It’s that liminal time of year when it’s not quite summer, but not quite winter, and the weather just can’t make up its mind what to do. Perhaps you can’t decide what to read on your sun lounger while you soak up those last few rays, or you want a good book to have while you get cosy with a cup of tea. Look no further, the ladies of Comma are here to let you know what we’ve loved reading recently.
Becky Harrison – Engagement Manager
As I’m now enjoying a total commuting time of nearly two hours per day, I’ve had the chance to get lots of reading in on my way to and from work, giving me the perfect excuse to stock up on some new reading material. Whilst perusing the shelves of my local bookshop the other day, I came across The Lady in the Looking Glass (Penguin Mini Modern Classics), a collection by Virginia Woolf, with stories from the early 1900s: a pocket-size companion perfect for keeping in your bag for when needed.
Whilst I am dipping in and out of the book, the two stories that I have read so far have led me down very different paths. The title story, ‘The Lady in the Looking Glass: A Reflection’, required an instant second read, and is a perfect example of a short story that lulls you into a false sense of security and then abruptly snaps you out of it in its conclusion. All I shall say is this: “people should not leave looking-glasses hanging in their rooms”.
The second story caused me to snort with laughter – a bit embarrassing on a packed train full of people desperately trying to ignore each other. ‘A Society’ is a tongue-in-cheek story about a group of women who concoct a plan to educate themselves about the world as, while they feel they have been holding up their end of the bargain to populate it, the man’s responsibility – to civilise it, apparently – has been left lacking, and so they must find out why for themselves. As amusing now as it will have been in 1921 when it was first printed, its themes of education as freedom, as well as solidarity, are also equally as relevant.
Samantha Clark –Sales and Production Manager, Translation Editor
I‘m currently reading Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima (Vintage), translated by Michael Gallagher. It’s an austere love story, between two people from different social classes, who have known each other since early childhood, set in 1912 Tokyo. It looks at the closed world of the ancient aristocracy, which is being breached for the first time by outsiders – a new and powerful political and social elite. It sounds like a bit of a familiar set-up, but one of my favourite things about this novel is the description – the weather, the possessions, the people, the houses and the urban/rural settings.
I also just finished H is for Hawk (Vintage) by Helen Macdonald – I’m a bit late to the party with this leading title of the creative non-fiction genre, but my shelves are now full of books that play with a similar trend – lots of nature, and observations on our relationship with the countryside – which I have been escaping to in my mind during the summer months, even if I can’t get there in person. Wonderful.
Next on my list is a bit of poetry – Loop of Jade by Sarah Howe (I’m massively looking forward to seeing her at the Manchester Literature Festival*), and a re-read of Robert Lowell’s Life Studies, and some Sharon Olds, both of which I haven’t read since I was about 18, so I’m interested to see what I make of their work now, a few years on.
Becca Parkinson – Marketing and Production Assistant
Not the most high-brow choices from me lately. Last night I finished Eleanor & Park (Orion) by Rainbow Rowell. It was actually my boyfriend’s cousin who recommended this because we both love a good young adult novel, but this is a little bit more grown up than your typical YA book. It’s a dual narrative that lets the reader in on the thoughts of Eleanor and Park, two teenage misfits who meet one day on the school bus and gradually grow closer, bonding over their love of X-Men and The Smiths. From the synopsis you’d think, same-old, but I thought the way Rowell wrote about young love was just beautiful, and really captured a young person’s mindset as they experience first love in a totally unique and yet universal way. It’s also has a much contested but I thought well done ending, but I’ll let you decide that for yourself. I’m definitely going to read more of Rowell’s fiction in future.
The book waiting for me on my nightstand is The Light Between Oceans (Black Swan) by M.L. Stedman, because I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie which stars Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander and knew I had to read it before I watched the film. It’s set during World War One and follows a lighthouse keeper and his wife as they find a boat washed ashore containing a dead man and a two month old baby. They rescue the baby and raise her as their own, but their decision is not without consequences.
Chelsea Eddy – Marketing and Production Assistant
I’m not one for a light read, so you’ll never get one of those from me! I go through a book a fortnight – sometimes three when I’m studying – so for me to say that a book has left a lasting impression is stop-the-press, headline making material. This will particularly appeal to lovers of our Science-into-Fiction genre and those who want to experience something thought-provoking and different. Be warned: this book will shatter your grasp on reality and make you question everything you thought you knew.
The End of Mr Y (Canongate) by Scarlett Thomas is about self-destructive PhD student Ariel Manto, whose career zenith is based upon a supposedly cursed, elusive Victorian novel – The End of Mr Y – which is inconspicuously sold to her by a naïve bookseller. Her luck continues when she finds the only missing page from the book that reveals the ingredients of a homeopathic formula. This formula allows Ariel to enter the ‘Troposhere’, the location of universal consciousness. The book guides you through metaphysical theories, from Lacan to Heidegger to Derrida, to cleverly navigate and justify Ariel’s ability to enter everyone’s consciousness from this space. It’s sci-fi and fantasy made theoretically viable with the additional excitement of being a thriller.
*Comma will be at the Manchester Literature Festival on the 15th October to showcase our upcoming release ‘The Book of Dhaka’ alongside featured author Syed Manzoorul Islam and the co-editor of the collection Pushpita Alam. For more information go to our website or see the MLF event page here.