Month: December 2016

Ira Aldridge (1807-1867)

Forgotten for so long, Ira Aldridge has in recent years become literally the poster boy for all things Shakespearean. He was the first known black Shakespearean actor and made his fortune on the stage, though he wasn’t always welcome in his adopted country. Born in New York in 1807 to a free black family, Aldridge received a classical education at the African Free School … Read More Ira Aldridge (1807-1867)

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Swing Time is the latest Zadie Smith novel, published in November to great fanfare. I reviewed NW a few weeks ago, following its TV adaptation and liked it without being blown away. Reviews of Swing Time have been more positive overall and so I came to this hoping to find what I had wanted from NW. This is the story of two mixed race … Read More Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Dark Lies the Island by Kevin Barry

Dark Lies the Island is a collection of Kevin Barry’s short stories, several of which previously appeared individually in publications such as the New Yorker (‘Fjord of Killary’) or won awards (‘Beer Trip to Llandudno’ won the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award in 2012). Barry’s great talent is his use of language, never trying to test the reader’s vocabulary for the … Read More Dark Lies the Island by Kevin Barry

Sir Learie Constantine (1901-1971) – The UK’s First Black Peer

  At 101 Lexham Gardens, Earls Court, London, you will find an English Heritage blue plaque dedicate to Sir Learie Constantine. He only lived there for five years but this is where he wrote the book Colour Bar (1954). In the UK we like to be smug and compare ourselves favourably to the US when it comes to racial history and institutionalised racism. We … Read More Sir Learie Constantine (1901-1971) – The UK’s First Black Peer

The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard

I love going to the library and finding new books (to me) that I’ve missed along the way. I also enjoy a series every now and again,  so was drawn to Howard’s Cazalet Chronicles, following the  Cazalet family through from pre-World War II and into the 1950s. Published in 1990, The Light Years is the first in this series of books and takes place in 1937 and … Read More The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard

The Man With his Eyes Sewn Shut – Part Four

‘Where the hell is that man?’ Sam was pacing backstage, missing his Iago. Everyone else kept well out of his way, preparing themselves for the curtain to rise. ‘Ned!’ Ned lifted his head from his script which he was furiously studying. This could be it, the opportunity he had been waiting for, but there was a tricky song in the middle of the play, … Read More The Man With his Eyes Sewn Shut – Part Four

My Top Ten Books Read in 2016

The year isn’t quite over but I thought it time to look over what I’ve read this year. Below are my ten favourites, mainly books that were published this year or last, with one that is a bit older. 10. Negroland- Margo Jefferson A memoir by Pulitzer Prize winning book and theatre critic Margo Jefferson, this book casts a spotlight on the black American … Read More My Top Ten Books Read in 2016

Nights at the Circus – Angela Carter

I love Angela Carter’s writing (Wise Children is one of my all time favourite novels) and so I don’t why it took me so long to get around to Nights at the Circus. Reading Carter is like being drunk on language – she uses English unlike anyone I’ve ever read – and this novel lived up to my expectations on that front. Set at … Read More Nights at the Circus – Angela Carter

The Man with His Eyes Sewn Shut – Part Three

Click here to start this story at the beginning. Rehearsals for Othello began in earnest. In typical style, the company only had a week before opening. Nora darted around the stage between scenes, taking her measurements for the costumes that she would have to create, though mostly she only adjusted older outfits that would stand a new use. Her two young apprentices followed her … Read More The Man with His Eyes Sewn Shut – Part Three

The Optician of Lampedusa by Emma Jane Kirby

This has to be one of the most important books of this year. I bought this book on a whim last month when Waterstones were donating £5 from each sale of this book to Oxfam (raising over £55k in the process), but this is an incredible book for its subject matter which is a rescue mission off the coast of the island of Lampedusa. … Read More The Optician of Lampedusa by Emma Jane Kirby

Una Marson (1905-1965)

Una Marson was the first black woman to be employed by the BBC, in March 1941. She was Jamaican but much of her adult life was divided between her native country and Britain. Her accomplishments would be heralded as inspirational today, let alone in her own time, and it is a shame that she is not better known. Born in Jamaica, the daughter of … Read More Una Marson (1905-1965)

The Man with His Eyes Sewn Shut – Part Two

Click to start at the beginning. Best laid plans, it is said, often go awry, but Ned had no knowledge of this saying. He woke fresh from his earlier than usual departure from the tavern, and was in good humour as he conducted his ablutions. Sean had walked Nora home before taking up his pitch along the road from the Olympia theatre, and Ned … Read More The Man with His Eyes Sewn Shut – Part Two