Book Review: Festival of Cats

Festival of Cats

The Crumps Barn Studio bookshop and art gallery is situated in Cirencester, Gloucestershire. They have been publishing books since 2012 and Festival of Cats is a recent release. This pocketbook of poetry and short stories was created in conjunction with an art exhibition that ran throughout February 2023. Intended to ‘lend a bit of cheer to the winter months’, the collection offers a playful celebration of the role cats play in the lives of the humans they deign to share their homes with.

“While I was a parish priest in Leicestershire, I was allowed to lodge at the North West Leicestershire Cats Home. Also known as my rectory.”

Cats of all kinds feature, from those feeling abandoned and unloved in rescue centres to the felines who rule their territory and are loved unconditionally. A vampire cat eyes up a family as a source of food. A long haired tabby helps bring together a shy young lady and her crush.

Two stories I particularly enjoyed were Hero by Harriet Hitchen and Nine Lives by J.J. Drover. These offered a little more structure and depth than some of the entries. Many are anecdotal in nature, a simple sharing of why the author’s cats are so much appreciated. Feline antics may be tolerated, and often found endearing, but there is no turning away from certain habits that are not so appealing.

The meter of the poems can be somewhat simplistic but what comes across is the love for these furry creatures. The entries in which the cat is the narrator offer amusing perspectives, even if they do pander to a degree of anthropomorphism.

The book is nicely bound and presented, including a scattering of wonderful cat illustrations by Lorna Gray.

A fun little keepsake or gift for the ailurophile in your life. A reminder of the myriad challenges and rewards of accommodating a feline friend.

“You never choose a cat, nor do you ever own one.
You belong to them, and all being well,
They let you share their lives and reveal to you
their mystery,

Just a glimpse – every now and then.”

(My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Crumps Barn Studio)


Monthly Roundup – February 2023


Thank you to all who sent good wishes after last month’s roundup. Husband spent a week in hospital, finally released to recuperate at home as his lung infection was so rampant he was too unwell to receive any treatment for his heart issues. After two courses of antibiotics the pneumonia eventually cleared. He still has a cough – a feature since all this kicked off in late October – but, as an outpatient, he is now at the mercy of waiting lists. I have huge respect for the efforts put in by front line NHS staff to look after and treat patients despite the systems under which they work being so obviously overstretched and flawed. With husband’s heartrate still erratic we are considering all options.

It felt strange to attend Parkrun on my own but running helps me cope with anxious thoughts. I managed to get my time under 30 minutes at two events – something that used to be standard before my own fitness took an unexplained hit in the autumn. I also ran my first half marathon distance in many months, before an irritating cold left me feeling wrung out and in need of rest. I took a full week off, also enabling a recurring hamstring injury to be given healing time. It was not sufficient and a longer rest period has been recommended – something I submit to reluctantly.

So, it has been a month of ups and downs. Not knowing what ongoing treatment husband may need, or when this may be made available, we cannot plan ahead. There are worse things, of course, than living what is still a comfortable life, in the grand scheme of things, day to day.

My teddy bear, Edward, has offered stalwart support but mostly quietly, in the background. He too understands this is not a time for adventures away.

I posted reviews for 6 books in February. Robyn made a welcome return to the blog with a further 3 reviews.

As is customary in my monthly roundups, click on the title below to read the review and on the cover to learn more about the book.


Three Gifts  katherine parr
Three Gifts by Mark A Radcliffe, published by époque press
Katherine Parr, The Sixth Wife by Alison Weir, published by Headline


Imperfect Beginnings
Imperfect Beginnings by Viv Fogel, published by Fly on the Wall Press

Translated Fiction

leave your land  the fawn
You Shall Leave Your Land by Renato Cisneros (translated by Fionn Petch), published by Charco Press
The Fawn by Magda Szabó (translated by Len Rix), published by Maclehose Press

Translated Non Fiction

Pharmakon by Almudena Sánchez (translated by Katie Whittemore), published by Fum d’Estampa

Robyn Reviews

thewhis  legen
The Whispering Dark by Kelly Andrew, published by Gollancz
Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree, published by Tor

Mio’s Kingdom by Astrid Lindgren (translated by Jill Morgan), published by Oxford University Press

Sourcing the books

Robyn received a couple of pre-ordered special editions and also accepted her first proof copies of forthcoming releases in many months. Having passed her recent exam (yay!), she now has more time and brain space for leisure reading.

Robyn books february 23

I was very happy with my monthly book post. You may notice I have accepted my first graphic novel and look forward to seeing what I make of that.

Jackie books February 23

As ever I wish to thank all the publishers who send me their books 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 support is always appreciated.

And to everyone reading this, I wish you and yours good health – something we so often take for granted until issues must be faced. Here’s hoping our personal experiences improve with the weather and the year proceeds better than it has started for us all.

Book Review: The Fawn

the fawn

This review was written for and first published by Bookmunch.

The protagonist and narrator of The Fawn is twenty-six year old Eszter Encsy, a successful actress in post war Hungary. The novel tells her life story through fragments of memory. These unfold and merge to explain the role she believes she must play to survive.

Born and raised in the city of Szolnok in central Hungary, Eszter now lives in Budapest. She has an older lover to whom she is directing her telling of events, including how she is feeling. Like all those she has ever known, he does not understand what she is below the surface. She acts out her own life as she does those of assigned characters on the stage.

Now orphaned, Eszter was the only child of a sickly father and an aristocratic mother whose wealthy family all but abandoned them after her marriage. As Eszter’s father did not work, for a variety of reasons, her mother earned what she could by giving piano lessons to their more privileged neighbours. Eszter was expected to clean and cook for her family as well as doing odd jobs for anyone who would pay her a few pengő. She used this pittance to buy food and medicine, much of which was then consumed by her beloved father. She was not averse to stealing should the opportunity arise.

“the cream was sweet and soft and she still had a whole bowl full of it, vanilla-flavoured, and at home everything like that went straight to my father”

Eszter regarded her parents as beautiful and adoring of each other to their end. She felt sidelined, growing bitter and resentful of the demands and expectations placed on her. She did not, however, complain, learning to internalise both her physical and emotional suffering. What festered within was a hatred for those whose lives appeared comparatively easy. This is personified in a classmate, Angéla, who harbours the mistaken belief that Eszter is her friend.

When their affair started, Eszter was unaware that her married lover’s wife is Angéla, who she had not seen at the time for many years. When this fact is revealed, the way he speaks of Angéla and their history eats into his and Eszter’s relationship. Eszter, once again, wants nothing more than to hurt her former classmate, whose life as she sees it has been filled with comfort and kindly attention. Eszter grows increasingly angry and frustrated when Angéla continues to garner support and consideration, always taking it for granted.

What is revealed is the lasting damage caused by a childhood of hunger and deprivation. Eszter learned young how to hide her true feelings in order to survive. This stood her in good stead as political turmoil changed the lives of so many, especially the wealthy. When Eszter’s family home was destroyed in a wartime bombing raid she did not mourn the loss of their few possessions – she valued them little. Rehomed temporarily in a hotel she had enough to eat and this was a luxury.

The narrative is disjointed in many ways but the structuring fits with how memory works. Images come to mind and their significance is pondered, retold as suits the time in which they are remembered. The ‘Dramatis Personae’ at the start of the book is useful in differentiating the cast of characters. Although it takes time to understand and engage with the plot, the writing style remains impressively taut and compelling, holding reader attention.

There is much screaming with laughter or faces wet with tears – these are obviously an emotional people. Even Eszter, who so often detaches herself from difficult feelings, cries and laughs, although mostly from a perspective of barely contained anger. Her lover reveals himself as shallow emotionally, self-absorbed and unaware of what Eszter is thinking. His continuing support for his wife may well stem from ego, a superficial need to believe he is a good person despite his infidelity.

Eszter is a strong if damaged character. She cares little how her lifestyle is regarded by others, believing she will never be loved having never felt valued for what she is. Her attention is focused on survival with a side dish of revenge. When a pivotal event pierces the armour she has constructed for self-preservation, those she could turn to do not recognise the crisis she now faces as they have never been permitted access to the true self even she can barely accept.

Any Cop?: Although a slow burn this is a masterfully constructed tale. The protagonist may often be somewhat unlikable but her outcome is still devastating. Hungary’s history through the mid twentieth century provides a fascinating backdrop. Another impressive translation of a story by this author that is well worth reading.

Jackie Law

Robyn Reviews: Mio’s Kingdom

Mio’s Kingdom, translated by Jill Morgan and first published in 1954, is a Swedish children’s classic. A light and optimistic tale of good versus evil, its a straightforward story with much to appeal to both the child and adult reader.

Karl Anders Nilsson is living with foster parents in Stockholm when he finds a bottle with something moving inside. Knowing immediately from ‘A Thousand And One Nights’ that this is a genie, he frees it – and finds himself taken away to Farawayland. Here, he discovers that his true name is Mio, and he is the lost son of the King. He befriends another boy named Pompoo, and together they explore Farawayland with his horse, Miramis. As they explore, Mio comes to know of his father’s enemy, the evil Sir Kato of the Outer Land. Mio discovers that he is prophesised to battle the evil Sir Kato, and travels on a quest to the Outer Land to face this foe.

This is escapist fantasy, a chance for children to dream of a life where they are the hero. Most of the quests are fun and lighthearted, with a core theme of love saving the day. Be good and kindhearted, this book says, and you will always triumph over evil.

Mio is easy to relate to. At the start of the book, he is sad because he feels unwanted by his foster parents who would really have preferred a girl. Compared to his friend Ben, who has loving parents, his life feels very cold. It’s impossible not to be drawn to this child who just wants to be loved – to want his dreams to come true.

As an adult reader, there must of course be a suspension of disbelief – but it’s freeing to spend an hour in Mio’s fairytale new life. Even his trials against Sir Kato avoid being too dark. This is a hopeful book, one that brings a smile to the reader.

Some children’s classics do not age well into adulthood – this is not one of them. A recommended read both for the young and the young at heart.

Published by Oxford University Press
Paperback: January 1954

Jackie reviews Mio’s Kingdom here.

Robyn Reviews: Legends and Lattes

‘Legends and Lattes’ is a slice-of-life fantasy about an orc who, tired of a life as a mercenary, decides to retire to the city of Thune and open a coffee shop. The catch? The inhabitants of the city have never heard of coffee. A tale of found family and persistence in the face of adversity, this is a heartwarming read – although one that takes time to get going.

Viv is a solid main character – quite literally. As a recently retired orc barbarian, she’s used to getting her way through physical intimidation – the practicalities of opening a coffee shop and persuading residents who’ve never heard of coffee are a mystery to her. Determined, strong, and with a good heart inside her gruff exterior, she makes a likeable if not standout protagonist. She can be somewhat blind to interpersonal relationships, but despite that she always manages to surround herself with good people.

Cal, Tandri, and Thimble make up the main supporting cast. Each have intriguing backgrounds that are only minimally explored, bringing up plenty of potential for spinoff or prequel novels (a prequel surrounding Viv is already in the works). Tandri, a succubus, is especially interesting, but the interplay between all the characters is excellent. Baldree is better at weaving relationships than the individual characters, and the way these evolve is neatly done.

The worldbuilding is minimal – Thune is a generic fantasy city with the standard repertoire of high fantasy races such as dwarves, orcs, and gnomes. In many ways, this is a contemporary novel that happens to feature fantasy characters and a low-tech setting. The simplicity works, allowing a focus on character relationships and the central plot.

The writing is conventional, with a central plot of the day-to-day travails of running a coffee shop and starting your life anew, and subplots involving local politics and an old enemy from Viv’s barbarian days. The subplots serve dual purposes of rounding out details of Viv’s old life and raising the stakes of an otherwise very quiet novel. Overall, the subplots enhance rather than distract, although don’t expect duels or great bloodshed.

The main issue with this novel is the pacing. The first half is focused on establishing the coffe shop, and this is very slow, not offering the reader much chance to connect with Viv or the storyline. Things improve in the second half, but it isn’t until the last 20% that the reader could be called fully invested. With stronger character work, some of these issues might have been ironed out – but this is a debut, and Baldree certainly succeeds in persuading the reader to read something a bit different.

Overall, ‘Legends and Lattes’ is a solid debut and a nice change of pace from the typical high fantasy. Recommended to fans of TJ Klune’s ‘The House In the Cerulean Sea’ and ‘Under the Whispering Door‘.

Published by Tor (Pan Macmillan)
Hardback: 10th November 2022
(Previously self-published by the author)

Robyn Reviews: The Whispering Dark

‘The Whispering Dark’ is an atmospheric debut with shades of Ninth House, Gallant, and The Raven Boys. A blend of fantasy, dark academia, mystery, and romance, it draws the reader in and keeps them in a sense of unease and tension until the end. The romance is beautifully crafted and the central mystery clever, if not the most original. This is a book for fans of ambiance rather than plot – but if you let it suck you in you’ll have a wonderful time.

Delaney Meyers-Petrov is tired of being treated like she’s made of glass just because she’s Deaf. When she’s accepted into a prestigious, if controversial, programme at Godbole university, she sees her chance to finally prove herself. However, her new start is stymied by professors who won’t accept her disability – and a stand-offish upperclassman she can’t stop bumping into.

Colton Price died when he was nine years old – then impossibly resurrected several years later at the feet of a green-eyed girl. Twelve years later, that girl has stumbled back into his life. Ordered to stay away from her, he can’t help falling into her orbit – and forming a tenuous alliance as students start turning up dead. But Colton has secrets, and the more Delaney discovers (and hears whispered from the shadows), the more it threatens to tear their forbidden partnership – and the world – apart.

Delaney, otherwise known as Lane, is a fantastic protagonist. Used to being overlooked because of her disability, she’s inquisitive, determined, and desperate to prove herself. She’s also haunted by voices in the shadows, terrified of the dark, and paralyzed by impostor syndrome in an environment where she isn’t quite sure she belongs. Lane draws the reader’s empathy immediately, carrying the novel through sections of mystery where it’s unclear what everything means.

Colton, on the other hand, is arrogant, cold, and deliberately opaque. He has a connection to Lane, and an instinct to help her, but he’s also tied up in secrets upon secrets and it’s clear nothing with him is how it seems. Where Lane is clearly the hero, Colton is harder to place – yet Kelly Andrew manages to draw a connection to the reader. One action leaves a sour taste and slightly spoils Colton’s character, but overall he’s well written in a morally grey role.

The writing is repetitive, heavy on metaphors and atmosphere and light on answers. Fans of books like The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and The Starless Sea will likely get on with it. Those who found these books pretentious are unlikely to find any enjoyment here. It can be a little grating in places – Andrew overdoes the use of glass to describe Lane as delicate – but mostly works well, adding to the gothic nature of the story. This isn’t a book with an intricate magic system or carefully crafted fantasy world – it requires the reader to go with the flow, accepting the supernatural elements for what they are and not questioning the whys.

The romance is one of the highlights. Whilst Colton has an instant fascination with Lane, it’s a slow burn, with a building sense of tension right alongside the central mystery. It’s exquisitely written, palpable long before anything concrete is written on page.

Like most books with a college setting, this straddles the border of YA and adult fantasy. There are strong themes of violence and death, but nothing inappropriate for a YA reader. This is an ideal book for such a reader starting to branch out into adult fantasy.

Overall, this isn’t a book that will work for everyone, but for fans of atmospheric reads, well-crafted romance, and dark academia in all its overwritten glory, this is a recommended read.

Published by Gollancz
Hardback: 20th October 2022

Book Review: Katherine Parr, The Sixth Wife

katherine parr

“She had a loving, attentive husband, who might be a little eccentric and overpowering at times, but who was at heart a decent man.”

Katherine Parr, The Sixth Wife draws to a close Alison Weir’s excellent Six Tudor Queens series. As with the previous five books, known facts have been meticulously researched and then woven into a fictionalised story that brings to life the times and places in which the protagonist lived. Katherine married four times so only a portion of the tale directly involves her most famous husband, Henry VIII. That said, the decisions he made, especially during The Reformation, reverberated throughout his kingdom.

Katherine was born in London and lived during a time when many, including her father, would be struck down by plague. As her mother served the Queen at the royal court, Katherine and her siblings were subsequently raised by relatives. It was a happy childhood and the uncle whose properties she lived in proved a wise and loyal advisor throughout her life.

Katherine’s mother was ambitious for her children, placing them within influential households and arranging marriages she believed would be of ongoing benefit to the whole family. Aristocratic children were betrothed young as their parents vied for suitable matches. Katherine, unusually, made it to seventeen before she was first married, her husband four years her elder. He proved a kind young man but was incapable of making her entirely happy. Nevertheless, she mourned his death, although being a wealthy widow gave her freedoms few women at the time could enjoy fully.

Her second husband was an older widower but, again, proved a considerate as well as a loving man. The couple’s main concerns were due to the King’s religious diktats which did not sit well with the local population. It was during this marriage that Katherine came to realise how precarious life could be however carefully one tried to speak and behave. By the time she was widowed for a second time they were living in London, her husband being required to sit in parliament.

The troubles that erupted around them in the north of England where he preferred to spend time are covered well in the story. I had not previously been aware of such uprisings. They did, however, drag on a little in the reading – my interest in such politics is, perhaps, limited. Other notable elements of the story are the details recounted of women’s clothing. How they dressed, particularly in and around the royal court, were important markers of wealth and status.

Of course, it is not just the adults in these times who die or are put to death. So much hope is placed on sons, the heirs, yet so many babies did not survive even into childhood. Katherine longs for a baby yet must make do with mothering her various stepchildren, something she is depicted as doing well.

Having been a good wife, careful and necessarily discrete, Katherine then took risks when she mistook lust for love with her third suitor. That the King was by now also showing an interest made this even more foolish. It felt out of character given everything she had been through to date – sometimes it seems passion really can be so blinding. Katherine does, of course, end up marrying Henry and is once again blessed with a husband who cares for her. These years in her life story lead to the King’s death and the political machinations surrounding such a momentous and anticipated event are woven in well.

Katherine believed herself fitting and able to be appointed Regent to the next young King. Given how she behaves when believing her life at risk – she becomes hysterical – such ambition looks to be over reaching. She does not come across as clinically controlled enough to hold and wield what power meant in those times. There were always many – men and women – mercilessly plotting for their own ascension.

One such person is Katherine’s fourth husband, an obvious knave. It seems a shame she did not appear to appreciate how her previous husbands had demonstrated true love in how they treated her, especially as so many women at that time were required to put up with appalling treatment in their marriages. Katherine appeared blinded by passion and the excitement of lively sex, even when blatantly informed of seriously errant and politically dangerous behaviour.

Having to read of her foolishness made the denouement somewhat frustrating and I was glad when the story ended. Having said that, I wanted to know what happened next to those who lived on. I therefore found this by the author of much interest. It also helped make sense of Katherine’s skewed judgement and her final husband’s thinking.

“a man of much wit, and very little judgement”

Weir is clearly a skilled writer of historical fiction and brings to colourful life a much covered dynasty in a way that still entertains. A long but interesting tale that provides a fitting ending to an ambitious yet successfully wrought series.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Headline Review.

Book Review: Three Gifts

Three Gifts

Three Gifts, by Mark A Radcliffe, tells the story of Francis Broad, a well meaning but anxious individual living near the coast in southern England. It opens on the day he expects to die, an event he anticipates with deep sadness but also acceptance. Francis bartered away a large chunk of his life in exchange for extensions to the lives of loved ones. What follows is the detail of why and how this happened.

Francis was raised by his loving mother in a degree of poverty. His father was often absent, first by choice and then by circumstance. Also residing in the family home was his grandfather whose incontinence made getting out into the fresh air appealing. From a young age Francis would go running as a way of dealing with his miserable schooldays and complex emotions when it appeared only his mother cared for him.

As adolescence approached Francis would run as far as a local beach, eventually plucking up courage to swim there. Swimming became another way of coping, and provided an introduction to a stranger who seemed to understand what the boy was going through. Despite his mother’s best efforts, homelife never became easier.

Eventually Francis escapes into further education. Here, for the first time, he finds friends. Life moves on. He connects with a loving partner and they have a daughter. Throughout, Francis is calculating how much time he has left before his agreed death date.

This is a story of a man, his friends and his family. From the first page it draws the reader in. Although gentle in many ways there is understated dark humour and much to consider. The characters are mostly decent but face many challenges.

The writing style brought to mind that of David Nicholls. There is economy in observations but also warmth and a comforting empathy. Sad things happen but always there is a backbone of kindness. Friendships endure in a way many can only dream of experiencing.

The central premise – that an individual may choose to trade years of their life to save the life of another – is a curious idea to explore with its conflicting elements of sacrifice and selfishness. Although its exposition here is a tad surreal, the author offers enough ambiguity to make this a point to ponder seriously. I particularly enjoyed how it was woven into the ending.

A story with the potential to appeal to a wide audience, compassionate yet never saccharine. There is much to consider in how best intentions can hurt those they are intended to help.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, époque press.

Book Review: Imperfect Beginnings

Imperfect Beginnings

“The art of re-membering for me is a coming back to that which once belonged, that may have been cut off from us – or dis-membered. In our busy, defended and urban lives, we are often complicit in this – separating our selves, our bodies and our hearts from what sustains and nourishes us”

Viv Fogel was forcibly removed from her birth mother and adopted by two refugee holocaust survivors when she was ten months old. Her adoptive mother was bi-polar. Now a grandmother, the author writes of the challenges a family faces when collective memory and personal experience harbours such darknesses. In this stunning, new poetry collection she explores themes of displacement and trauma, and how art and nature have helped her cope.

Divided into five sections, the first examines exile and rootlessness, the effects of poverty – material and emotional.

“Cuckoo’s first call is heard on April 14th,
my birth date. Taken to another’s nest,
with name and feathers I could not keep,
I became the strange one who did not fit.”

In the second section Vogel writes of the horrific memories her adoptive parents carried, the shadows these cast over her and their relationship.

“I wasn’t meant to hear about the officer’s
leather belt, his polished boots,

of the baby tossed
into the air, skull
cracking beneath the boot.”

For anyone who has visited the Jewish Museum in Berlin with its memorial installation, ‘Salekhet’, the cover of this book will be familiar. The author reflects movingly on what this represents.

“There are other holocausts
other stories      other memories
but this      this is what I know
is what I came from”

Practical UnEnglish is an incredibly powerful poem about her deeply damaged and flawed adoptive mother. Although the reader may baulk at the cruelties inflicted, there is an element of forgiveness, an acceptance that much of the abhorrent behaviour was due to her illness and history.

Vogel goes on to write of her own challenges as a parent. And then there is a softening as she spends time with her grandchildren. Two For Joy recounts a day spent at a playground with the youngsters and offers a sunbeam of happiness.

What Remains (a conversation) demonstrates the beauty of small details when time is taken to notice them.

“the leaving and the return
as the tide comes and goes
the breathing in      the breathing out”

These more hopeful themes carry on into the final section in which a new partner brings unexpected love to the author’s life. Night Drive provides a reminder that, despite how man has denuded the natural world, beauty remains in such moments as a darkening sky, a rising moon.

The final poem, How It Is, offers both acceptance and deliverance. The impressive and lingering imagery delivers a fitting ending.

An emotive collection but one written with such poise and precision it may be savoured despite elements of bitterness. Fogel delves without dwelling, offers honesty without resentment. This is poetry at its most accessible and yet profound.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Fly on the Wall Press.

Book Review: Pharmakon


“How to convince all of humanity that it’s not just two bad days. Not even days: they are infinities. And they aren’t bad: they are Dantesque”

Pharmakon, by Almudena Sánchez (translated by Katie Whittemore) is an essay describing a life lived under the shadow of depression. Although often unhappy – bullied as a child, and growing up with parents she struggled to relay her true feelings to at the time – Sánchez was unprepared for the intensity of debilitation when the onset of depression changed how she was capable of living. She found a support network of family and friends as well as a doctor willing to prescribe her helpful medications. Nevertheless, as can be gleaned from these pages, depression saps ability to function even when surrounded by best intentions.

“Living with depression is living with a dead person on your back. Conversing with him.”

The essay details day to day thoughts and feelings. There is guilt, especially when those wishing to help can make little difference. There is despair when simple tasks, such as rinsing shampoo from hair while in the shower, become too overwhelmingly difficult. There is a desire to end it all through suicide yet even this requires more effort than the author can find the ability to expend.

Sections also look back at Sánchez’s childhood – the schooldays that proved such a trial and then surgery when it was found she had a cancerous growth on an ovary.

“A teenage girl isn’t prepared for parts of her body to be removed. She barely even knows what they’re for (the parts). The doctors were terrified of a possible peritonitis. I was terrified of being embarrassed. Always embarrassed.”

However dark the experiences related, this is not a depressing book to read. Sánchez is sharing her thoughts and what comes across is the authenticity along with her anguish at how her abilities have shifted. She relies on drugs, remaining unapologetic in the face of those who believe she should ‘snap out of it’.

“I was raised polite in livid silence”

On a personal level I have some minor quibbles over certain choices of words used, although these only go to show how at the mercy of their readers’ foibles an author is. The repeated mentions of ‘boogers’, and of spit rather than saliva, made me feel squeamish. I have no way of knowing if these words were selected by author or translator.

The text was created while Sánchez was still medicating.

“a chemical poetry – I’ve written these pages in an altered state”

What this leaves us with is a first hand account from a writer finding their way back from basic functional inability to creative ambitions. I hope it proved as useful to them as it does to the reader who may now better empathise with those who are suffering within a depressive state.

That the essay is so eloquent and engaging shows the skill of the author despite the constraints of their illness. A moving and important read for our times.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Fum d’Estampa