The Fountain’s Reads of the Year 2018

Literature lovers were spoiled for reading choice this year (at least, this one was), with many titles mirroring our current world’s tumultuous state. 2018 was the centenary year of the birth of Scotland’s Muriel Spark, and the country rightly went to town, republishing her twenty-two novels including some which were previously out of print, thus giving us the opportunity to read titles we may have previously missed, and re-read our old favourites. The crème de la crème indeed. One hundred years before Spark’s birth, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was born and an incredible publishing achievement created, celebrated this year with many biographies and re-imaginings.

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Review: How Winston Delivered Christmas by Alex T Smith Rating 91%

Review: How Winston Delivered Christmas by Alex T Smith

Illustrator and writer, Alex T Smith, has conjured up the warmest, most heartfelt and giving of books you are likely to see this season in this advent-style delight, How Winston Delivered Christmas. Packed with Christmas gift ideas, recipes, and Christmas songs, this book is more than just a story, it would turn even the most Scrooge-bah humbug types. How Winston Delivered Christmas will light up many homes this Winter, and not just those with small people in them.

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Review: Sweet Fruit, Sour Land by Rebecca Ley Rating 85%

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: Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill Rating 58%

Review: Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill

At one point I think I have a grip of Bellevue Square and what exactly is happening and then before you know it I am lost, in the dark and struggling to work out what exactly has just happened in this whirlwind ride of a book. Having won the Giller Prize in 2017, one of the most prestigious literary prizes in Canada, there is obviously much credibility to the writing, and I must admit, certainly initially, at the beginning of the novel, it was impossible to put down. However, it does lose me throughout the story, and I don’t just think that is because my thoughts were meandering.

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Review: The First Christmas Jumper (and the Sheep Who Changed Everything) by Ryan Tubridy and Chris Judge Rating 80%

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: To Throw Away Unopened by Viv Albertine Rating 74%

Review: To Throw Away Unopened by Viv Albertine

Viv Albertine has done it again, and why would I be doubting. It’s not often you see one yet alone two biographies from a rock star, but with this follow up to Clothes, Music, Boys, To Throw Away Unopened, we are given a further insight into Viv’s life, this time her quest for truth and family identity. After the success of her debut biography, Faber & Faber have published another, focussing more on the difficulties she had with relationships, but not just with those partner-based as she explores those with her mother, father and sister, which were formidable and bumpy at the best of times.

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Books Take Readers Down Roads Untrodden Before

Last month saw the Scottish Book Trust hold their Spotlight On Writing reception at the Scottish Parliament, an event which celebrated the success of the Scottish Book Trust’s writing programmes, campaigns and awards. The event was sponsored by MSP Joan McAlpine who gave an introductory speech highlighting the achievements of the Scottish Book Trust, and reminding us that “books take readers down roads untrodden before.”

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Review: East of West, West of East by Hamish Brown Rating 75%

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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Shahad Al Rawi: It produced the sense that I was walking on clouds

Iraqi writer, Shahad Al Rawi, won the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s 2018 First Book Award with her debut novel, The Baghdad Clock. The novel was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2018 and topped the bestseller lists in Iraq, Dubai and UAE.
Shahad spoke with The Fountain about this achievement as well as the difficulties that come with being a female writer in Iraq.

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Review: Pete Irvine, Sylvia Patterson and Emma Pollock in conversation with Nicola Meighan Rating 62%

Review: Pete Irvine, Sylvia Patterson and Emma Pollock in conversation with Nicola Meighan

As part of this Rip It Up exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, several events were curated alongside it, thought-provoking strands still very much on the topic of Scottish music, and one of these was the Keynote Sessions. There were several of these but the one I was interested in attending had author of I’m Not With The Band on the panel, Smash Hits, Q and NME journalist, Sylvia Patterson. She was sitting with Emma Pollock, musician who used to be in The Delgados as well as Pete Irvine, who set up Unique Events, who initially began Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, as well as host Nicola Meighan to discuss their musical inspirations.

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Review: All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon Rating 85%

Review: All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon

Darragh McKeon’s debut novel All That is Solid Melts into Air is a revisit of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster but also so much more. It is a love story, a story of growth, a story of life during the communist regime in the Soviet Union. McKeon’s book revolves around a handful or characters that are connected not only through fate but also through the constrictions that were imposed in the Soviet Union. The book begins and ends with Yevgeni, a young musical prodigy who grows up and witnesses the Chernobyl disaster as well as the fall of the Soviet Union a few years later in 1989. We are all aware of Chernobyl and the aftermath of it.

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Review: The Familiars by Stacey Halls Rating 85%

Review: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Stacey Halls’ debut novel The Familiars is a treat for any reader who enjoys a story about witchcraft, history and womanhood. The book is set in the early 17th century and revolves around a real life event, the Pendle witch trial that took place in Lancaster in 1612. The witch trial found ten women guilty of witchcraft and all of the defendants were hanged save but one Alice Gray, who is one of the two main protagonists of Halls’ story. Alice Gray is of low social status but she is a gifted midwife having learnt the secrets of the profession from her mother. Alice’s life completely changes when she meets the other protagonist of the story, the wealthy and soon to be a mother Fleetwood Shuttleworth. Initially Fleetwood seems to have it all, wealth, a good husband, a lovely home but she has had a number of miscarriages and it is the chance encounter with Alice that giver her hope for the future.

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