Anna-Marie Fitzgerald and Phoebe Frangoul are the co-editors and co-founders of the London grrrl-zine and literary salon Pamflet. Here they discuss the releases, trends and going’s on in the literary world worth knowing about. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram @Pamflet.
Pamflet stay close to home with summer reads set around London, Cambridgeshire and Bristol…
Low Expectations by Elizabeth Aaron (Quercus, £6.99) is proper summer froth to enjoy while supping on a plastic tumbler of home-prepped sangria in Victoria Park. Loosely plotted around the final year of university student Georgie’s fashion degree, we join her as she marauds around east London with her two best friends Rose and Sarah never quite knowing where she’s going. Low Expectations is full of observational comedy and cameos from some familiar locations and is cutely illustrated by Aaron who has a background in fashion design.
Anna Freeman’s debut novel The Fair Fight (Weidenfeld and Nicholson, £12.99 hardback) is about to join that sparse canon of women writing on boxing – and the even sparser canon within it of women writing about women boxing. There’s some rich material around girls throwing punches for sport and Freeman mines it beautifully, vividly inventing Bristol’s 18th century underworld and colouring it with some with historical humour and lots of local vernacular. Her tale of unlikely pugilist Ruth who grows up in a brothel before taking to the ring is reminiscent of early Sarah Waters (who’s already a fan).
On the non-fiction shelf the just-released Unspeakable Things (Bloomsbury, £12.99 paperback) is a fierce polemic against all kinds of gender-pigeonholing and an exposé on the perils of online living for outspoken women by feminist journalist and campaigner Laurie Penny. Here, as in her previous work, Penny manages to combine theory with intense personal commentary and is never less than fearlessly honest. She was as articulate as ever in conversation with Mary Beard last month in London and will be missed when she heads off to Harvard this autumn.
When Cambridge academic Helen Macdonald‘s father dies suddenly, she seeks solace in her lifelong passion for falconry and H is for Hawk (Jonathan Cape, £14.99 hardback) is her memoir of the post-traumatic experience. Distraught and flailing, she buys a baby goshawk she names Mabel to train and finds comfort and routine in the all-consuming nature of the bird/mistress relationship. Descriptions of the psychic despairs of her grief are tempered with some exquisite wildlife writing as she contemplates the lines and connections between (wo)man and beast and traces the archaic, masculine and mysterious history of hawk-training. In Macdonald’s perfectly considered words as she’s getting to know Mabel, her feathers make her look like a ‘cappuccino samurai’ and soon ‘it was hard to distinguish between my heart and the hawk at all’. Unusual and incredibly moving.
Glossy book of the summer: Why Fashion Matters (Thames and Hudson, £9.99 hardback) is a list of 101 reasons why clothes, the industry and style make a difference by Frances Corner, the director of LCF. A cool manifesto for flicking through that it’s rather hard to disagree with.