First read of Words from an Island.

Don’t think for one minute that this review is going to be impartial, even I can’t believe that. I hope though that you’ll agree it’s at least honest.

Having worked on its production from start to finish, you’d think that I’d have known what to expect when I was finally able to read it from cover to cover; but I really didn’t. I’ve read anthologies before. Usually I’ll find myself reading through a piece, part reading the next, skipping another completely, then reading the next. Ill pick through the pages, sniffing out the bits that I like, ignoring the bits I don’t and giving up on the ones I thought I’d like but, a few paragraphs in, realised I actually didn’t.

I was determined that with ‘Words From an Island’ I was going to read it cover to cover – and I did. It certainly was not a chore.

There is so much wonderful, talented, polished work between its covers that I didn’t skip a thing – even the biographies at the end. I actually read the two final pieces and the biographies, whilst sitting on the wall in Glen Coe, in front of that wonderful waterfall. Quite appropriate really that I was sitting on a wall while reading Cait’s entry ‘The Wall‘ – a wonderfully honest and moving piece.

I can’t comment on every piece but I would like to point out and praise the ones that really touched me.

Anyone who knows me will also know that my understanding and in fact my appreciation of poetry is somewhat limited, but every one included is a gem. Mark’s opening poem is simply stunning and real, Alison Barr’s, so true and wonderfully descriptive, Myles’ piece is polished and incredibly moving and Gill’s ‘The Doctor Will See You Now’ is such a star – witty, perceptive genius.

And the huge wealth of prose – Juliet’s piece, perfectly balanced between light and dark; an utter pleasure to read. Jane’s piece, an extremely cleverly structured, twisting slice of real Island Life. Suzy Kelly’s absolutely brilliant story, again structured beautifully and an absolute treasure of which she should be incredibly proud. Heather’s two entries, the work of an extremely talented writer who balances pace and shade with apparent ease. Charlotte’s honest, heartfelt and polished piece, ‘The Photograph’. Liz Shaw’s remarkable historical work. And, I may also be a tad biased but ‘Lexie Moffat Screams’, by Linda is such an incisive, clever, witty, moving and quite frankly utterly disturbing masterpiece. So disturbing that I swear I could hear the poor woman Lexie, wailing.

Every single piece of work deserves praise but one thing struck me while I was reading it – somehow it doesn’t read like an anthology. There’s no feeling of switching between writers or subjects or themes or styles – it just flows naturally and draws you onto the next page. As I mentioned right at the start, I didn’t skip, give up or flick through a single piece. Each one simply melded into the next – and that, I believe, is the sign of a good anthology, remarkable, worthy writers and, a greatly talented editor who can see each piece for its own right and then slot it next to a suitable bedfellow.

I’m not unbiased of course, but I don’t think that’s an issue here. I simply loved it. Hope you do too.

Richard.

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