The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer Award Shortlist – The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus

Raymond Antrobus: The Perseverance

Published By: Penned In The Margins

Available to Buy From All Good Bookshops and Online

What They Say:

An extraordinary debut from a young British-Jamaican poet, The Perseverance is a book of loss, language and praise. One of the most crucial new voices to emerge from Britain, Raymond Antrobus explores the d/Deaf experience, the death of his father and the failure to communicate. Ranging across history, time zones and continents, The Perseverance operates in the in betweens of dual heritages, of form and expression emerging to show us what it means to exist, and to flourish.

What I Say:

I think the idea of reading this collection was something from the start of my experience as a Shadow Judge that I was slightly anxious about. I was aware that Raymond Antrobus had burst onto the British Poetry scene in a blaze of glory, but having to review his collection for the Sunday Times/ University of Warwick Young Writer Award was absolutely out of my comfort zone. The last time I read poetry critically was probably when I was in University over 25 years ago.

Right from the start, and the very first poem, Echo, you are aware as a reader that this is an intensely personal and autobiographical collection from Raymond Antrobus. He is deaf and as if that was not isolating enough, he is also the child of an English mother and a Jamaican father. Raymond Antrobus has always been at the edge of a society that seemingly continues to move all around him, not understanding either his needs or his heritage. How do you attempt to find your place in a world when you are not recognised by it at all?

The Perseverance is an unapologetic debut that not only recounts his own experiences as a deaf British-Jamaican poet, but also makes the reader (as I did) stop and look up the references to other people from history to understand the importance of their inclusion in the work. We learn about his fractured relationship with his father, the life of his family, and there are also poems which feature deaf people who have their own stories to tell. I thought that this was an eclectic mix which worked well – quite simply because it often disrupts the rhythm of the poems, and whereas in one I could understand and appreciate it, others made me stop and read about the subject and then apply that knowledge to my re-reading of them.

What I thought was very clear about the work, is that Raymond Antrobus wants us to listen to him. How can we possibly understand what it means to be deaf, when we are hearing? We cannot possibly know the reality of being deaf – we may be able to make sweeping generalisations, but it is the minutiae, the day to day things that we take for granted that we need someone to articulate for us, to help us truly understand what we need to do to foster inclusion as oppose to exclusion. The addition of sign language symbols, and the redaction of Ted Hughes’ poem ‘Deaf School’ which was filled with misconception and ignorance, immediately addressed by his poem After Reading ‘Deaf School’ by the Mississippi

In the poem Dear Hearing World, I felt it was really Antrobus’ manifesto, a way of detailing exactly what the hearing world need to understand in order for us to make any progress. It is raw, visceral and real, borne of a life lived and ignorances exposed. The writing is sublime, the imagery is authentic, and there is the absolute sense that our inability to fully appreciate what barriers we have created in our society, that there is a whole world of experience which has been denied a history.

He says:

“I mulled over long paragraphs because I didn’t know

what a natural break sounded like, you erased

what could have always been poetry

This for me is a theme that runs all through his collection. That you have standing in front of you a man who wants to be heard – not only for his own story, but for all of those other deaf people who have come before and after him. There is no one better qualified to educate others about the reality of being deaf than those who are.

In the title poem of the collection, The Perseverance is the pub where his father spends a lot of his time, with Raymond stood outside, waiting for him to return. Theirs is a difficult relationship – it seems that this is a pattern of behaviour that is usual in their lives, and interestingly, Antrobus is excluded from that world too. He is neither Jamaican nor British, not allowed inside the pub as he is a child, but cannot hear what is going on anyway. His own perseverance is deeper than simply waiting for his Dad to emerge and take him home. Even knowing that he is beaten by hs father, Antrobus seems to simply want to be acknowledged and loved by him. There is no doubt that Antrobus’ father loves him, and is fiercely defensive of his son, but their relationship is far from a traditional one, with his father open about his sexual conquests and his treatment of him is at times upsetting to read.

We learn that Antrobus’ father has dementia, and I thought it was incredibly poignant that the final poem in the collection Happy Birthday Moon, is about that most intimate and traditional idea, of a Dad reading his son a bedtime story. In that moment, where they are completely alone and just being with one another is the most real and exquisite recollection of what every child wants. To be heard.

“I’d like to be the Moon, the bear, even the rain

Dad makes the Moon say something new every night

and we hear each other, really hear each other,

As Dad reads aloud, I follow his finger across the page.”

Perhaps this is the point of The Perseverance. Antrobus has honestly and unapologetically showed us what his life is like. The passion and determination that permeates the poems in this collection is a way of standing in front of us and asking us to hear each other. Truly hear each other. It is at times, not an easy work to read, and honestly, at times I was frustrated with Antrobus for making me stop to find out what he was talking about. I felt it disrupted my experience as a reader, but it was balanced with moments where I was just blindsided by the most beautiful poetry that just mesemerised me .

The Perseverance is a poetry collection unlike anything I have ever read. In its pages it encompasses so many themes such as love, loss, grief and the unique life that Antrobus has lived. To read it is to be party to his world and his frustations, his realities and his relationships, and his desire to ensure that his history and those of deaf people is no longer sidelined by those who should know better.

Read it and learn from it, let it make you understand the way in which our society has not listened to those who don’t automatically fit in, and then like Antrobus tells us, understand that that we need to really hear each other.

Raymond Antrobus was born in Hackney to an English mother and Jamaican father. He is the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, Complete Works III and Jerwood Compton Poetry. He is one of the world’s first recipients of an MA in Spoken Word Education from Goldsmiths, University of London. Raymond is a founding member of Chill Pill and Keats House Poets Forum. He has had multiple residencies in deaf and hearing schools around London, as we as Pupil Referral Units. In 2018 he was awarded the Geoffrey Dearmer Award by the Poetry Society (judged by Ocean Vuong). The Perseverance (Penned In The Margins, 2018), was a Poetry Book Society Choice, the winner of the Rathbones Folio Prize and the Ted Hughes Award, and was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and Forward Prize for Best First Collection.

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The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer Award – Salt Slow by Julia Armfield


Julia Armfield: Salt Slow

Published By: Picador

Available from All Good Bookshops and Online

What They Say:
In her brilliantly inventive and haunting debut collection of stories, Julia Armfield explores bodies and the bodily, mapping the skin and bones of her characters through their experiences of isolation, obsession, love and revenge. Teenagers develop ungodly appetites, a city becomes insomniac overnight, and bodies are diligently picked apart to make up better ones. The mundane worlds of schools and sleepy sea-side towns are invaded and transformed, creating a landscape which is constantly shifting to hold on to its inhabitants. Blurring the mythic and the gothic with the everyday, salt slow considers characters in motion – turning away, turning back or simply turning into something new entirely.

What I Say:

“When I was twenty-seven, my Sleep stepped out of me like a passenger from a train carriage, looked around my room for several seconds, then sat down in the chair beside my bed”.

When I first started reading Salt Slow, (which by the way has one of the most beautiful covers that I think I have EVER seen}, I found the collection really easy to read, fast paced and extremely accessible.

Women are at the heart of all of these stories, but they hold the power and strength, while men are secondary, disposable characters that don’t really matter. Each of the stories are all so different, but at the same time, Julia Armfield has woven a sense of unease and other worldliness that permeates all of them. The world the characters inhabit feel close enough to ours to be recognisable, but it also feels slightly futuristic too.

In this book of nine short stories, you are absolutely immersed in the world that exists on the edge of ours. In Mantis, a teenage girl slowly morphs into a preying Mantis and uses her power to seduce a young man with devastating consequences. It works so well because it is written in a calm and understated way. Her Mum deals with it all very pragmatically, understanding that this is her fate, and attempts to help her daughter ease the pain of transformation with different creams and balms. Her teenage friends, obsessed with what they look like, and who does what with who, do what teenage girls do – if she doesn’t bother them, they generally leave her alone. This is why it works so well – if she had been marked out as different, and excluded from her world, the story would have been a much more traditional story in the vein of wronged outsider wreaks her revenge. Mantis is all the more powerful for the fact that her difference is accepted, and when her changing body embraces her different physicality and sensuality, you feel the change is constantly bubbling under the surface, and it has almost an air of inevitability which permeates the whole story.

This idea of young women undergoing transformations is an interesting one, and it is a theme which runs through Salt Slow. I loved the notion that these women were all on the cusp of discovering something about themselves, or those who are close to them, and the transformations make them stronger and define who they truly are.

In Formerly Feral, a young girl gains not only a stepmother, but also a wolf as a step-sister after her mother and biological sister leave. The wolf is called Helen, and although the girl is not named, they become closer and start to share similar traits. Their apparent differences serve to bring them together, and the wolf is more of a sister to her as time goes on. Helen understands the isolation and independence that the girl craves, and warns off those who get too close and scare her step-sister. Little by little, Helen and the girl become more alike and are the daughters that her father and step-mother have no qualms showing off to visitors. Julia Armfield’s skill means that this does not seem preposterous at all – because the world the narrative is set in does not treat them as outsiders. This is what makes the whole of Salt Slow so plausible – that everyone in the stories does not react to the seemingly incongruent relationships or happenings, they just accept them for what they are.

I have to say, that there were two stories which really resonated with me. The first was The Great Awake.

Imagine a world where not only does insomnia become a world wide epidemic, but that for those people who cannot sleep, you see a physical manifestation of your Sleep. This Sleep is not necessarily a peaceful being, but one that will make your life as uncomfortable as possible because they don’t rest either. The world is now full not only of people who cannot sleep, but also these beings who occupy even more space in an already disordered world. Trains are full, with Sleeps occupying all the seats, they all walk the streets and time no longer means anything because what’s the point if you can’t delineate day and night by the act of sleeping?

Janey, the protagonist of the story befriends a woman called Leonie in her block. She is a rare creature in that she is still able to sleep through the night, and even though they become friends, Leonie is desperate for a Sleep of her own so she can fit in with everyone else.

The Great Awake is a brilliant story which made me really stop and think about things. I am suffering with insomnia at the moment, and the notion of my sleeplessness as a human like object, is an intriguing concept. How would I react if I could see the very thing that was stopping me from sleeping? Would I want to rant at it, reason with it, or try to get rid of it? Are we all so wired and atttached to our screens and need to be connected 24 hours to the social media and internet that this notion of a world where we can’t switch off and fall asleep is in danger of becoming a reality?

As a teenager, like many others, I was devoted to following different groups – Wham, Culture Club, Wet Wet Wet and Spandau Ballet to name a few (Nearly 49 and not afraid to admit it!), which is why Stop your women’s ears with wax was such a perfect read for me!

It follows a girl band, who has slavishly devoted fans, so much so that they become more like a pack of out of control animals, determined to ensure that they protect their band at any costs. Mona is a young filmaker responsible for documenting the band on tour. The increasingly unsettling and violent devotion of the fans to the group mean that they almost become cultish in their behaviour, animalistic and sneering to anyone – especially any men who get in the way of the progress of the band as they become more and more successful.

All through the story, the power of the teenage girl is seen as key. They are the all encompassing sense of power for driving the story forward as the band move seamlessly through the story trying to be the most successful group they can. It is chilling to read the shared recollections of the people working with the band as they tell the reader what strange things have been happening as the band tour from city to city. A man from a previous gig is found asphyxiated, the tour bus toilets are clogged with feathers, and the crew are sleeping badly and having the same dream.

For me, the sense of hysteria and claustrophobia was entrenched in every page of this story.  It was unnerving to see how the girls are so utterly devoted to the band which holds them in their thrall.  It is as if they are being subliminally instructed to bind together and deal with any men who obstruct the band in their mission to be successful in which ever way they choose.

Salt Slow is a delicious short story collection that deserves to be savoured and re-read, as I think it is one of those books that will reveal something different to my reading experience every time I open it. Sharp, witty and defiantly different, Julia Armfield unapologetically puts women at the front and centre of all of the stories, and dares you to challenge them as to why they shouldn’t be.


Julia Armfield lives and works in London. She is a fiction writer and occasional playwright with a Masters in Victorian Art and Literature from Royal Holloway University. Her work has been published in Lighthouse, Analog Magazine, Neon Magazine and The Stockholm Review. She was commended in the Moth Short Story Prize 2017, longlisted for the Deborah Rogers Prize 2018 and is the winner of The White Review Short Story Prize 2018.

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The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer Award Shortlist – Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler

Yara Rodrigues Fowler – Stubborn Archivist

Published By: Fleet

Available From All Good Bookshops and Online

What They Say:
A bold debut novel exploring the nuances and the spaces between ourselves and our bodies, told through the shards collected by our own stubborn archivist. When your mother considers another country home, it’s hard to know where you belong. When the people you live among can’t pronounce your name, it’s hard to know exactly who you are. And when your body no longer feels like your own, it’s hard to understand your place in the world. This is a novel of growing up between cultures, of finding your space within them and of learning to live in a traumatized body. Our stubborn archivist tells her story through history, through family conversations, through the eyes of her mother, her grandmother and her aunt and slowly she begins to emerge into the world, defining her own sense of identity.

What I Say:

“Love your child and give them everything, but build a life that is your own first.

This is what your mum had told you, telepathically, all your life.

But you weren’t sure you wanted a husband

Or a child

Or to wrap your life around another person’s life”

Of all the works I have been asked to read as a Shadow Judge for The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer Award, the Stubborn Archivist is the novel I already knew about. I was lucky enough to see Yara in conversation with the amazing Zeba Talkhani (Author of My Past Is A Foreign Country) and Daniel Hahn at the Henley Literary Festival earlier this year, and it was a captivating and illuminating talk. It asked what does identity, family and belonging mean to us when you are not sure where you fit in the world.

I was thrilled when I found out that Stubborn Archivist was on the Shortlist, and have to say that it is a novel I won’t forget for a long time. It is unlike anything I have read before in terms of structure and style, and that passion and emotion comes through every page, in an inexhaustable supply of memories, family and home.

Words tumble out of pages, large spaces are left, pages are blank, and the spaces in between words and chapters are just as important as the words that are printed. There is dialogue in Portuguese with no translation – why should there be? This is the Archivist’s story and her language should not have to be explained.

There is the constant refrain of : ‘What’s your name? He repeated the syl-la-bles.’ Showing us how having to constantly spell your name means you are not totally part of the society you live in – you are here, but not quite seamlessly. The frustation of language as an impediment to relationships and closeness peppers this book, whilst at the same time the refusal to compromise identity as a means to fit in more easily is always present, and it is at times gloriously defiant.

The construction of our identities and remembrances add to the authenticity of the novel – memories are not neat, linear, resolvable and formulaic structures. They meander and link seemingly unrelated pieces of information and time, short handed by the people who remember as they recollect the past, as families talk about jokes only they understand, of experiences they have shared and memories that exist only for them. It is raw, real and very truthful which is why it works so well, and always in the back of our minds is the notion of the protagonist having to heal her body which has been traumatised- something we discover in the most understated but most powerful way.

The Stubborn Archivist is the female narrator of the novel. She is the daughter of a Brazilian mother and an English father, and as we follow her forwards and backwards through her life, we start to understand who she is and how her life experiences have helped shape her. It is the sense that she doesn’t quite fit in to either culture that drives the narrative forward – in England she is living, learning and loving, whilst her time spent in Brazil means she goes back to be with her grandparents Vovô and Vovó who want her to remember her roots and where her heritage is. One scene that really stuck in my mind is when the Narrator is visiting Brazil and someone assumes she doesn’t speak Portuguese, because she is living in England, and she has to assure them that she does – that although geographically she is removed from them, emotionally she is still part of that culture too.

This for me is the whole crux of the novel, that she inhales life in London – the growing up, the all consuming friendships with Jade, Gee and Elena, the teenage way of just being with each other and knowing what each other needs, the desire to be part of the world around you so that you belong in that moment. Yet similarly when she is in Brazil, she is very much still a Brazilian girl who happens to live in London. As she grows up surrounded by the love of her grandparents Vovô and Vovó and Aunt Paula, they are thrilled she has come to see them but they also feel slightly displaced, as they are not part of her everyday life.

The Stubborn Archivist is not only her story, but that of her family too. We see how her parents met, the way in which two cultures come together – when the Brazilian in-laws come to the United Kingdom for Christmas and how they all learn to co-exist, each with different expectations, but neither wanting to upset the other. The most endearing scenes are tinged with awkwardness where no one quite knows what to say, but what binds them together is the unspoken familial connections we all yearn for.

One of the many things I loved about this novel, is that we are never really able to say that we absolutely know the Stubborn Archivist, because what we learn is what she has allowed us to read. That really resonated with me – how often have we kept things hidden, behaved one way with a certain group of friends, and another with someone else. Personal history is always going to be subjective, and that is what makes this novel so relatable – whether we realise it or not, we are the Stubborn Archivists of our histories.

The Stubborn Archivist is a novel that surprised and enthralled me from the very first page. Hand on heart, I wouldn’t have picked it up had I seen it in a Bookshop, but do you know what? I am so very glad I have read it, and isn’t that what reading is all about? The notion that as well as falling back on the familiar and the loved, that sometimes we need to read outside of our comfort zone to see what else can inspire and educate us.

The Stubborn Archivist has absolutely and defiantly achieved that. It has made me aware of the legacy I will leave behind and the stories others will remember about me – and I believe that is what truly inspiring writing does.


Yara Rodrigues Fowler is a British Brazilian novelist from South London. Her first novel, Stubborn Archivist, was published in 2019 in the UK and USA. It was called ’stunning’ by Olivia Laing, ‘visceral and elegant’ by Claire-Louise Bennett and ‘breathtakingly written’ by Nikesh Shukla. Yara was named one of The Observer’s nine ‘hottest-tipped’ debut novelists of 2019 and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize. Yara is also a trustee of Latin American Women’s Aid, an organisation that runs the only two refuges in Europe for and by Latin American women. She’s writing her second novel now, for which she received the John C Lawrence Award from the Society of Authors towards research in Brazil.

Follow #youngwriterawardshadow and @youngwriteryear on Twitter and Instagram to hear more about The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer Award Shortlist, the authors and what the Shadow Panel think too.

The Sunday Times/University Of Warwick Young Writer Award – Testament by Kim Sherwood



Kim Sherwood: Testament

Published by: riverrun

Available online and from all good bookshops.

What They Say:

The letter was in the Blue Room – her grandfather’s painting studio, where Eva spent the happier days of her childhood. After his death, she is the one responsible for his legacy – a legacy threatened by the letter she finds. It is from the Jewish Museum in Berlin. They have found the testimony her grandfather gave after surviving the labour camps in Austria. And, since he was one of Britain’s greatest twentieth century artists, they want to exhibit it. But Joseph Silk – leaving behind József Zyyad – remade himself long ago. As Eva begins to uncover the truth, she understands the trauma, and the lies, that have haunted her family. She will unravel what happened to József and his brother, who came to England as refugees. One never spoke of his past – the other couldn’t let it go. Their story – and that of the woman they both loved – is in her hands. Revealing it would change her grandfather’s hard- won identity. But it could also change the tide of history. This testament can lend words to wordless grief, and teach her how to live. 

What I Say:

“It’s not a choice,’ László said “what’s a man without memory?’

Silk told him: “Happier”.

To be asked to be a Shadow Judge for The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award is a huge honour, but when faced with the shortlist sitting in front of you, all of the books you cannot wait to devour, the issue is which one do you choose?

How will my choice appear to others – is there some reason why I chose this one and not that? Does that mean I was most keen to read the one I picked, or is it that I wanted to get the longest book read first?

I decided to read Testament, because I believed that I knew about the Holocaust and the Second World War. I naively thought my limited reading of a history textbook in sixth form could adequately educate me as to the impact and brutality of this war on the Jewish people and the world.

Testament is a novel that unapologetically shows you the human reality of war.  It is not on the battlefields or the war rooms that this novel’s war is fought, but in the towns and countryside, in the homes and the lives of those ordinary people who were at the mercy of the German soldiers.

Eva Butler is the granddaughter of the famous painter Joseph Silk who has recently passed away, and as her father John refuses to help, it is left to Eva to deal with his estate and possessions he has left behind.  Eva is a documentary maker, and before Silk’s death, they were in the process of making a film together about him. She has always been aware that he was once József Zyyad, a young Hungarian Jew who together with his brother László survived the Holocaust, but he refused to revisit that part of his history.

When Eva is going through Silk’s possessions, she finds a letter from the Jewish Museum in Berlin, who wanted to talk to him so they could add his testimony that he gave during the Second World War to create a history of those who were in the Holocaust.  Whereas László was now in a place where he wants to remember what has happened to him, Silk wanted no part of it.  He wanted to forget his life during that time, and any attempt Eva had previously made to try to get him to talk about his life before he arrived in the United Kingdom is ignored.

To say that Testament is just a straightforward novel about a woman’s search to discover the truth about her grandfather simply does not do it justice.  It is a novel about the human spirit, the connections that families have, and how in times of extreme suffering and devastation that all we seek as humans is the notion that we are belong to the human race either through blood, or a shared experience however difficult that might be.

As Eva travels to Berlin to meet the people in the Jewish Museum, you absolutely feel Eva’s unease and confusion as she realises in reading the letter, she may have uncovered something in Silk’s story that nothing could have prepared her for.  In making this choice, to uncover the truth about her family, that the whole of her own history could be about to change forever.

The narrative moves between Eva’s story and that of József and László, punctuated by pages of questions that József was asked which formed part of his testimony. The pages are placed in the novel without warning or context, and bring into focus both the reality of what the brothers went through, but also the enormity of the devastation that War has brought for everyone.  Life for the brothers during the war is unimaginably cruel, they are treated no better than animals, and their Jewish heritage is what marks them out as fair game for the German soldiers. Men are shot as soldiers ‘test’ their guns, they are forced to work in mines waist deep in water for eleven hour shifts, with only the water that engulfs them as the way of staying alive. They are moved around the country like a pack of animals that have no value other than to serve as amusement and inconvenience for the German officers.

This is not a sanitised, convenient version of the Holocaust experience.  Kim Sherwood unflinchingly challenges us to read the stories of József, László and many others, and to try and understand the unimaginable horror and degradation these people went through simply due to their religion. It makes us see the true inhumanity of war, and dares us to look away, knowing to do so would let these people down.

For me, the most emotional part of the novel was the aftermath of the Second World War.  László and József have been separated, and László, with a girl called Zuzka has managed to get to the Lake District, and become one of the Windermere Boys.  For László and Zuzka, the war may have ended, but they still fall between society’s cracks, not quite fitting in in England, but unable to return to their homeland either.  The relationship between them is gentle and tender, and although both have been changed by what they have seen and experienced, they slowly turn to each other for comfort, to feel a human connection again.  However, when József manages to find his way back to his brother, Zuzka realises that it is József she is truly attracted to.  They are unable to hide their feelings, and as they edge ever closer, László realises that he can do nothing except watch the two people he loves most in the world find each other with devastating consequences for all of them.

Eva is also finding that as she delves deeper into the past her Grandfather fought so hard to hide, that she truly knew very little about him, and his testimony reveals a former life that turns everything she has ever known upside down.  When she visits Berlin to find out more about Silk’s life, she is regarded as a Jew first and a person second and starts to understand the notion of being marked out from the crowd, and the importance of our personal histories as a testament for future generations.

Testament is at times a very difficult and emotional read.  It is a novel which is filled with beautifully poetic and measured prose, which draws you in close and then when it switches to the most horrific scenes described in a straightforward and unemotional way, it is all the more shocking and unnerving. We cannot understand man’s inhumanity to man, and bear our own witness to a world we know can never be allowed to exist again. The history and massive themes it tackles within its pages are complex and the relationships contained in the pages are far from easy. It is due to Kim Sherwood’s immense skill as a writer, that as a reader you become so invested in Eva and Silk’s story that you feel you owe it to them both to not only read it right to the very end, but to also do your own research of the world Silk has tried so hard to forget.

However, for me, at the heart of Testament, and what is so evident in every single page, is a young woman’s desire to truly understand the history of her Grandfather who she loved so deeply.

Follow #youngwriterawardshadow  and @youngwriteryear on Twitter and Instagram to hear more about The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer Award Shortlist, the authors and what the Shadow Panel think too.


Kim Sherwood was born in Camden in 1989 and lives in Bath. She studied Creative Writing at UEA and is now Senior Lecturer at the University of the West of England. Her pieces have appeared in Mslexia, Lighthouse, and Going Down Swinging. Kim began researching and writing Testament, her first novel, after her grandfather, the actor George Baker, passed away and her grandmother began to talk about her experiences as a Holocaust Survivor for the first time. It won the 2016 Bath Novel Award, was longlisted for the 2019 Desmond Elliot Prize and shortlisted for the 2019 Author’s Club Best First Novel Award. 




Grandmothers by Salley Vickers



Salley Vickers: Grandmothers

Published by: Penguin Viking

Available from online and all good bookshops from November 7th


What They Say:

Grandmothers is the story of three very different women and their relationship with the younger generation: fiercely independent Nan, who leads a secret life as an award-winning poet when she is not teaching her grandson Billy how to lie; glamorous Blanche, deprived of the company of her beloved granddaughter Kitty by her hostile daughter-in-law, who finds solace in rebelliously taking to drink and shop lifting; and shy, bookish Minna who in the safety of shepherd’s hut shares with her surrogate granddaughter Rose her passion for reading. The outlook of all three women subtly alters when through their encounters with each other they discover that the past is always with us and that we go on learning and changing until the very end.


What I Say:

There’s more than one kind of relative,’ Nan said. ‘There are kindred spirits, to my mind closer than blood ties often.’

I read Salley Vickers’ previous novel The Librarian last year, and loved the way in which you were drawn in to a world that was so far from my own, but engaged me totally and was observed with such tenderness and clarity.

When I was asked to take part in the BlogTour for Grandmothers, I was really looking forward to savouring Salley’s elegant prose and real characters once again.

Grandmothers is the story of three women; Nan, Minna and Blanche, and we are observers of their lives as women who have all loved, lived and lost and are now Grandmothers.

Nan looks after her grandson Billy, and is constantly both frustrated by how chaotic her son Alec and daughter in law Virginia are in their approach to parenting, but she also relishes the time that she has with Billy. She may seemingly be abrasive, with little or no tolerance for those who do not fit in with her view of the world, but she is also an intensely intelligent woman who is a successful poet. Her desire to be able to write in peace and channel her creativity is thwarted by the time she has to look after Billy, but her love and desire to give her grandson stability and guidance means she knows that she is doing the right thing.

We learn that Nan has never got over her first true love Hamish, and she has channelled her thoughts and desires into the poetry that consumes her dreams and provides her with a creative outlet. Nan is biding her time until she can be with Hamish again, but in the meantime, her devotion to and relationship with Billy provides her with the daily routine and connection to the world around her.

Blanche is also a devoted Grandmother to her two grandchildren, but she has a special connection with teenage Kitty. However an ill judged remark by her grandson has given her acerbic daughter in law the moral upper hand and has decided to restrict the contact Blanche has with them. As a result, even though she is comfortably off, Blanche has started to shoplift and drink more than she should. This for me raised many interesting questions about Blanche, and indeed the large number of women today who adore their Grandchildren but are prevented from spending time with them by their children, and how they deal with a situation that is seemingly irreperable.

Blanche’s sadness and bewilderment at what she is doing is increasingly evident through the chapters. It is as if she is numb within her own life, and having settled for a marriage with a man she loved, but was not in love with, and being denied time with her family, she is desperate to feel something, anything to get her through her days.

Minna is not related to Rose, having met her when she worked at her school as a teaching assistant, but is the closest thing to a granddaughter she has. Minna is slightly removed from society in that she lives alone in a Shepherd’s Hut, and leads a simple and plain life on her own. However, her relationship with Rose brings her joy, and their shared passion for Reading not only helps connect them, but also gives Rose the comfort she needs away from the family home, as her parents’ marriage is starting to crumble.

These three seemingly separate women are connected not only by the bond they have with the children, but also by the lives they have lived and the society they are part of.

Older women are often deemed invisible by the world around them, and in this novel, Salley Vickers unapologetically places them right in front of us, and makes us realise that their age does not make them less valuable, rather that these women should be respected and celebrated for the life they have led and the wisdom they have gained.

There were so many things about Grandmothers that resonated with me. As the narrative moves effortlessly backwards and forwards through Nan, Minna and Blanche’s lives, I absolutely understood their frustrations at feeling like they didn’t quite fit in any more through no fault of their own. Their worth was measured in how available they were to take on the care of their grandchildren without a thought for whether or not it stopped them from living their own lives.

It was also a clever plot device to have all the women gradually meet each other in moments where they fleetingly intersect with each other’s lives before starting to forge their friendships. I kept willing them all to get together, but it is testament to Salley’s skill as a writer that she kept them apart until just the right moment.

For me, the fact that the women were not paragons of virtue, that they had faults and were trying to get through their lives as best as they could endeared them more to me. The women are relatable because they act, feel and respond like we do, and that makes us feel closer to them and we want to see them happy too.

Grandmothers is one of those novels that when you start it, you don’t want it to end. Salley Vickers has written a book that deserves to be read slowly and savoured, filled with evocative descriptions and characters you really care about. You might not always understand the choices they make, but you only want them all to finally find what makes them truly happy.

This is not simply a trite story about three women who are Grandmothers, but instead is a passionate and vital read about women who have forged their own paths and eventually learn to have confidence in themselves and the creative, emotional and personal paths they have taken.

I loved it.


Thank you so much to Hannah at Viking Books UK for my gifted copy, and please do have a look to see what these other brilliant bloggers are saying about Grandmothers too.

Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton

Sonia Velton – Blackberry and Wild Rose

Published By – Quercus Books

Available Online and From All Good Bookshops.


What The Blurb Says:

WHEN ESTHER THOREL, the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God’s will. Sara is not convinced being a maid is better than being a whore, but the chance to escape her grasping ‘madam’ is too good to refuse.

INSIDE THE THORELS’ tall house in Spitalfields, where the strange cadence of the looms fills the attic, the two women forge an uneasy relationship. The physical intimacies of washing and dressing belie the reality: Sara despises her mistress’s blindness to the hypocrisy of her household, while Esther is too wrapped up in her own secrets to see Sara as anything more than another charitable cause.

IT IS SILK that has Esther so distracted. For years she has painted her own designs, dreaming that one day her husband will weave them into reality. When he laughs at her ambition, she unwittingly sets in motion events that will change the fate of the whole Thorel household and set the scene for a devastating day of reckoning between her and Sara.

THE PRICE OF a piece of silk may prove more than either is able to pay.


What I Say:

But the world turns on a sixpence and our lives shifted the moment she walked through the door. She was like a cat sidling in uninvited and looking about.”

I am always completely honest with you all about my reading and blogging, and I am not going to hide the fact that recently, my reading had been a bit of a lost cause!

When Ella from Quercus kindly offered to send me a copy of Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton  – honestly – I wasn’t holding out much hope, and was already worrying about what I was going to tell Ella about why I couldn’t review it!

The thing is, the minute I started, I knew it was just what I needed to help me want to start reading again, and to finally feel more like a reader than a machine!

Blackberry and Wild Rose is a clever and intelligent novel, filled with evocative writing, and two female protagonists who may come from two entirely different worlds, but are  more alike than they would ever admit.

Sara Kemp is a young woman who after arriving in Spitalfields in 1768, is met by a woman called Mrs Swann who offers her a place to stay and rest.  Unfortunately, The Wig and Feathers turns out to be a brothel, and Sara is effectively kept prisoner by Mrs Swann who tells Sara she has to pay back the money she has accrued on her bed and board.  Sara has to keep working to attempt to pay off her debt, which of course is impossible.

Sara quickly realises she is at the mercy of Mrs Swann and the men who use her, and little by little, Sara seems to disassociate from her body and feel nothing. That is until one day a client treats her so badly she knows she needs to find a way to escape her existence, because simply existing is all she is doing.

Esther Thorel is seemingly the answer to Sara’s prayers. The wife of a respected Huguenot Silk Trader, a woman who is keen to be seen as charitable and kind to those less fortunate, dispensing bibles and food to those who need it, Esther is the sort of woman that Sara believes can help her escape her damaged world.

When Sara goes to Esther’s house to ask her to help, Esther’s curiosity and desire to be seen to be a benefactress of Spitalfields that she decides to employ Sara and welcome her as a servant in her household.

This seemingly selfless action by Esther is the start of her whole world turning upside down.

Esther’s silk trader husband Elias is determined to make as much money as possible, and as well as having many men weaving for him in houses all round London, he hires Bisby Lambert, a talented journeyman silk weaver to use the loom in the garret of his house to produce his master piece. Apparently in exchange for the chance for Bisby to be admitted to the Weaver’s Company, and Thorel to get the chance to sell a figured silk for a large amount of money.

Already, there is an unsettling shift in the Thorel Household. A new maid and a journeyman in their house means that the lives of the Thorels will never be the same again.  Although Esther may have believed that Sara’s gratitude to her would mean that she had a supportive and hard working maid, she completely underestimates Sara’s determination to not settle for what she has been given, and instead she wants to be brought futher into Esther’s world as her lady’s maid, so she can become indispensible to her.

Esther may seem that she is living a blessed life, with a rich husband and a beautiful home, but right from the start, we are very aware that all is not as it seems in the Esther Thorel’s world.  A keen artist, who loves to paint, but is also fascinated by the world her husband works in, and wants to design her own silk. He dismisses her entirely and tells her to be satisfied with her world and that is all as a woman she can handle.

Frustrated by the limits that other people put on her, dissatisfied with her marriage, and aware that her husband is more interested in the maid Moll than he really should be, Esther decides she wants to turn her painting of Blackberry and Wild Rose into a sumptuous silk and needs Bisby’s help to do so. Their relationship is beautifully played out, in an understated and controlled way, that serves to add to the intensity and frustration Esther feels about how she has to behave appropriately when faced with feeling genuine passion for the first time in a long time.

Similarly Sara is easing her way into Esther’s life, becoming the one person who is a constant and seemingly unwavering support. However, we as the reader are aware how although Sara may have left behind her life in a brothel, she is still controlled by others, without a voice of her own. Interestingly, Sara is fully aware of it too – and she is determined to change it.

This is an interesting theme that is deftly woven through the pages of this novel – that women are a commodity to be traded and owned, irrespective of class and age, and that a woman’s body is judged not only on appearance, but also by the ability to have children. Esther is unable to conceive and is judged by society for it, Sara falls pregnant but due to her social standing and unmarried status, she is judged by others who decide that she is not fit to keep her baby.

Motherhood is for me a recurring issue which runs all through Blackberry and Wild Rose, as does the notion of what being a good mother means. Esther has had an uneasy relationship with her mother, and is now denied the chance to be one, while Sara falls pregnant and when she has her baby daughter, she fully understands what it means to be a mother, and that how from now on her daughter has to be at the heart of every choice she makes.

As the novel weaves its way between the narratives of the women, as a reader we start to understand their decisions more clearly. There is an uneasy and at times strained relationship between the Esther and Sara, but they are united in the knowledge that both have seen each other at their most vulnerable and raw. Slowly they edge towards a common understanding and shared empathy and the novel gains an additional layer because of it. It is interesting to see how they are also the main characters, and that the men are secondary to them in terms of plot and character.

In Blackberry and Wild Rose, Sonia has written a beautifully pitched and elegant debut novel, filled with language and descriptions that are evocative and considered. It is also fascinating to see how relevant Esther and Sara’s stories are for women in the present day, and how far we still have to go to achieve the same rights and recognition as men.

I think that Blackberry and Wild Rose is the perfect novel to lose yourself in as the nights draw in. It is in Sonia’s skill as a writer that you are absolutely absorbed into a world that may have been part of Britain’s history centuries ago, but that feels so contemporary and necessary today. It is Esther and Sara’s story, and quite rightly so.

I loved it.

Thank you so much to Ella Patel at Quercus Books a gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.

Do You Ever Wonder?

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This is a bit of a random post, because it’s not a review, but more something I have been thinking about, and when I want to blog, I’m going to blog!

Over the past few weeks, I have been thinking about why I love book blogging – I know that I’ve talked about that before here , but then my youngest asked me recently – what do you think makes a good book blogger?

Well, that got me thinking…

What Makes A Good Book Blogger?

Do you have to have a huge number of followers – and does that in turn mean you have a responsibility to be authentic and post regular book reviews for those people who listen to you and value your opinions and recommendations?

Is it that you must read at a rapid rate, and because you read so many books and blog about them regularly that your opinions count more than someone who publishes four blog posts a year?

Do you have to read and review every single book you have or are lucky enough to get sent?

Perhaps we should be measure the success of a book blogger as to how long your blog posts are?  Are pages and pages more worthy than a few paragraphs?

Does it make you any lesser of a blogger if you don’t use a site to blog, but instead choose videos, a tweet, an instagram post or a YouTube channel as a means to share the Booklove?

Perhaps you are lucky enough to get all the most anticipated proofs, so that must mean the people in the publishing industry believe that you are a good book blogger and have the engagement and reach that they want for their books – if you are talking about it, then everyone on this planet will need this book too.

To be a good book blogger, do you have to follow and do all the hashtags and challenges and readathons and all the other bookish events that pepper the calendar throughout the year?

Maybe to be you have to be brilliant at social media and know how to use all the filters and editing techniques on Instagram, so your bookish pictures and reviews always look like they would fit into a magazine.

Obviously the more you tweet and retweet and repost and add to your Instagram stories with all the bookish things means that you must be a top notch book blogger too right?

Or can you only possibly be a good book blogger if you spend all day on social media, interact with all your favourite authors, and what their favourite flavour of crisps are?

Well, you can’t be a very good book blogger if you aren’t reading the latest releases everyone is shouting about can you?

It’s confusing isn’t it?

What does make a good book blogger? 

I don’t have the definitive answer, but all I will say is that if you are not enjoying what you are doing, and that you feel like a joyless reading machine, then stop and take a step back.

Having the confidence to do whatever bookish things YOU want to do, when YOU want to do it helps to make you a better blogger.

A wise woman (who is also an author) told me recently that one of the best things in the world for her is when a reader contacts her to say how much they enjoyed reading her book.

Perhaps that is all this book blogging malarkey is – sharing the booklove in a way that works for you. I know how hard it is to just be content with what you are doing without comparing yourself, but trust me, life’s too short to worry as to whether you have spent enough time today being Bookish Enough.

If posting every day is what works for you, do it. If once a year is fine, then do that too.

Only want to talk about the latest releases, go for it. If you relish the joy in talking about a book that’s been on your shelves for a while, or a book from a library you chose, do that too.

Can’t be bothered faffing around with filters and special effects on your pics, then don’t – who cares?

Have an account on every social media channel and tweet or post or create witty stories to your heart’s content, or have one way that you love of communicating with people – it’s up to you!

Read what you want, when you want, talk about it, don’t talk about it – you choose to do whatever you want – you love reading and that’s all that matters!

That’s it – no shattering revelations, no clever or witty snappy remarks, just a plain and simple fact.

This is only my opinion, you might agree or disagree, you might think I have got it absolutely wrong or completely spot on, but now it’s over to you!

So, Bookish People, what do you think makes a good book blogger?

Lots of love,




Bringing on the BookLove Again!

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Antonia Honeywell was kind enough to let me loose on her radio programme Booktime Brunch on Chiltern Voice this Monday, and I had an absolute blast!

This time, we talked all about small independent presses, and the amazing passionate people behind them who, like us, love books and reading and want to shout about great books!

You can listen to Booktime Brunch here…


As promised, are the links to everyone and everything Antonia and I talked about.

Look them up, read what they do, follow them, read their blogs, buy a book (or ten) from them, and here’s to us all of us for sharing the book love!


The Books We Talked About

This Mortal Boy by Dame Fiona Kidman from @BelgraviaB

Little by @EdwardCarey70  also from @BelgraviaB

How To Be Autistic by @smallreprieves  from @MyriadEditions

It’s Gone Dark Over Bill’s Mother by  @lisablowerwrite from @MyriadEditions

The Mating Habits of Stags by Ray Robinson from @EyeAndLightning

The Caravaners by Elizabeth Von Arnim from @KateHandheld

Witches Sail In Eggshells by  @TurnerPen2Paper from @reflexfiction

The Offing by @BenMyers1 from @BloomsburyBooks

Bone China by @spookypurcell from @BloomsburyRaven

Hungry Paul by @MumblinDeafRo from @Ofmooseandmen

Brian Flynn Mysteries and the Furrowed Middlebrow Series by @DeanStPress

Self and I by @MDeAbaitua from @EyeAndLightning


The Fabulous Book Loving Bloggers We Talked About


Amanda is a brilliant book blogger, who not only consistently fabulous reviews, but also is always supporting and promoting other people too. If you don’t follow her already, you really should..


Eleanor sells books, also writes a fantastic blog, and is also going to be a guest on Booktime Brunch with Antonia very soon too.


The Amazingly Supportive Publishing People and Their Publishing Houses

Isabelle @BelgraviaB

@EmmaDowson1  from @MyriadEditions

@EmmaDowson1  from @saltpublishing

Kate Macdonald and @JudithWiseBooks from  @KateHandheld

Simon and @meandmybigmouth from @EyeAndLightning

@d_bdale from @reflexfiction

@PhilippaCotton from @BloomsburyBooks

Victoria from @DeanStPress

The @ngaiomarshaward


The Literary Festivals You Would Be Mad To Miss

The Henley Literary Festival

You can find out all about it here – Henley Literary Festival

Or follow them on Twitter here – @HenleyLitFest

Or on Instagram here  –  @henleylitfest

I am going to be Live Tweeting:

Families In Fiction with @HarrietEvans  @hannahbeckerman  @missjanetellis

Debuts on The Thames with @ZebaTalk  and @yazzarf

How To Write A Thriller with  @alisonbarrow  @LesleyKara and @figbarton

With Many Thanks to Sara, for all her help and support too!


The Tring Book Festival

You can find out all about it here – Tring Book Festival

Or follow them on Twitter here – @tringbookfest

Or on Instagram here – @tringbookfest

With Many Thanks to @BenDMoorhouse and @AliCyster for their help and time in telling us all about The Tring Book Festival too!


Finally, a HUGE Thank you so much to the always Fabulous Antonia Honeywell for having me as a guest on her show #BooktimeBrunch on @ChilternVoice

I’m going to be back on Antonia’s show on December 9th, dispensing Book Doctor Advice, so if you have any bookish dilemmas, we may be able to help!

Keep watching our Twitter feeds to see how you can be involved, and more importantly, keep reading and sharing the Book Love!


Clare xx

The Offing by Benjamin Myers


The Offing by Benjamin Myers

Published By Bloomsbury

Available online and from all good bookshops.


What’s it all about?

One summer following the Second World War, Robert Appleyard sets out on foot from his Durham village. Sixteen and the son of a coal miner, he makes his way across the northern countryside until he reaches the former smuggling village of Robin Hood’s Bay. There he meets Dulcie, an eccentric, worldly, older woman who lives in a ramshackle cottage facing out to sea.

Staying with Dulcie, Robert’s life opens into one of rich food, sea-swimming, sunburn and poetry. The two come from different worlds, yet as the summer months pass, they form an unlikely friendship that will profoundly alter their futures.

What I Say:

“And that is what matters.  I was living the life I wanted to live, and still am, despite this thing that eats away inside of me: a disease called time.”

This is my first official blog post since my self imposed Summer Break.  I have done video reviews a plenty, but I knew at some point, that I needed to start writing again, to leave some trace of my reading journey on my tiny piece of the Internet.

I realised that it would have to be a genuinely special novel that would spark my need to tell you all about it in a post, to reinvigorate my mission to continue to document my reading and tell you all about books I love.

The Offing is that novel.

Set in the years after the Second World War, Robert Appleyard decides that he needs to spend some time away from his life in Durham, before he inevitably follows the path his family has set, and becomes a miner.  As he wends his way through the countryside, relishing in the peace of a world that constantly engages and surprises him, we follow his journey through the natural world that seems so far removed from the world he has left behind and the uncertainty of a world still recovering from the noise and chaos of a war.

Robert’s journey through the countryside is slow and measured, taking in and appreciating the sights and sounds of nature, as he grudgingly realises that this might be the last chance he has to appreciate the world around him before he is resigned to a life of hard work and familial duty.

As he approaches Robin Hood’s Bay, he stumbles upon a ferocious looking dog, a tired and dilpapdated cottage, and a force of nature called Dulcie Piper.  Dulcie is a woman who has retreated from society and spends her days in her cottage making the best of what she has in the post war era.  The thing is, Dulcie has an amazing array of food and drink that she seems to have ‘acquired’ in a number of rather unorthodox ways.

It is clear from the very first time they meet that Dulcie is a woman who lives by her rules and is not deterred by anyone’s opinions of her or how she has chosen to live her life.  Her passion for life and never ending anecdotes are just what Robert needs, and little by little, their friendship starts to form, as each realises that they now have a real chance to live the life they want rather than the one that has been forced upon them.

Dulcie recognises that within Robert there lies a young man who does not want to follow the path his family wants him to, that he is an intelligent and thoughtful boy who has to hide his dreams of gaining an education so that he does not disappoint them or impact on his ability to earn them money in a time where wages and prospects are uncertain.

Robert also sees that in Dulcie, she has lived a life that is full and passionate, but that she is hiding something that is so deeply ingrained that she is unable to articulate the pain she feels in holding onto the past, and more especially about the love of her life.

Little by little, Robert and Dulcie start to open up to each other, and the summer is spent with the two characters easing into their friendship. Dulcie provides the food, wine and hair raising stories, Robert works the land and carries out the never ending house repairs to help Dulcie regain control of her cottage and the studio where Robert is staying.

Dulcie opens Robert’s eyes to the worlds of possibility and learning that are waiting for him, if only he is brave enough to have the confidence in himself to stand up for what he truly wants.

Benjamin Myers has created a time and place where two seemingly unconnected people find a bond that will endure forever.  He portrays a tender and caring relationship between Dulcie and Robert, always believable and perfectly paced, as we see both characters develop through the novel, becoming more at ease with each other, and without realising it, holding the key to each other’s happiness.

The prose and language is languid and beguiling, you feel the warmth of the sun, the changing seasons, the seemingly never ending battle against nature, but you are also aware that we are constantly at the mercy of it.  I loved the way in which we, like Robert, become totally immersed in Dulcie’s world, that this little bubble becomes our safe haven away from the grim realities of a time which was shattered by the loss of a way of life many had taken for granted.

The Offing is a meaningful title for a number of reasons – it is at its most basic definition, the place where the sea meets the sky,  but it is also the title of a work of a German poet called Romy Landau – the woman who stayed with Dulcie before Robert, and who it transpires was Dulcie’s lover.  For me, The Offing was also the tantalising notion of possibility, that we may believe our destinies are set in stone, but that by meeting the right person at the right time, our lives can be changed for the better – however scary it may seem.

This is the first novel by Benjamin Myers that I have read, and I now want to read his other work too. In The Offing, he has written a tender and thoughtful novel, one that completely absorbed me and made me think about the path I had chosen in life too. I wonder if I had been lucky enough to meet a woman like Dulcie, where would I be now?

The Offing is not a lengthy novel, but it has a massive heart. Following Robert’s example of realising that life is too short, it gave me the confidence to put myself forward for something I really wanted to do. It might not happen, but at least I tried, and won’t wonder what if?

A book has to be a pretty special novel to provoke that kind of reaction – and The Offing really is.

I loved it.

Thank you to Philippa Cotton at Bloomsbury for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.






It’s not you, it’s Book Blogging…

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This is a bit of a breaking my promise not to blog over the Summer type post – that’s even lost me already, so bear with.

I said at the start of the school holidays that I was only going to do the two Blog Tour Posts I had promised, and that would be it.  I would spend the rest of my time simply reading what I liked, when I liked, and doing video reviews.

The thing is, over the Summer, not having the pressure of writing a blog post has been a revelation for me in terms of reading.  My notebook hasn’t been opened, I haven’t had to wonder what the heck I was trying to say when I decipher my notes, and best of all, I could just wallow in the knowledge that the only thing that mattered was enjoying what I was reading.

It’s also given me time to think about my Book Blogging, and being part of the Bookish Community on Twitter and Instagram.  I wrote in an earlier Blog Post this year (which you can read here ), how I was wondering why on earth I was bothering, and needing to rediscover my joy of reading too.  I have definitely moved on from that, but the last few weeks have also led me to question a lot of things about me and my relationship with Bookish social media, and that I have honestly been relentlessly comparing myself and my content to other people.

The conclusion I have come to?

When you are a Book Blogger, it is so easy to get caught up in the Fear Of Missing Out, the need to be seen with the latest book, making sure books are photographed, Instagrammed, Tweeted about, added on your IG stories, making sure you tag and thank everyone, replying to any comments, then retweeting and doing it all over again, that you are in danger of losing the most important thing.

The simple pleasure of just picking up a book and reading it.

I will admit quite freely that there have been so many times I will happily scroll through Twitter and Instagram for an hour, then moan about the fact I have no time to read! We all do it, but why?  What are we so concerned we are going to miss if we put our phones down and read? It’s still there, whenever we go back to it, and chances are the Bookish world hasn’t ended while you read a couple of chapters.

I think it is so important that we have to learn to stop comparing ourselves to other people, to understand that this is a hobby, something we do when we’re not doing everything else we’re supposed to be doing, and not to try and keep up when we just can’t. There is no shame in saying ‘no’.

I do what I do for the love of books. I am not on a deadline, I am not being paid for what I do (but fingers crossed, maybe someday!), and most of all, my simple mission when I started Years Of Reading was to spend the rest of my days on this planet reading and shouting about books I love.

I know I needed a break to think about all this, to work out what was important for my mental health and for continuing this passion which takes up so much of my time.  Some wise advice from the always fabulous Bookish Chat also helped me realise what I knew anyway, that we all need to step back at certain points, and not worry about what everyone else is doing, but instead to think about why we started doing this in the first place.

There is no right or wrong way to be a Book Blogger, you do what works for you when you want to do it.  It’s your Blog, your Social Media, your Rules.

The only thing you need from the start is a love for books and reading, and the rest will follow.

Anyway, I’m off to get an almond magnum and my book to read, and I’ll tell you all about it soon- maybe.

Lots of love,