Hayes & Harlington Gazette - - BOOKSHELF -


SI­LENCE (NON FIC­TION) by Neil Ansell, Tin­der Press, £16.99 (ebook £9.49) ★★★★★

NEIL Ansell ru­mi­nates on the na­ture of si­lence as he trav­els around the beau­ti­ful wilds of north west Scot­land. That si­lence is his own hear­ing loss blend­ing into the in­creas­ing quiet he en­coun­ters as he walks be­side gen­tly-lap­ping lochs and through woods and glens. The land is quiet, but not empty, as he is joined on his trav­els by the lo­cal wildlife, which he de­scribes both vividly and with ev­i­dent ten­der­ness. This book is like tak­ing a long, deep breath as you close the door on the rat race.

THE AFTERLIVES by Thomas Pierce, Black­fri­ars, £14.99, ebook £7.99


WHAT hap­pens af­ter we die? Bright lights, hell­fire, rein­car­na­tion? Or noth­ing? For lapsed Chris­tian Jim Byrd, who suf­fered car­diac ar­rest and briefly ‘died’ aged 33, it’s the lat­ter – and he can think of lit­tle else.

The nar­ra­tive is punc­tu­ated with un­fol­lowed leads, from jum­bled flash­backs to im­pli­ca­tions about hack­ers and holo­grams. This con­fu­sion is com­pounded by Thomas Pierce’s in­ven­tive plot­ting and tries to bring their tan­ta­lis­ing na­ture to his de­but novel, but doesn’t hit the mark. Early mun­dane stretches make the cli­max seem al­most rushed, so it’s a credit to Pierce’s en­gag­ing prose that the reader sticks with him.

THE ONLY STORY by Ju­lian Barnes, Jonathan Cape, £16.99, ebook £9.99


“GET your char­ac­ters up a tree, throw stones at them, then get them down,” is an ex­cel­lent piece of ad­vice for sto­ry­tellers. In this del­i­cate tale of English pas­sion in the ten­nis-play­ing heart­lands of Lon­don’s outer sub­ur­bia, Barnes gets his char­ac­ters up the tree skil­fully enough. And the stones he lobs at his pro­tag­o­nist Paul are as hor­ri­ble as they are mun­dane.

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