Winding Up the Week #197

An end of week recap

Men argue, nature acts.”

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.


If you are planning a reading event, challenge, competition or anything else likely to be of interest to the book blogging community, please let me know. I will happily share your news here with the fabulous array of bibliowonks who read this weekly wind up.

* Big Wheel Book Odyssey *

In recent months I’ve been following and thoroughly enjoying Derby-dweller, Joules Barham’s Bookshop Tour on Four Wheels. In this ongoing series of features for Northern Reader she writes about her experiences visiting a variety of independent bookstores in the UK and describes her findings for the benefit of others. In her introductory post, An Occasional Bookshop Tour on Four Wheels -The Borzoi Bookshop, she explains that as “a wheelchair user who loves visiting bookshops” she sometimes experiences difficulties accessing establishments due to “steps, narrow doorways [and] overcrowded interiors”, which means “exploring the stock on offer [is all but] impossible.” Fortunately, she has discovered a number of outlets that “make access as easy as possible” and she makes it her business to praise those “that have gone the extra mile” in her informative and splendidly illustrated articles. From The Bound Bookshop in Whitley Bay to Siop Cwlwn in Oswestry, Joules regularly shares her views on the bookshops of Britain, and she welcomes suggestions from her readers regarding possible future visits. Please forward your tip-offs using the Contact Form or via Twitter.

* Lit Crit Blogflash * 

I am going to share with you a couple of my favourite literary posts from around the blogosphere. There are so many talented writers posting high-quality book features and reviews, it is difficult to limit the list to only these two – both published over the last week or so:

Claire Oshetsky – Chouette – Claire Oshetsky’s “surreal” yet “expansive” new novel from Virago “takes motherhood and gives it a fresh (and occasionally fearsome) perspective”, says Robert Pisani from The Bobsphere. It is a dark and “highly personal” fable in which a woman comes to believe she has been impregnated by a female owl. Indeed, it frequently crosses “the fine line between reality and fantasy”, and, as “the book proceeds the owl metaphor becomes stronger and takes on different meanings.” Chouette, Robert reports, “balances moments of ugliness with beautiful ones” and he declares it “an unforgettable” read.

Our Country Friends – Gary Shteyngart’s newly published “pandemic novel” from Random House “focuses on a group of friends from the part of the U.S. first hit by the virus, New York City”, writes Jeanne Griggs in her thoughtful review of Our Country Friends at Necromancy Never Pays. “Allusions to plays and novels and references to obscure and foreign words with no definition abound” in this tale of “privileged people” escaping the city – though, “their idea of what is [considered] ‘safe’” may differ from our own”, and their “Decameron-like idyll” ends with victims “among [their] smart and sophisticated” set – not to mention a “eulogy” from the book’s narrator. We are left merely with the earnest hope that “the summer of 2020 [will] hold them together forever.”

* Irresistible Items *

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 selection of interesting snippets:


Yale Climate Connections: New book delves into 300 years that changed humanity … and the planet – “Alice Bell’s Our Biggest Experiment is an epic history of a crisis three centuries in the making: ‘We’ve inherited an almighty mess’”, writes Michael Svoboda.

Sunday Times ZA: Legendary adventure writer Wilbur Smith, 88, dies at his Cape Town home – The Internationally acclaimed author Wilbur Smith died at his home in South Africa last Saturday after a decades-long career in writing.

Prospect: The rise and fall of a Messiah: Olga Tokarczuk’s epic novel of Jewish life in Poland – In her review of Olga Tokarczuk’s new novel, The Books of Jacob, Catherine Taylor reveals the “Nobel prize winner sets the historical record straight”.

Nederlands Letterenfonds: European Literature Prize 2021 – “Jury report and words of thanks”.

Book Marks: José Saramago’s Blindness and the Endless Darkness of the Human Heart – “A classic review [by Craig Nova in The Washington Post on 9th October 1998] of the late Nobel prize-winner’s most famous novel”, Blindness.

The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction: The Winner of the 2021 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction – Patrick Radden Keefe has won £50,000 Baillie Gifford Prize with his book Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty.

Guardian Australia: The Last Woman in the World by Inga Simpson review – apocalyptic thriller preys on Australians’ worst nightmares – In his review of The Last Woman in the World, Steve Dow writes: “Simpson’s page-turner, about a recluse living in the aftermath of bushfires and pandemic, makes us see the world anew as it meditates on the importance of companionship”.

CBC: Norma Dunning wins 2021 Governor General’s Literary Award for English-language fiction – “The 2021 Governor General’s Literary Award winners have been announced, with Edmonton writer Norma Dunning taking home the English-language fiction prize for her short story collection Tainna: The Unseen Ones.” 

Guernica: Julia Fine: Ghosts of Rebel Children’s Book Authors – “The author of The Upstairs House on postpartum depression, hauntings, and the legacy of Margaret Wise Brown.”

Asian Review of Books: “Kopi, Puffs & Dreams” by Pallavi Gopinath Aney – The novel Kopi, Puffs & Dreams “explores the experience of Indian immigrants to Singapore in the early 20th century”, finds Rosie Milne.

BBC Northampton: Dame Edith Sitwell address book smashes auction estimates – “A rare Islamic atlas and the address book of “eccentric poet and personality” Dame Edith Sitwell were among items sold at far beyond their asking price at auction.”

Bitch Media: Hot Girl Shit – Natelegé Whaley finds the author of Bad Fat Black Girl, Sesali Bowen’s “vision for Black women” is ‘Trap Feminism’.

The New York Times: Who Was Beatrix Potter? – “The illustrator Joana Avillez delves into the life story of one of her favorite children’s book authors, creator of Peter Rabbit.”

Wallpaper: Etel Adnan obituary: 1925 – 2021 – “We remember Etel Adnan, writer, artist and pioneer in Arab-American culture, who has died in Paris aged 96”.

Jacobin: The Italian Communist Whose Radical Children’s Books Shaped a Generation – “Gianni Rodari was Italy’s most important children’s author — and a Communist. Cherished by generations of readers, his irreverent fairy tales encouraged children to question authority and think for themselves”, writes Giorgio Chiappa.

The Point: A Wonderful Trap – Rhian Sasseen on “the seductions of Anne Serre”.

The Spectator: Books of the Year I — chosen by our regular reviewers – “A.N. Wilson, Frances Wilson, Clare Mulley, Andrew Lycett and many more describe the books they have most enjoyed in 2021”.

iNews: I used to spend hours arranging my books until I realised it was a colossal waste of time and changed my ways – “For most of my life I have been afflicted by the desire to arrange shelves in painfully specific ways”, says Kasia Delgado. But she has “now seen the light”.

Commentary: Books Do Furnish a Civilization – Joseph Epstein on “libraries and their glories”.

JSTOR Daily: The Ecological Prescience of Dune – “Frank Herbert’s novel isn’t just about space messiahs, giant sandworms, and trippy space drugs”, says Jess Romeo. “At its core, the sci-fi epic is about ecology.” 

n+1: On Sylvère Lotringer (1938–2021) – Marco Roth remembers the French born literary critic and cultural theorist who died earlier this month at the age of 83 following a long illness.

Kyodo News: Japanese writer Aoko Matsuda among winners of 2021 World Fantasy Awards – Japanese author Aoko Matsuda won Best Collection at this year’s World Fantasy Awards for the English translation of her short stories Where the Wild Ladies Are.

Literary Hub: How Misogyny and Religious Bigotry Have Influenced the Historical Portrayal of the Female Experience – “Lucy Jago on the creative motivations behind A Net for Small Fishes”.

The Society of Authors: ‘Powerful evidence that the art of translation is alive and thriving’ – the 2021 Translation Prizes shortlists – “The Society of Authors has announced six shortlists for its annual Translation Prizes.”

Catapult: How’s the Writing Going, R. O. Kwon? – “I know that when I’m really writing, when I’m really, really lost in a sentence, I forget I have a body, I forget what time is. I forget to eat”, says R. O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries.

Writer’s Digest: The Ethics of Literary Revivification – “When writing about real people in historical fiction, what might the consequences be of taking certain artistic liberties? Author [of The Bloodless Boy] Robert Lloyd discusses the ethics of literary revivification.”

National Centre for Writing: Category winners announced for the East Anglian Book Awards 2021 – This year’s category winners for the East Anglian Book Awards are a “testament to the talent and determination of the writers who wrote and published under the difficult conditions of the pandemic,” says Programme Manager Flo Reynolds.

The Spinoff: Celebrating a landmark anthology of queer New Zealand writing – “Out Here is a big, beautifully designed hardback edited by Emma Barnes and Chris Tse, and it marks a watershed moment in queer writing in Aotearoa”, says Jean Sergent.”

Chicago Tribune: A moment to praise Graywolf Press, ‘Milkman’ publisher and an unsung hero in the books world – Graywolf Press is a non-profit publisher of fiction, poetry and non-fiction located in Minneapolis, which is, in John Warner’s opinion, “the greatest publisher in the world.”

Los Angeles Review of Books: The Myth of the Classically Educated Elite – Naomi Kanakia argues that despite the hype, neither American nor British elites have been particularly cultured.

Remezcla: 3 Brazilian Authors Explain Why Afrofuturism Matters – “In Brazil, the Afrofuturist movement shows strength, with authors also mixing elements of Afro-Brazilian culture and religion in their writing,” finds Raphael Tsavkko Garcia.

49th Shelf: Love Stories: A People and Planet Affair – “A recommended reading list by [the Canadian journalist and travel writer] Arno Kopecky, whose latest book is The Environmentalist’s Dilemma”.

History Today: The Doctor Is In – “Mills & Boon’s medical romances helped make the NHS more appealing to an ambivalent public.”

The Japan Times: ‘The Cat Who Saved Books’: A friendly reminder of the joys of reading – Louise George Kittaka finds Sosuke Natsukawa’s English-language debut about a withdrawn boy who joins a chatty cat on a quest to liberate books is quirky and heart-warming in equal measures.

CrimeReads: The Bloomingdale Story: Read the Never-Before Published Patricia Highsmith Draft That Would Become Carol (The Price of Salt) – Patricia Highsmith’s early draft of The Price of Salt: “A rare gem from Highsmith’s newly released diaries and notebooks, with annotations from the author and her editor.”

Asymptote: An Interview with Evgeny Nikolaevich Reznichenko from Russia’s Institute for Literary Translation – In this article translated from the Russian by Sophie Benbelaid, Evgeny Nikolaevich Reznichenko discusses literary translation with Lee Yew Leong.

Alta: Body and Soul – “Natashia Deón’s The Perishing and Venita Blackburn’s How to Wrestle a Girl give voice to powerful Black women characters”, finds Anita Felicelli.

Entropy: Entropy is Saying Farewell – With heavy heart, Janice Lee announces 2021 will be the last year in which the literary journal Entropy will “operate in its current form and iteration”.

Electric Literature: 7 Novels and Stories That Prove Fiction Can Grapple with Illness – “Contemporary literature isn’t romanticizing the reality of illness”, says Wynter K. Miller.

Columbus Monthly: The Triumphs and Tragedies of Dawn Powell, Central Ohio’s Forgotten Literary Genius – Peter Tonguette remembers an award-winning American novelist, playwright, screenwriter and short story writer, best known for her acid-tongued prose.

Bookforum: Get LitBookforum contributors on their favourite books of 2021. 

AARP: Native American Novelist on ‘The Sentence’ and Living ‘in a Haunted Age’ – “Pulitzer Prize winner Louise Erdrich discusses navigating between Native American and white Cultures​”.

ABC News: The best new books to read in November as selected by avid readers and critics – A shortlist of new releases read and recommended by the critics at ABC Arts’ monthly book column.

TIME: ‘We’re Preparing For a Long Battle.’ Librarians Grapple With Conservatives’ Latest Efforts to Ban Books – Olivia B. Waxman shares the concerns of librarians in the USA who believe they have a long battle ahead.



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 is an excellent description on Urban Dictionary.

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30 replies

  1. Thanks to this i now have a new list to fill my shelves. Thanks, as always.

  2. Another great list of links to explore – thanks for all the work you put into these, Paula!

  3. Thanks for pointing readers to my review of Our Country Friends! I hope a few will read the novel and come back to tell me what they think of it.
    I love the article about Dune and ecology, and the one about Dawn Powell. I live just a few miles from Mount Gilead and I’ve never heard of her!

  4. I’ve really enjoyed Joules’ bookshop visits and she came to our local indie, though we weren’t able to organise to meet up, unfortunately.

  5. Just in glancing through the links I can already see many I’m looking forward to reading, but the Prospect piece on The Books of Jacob is really excellent, one that will probably repay a return visit. Thank you Paula!

  6. So many great-sounding writings that my head is spinning, Paula. BUT the one I find most amazing is “The Upstairs House” by Julia Fine. I’m a big fan of Margaret Wise Brown and think that a ghost story involving her must be great:)

  7. Thanks for the links, Paula! I particularly like “7 Novels and Stories That Prove Fiction Can Grapple with Illness.” I have a chronic illness, so I generally shy away from stories featuring characters who are ill. But looking at this list, I think I need to be brave and get reading! 😀

  8. Chouette sounds so very strange and yet intriguing; I really need to get to The Cat Who Saved Books soon.
    So many interesting links as always–Beatrix Potter; the piece on translation! Thanks for these!

  9. Our Biggest Experiment looks like an essential read. And I’ve been admiring the cover of Chouette for ages. A cute idea, a cat saving books, too.

    What a fine collection this week (if some sad announcements too).

  10. I’m subconsciously a Kasia Delgado fan—I have some shelves in a semblance of order but most are pick’n’mix (that is, they’re mostly mixed, from which I pick what catches my eye). Another tempting smorgasbord, Paula, thanks.

    • Thank you, Chris. I’ve been shelfless for over a year while living in the lodge (all my books are currently stored in a lock up) but I hope to have them back in the New Year when we move into our new home in Conwy. I’ve really missed them. 😀

      • I wish you both hearty llongyfarchiadau for your New Year in Coney when it happens, I expect you both can’t wait for that time to arrive. But … books in storage for more than a twelvemonth, Paula, I just can’t imagine or contemplate it!

  11. Wonderful as always Paula! I didn’t know about Bookshop Tour on Four Wheels, it looks great. And I know just who to buy The Cat Who Saved Books for 🙂

  12. I have to admit, my books are not very organized. Over the years I’ve tried at least to bunch most of the CanLit together. But mostly I just have a general idea where my books are from looking at my shelves so much. : )

    • I have to confess, I would normally shelve books in alphabetical order (according to the name of the author) and break them down into fiction and non-fiction, then into categories – crime, biography etc. Sad, I know, but in recent months my books have been in storage after selling my home. I have been forced to live without them until I move into my new house. I can hardly wait to have them back in my life! 😂

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