My reading list is chaotic but constant - sometimes I read with purpose, sometimes as I get older because there are 'great'  books I haven't yet read , and as much new writing as I can manage- as I finish I put some books on my permanant shelf and others into a plastic box for the charity shop - this is an infallible, but sincere critical method !                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Jo Cannon 'Insignificant Gestures' (www.pewter-rose-press-com) Jo Cannon's stories have been widely published and she appears on the short lists of many high level competitions, so I came with high expectations to her first collection of short, some very short, stories. There's a poetic sensibility at work in these episodic pieces, a view of relationship or event that glances away after a brief, piercing examination. Many of the stories have an African background, often set in a medical environment (Jo is a GP who has worked in Africa) The protagonists often operate with flawed authority. In the title story,a doctor reviews his careless treatment of a beaten-up Malawian servant woman and the unjust consequences for her boyfriend, accused of injuring her, backed up by the doctor's angry, mistaken evidence. The doctor, now a psychiatrist, cannot rid himself of guilt, he is ambushed by flushes when he remembers her face, his 'small secretive writing' evidence of his continuing shame. He is a man authorised to detain others, often from confessions from their own tormented lives, yet he remains unpunished. In Needle-Stick Baby as a doctor delivers a baby in a civil war-zone with little equipment he thinks of his own child, a Down's Syndrome child, who has been sent to safety (he hopes - 'Daisy's absence is like a glass splinter in the foot...') and his wife who left soon afterwards convinced that he had never accpeted their child's condition.This is sore stuff, raw emotions described without flinching but well worth persevering with. The writing is sparse and seems truthful and I am left with sympathy for these suffering characters in environments that are described in rich language. Fairy Story is a story of a mother and her anorexic daughter - Stalker a very brief exploration of a child fearing his parents are about to divorce. There are twenty five stories in the collection, well worth a read.



Recently (2011) I have been working my way slowly through the books below. I will add comments as time allows.


John Le Carre (A Perfect Spy) I love and envy his writing style, those elegant sentences.  Sebastian Faulks (The Girl at The Lion d'Or and A Fool's Alphabet)  William Horwood (Skallagrigg) re-reading Daphne du Maurier (Rebecca) Alan Bissett (Boyracers)  Henning Mankell (several, to measure the books against the Swedish TV adaptations - the books are stiffer, slower, Wallander less attractive, more complex - but compelling)