Three Short Takes

The Wall by William Sutcliffe

Although published as a YA title, and longlisted for the Carnegie Medal in 2014, this novel has crossover appeal – and should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand more about Palestine, Israel and the West Bank settlements.

Thirteen-year-old Joshua lives in a town called Amarias in the ‘Occupied Zone’. One day, when he kicks his football into a building site next to the Wall bordering his town, he resolves to go and get it later, when he can sneak in unnoticed. What he discovers is a tunnel which goes under the Wall and it takes him to a different world – vibrant and full of noise and colour – however it is also poor and dangerous, and he sticks out like a sore thumb.

A girl, Leila, shows him kindness, hiding him until it is safe to go back through the tunnel.  Joshua will return with thank you gifts for the family that sheltered him – but little does he know what a risk this poses to himself at home with strict stepfather Liev, and the family beyond the wall.

Suspenseful storytelling, thrilling danger, politics and a great young protagonist who has a rude awakening made this a superb and thought-provoking read. The town is fictional, and Sutcliffe never says where the novel is set – but you are left in no doubt.  Loved it. (10/10)

Source: TBR.  William Sutcliffe, The Wall (Bloomsbury, 2013) paperback, 304 pages.

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

This was the choice for the first termly meeting of our new staff book group at school – and it certainly gave lots to talk about! The story follows a wide group of characters who hover on the fringes of Cork city’s underworld, which is lorded over by gangster Jimmy.  Jimmy has recently been reunited with his mother Maureen who is described as ‘crazier than a dustbin fox’ and when she accidentally kills an intruder in the house with a lump of holy stone, Jimmy calls on Tony, an unemployed, drunk single father of six kids to help clear up. Tony recognises the corpse, and when Georgie comes looking for her boyfriend, things start to get awkward. The other main character is Tony’s teenage son Ryan who is on the verge of dropping out to become a drug dealer.

McInerney paints a bleak picture of the state of the nation in which none of the characters have a job but tells their tale with gritty, raw, sweary, humour – this would be an hilarious book, if only the character’s lives weren’t so awful. Maureen is the star character though, the mad matriarch whom Jimmy is beginning to regret finding again. McInerny’s writing fizzes with Irish slang and vernacular, but not so much as to be off-putting. The plot flags a little in the last third, but what a debut novel this is. I’m looking forward to reading her new one The Blood Miracles, published in April. which follows the further (mis)adventures of Ryan. (8.5/10)

Source: TBR.  Lisa McInerny, The Glorious Heresies (John Murray, 2016) paperback 384 pages.

The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink

I was looking at the map when Stephen swerved, hit the rock, and occasioned the miscarriage.

That’s the first sentence of this wildly original and experimental novel about the marriage of American couple, Tiffany and Stephen. It sets the tone for a book full of love, non-love, lust, sex, adultery together with lots of drugs, birdwatching and eco-terrorism, set initially in Switzerland, then relocating to Berlin.

Returning to that first sentence, Stephen was more worried about rescuing the injured wallcreeper (a bird)  he swerved for than Tiff’s predicament. Theirs is a relationship that seems to be founded on disinterest in each other outside of the bedroom. Both have lovers, Tiff’s is called Elvis, from Montenegro. Stephen doesn’t approve:

“Montenegrin my ass! He’s Syrian if he’s a day! ‘Elvis’! It’s like a Filipino telemarketer calling himself Aragorn!”

The quote above is a good example of how intermittently funny this book is, but as a whole, I didn’t like it. As a couple, Stephen and Tiff are unbearable. When they’re apart, with Tiff narrating, you could like her a little – but she’s just wasting her life with Stephen who really only wants her for ‘breeding and feeding’, his pet bird.

The Wallcreeper was published together with Mislaid as a double debut in July 2015, marking Zink as one to watch. Maybe I picked the wrong half of the pair to start with. I could appreciate her risk-taking style, but with this one, I just didn’t enjoy it. (6.5/10)

Source: TBR.  Nell Zink, The Wallcreeper (4th Estate, 2015) paperback, 176 pages.

To explore any of these titles further on Amazon UK, please click below:

The Wall  – The Glorious Heresies –  The Wallcreeper

5 thoughts on “Three Short Takes

  1. Linda Boa says:

    I’m looking forward to reading The Glorious Heresies, and the follow-up! I’ve heard great things. These aren’t the sort of people who have books written about them – apart from Irvine Welsh’s early work!

  2. Alice says:

    I remember The Wallcreeper going totally over my head, in the same way Grief is a Thing With Feathers did. I didn’t like it at all either.

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