Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 21, Issue 4, 1 April 2019



New Reviews at Compulsive Reader
Literary News
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Hello readers.  Happy April!  This is a big literary month and in Australia at least, the start of literary festival season (starting for me with the Newcastle Writers’ Festival, and followed by the Sydney Writers’ Festival and several others).  If you’re planning to be at the NWF this year, please drop me a line or just come up to one of my events and say hello.  Here is the latest batch of reviews:

A review of Someday Everything Will All Make Sense by Carol LaHines

As a backdrop, New York is portrayed not as a place to get lost, but to be found. In its ethnic bars and restaurants, he lets loose to enjoy himself and his mates in all their absurd glory, chanting medieval plainsong over heavy metal playing on the sound system. LaHines’ Someday Everything Will Make Sense is a comedy celebrating transformation that happens in its own due course. Read more:

A review of Visits and Other Passages by Carol Smallwood

Readers used to poetry collections or volumes where the prose knows if it is fiction or nonfiction might at first be perplexed by the way genre boundaries are transgressed or redrawn this time around. But my bet is that those who come with a spirit of adventure will be rewarded by the irreverence and innovation on almost every page. Visits and Other Passages provides enough threads of a motif that knits up a quest myth, patterns of loss and recovery, and the power of visitation. Read more:

A review of The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin

Coming in at just over 400 pages, the book moves at a quick pace despite being chock-full of details. The information is included to simply move the story along—Benjamin manages to keep the plot from becoming too heavy or dramatic. Overall, The Girls in the Picture is a fascinating read, recommended for both film and history buffs interested in the early 20thcentury. Read more:

A review of The Curse In The Candle Light Scarlet and Ivy by Sophie Cleverly

Through the changing of friendships and leaderships, Ebony soon calls all the shots and organises a party celebrating All Hallows Eve. At this party a truth is revealed and now Muriel has the upper hand, leading to a tight situation for the other girls. This situation involves breaking out of a cage, breaking a door and confronting enemies. Read more:

An interview with Jendi Reiter

Jendi Reiter, vice president of Winning Writers, talks about the spark that started the site, her newsletter, the annual humour contest, her own writings, and lots more. Read more:

A review of Quill of the Dove by Ian Thomas Shaw

Canadian author Ian Thomas Shaw’s new novel Quill of the Dove proves that a writer’s memory is powerful enough to move laterally and create a searing vision of the contemporary Middle East. Shaw’s evocation of Lebanon, during the Civil War in 1982, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2007, illuminates the tragic consequences of the curve and the asymptote of West and East, never intersecting. Read more:

A review of Above an Abyss: Two Novellas by Ryan Masters

The writing in both these novellas is masterfully self-effacing. Nothing is forced and nothing draws attention to itself, yet it is all perfect, natural, necessary. It reminds me of the films of Kelly Reichardt, whose shots and compositions share the same sense of unexpected revelation amid the everyday. Read more:

A review of We Have Been Lucky in the Midst of Misfortune by Sarah Stern

Don’t let these details slip by you. The ways that time and war shape language and geography run parallel to the way that the human soul transmigrates; and they shape the identity of the beings that are geboren and gestorben (38) there. Read more:

An interview with Andrew R Williams

The author of Arcardia’s Children talks about his book series, his background, when and why he started writing, his inspiration, influences. new project, challenges, and more. Read more:

A review of The Intimacy of Strangers edited by Philip Porter and Andy Kissane

The dinners sound sumptuous, and it’s easy to imagine the environment in which the work would have been read: full of laughter, shared moments of intensity, and of a deep-seated acceptance of the differences that make us unique, interesting, and yet connect us to one another.  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 2,436!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



In the literary news this month, the longlist has been revealed for the £30,000 (about $39,700) Women’s Prize for Fiction, which celebrates “celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world.” A shortlist will be announced April 29, and the winner named June 5. The longlisted titles are: The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker, Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Felton, My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite,The Pisces by Melissa Broder, Milkman by Anna Burns, Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi, Ordinary People by Diana Evans, Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li, Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn, Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli, Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden, Circe by Madeline Miller, Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss, and Normal People by Sally Rooney.

Raymond Antrobus won the £5,000 (about $6,530) Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, which is presented to a “U.K. poet, working in any form, who has made the most exciting contribution to poetry in that year.” The Guardian reported that Antrobus, who “fiercely” challenged Ted Hughes’s “description of deaf children as ‘alert and simple’ in a poem in his first collection,” received the prize for his debut, The Perseverance.

The winners of the Audie Awards, sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association, were announced at the APA’s 24th annual Audies Gala. The Audiobook of the Year was Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, narrated by Bahni Turpin (Macmillan Audio). Other highlights included Tara Westover’s Educated (Penguin Random House Audio), narrated by Julia Whalen, for best autobiography or memoir (and female narrator); the controversial bestseller The Tattooist of Auschwitz, (Harper Audio), by Heather Morris and narrated by Richard Armitage, for best fiction book; Simon Winchester’s The Perfectionists (HarperAudio), narrated by the author, for best nonfiction book; and Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome (Live Oak Media) and narrated by SiSi Aisha Johnson, January LaVoy, Lisa Renee Pitts, and Bahni Turpin for best audiobook for young listeners.See winners in all 24 categories here.

A year after cancelling the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature in the wake of a scandal involving sexual and financial misconduct, the Nobel Foundation and the Swedish Academy announced plans to present the Nobel Prize in Literature for both 2018 and 2019. This fall, the Swedish Academy, charged with picking the literary laureates, will once again award the Nobel Prize for Literature, this year to laureates for both 2018 and 2019.

Finalists for the 2019 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction have been announced.  These include: Blanche McCrary Boyd for Tomb of the Unknown Racist (Counterpoint), Richard Powers for The Overstory (Norton), Ivelisse Rodriguez for Love War Stories (Feminist Press New York), Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi for Call Me Zebra (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and Willy Vlautin for Don’t Skip Out on Me (Harper Perennial). “This year’s finalists are proof that we are living in an age in which tremendous, significant stories are being told by a multiplicity of unique voices,” said PEN/Faulkner executive director Gwydion Suilebhan. “We are honored to be able to call attention toward such profound, thrilling artistry.’ The winner, who receives $15,000, will be announced April 29. The remaining finalists each receive an honorarium of $5,000. All five authors will be honored May 4 during the PEN/Faulkner Award ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Lauren Groff has won the 15th annual Story Prize for Florida (Riverhead Books), receiving the $20,000 winner’s award and an engraved silver bowl after an evening of readings by and conversation with her and the other two finalists at an event in New York City last night. The other finalists were Jamel Brinkley for A Lucky Man (Graywolf Press) and Deborah Eisenberg for Your Duck Is My Duck (Ecco).

The winners of the $50,000 Whiting Awards, sponsored by the Whiting Foundation and given to emerging writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama, are: Kayleb Rae Candrilli (poetry), Tyree Daye (poetry), Hernan Diaz (fiction), Michael R. Jackson (drama), Terese Marie Mailhot (nonfiction), Nadia Owusu (nonfiction), Nafissa Thompson-Spires (fiction). Merritt Tierce (fiction), Vanessa Angélica Villarreal (poetry), and Lauren Yee (drama)

A shortlist has been released for the $50,000 Simpson Literary Prize, recognizing mid-career authors in fiction. The award is administered by the Simpson Project, a collaboration of the Lafayette Library & Learning Center Foundation and the University of California, Berkeley, English Department. The six finalists were selected from authors confidentially nominated by publishers, reviewers, agents, authors and author representatives. The winner is expected to be named in April. This year’s shortlist includes: Rachel Kushner, author of The Mars Room (Scribner), Laila Lalami, author of The Moor’s Account (Vintage), Valeria Luiselli, author of Lost Children Archive (Knopf), Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend (Riverhead), Anne Raeff, author of Winter Kept Us Warm (Counterpoint), and Amor Towles, author of A Gentleman in Moscow (Viking).

Paul Howarth’s Only Killers and Thieves (Harper) and Kiese Laymon’s Heavy: An American Memoir (Scribner) won this year’s Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Awards for fiction and nonfiction respectively. Each writer receives $30,000 and a full year of marketing and merchandising support from the bookseller. Finishing in second place ($15,000 each) were Tommy Orange’s There There (Knopf) for fiction and Shane Bauer’s American Prison (Penguin) for nonfiction. Third-place awards of $7,500 went to Fatima Farheen Mirza for A Place for Us (SJP for Hogarth/Crown) for fiction and Tara Westover’s Educated (Random House) for nonfiction.

The shortlist for the 2019 Stella Prize, which honors the best fiction and nonfiction by Australian women, is: Little Gods by Jenny Ackland, The Bridge by Enza Gandolfo, Pink Mountain on Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau, The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie, Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko, and Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin. The winner will be announced on April 9.

Winners were named for the 2019 Windham-Campbell Prizes, “global English-language awards that call attention to literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns.” Eight authors will each receive $165,000 to support their writing. This year’s winners are: Fiction: Danielle McLaughlin (Ireland) & David Chariandy (Canada), Nonfiction: Raghu Karnad (India) & Rebecca Solnit (U.S.), Poetry: Ishion Hutchinson (Jamaica) & Kwame Dawes (Ghana/Jamaica/U.S.), and Drama: Young Jean Lee (U.S.) and Patricia Cornelius (Australia).

Winners of the 2019 National Book Critics Circle Awards are Fiction: Milkman by Anna Burns (Graywolf), Nonfiction: Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan by Steve Coll (Penguin), Poetry: The Carrying by Ada Limón (Milkweed), Biography: Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous by Christopher Bonanos (Henry Holt), Autobiography: Belonging: A German Reckons With History and Home by Nora Krug,  (Scribner), and Criticism: Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith (Penguin). The John Leonard Prize was presented to Tommy Orange for There There (Knopf); the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing to Maureen Corrigan; and the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award to Arte Público

A 13-book longlist has been released for the £50,000 Man Booker International Prize, which celebrates a novel or short story collection that is translated into English and published in the U.K. and Ireland. The prize money is divided equally between author and translator. In addition, each shortlisted author and translator receives £1,000 (about $1,320). The shortlist will be announced April 9 and a winner named May 21 in London. The 2019 longlisted titles are: Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi (Omani), translated by Marilyn Booth, Love in the New Millennium by Can Xue (Chinese), translated by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen, The Years by Annie Ernaux (French), translated by Alison L. Strayer, At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong (Korean), translated by Sora Kim-Russell, Jokes for the Gunmen by Mazen Maarouf (Icelandic & Palestinian), translated by Jonathan Wright, Four Soldiers by Hubert Mingarelli (French), translated by Sam Taylor, The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann (German), translated by Jen Calleja, Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin (Argentine & Italian), translated by Megan McDowell, The Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg (Swedish), translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (Polish), translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Colombian), translated by Anne McLean, The Death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa (Dutch), translated by Sam Garrett, and The Remainder (And Other Stories) by Alia Trabucco Zeran (Chilean), translated by Sophie Hughes.

Tommy Orange won the 2019 PEN/Hemingway Award, honoring a distinguished first book of fiction, for There There (Knopf). The judges called There There a “devastatingly beautiful novel, as acutely attuned to our current cultural and political condition as it is to the indelible legacy of violence that brought us here…. The breadth and scope of this novel are matched only by the fierce and relentless intelligence that Orange brings to his characters, who despite tragedy, heartbreak and loss, reside in a remarkable world of hard-earned grace.” Orange will receive $25,000, underwritten by the Hemingway Family and the Hemingway Foundation, as well as a month-long residency fellowship at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, a retreat for artists and writers, valued at $10,000. The two PEN/Hemingway runners-up were Akwaeke Emezi for Freshwater (Grove) and Ling Ma for Severance (Macmillan); and honorable mentions went to Meghan Kenny for The Driest Season (Norton) and Nico Walker for Cherry (Knopf). They each receive a Ucross Foundation residency fellowship.

Leah Naomi Green has won the 2019 Walt Whitman Award for her manuscript, The More Extravagant Feast, which will be published by Graywolf Press in April 2020.

Finally, Australian Independent Booksellers have announced Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton (HarperCollins Australia) as their favourite Australian book from last year and the winner of The Indie Book Awards 2019 Book of the Year. The bookseller judges’ commented that: “Dalton’s characters and writing style are what make this book the standout. The language and phrasing used truly evoke a sense of place and time, and the numerous anecdotes and smaller details connect you to a cast of unique characters that are difficult to forget.” Category Winners of the 2019 Indie Book Awards include fiction winner Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak (Picador Australia), nonfiction winner The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper (Penguin Random House Australia), debut fiction winner Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton (HarperCollins Australia), illustrated non-fiction winner Marcia Langton: Welcome to Country by Marcia Langton (Hardie Grant Travel), children’s winner Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee (Allen & Unwin), and YA winner A Song Only I Can Hear by Barry Jonsberg (Allen & Unwin).

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Susanne M. Troop and Catrina Pomerleau, who each won a copy of Visits and Other Passages by Carol Smallwood.

Our new giveaway is for a copy of The Girl in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin. To enter the giveaway, send me an email at maggieball@compulsivereader.comwith the subject line “Girl” and your postal address.

We also have one print copy and one digital copy of Arcadia’s Children: The Fyfield Plantationby Andrew William. To enter the giveaway, send me an email at with the subject line “Arcadia” and your postal address.  If you only want print or digital, please indicate that in the email.

Good luck everybody!



Without A Kiss

Simply elegant, evocative, moving: a haunting story of innocence, buried young love, and the power of a mutually longed for, never to be shared kiss.  Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository and others.

Find out more here: Without a Kiss



We will shortly be featuring reviews of The Age of Fibs by Beth Spencer, Play With Knives Five: George and Clare, The Malachite and the Diamonds by Jennifer Maiden, interviews with Ryan Masters and Mary Langer Thompson, Broken Lines: The Art & Craft of Poetry by Judith Skillman, risk a verse by Libby Weber, and lots more reviews and interviews.

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 Anne Casey, who reads from and talks about her book Where the Lost Things Go. 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) 2019 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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