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NewPages Book Reviews

Reviews of newly published and forthcoming independent and university press titles.

Posted August 02, 2016

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Jane Gardam
  • Date Published June 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-1-60945-331-251700
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 208pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Olive Mullet

For Jane Gardam fans, this new reprint of her novel Bilgewater will be a delight, almost as good as Old Filth. For those who don’t know Gardam, you’ll have a wonderful treat. There are some Gardam features which you need to be aware of: sometimes a lot of important information is given in one sentence so you need to be alert; Gardam is British, so sometimes you come across an unfamiliar expression; and this novel has a typical Gardam ending, which took this reviewer three rereads to figure out. But the discovery was fun.

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Bruce Bauman
  • Date Published November 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59051-448-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 656pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by David Breithaupt

Any novel which opens with an assisted suicide posing as a public art happening is a book after my own heart. Such is the case in Bruce Bauman's latest work, Broken Sleep, a story which gathers an eclectic band of characters, each involved in their own personal quests and forming a sort of modern day Wizard of Oz. Broken Sleep contains many a scene which may leave readers feeling slightly guilty for laughing. Case in point; the aforementioned opening gambit.

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Maureen Millea Smith
  • Date Published July 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-1-60489-168-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 194pp
  • Price $17.95
  • Review by Allyson Hoffman

In twelve stories linked by the bonds of family and friendship, The Enigma of Iris Murphy captures the lives of those affected by the life and works of public defender, Iris Murphy. Characters across the United States—from Omaha to Cincinnati to the Rosebud Reservation—are forever changed by Iris Murphy, in big and small ways. Author Maureen Millea Smith carefully weaves narratives together so that tensions grow throughout the book, and the collection truly reads as a novel in stories.

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Cynan Jones
  • Date Published April 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-1-56689-436-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 248pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Valerie Wieland

Everything I Found on the Beach, by Cynan Jones, begins with police finding a mutilated body on a Welsh beach. What comes next is an unnamed woman opening an envelope, the contents of which fill her with high emotion. I could hardly wait to find out whose body it is and what’s up with the woman.

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Robin Gaines
  • Date Published June 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-1-942004-21-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 238pp
  • Price $22.99
  • Review by Denise Hill

It’s a mistake to call Invincible Summers a ‘coming-of-age story,’ even though that’s what the publishers say on the back cover blurb. Following Claudia Goodwin through eleven (not always consecutive) summers from the time she was six years old, I never got the sense that this was a character in search of herself, looking to grow into some kind of womanhood that was waiting for her—the womanhood defined by the 1960s – 1970s. Nor was she running away, breaking away, struggling to be or become. There was none of that. Instead, what I experienced reading Invincible Summers was a zen-steady character whose ever-changing and unpredictable world was nothing out of the ordinary from what millions of lives look like, if only we could read the lives of those millions of people who surround us. Claudia is a girl, and then young woman, who lives by responding to events, who makes choices which determine the route she takes as she ages, and who explores and comes to better understand the life she has lived.

  • Subtitle A Pathological Biography
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by John Sutherland
  • Date Published August 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-1-78023-648-3
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 264pp
  • Price $25.00
  • Review by Valerie Wieland

British academic and writer John Sutherland lost his sense of smell three years ago during hay fever season. George Orwell (nee Eric Arthur Blair) apparently suffered from an acute sensitivity to smells, called nasal hyperaesthesia. Pair the two conditions, and Sutherland seized a new way of thinking about Orwell. He cites a quote from Orwell’s book The Road to Wigan Pier, which “contains the four words that have hung like an albatross around Orwell’s neck: ‘The working classes smell.’” From this was born Orwell’s Nose: A Pathological Biography, to be released this year.

  • Subtitle Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Karen Finley
  • Date Published September 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-0-87286-691-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 168pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Valerie Wieland

If reading about bodily functions, bodily excretions, or strange items put into body orifices offends you, be forewarned, they’ll clobber you in Shock Treatment, the 25th anniversary reissue of Karen Finley’s 1990 book.

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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Matt Tompkins
  • Date Published June 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-1-942387-06-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 79pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Katy Haas

The surreal collides with the real in Souvenirs & Other Stories by Matt Tompkins. While the situations presented are undoubtedly strange—a father evaporates and joins the water system, a man watches the world burn after a botched eye surgery, mountain lions move into a family’s basement, knickknacks and furniture appear in a woman’s apartment—they’re still grounded in reality.

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