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The Light in the Dark by Horatio Clare

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The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal

A Cloak of Contemplation

This may seem a perverse time to be reading The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal by Horatio Clare; however, I have my reasons. I first met the author and broadcaster in Munich. The Literaturhaus is a glorious place to meet like-minded artistic folk. Yet, it was a few days later in the beating heat of the German countryside that we talked openly and with that rare candour which seems only ever to emerge – fleetingly – in moments of stillness. Nantesbuch is a small stretch of wilderness, some few miles north of Penzberg. Clare puffed on a cigarette and described his journal as a process of reflection upon his seasonal depression. I countered that summer was in fact the most sobering time of the year for me. He smiled – lit a further cigarette – and that was the end of that.

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Bookstoker’s best books about art and artists

The Lonely City by Olivia Laing

The Lonely City

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Just Kids

The making of two artists

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Michelangelo up close and personal, the perfect travel companion for a trip to Italy

The Unfinished Palazzo – Life, Love and Art in Venice

Gloriously gossipy biography of one grand palazzo and three extraordinary women

The Hare With the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

The Hare With the Amber Eyes

An unforgettable family memoir

So Much Longing in So Little Space: The Art of Edvard Munch by Karl Ove Knausgaard

So Much Longing In So Little Space: The Art of Edvard Munch

A brilliant introduction to the non-canonical Munch

Indelicacy by Amina Cain

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Not lacking in delicacy

Although a short read, Indelicacy by Amina Cain is a delightful, thought provoking novella about socioeconomic amelioration, the complexities of marriage, and female agency. Following main character Vitória who, longing for the economic and temporal freedom to write, climbs (and falls down) the hierarchical ladder from gallery cleaner to kept wife to independent singleton. Indelicacy celebrates the arts and female friendship above the apparent ‘need’ for a woman to produce, commit to and maintain a marriage.

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Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford

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Light Perpetual

Stories of lives not lived

It’s London 1944 and a German bomb is about to hit a Woolworths shop where five young children are shopping with their mums. The first chapter of Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford describes, in harrowing detail, the moment of impact. What would have happened to those five kids if they hadn’t turned to ‘dust’? This is what Spufford want us to imagine in Light Perpetual, a gripping tribute to lives not lived.

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And All the Trumpets by Donald Smith

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And All the Trumpets

A Call to Resilience

I was born in Britain in the mid-nineties; as such, I am fortunate enough to know very little of war and her brutish seams. Instead, I see explosions on television and sleep safely in my bed with only the rumbling Northern Line to stir me. And All the Trumpets by Donald Smith is enlightening, troubling and overwhelmingly humbling. The autobiography recounts Smith’s years as a Japanese prisoner of war. It is a story of almost incomprehensible suffering; daily torture, rampant disease and total psychological discombobulation come to define Smith’s lived experience in a story too far-fetched for fiction.

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The Offing by Benjamin Myers

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The Offing

A treasure for quiet times

I first noticed The Offing by Benjamin Myers while on a day trip to Bath. It was eight days later when a copy fell through the letterbox of my north London flat; only, I hadn’t ordered it. It took a little investigation to identify the sender as my companion to the heritage city. Books have meaning beyond their contents; stories remind us of times in our lives and the people who have enlivened them. Myers’ The Offing tells the heart-warming story of sixteen-year- old Robert Appleyard and his unlikely friendship with a mysterious elderly lady. In this sense, it is a tale of companionship; and for me, the wonderful serendipity of correlation between the novel’s sentiment and the means by which it arrived on my shelf.

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