Review: The Freedom Artist by Ben Okri

The latest novel from Nigerian-born writer Ben Okri, whose best known work is the Booker prize-winning novel The Famished Road, is a frightening study of free will, mass hysteria and censorship. Set in an unnamed dystopia, it focuses on two intertwined storylines – the main one focuses on Karnak, whose lover, Amalanta, has been captured by the regime for daring to ask forbidden questions, and the other concerns Mirababa, a young boy sequestered in a sarcophagus as part of his inheritance from his grandfather. The society in which they live has become illiterate, and books have all but disappeared, and the history and folklore of the area have been rewritten by the ruling regime. Karnak ultimately joins forces with Ruslana, the daughter of a missing bookshop owner, to find their imprisoned loved ones, and in doing so they slowly uncover the lies, fear and oppression the regime has subjected their society to.

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Review: Sweet Fruit, Sour Land by Rebecca Ley

Sweet Fruit, Sour Land is the debut work by Rebecca Ley, a graduate of the creative writing Master’s at City University – but more notably than this it has won this year’s Guardian Not the Booker Prize. Set in a dystopian and famine-hit London, it tells the story of two women – Mathilde, who has immigrated from an equally barren France and finds herself in higher circles after her grandmother makes a dress for the hostess of one of its many parties, and Jaminder, whom Mathilde meets at one of these parties. The novel tells how both women are drawn into this world and Mathilde is taken in by George, a corrupt government minister who is able to procure extra food for her and her grandmother and keep her from having to conceive. Likewise Mathilde and Jaminder form an intense bond, but the tide seems to be against them.

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Review: The First Christmas Jumper (and the Sheep Who Changed Everything) by Ryan Tubridy and Chris Judge

The First Christmas Jumper is the second children’s book by Ryan Tubridy, the Irish television presenter best known for being the current host of The Late Late Show. Inspired by his own fondness for Christmas jumpers, it tells the story of Hillary, a sheep with rainbow-coloured wool who loves Christmas. Hillary lives in a field with the other sheep owned by jelly baby-obsessed Farmer Jimmy, and she can most often be found daydreaming – again, usually about Christmas. One year, Santa Claus is on the hunt for the perfect sheep’s wool with which to make a jumper to keep warm during his annual present rounds – could Hillary’s multi-coloured fleece be just what he’s looking for?

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Review: East of West, West of East by Hamish Brown

Hamish Brown is best known for his writings on mountaineering and outdoor topics, but now in his eighties he has taken the time to write a memoir of his early life. He was born in Colombo in Sri Lanka in 1934, where his parents were stationed due to his father’s job. The family relocated to Japan just before World War Two broke out at that end of the globe, and this book details their escape into Singapore, then fleeing from there following its surrender and eventually returning to settle back in Scotland on a permanent basis. Additionally, Hamish’s older brother Ian was separated from the rest of the family during this time, remaining in Scotland with his grandmother.

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