Book Reviews

Snapshot June 2015

Poppies-2Summer is here at last though the temperatures are far lower than they should be this time of the year. As each month opens I like to take a snapshot of what I’m reading, listening to and watching. So what was I up to on June 1, 2015?


I stayed up far too late reading The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson. It’s a fast paced novel set in London in 1727, a time when, if you got into debt you could end up incarcerated in the grim debtor’s prison of the Marshalsea. Such is the fate of Thomas Hawkins, a young rake with a penchant for drinking and gambling. His only option for surviving the fetid environment is to pay the jailers who are intent on squeezing every last penny out of their captives. But then he is offered an alternative lifeline – his freedom in return for unmasking the person responsible for the death of another inmate. What lifts this book well above the run of the mill thriller is its astonishingly atmospheric quality.

It seems Hodgson is looking to capitalise on her success with this novel. She’s just finished a sequel featuring the same character. The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins, published by Hodder and Stoughton moves the action on one year when Tom, condemned as a murderer is once again fighting for his life. I’ve already put this on order at the library.


I’m between audio books at the moment having just finished the superb Room by Emma Donaghue. I’ve been catching up on some podcasts instead including episodes of The Readers in which Simon and Thomas discuss if there are too many books being published. This was a topic that was aired in Front Row, a BBC Radio 4 program, a week or so ago. To my surprise one of the guests, from a big publishing house whose name escapes me now, agreed there was a surfeit of books published in the UK. There are certainly more than I can possibly hope to keep up with but are there really too many full stop? My first thought went to the number that are self published. Yes there are a few examples where a really good book only saw the light of day because of self publishing and word of mouth promotion. But they are the exception – most of the self published books I come across are sheer dross that the world really doesn’t need.  Switching to the output of established publishing houses the question became more difficult to answer.  My knee jerk reaction was that they could start by cutting down on the number of autobiographies and memoirs supposedly written by C list celebrities. There are always stacks of them on the remainder tables so clearly their fans are not that enamoured of them. Instead of paying them big advances, wouldn’t the money be better spent helping burgeoning authors? If publishing houses reduce their catalogues of new issues, it will be even more difficult for new authors to get a foot on the ladder. And as for books in translation – the number is pitiful enough now but they’d be unlikely to get a look in in the future given the smaller reader base.


Nothing much of note simply because on June 1 I was in a hotel room in Brussels where the options for English language tv were rather limited. The satellite was also playing up so BBC 1 and 2 were unwatchable which left me with the rolling news channels. 15 minutes of BBC Worldwide or CNN and I’ve had enough. They do little more than recycle the same piece of news endlessly. Ok if all you want are the headlines before rushing out of the room in the morning but as a viewing experience they are dire. Oh well, at least I had a good book.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

12 thoughts on “Snapshot June 2015

  • I agree with you on the C list celebrity bios. I think we could also safely cut back on the number of books “written” by politicians (those books that have only the person’s face on the cover…).

    • A work colleague was complaining today about Hilary Clinton’s bio which she felt went over the top on the lists of famous people Clinton had met.

  • Have added the Hodgson debut novel to my TBR list! The premise is definitely unique! Hopefully it won’t be too gruesome for me…I’m quite the wuss! 🙂

    • It’s fine – just close your eyes when you get to the not so nice bits. But they are short so I bet you’ll be peeking through your fingers…

    • The subject is uncomfortable particularly when you know its inspired by a real life abduction. But its gripping.

  • The library has just emailed me to say that the new Hodgson is waiting to be collected. That’s the next few days reading sorted out.

    • Lucky you – our library service just says it’s on order. But I just entered a competition on Facebook to win my own copy. Keep your fingers crossed

  • readerbuzz

    I agree! As far as I’m concerned, publishers should completely cut the huge advances to bios of celebrities.

    Here’s my Sunday Salon.

    • The fact that they don’t sell in huge numbers is I suppose a good indication that people don’t really value them


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