• Shanley McConnell

The Monday Review: Week Eight



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1. Dragons, Matthew Francis


Faber & Faber published Matthew Francis' Dragons in 2001; his second collection focuses on characterization. Of dragons and devils, of butterflies and an ocean of sea creatures. Of humans---with a focus on all their idiosyncrasies, in dreams and reality.


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2. The Less Deceived, Philip Larkin


Philip Larkin's second collection, The Less Deceived, published by The Marvell Press in 1955 was more recently reprinted by Faber & Faber in 2011. Philip Larkin adopts a personal, embracing voice in his poem; reflections on relationships in various forms.


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3. The Medici Seal, Theresa Breslin


The Medici Seal is a novel I would never have picked up off the shelf myself. But this semester, I feel quite lucky to be living with two friends of mine who also love to read, and do so widely. Although we enjoy a variety of genres, there are certainly forms we reach for in a moment of rest. Poetry. Magical Realism. Fantasy. Non-fiction. Memoir. Sci-Fi. Realism.


My friend brought this book home with her, and, after seeing my research in all the poetry collections spread out over the kitchen counter, The Medici Seal was recommended and lent as something new.


Published by Doubleday in 2006, the narrative follows a young hero (10 years old) and moves on in seven parts (covering 10 years of his life), pursuing the mystery of his identity, parentage and thievery while all the while the great Medici Seal (with the answers hidden) is kept as token at his chest. Breslin's treatment of historical figures, for example, Leonardo da Vinci, is considered, done with such care that the integration and relationship between the entire cast feels authentic.


I would definitely recommend this novel for a brilliantly-paced read; it's narrative is familiar in its adherence to the formal traditions of historical fiction, and yet, retains an originality that suspends until the very end.


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4. Net Needle, Robert Adamson


Published by Flood Editions in 2015, Net Needle welcomes readers into childhood memories of the poet himself as it reminisces on his relationship with nature. Adamson is skilled in technique and form, and his poems are easy on the senses.


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5. The Broken Word, Adam Foulds


Winner of the 2018 Costa Poetry Awards, The Broken Word depicts sequences and events during the 1950s wherein the Kenyan Mau Mau uprising against then British rule is backdrop to a deeply personal, compelling narrative. Focusing on class disparity, racism, violence, culture shock and love, The Broken Word is surrounding; a reader cannot help but feel deeply in response to this retelling marked. by the gruesome and widespread atrocities of this history.


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6. Gravel in my Shoe, John Fuller


Published in 2015 by Chatto & Windus, John Fuller's Gravel in my Shoe seems to examine origins; the origin of a beginning and the beginning of an end. Inside are poems that speak to the poetry as eternal in nature.


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7. Pebble & I, John Fuller


Pebble & I is John Fuller's 18th poetry collection, and also responds to the notion of mortality, endurance and time as found in the previously-read selection.


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8. Malice, Keigo Higashino


Malice is truly a brilliant novel; one unlike any I've read in a while due to its juxtaposition of an invested, yet detached sense of suspense------again and again, the mystery is unfolded, wrapped up neatly, untied, reconsidered, repealed and reconnected.


The narrative follows as thus: an acclaimed bestselling novelist Kunihiko Hidaka is brutally murdered in his home the night before relocating from Japan to Vancouver. Alongside with Hidaka's new wife, friend Osamu Nonoguchi finds the body locked in his office.


Detective Kyoichiro Kaga recognizes Nonoguchi from years past when they both taught as colleagues at the same high school. Both parted ways when Kaga joined the police force and Osamu Nonoguchi retired to pursue full-time writing, though his success was incomparable to that of Hidaka, a friend from his middle-school days. Kaga's intuition leads him into a deeper investigation to prove that the relationship between these two writers exists on another level-----on a greater past and character.


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9. The Crumb Road, Maitreyabandhu


Published by Bloodaxe Books in 2013, Maitreyabandhu's debut collection reads with a sense of narrative, unreliable and true. Of the wonderment of something new. With different subjects and focused forms, the collection certainly contacts some thoughtfully-crafted images.


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10. The Wild Gods, Malene Engelund


Malene Engelund's debut pamphlet, The Wild Gods, was published by Valley Press in 2016. While it is only 18 poems long, the collection is packed with rich language and an imaginative force that revisits folklore.


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11. The Elephant Vanishes, Haruki Murakami


I read most of The Elephant Vanishes. Sometimes you just don't finish a collection of short-stories. And there's no real reason why not.


An elephant vanishes, the balance of life is upset and subtly so.


A husband recalls the memory of an almost-(bakery)-heist; a couple's midnight hunger drives them to McDonalds.


An insomniac wife walks a twilight world of semi-consciousness.


This selection of Murakami short-stories is filled with bizarre scenarios.


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12. A Few Interiors, Roland Bagnall


A Few Interiors was a pleasure to read. Published by Carcanet Press in 2019, Roland Bagnall's collection is one of great maturity and reference. It is a book full of uncertainties, of déjà vu and curiosity. It highlights pop-culture in collage-----with a focus on various mediums.


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