"Grief feels like love. Sometimes you press on that tender spot, because it’s as close as you can get to the person who is otherwise gone.” – Kate Brody
Kate Brody: Missing people, muddled lives

Kate Brody: Missing people, muddled lives

Kate Brody’s pacy debut thriller is a novel of our times. A missing woman, social media conspiracy theories, mental health issues, suspicion, trust, self-harm and family trauma are woven together to give us a troubling, riveting and sharply written noir set on America’s East Coast. What’s the worst that can...
No I won't 'calm down' about Greta Gerwig

No I won’t ‘calm down’ about Greta Gerwig

On my desktop is an unfinished essay, a file called Greta Gerwig Won’t Win. I’ve been trying to write about Gerwig for some time, but I only started this version recently – post-Golden Globes, Oscars rumours simmering. I thought Gerwig would be nominated for directing but have no chance of...
Ami Rao: All life is here

Ami Rao: All life is here

Ami Rao’s Boundary Road is an inventively structured, deftly observed and uncompromisingly raw snapshot of contemporary multicultural London in which two young passengers on the Number 13 bus from central to north London have fleeting encounter whilst lost in their own pasts. Aron is making a new start as an...
We and our cats

We and our cats

I am writing this now in my home in rural Ibaraki, just north of Tokyo, which I share with my husband and our three cats. We bought this old house ten years ago, did a major renovation on it, and moved in just over eight years ago. As we were...
Liminal spaces and impossible things

Liminal spaces and impossible things

I’ve been obsessed with and seduced by the notion of liminal space since childhood. It began with The Chronicles of Narnia. As an eight-year-old I devoured The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and, long after the story started to fade the obsession with wardrobes remained. My paternal grandmother lived...
Making sense of the past and present

Making sense of the past and present

Anjum Hasan’s latest novel History’s Angel is an intimate portrait of contemporary Delhi seen through the eyes of a timid schoolteacher who is struggling to square his love of history with the questionable values, indifference and rising hostility that surround him as a Muslim in Narendra Modi’s India. She tells...
Embracing the unknown

Embracing the unknown

Gina Chung’s near-future debut novel Sea Change is narrated by 30-year-old Korean American aquarium worker Ro, whose menial job is uplifted by taking care of a magnificent, genetically mutated giant octopus called Dolores. Dolores was brought to the aquarium by Ro’s father two decades earlier, lifted from a highly polluted...
Getting on: Later-life female friendship

Getting on: Later-life female friendship

‘The first time I saw you, do you know what I thought?’ Janet steels herself. ‘I thought, that woman looks like she ploughs her own furrow. You stood out from everyone else – no one else in our street strides around with their pockets clanking with tools. I couldn’t take...
Fairies and angels, the old nest, purple emperors

Fairies and angels, the old nest, purple emperors

1 JULY:  I was joking to a friend the other day that after a year watching kingfishers I’d be well equipped to start looking for fairies, or even angels. I felt there were similarities in that they might be all around us but most people have never seen one. I...
The weeping woman

The weeping woman

The Lienzo de Tlaxcala, an Indigenous 16th-century chronicle of the conquest of Mexico, frequently depicts a young woman with black hair. Dressed in a long skirt and a richly patterned blouse, she stands at the right-hand side of conquistador Hernán Cortés. She seems to be listening intently. Sometimes her finger...
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Here or there

Here or there

Dan proposed to me the evening of his mother’s funeral. After saying goodbye to the last of our friends at the end of the wake, he grabbed a half-consumed bottle of wine and led me to the back of his parents’ yard, down by the compost bin and dying vegetable garden, where we squatted beside...
Spooky houses with eerily lit windows

Spooky houses with eerily lit windows

The image is instantly recognisable to horror fans: a foreboding house, a darkened sky, a single illuminated window. Maybe a figure stands silhouetted against the window’s yellow glow. Maybe the house is in a state of disrepair – forked cracks at the foundation and creeping vines strangling the porch rails. To me, a lifelong lover...
Charlotte Perkins Gilman: 'The Yellow Wallpaper'

Charlotte Perkins Gilman: ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’

I recently found myself on the horror side of BookTok, scrolling through video after video recommending “books that will rattle me to my core” and “scary fall reads” when something intrigued me enough to stop scrolling. A young man stared into the camera, carefully holding a book so that the viewer couldn’t immediately see the...
The man who spoke with butterflies

The man who spoke with butterflies

In the end, what does it matter who developed the photo? Why am I sifting through a time so far away, a moment that has already frozen and petrified, like a snail fossil in a stone among the billions of other stones that line the shore? I’d like to say a word in my defence,...
Something to dream about

Something to dream about

The library at the end of the passageway is larger than I expected, with rows and rows of bookshelves lining the walls and central area. Apart from a girl in a navy-blue apron behind the counter, who is scanning barcodes on books, there is nobody else in there as far as I can tell. I...
A time to write

A time to write

It’s difficult to cast my mind back to the early days of the pandemic, even though it wasn’t so long ago. Maybe because it’s a stressful time that most of us would rather forget, or maybe since many of our deeply rooted memories have to do with human interaction, it is difficult to understand, to...
from The Dogs

from The Dogs

This book came about from an encounter. Every day for over ten years, I passed a dog tethered in a yard on Low Lane near where I lived. He was guarding a pile of scrap metal. His only shelter was a corrugated sheet. He had a bowl of rainwater and his leash allowed him little...
Weird and wonderful book dedications

Weird and wonderful book dedications

Most authors dedicate their beloved books to their family. To partners. To children. To parents. But not all authors. I dedicated my first novel Virgin to anyone who knew the pain of a Brazilian wax. My second – Not That Easy – was for anyone who ever felt like their life was a mess. My...
History train

History train

‘Mater’ comes from the Japanese abbreviation for ‘mountain’. During Japanese colonialism, fifty Mater 1 locomotives, modelled after their Mountain-type counterparts in the United States, were built in Gyeongseong (Seoul) and at the Kisha Seizo factory in Japan. The thirty-three-carriage Mater 2, an improved version manufactured by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, was introduced and operated mainly in...
Trials, trauma and women's tales

Trials, trauma and women’s tales

In winter 2017, I visited a sandstone cathedral in Orkney called St Magnus. I’d published two novels in as many years, with the next about to be released, and I was exhausted. This trip was meant to be a break from creating – I’d even left my laptop at home in Australia. I wandered the...
Catastrophe on the shore

Catastrophe on the shore

The boat had seemed large at the dock, but now that they’re rumbling away from Big Island, it seems flimsy and ludicrously small. Luda tries to think of the last time she’d been on a boat before coming to the islands. Years ago. Someone’s thirtieth birthday on the thick, marshy water of the Hopeturn River...
The water-god and the feathered snake

The water-god and the feathered snake

Another man is standing guard with the usual man who is standing guard. I have not seen this man before. He is slight, narrow-faced, with a shaven upper lip. All is well? I ask. I am not in the mood for talk but the question is a courtesy. All is well, says the usual man....