The Sea Cloak & Other Stories

Nayrouz Qarmout. Comma Press. (112p) ISBN 9781905583782

The Sea Cloak

The Sea Cloak

I’ve had this collection of short stories on the go for quite a while now as they are a difficult read, not that the words are difficult but the emotions those words stir are hard to process.

Nayrouz writes poetically about situations influenced by her time in Gaza as a young woman, each episode is a beauty to read. Flowing words that entangle you in the situation and emotions that are so expertly shared by her prose.

These situations/episodes describe a world so different from our own, but people who are just the same, and it is this juxtaposition that makes these difficult to process as you are able to feel the desperation, fear, confusion, love, and hope that Nayrouz’s characters are infused with so strongly.

Each story explores a part of the world we hear a lot about but can never really know from a more personal perspective than the news ever can, I loved the feeling of rebellion and hope in ‘The Long Braid’, the depth of history explored in ‘The Anklet of Maioumas’ but all the stories have something to give in understanding a situation so different from our own.

This is one of the reasons that we really need good translated fiction, we need to be able to share and feel the differences in the world where all people are the same but not the circumstances the people are in, this can help us develop an empathic understanding as emotions are universal.

Beautifully translated by Perween Richards for Comma Press.


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The Year of the Hare

Arto Paasilinna. Peter Owen Publishers. (140p) ISBN 9780720612776

The Year of the Hare

The Year of the Hare

This has been languishing on my shelves ever since I started working in the bookshop. I bought it as it was one of the recommended books in part of the initial training, an exemplar, but at the time I was still reading a relatively narrow range of genres.

I got the opportunity to throw it in my suitcase when we took a trip up to Edinburgh as it felt like it could be the perfect train read.

An episodic travelogue where we follow the journalist Vatanen as he sloughs his past and takes on a new future for himself to deal with his bone weary disappointment with his job, wife and life in general.

Each episode seems to be a completely random development from the previous interlude, and that’s exactly what each chapter feels like, an interlude as the new Vatanen is developing with the aid of the hare that he found at the start of the book. Each chapter has its own internal coherency but adds to the whole, eventually.

The story eventually turns back on itself to a brilliant conclusion, well-written and thoughtfully translated.

This isn’t the first book translated from Finnish that I’ve read and both have had that same sort of dry but very intricate use of humour which is really my taste, loved it!


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Big Bearded Bookseller) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

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Holiday Heart

Margarita Garcia Robayo. Charco Press. (160p) ISBN 9781999368449
Holiday Heart

Holiday Heart

I had previously read Fish Soup by Margarita Garcia Robayo and thought it was absolutely stunning so was really looking forward to reading this and wasn’t disappointed at all. This sounds simple, and in a way it is but Margarita takes this simplicity and shines it to perfection.

An exploration of a couple, Lucia and Pablo, and their relationship before and after the incident of the Holiday Heart.

The pace of the writing and the development of the characters throughout the unfolding story are excellent, keeping you wanting more and delivering on that throughout the book.

This is a considered development, not a word out of place, characters introduced at the right moment to develop the plot, the environment is used to great effect throughout to really ground you in the place of this story.

There is an underlying ache throughout the whole book, both cultural and personal which impacts on everything the characters do, especially in gender expectations. Though this ache is lightened in place by some humour it is bittersweet.

Another wonderful book by Margarita Garcia Robayo, translated by Charlotte Combe and published by the ever brilliant Charco Press.


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Big Bearded Bookseller) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

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#20BooksOfSummer

I’ve been finding it really hard to choose the next book I wanted to read as I have so (too) many to choose from and this has lead to a form of decision paralysis.

Joining this challenge has at least cut my list down to 20 to choose from, though it did take almost a week to choose those 20.

The list is:

  1. Green Valley by Louis Greenberg
  2. The House of Light by Julia Green
  3. The Future of Humanity by Michio Kaku
  4. Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller
  5. Arctic Zoo by Robert Muchamore
  6. The History of Bees by Maja Lunde
  7. The Dark Rising by Susan Cooper
  8. The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  9. Common People edited by Kit De Waal
  10. The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami
  11. A Pocketful of Stars by Aisha Bushby
  12. The Ghouls of Howlfair by Nick Tomlinson
  13. The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell
  14. Where the River Runs Gold by Sita Brahmachari
  15. The Closest Thing to Flying by Gill Lewis
  16. The Maker of Monsters by Lorraine Gregory
  17. What’s That in Dog Years? by Ben Davis
  18. Oblivion by Hector Abad
  19. Saltwater by Jessica Andrews
  20. Doxology by Nell Zink

If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Big Bearded Bookseller) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.