June 21, 2021

Assembly by Natasha Brown

by Team Riverside

Hamish Hamilton, Hardback, £12.99, out now

Assembly by Natasha Brown is more than deserving of the glowing reviews it has already received. It’s a slight volume, the plot unfolds over a series of fleeting but intense vignettes and each is crafted to perfection, not a single word is wasted. At times it feels reminiscent of prose poetry or maybe a sparse drama. The narrator is quiet and controlled but burns with quiet anger, acutely aware of the injustices that plague her. She is a black British woman who has found significant success in the corporate world but seemingly at significant psychological and physical cost to herself. She is often a vessel for other characters racist hang-ups, one colleague vents to her about his hatred of diversity initiatives, another calls her office phone to tell her her hair is ‘wild’ and her skin is ‘exotic’. She has a jovial posh boyfriend, who like her attended Oxford and the action unfolds as she anticipates attending his parents lavish anniversary party.

Recently a reviewer compared Assembly to Mrs. Dalloway, but I thought of Brandon Taylor whose novel Real Life has similarly exquisite prose and a protagonist who is out of place in their surroundings and also of The Great Gatsby, although while Natasha Brown’s protagonist is, like Nick Carraway, among the rich and powerful, she is not impressed. When I got to the last page I was sorry to finish Assembly I thoroughly recommend it.

Review by Phoebe

June 9, 2021

Current bestsellers

by Team Riverside

Our bestsellers from 31 May to 8 June:

The Vanishing Half

Brit Bennett – The Vanishing Half

Riku Onda – The Aosawa Murders

Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club

Matt Haig – The Midnight Library

Natasha Brown – Assembly

Sophie Mackintosh – Blue Ticket

Ali Smith – Summer

Bernardine Evaristo – Girl, Woman, Other

Rachel Joyce – Miss Benson’s Beetle

Sally Rooney – Conversations with Friends

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and the Sun

Cho Nam-Joo – Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

Naoise Dolan – Exciting Times

Clare Chambers – Small Pleasures

Benjamin Labatut – When We Cease to Understand the World

David Diop – At Night All Blood is Black

Caroline Criado Perez – Invisible Women

Nick Bradley – The Cat and the City

Alice Haworth-Booth – Brick Lane Bookshop Short Story Prize 2020

Judith Kerr – Mog the Forgetful Cat

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June 7, 2021

What Happened to You? by James Catchpole and Karen George

by Team Riverside
What Happened to You?

Paperback, Faber and Faber, £6.99, out now

Joe is having a great time at the playground on his own, battling sharks and crocodiles.  But a new kid comes along and says what new kids always say – “You’ve only got one leg!” and “What happened to you?”.

Joe is super fed up of always getting these questions, and as more kids turn up, more questions (and questionable theories) abound.  But soon the kids discover that there is more interesting stuff they can be doing with Joe… and it involves battling sharks and crocodiles.

This fun and sensitive book provides a great way in to talking about disability with kids, and also has very helpful notes for adults on how to do this when “your child wants to know everything about every disabled person they see, all at once, at TOP VOLUME…”.  Some really good advice follows – “…it’s still worth your child knowing that disabled people are just like anyone else, getting on with their busy day, not looking to be a teachable moment”.  It reminded me of the very excellent blogs by Gem Turner on exactly this topic (https://gemturner.com/explaining-disability-to-children/).

What Happened to You? is a fun and enjoyable read, with lively and cheerful illustrations.  Cracking!

Review by Bethan

May 31, 2021

Current bestsellers

by Team Riverside
The Vanishing Half

Our bestsellers from 24 to 30 May:

Brit Bennett – The Vanishing Half

Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club

Nick Bradley – The Cat and the City

Julia Donaldson and Sharon King-Chai – Animalphabet

Anna Jones – One: Pot, Pan, Planet

Rob Biddulph – Show and Tell

Emily M Danforth – Plain Bad Heroines

Ece Temelkuran – Together

Virginia Woolf – Mrs Dalloway

Raynor Winn – The Wild Silence

Anthony Burgess – A Clockwork Orange

Siobhan Dowd – The London Eye Mystery

Andrew Sean Greer – Less

Jackie Kay – Bessie Smith

Seth Rogen – Yearbook

Nora Ephron – I Feel Bad About My Neck

Diane Cook – The New Wilderness

Audre Lorde – Your Silence Will Not Protect You

Jon Klassen – I Want My Hat Back

Madeline Miller – Circe

May 30, 2021

Lost in the Clouds by Tom Tinn-Disbury

by Team Riverside
Lost in the Clouds

Paperback, DK, £6.99, out now

Lost in the Clouds is a sensitive and useful picture book for young children about bereavement and grief.

Billy knows that his mum has died, and he likes to think of her as a cloud in the sky.  Sometimes Billy’s days with his dad are good, when they can have fun and still feel close to Mummy.  But sometimes the sky is dark and stormy and Mummy feels too distant, and Daddy feels distant too.  On a day just like this, Billy builds a tower to the sky to try to be closer to Mummy.

Warm and evocative illustrations show how grief can feel, and also demonstrate that joy and fun can still happen even amid great loss.

Although the story is from Billy’s perspective, his dad’s difficulties and kindnesses are manifest too.  “Daddy wasn’t quite the same on these days.  He would be quieter and his eyes would always be looking far away, as if he was trying to find Mummy in the distance somewhere”.

There are handy notes and further resources in the back of the book on helping children deal with grief.  For older children and adults, I always recommend Michael Rosen’s classic The Sad Book (https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/08/25/michael-rosens-sad-book-quentin-blake).   There is a very sympathetic cat who pops up throughout Lost in the Clouds, and is especially fine on the back cover, putting a paw out to test the weather for Billy and his dad.

Review by Bethan

May 30, 2021

Bank holiday opening hours

by Team Riverside

We will be open on bank holiday Monday 31 May from 11am to 5pm.

May 25, 2021

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M Danforth

by Team Riverside

Hardback, Borough Press, £14.99, out now

This is the most enjoyable book I have read for ages.  It is a huge slab of gothic horror written with dash and spiky humour.  Danforth’s own website describes the book like this, and it’s not wrong: “Picnic at Hanging Rock + The Blair Witch Project x lesbians = Plain Bad Heroines” (https://www.emilymdanforth.com/pbh).

In 1902, at the exclusive Brookhants School for Girls in Rhode Island, two girls are gruesomely stung to death by wasps.  More deaths (inevitably) follow.  Is this related to a book that some of the girls have become obsessed with, in which Mary MacLane sets out her desire to live life to the full?

In parallel, we follow the present-day story of three women involved in making a Hollywood film about the happenings at Brookhants.

The opening pages show you immediately what’s in store.  There is a map which includes the Tricky Thicket and Spite Manor.  Part One is called I Await the Devil’s Coming.  There are unexpected footnotes and biting commentary from an unidentified narrator.  Cousin Charles, who chases one of the girls into the wood where she gets stung to death, is unpopular with the narrator: “Maybe some of the girls had, in fact, later said that he looked rakish and fine, but for now let’s discount their certainly incorrect opinions”.

Anyone who spent their early teens reading hugely long hardback horror novels as I did (I’m looking at you, special edition of The Stand) may well get a nostalgic feeling while reading this epic.  There are pleasing horror references for fans throughout, but they don’t detract from the unique atmosphere Danforth creates.

Plain Bad Heroines is pure escapism from page one.  A strong array of memorable LGBTQ women rampage throughout. Excellent.

Review by Bethan

May 24, 2021

Current bestsellers

by Team Riverside
Francesca Wade Square Haunting

Bestsellers from 17 to 23 May…

Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club

Matt Haig – The Midnight Library

Brit Bennett – The Vanishing Half

Francesca Wade – Square Haunting

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and the Sun

Rutger Bregman – Humankind

Maggie O’Farrell – Hamnet

Clare Chambers – Small Pleasures

Nick Bradley – The Cat and the City

K L Kettle – The Boy I Am

Monique Roffey – The Mermaid of Black Conch

Riku Onda – The Aosawa Murders

Hilary Mantel – The Mirror and the Light

Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, Cass R Sunstein – Noise

David Baddiel – Jews Don’t Count

Deborah Levy – Real Estate

The Puffin Book of Funny Stories

John le Carré – Agent Running in the Field

Cressida Cowell – How to Train Your Dragon

Jhumpa Lahiri – Unaccustomed Earth

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May 16, 2021

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

by Team Riverside

Serpents Tail, Hardback, £14.99 out now

Detransition, Baby the first full-length novel from Torrey Peters is a chaotic and heartfelt whirlwind that asks what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a mother. Katrina, a recent divorcee has discovered she is pregnant, her boyfriend and employee, Ames, formerly Amy, hasn’t told her about his past where he lived as a transgender woman but wants to involve his ex-girlfriend Reese, also a transgender woman, in the mothering of their unborn child. Their lives become intertwined in a kind of queer soap opera, can Reese and Ames resolve their past? Can Katrina co-parent with Ames and Reese? Will Reese get to be mother like she has always wanted?

The novel is rigorously plotted, Reese and Amy’s past relationship is seamlessly interspersed with Katrina and Ames relationship in the present, Reese’s history also forms part of the narrative. Torrey Peters demonstrates enormous narrative skill, her digressions on subjects that range from juvenile elephants to Reese’s large cast of friends never feel tangential to the story. The novel feels epic and complex and funny, like a sort of queer Tristram Shandy, and I thoroughly enjoyed every page.

Review by Phoebe

May 15, 2021

Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

by Team Riverside
Notes on Grief

Hardback, 4th Estate, £10, out now

“I finally understand why people get tattoos of those they have lost. The need to proclaim not merely the loss but the love, the continuity. I am my father’s daughter. It is an act of resistance and refusal: grief telling you it is over and your heart saying it is not; grief trying to shrink your love to the past and your heart saying it is present”.

Adichie’s much-loved father died in June 2020, and this tender and anguished short book contains her reflections on her grief. Best known for her modern classic novels, including Half of a Yellow Sun, and essays including We Should All Be Feminists, this is written in her usual fluid style despite the pain it conveys.

The pandemic complicates everything. Family members are on different continents and flights are cancelled. Arrangements have to be made on Zoom, where weeks before routine family chats including her father had been filled with laughter and everyday chat.

It is about loss, but it is also about the deep love she has for her father. Many people have been hit with unexpected and devastating bereavement over the last year. This relatable and timely book might end up being a life raft for some.

Review by Bethan

May 12, 2021

Current bestsellers!

by Team Riverside
Richard Osman The Thursday Murder Club

Bestsellers from 4 May to today…

Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club

Maggie O’Farrell – Hamnet

Matt Haig – The Midnight Library

Riku Onda – The Aosawa Murders

Zadie Smith, Nick Laird, Magenta Fox – Weirdo

Emma Dabiri – What White People Can Do Next

Naoise Dolan – Exciting Times

Douglas Stuart – Shuggie Bain

Bernardine Evaristo – Girl, Woman, Other

Emily St John Mandel – The Glass Hotel

Olivia Laing – Funny Weather

Eric Vuillard – The War of the Poor

Tim Marshall – The Power of Geography

Rebecca Tamás – Strangers

Emily M Danforth – Plain Bad Heroines

David Omand – How Spies Think

Jonas Jonasson – Sweet Sweet Revenge

David Walliams – The Beast of Buckingham Palace

Sathnam Sanghera – Empireland

Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris – The Lost Spells

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May 5, 2021

This is Your Time by Ruby Bridges

by Team Riverside
Ruby Bridges This is Your Time

Paperback, One (Pushkin Press), £8.99, out now              

This is Your Time is a stunning new book by Ruby Bridges, who as a six-year-old in 1960 was the first black child to attend an all-white primary school in New Orleans.

The book is small in size but huge in meaning.  Bridges talks about the hate she faced outside her school gates every day from white adults who wanted to keep segregation.  There is a black and white photograph on every other page, including some truly shocking images.  A tiny Ruby is escorted into school by four federal marshals; racist protesters hold up a black doll in a coffin; and images of police targeting civil rights demonstrators in 1963 and 2020.

But there are also hope and joy, friendship and solidarity, and great faith in young people.  Bridges writes to young readers: “I am so inspired by you and by everyone out there making change happen.  I know, and you must remember… what can inspire tomorrow often lies in our past”.  She knows this because of her lifetime of work telling young people her story.

The cover is a detail from Norman Rockwell’s painting The Problem We All Live with, which I had never seen, and which is extraordinary (https://www.kennedy-center.org/education/resources-for-educators/classroom-resources/media-and-interactives/media/visual-arts/norman-rockwell–the-problem-we-all-live-with/).

Ruby Bridges’ message of courage and friendship is essential for all people.  A gift to the future from one whose courage helped shape the best of the present.

Review by Bethan

April 29, 2021

Bank Holiday Monday 3rd May

by Team Riverside

This Bank Holiday Weekend we will be opening the following hours:

Saturday 1st May – 10am- 6pm

Sunday 2nd May – 11am – 5pm

Monday 3rd May – 11am – 5pm

April 24, 2021

The Rock from the Sky by Jon Klassen

by Team Riverside
The Rock from the Sky

Hardback, Walker Books, £12.99, out now

This excellent picture book has possibly my top back cover text ever: “There is a spot.  It is the perfect spot to stand.  But somewhere above there is also a rock.  A rock from the sky”.

The Rock from the Sky is new from Jon Klassen, author of Riverside all-time-favourite the Hat Trilogy (https://riversidebookshop.co.uk/2016/11/30/we-found-a-hat-by-jon-klassen/). There really is a rock from the sky with dramatic consequences (Chekhov’s rock, perhaps).  Some characters will be familiar… I think this is one of the turtles from We Found a Hat.  Although it may be a different turtle in a similar hat.  It is hard to say.

There are shades of Wes Anderson in the title cards for each section.  It is also stuffed with very quotable lines.  The turtle picks a spot to stand in. “What do you think of my spot?” “Actually I have a bad feeling about it”.    “A bad feeling?”.  “Yes”.

Funny, relatable, memorable.  I love it.

Review by Bethan

April 20, 2021

Weirdo by Zadie Smith and Nick Laird

by Team Riverside
Weirdo book cover

Hardback, Penguin, £12.99, out now

Maud the guinea pig loves judo.  She’s only just arrived at Kit’s house, as a surprise birthday present.  But Kit’s other pets aren’t impressed – they’ve got a schedule to stick to and it doesn’t include her.  One of them calls her a weirdo … but what is a weirdo, and is she one?

Luckily Maud happens upon the very cheerful Emily Brookstein, who tells her that “life’s too short not to be a weirdo”.

This excellent picture book has wonderful illustrations, colourful and joyous, by Magenta Fox.   Zadie Smith is best known as a ground-breaking novelist and essayist (her book of essays, Intimations, has been one of our bestsellers of the last year).  Nick Laird is a novelist and poet, also usually writing for adults.

A kind and ultimately happy book about embracing your differences and life being much more interesting for everyone as a result.  Just lovely.

Review by Bethan

April 19, 2021

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

by Team Riverside

Daunt Books, Paperback, £9.99 out now

Real Life, the debut, Booker Prize shortlisted novel from American writer Brandon Taylor is a triumph. Real Life is a campus novel which follows Wallace, a gay black protagonist as he navigates the academic institution, a burgeoning romance and the fallout of childhood trauma. The novel takes place in a Midwestern university where Wallace is often singled out. Taylor’s depiction of racism on campus is uncompromising, a dinner party scene, in particular, reaches a striking and uncomfortable crescendo.

While reading this novel I was struck, not just by the story, by Taylor’s immense technical skill. Taylor’s prose is unparalleled, spare and focused, yet at times dreamlike, reminiscent of Virginia Woolf or Henry James. A section where the book moves, cinematically, from the protagonists present to his childhood in Alabama, took my breath away. I highly recommend this book to fans of James Baldwin and Donna Tartt, and I will be eagerly awaiting Brandon Taylor’s collection of short stories, published in June.

Review by Phoebe

April 13, 2021

New signed copies!

by Team Riverside
Weirdo by Zadie Smith and Nick Laird

Visit us in London Bridge for new signed copies:

Kazuo Ishiguro – Klara and the Sun

Yaa Gyasi – Transcendent Kingdom

Zadie Smith and Nick Laird – Weirdo

Megan Nolan – Acts of Desperation

Dolly Alderton – Ghosts

Prue Leith and Peta Leith – Vegetarian Kitchen

James Rebanks – English Pastoral

Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris – The Lost Words

April 12, 2021

We are open!

by Team Riverside

We are delighted to be open again, and we are looking forward to helping folks find books, cards and Moleskines here in London Bridge.

We have slightly revised opening hours for now:

Monday to Friday – 10am to 5pm

Saturday – 10am to 6pm

Sunday – 11am to 5pm

Please bear with us if we need to adjust these at short notice as we go forward. If you’re planning a special trip to London Bridge to see us, ring first.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us while we have been closed by sending lovely messages and buying from our storefront on bookshop.org. It has helped us stay cheerful and we hope to see you all in person soon.

April 1, 2021

Riverside reopening 12 April…

by Team Riverside

… and we look forward to seeing you all then.

Please check back here for news of revised opening times, as we may operate slightly shorter hours for a while.

With best wishes to all of our customers –

Team Riverside

January 6, 2021

Riverside closed for lockdown

by Team Riverside

We will be closed until the end of lockdown, and we will not be able to do ‘click and collect’.

Many thanks to all those who have sent good wishes. If you’d like to support us while we are closed, please consider buying books through our page on Bookshop.org – https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/theriversidebookshop. We get a percentage of the sale price, and your books are delivered direct to you.

We wish all of you the very best, and look forward to seeing you again when we are able to re-open.

December 21, 2020

Click and collect/pre-order collection

by Team Riverside

We will be open for call/email and collect Tuesday 22 and Wednesday 23 December between 11am and 3pm.

If you have already ordered and paid for your items, you can turn up and collect at the door during these times.

If you want to buy items in stock in the shop you will need to call or email to check availability, then pay for them over the phone. You will then be able to collect them at the door during the times listed above. Please be patient if you have to wait at the door – we will get to you but you may have to wait while we finish dealing with another customer on the phone.

Thanks to everyone for your patience and kindness during this time. We have been so grateful for the good wishes and thoughts of our customers throughout this most difficult year. It’s helped us more than we can say.

Team Riverside

December 20, 2020

Closed for today, Sunday 20 December

by Team Riverside

Dear friends


thank you for your patience while we are closed today.  The announcement of new restrictions in London means that we are not allowed to open to the public.  We hope to provide an opportunity at least for customers to pick up orders during this week, and will post details here and on Instagram later, so please check back.


In the meantime, if you would like to check in about the status of an order you have made with us, or have any other queries, please do contact us on info@riversidebookshop.co.uk.


We wish every one of you all the best, and hope you stay as safe as you can. 

Team Riverside

December 15, 2020

Open through till Christmas eve

by Team Riverside

We will be open through till Christmas eve for all your gifty needs!

Opening times:

Wednesday 16 December – 10am to 5pm

Thursday 17 December – 10am to 5pm

Friday 18 December – 10am to 5pm

Saturday 19 December – 10am to 6pm

Sunday 20 December – 11am to 5pm

Monday 21 December – 10am to 5pm

Tuesday 22 December – 10am to 5pm

Wednesday 23 December – 10am to 5pm

Thursday 24 December – 10am to 3pm (closing time to be confirmed)

Friday 25 December to Monday 28 December – CLOSED

Happy Christmas to all our customers.

December 7, 2020

The Stubborn Light of Things: a Nature Diary by Melissa Harrison

by Team Riverside

Hardback, Faber and Faber, £14.99, out now

cover of The Stubborn Light of Things

A kingfisher sat on a riverside branch, so close that I could see blackblue feathers in the early morning light.  I was in a London park, near where I live, last weekend.  I was alone, with no special equipment or expertise, but I was paying attention to the river.  The kingfisher hunched, and tidied itself up, and after a few minutes flew off when a runner came along.

If you have found yourself noticing nature more during this year, this book of essays by Melissa Harrison is for you.  Compiled from her columns in the Times, in the early pieces Harrison is living in South London and gives great descriptions of the nature and wildlife of Tooting Bec Common.  Who knew you could see a hobby flying over Lambeth?  “There are pockets of South London that seem utterly rural: paths edged with cow parsley and dog roses and overhung by oaks through which the sunlight filters down, green-dappled and shifting” (p. 44).

Half way through the book, Harrison relocates to rural Suffolk, and a different kind of natural life.  “There are baby rabbits everywhere right now, and sitting in my oak I watched an alert doe shepherd four kits out from the warren by the path to feed…  The evening sun picks them out as they play, gold-edged and painterly: humble but quite lovely in the low, warm light” (p. 174).  One of the things I love about The Stubborn Light of Things is that Harrison doesn’t say that it is easier or better to be a nature watcher in one place or the other.  Her curious gaze finds things to wonder at in both places, a reminder that we only ever need to start where we are.

As readers of her gripping novels At Hawthorn Time and All Among the Barley will know, she is not afraid of addressing difficult things, and here she references the climate emergency and local campaigns to protect wildlife (for a review of one of her novels, see https://riversidebookshop.co.uk/2015/05/24/at-hawthorn-time-melissa-harrison/).

After reading this, I found similar ideas in On Looking by Alexandra Horowitz (which I am half way through).  Horowitz walks round her Manhattan city block with several different people who are expert at different things, and finds out how little we notice in the normal run of things (one of the people is expert at being a toddler and another is expert at being a dog – see https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/08/12/on-looking-eleven-walks-with-expert-eyes/). 

Harrison’s popular lockdown podcast encouraged us to pay attention, and this book helps us do just that.  Joanna Lisowiec’s exquisite illustrations and gorgeous cover art elevate a good read into a beautiful item.

Review by Bethan

December 2, 2020

We are open!

by Team Riverside
shop window with decorations

We are so pleased to be open again!

Weekdays – 10am to 5pm

Saturday 10am to 6pm

Sunday 11am to 5pm

November 3, 2020

An update from us 03/11/2020

by Team Riverside

Dear loyal customers of Riverside Bookshop,

unfortunately, in line with government guidelines, we will be closed from Thursday the 5th of November until further notice. If you wish to order from us in the meantime we can be found via our profile on bookshop.org here: https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/theriversidebookshop

Thank you for your continued support during this difficult time and we hope to be back with you soon!

Love from,

The Team at Riverside Bookshop

November 2, 2020

Snow by John Banville

by Team Riverside

Hardback, Faber and Faber, £14.99, out now

cover of Snow by John Banville

Snow is an engrossing noirish mystery from the author of Blue Guitar and The Untouchable.  It’s 1957 in County Wexford, and a priest is found dead and castrated in a snowbound country manor.  Inspector Strafford, called to investigate, suspects a cover up may be in progress.  He’s a Protestant from the upper classes of society, and class and religion affect everything that happens in this story.  He is an appropriately lonely outsider, driven to get to the truth and wondering what he will do with it when he finds it.

Banville usually writes crime or mystery novels under the pseudonym Benjamin Black, including the superb Quirke mystery series.  Snow is a must read for Quirke fans as some of those characters appear here. The sharp wit we expect from Banville/Black is evident here.  “It had snowed continuously for two days, and this morning everything appeared to stand in hushed amazement before the spectacle of such expanses of unbroken whiteness on all sides.  People said it was unheard of, that they had never known weather like it, that it was the worst winter in living memory.  But they said that every year when it snowed, and also in years when it didn’t snow.” (p. 3)

There are several knowing nods to other crime fiction – Snow opens with a body in a library, for starters.  But while it’s a proper mystery, this is not cosy crime.  There is corruption, and hypocrisy, and Banville skewers these where he finds them.  He is not afraid of tackling difficult themes.  Isolation is not picturesque here, but it can be witty: “He had seen a robin yesterday, too, somewhere.  It was the time of year for them.  Christmas.  Yule logs.  Holly wreaths.  Loneliness.” (p. 172).

Get this for a mystery-loving friend for Christmas, and read it sneakily yourself before wrapping it.  Enjoy the atmospheric twilit cover while you’re at it.

Review by Bethan

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