Category Archives: Blasts From The Past

A bookshop’s magic

collected works of aj fikry

Review: Vivien Horler (2014)

The Collected works of AJ Fikry (Little, Brown)*

This is one of those books you put down with a regretful “aaah”.

AJ Fikry runs Island Books on a Massachusetts island, and has stuck up a sign over the door that reads: “No man is an island; every book is a world.”

But in fact AJ has become something of an island; ever since his pregnant wife Nic died in a car crash he has lost his zest for life. Surly to his customers, he spends his evenings drinking himself to sleep. Nothing matters.

He does have one treasure though: a first edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tamerlane. Copies sell for around $400 000, and his plan is to auction it off in a couple of years, close the bookshop and retire. Continue reading

A bleak view of hope

Review: Vivien Horler

A Man of Good Hope  (Jonathan Ball Publishers) 2014man of good hope



There’s a cooldrink stall on St George’s Mall outside our office, where cans of Coke and Fanta lie in zinc baths full of ice. Cigarettes are also sold there, and people light them from a lighter hanging on a string.

The Somalis who run the stall are busy with customers; I rarely buy from them and for me the stall is simply an obstacle when crossing the mall.

Until I read A Man of Good Hope. Now I wonder how much of their story is mirrored in this book. All around us there are people living their lives, trying to make enough money to support themselves and their families, and most of us have no idea where they have come from, how they got here, and what perils they survived on the way. Continue reading

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger

the perfect storm

The Perfect Storm – a true story of men against the sea (Harper Perennial 2007)
by Sebastian Junger

I found a copy of this dazzling good example of creative non-fiction on the secondhand books table of our local Saturday morning market, and bought it at once. There are some books that are just so good you have to own them.

It was first published in 1997, and was on international bestseller lists for four years. A movie directed by Wolfgang Petersen was made of it in 2000.

It tells the story of two weather fronts that collided in the Grand Banks off Newfoundland in October 1991, which created 10-storey waves and winds of up almost 200kmh.

And in the middle of this was the Andrea Gail, a fishing boat out of Gloucester, Massachusetts, on its way home from a more than a month at sea longlining for swordfish. There were six men on board.

The storm was described as “perfect” in the meteorological sense, writes Junger in his foreword: “a storm that could not possibly have been worse”. Continue reading

Some favourite books

My dad worked for an oil company, and growing up, we moved every two years. I went to eight schools – the record was four in one year – so every two years I was the new girl in the classroom.

This slows you down in the making friends department, so I learnt very early on that books are a comfort and a joy.

As a book reviewer I get sent regular parcels of books which cover a wide range, thrillers, love stories, current events, travel, history, politics etc etc. As I’ve got older I find I’m more drawn to non-fiction, although a good novel is a wonderful thing, putting you inside another reality.

Some of the books I review, some I give to others to review, and some never get reviewed at all. A recent one in this category was called something like A List of Angolan Plants. Continue reading