Library Finds: First Love, by Gwendoline Riley

shaun dicks rileyFirst Love is a book written for the millennial. It tackles the modern day minefield that is love and life. It takes us through the story of Neve, a modern women who is struggling, all through her perspective. It is a very well-written book that is obviously carefully planned out. It keeps your attention and makes you want to find out how it ends up for Neve. The narrative itself leans to comedic relief in places. I highly recommend it. It’s resonates more than you think it can. This book is a must read for any millennial or millennial at heart.


Shaun Dicks is a first year Creative and Professional Writing student.


Review: Women and Power

Mary Beard’s Women and Power: A Manifesto brings a calm, logical voice to the argument of feminism and women in power. Far removed from angry chanting or bra-burning, it is not only a look at examples of women being treated as inferior in society and politics, but a look at why.

Using years of scholarly knowledge, Beard takes us on a walk through ancient Greece and Rome to show us female figures, real and mythological, and relates them back to our current situation. The book is split into two parts, “The Public Voice of Women” and “Women in Power.” It’s quite a wee book at about 115 pages, and its handy size ensures it can be slipped into a handbag or back pocket. Uninterrupted, you can blast through it in under two hours.

Women who have had anything mansplained to them or told they didn’t know what they were talking about (which is most women) will read passages with a nod or a loud “mmm-hmm”, and also have a feeling of kinship with the mistreated women that Beard tells us about. But the demographic who should really read this book are the men. It perfectly details the distress and uphill fight as a woman to not make a “grab” for power, but simply to be heard. It encourages empathy and change without being emotionally charged or irrational. At times, the voice can be slightly cold, but it is always factual.

The ending is somewhat underwhelming, but delightfully honest. In thinking about how to fix this rift, all Beard can do is shrug and say (paraphrasing) “hopefully we’ll figure it out.” Hopefully, we do.

Review by Stephanie Marquardt, a third year Creative and Professional Writing student.

Library Finds: White Teeth, by Zadie Smith

It’s a long book, for sure. Three generations, two families. One (multicultural) Britain.

This humorous book gives an amazing insight into what it’s like not to be middle-class, not to be white, not to have been born in this country. It is a book about the friendship between Samad and Archie, who bonded over a dangerous and not quite legal issue they plotted in the end of the second World War. It is also the story about Alsana and Clara, their wives, who also bond – over their marriage problems.

But maybe most of all, it is a story of twins who are so different that their father despairs about it. Samad becomes more and more obsessed with religion and the fact that his sons do not care about Allah as much as he does. He believes that growing up in Britain damages them. There is a decision to be made…

A book from the St Mary’s library collection, reviewed by Jane Kremer, first year English and Creative and Professional Writing student.

Library Finds: Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace

ellen willett infinite jestInfinite Jest is a collection of worldview-altering quotes. The plot tying it all together is the concept of an entertainment so addictive that its viewers will die of dehydration before turning it off. Across 1079 pages it traverses multiple genres such as hysterical realism, tragic comedy and postmodern satire. The plot follows the lives (mostly) of Hal Incandenza, a student at Enfield Tennis Academy, and Don Gately, a recovering drug addict at Ennet Recovery House. The novel explores addiction, withdrawal, recovery, family relationships, death, entertainment, linguistics and national identity. Set in the near future of dystopian America and spanning nine years, each subsidized by a specific corporate sponsor for tax revenue, Infinite Jest will teach you about consumerism, greed, social politics and the shallowness of pleasure. It moves you between characters and years so frequently you’ll give up on control, and in that is the magic reflection of daily life which Wallace aimed for; every scene demands to be read as an individual. Wallace’s language is effortlessly concise. Phrases such as ‘My chest bumps like a dryer with shoes in it’ are the real page-turners. Reading this novel feels like when you’re chasing something in a dream and you almost catch up to it but then you wake up, and that’s when the book ends. It’s irritating and inconclusive and I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a like a virus.

A book from the St Mary’s library collection, reviewed by Ellen Willett, third year Creative and Professional Writing student.

Library Finds: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, by Jeanette Winterson

I first checked out “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal” because I wanted to look at one of the books from the Voices in Contemporary Literature course and this one looked the most interesting.

Despite the title referencing when she moved out and her adoptive mother asking her the titular question “Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?” the book deals more so with Jeanette’s issues with the idea of being loved and wanted by those around her. This is shown particularly with the references to the fact her adoptive mother told her that “The Devil lead us to the wrong crib.” The idea of her being “The Wrong Crib.” Comes up often in the novel, whether it’s when she tried to behave “correctly” in the hopes of being acceptable and loved by the woman who adopted her, or later in life when talking about seeking her adoptive mother and being told she’d always been “wanted,” despite being given away for adoption.

Fittingly, as it is a book about her own life, “Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?” is not a set book where things go as they should in a ‘story’ the abusive adoptive mother is not entirely demonised as a monster and the book doesn’t end with a triumphant reunion with the birth mother making everything okay. Rather the book poses the question of nature vs nurture and how someone can love and be loved despite difficult circumstances.

I enjoyed this book and think that anyone else who enjoys learning about the lives of others also would enjoy it.

A book from the St Mary’s library collection, reviewed by Kirstin Richardson, first year English and Creative and Professional Writing student.

Library Finds: Never Let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro

One of those books that I would read again and again (if only my life as an undergraduate would permit it).

It’s extremely affecting. What is happening is not exactly revealed until halfway through the novel, but somehow this contributes to how poignant the story is. 

The characters are beautifully put on the page and their relationship is intricate and cleverly shown, their friendship and love, which at times turns to hate, is what drives the narrative forward and not so much the scientific theme behind it. This isn’t a very easy read, even though the prose is simple. Ishiguro makes us look into what makes us human with an extremely honest eye. 

Highly recommend it, but do keep the tissues nearby.

A book from the St Mary’s library collection, reviewed by Erica de Silva, second year English and Creative and Professional Writing student.

Library Finds: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

This is a book told from the voice of a boy who suffers from Asperger syndrome, and the insight we get into this character’s life is honest and heart-wrenching, without making you feel like the author is trying too hard. Christopher (the protagonist), finds his neighbour’s dog murdered and gets the urge to solve the mystery behind this death. Christopher’s condition makes his prose highly literal, and this sometimes makes him miss out the real truth behind certain situations. Despite making you quite emotional, this book also has  plenty of humour arising from Christopher’s naivety and his lack of embarrassment. All this gives us a new view of the world through Christopher’s honest and humorous voice.  Highly recommend it!

A book from the St Mary’s library collection, reviewed by Erica de Silva, second year English and Creative and Professional Writing student.

New Writing from Twickenham at The Exchange

Autumn 17Last night we had the latest in our rolling programme of undergraduate readings. This was a bit different, however. Rather than just sharing our work amongst ourselves, on campus or in the back room of a public house, we decided to thrust our students into the limelight in the first of what we hope will be the first of many public readings.

‘New Writing From Twickenham’ took place at The Exchange, and was programmed as part of the Richmond Literature Festival. It was something of a hybrid. The first half was given over to St Mary’s Creative and Professional Writing students, while the second was opened to the floor with open mic slots available for audience members. Each half was rounded off with a reading from the wonderful Eley Williams, who read two stories from her brilliant debut collection, Attrib.

The evening was a great success, with everyone reading to a packed cafe at The Exchange – the first time we’ve held one of our readings in this new cultural venue at the heart of Twickenham, and, again, I hope not the last.

It was marvellous to hear our students share their work, and for them to have such a great reception. So put your hands together for Shaun Dicks, Jane Kremer, Beth Fisher, Solomon Atkinson-Padmore, Martha Farrall-Hyder, Abi Silverthorne, Alex Mitchell, Amie Carden, Stephanie Marquardt, Ari Haines and Naima Young….

Eley Williams read two stories from Attrib., ‘Alight At The Next’, which you can read online here, and ‘Smote, or When I Find I Cannot Kiss You in Front of a Print by Bridget Riley’, which you can read online here. But really you should be buying a copy of the book itself, because it’s a corker.

Autumn 17 Eley Williams

Library Finds: The Shock of the Fall, by Nathan Filer

“5/5: Poignant, important and very realistic, this is another great 2017 read for me. The characters were so alive that I had to keep telling myself it’s a fictional novel and the story is so emotional at times it’s difficult, but the author’s ability to engage and captivate makes this an interesting read nonetheless. Only improvement would be to have more of it! (Especially the relationship between Matthew and his dad, I think.)”

So that was my goodreads review of The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer, but it’s not a great review, is it? The word “interesting” should be “outstanding”, the syntax and grammar isn’t at all perfect and, well, it’s just quite short really. However, despite all of that, the review matters because that’s how I felt the minute I finished this book. The story and the characters (and their billion emotions) were still raw and I just had to write about it. So, even though that review is far from flawless, I’m happy with it.

Nevertheless, I would like to add some more.

The Shock of the Fall features a boy named Matthew, and about his and his family’s lives, coping with his brother’s death. It is a raw story about someone dealing with grief but also their own mental health, which yes can be upsetting at times but due to his endless attempts to overcome each obstacle in his path, this read is both inspirational and astounding.

I would therefore recommend this read to anyone over the age of 16/18 (depending on the individual) as there are mentions of suicide attempts/ self-harm within the novel, but in my opinion it is definitely a novel worth reading.

A book from the St Mary’s library collection, reviewed by Beth Fisher, first year Creative and Professional Writing student.

Poem: That Damn Green Light

That Damn Green Light

by Beth Fisher

I’ve wrote this stupid poem too many times,

But love, pain and sorrow won’t fit into rhymes,

Syntax and iambic meter; I’m sorry it isn’t all neater,

You can’t fit with the times; it isn’t always so sublime,


But we do our best and that’s quite alright, right?


I drink tea at 03:25, with a passion in my heart struck alive,

And sometimes I wish I could shut it all down, if only just to survive,

I wish I could be a fighter, I will be, just let me be something lighter,

Sometimes you can’t jump and dive; you just have to escape the hive,


But you do your best and that’s quite alright, right?


I question heaven at 03:27, with a heart that’s hardly beaten,

And sometimes I wish I could shut it all down, if only just to cease the sounds,

I wish I could be so much lighter, I will be, just let me be something stronger,

Sometimes you can’t be the siren; making everyone else around you listen,


You do your best and that’s quite alright, so right-


Don’t dwell on the before at 03:34; focus on the future (that’ll last),

Let your worries be no more; left at the door, raise your flags and mast,

Go and let yourself explore; don’t hide away like the times before,

Everything will be okay, have hope and someday you will find the shore,


We’ll do our best and no one can ask for more than that.


Here we are, together and apart, in a world born of a different heart,

We shy away as we loathe to restart; we prefer to hide in the dark,

And sometimes you don’t quite fit the part, but would it really tear you apart-

Just to look up at the dying stars; how wonder and life can journey that far,


I’m doing my best and, no one can deny, that’s sure a start.


We’re in a world where blue is black and white is orange,

Where waters are darker than the blazing sky, things are deranged,

We’re surviving but none of us really know how or why,

I’m sorry that it doesn’t make much sense, but beauty is strange,


We’re doing our best and, no one can fault, we are as strong as rain.


I’m coming to the end of overthinking whilst before I was sinking,

Drowning in thoughts and screaming, but here I am blinking,

I am waking from a sleep I didn’t realise I was sleeping, seeping

Into my bones, I can feel an awakening; a new formation that’s linking,


Beautiful day, beautiful people, beautiful everything; I am floating.


To those who are lost and unknowing, stars are always born, then glowing,

Evolution is about change and knowing, that plays are deeper than showing,

And people are stranger than you could know; better if you stay for the show,

Life can be a boat against the hitting tide, and the secret is to keep on rowing,


We do our best and that’s quite alright; we find more highs than we do lows.

Beth Fisher is a First Year Creative and Professional Writing student.