Browser: Lucid portrait of a girl stepping out of childhood

Brief reviews of Seed by Joanna Walsh, All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days by Rebecca Donner and Ireland, Colonialism and the Unfinished Revolution

Joanna Walsh

Joanna Walsh

 

Seed
By Joanna Walsh
No Alibis Press, £15
“Looking is a fault in me.” What an eye the narrator of Seed has; her observations are candid as a diary, but sharp as poetry. Seed is a bildungsroman told for the modern ear and mind. It splays open the confusion and anxiety of growing up in an 1980s England, along with a thrum of anticipation for new music, new experiences, and the desire for her friend which is both joyful and threaded with anxiety. The book hums with nature; colour saturates everything. Criss-crossing this is an intricate emotional and psychological cartography of what the narrator reads, hears, consumes, and absorbs. An old-school coming-of-age story in an artful, slip-sliding form, it’s a lucid portrait of someone stepping out of the stream of childhood into different waters, leaving a trail of sensory echoes in their wake. – Ruth McKee

All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days
By Rebecca Donner
Canongate, £16.99
This riveting narrative reads like a cross between a literary novel and a spy thriller but is completely factual. It’s the story of an incredibly courageous woman, told by her great-great-grandniece. American Mildred Fish married German Arvid Harnack and they settled in Berlin in 1929. Alarmed by the rise of Hitler, they established an anti-Nazi network, which became the largest underground resistance group in Berlin. With war imminent, he channelled military information to Soviet intelligence while she helped Jews escape, wrote anti-regime leaflets, co-operated in acts of sabotage and, after war broke out, spied for and conveyed highly secret intelligence to the Allies. Unfortunately discovered by the Gestapo, he was hanged and she guillotined. Meticulously researched, it’s gripping, intriguing and superbly told. – Brian Maye

Ireland, Colonialism and the Unfinished Revolution
By Robbie McVeigh and Bill Rolston
Beyond the Pale Books, £19.95
Too broadly and deeply researched for a justifiable summation, but the title should be self-explanatory. The subject is quite the pigeon to pluck, and the authors do so admirably, even if their language and readings are certain to cause squawking in certain quarters. This is fine historical writing with humanity at its heart; using An Gorta Mór as its moral anchor, it considers global colonialism in human costs, not merely a series of Niall Ferguson-esque power plays. The writers are unafraid to call it: the “it wasn’t all bad” concept of colonialism is codswallop, and Ireland, like the Black Lives Matter movement, must finally banish its colonial legacy, if it’s to ever form (peacefully) a united egalitarian republic that works for everyone on this island. A welcome discourse. – NJ McGarrigle

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