A Lick and a Promise by Imelda May
Published by Faber & Faber, 2021
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
I really enjoyed my time with this. May’s background as a musician & songwriter shows in the emphasis on storytelling, rhythm, and flow throughout her poetry. The pieces she wrote about her parents were the most resonant, and while there are undeniably some gems, there’s also a fair bit of filler – small scraps of poems that reiterate ideas already explored in other pieces. The strength of May’s voice – which is passionate yet approachable – could have shone more had the collection been stripped back a little.
The illustrations are a nice touch, emphasizing May’s all-round artistic talent.
Love by Hanne Ørstavik
Translated from the Norwegian by Martin Aitken
Published by And Other Stories, 2019
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This poignant, understated little novel reads in some ways like a cautionary tale about getting so wrapped up in our own lives that we fail to see what’s really going on around us. We follow the dual perspectives of Vibeke and her son, Jon, shortly after moving to a remote village in the northern reaches of Norway. On the eve of Jon’s 9th birthday, both venture out of the house alone on separate errands, coming into contact with strangers and potentially putting themselves at risk.
Ørstavik has a real knack for building tension. Even the most domestic situations quickly take on an air of threat as we seem to be building towards some kind of inevitable disaster. Though subtly delivered, it becomes clear that both narrators are lonely, desperately seeking affection and companionship. But while Jon craves it from his mother, Vibeke’s gaze falls elsewhere. The contrast between the two interspersed narratives emphasises this sad reality: While Jon’s entire night is framed around his consideration of where Vibeke will be and what she’ll be doing, Jon doesn’t once factor into Vibeke’s thoughts or actions.
Though a relatively new translation, the story was published in its original Norwegian back in the 90s. It’s interesting to read it now, and consider how prescient the author’s message about getting wrapped up in our own world was. Though it never quite delivers the sucker punch it could have, it’s a deceptively impactful novel that I found totally engrossing. I read it in a single sitting, but I think it will linger in my thoughts for a while.
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