Shiver by Junji Ito, translated from the Japanese by Jocelyn Allen
Published by VIZ, 2015
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This collection, curated by the author himself, brings together 9 of Ito’s best stories and 1 new addition. A master of the macabre, these graphic works boast truly haunting imagery and strikingly original ideas, guaranteed to get under your skin and stay with you.
I have to say the actual writing felt clunky at times, and suspension of disbelief for the magical realism elements aside, I felt characters often responded to situations in bizarre and unbelievable ways. Still, this was a fun read and a great introduction to Ito’s singular style of horror.
Hello Mum by Bernardine Evaristo
Published by Penguin, 2010
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This novella is written in the form of a letter from a teenage boy to his mother. It’s clear from the off that he has been involved in some kind of incident, with the letter being his means of explaining how this came about. It’s a short, sharp look at the problem of gang culture, with Evaristo cleverly refusing to demonise or glorify those who fall into its clutches. Instead, the characters are presented as victims of a flawed system, under which who you are (young, Black, and poor) can greatly limit your opportunities. With society’s judgements leaving people with little option but to embrace certain labels, a life of violence and criminality exists as a toxic, self-fulfilling prophecy – ensnaring even the nicest, most normal kids.
The prose itself is simple, owing to the teenage POV, but Evaristo does hit us with some astute social commentary about the disconnect between generations: “We lived in the same flat but we didn’t even speak the same language.” … “And another thing, Mum, you was always going on at me to work harder at school but you hated my lyrics. Like, if I’d have called it poetry you’d have told the whole world. Put on that posh voice you used at Parents’ Evening at school.”
Predictable in outcome, but no less poignant for it, this was a punchy single-sitting read that manages to say a lot with few words.