Review: Release by Patrick Ness

I love Patrick Ness’ writing and think he is one of the best YA writers working at the moment. I was delighted to receive an ARC of his latest book, Release, from LoveReading4Kids to review.

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Release

Patrick Ness

Walker Books (May 2017)

YA

Taking place over a single Saturday in summer, Release is the story of a day that will change seventeen-year-old Adam Thorn’s life forever. He feels trapped in his devoutly religious family, his crappy job, his mixed up personal life…he learns to escape and be able to really live. Meanwhile, across town, someone else is having an extraordinary day of their own…

Ness has stated that Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever influenced this book. The opening line is a nod to Mrs Dalloway, as is the one-day structure and some of the style. I think Release is most akin to Forever in its frankness and openness about sexuality and teenage life, arguably it could be seen as an LGBTQ Forever, or a modern day Forever. However, the nods are subtle and the reader does not need to be familiar with these texts. Release is unmistakeably a Patrick Ness book and showcases the power of his writing and the depth of his characters. Personally, I much preferred the Adam Thorn storyline to the supernatural/ghost story, and was found myself keen to get back to this when the narrative switched.

The book is set over a single day, this structure lends it an intensity and gives the reader a sense of being at a pivotal moment in Adam Thorn’s life, of the tumult and change of adolescence, in a powerful, poignant punch of a book. This book is one that will stay with me, and Adam is an incredibly well-drawn character.

Raw, powerful and moving, this is a book that draws the reader in, one they won’t want to be released from. Fans of Patrick Ness will not be disappointed.

 

 

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Author Interview: Meg Grehan (The Space Between)

I loved Meg Grehan’s lyrical and honest verse novel The Space Between (my review) and was delighted when she agreed to an interview. Read on for more about verse novels, LGBTQIA YA, Meg’s writing process and her experiences as a debut writer.

Meg + Cover

Did The Space Between start out in poetry or in prose?

It started as prose but that only lasted maybe a thousand words or so, the second I thought of verse that was that! It fit the story much better and felt much more natural.

 

When did you become aware of verse novels as a form, and what are some of your favourite verse novels?

I think the first one I read was Crank by Ellen Hopkins and I remember it as such a weird, visceral reading experience. It’s such a versatile type of writing, it can be so beautiful and rhythmic or hard and jutting or anything in between and that really appeals to me. As for favourites it has to be Sarah Crossan really, doesn’t it? She’s the queen of verse! One and The Weight of Water are such gorgeous books.

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On your blog you refer to the book as Mouse – when did you decide on The Space Between as the title?

I submitted it as Mouse but in my first meeting with Little Island we discussed changing it. I was pretty reluctant at first and we tried a couple different names but I think we landed on a good one! Once I saw it on the cover I knew it was the right fit.

 

Why did you choose to write in third person? I think one of the most skillful things about the book is how we still get into Beth’s head, even without the book being in first person.

I think the decision came from how personal the story is. Writing in first person didn’t feel right, it needed to be a little further from me or else it would have become a strange fictionalised journal! Third person let Beth be her own character and let me see her anxieties more clearly, instead of getting them muddled with my own.

 

Did you write the book chronologically, or were there certain poems you came up with first? Was there much shuffling around of poems?

I wrote it all out of order, it was a big messy muddle. I had a vague outline of the story in my head and I just wrote whatever popped into my head and pieced it together when I felt it was done. There were a lot of sticky notes involved!

 

Could you tell me about the editing process for the book, and when things like formatting (e.g. the breathing part), the use of italics for the ‘flashbacks’, or capitalisation (the plan/The Plan) came into the book?

They were all there from the start. My favourite thing about writing verse is the total freedom to use the page however you want, I put words where I felt they fit best and most, if not all of the formatting is the exact same way it was in the first draft. It’s all based on instinct, where the words fit and flow best. Capitals are the same, I feel like a capital gives a word extra importance or makes it a little more formal and I like playing with that.

 

Some of the poems are difficult to read emotionally as they are so powerful, were there particular poems you found hard to write?

The only poem that was difficult to write was the slightly saucy one nearer the end, I couldn’t stop blushing and smashing my laptop shut whenever anyone so much as looked at me! The emotional ones were easy, a lot of the time I used whatever was happening in my head at that moment as a starting point so they flew out. It was good, it always helped my head feel a little lighter.

 

What are some of your favourite YA books, and what would you like to see more of in YA this year?

Everything by Patrick Ness! I even have a tattoo of a line from Monsters of Men, his books are incredible. Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour is one I could read over and over. Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan, Needlework by Deirdre Sullivan, Ash by Malinda Lo, Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan Maguire… there are a lot!

Grehan YA

I’d love to see more positive representation for queer girls, more rep for people on the asexual and aromantic spectrums, more LGBTQIA rep in general!

 

I love that The Space Between has such a sweet and happy love story between two young women at its core. You have said on your blog ‘I’m all about inclusive own-voices lit and have made it my mission to fill the shelves with happy, diverse stories.’ What do you think the importance of these diverse stories is?

I’ve been with my girlfriend since we were 19, we had been living together almost a year and I’d been out and open for two years before I could comfortably refer to myself as a lesbian even if it was just her in the room with me. I didn’t see myself until I’d already scrambled my way through the identity maze and even now, six years in, I still get a lovely fuzzy happy feeling in my tummy when I see women loving women in books or movies or TV shows. It means the world to me. It’s immeasurably important for kids to see that they can be themselves and be happy. Representation normalises our experiences, it validates our experiences and shows people with different experiences that we exist! If all we see is sad, tragic or negative representation what does that tell us about ourselves and our futures?

 

One of the reasons The Space Between is so moving is its honesty, particularly about mental health. You have written on your blog about your own struggles, and I think readers will really identify with Beth. Was this something you set out to do in writing the book, and are there particular books that you have found helpful?

I set out to take my own messy brain and try to see it from a different perspective. Writing about the things I was struggling with let me see it a little more clearly and find new ways to ease it all a bit. It’s been quite strange because before I started writing the book I was incredibly private about my mental health, I didn’t tell anyone anything and would force myself to pretend I was ok and then deal with the exhaustion that brings later. The first time I mentioned it on my blog I completely panicked and almost deleted the post a bunch of times! Beth gave me a way to tell people what was going on, which was terrifying but so worth it. Now I’m completely comfortable talking about my experiences! I would love for her and the story to help people who feel similar feel a little less alone.

I didn’t really have any books that I felt helped directly, which is part of why I wrote The Space Between. Having said that, Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne is really special to me because it was the very first time I read about an agoraphobic character. The main character Evie’s sympathy and understanding for Oli really touched me and still means a lot to me.

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The Space Between is your debut – what has your experience of the publication process been like, and what advice would you give to new writers?

The whole experience has been wonderful! It’s something I’ve always, always wanted so it was overwhelming sometimes but I had such a positive experience.

My advice to new writers is to trust your instincts, but be wary of the ones that whisper negative things. There’s so much advice out there, don’t feel that you need to take it all. Find your own way of doing things and trust yourself. And always take lots of dance breaks! They will shake the dust away and give you a boost, I swear after every few pages I get up and dance like a fool and it’s the best!

 

What is next for you writing wise?

Lots of writing! I’m working away right now on a story I love, so who knows!

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Meg Grehan at the launch of The Space Between in The Gutter Bookshop, Dublin

Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

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The Upside of Unrequited

Becky Albertalli

HarperTeen (2017) – YA/Contemporary

Molly Peskin-Suso is seventeen years old, and has had a string of crushes (twenty six, to be exact) but has never had a boyfriend. Now that her twin sister Cassie besotted with Mina, Molly feels more alone than ever. But Mina’s friend Hipster Will is attractive and seems to be into Molly. Maybe this is a way for Molly to burst her cautious bubble, and to not be left behind by her sister. However, there’s also Reid from work, the guy who totally isn’t Molly’s type. yet who she can’t stop thinking about…

I loved Becky Albertalli’s debut Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and so have been eagerly anticipating this book. While I didn’t love it quite as much as her first book, I found The Upside of Unrequited to be a very enjoyable read with diverse and complex characters.

Albertalli makes very effective use of social media in the book; for example the texting and emoji made it feel current,  and definitely a modern romance. Albertalli is one of my favourite contemporary YA writers at the moment, for her pop culture references, her ear for dialogue and nuanced exploration of all kinds of relationships.

She excels at creating very sweet romances, and like with Simon, she shows a diverse range of relationships here. However, while the romance was very swoon-worthy and well developed, I was pleased by the focus on sisterhood and friendship, and the changing nature of such relationships over time. Sometimes growing up does mean growing apart, and this is something that really is explored in this book.

Albertalli’s books are part of the growing body of wonderful LGBTQIA YA books out there.  One of my favourite things about this book was how diverse it was, without any tokenism or characters being shoehorned in. Molly and Cassie have two mothers, who are very much involved in the story and whose relationship and family are also explored. There are characters of different ethnicities and sexualities, and while different experiences are explored it never feels like an issue book. The more I think about this book, the more I realise just how much there is in it. Molly’s anxiety (and the matter of fact way in which her medication is discussed), her issues with body image, the layered relationships between the characters…

The Upside of Unrequited is an excellent book exploring a variety of relationships – romance, family, friends, self – with memorable characters and sweet romance. Highly recommended for fans of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, or fans of brilliant contemporary YA!

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

A YA novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas has been getting a lot of (much deserved!) attention lately. It is topping bestseller lists, and is to be made into a movie. Best of all, it is creating much needed dialogues.
Angie Thomas will be at Dept 51 in Eason O’Connell Street at 6pm this evening, and will be interviewed by YA author Deirdre Sullivan.
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The Hate U Give
Angie Thomas
Walker Books (April 2017)
YA Contemporary
What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?
Sixteen-year-old Starr is caught between two worlds, the poor neighbourhood she calls home and the posh high school in which she feels like an outsider. She isn’t quite sure which Starr is the ‘real’ Starr, and how to balance the different aspects of her life. When she witnesses a police officer shooting her friend Khalil, her world is shattered. Khalil was unarmed when their car was pulled over, but this isn’t the story the media is telling. If Starr speaks out she could put herself and her family in danger; but if she doesn’t, how will this prejudice ever change? Her voice is her weapon, but will she use it?
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a gripping and powerful read that I think should be essential reading for teenagers and adults alike. Thomas gives an emotional insight into the life of a black teenager grappling with racism and police brutality. The Hate U Give is a striking look at racial prejudice in the 21st century, both in tragic events like shootings and the insidious effect of racist remarks and slurs.
Starr’s struggle to get justice for Khalil is moving and heart wrenching. She is a complex character, and a very believable one. Starr is a brilliant heroine, she is real and conflicted and her voice is very strong. Angie Thomas really conveys the trauma Starr is going through after the loss of Khalil, and the impact of another death when she was a child. The family dynamics are also very well done and the dialogue is snappy and on point.
This is a brilliant and important book, one I want to press into people’s hands, it’s such an important book. It is a very impressive debut, and I look forward to reading more books by Angie Thomas in the future.

Review: The Space Between by Meg Grehan

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The Space Between

Meg Grehan

Little Island (March 2017)

YA

Beth has decided to take a year of solitude. Hidden away in her house, she lives according to a schedule, it makes her feel safe and secure. She has her own little world, and everything is under control there. Then, one day a dog called Mouse arrives at her window. Mouse brings Beth a rare and unexpected burst of joy, but it is his owner Alice who really changes Beth’s world. But Beth’s anxieties are still there, her year of seclusion rolls out, and letting someone else into her life is strange and scary.

This is a beautiful book in so many ways. The cover (designed by Paula McGloin) is gorgeous, and sets the tone for the book. The Space Between is a tender love story; quiet, emotional and moving. Grehan really conveys Beth’s anxiety and the ways in which her phobias trap and restrict her. At times the book can be difficult to read, and I felt panic setting  in myself reading some of the poems.

Just do the same thing

at the same time

just do it again and

again and again and

again and again and

again and again and

again until it sinks in

until your brain accepts it

until you can pretend

until you can pass as a person

Beth’s connection with Alice, the progression from friendship to something more, is handled tenderly. This relationship was built up slowly, in a manner that felt very realistic. Grehan explores the complexity for Beth of having a connection to the outside world once more. Beth has cut herself off from the rest of the world, and Alice’s ability to navigate it and to do things Beth isn’t able to do anymore is a source of tension. It is always good to see more LGBTQ love stories out there, particularly one portrayed in such a positive light. At times it did feel a bit too rosy, but of course I was glad Alice and Beth got their happy ending. I also would have liked the book to have been a bit longer,  I was enjoying it so much!

I also loved the fact that Alice, while playing a major role in Beth’s recovery, was not a knight in shining armour and Beth has to rely on her own inner strength to get better. Alice says to Beth at one point ‘I can’t be your reason.’ The Space Between shows how love and friendship can enrich your life and bring healing, but in the end Beth is the one who must take the steps, who must save herself. The ending is hopeful, but it is clear that Beth still has a long way to go and there is a sense that her recovery will be an ongoing process, with ups and downs. In this way, Grehan portrays mental illness in a very realistic way. Beth’s anxieties are by no means romanticised or beautified, and we really see how difficult coping with her agoraphobia, anxiety and depression is.

Above all, this is a beautifully written work. Even in the third person, we get right inside Beth’s head. The poems bring us right into her consciousness, and they flow beautifully. The formatting and typesetting are clever, and Grehan plays with the forms of the poems. I loved the part in which Beth is focusing on her breathing. In verse novels, words carry so much weight, and Grehan deftly weaves a moving tale of anguish, love and redemption. It is a short book, yet it has impact. Verse novels are much more prevalent in the US than in Ireland or the UK. Sarah Crossan is the most popular and prolific verse novelist in these parts, and it is great to see a new talent like Meg Grehan working in this format. Here’s to more Irish verse novels in the future!

The Space Between is an honest, delicate love story in verse, a book that warmed my heart and made me cry.

The Space Between will be launched in The Gutter Bookshop on Thursday March 30th by Deirdre Sullivan (author of Needlework and the Primrose Leary trilogy).

Space Between Launch

Review: Girl Reading by Katie Ward

I am always excited to discover a book that combines my two passions – books and art – and Girl Reading does so exceedingly well. I have been getting into reading short stories more of late, and this is a wonderful collection.

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Katie Ward

Virago Press (2011, this edition 2012)

Short stories – historical and contemporary fiction

This is an intriguing book, it has seven chapters or stories each focusing on an image of a girl or woman reading. I have also seen it described as a novel, but while it does come together at the end, it reads more like a collection of short stories to me. There is a great range in place and time – from early Renaissance Sienna to Victorian England to a futuristic virtual world. Each story is a world of its own, and completely involving at that. I loved how the final story linked the others together, but I also feel each story/chapter was very strong on its own.

Ward creates memorable and compelling characters – the twins who had a childhood career as mediums in the Victorian story are particularly striking, as is her innocent young artist in the Bloomsbury group-esque gathering at Arnault House, and her disillusioned political assistant having a drink in a London bar in the recent past.

I was resilient when I was younger. Headstrong. No one could talk me out of anything or stop me doing something I wanted to do. Recently I have begun to have doubts. Recently I’ve realised that version of myself has gone away.

There is a range of art forms too, from an altarpiece to a sketch to a photo posted on Flickr. The descriptions of the processes of studio photography in Victorian England were very interesting, but doesn’t take away from the story. There is a note at the end of the book (and links on Ward’s website) relating to the artworks that inspired the various stories. However, they work with or without this reference point. Art is central to each narrative, but so is identity, the sitter’s appearance and their inner life.

This is a book I have been thinking about since I finished reading it. The short story is a real art, and Ward succeeded in creating characters who are nuanced and complex, and who seem to live beyond the short page count of their narratives. A book I would recommend to readers with an interest in art, or with an interested in varied and absorbing narratives about women throughout history.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on my Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature run by wonderful blog The Broke and Bookish. This week’s theme is ten books on our Spring TBR (To Be Read) list.

I have recently moved out, and most of the books I brought with me are ones I haven’t read yet in an attempt to cut through my TBR list. (Of course some favourites like Fangirl, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, my special boxed Harry Potter set and my gift edition of Ballet Shoes also made the trip!) In that spirit, here are ten books on my shelves that I WILL read over the next few months.

Hidden Figures  – Margot Lee Shetterly

Having seen the fantastic film with my sisters, I am currently reading and loving the book that inspired it. The film was uplifting and entertaining, but the book has a wealth of information and history that didn’t make it to the screen.  I am learning lots, it is very well written and informative. Highly recommended!

The Call – Peadar Ó Guilín

This book has been on my shelf for a while…but I have been a bit afraid to read it. It has been described to me as ‘if the Hunger Games were set in Ireland’ and many of my fellow bookclubbers love it. With its recent shortlisting for the YA Book Prize and the CBI Book Awards now seems like the time to gather my courage and step into its creepy world…

NW – Zadie Smith

As I have mentioned on this blog before, I recently discovered Zadie Smith’s writing and now can’t get enough! A friend lent me NW and I just know I will love it. Next on my Zadie Smith list is White Teeth.

The Treachery of Beautiful Things – Ruth Frances Long

I love Long’s Dubh Linn trilogy, so I can’t wait to check out her earlier YA novel. It sounds like a spellbinding fantasy read, and the main character’s name is Jenny…already a good sign!

The Shadow Gate – Elizabeth Kostova

I was sent this book to review for LoveReading. I adored the spooky and atmospheric The Historian, and while I was less keen on Swan Thieves, Kostova is still always on my reading list!

After the Last Dance – Sarra Manning

I loved Sarra Manning’s Adorkable and have been meaning to read more of her books. While this is a very different book – historical fiction rather than contemporary YA – the premise is intriguing and I know the writing will be good.

Lives Like Loaded Guns – Lyndall Gordon

I am a big fan of Emily Dickinson’s poetry, so this book about her life and her family is right up my street. My great aunt passed it on to me, and the little bit I have read was very good. I am eager to get back to it, and have brought a book of Dickinson’s poetry with me also.

The Wild Air – Rebecca Mascull

This is a proof I picked up in the bookshop I worked in. The gorgeous cover and intriguing blurb were irresistible! It’s about female pilots in the Edwardian era. (Release date: April 2017)

The Lotterys Plus One – Emma Donoghue

I was intrigued to see Emma Donoghue has written a book for children (9-12 age group I believe) and couldn’t leave this proof behind in the shop. (Release date: April 2017)

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index – Julie Israel

Another proof, this time from the Eason event with Ally Carter, Alwyn Hamilton and Marie Lu. I have been told by a trusted fellow bookclubber that I will love it! (Release date: June 2017)

Leave a link to your TTT in the comments, I would love to discover more great books. And follow me on Goodreads to see how I get on with this pile of books.

 

 

International Women’s Day: March4Repeal

Late night thoughts on today’s march…

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Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day, a day which celebrates the achievements of women around the world, and draws attention to the issues we continue to face. The official theme for International Women’s Day 2017 was ‘Be Bold for Change.’

For Irish women like myself, one of the major problems with our country is our lack of reproductive rights. The Eighth Amendment of 1983 to the Irish Constitution or Bunreacht na hEireann equates right of life of a pregnant woman with that of an embryo or foetus. Thus abortion is criminalised in Ireland, forcing thousands of women to travel to England annually for a medical procedure that should be carried out safely and legally in their home country. That is, those who can afford to travel. Irish women still have abortions, but not safely or legally.

Today saw a huge turnout for the March4Repeal, in which over 10,000 people marched from the Garden of Remembrance to Leinster House (seat of the Dáil) carrying signs and chanting. Many wore black, in keeping with the Strike4Repeal campaign today in which women were encouraged to go on strike from work for the day.  The black and white Repeal jumpers were also a frequent sight around Dublin today, as well as being ubiquitous at the march itself. I took a day off work, and also took part in the March4Repeal. I have long worn a Repeal the 8th badge, and have written about the issue before but I felt it was time I took action, used my feet as well as my words.

The purpose of the march was to call for a referendum on the Eighth Amendment, to have it removed from the constitution. Chants of ‘Enda, Enda, where’s the referenda?’, ‘We won’t wait, repeal the eighth’ and ‘My body, my choice’ where called out enthusiastically by the large crowd. Polling suggestions that the majority of Irish people do not support the eighth amendment, and this was certainly evident today in the energy and size of the crowd. I knew it would be popular, but was stunned by the turnout and proud to be a part of it. There was a strong sense of solidarity, of shared outrage, of a drive for change. The speeches before we set off were powerful, I was particularly impressed by the speaker from Doctors for Choice who spoke about the need to ‘bring these women home’ and to have access to free, safe and legal abortion in Ireland and to have support and aftercare for women who choose to have abortions.

Taking part in the march was a great thing to do, but it was also daunting. I was worried about the crowds, I was worried about the reaction. Walking up O’Connell Street amidst a sea of people to get to the starting point, I felt claustrophobic, my back hurt from being tense. My coat was open to show my Repeal t-shirt (from HunReal Issues using the design from the Maser mural), and I wore an Artists Repeal the 8th badge on my lapel. Each Repeal jumper or white lightening strike was a reassuring sign of solidarity, and I decided anyone wearing black was also an ally. I was delighted to see a pro-choice dog sporting a black top with a white lightening bolt. When I got to the Garden of Remembrance I was delighted to see such a crowd of people but it was also overwhelming and I was anxious about finding my friend. I knew this was something I wanted to do, even though it was a bit scary, and being with someone definitely helped.

The March4Repeal was an emotional experience.  There was the buzz of being part of this movement and of seeing it so well supported, but also the anger that we have to fight to make our own choices about our own bodies, and the sadness about the recent discovery of the horrendous abuses at Tuam. The march was a powerful demonstration, and one which I hope will be heard by our government.

I wholeheartedly hope this is the last Repeal march we need to have, but glad to have been part of it and to have marched for change. So this International Women’s Day…we can’t be equal until we have control of our own bodies. We won’t wait, repeal the 8th.

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Review: A World of Colour Exhibition at the DLR LexIcon

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The ‘A World of Colour’ exhibition in the DLR LexIcon brings together the work of Chris Haughton and Beatrice Alemagna, two very talented illustrators and picturebook makers. The exhibition  was curated by Sarah Webb, the DLR Writer in Residence. Haughton and Alemagna have very different styles, and they make an interesting pairing for this exhibition.

The exhibition showcases original illustrations from many of their best known books, and offers viewers a valuable chance to examine these artworks on their larger original scale. Charming details are evident, and it is a joy to be able to see the mark-making on the page. Seeing originals also allows the viewer to consider the process of making a book, and in comparing the originals to the finished book to think about design and particularly text placement.

A wall showing collages Haughton made when planning A Bit Lost alongside finished illustrations from the book offers a fascinating insight into his process. The information panels, by picturebook expert Valerie Coghlan, give a brilliant introduction to each artist, information about their materials and process, and fun facts too! Her introduction to the picturebook also offers much food for thought when exploring the exhibition. I like that the images are allowed stand alone, only captioned, so the viewers can read the visual cues for themselves or simply enjoy these wonderful images.

There is a wonderful sneak peek of Beatrice Alemagna’s forthcoming book On a Magical Do-Nothing Day which will be published in English by HarperCollins this year. It has previously been published in French. There is a fantastic spirit of adventure and imagination in these pictures, I love the one where we are looking up at the little girl walking through a field.

This exhibition is a delight. From mischievous dogs to sleepy bears, curious children to strange creatures, there is so much to see. The bright and bold colours of Chris Haughton’s work are a visual treat, and one of the rugs he designed for his Fairtrade company Node is also on display. Seeing A Bit Lost on the original scale and in full vibrancy is worth the trip alone. Beatrice Alemagna’s work uses such a mixture of techniques, being able to examine her originals shows this off beautifully. I love her collage work in A Lion in Paris, it’s a marvellous book, and the portraits from What is a Child? are really beautiful.

Ultimately, these images work best in context. Where better to show them than in a library where readers young and old can then go find the books from which the images originated and answer lingering questions. Does the Haughton’s little owl in A Bit Lost find his way home? And what on earth does Alemagna’s lion get up to in A Lion in Paris?

Chris Haughton and Beatrice Alemagna will be interviewed by Margaret Anne Suggs (another wonderful illustrator, see Pigín of Howth written by Kathleen Watkins) at the Mountains to Sea Book Festival next month. This will be a wonderful opportunity to learn more about their art, well worth tying in with a trip to the exhibition. I will be giving family tours of the exhibition on March 26th, do join me!

The exhibition runs until the 31st of March, and is located on the 3rd floor of the DLR LexIcon library.

 

Review: A Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume

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Sara Baume

A Line Made by Walking 

Tramp Press (Ireland)/William Heinemann (UK) 2017

Literary Fiction

Art and sadness, which last forever.

Frankie, a 25 year old artist, seeks healing and comfort in rural Ireland. Living in her deceased grandmothers home, and trapped in the clutches of depression and anxiety, she struggles to find meaning and comfort in life. She reflects on her childhood, on how she couldn’t make urban life work, on being creative, on her poor mental health. Taking up photography again, she focuses on the natural world and turns to the catalogue of artworks in her head to try and make sense of her life. She begins a project of taking pictures of dead animals, and these photos are interspersed throughout the book.

This is a brilliant, lyrical book and I think it is even better than Baume’s prize-winning debut Spill Simmer Falter Wither. The references to artworks are woven brilliantly into the story, and there is a helpful index of all the works mentioned at the end. Frankie’s interpretations of the works are very interesting, and this way of testing her visual memory and linking her life to art works well in the book. At times this is a difficult read, so potent is Frankie’s pain and sense of being isolated and lost. It is a grim book, offering a searing insight into family relationships, what makes art, being an outsider and living with mental illness. Sara Baume is a brilliant new talent on the Irish literary scene, and this book is a work of art.

Many thanks to LoveReading for sending me a copy of this book to review!