free short stories from popular writers such as Tommy Orange, Margaret Atwood and Victor LaValle.

Autostraddle: 8 Great Queer Scandinavian Books, from Tender Novels to Supernatural Horror– Casey Stepaniuk with a selection of her favourite queer Scandinavian books.

Somerset County Gazette: William Wordsworth’s former Somerset home Alfoxton Park sold to Buddhist charity – The former “Somerset home of poet William Wordsworth has been sold for around £2,000,000 – to a Buddhist charity”, finds Paul Jones.

The Paris Review: Cooking with D. H. Lawrence – Valerie Stivers makes bread, pork chops and a simple summer pie as a tribute to literature’s most notorious outcast. 

Books + Publishing: New project to digitise, lend and sell out-of-print Australian titles – “The Australian Society of Authors […] is working with the University of Melbourne and Australian public libraries on a pilot project ‘to breathe new life into important out-of-print Australian books”.

ICEBOUNDOutside: My Midlife Crisis as a Russian Sailor – Andrea Pitzer, the author of Icebound: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World, on a life-changing research trip to the Arctic.

The New Yorker: An Elegy for the Landline in Literature – Sophie Haigney mourns “a device that gave fiction surprise, suspense and uncertainty.”

Faber: Nicola Upson remembers P. D. James – “As part of [Faber’s] celebrations for the centenary of P. D. James’ birth [on 3rd of August], author of the Josephine Tey novels Nicola Upson shares her memories of the crime writing icon.” 

Inside Philanthropy: How an Influential Nonprofit Publisher Survived a Pandemic and Informed a Social Movement – “Diane Wachtell and André Shiffrin, the longtime publishers of Pantheon Books at Random House, founded the New Press in 1990 as a nonprofit publishing house operating in the public interest”, finds Mike Scutari.

France 24: Book that exposed French author to be made into film – “A bestselling book that exposed the acclaimed French writer Gabriel Matzneff as a paedophile is to be adapted for the big screen”.

Columbia Journalism Review: Easy as pie? Not quite. – Merrill Perlman on a literary etymology of ‘cake’.

Public Books: A Tale of Two Valleys – Adam Fales looks at the literature of Silicon Valley.

The Bookseller: Sunak’s online sales tax has ‘immediate appeal’, says Halls – Ruth Comerford reveals Britain’s chancellor is considering an online sales tax to protect high street shops from competition from internet retailers.

Quill & Quire: Inhabit Media to open a new bookstore in Toronto – The Inuit-owned publishing and media company Inhabit Media is to open Inhabit Books in 2021.

The Conversation: Many writers say they can actually hear the voices of their characters – here’s why – John Foxwell looks at how writers hear their characters in their heads. 



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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28 replies

  1. Thanks for helping to spread the word about how good Providence is!
    I learned more about instagram from your links. Also I had to read the bit about “trepidatious puffins” out loud, as it’s so evocative.

  2. Good to know you and yours are doing well, Paula. This week, I especially enjoyed “An Elegy for the Landline in Literature.” I much prefer stories written before the advent of the cell phone (and internet), which changes so many things! I notice this particularly in mystery and suspense.

    • Thank you, Becky. Pre cell phone (or mobile phone as we tend to say here) times were so very different. I rely on one myself these days, having held out for many years before investing in my first BlackBerry for work, and now keep my whole life stored on a Smartphone. However, like you, I tend to enjoy my fiction BCH (Before Cell Hell)! 😂

  3. Loads of interesting links, thanks — I particularly liked the Tim Parks one on literary categories. Also good to hear that you are both as well as can be expected. Sea, air, books, and each other: sounds pretty good to me. 🙂

    • Thank you, Chris. I hope you and Emily are staying safe, sane and relatively cheerful amid all the ineptitude and muddle. You’re right, we know that life could be so much worse – we’re fortunate compared to many. I wouldn’t like to be starting out in this world again. How would you ever plan for the future?

      • And thank you too, Paula. We both had the virus in March, me so fleetingly I doubt myself, Emily laid up with flu-like symptoms and now, post-virally, compounded by seven weeks with severe sciatica. Depressing, but at least she hasn’t needed to be hospitalised, and for that we are truly grateful.

      • I’m so glad you both recovered, Chris, but I’m sorry to hear of Emily’s sciatica. I’ve had a dodgy back for years and know the misery of nerve pain in the legs etc., so she has my complete sympathy. There’s nothing you can do but wait it out and dose up on pain killers or one of those complicated drugs prescribed by the doctor. I hope she is at least able to find a comfortable position in which to read. 🤗

  4. Has Linda Grant actually written a book already about life during lockdown? Wow. The time has gone so fast for me and I’ve been busy, yet I have absolutely nothing to show for it. I could have written a novel by now! Who am I kidding, it’ll never happen. I’ll check that article out in a moment – you’ve done amazingly well with all your bookish finds as always.

    I’m glad D’s still doing well health-wise, and hopefully you’re all keeping okay where you are. The current situation is very, very unsettling. I think the hopes now are being pinned on a vaccine because there’s no way the government can get a handle on the virus. Meanwhile, those that aren’t bothered can go out and enjoy life with their money off food thanks to the government, while we whittle away our lives just trying to stay safe and get by. I think we might have to hunker down for a while longer yet so more focus on things we can enjoy might be a good idea, and it sounds like you’re on a good track with Zoom chats and books. Books & tea can make everything right with the world.

    Stay safe and I hope you have a good week ahead, Paula.
    Caz xx

    • Thank you so much, Caz. I believe A Stranger City was written and published pre-lockdown. I agree, the situation is dire for the clinically vulnerable at present, especially with no end in sight. However, you are absolutely right about tea and books – they are both an absolute necessity in good times and bad!

      Take care of yourself and please keep writing your fabulous blog. 🤗

  5. Hope you stay safe and sane! Another great week of links, some of which I’ve seen, but a lot more that I’ve missed. You do a sterling job, as always.

  6. Great links Paula! Off to check out the free Atwood story…

    Glad you are managing to stay safe. I have no faith in anything the government says and so we will continue to keep away from everyone and everything. We miss our children and my mother, but feel it’s safest that way while so little is still known…

    • Thank you, Kaggsy. I hope you enjoy the free Atwood. 😊

      Very sensible, it is best to be sceptical of government advice. You never know which direction they are likely to take from one day to the next – they flail about like frenzied octopi, causing much disturbance but achieving little, and while it’s difficult to be parted from family, it is undoubtedly wise to shield as much as possible. I’m inclined to ignore Boris and listen to the scientists! 😂

  7. I love the image of you as puffins emerging. So glad that you have good views and good health. Here, things are moving forward a bit. Bookstores are open. Haircuts can be gotten and there is lots of food to go. Still, masks are so important and I am so frustrated by those who don’t comply.
    Wishing you continued good things.

    • Thank you, Joyce. Puffins are my favourite birds – although I’m very fond of Blue Footed Boobies since visiting the Galapagos islands many years ago. I’m glad you have a little more freedom as lockdown loosens. I’m afraid some people simply object to wearing masks and nothing will convince them otherwise. I agree, it’s so frustrating!

      All the very best to you, too. 🤗

  8. I’m glad to hear you’re both in good health! 🙂 Plenty of wonderful links, as usual – thank you, Paula!

  9. Thank you for another lovely selection of links that I’m about to enjoy with my coffee. It must feel strange for you both venturing out after such a long time but I’m extremely glad to hear that all is well with you both.

    • Thank you, Anne. I hope you enjoyed reading this post as you relaxed with your coffee. 😊

      It will be very strange when we finally venture forth into the big wide world. I tend to think we’ll continue being cautious regardless of government rules being relaxed – we’ve come too far to start being silly now. I hope you’ve been coping over recent months and have remained healthy. Stay safe. 🤗

  10. The ‘lack’ (!) of male authors on the Booker list did catch my attention!

    A new magazine – yes, bold in this day and age. In Australia, a whole raft of magazine titles folded about a month ago. I guess COVID was the final straw. Must admit, I was once an avid reader of magazines, but now rarely buy them (I subscribe to a quarterly UK publication, Cereal, which is beautiful but $$$). I used to buy cooking magazines, but even those seem to have been overtaken by the free magazines that our two major supermarket chains publish in Australia.

    • Like you, I seldom read actual magazines these days, although I do still like the feel and look of physical books. I don’t know Cereal – probably because I’m a useless cook – but I enjoy seeing your fabulous culinary creations in posts. 😋

      I hope you are staying safe and well in the current lockdown, Kate. Such strange days!

  11. What are you planning to celebrate coming out of your puffin hibernation? I asked someone that yesterday who has been shielding with her parents and she said they planned to drive to Brecon to be at an icecream shop when it opened at 9am!

  12. Am totally into Tove – from one fan to another, thank you, Paula!

  13. Glad to hear that you’ve both been keeping well and have been celebrating the small pleasures of life. And how wonderful that Tove Jansson’s birthday will be televised to coincide with your Tove Trove event…well, I’m sure that’s why, right? 🙂

    • Thank you, Marcie. I hope you are also remaining healthy and happy amid all the crazy carrying-ons of recent times. You can’t help but wonder what is going to happen next – but you are right, we do tend to take pleasure in the small things (I think that ability may come with age).

      Yes indeed, it was jolly decent of to organize global festivities to coincide with Tove Trove! 😂

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