Mary W.Craig's Beside the Annexe is the kind of book that makes you question what you would do if an enemy force occupied your country.
The book is set in occupied Amsterdam in the area beside the annexe where we know Anne Frank and her family are hiding.
But the people we see are the local pastor, the cafe owner, the doctor... all living with daily decisions about how to deal with their German oppressors.
Some make honourable decisions; others do not. This is a fascinating study of human behaviour in all its forms.
Ajay Close's novel, What We Did in the Dark, is a fictionalised account of the writer Catherine Carswell's first marriage.
Formally original, it uses the second person to suggest the profound bond between Carswell and the artist Herbert Jackson. The marriage may not work out but she will never be free of this troubled and sometimes violent man.
Close is one of the most brilliant and subtle writers working in the UK today. Like all her novels, What We Did in the Dark is powerful and evocative, illuminating the darker corners of human behaviour with compassion and wit.
KT Schnider’s Friction. Faction. Fiction. is not an easy book to categorise. As its title suggests, it moves through different forms - memoir, prose poetry, traditional narrative - without settling on one. The result is extraordinary, a mesmerisingly beautiful and poignant evocation of the pain of love.
Fiction which overtly proclaims itself literary usually irritates me with its artificiality. I’ve abandoned many much admired books - Anna Burns’s Booker prizewinner, The Milkman, Eleanor Catton’s The Rehearsal, Eimar McBride’s A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing - because I decided in the end that life was too short to spend hours grinding one’s teeth in fury.
Schnider’s book is literary, and overtly so, but I devoured it in one sitting. The hybrid form, the beauty of the language, the dense text packed with allusions, are all dedicated to the underlying story of one relationship and by extension, of all relationships. There is a sadness here that is heartbreaking to read but that is also recognisable. We have all felt these painful emotions at some time in our lives, have all understood the inherent loneliness of human beings.
Schnider’s Swiss publishers clearly recognise the unique quality of her work as they have produced an illustrated English translation in a limited edition of 400 copies. Schnider deserves to be read by far more than 400 people. This is moving, beautiful writing, which marries an erudite and passionate sensibility with the banality of everyday life. It’s painful and it’s truthful and I urge you to read it.
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