Reblogged from Olga Nunez Miret: http://www.authortranslatorolga.com/2017/06/21/bookreview-the-night-brother-by-rosie-garland-rosieauthor-for-lovers-of-historicalfiction-late-xix-early-xx-c-particularly-british-manchester-and-those-looking-for-novel-explorations-of-issu/
The Night Brother by Rosie Garland
From the author of The Palace of Curiosities and Vixen comes a bold new novel exploring questions of identity, sexual equality and how well we really know ourselves. Perfect for fans of Angela Carter, Sarah Waters and Erin Morgenstern.
Rich are the delights of late nineteenth-century Manchester for young siblings Edie and Gnome. They bicker, banter, shout and scream their way through the city’s streets, embracing its charms and dangers. But as the pair grow up, it is Gnome who revels in the night-time, while Edie wakes exhausted each morning, unable to quell a sickening sense of unease, with only a dim memory of the dark hours.
Confused and frustrated at living a half-life, she decides to take control, distancing herself from Gnome once and for all. But can she ever be free from someone who knows her better than she knows herself?
A dazzling and provocative novel of adventure and belonging, The Night Brother lures us to the furthermost boundaries of sexual and gender identity. With echoes of Orlando and Jekyll & Hyde, this is a story about the vital importance of being honest with yourself. Every part of yourself. After all, no-one likes to be kept in the dark.
At the moment it isn’t available in the US but it will be published next month (I think!).
Praise for The Night Brother:
‘Rosie Garland writes in a tumble of poetry, desire and passion, as intriguing and delicious as the story she tells’ Stella Duffy
Praise for The Palace of Curiosities:
‘Garland’s lush prose is always a pleasure’ GUARDIAN
‘A jewel-box of a novel … Garland is a real literary talent: definitely an author to watch’ Sarah Waters
‘An alternately brutal and beautiful story about love and belonging in a vividly conveyed underworld, rich in carny phantasmagoria and lyrical romance’ METRO
‘Bewitching’ GOOD HOUSEKEEPING
‘Reminds me of Angela Carter’ Jenni Murray
About the Author
Rosie Garland is a novelist, poet, performer and singer with post-punk band The March Violets. An eclectic writer, she started out in spoken word, going on to garner praise as a performance poet. Her award-winning short stories, poems and essays have been widely anthologised, and her sixth poetry collection, As In Judy, is out now with Flapjack Press. She is the author of Vixen, a Green Carnation Prize nominee. Her debut novel, The Palace of Curiosities, won Book of the Year in the Co-op Respect Awards 2013 and was nominated for both The Desmond Elliott and the Polari First Book Prize. She lives in Manchester and is currently developing a new musical project, Time-Travelling Suffragettes.
Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins UK for providing me with an ARC of this book that I voluntarily chose to review.
Gender and gender identity are complex subjects and have always been, even at times when this was not openly acknowledged. Characters who change gender are not new (although not very common either): Virginia Wolf’s Orlando is perhaps one of the best known, and his/her fictional biography offers the reader a chance to observe historical events from the point of view of a character that is an outsider in more ways than one. Maria Aurèlia Capmany’s Quim/Quima uses another character that goes from male to female as a way to revisit the story of Catalonia, in an open homage to Woolf whom she addresses in a letter that serves as a prologue to her novel. Much more recently, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, a novel that deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize (and that I recommend wholeheartedly as I do the other two, although I don’t think Quim/Quima is easy to find other than in the original in Catalan), uses a similar plot device, although this time clearly addressing intersex and focusing more on the difficulties and struggles of living outside the gender norm (a subject the other two novels I mention don’t focus on).
What marks the difference between those books and The Night Brother is that rather than the main character living a part of his/her life as pertaining to a gender and, at some point, switching (similar to what happens in Kafka’s Metamorphosis although not quite as surreal), in this novel, the main character is both, male and female, and daily morphs from the one gender into the other, at least for a time. Edie is a woman (a girl when we meet her) who lives with her mother and grandmother in a pub in Manchester at the end of the XIX century, during the day, and at night she transforms into Herbert (or Gnome, as he prefers to be called), as if she were a shapeshifter creature of sorts, or a being from some paranormal genre (but that is not at all the feel of the novel). At the beginning of the novel Edie thinks of Gnome as her brother, always by her side, a wild creature who shares adventures with her (although we soon realise there is something peculiar about their relationship, as they seem to know what each other thinks without talking). Edie’s mother insists she is making Gnome up and is imagining things and although the girl tries hard to ignore it, unexplained things keep happening. At some point, she realises what the truth is (at least in part, as secrets are a big subject in this story) and discovers a way to keep her ‘brother’ at bay, although this comes at a heavy prize and it is difficult to maintain. Edie tries to live a discreet life and not get too close to people to avoid the risk of revealing her secret and that results in a sad and sombre life. When she becomes friendly with a gay co-worker and later becomes a suffragette, things get complicated and Gnome won’t stay put. I won’t discuss the plot in more detail to avoid giving any spoilers away.
The story is told in the first person from the points of view of Edie and Gnome (although Edie’s narration has more weight for reasons that soon become evident to readers) and a final chapter from the point of view of Abigail, one of the suffragettes. This style of narrative gives the reader a good sense of how different the perceptions of the two characters are, their behaviour, expressions, and what reactions they elicit from others. The novel excels at depicting the Manchester of the turn of the century, its buildings, its neighbourhoods, its businesses, the savoury and unsavoury areas, the social mores of the era, the secret places where those whose tastes did not fit in with society at large met, and the atmosphere of the city and the times. We have ladies from good families, blue collar characters, prostitutes, ruffians, street urchins, policemen, publicans and everything in between, all beautifully observed. For me, this is one of the strongest points of the novel, and although I only know the Manchester of modern times, I felt as if I was wandering its streets with the characters at the turn of the century. The Suffragist rallies and their repression are also shared in great detail, to the point where we are one of the fallen bodies about to be trampled over, in a scene difficult to forget.
As the novel is told in the first person from those two character’s perspectives, it is important that they come across as fully realised individuals. For me, Edie is the more convincing of the two. This is perhaps in part due to her having more space (and also probably because I am a woman and find it easier to get into her shoes) and that allows us to understand better what goes through her head. I don’t mean she is a particularly likeable character (she refuses to listen to reason, she is hard and tries to close her heart to others and she does bad things too), but she is easier to understand and she grows and evolves through the novel, becoming… Well, I’ll keep my peace. However, Gnome remains impulsive, childish at times, and seems not to have a thought beyond getting his revenge and satisfying his needs. He is not a well-rounded character, and as a depiction of masculinity I found it very limited —although it makes sense if we view the novel as an allegory that turns on its head the old view of the genders, with women being close to nature, earth, the moon, natural beings, slaves to their hormones and anatomy, and men who were the intellectual beings, rational, controlled, dominant, the sun, head over feelings— but he is a force of nature, although not very likeable either. Edie’s mother and grandmother are intriguing characters, with her mother being a great example of bad motherhood (not only for what she does and the way she treats Edie but for what she tries to do to sort her problems, an extreme but not false ‘treatment’ on offer at the time), while her grandmother is the voice of reason, and we eventually get to understand her circumstances well. Although the ending is perhaps a bit rushed, it is satisfying and its message of tolerance and acceptance of difference is a very welcome one.
I’ve seen this book described as magical realism and as an allegory and both concepts are fitting to a certain extent, although I suspect this is a book that will mean different things to different readers and its interpretations will probably tell us as much about the reader as about the writer (as should be the case). I recommend it to readers interested in historical fiction (particularly within a British setting) of the late XIX c /beginning of the XX c, those interested in novels that explore gender and gender identity issues in new ways and who don’t mind a touch of the unexpected, and to anybody intrigued to try a fairly original take on the subject. A word of warning: there is some sexual content (only one scene and not the most graphic I’ve read, but it is there) and there is violence, particularly in the scene of the repression of the Suffragist event.
I can’t wait for this one – published in only a few days 🙂
This coming Tuesday – that’s July 25th – I’ve got a great beach read coming your way.
It’s titled, The Hungarian, and the best, though not least cumbersome way to describe it is to say it’s a historical spy thriller with elements of noir and a ghostly twist. In other words, if you like your thrillers romping, rollicking, dark and unorthodox…this is for you.
The story is a crazy ride through Cold War hotspots like Moscow, Prague, Bucharest, Transylvania, Greece and Iran and involves Sputnik, the space race, murder by salt poisoning, a Russian mystic, and a great roll in the hay inside an old, abandoned chapel.
And I want to offer Cold readers a sneak peek from the novel. But before you get reading, here’s a snapshot of the greater plot to give you some context:
While vacationing in Greece in 1956, Lily Tassos, the hard-partying daughter of…
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I love the dudes, and their guest Robin. Check it out.
Glitter Shimmerling meets the Hamstah Dudes by Robbie Cheadle.
Fairy Glitter Shimmerling,
had a “Bake and Write” blog,
the maintenance of which,
was a fun andexciting job.
Onher blog she taught,
others how to bake,
her cakes were delicious,
make no mistake.
For each and every post,
she attempted a new creation,
her rose covered chocolate cake,
created quite a sensation.
One afternoon the Hamstahs,
came over to play,
they liked it so much,
they decided to stay.
The Hamstahs and Glitter,
became very good chums,
you could tell they were enjoying it,
from the trail of crumbs………………………………………………….
There were a few mishaps,
Sir Chocolate was nearly eaten,
The perpetrator was caught in time,
and his naughty urge beaten.
The blog’s protective cats,
were out for the day,
when they heard the news,
They rushed back without delay.
The kittens investigated,
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The topic was simply too good to miss. A story about the Welsh community in Patagonia, told by a fellow German with links to Wales. Overly excited I devoured the book. The author is a self-confessed excentric and brings a certain flair and humour to the book.
More travel memoir than actual story it has the Welsh community more as a setting and fabric and talks much about the history of the natives of Patagonia and the injustices and – can we call it genocide? – that have occured.
Reflective, descriptive and quirky this is a riveting read. As with all memoirs, there are segments that were less interesting to me, such is travel and contact with a foreign culture that each individual picks up different aspects that fascinate them. For someone, like myself, who knows virtually nothing about the Welsh settlements of Patagonia, 152 years ago, and about the conflict between European settlers and natives, this had a lot of historic value.
Definitely worth an entertaining read about a worthy subject.
I was alerted to Rebecca’s first novel by a friend who suggested her as a possible author for the next Llandeilo Lit Fest. Rebecca comes with an accolade of awards for her short stories and with plenty of critical praise.
Often, such praise makes me suspicious and reluctant, and reading the first few pages I didn’t get sucked into it. But the excellent writing, the promising characters and an a story with potential soon cahnged that.
Henry Twist loses his wife most tragically and while he struggles as a single parent the unhappily married Mathilda makes her design on the fresh widower. She is a great character and you know that soon she is going to interfer in Henry’s life.
Meanwhile a stranger with amnesia shows up and manages to take Henry’s mind a little off his own sorrow to the mystery around the strange man.
I don’t want to give away too much, as some surprises and ‘twists’ turned this enjoyable and pleasant read into a complete additction.
I can see why the book is so hyped about and must congratulate Rebecca on making the transition from short story to novel so flawlessly.
The story continues from 1926 in to the 1950s.
There’s a lot of character depth and historical detail to bring interest beyond the story.
I can only recommend you grab this book and enjoy!
London, 1926: Henry Twist’s heavily pregnant wife leaves home to meet a friend. On the way, she is hit by a bus and killed, though miraculously the baby survives. Henry is left with nothing but his new daughter – a single father in a world without single fathers. He hurries the baby home, terrified that she’ll be taken from him. Racked with guilt and fear, he stays away from prying eyes, walking her through the streets at night, under cover of darkness. But one evening, a strange man steps out of the shadows and addresses Henry by name. The man says that he has lost his memory, but that his name is Jack. Henry is both afraid of and drawn to Jack, and the more time they spend together, the more Henry sees that this man has echoes of his dead wife. His mannerisms, some things he says … And so Henry wonders, has his wife returned to him? Has he conjured Jack himself from thin air? Or is he in the grip of a sophisticated con man? Who really sent him? Set in a postwar London where the Bright Young Things dance into dawn at garden parties hosted by generous old Monty, The Haunting of Henry Twist is a novel about the limits and potential of love and of grief. It is about the lengths we will go to to hold on to what is precious to us, what we will forgive of those we love, and what we will sacrifice for the sake of our own happiness.
Rebecca F. John was born in 1986, and grew up in Pwll, a small village on the South Wales coast. She holds a BA in English with Creative Writing (1st class hons) and an MA in Creative Writing (distinction) from Swansea University, as well as a PGCE PCET from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
Her short stories have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 4Extra. In 2014, she was highly commended in the Manchester Fiction Prize. In 2015, her short story ‘The Glove Maker’s Numbers’ was shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award. She is the winner of the PEN International New Voices Award 2015, and the British participant of the 2016 Scritture Giovani project. In 2017, she was named on Hay Festival’s ‘The Hay 30’ list.
Her first short story collection, Clown’s Shoes, is available now through Parthian. Her first novel, The Haunting of Henry Twist, is forthcoming through Serpent’s Tail in July 2017.
When she is not writing, Rebecca enjoys skiing, reading, sketching, watching tennis and playing music. Rebecca lives in Swansea with her three dogs, Betsy, Teddy, and Effie.
In a style reflective of Vince Flynn, Robert Ludlum, and Tom Clancy, Book 2 of this Cold War series is sure to thrill, and if you have not read Curse The Moon, check out the back of this book for a sneak-peek of the story of how Atcho became Atcho.
- Bonus 1: The True
Story Behind Atcho
- Bonus 2: SMACKDOWN
An Excerpt From a Work in Progress
- Bonus 3: Aleksey’s
Account of Rasputin’s Murder
- Bonus 4: A
Complimentary eBook of CURSE THE MOON*
purchase receipt to GetDigitalCurseTheMoon@gmail.com.
email a copy of your purchase receipt to GetDigitalCurseTheMoon@gmail.com.
You’ll receive back all the bonuses in eBook form.
Lee Jackson is a bestselling, award-winning thriller author. He was an Infantry officer with a front row seat on world affairs, and spent 38 months in Iraq and Afghanistan. Book 1 of his Cold War Series, Curse The Moon was published in 5 countries. Book 2, Rasputin’s Legacy, is due to go on pre-order on June 28, and will be fully released by July 28. Curse The Moon follows Atcho, a counter-revolutionary leader in Cuba turned unwilling spy in the U.S. The odds he faces seem overwhelming as he must choose between saving the world from nuclear holocaust – or his daughter. In Rasputin’s Legacy, he faces a surreal challenge: he must save the country that enslaved his own, or deliver control his personal desire for revenge? Lee Jackson lives and works with his wife in Texas.
The Cold War. A backdrop to betrayal. A playground to power. When his daughter is kidnapped, Cuban-born, West Point Graduate Atcho must be a sleeper agent to men he’d rather kill. Atcho’s rise opens doors into US National Defense even as a seemingly omniscient KGB officer holds unflinching sway over his actions. His public life clashes with secrets that only he and his tormentor share, isolating him in a world of intrigue among people whom he is determined not to betray. His choice: save his daughter, or save he world from nuclear holocaust.When the darkness of night is your only camouflage, you learn to Curse the Moon. Get your copy here now. Curse The Moon is the first book in Lee Jackson’s Cold War Series. The sequel, Rasputin’s Legacy, will be released in late-April 2017.In the tradition of Robert Ludlum’s page-turner, The Bourne Identity, Atcho fights against overwhelming odds, bleeds when hurt, and won’t back down. Think: Jason Bourne meets Dr. Zhivago.
To experience the violent intrigue of Cold War Cuba and Russia vs. the United States, get Curse The Moon today.
Book & Press Guild Reviewer: Natasha Johnstone
Curse The Moon: Cold War Rising
Author: Lee Jackson
Curse The Moon is an action packed, deeply moving story about a man’s desperate struggle to reunite with his daughter amid political, social and personal change. It grips the reader from the starts as depicted in this excerpt from the first paragraph: ‘Atcho slouched against a wall, alone in a small plaza illuminated by the dim yellow light of a single streetlamp. His eyes probed the surrounding darkness. His fine, aristocratic features were hidden behind a week’s growth of unkempt beard, while his normally well-groomed hair fell in shaggy brown locks below his ears. Since state Security Police, commonly referred to as G-2, had never seen Atcho, at least not as himself, they knew him only by reputation. Tonight, they would be looking for his messenger. Atcho’s ears strained for the sounds of approach. His powerful frame ached to be released from its tense stance. “For Isabel,” he muttered.
“From there, the mystery and intrigue incorporated into this action packed book by the ever present General Govorov in Atcho’s life ensures that the pages turn themselves!
But, there is more to this book than a thrilling personal story with a political backdrop. This remarkable book with very deep rooted plot lines portrays a very emotional story, which had a huge impact on me. The book integrates both the history of a country and a man, in an intelligent and gripping manner as well. In this beautifully written book, and in the ever changing landscape that is Atcho’s life, the only constant remains the moon as taken from this excerpt, “You’re always there,” Atcho murmured to the moon. “It seems you are the only benign constant in my life.” His mind drifted. (sic) The book is available at the following online stores:
Owain Hughes takes on a journey back into the 1940s and 1950s in North Wales, enlightening us about his upbringing by telling us tales of his childhood: From the bell his mother put on him to know where he was, to getting stranded on an island, meeting odd and quirky family and characters, trips to London, minor celebrities and a lifestyle that moves between obscure and conventional.
This is quite a wonderful journey through Hughes’ childhood. Many interesting events and characters are popping up, like a fleeting mention of Bertrand Russell and Agatha Christie, much detail of the era and every day life of those days, from cars to architecture and clothes.
So far, so very impressive in many ways and quite a beautiful memoir.
If I had to point out one thing that I didn’t like it is that things can drift, as is often the case in memoirs and, to be fair, in its own right is a literary style that many favour in the genre of memoir and will surely enjoy.
More a mosaic than a linear story, this is nevertheless witty, entertaining, amazing and quite an experience to read.
“Read it for its vivid portrait of a childhood characterised by parental ‘benign neglect’, its flow of bravura anecdotes, and its entertaining glimpses of the Hughes family, their relatives and famous friends.” – Richard Poole
Everything I Have Always Forgotten is the story of Owain Hughes’ childhood in the 40s and 50s. He spent it in boarding schools, in the family’s large but dilapidated house, and on the banks and waters of the Dyfi estuary, across from the Italianate folly village of Portmeirion. The north Wales landscape – Snowdonia in the near distance – dominated Owain’s young life, and his stories of boating, horse-riding and walking culminate in the three day hike through Snowdonia by the 12 year old Owain and a friend which culminated in being marooned for two weeks on Bardsey Island, of the north Wales coast.
The ‘Swallows and Amazons’ aspect of Owain’s childhood was made possible by his parents’ policy of “benign neglect” intended to encourage independence and self-reliance. His father was the acclaimed novelist Richard Hughes and his mother, the artist Frances Bazley, a cousin of the Duke of Norfolk, a pairing which added further exoticism to Owain’s childhood. There were visits to cousins who lived in castles, meetings with spies, a circle of friends which included Bertrand Russell and Clough Williams-Ellis, broadcasts on the Third Programme and visits from “the men from Disney”.
Owain Hughes catches a period of life in post-war Britain which looks back to ‘Brideshead Revisited’ but also forward to angry young men and kitchen sink drama. It includes fascinating information and insight into Richard Hughes, and is packed with vivid anecdotes, making an engaging book about memory and what makes us.
I’ve been waiting for this for some time. Cannot recomment this series enough!
I’m glad to say that I finally managed to let go of my latest Liam Mannion novel, Patriots’ Blood (book four in the series). Both the book and I have had a few ups and downs along the way since I started writing it, but that’s another story. Here are the blurb and the opening few pages to give you a taster of what’s to come…
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