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The Wartime Book Club by Kate Thompson #Review

  The Wartime Book Club is a marvellous historical novel set on Jersey in World War Two. Written by Kate Thompson , it was published by Hodder $ Stoughton on February 13th. Jersey, 1943. Once a warm and neighbourly community, now German soldiers patrol the cobbled streets, imposing a harsh rule on the people of the island. Grace La Mottée, the island's only librarian, is ordered to destroy books which threaten the new regime. Instead, she hides the stories away in secret. Along with her headstrong best friend, postwoman Bea Rose, she wants to fight back. So she forms the wartime book club: a lifeline, offering fearful islanders the joy and escapism of reading. But as the occupation drags on, the women's quiet acts of bravery become more perilous - and more important - than ever before. And, when tensions turn to violence, they are forced to face the true, terrible cost of resistance . . . Based on astonishing real events, The Wartime Book Club is a love letter

Meet the Poet: Oisin Breen

 Today I am delighted to welcome poet and writer, Oisin Breen to Books, Life and Everything to talk about his writing life and his debut poetry collection:

Welcome to Books, Life and Everything, Oisin!  Would you like to start by telling us a little about yourself and how you started as a writer? 

Whoosh, right, well… I work as a financial journalist covering the US registered investment advice sector professionally, and I’m also involved in a PhD project researching the way in which the complex systems paradigm functions as a means for analysing narrative structure; beyond that, of course, I’m a writer, and my debut collection was published a month ago. 

    In terms of myself more broadly, I’m somewhat of an extrovert, and definitely have a tonne of odd stories in the cupboard, so to speak; I’m wry, I love to debate and talk things through till infinity, and I very much loathe piety or the idea of sacred cows in terms of what can be discussed. Politically, I’m probably best described as a left leaning pragmatic moderate, which essentially means I don’t care what the solution is as long as it works. 

    On writing, well I started writing as I assume 99% do, as a teenager, and it was a boon that girls liked poetry, for (again I assume this is true for most writers) pre-sixteen-year-old-me was about as popular with the ladyfolk as a collection of preserved insects, but thereafter as we all develop a penchant for writing, for thinking, talking, drama well… that story tells itself. So yes, I wrote and wrote and wrote, never stopped. 

    Beyond that, it’s a fairly conventional tale in many ways, lots of novels in a cupboard, poems a plenty, and just stuck to it until it started to work. Even travelled around Europe and the Middle East for just under two years with a pile of a3 sheets stuck together with tape as a ‘map’ of a novel I was writing. In brief: began (16-21) and was pretty good for my age I think; started experimenting heavily in writing (21-28ish) so it’s hugely patchy, some great lines, and some appalling ones; then began to combine craft with play and it’s developed into my own voice. 
When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?

Well I don’t think we really have that many ‘writers’ nowadays, as it’s a bit of a locked-up game, and mostly one based on connections. The type of world we live in now also makes being a full-time writer – as in novelist/poet – more or less impossible without a huge slice of luck. But I always knew I was suited to write, but assumed, as I have done, it would have to be done in tandem with jobs like teaching/writing journalism or copy, which is the case with myself. But again, fairly typical.

 If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

Teach, or perhaps go into financial services. Preferably teach at a university.

What are you interests apart from writing?

Books, people, chaos, laughter, art-house cinema, theatre, opera, all that lark. 

 What is your favorite childhood book?

Lord of the Rings, I’d guess

Where were you when you heard your first book was going to be published? How did you celebrate?

The pub, and with a pint. 

 Tell us three surprising things about yourself.

 I lived in a cave in Spain, my favourite pub is opposite where Saul fell from his horse to become Paul, and I don’t like Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

   Tell us about your latest book without giving the plot away.

It’s a selection of three long-form pieces of poetry with a high stylistic approach, however it is nevertheless hugely dense, and full of meat for anyone who wishes to find it. It is written deliberately in two ways, one to be read at pace (you can check out videos, which I’ll happily share); and one slowly, but in both instances the idea is that it washes over you, and leaves you with a whole “sense”. It concerns meaning, memory, identity, vice, guilt, shame, love, and wonder. You’ll find bar-room drunks, eulogizing laughter, genuine sorrow, compassion, history, religion, basically everything in a rip-roaring collision of words. Moreover, it works as well with a crowd who never read, when performed, as with those who obsess. That said, a very particular kind of old-guard who seem to have been transplanted from 1860 -- albeit with a postmodern twist in that they think poems about coca-cola/lucozade are a lark -- those who advocate nothing but the sonnet, well they won’t like the work. 

   How did you plan to spend publication day?

I drank plenty of whiskey.

    What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

At home & in coffee shops and bars, like most do. The routines well I write for work so I don’t always have creative time, but at least once a week, if not twice, a few hours, but then when the moment is ready and the work is ready, I’ll just write for a few days in a row, get it done, ignore it, come back to it weeks later and edit it.

    How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic? 

Same as we all do, libraries & Google. 

Were there any parts you had to edit out of your book which you still hanker after?

Always are.

Are there any secret references hidden in your books?

Millions. No one has yet found the finger-print part that is actually quite integral to the first section… There’s tonnes. Though I’m attached to a hidden shopping trolley in the River Liffey in the second poem of the book. One or two have spotted it.

    Do you have any guilty pleasures which stop/ help you write? 

Reading, and the odd-spot of sci-fi TV. 

    Does writing energize or exhaust you?


    Do you or have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym?

Nope, nor would I.

    Do you have any other writers as friends and how do they influence your writing?

Yep, and not very much, though they’re helpful when you’re down to the final editing and looking at a couple of words you’re uncertain of.

    If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Stop trying to make so many damn political points, just let the words be what they are. 

    Do you believe in writer’s block? What do you do to break its spell? 

Nope. And just write more.

Can you give any hints about any upcoming books you have planned? 

Hmmm… there’s definitely a few novels I’ll get around to, lots that while two soaked in the juvenelia aspect to cohere as they are, definitely still have legs. In terms of the next book, however, it will again be poetry, similar in form, but on different themes. One, perhaps two are already written, the third is waiting to come, though it’s coming together. The first of the set, I can definitely talk about, and it’s based on the fact that my oldest friend lost his mother relatively recently, and he was impressive in how he dealt with it, inspiring actually how he genuinely did find joy in letting her go in the best way possible, however when the curtain fell, damned if he didn’t cleave in two, and it was horrible and sad, but also one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life, and I’d wager I’ve seen a lot of beauty. So the poem itself combines this moment, a retelling of the myth of Etain, the life of the mother as girl in her mid-twenties, a changing of myth to allow one of the minor characters to become capable of leaving himself separated in time as an observer, a passionate kiss scene, and a recollection of love… The fun part of all this, beyond its meaning, density, and style, is that it is deliberately written so that absolutely every single character or voice within the poem can be the narrator, but there is only one narrator. A bit of an experiment that, but I actually think it works rather well. 

Thanks for stopping by, Oisin and good luck with the writing!


You can follow Oisin here:   Website    |   Twitter 

You can also watch the book launch of his poetry collection and listen to a live reading of the book here 



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