Book Review: A Woman In The Polar Night by Christiane Ritter, translated by Jane Degras #WITMonth #WomenInTranslation

I love the idea of ‘the north’. I guess the idea of Father Christmas at the North Pole set up that notion of a magical fantasy in the snow from a young age, along with children’s classics such as The Snow Queen. More recent fiction includes Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, which was my first introduction to Svalbard. I initially assumed it was an imaginary place, especially as Pullman’s writing is so lyrical and evocative. But of course it is definitely real, as we find out through Christiane Ritter’s travel memoir A Woman In The Polar Night.

Translated from the original German by Jane Degras and published by Pushkin Press, this is a fascinating account of Ritter’s encounter with the far north through her year-long visit to Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago. Continue reading “Book Review: A Woman In The Polar Night by Christiane Ritter, translated by Jane Degras #WITMonth #WomenInTranslation”

Book Review: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Maggie O’Farrell is one of my favourite authors – someone whose latest book I would always actively seek out.  I was delighted, therefore, to be granted access to a review copy of her new book, Hamnet, on NetGalley.  What a wonderful read this is.

From the blurb:

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; a flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.

I always enjoy books which explore the lives of famous people or well-known events from an unexpected perspective.  The genius of O’Farrell’s text is that it makes a virtue of ‘the elephant in the room’.  William Shakespeare is not named once in the book – in fact we experience his character as almost incidental to the main story, which focuses principally on his wife Agnes, how her life is affected by her marriage into the Shakespeare family, and how she is affected by the fate of her children, most particularly her son Hamnet. Continue reading “Book Review: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell”

Spring Reading Review 2017

Picture of Admont Abbey Library – Austria, from

Back in January, I wrote about my plans to read my own library in 2017.  I should have known that reality would turn out differently – it always does when I think I have a reading plan.

The majority of books read since my last reading review post back in January have been library books (hurrah for libraries!).  And so my own library currently remains largely unread.  I like looking at books on shelves almost as much as I like reading them, so I am not at all troubled by this.

Here are some thoughts on a few of the books that I have most particularly enjoyed in recent times.

Continue reading “Spring Reading Review 2017”

Winter Reading Review

Photo: Getty; Design: Michael Stillwell (via Pinterest)


In my Winter Reading Preview Post, I wrote about a number of books I planned to read before the end of 2016. It is a good job I am not employed as a predictor of the future, because I hardly stuck to this list at all.

Not to worry – I still managed to fit in plenty of engaging and high quality reads.  Here are my reviews of the seven books finished since my last reading review post.

Continue reading “Winter Reading Review”