‘The Kon-Tiki Expedition’ by Thor Heyerdahl

Sometimes the most interesting conversations I have with politicians aren’t about politics at all. Recently I got talking to the Labour MP for Wrexham, Ian Lucas, abut the Norwegian anthropologist-adventurer Thor Heyerdahl. Ian had bought a second-hand copy of Heyerdahl’s account of his famous attempt in 1947 to cross the Pacific on a balsa-wood raft … More ‘The Kon-Tiki Expedition’ by Thor Heyerdahl

‘Do Miners Read Dickens?’ by Hywel Francis and Siân Williams

This evocative photograph gives you a good idea of what ‘Do Miners Read Dickens?’ by Hywel Francis and Siân Williams is all about. It’s a celebratory coffee-table volume to mark the 40th anniversary of the South Wales Miners’ Library which is part of Swansea University. But in doing that it also tells the story of … More ‘Do Miners Read Dickens?’ by Hywel Francis and Siân Williams

‘A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing’ by Eimear McBride

To read this novel is to experience something remarkable and rare although profoundly discomfiting and emotionally draining. ‘Experienced’ is the apt word because Eimear McBride’s stated intention was to try to immerse the reader in the mind and emotions of her central character, a disturbed young woman whose life is dominated by the effects of … More ‘A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing’ by Eimear McBride

Flannery O’Connor

The fiction of Flannery O’Connor is entirely new to me, but I was tempted by the samples I read and the truly beautiful Folio Society edition which was published recently. I  certainly wasn’t disappointed. She depicts brutal events happening to (mostly) unpleasant people, events that are often violent and sometimes bizarre. I’ve long been aware of … More Flannery O’Connor

Salman Rushdie, ‘The Ground Beneath Her Feet’

‘We always did prefer our iconic figures, injured…’ says Rai Merchant, the photographer-narrator of ‘The Ground Beneath her Feet’ and Rushdie certainly provides us with a pair of injured icons, Vina Apsara and Ormus Cama, the singer and guitarist/songwriter respectively of an improbably popular rock band. If their story is the stuff of myth: all … More Salman Rushdie, ‘The Ground Beneath Her Feet’

Patrick Hannan, ‘Wales Off Message’

I recently re-read Patrick Hannan’s ‘Wales Off Message’. Published in 2000 the events and misadventures in Welsh politics it recounts are all familiar to me although he always managed to find a new angle from which to view those events or a undiscovered nugget of fascination, such as Rhodri Morgan’s unprecedented tidying of his sock … More Patrick Hannan, ‘Wales Off Message’