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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Review: It Is Easy To Be Dead

It Is Easy To Be Dead is a new work by Neil McPherson focusing on the life and death of Charles Hamilton Sorley, Scotland’s foremost poet of the First World War. Sorley was born in Aberdeen – making the location of its Scottish premiere fitting – and was educated in Cambridge, Oxford and Germany before war broke out in 1914. Having risen to the rank of captain in the Suffolk Regiment, he was killed in action in October 1915 aged just 20, and he has been described by Robert Graves as ‘one of the three poets of importance killed in the war’ alongside Wilfrid Owen and Isaac Rosenberg. His style has also been contrasted to that of the more patriotic Rupert Brooke, and the timing of the play’s run is appropriate given that this year marks the centenary of the war’s end.

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