Category Archives: Myriad Editions

Book Review: Glasshopper by Isabel Ashdown

Title: Glasshopper
Author: Isabel Ashdown
Publisher: Myriad Editions
ISBN: 9780954930974
Genre: Literary Fiction
PP: 344 Pages
Price: £7.99
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

This story of family life is told in two threads – both told in the first person. The threads alternate between Jake (the middle son) and Mary, Jake’s mother. Mary’s thread allows us a brief look into her childhood/teens which helps in understanding her descent into alcoholism. We also get to read her perception alongside the similar timeline as Jake’s. This might sound confusing and you may have read other stories that are written this way and not enjoyed them. Don’t let that put you off though as the two running side by side are crafted so skilfully that it makes perfect sense and adds to the magic.

At first I was a bit bewildered by the prologue and had it in the back of mind as the story unfolded. I have to say, the way it is a part of the story is also very skilfully done. It clicked for me straight away and because I couldn’t quite believe it, didn’t want it to be there – I read that part of the story again. A bit like Jake wondering if he had been dreaming! I was hoping for something different of course. The characters became `real’ for me – I only wanted the best for them all.

Jake, especially, is a wonderful character: with his love of Greek mythology; his work at the corner shop and relationship with its owner; how he tries to fill the parental role in the family when his father moves out; and, perhaps most importantly, how he tries to rationalise events in his family’s life. I felt it was good that his story is counter-balanced by letting the reader also hear Mary and her version of events. Otherwise, it could have been all too easy to demonise her. However, as her background and story is revealed, it becomes clearer why she has turned into the woman she has and, while she becomes not necessarily a character we can sympathise with, at least one that we can understand.

The characters were well-defined and this includes those on the periphery. Mr Horrocks who owns the local shop is exactly as you would imagine him to be as are all the other people who make up this brilliant story.

Glasshopper is the kind of novel that stays with you, or rather the characters and their little quirks do. Adolescent Jake is very vivid and seeing the story unfold through his eyes parallel to his mum Mary’s story works very well. The pain of growing up is captured beautifully in both cases.

What I really like is that Isabel Ashdown has managed to keep a lot of family secrets buried under the surface, and yet those secrets are what drives me as a reader forward. Nothing is ever spelt out; events are implied and it’s satisfying to work things out for yourself. The end is totally unexpected and lifts the story.

You can purchase the book here on Flipkart

You can also read more about the book here Myriad Editions

Book Review: Quilt by Nicholas Royle

Title: Quilt
Author: Nicholas Royle
Publisher: Myriad Editions
ISBN: 9780956251541
PP: 144 Pages
Genre: Literary Fiction, Novella
Price: £7.99
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

From the very beginning of this book the reader embarks on a fictional journey that feels distinctly different from any they may have had before. Language in all its strangeness and beauty comes to the fore, whilst at the same time the very human story is movingly conveyed. The tale is about the profound nature of the everyday, about emotional events that every reader will experience at some time in their lives. But it is also funny and intellectual. It engages the reader’s thoughts, challenges them, calls for them to think about the very language they read and speak and inhabit. This is an inventive, risky piece of writing, which succeeds because of the way in which it combines flights of imagination with the sense of a powerful emotional reality.

I suppose Quilt qualifies loosely as a novel, in the sense that it has characters (really just the two), time more-or-less flows forward in linear fashion, and the author shows a grudging nod to such plot niceties as beginning, middle, and end. However, it’s also free-association stream-of-consciousness poesis, in which the writer gives full rein to his obvious infatuation with ontological wordplay.

The book starts out as a reasonably coherent if lyrical tale about a man dealing with his father’s demise, but quickly develops a Kafka-esque quality as the protagonist waxes weird on the philosophical and theological import of…wait for it…stingrays. As it happens, I have a thing for sharks and their compressed cousins myself, so was delighted by the professor’s unexpected dive into the philological murk of our subconscious substrate; however, crafty readers hoping for allusions to actual quilting will be much surprised, as mantuas are masked by mantas, and purls passed over for pearls.

The brief Afterword suggests some very interesting ways of thinking about fiction today, what it can do and what it might do. It also prompts a rethinking about Quilt itself.

Royle’s critical work is justly famous and has always had a kind of inventiveness more usually associated with literary writing. In Quilt he takes this creative energy to the level,as Helene Cixous comments on the back cover, of mythmaking. It’s an exciting development for English novel-readers.

Four stars, for reminding us that syntax is our servant, not master, and that words were created expressly to share thoughts, feelings and dreams which could not otherwise be communicated simply by pointing to rock, and grunting.