The Bookcast Club // Episode 6

Happy new year! Our first episode of 2018 and Alice and I are talking current and recent reads, and our favourite books of 2017. The podcast is now available on YouTube as well as the usual podcasty places. If you have any questions or ideas for future episodes please contact us on Twitter @bookcastclub or by email.


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Books mentioned in this episode:

Call Me By Your Name - André Aciman

Folk - Zoe Gilbert

How To Breathe Underwater - Julie Orringer

A Possible Life - Sebastian Faulkes

Fates & Furies - Lauren Groff

The Monsters of Templeton - Lauren Groff

Three Things About Elsie - Joanna Cannon

The Trouble With Goats and Sheep - Joanna Cannon

The Light Between Oceans - M. L. Stedman

Eric - Shaun Tan

The Red Tree - Shaun Tan

The Essex Serpent - Sarah Perry

After Me Comes the Flood - Sarah Perry

The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales - Kirsty Logan

Notes on a Scandal - Zoe Heller

Idaho - Emily Ruskovich

Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race - Reni Eddo-Lodge

How Not to be a Boy - Robert Webb

The Cormoran Strike series - Robert Galbraith

Happy - Fearne Cotton

Links mentioned in this episode:

Costa Short Story Award


Folk by Zoe Gilbert

Author: Zoe Gilbert
Publisher: Bloomsbury UK
Publication Date: 8th February 2018
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Wordery
Every year they gather, while the girls shoot their arrows and the boys hunt them out. The air is riddled with spiteful shadows - the wounds and fears and furies of a village year.

On a remote and unforgiving island lies a village unlike any other: Neverness. A girl is snatched by a water bull and dragged to its lair, a babe is born with a wing for an arm and children ask their fortunes of an oracle ox. While the villagers live out their own tales, enchantment always lurks, blighting and blessing in equal measure.

Folk is a dark and sinuous debut circling the lives of one generation. In this world far from our time and place, the stories of the islanders interweave and overlap, their own folklore twisting fates and changing lives.

A captivating, magical and haunting debut novel of breathtaking imagination, from the winner of the 2014 Costa Short Story Award.

A brilliant read to start 2018. Folk is a collection of short stories (I've seen a few reviews describe Folk as a novel, perhaps it's being marketed as such?) centered on the inhabitants of a village called Neverness. Zoe Gilbert's stories are the perfect balance of weird and twisted but not so removed from reality that they feel unbelievable. I loved the structure of the book, it's not something I've seen done before in a short story collection. Each tale is inextricably linked to another. Each chapter is about a different character in Neverness, but they often reflect on events from previous stories and the villagers pop up in each others tales.

The thing I liked most about this book is the sense of place Zoe Gilbert creates over the course of her short stories. Neverness sounds like a magical place, shrouded in mystery, where folklore is part of their reality. I can picture the rugged landscape, the scent of fish hanging in the air, the roar of the waterfalls and the calling of the kites. It's a dark place with dark secrets and I loved it. Zoe's writing is rich and atmospheric, but not over the top. I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading whatever she writes next.

'Wherever Sil has been, though, there is a trace of waterweed in the air, of salt sea-fog and the insides of shells.'

As with any short story collection there are a few that I now can't recollect very well, but my favourites were Prick Song, Long Have I Lain Beside the Water and Verlyn's Blessings - the tale of a man with a wing for an arm.

I believe 'Fishskin, Hairskin' was the story Zoe won the Costa Short Story Award for. You can have a read of this on the Costa Short Story Award website. Great if you want to sample her writing before purchasing.

Story - 4/5
Writing - 4/5
Character - 3/5
Memorability - 3/5
Enjoyment - 5/5
Overall rating - 4/5


The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Power
Author: Naomi Alderman
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 27th October 2016
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Wordery
In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there's a rich Nigerian kid who lounges around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power - they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

This extraordinary novel by Naomi Alderman, a Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year and Granta Best of British writer, is not only a gripping story of how the world would change if power was in the hands of women but also exposes, with breath-taking daring, our contemporary world.

I think I got sucked into mass hype and prize winning prestige on this one. I am generally a fan of the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction (soon just to be The Women's Prize for Fiction), my kind of books make the short list and it's just for us ladies, which is fabulous. But I think this one won because of the subject matter's relevance in today's society. Even more relevant considering the recent Hollywood scandal. It did not win based on its literary merit. It can't have done. Can it?

First of all, it reads like a young adult novel, albeit with a few marginally graphic 'scenes of a sexual nature'. I hate sneaky YA. I actually don't think it's meant to be YA, it just slips, quite often, into shallow conversation and naff action scenes. And that was my biggest issue with the book, it lacks depth. Excellent premise, poorly executed.

After an initial good start I wanted to see how these women would use their power. Would their roles in society change? Would Naomi Alderman take these women to places of power I couldn't possibly imagine. Would the women use the power for good? Would the world become a better place. The answer is no. The roles of men and women in society were literally reversed. The women become aggressive, violent, wars brake out, men are raped. I don't think any of the female characters used their new found power for good. We're better than that surely? I like to think that with a switch in power, women and men could create a better world together, a different world, a more progressive world. This isn't a feminist piece of work in my opinion, it lacked imagination and wasn't the challenging novel I wanted it to be. Shame.

I listened to this at double speed and can't remember the ending. Think I'd stopped paying attention. The mixed media didn't work for me either. I found it hard to believe that 5000 years in the future we would still be looking at museum exhibits that go 'bing', presumably when you press a button, sending emails and participating in chat rooms.

Story - 3/5
Writing - 2/5
Character - 2/5
Memorability - 4/5
Enjoyment - 1/5
Overall rating - 2.5/5


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