" /> Book Reviews Archives - Naomi Foyle
A glass bell

What a year. When it comes to traumas we’re spoiled for choice, but as Amnesty International and Greenpeace remind us, 2016 also brought many victories for humanity and the planet. Here at home, I’ve been celebrating the official All Clear, which clear as a bell, arrived with impeccable timing on Dec 23rd. I’ve still got follow-treatments to come, but to bid farewell to cancer, I’m looking back on ten books that have enriched my journey thus far through the ‘kingdom of the sick’. What should you read during chemotherapy? I like to laugh, sure, but in my frail state I also wanted to see my suffering and that of the world reflected with compassion and insight. Thus the themes of illness, migration and climate change flow through this list of poetry, essays and fiction. Of Mutability by Jo Shapcott (Faber and Faber, 2011). Spending five months on the strongest drugs…

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With Amazon now placing even greater pressure on publishers to relinquish control of their own products, just how well the book industry will adapt to the digital media revolution remains an open question. One common prediction, of course, is that books will never become extinct, but rather rarer and more beautiful. While the mass market paperback has yet to evidence such an exotic transformation, the artist’s book may yet be rising to the challenge. Though arguably avant-garde – the crafted interplay of text and material object treating the book itself as a form to be explored, its possibilities extended – the artist’s book is also as democratic as Lulu, often placing the writer at the centre of production and distribution. Over the last several years Lancaster-based poet Sarah Hymas has been building a fine reputation as a maker and purveyor of limited edition poetry art-pamphlets, most recently Lune, runner-up Best…

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Houses of the Dead, a new poetry pamphlet by Fawzia Kane, is a beguiling tour through abandoned dwellings, at first still and empty, but increasingly stirred by the lingering traces of departing souls. May I tempt you with some titles? ‘House of the Vicar who Loved Too Much’, ‘House of the Penitent Bookseller’, ‘House of the Actor of Mystery Plays’ all give a flavour of the ghosts who haunt these powdery pages, though one of my favorite poems was simply called ‘House of the Sculptor’. I heard a echo of Louise Bourgeois in the sculptor’s sometimes brutal renovations of her ill-fitting tower, culminating in a solitary night vigil: ‘When she was satisfied, she placed a red armchair on the roof. There, from the midnight of her saint’s day, she would sit alone, watching for dawn.’ An accomplished sequence of prose poems, verse, and carefully cropped black-and-white photography, the book is…

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              I promised another post on Ukraine, and after the warm welcome I was given in Oxford, there may well be more. My on-going correspondence with translator Steve Komarnyckyj (right, in photo) has evolved into conversations with his partner S.J. Speight, with whom he runs Kalyna Language Press; and, in Ukraine, poet Ihor Pavlyuk (left, in photo) and his wife Lyudmyla Pavlyuk, herself a professor of journalism, so there is plenty to share. Today I’ll give some brief impressions of Ihor’s poetry and, at her request, reproduce a political article by Lyudmyla, published yesterday by The Wilson Centre. I am already convinced of her central point that the invasion of Crimea must cause the world to look very differently at Russia, and I was struck by her argument that Russia should pay reparation for its crime there. Like boycott, reparation is a non-violent response…

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The publication of Seoul Survivors made 2013 a busy year for my writing career. With the next two SF novels pawing at the door, however, at times I feared my reading was suffering. In line with my random book-grabbing habits, I made a haphazard effort to post reviews on Goodreads, but found it impossible to keep up regular appearances. So when Charles Boyle kindly asked me to contribute a title or two to his cbeditions Books of the Year blog post, the invitation provoked a bout of serious year-end reflection. Compiling the following more fulsome list helped me to pick out recurring themes in my reading and writing, and set some intentions for 2014; it may also bring to your attention titles that may otherwise have flown under your radar. For those who really like this sort of thing, The Rules were: 1) Contenders did not have to be published…

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5/5