What Our Readers Have Been Reading: Southerly & Love & Other Consolation Prizes


We've fallen rather behind on the posting of reviews here of late (although we did just post our first one over on our Youtube channel!), but we're aiming to rectify that, and as ever our wonderful team of Ninja Readers are coming to the rescue. We've recently brought a couple of new readers on board to help the three we already had (and myself) get through the amazing books we are sent for box and book club consideration, which means that you'll get to hear more regular thoughts about what we're reading!

A disclaimer - some of the books that you read about here are likely to turn up on future Ninja Book Club polls. However if we're talking about it here and it's not already been in a box then it's not going to be. As you probably know we keep the contents of our boxes absolutely top secret, so if one of our readers has flagged a book for potential box inclusion we won't publish their thoughts about it until we've either shipped the box it's included in or decided not to use it in a box.


This month one of our first Ninja Readers, David, has been reading Southerly by Jorge Consiglio (translated by Cherilyn Elston), published by Charco Press. David blogs very eloquently about a wide range of books including various awards shortlists and many independently published books at Davids Book World. Here are his thoughts:

Southerly is a collection of seven stories by Argentinian author Jorge Consiglio, his first book to appear in English. Consiglio’s stories frequently narrate a process of change in their characters’ lives. The protagonist of “Travel, Travel” goes to renovate his childhood home, and finds that the act of doing so makes him feel more like his true self – before a more disruptive event changes his sense of the world. In “The Terrace”, a group of teenagers are expelled from school for smoking, and the story traces a path from this to tragic and violent consequences. In “Correspondence”, a young woman finds a life more vivid than her own – but also echoing it – in a set of old letters and photos. There's a dreamlike quality to these stories at times, which can make it seem as though they're unfolding in their own bubble of reality.


Inge is one of our new readers and can be found on twitter where she talks about books, dogs and all sorts of other things. She has been reading Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford, published by Allison & Busby. Here are her thoughts:

First of all, I loved Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and that’s why I chose to read this book. When I read it a few years ago, I loved the mix of Chinese culture, the historical wartime setting, and the beautiful language and descriptions that made it stick in my mind for months afterwards. Therefore, I was excited to see that Jamie Ford had written another book. While I think it’s a simpler premise, his use of descriptive language still brings alive the eras in which it is set. Ernest is a half Chinese boy, smuggled into the US and ends up working in a brothel called the Tenderloin after he is raffled off at the Seattle World’s fair. The story moves between his experiences as a youngster in 1909, to his memories and life just under 60 years later, at the new World’s fair. He falls in love with two girls who live at the brothel, and as the story unfolds, it becomes clear which of them becomes his wife. The scenes in this book, from the vibrant and colourful fair, to the sumptuous surroundings and beautiful dresses in the Tenderloin, are brought to life by the author's careful descriptions and made me want to climb into the book and visit. While there is scandal, sexual themes and vice, you get to know the characters and end up feeling sorry for their struggle to do their best in a tough world, rather than judging what they do. I really enjoyed this book, I absolutely devoured it within a few days despite the fact that I probably should have been doing some uni work. While sometimes I find the switch between eras difficult, in this book I always knew where I was, and what age Ernest was. His innocent voice as a young man contrasted with his more mature and reflective thoughts as an older man with children, although his love for his wife shone through in both eras. While sin is undoubtedly a theme of the book (and therefore the lighthearted brothel setting will not appeal to all), I think the overriding theme is enduring love, despite difficult circumstances. I would definitely judge this as a 4 star book, I guess a little more complexity of story would have elevated it to 5.

Have you read either of these books? Let us know what you thought!

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Want to discover more of the books that make it into our boxes? Get May's Conspiracy by Candlelight box in our shop now!


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