The New Death and Others – James Hutchings

ISBN: n/a – available here

I’ve heard it said that in Victorian times people were obsessed with death whereas sex was a taboo, and that today this is the other way round. However, Hutchings smashes this theory out of the water with this collection of short stories and poetry. Not only does he talk about death in this book, but death is the entire premise, which he does mingle with sex, fame and much wit.
This collection made me laugh out loud several times with its clever twists and incongruities; always poking fun at death. However, at times I found the humour forced, and some of the puns were embarrassing.

Hutchings has a distinct voice throughout this collection which almost acts as a theme in itself. The dryness of his tone is the glue that holds the work together. Anachronisms abound in a way that it sometimes funny, often clever, but in places I found just too bizarre. From time to time they made me groan, and even confused me. There are also inconsistencies in the tense in places, which made the pieces difficult to read.

Altogether, though, this is an intelligent book, one that is fascinatingly morbid and entirely up-to-date with contemporary culture. The poetry, too, is that odd mix of old formats and new ideas, which works well, and is rhythmically very satisfying. If you like Neil Gaiman, it’s worth giving this book a read.

Rating: 6/10

When God was a Rabbit – Sarah Winman

ISBN: 9780755379309

This novel is sad and beautiful, like sunshine on the morning of a funeral. Winman writes about love, loss and reunion in a charming way, that is ultimately underpinned by tragedy; tragedy of the most personal and affecting kind.
The book is split into two parts, not a before and after, as the narrator Elly tells us, but bookends. Elly speaks to us first as a child and then as an adult, in a unique and creative voice that colours the world around her with her own personality. Winman does characterisation very well, in this sense, particularly with the odd and beautiful images that Elly comes out with. However, I felt that at the beginning of the novel, some of Elly’s comments were too poignant or insightful for a child.
Winman presents us with what life is like if God is nothing more to us than a rabbit. There is loss around every corner, and a sense of hollowness as each character grapples towards something… though they are never quite sure what. Like Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, there is a large section of the plot missing half way through this novel, which reverberates like the gaping hole in the characters’ lives.
This work is brilliantly accurate and well observed, whilst also including magical realism in a way that shines like the book’s cover. We are constantly left a little bit in the dark as to Elly’s grip on reality, but that is what I found most interesting and satisfying about this book. This raises questions about the nature of a ‘God’ we are seeking or creating.
However, I felt like Winman was trying to include too much for a 300-odd page novel; the themes are huge. The ideas and question about memory that Winman brings in through the second half of the novel, though alluded to earlier, I think clouded some of the other issues that she was dealing with quite cannily and more consistently throughout the book.
Rating: 7/10

The Versatile Blogger Award

This post is a bit different–it’s not a book review! I want to thank Freya Pickard for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award!

There are a few rules that go along with the award:
1. In a post on your blog, nominate 5 fellow bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award
2. In the same post, add the Versatile Blogger Award.
3. In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
4. In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
5. In the same post, include this set of rules.
6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.
So here are my nominations:
1. Stuart at for his fantastic music reviews
2. Connie at for her blog full of joy
3. Danai at for the whole world he has created
4. Sally at for her huge creativity
5. Freya at for consistent originality
Do please check these blogs out.
And seven random pieces of information about myself:
1. I only like tomatoes sliced, not in wedges.
2. One of my feet is half a size bigger than the other.
3. When I was five my career aspiration was to be a clown.
4. One of my life goals is to milk a cow.
5. My favourite food is macaroni cheese.
6. I have never broken a bone.
7. I’m allergic to sun cream.