Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera

I’ve been reading a lot of books on culture and racism recently. The thing that surprises me the most is how much I still don’t know; in every book I’ve learned something that feels like a slap in the face with a wet haddock: something you know you’ll experience one day, and that you won’t enjoy it.

Sanghera’s book takes a slightly different approach to the likes of Caste as it focuses on the Asian experience, and is similar to Natives as it takes a long, hard, painful look at the British Empire and its contribution to the divisions we see in society today.

It’s a broad-ranging piece of writing too, covering the author’s own experiences growing up, but focussing mainly on the hidden history of Britain’s time in India and China, and its treatment of the population.

Continue reading “Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera”

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

I was starting to worry I’d never read another book I loved as much as Silk. I was telling a good friend about it; they listened, they nodded, and after the Zoom call ended, a gift pinged on the iPad: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid.

In a surprisingly low word count, Exit West takes carries us on a stream of consciousness that begins in an unnamed city devastated by civil war, and continues around the world. It’s hard to lump this into any particular genre: definitely literary fiction, with a magical realism element that blends so perfectly that you hardly notice it’s there.

It’s one of the most beautifully crafted books I’ve ever come across; long, flowing poetic sentences that start in a character’s head then spill out into a world coming to terms with itself becoming much much smaller.

Weirdly though, there isn’t much dialogue; the writer relies on the dizzying prose to create the action, build the tension, explore the characters … and even without dialogue the richness of the characters is something I haven’t seen since … well … Silk.

A masterpiece of magical realism that’s well worth reading.

Vellum: a list of wants without the tantrum

I have a strange relationship with Vellum. It’s one of the most expensive apps I own (or rather license), and it’s the app that I probably use the least. And yet it’s one of the few apps I wouldn’t be without, because when I do get round to using it, it saves be a bucketload of time and churns out professional quality results without me pulling out what little hair I have.

So for the uninitiated, Vellum is sort of like a word-processor … though not really. You can load a file (.docx, .rtf) into it, or type your book straight in, and Vellum will churn out beautifully formatted ePubs for a handful of mobile platforms such as Apple Books, Amazon Kindle, along with PDFs that be dropped into CreateSpace or Ingram Spark.

Yes, I know that I can do the same thing in Word and Scrivener, but even Scrivener can’t deliver such a clean, well-dressed output without some fiddling afterwards. Vellum will space out your text to make sure all the pages are balanced without leaving those niggling single lines on a page before skipping off to the next chapter.

I’m not a believer in the one-stop-shop kind of an app, but Vellum is so easy to use and so well thought out, I find myself wondering what would it need so I could use it more.

So here’s is my list of wants for Vellum, based on nothing more than my own sense of entitlement (there’s a lot of it about after all).

Continue reading “Vellum: a list of wants without the tantrum”