Monthly Roundup – September 2020

Six months into lockdown and I remain amazed at how readily so many have adapted to imposed restrictions. September started with what looked to be a relaxation of mandated measures but ended with threats of hefty fines for non-compliance with stricter rules – rushed through laws applied without balanced debate. I have needed to be outside regularly to remind myself that the world is still a beautiful place.

With the passing of the autumn equinox the changing colours on the trees can be admired. I crunch through fallen acorns and horse chestnuts on many of the local trails I frequent. I have continued my thrice weekly gym visits for strength training – cycling to town and back whatever the weather. I was grateful for our Indian Summer, although the marked increase in car traffic suggested others were going further afield to enjoy the sunny days.

Daughter came home for a short visit at the beginning of the month, when we were still hopeful of a return to greater freedom. We ate out at the Prezzo in our local market town and had a pleasant evening, despite the restaurant greeter’s demand that we sanitise our hands on entering. At least there were no ‘masked bandits’, as my son refers to them. Food and service were good and we talked of returning. Our options have been reduced with business closures increasingly prevalent – and now, of course, only likely to accelerate. We will not be going out to eat while masks must be worn between door and table – I’m at a loss as to what that new rule is intended to achieve.

The promise of cooler weather made it clear that I needed a few additions to my wardrobe. Goods were ordered online with delivery to a town outlet – the only way to achieve free delivery and returns for the various sizes and styles I wished to try on before choosing what, if anything, to keep. Thus I had to enter a shop wearing my mask exemption lanyard – stressful, but the staff were lovely and I suffered none of the feared abuse from customers, who I ensured I distanced from.

Confidence boosted, I decided to shop for a new bookcase at a store owned by a local family – I like to support their business. Here the staff wore masks, which felt strange as I regularly pass them in our village. I still find these face coverings disturbing but, thankfully, I was able to choose what I needed quickly and leave. I am pleased with all my purchases but shopping has become an anxiety inducing activity and will remain limited.

I suffered a foot injury when I accidently bashed my toes into furniture mid month. This has made walking any distance painful – my stout boots press against the swollen digit. I continue to run, perhaps foolishly as the foot is not healing as quickly as expected. There seems little point seeking medical advice with current restrictions on contact. I’m not sure what we are expected to do if we require the expertise of doctor, dentist or optician – services previously taken for granted. I fear lockdown will be the catalyst for a significant increase in the privatisation of healthcare.

Younger son should have been preparing to leave for university but what they will want him to do remains uncertain. This lack of clarity means he has had to keep paying for the expensive accommodation he hasn’t used since March – alongside tuition fees for a course that may remain entirely online. With the current media tales of students confined to their tiny flats, unable to socialise or attend teaching, he would now prefer to stay home and access remote learning. What is needed is a decision for the academic year – and a get out clause if rental contracts are no longer needed through no fault of the students. I realise this is unlikely as landlords will want their income.

When not out exercising I am still reading, albeit slowly as I struggle to concentrate amidst so much uncertainty. I posted reviews for 6 books (2 novels, 1 short story collection, 1 poetry collection, 2 works of non fiction). Happily, all were good reads although I would say the weakest was my choice from the Booker longlist – so much for major literary prizes offering worthwhile recommendations. It is, however, pleasing to note that every book I reviewed this month was published by an independent press.

Robyn continues to read voraciously and contributed 15 reviews. These included one for Mordew by Alex Pheby, a book I have previously posted my thoughts on but wished her to read as it is her favoured genre – fantasy fiction. I was interested in her views, and hope other readers will be too.

You may click on the title below to read the review, and on the cover to find out more about each book.



The Nacullians by Craig Jordan-Baker, published by époque press
The New Wilderness by Diane Cook, published by OneWorld


Short stories

Postcard Stories 2 by Jan Carson, published by The Emma Press



London Undercurrents by Joolz Sparks and Hilaire, published by Holland Park Press


Non fiction

Unofficial Britain by Gareth E. Rees, published by Elliott and Thompson
Dead Girls by Selva Almada (translated by Annie McDermott), published by Charco Press


Robyn Reviews

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles, published by Wednesday Books
Queen of Volts by Amanda Foody, published by HQ

A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington, published by Quercus
Divine Heretic by Jaime Lee Moyer, published by Quercus

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas, published by Macmillan Children’s
The Living Dead by George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus, published by Transworld

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart, published by Orbit
Five Little Liars by Amanda K Morgan, published by Simon & Schuster

The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry, published by Titan Books
La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman, published by David Fickling Books

The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty, published by HarperVoyager
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, published by Bodley Head

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix, published by Gollancz
Mordew by Alex Pheby, published by Galley Beggar Press

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik, published by Del Rey


Sourcing the books

Robyn is on Netgalley and is grateful for all approvals of titles requested. She also purchased or received a number of hard copies – including a surprise copy of a book she is now offering as a giveaway (do check her Twitter feed).

I also made several purchases to add to the review copies publishers kindly sent. These included another Booker Prize contender – will it be more impressive?

I was a guest on Shelf Absorption, a blog that enables readers to check out other people’s shelves. I reblogged the post here. The stack of books pictured on the floor now fills my newly purchased bookcase.


As ever I wish to thank all the publishers who send me their titles to review – the arrival of a book parcel remains a cheering event in my day.

My thanks also to those who share my words across their social media platforms. Your continuing support is always appreciated.

And to everyone reading this, I wish you and yours good health and as much mental stability as can be mustered in these challenging times. May we strive, at all times, to be kind  xx

2 comments on “Monthly Roundup – September 2020

  1. I have two from the Booker shortlist to read, I read Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions last year which was excellent, and so I was keen to see how her character had developed against the backdrop of the country’s evolution in the 30 years since that title won the Commonwealth Literary Prize, and found it absorbing, thought provoking and multilayered. I’m still thinking about it. Also reading The Shadow King, 10 years in its creation and the inspiration of a female ancestor who fought in the Ethiopian war was enough to tempt me.
    Happy October reading!

  2. I do agree about literary prizes Jackie – no guarantee of merit these days!

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