Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 19, Issue 11, 1 November 2018



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Hello readers. Here is the latest batch of reviews:

A review of Thread For Pearls by Lauren Speeth

The narrative presents a deftly crafted tale relating the journey of a young woman who manages to face, accept and overcome what many would believe to be an impossible childhood. Periods of normalcy are interspersed with periods that are anything but normal, receiving and unexpectedly having pets given away, or left behind, left on her own way too often by both her Mother and Wolf cause Fiona to do much of the raising of herself.  Read more:

An interview with Margaret Morgan

Aside from penning works for the small-screen, Morgan’s short stories have been published in a myriad of noteworthy publications, including Going Down Swinging and Meanjin, among others. Some time ago, Morgan returned to university, completing abachelor’s degree in Advanced Science in Biology at Macquarie University, where she focused on plant science, genetics and parasitology. These areas of studies were a lifelong interest that proved to largely shape the inspiration for her debut novel, The Second Cure. Read more:

A review of New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction edited by James Thomas and Robert Scotellaro

All of the micros in this collection could be described as “on the verge of vanishing.” But thinking about this specific set of stories related to disappearing, especially Cooper’s, leads me to wonder why we’re drawn to this particular form, especially now. Forget the Internet and the short-attention span argument for a moment. What if the desire for the micro and flash fiction is born of a last-ditch effort to get in and get out, while we can? Read more:

A review of Normal People by Sally Rooney

Despite its often bleak outlook, Normal People is a hopeful book, and though the trajectory of Connell and Marianne is often painful at times, intellect and emotion pulling in opposite direction, Normal People is a powerful read that not only provides insight into the young, modern mind, but also which provides a classic thematic in a modernistic, tight and compelling format. Read more:

A review of Review of Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

The clock dance in Anne Tyler’s new novel originates with three pre-teen girls who line up behind each other and move their arms like the hands of a clock. Time flies; life is short, too short to be stalled in a negative pattern left over from childhood, especially if you are sixty-one years old, as is the protagonist, Willa.  Read more:

A review of Rush by Lisa Patton

Rush is a great read, a gentle-hearted literary novel of the New South telling an eye-opening, entertaining story with a conscious. The book is impeccably well-written and deserves the accolades that are coming its way. Read more:

A review of The Shades by Evgenia Citkowitz

Lyrical and solemn, The Shades underscores the sense of meaninglessness that follows the death of a family member. Through its piecemeal narration that takes readers through various perspectives, the novel’s characters never quite seem to move past what has happened—instead, it is as though they swim eternally in their own fear of death. Read more:

A review of Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

Bridge of Clay is a beautiful, complex book full of subtlety, metaphor, and human connection. It’s a story of many things, not just a child’s attempt to document the loss and redemption of his family, though that is the driving plot line. It’s also about the nature and power of language and to that extent there is a meta-fictional quality to the work. Read more:

A review of The Wounded Muse by Robert Delaney

The external and internal settings of the novel bring out its luscious and complex themes.  In addition to sensational descriptions of Beijing bars, street corners, and apartments, the novel also delves into the nooks and crannies of the human heart. Read more:

A review of The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan

Frankopan must have had great publishers. Aside from the aesthetically pleasing cover design with sumptuous Islamic floral and geometric patterns overlaid with gold lettering, the selling point of the book is its ambitious thesis: to reposition the centre of the world and repatriate the influence that Eastern regions have had on global events. The book is undoubtedly a titan effort in scholarship. Read more:

A review of A Body’s Just as Dead by Cathy Adams

Without exception, her characters are fully realized, interesting and complex; each has his or her own voice. They are from the working class and the underclass, and occasionally the criminal class. Their tragi-comic story is engaged with our times and resonates precisely with the national zeitgeist. A Body’s Just as Dead entertains us, enlightens us, moves us. It is a fine novel and a joy to read. Read more:

All of the reviews listed above available at The Compulsive Reader on the front page. Older reviews are kept indefinitely in our extensive (and growing) categorized archives (currently at 2,318!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, Danez Smith won the £10,000 (about $13,145) Forward Prize for the Best Poetry Collection for Don’t Call Us Dead. Chair of the judges Bidisha said: “The tight lyrical poems in Don’t Call Us Dead feel utterly contemporary, and exciting. Showing an astonishing formal and emotional range and a mastery of metrical, musical language, Smith’s finely crafted poetry makes us look anew at the intertwined natures of politics and sexuality and stands as a powerful warning: this is what’s happening, be alert, pay attention.”

The £5,000 (about $6,570) Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection was awarded to Phoebe Power for Shrines of Upper Austria. And the winner of the £1,000 ($1,315) prize for Best Single Poem was Liz Berry for “The Republic of Motherhood.”

The Writers’ Trust of Canada has announced finalists for the C$60,000 (about US$46,230) Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, which honors works published in Canada that ” demonstrates a distinctive voice, as well as a persuasive and compelling command of tone, narrative, style, and technique.” This year’s shortlisted titles are: Antigone Undone: Juliette Binoche, Anne Carson, Ivo Van Hove, and the Art of Resistance by Will Aitken, All Things Consoled: A Daughter’s Memoir by Elizabeth Hay, Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot, In Praise of Blood: The Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front by Judi Rever, and The Woo-Woo: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons, and My Crazy Chinese Family by Lindsay Wong

A shortlist has been released for the C$100,000 (about US$78,060) Scotiabank Giller Prize, which recognizes excellence in Canadian fiction. The winner will be named November 19. This year’s shortlisted titles, all of which are novels, are: French Exit by Patrick deWitt, Songs for the Cold of Heart by Eric Dupont, translated by Peter McCambridge, Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, Motherhood by Sheila Heti, and An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim

Finalists have been announced for the CA$50,000 (about US$39,015) Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, recognizing authors of the year’s best novel or short story collection. The winner will be named November 7 at the Writers’ Trust Awards ceremony in Toronto. The five finalists are: The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson, Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, Beirut Hellfire Society by Rawi Hage, Land Mammals and Sea Creatures by Jen Neale, and Dear Evelyn by Kathy Page

The six titles shortlisted for the 2018 Ballie Gifford Prize for non-fiction have been announced. Titles included in this year’s shortlist are: Hannah Fry – Hello World: How to be Human in The Age of The Machine, Ben Macintyre – The Spy and the Traitor, Thomas Page McBee – Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man, Stephen R Platt – Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age, Serhii Plokhy – Chernobyl: History of A Tragedy, and Carl Zimmer – She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions and Potential of Heredity.

Trinidadian writer Ingrid Persaud won the £15,000 (about $19,525) BBC National Short Story Award for “The Sweet Sop.” Judge and former winner K.J. Orr described the winning work as “tender and ebullient, heartbreaking and full of humor.” Persaud’s story also won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2017. Chair of judges Stig Abell, editor of the Times Literary Supplement, said they “were unanimous in their praise for a story which keeps a consistency of voice without smoothing over the reality of genuine conflict. The relationship between Victor and Reggie, estranged father and son, who find solace in chocolate, is an utterly convincing and memorable one, a clever inversion of normal parental process.”

Archipel by Inger-Maria Mahlke has won the 2018 German Book Prize. The judges wrote: “The archipelago lies at the outermost edge of Europe; the setting is the island of Tenerife, a nucleus of colonial history and of the history of 20th-century European dictatorships. Inger-Maria Mahlke writes about the present and back to 1919 in a precise and cogent manner. The narrative centres around three families from different social classes, fractured and wounded by Spanish history. Yet it is the dazzling details above all that make this novel such an impressive affair. Through its language, it allows us to experience everyday life, a damaged landscape–and even the light–as though with our own senses. The author’s eye for the intricate bifurcations of family and social relationships is fascinating.”

The shortlists for this year’s Prime Minister’s Literary Awards have today been announced. For fiction, they include A Long Way from Home, Peter Carey, Penguin Random House, Border Districts, Gerald Murnane, Giramondo Publishing, First Person, Richard Flanagan, Penguin Random House, Taboo, Kim Scott, Pan Macmillan, and The Life to Come, Michelle de Kretser, Allen & Unwin. For Poetry they include Archipelago, Adam Aitken, Vagabond Press, Blindness and Rage: A Phantasmagoria, Brian Castro, Giramondo Publishing, Chatelaine, Bonny Cassidy, Giramondo Publishing, Domestic Interior, Fiona Wright, Giramondo Publishing, and Transparencies, Stephen Edgar, Black Pepper. For more information about the books, authors and to see the judges’ comments, visit

Debut collections by poets Zaffar Kunial, Fiona Moore, Phoebe Power, RIchard Scott and Hannah Sullivan all feature on the shortlist for this year’s T S Eliot Prize (£25,000). Also up for the award is Tracy K Smith, the US poet laureate. The full shortlist comprises: Ailbhe Darcy’s Insistence (Bloodaxe), Terrance Hayes’ American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassins (Penguin), Zaffar Kunial’s Us(Faber), Nick Laird’s Feel Free (Faber), Fiona Moore’s The Distal Point (Happenstance), Sean O’Brien’s Europa (Picador), Phoebe Power’s Shrines of Upper Austria (Carcanet), Richard Scott’s Soho (Faber), Tracy K Smith’s Wade in the Water (Penguin) and Hannah Sullivan’s Three Poems (Faber). The prize winner will be announced on 14th January. The T S Eliot Prize, run by the T S Eliot Foundation, is the most valuable prize in British poetry, with the winning poet receiving a cheque for £25,000 and the shortlisted poets each receiving £1,500.

Jennifer Down has won the 2018 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction for Pulse Points, a collection of 14 short stories. The judges called the book “an elegant and accomplished work of fiction” that stood out for “its emotional maturity and complexity.” Chair Ellen Cregan added: “‘All of the stories in this collection are examples of the extent to which empathy can be employed in fiction. Down looks at human emotion under a microscope in each of these stories, but always does so with care and compassion.” Pulse Points will be published in the U.S. by Text Publishing November 6.

The shortlists for the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction are: Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (Knopf),The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (Viking), and There There by Tommy Orange (Knopf) for fiction and The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantú (Riverhead), Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon (Scribner), and Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy (Little, Brown) for nonfiction.  Winners will be announced on January 27 at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Seattle, Wash.

The winners of the 2018 Kirkus Prize, sponsored by Kirkus Reviews, are: Fiction: Severance by Ling Ma (FSG), Nonfiction: Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays) by Rebecca Solnit (Haymarket), and Young Readers’ Literature: Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James (Bolden/Agate). Each winner receives $50,000.

Greg Jackson won the $30,000 Bard Fiction Prize, which was established in 2001 “to encourage and support young writers of fiction, and provide them with an opportunity to work in a fertile intellectual environment,” for his debut collection of short stories, Prodigals (FSG). In addition to the cash award, the winner receives an appointment as writer-in-residence for one semester at Bard College.

Finally, a shortlist of six titles has been unveiled for this year’s Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year. The winner will be decided by public vote here. Voting closes on November 16, and the winner will be announced November 23. This year’s six oddest titles are: Are Gay Men More Accurate in Detecting Deceits? by Hoe-Chi Angel Au, Call of Nature: The Secret Life of Dung by Richard Jones, Equine Dry Needling by Cornelia Klarholz and Andrea Schachinger, Jesus on Gardening by David Muskett, Joy of Waterboiling by Christina Scheffenacker, and Why Sell Tacos in Africa? by Paul Oberschneider

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Jill Ashton, who won a copy of Witches of St Petersburg by Imogen Edwards-Jones.

Congratulations also to Sue Collins who won a copy of Normal People by Sally Rooney.

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of What Makes a Man Run by Mark Thompson.  To enter the giveaway, send me an email at maggieball@compulsivereader.comwith the subject line “Man Run” and your postal address.

We also have a copy of Writing a Novel by Richard Skinner to giveaway.  To enter, send me an email at maggieball@compulsivereader.comwith the subject line “Writing a Novel” and your postal address.

Good luck everybody!



Girls on Key Poetry Portal Bookshop.

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We will shortly be featuring reviews of Writing a Novel by Richard Skinner, America: The Farewell Tour by Chris Hedges, I Truly Lament Working by Mathias Freese, 72 Raisins by Nikki Nash, All the Answers by Michael Kupperman, and lots more reviews, news, interviews, and giveaways.

Don’t forget to drop by The Compulsive Reader talks (see widget on right hand side of the site) or at to listen to our latest interview with poet Steve Armstrong, who reads from and talks about his new poetry book Broken Ground. To listen, visit the show page or you can listen directly from the site widget (right hand side of the site).

You can also subscribe to the show via iTunes and get updates automatically. Just find us under podcasts by searching for Compulsive Reader. Then just click subscribe.


(c) 2018 Magdalena Ball. Nothing in this newsletter may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher, however reprint rights are readily available. Please feel free to forward this newsletter in its entirety.

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