Apr/May 2021

e c l e c t i c a   r e v i e w s  & 
i n t e r v i e w s

Reviews & Interviews

(These are excerpts—click on the title to view the whole piece!)

Ann Skea reviews...

by Belinda Lyons-Lee

Marie Tussaud really was rescued from the guillotine during the French Revolution and forced to make death masks and wax models of the guillotined heads of aristocrats, many of whom she knew, including Queen Marie Antoinette. She did move to London and exhibit her wax models in performances staged by the successful illusionist and pioneer of phantasmagoria, Paul Philidor.

Asylum Road
by Olivia Sudjic

Sudjic's prose is taut and precise. Her skill is to make us feel as Anya feels, and Anya, for all her psychological problems is a likable and sometimes wryly funny narrator. In a world in which refugees, exiles, and resettlement in a foreign culture are constantly in the news, experiencing some of this though Anya is a thought-provoking and moving experience.

A Net for Small Fishes
by Lucy Jago

A Net for Small Fishes is rich with detail and color, not only of the friendship between Anne and Frankie, but also of the lives of Anne's family and friends, and the poorer Londoners who are part of her world. Frankie's life at Court and the plots and intrigues flourishing there are vividly evoked, as is life in James's England at a time when Catholics (like the Howard family) worship in secret, Guy Fawkes and the Powder Plotters have recently tried to blow up parliament, and the Pendle Witch Trials are fresh in everyone's memories.

A Crooked Tree
by Una Mannion

We get to know Libby, her family and her friends well as she tells this story, and she is an interesting story-teller. Her love of the countryside, her awareness of the natural world around her, and especially her passion for trees, is as much part of her character as her love and concern for her brother and sisters. Her teenage half-awareness of the difficulties between her parents is evident, as is her love of her father, who had moved away from the family and who had died just a year before this story begins. "I don't know if I spent so much time with trees because I loved them or because of how much he loved me loving them."

The Imitator
by Rebecca Starford

My response to the book was, perhaps, more personal that a reviewer's should be, since I grew up in Pimlico (the area which Evelyn comes to know well) in the immediate post-war years. Bomb-sites were our childhood playgrounds: there were three in my street alone and many, many more in the streets all around us. Food scarcity, and the rationing of food, petrol, and clothes, was something that affected our lives daily, and rationing of clothes did not end until 11 years after the war was over.

by Mike Di Placido

After having a tense breakfast with Attila the Hun (toast and coffee and a smashed chair, in case you wondered), he sees Ghengis Khan, with his retinue, horses, ponies and women, ambling down the station platform of a new railway branch-line to Scarborough in his home County of Yorkshire.

Beneath the Night
by Stuart Clark

For most of us, living in night-lit towns and cities, this is something we may never experience. It was the way our ancient ancestors saw the night sky and, for them, this moving panoply of stars with its regularly repeating patterns of constellations was ever present, but we have little evidence of what they thought about it.

David Ewald interviews...

Caroline Kepnes (2014)
author of You

"The Way You Make Me Feel" was one of my first Eclectica stories; a teacher is obsessed with Michael Jackson. I think of it as a baseline place where I did a lot of stuff that excited me—pop culture references, alienation from modern social norms, the shadow of 9-11, twisted humor. And years later, "Owen" has a lot of that alienation, this woman leaves her husband because of a dream about Owen Wilson. She's frustrated that she can't get it together to enter a Glamour essay contest. And she has Facebook envy. There is thematic crossover with You.

Caroline Kepnes (2016)
author of Hidden Bodies

Oh, God, your professor... oh, God. Flannery O'Connor writes like Flannery O'Connor. That's my opinion. I just had a lunch with some authors where we all got worked up about this. Like, no. Writing is not a male activity. It is a human activity. That is why there are the million mugs with the Cheryl Strayed quote, "Write like a motherfucker." A motherfucker is a beast. That is the goal for anyone writing.

Janis Butler Holm interviews...

Jonathan Dorf
author of 4 A.M. and Declaration

At that point, I was editor of the school newspaper and had written short stories, essays, lots of poems (a few were published in obscure literary magazines), and songs. But it wasn't until the newspaper advisor, Tom Williams, suggested I write a play that, well, I wrote a play. A hippie who'd been at the original Woodstock and a fabulous poet in his own right (I still have a Japanese tea can featuring one of his award-winning haiku), Tom not only nudged me into it but dragooned a senior into directing my play, The Storm, in the school one-act festival.