25 February 2014

A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

A beautifully written novel, encompassing a distinct understanding and love of the English language, A Handful of Dust portrays the emotions and actions of a small group of people in London during the years between the two wars. Waugh's ease with words delivers humour, disillusionment and tragedy neatly, and often ironically, packaged. That the title of the novel comes from T.S.Eliot's poem The Waste Land is extremely relevant given the similarities between the poem and the novel: both the poem and the novel wring literary hands over the state of the world and its inhabitants. Waugh leaves us wondering if the shining city sought by man here on earth is simply an illusion and if perhaps there is truth in the belief that barbarism can never be fully conquered.

The photo above is from The Guardian

22 February 2014

E-Book Launch

Well, today's the day - The Space in Between is now available electronically.

If you are one of the growing number of people who like reading books on a compact screen, I hope that The Space in Between will be an e-Book that you will  enjoy reading.

20 February 2014


Many thanks to all who have contacted me re the e-Book version of The Space in Between; your comments have been most supportive, and it is great to hear that, for many of you, my decision to go 'electronic' has been a positive decision. Don't forget the the actual launch day is this Saturday 22nd February, and, from then on, you will then be able to download the book without having to pre-order.

German troops in Riga, 1916

17 February 2014

What is a Library without Books?

I found this article on the ABC online news site; it is a troubling picture of what is likely to come. For those of you not acquainted with Sydney, Australia, the Mitchell Library is part of the State Library of NSW, and it contains a vast amount of reference material relating to Australian history and culture.

Image is from timeout (

13 February 2014

Digital Version

The Space in Between is now available as an e-Book. Many followers of this blog will, no doubt, be surprised; however, I decided that electronic publishing is now such an entrenched part of the book industry that there is really no longer an option not to make books available electronically. The electronic version of The Space in Between will be released on the 22nd February, but it is already listed on Smashwords where you can view it, read an extract from the text and even pre-order. The available formats for downloading are: epub, mobi, pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb and txt. 

Those of you who would prefer a print copy of The Space in Between can find a detailed list of online retailers by clicking here.

09 February 2014

The Absolutist by John Boyne

This is an amazing novel; it is also extremely sad. The sadness comes not only from events concerning the characters but also from the realization that what we revere as civilization is completely warped. At the end of WWI, Tristan Sadler, the main character in the novel, seeks out his friend Will's sister in order to return a packet of letters. The story develops innocently enough, but, gradually, we become aware that Tristan's experiences during the war were anything but innocent. Through the eyes of Tristan and others, we are confronted not only with the flaws and the hypocrisy of our present-day civilization but also with contemporary attitudes towards war, killing, conscientious objectors and, not least, homosexuality. Slowly Tristan becomes aware of the injustice and the hypocrisy that flourished during the war, and he also becomes aware of the part he played through either fear or ignorance or a combination of both. Very well written, "The Absolutist" is not only an anti-war novel but also a 'wake-up' call to those who still hold fast to narrow-minded attitudes prevalent within our society.

Photograph: Mark Condren

04 February 2014

The Shipping News

The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx is another of those books from 2013 that has fallen into my not-so-good pile.  It was actually made into a film, and there are some amazing descriptions that burst across the pages from all directions, painting vivid pictures, layering new images on top of old ones, bringing Newfoundland to some kind of life, so, I suppose, you are wondering why the book ended up in my not-so-good pile? Unfortunately, by the end of the novel, in spite of all the great descriptions, I was hunting around for words to describe it as a whole, and I could only think of bleak, cold and grey. Interlaced with the greyness are countless descriptions of unappetizing food: turkey soup in which a stringy neck vein floats, squid burgers, pallid clumps of scallops, stewed cod in a lunch box... descriptions that more than often turned my stomach. Most of the characters are also grey, or perhaps it is simply that they appear greyer than they actually are because the environment in which they live is stronger than they are. I did not come close to any of the characters with the exception, perhaps, of Bunny, who is the daughter of the main character, Quoyle. if you have read the book and you have a different (or even the same) experience, I would love to hear from you.

   Photograph: Eamonn McCabe for the Guardian

01 February 2014

Escape From Camp 14

Although we have been aware that North Korea interprets the word 'liberty' in a different way to most other countries, Blaine Harden's book about Shin Dong-Hyuk's unbelievable escape from a life of imprisonment, although not a major literary achievement, is gripping, horrifying and educational. The brainwashing and the physical deprivation that coloured Shin's early life and formed him into the person he later became is heartbreaking. Escape from Camp 14 should be compulsory reading for everyone, if not to put such atrocities into the limelight then, at least, to put our own lives into perspective.

Following, a photo of Shin Dong-Hyuk. Source: