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The film Titanic felt fundamentally broken to me. Here was a love story, not especially compelling but competent enough; now, crashing into it and holing it below the waterline, is a disaster in which hundreds will die, terrifyingly realised. The love story continues as nothing more than a distraction: too melodramatic to bring the loss of life closer, but not engaging enough to take centre stage.

Our Lady of the Nile is building to disaster, too—the disaster within the novel, and the greater disaster it prefigures. Against this, the everyday concerns of its schoolgirls could seem similarly unimportant. Instead, they underline the horror and the tragedy.

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I know very little about Spain or Spanish literature, so I have little of note to say about this novel, but I was struck by how Galdós alloys biting satire with humanity. His characters are ridiculed but always treated with a certain basic decency. Some of this is done ironically, but not, I think, all of it. Which isn’t to say Galdós is pulling his punches: the humanity sharpens the blade, so it cuts cleaner and deeper.

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A Life of One’s Own is plainly a book with a lot to offer, much of it up my street: literature; feminism; personal growth. But I wasn’t looking for anything in particular from it. I bought because it was coincidentally due for release shortly after I finally got around to Biggs’ last book, which I thought was superb. That doesn’t leave me with much of a measure of success, but handily, the book succeeds on its own terms, is plain about what those terms are, and makes a strong case for why they matter. A Life of One’s Own is a collection of eight essays on women writers’ lives and works, through which are threaded the author’s reflections on the reworking of her life that began with her divorce. Both elements are handled deftly, but they come together into something more universal. Early in the book, Biggs writes: I used…

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I didn’t write about this when I finished it a month or two ago, because I was pressed for time and because I didn’t know what to say about it. I enjoyed it a lot, but I’m not an experienced enough reader of comics or graphic novels to know how to talk about them. But I’ve recently been battered with adverts for Tetris World Tour, a microtransaction-pushing, power-up-laden mobile Tetris game, and it made me think of this page: I’m glad Alexey Pajitnov got paid, but I’m not sure Tetris World Tour is a better representation of the ideals Henk Rogers sets out on this page than the various lovingly-made free Tetris implementations that The Tetris Company has squashed over the years. I don’t read a lot of this kind of creative non-fiction, so I’ve never given much thought about the way it butts up against reality in places like…

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I bought All Day Long when it was published in 2015; I distinctly remember ordering it online with great enthusiasm following a recommendation from somewhere. As with all parcels, I waited impatiently for its arrival. I then put it on a shelf, where it sat patiently for eight years while I never quite felt in the mood to read it.

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This is an unusual book that feels like it shouldn’t be unusual. A long poem or verse novel set in the post-WWII USA, The Long Take is accessible enough that I can easily imagine a world in which it kicked off a popular interest in its form. Perhaps if it had won the 2018 Booker, for which it was shortlisted, this wouldn’t feel like the kind of thing only bookish weirdos with English degrees read, novels-in-verse would be less of a rarity, and I wouldn’t have found this one in a remaindered book shop at a knock-down price.

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I’m always delighted to approach books (and other works) with as little knowledge about them as reasonably possible. (If you’re the same, and you haven’t read The City and the City, then please forgo reading this post, which contains conceptual spoilers if not plot ones.) This novel, which sat vaguely on my reading list for some time until I received it as a Christmas present, occupied a middle ground: I vaguely knew the central conceit of its setting, but nothing beyond that. How delightful, then, to discover that my understanding was wrong. I had The City and the City categorised as sci-fi; I thought its twin cities Besźel and Ul Qoma occupied the same physical space through some quirk of physics or magic. The novel doesn’t outright contradict this, but it certainly doesn’t require it: the two cities, and the skin between them, are seemingly constructed entirely in the minds…

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I promise I don’t only read books that Katie gives me. ‘How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life’: you have to admire the attempt to make inevitable title for the sequel to Alex in Numberland make sense. A more pedantic author would have gone with Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alex Found There, but then again, a more pedantic author would probably have written a more tedious book. Personally, I would have gone with Do the Fucking Maths, but that’s tenuous even if you place the stress where you need to. Alex Through the Looking Glass seemed to be perfectly pitched for someone with my level of maths education. If this is intentional, it’s an absolute disaster. I got a good maths A-level without too much difficulty, but was sufficiently baffled by parts of my further maths course that I outright failed a paper and got an overall grade…

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