Archive for October, 2020

October 26, 2020

Threads of Life by Clare Hunter

by Team Riverside

Paperback, Sceptre, £9.99, out now

cover of Threads of Life

The book’s subtitle is A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle.  It is not grandiose or heavy, but rather an entertainingly written with focus sharply on those who have sewn textile art to tell stories.

Some stories were familiar and some completely unknown.  Sewing features as part of war, propaganda, survival, protest.

The emotional connections between makers and their work emerge strongly.  Particularly moving is the story of the Changi quilt, which Hunter visits at the Red Cross archive with a descendant of one of the makers.  She notes that it was made by women prisoners of war in a Japanese camp in Singapore during the Second World War, to communicate with their men (who were held separately – see also https://changi.redcross.org.uk/). 

Hunter is interesting on her own making, and is a “banner-maker, community textile artist and textile curator”.  The book is partly memoir.  Her frequent focus on activism in the text is a bonus.

I had not heard of the stories of women in Chile, who used the sewing of arpilleras (embroidery on burlap) to protest against the Pinochet dictatorship.  “The arpilleras depicted domestic scenes of loss: a woman standing by herself in the doorway of her home, a family mealtime with one empty place.  There were also exterior scenes: a marketplace with no food on its stalls, unemployed youngsters scavenging for cardboard to sell, policemen making an arrest, a tree with pictures of lost relatives instead of leaves all backgrounded by the Andes mountains and a shining sun or bright moon” (p. 155 – see also https://slate.com/human-interest/2014/09/history-of-quilting-arpilleras-made-by-chilean-women-to-protest-pinochet.html).

Threads of Life will send you off on a bunch of reading jags, and also make you search for images of the works discussed.  An illustrated version of the book with colour plates would be wonderful, but in the absence of that get ready to be introduced to the stories behind intriguing sewn art from all over the world.

Review by Bethan

October 24, 2020

Bestsellers This Week

by Team Riverside

Our bestsellers this week:

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osmon

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda

October 21, 2020

The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris

by Team Riverside

Hardback, Hamish Hamilton, £14.99, out now

The Lost Spells book cover

The Lost Spells is the beautiful small sister of the Riverside favourite The Lost Words (https://riversidebookshop.co.uk/2017/10/03/the-lost-words-by-robert-macfarlane-and-jackie-morris/).

Superb illustrations of the natural world accompany poems or spells, to bring us closer to the non-human lives we live alongside.  Morris’s The Snow Leopard remains one of my favourite books of all time (https://www.jackiemorris.co.uk/the-snow-leopard/).  The images in the verses are as vivid.  From snow hares to swifts, proper attention is paid.  A hare runs through the snow: “Each long line of tracks a row of inkwells in the white”.            

This art can act as a summoner, to bring these animals and plants into our everyday lives. If we don’t notice them, we miss out, and are less likely to act to protect them.  The Lost Spells is a pleasure to fall into, despite its constant awareness of nature being under threat.

Happily, it doubles as a puzzle book – there’s a magic glossary at the back showing the animals and plants you can hunt for in the illustrations.  You can hunt in real life too, as it is pocket size so that you can take it out and about with you, which is a delightful thought (even if you are curled up indoors staying warm).  Just looking at the pictures will take you to another place.  The perfect gift for a nature lover.

Review by Bethan

October 20, 2020

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata, trans. Ginny Tapeley Takemori

by Team Riverside

Granta, Hardback Fiction, £12.99, out now

A genre-defying novel from the bestselling author of Convenience Store Woman, newly translated into English. Natsuki has spent her whole life not fitting in, failing to live up to the expectations of her family. She confides in her mysterious cousin Yuu and her toy hedgehog, Piyuut, who she believes is an emissary sent by the Magic Police on Planet Popinpobopia. But a tragic event during a family vacation in the wild Nagano Mountains sets Natsuki on a path of alienation, with catastrophic consequences.

Murata’s second novel in English deals with some of the same themes as her first, but while Convenience Store Woman asks how to rebel against familial and domestic structures, Earthlings asks if these structures are necessary at all. The events of the novel are shocking and unpredictable. The structure resembles that of a horror film, Natsuki’s traumatic experiences with a neglectful mother and an abusive teacher drive her deeper and deeper into a fantasy world where she is waiting to be collected by aliens from her home planet. She attempts to escape her family through a loveless marriage, but not even this can save her from their controlling influence. Her behaviour becomes erratic, even sadistic, and culminates in a bloody conclusion, involving her cousin, her husband and a return to the mountains.

Whilst I thought this was a steep departure from Convenience Store Woman, which I thoroughly enjoyed, this second novel in English confirms that Murata is a fantastically exciting writer and I can’t wait to read what she writes next.

Review by Phoebe

October 14, 2020

Smashing London cards in stock!

by Team Riverside
two Art Angels cards

We are delighted to have a bunch of lovely new Art Angels cards in store.  Some offer great views of London, and others focus on the natural world.  We particularly like these two local scenes.

Get them before they are gone!

October 13, 2020

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! ed. Fiona Walters and illustrations Britta Teckentrup

by Team Riverside

Hardback, Nosy Crow, £25, out now

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! book cover

This gorgeous anthology of animal poems for children has just arrived, and it is a complete joy.  There’s a poem for every day, varying from the funny to the serious, and the short to the reasonably epic.  There are poets here I recognise and many that I do not.  This book is ostensibly for children, but like the best children’s books is really for all humans.

For autumn, a spider poem by Bashō:

                            With what voice,

And what song would you sing, spider,

                            In this autumn breeze?

The Britta Teckentrup illustrations are vivid and engaging.  We at Riverside are massive fans of her work, especially the stunning Under the Same Sky (https://riversidebookshop.co.uk/2018/01/16/under-the-same-sky-by-britta-teckentrup/). 

This is a book to keep and share forever.  It’s big, and heavy, and perfect for curling up with on a chilly autumn evening.

Review by Bethan