Book Review 26a by Diana Evans

by Clare Thompson, Learner Resource Centre Assistant

26a is the story of a Nigerian-English family in London. Identical twins Georgia and Bessi are the "Middle Child", who inhabit the loft of 26 Waifer Avenue, the eponymous "26a". With a sister on either side, they move through childhood and adolescence with increasingly differing views of the world.  Their Nigerian mother pines for her home, and her mother's ghost has a place by her side; their father has a violent disposition which only appears after a drink.

The girls, along with their sisters, Kemy and Bel, discover boys, make-up, and Michael Jackson, along with the harsh reality of sex, relationships, and unhappy parents.

Perhaps the most memorable character is Ham, the girls' pet hamster, whose untimely death at the beginning would bring a tear to a glass eye.

Ham's world view:

 "He was ginger-furred with streaks of white, trapped in a cage next to the dishwasher. What is it? the eyes said. Where am I? The view from the cage was a hamster-blur of washing machine, stacked buckets, breathless curtains and plastic bags full of plastic bags hanging from the ceiling like ghosts of slaughter. People, giants, walked through from other parts of the house, slamming the doors and setting off wind-chime bells. A sour-faced man with a morning tremble. A woman of whispers in a hair net, carrying bread and frozen bags of black-eyes beans…" page 4

I am very aware that many scenes from this book will stay in my mind for months to come, which is the sign of a great book, rather than a good one. Most of it was devoured by me in Queen's Park on a sunny afternoon, and good weather is advised to make the most of this beautiful story.

 The "one-ness" and "two-ness" of twins; sisterly relationships; London in the late 20th century; the concept of "home"; cultural awareness; depression: all of these are explored knowingly, with a touch of biographical detail and poetry which make this first novel great.

Bring on the next one, Diana Evans!

 26a, and many other contemporary novels, are available in the Library.


Review: No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod

Book Review: No Great Mischief

Hugh Beattie

 no great mischief.jpg

I had heard mixed reviews of this from other readers and thus I did not expect a page-turner. Although this novel meanders all over the place, I did enjoy it for the following reasons: it paints a fine picture of island/highland life both here in Scotland & also in Canada.  It is jam – packed with Celtic folklore & wisdom & the little nuggets are repeated throughout the novel like a mantra.
On the surface this may seem like a nostalgic look at the Highland Clearances from the better life in the New Scotland, but this novel contains such weirdness, sadness & a sense of loss written in a way, that keeps you turning pages to see, where it could possibly be going next.
All the characters are so strange they remind me of my own family.
The old adage that our ancestors are not dead as long as someone can remember them living, seems appropriate.

Review: Reading ‘Lolita’ in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

by Hugh Beattie, Clydebank College Library Manager Reading Lolita in Tehran

It is essential that books like this are written, so that we can take stock of our lives & enjoy the freedoms that we so often take for granted. This novel describes an underground world much like life under the soviets in e.g. the old Czechoslovakia.   This is a frightening & furtive world, where meeting a group of like-minded women to talk about literature is a subversive act that would be punishable by imprisonment, interrogation, rape, disappearance & death. Such commitment to the world of books therefore, commands great courage & strength & is not a task to be taken lightly.   
Even although the atmosphere at this reading group seems on the surface to be light & scholarly, the underlying risk involved in these meetings preys on the back of the readers’ mind.  

I enjoyed this novel for the above reasons & because we get a glimpse of a world returning by choice to a dark age, where religion is worn as a badge of convenience in order to subdue thought & imagination.