2015 - Winter

Indie Author Ann Livi Andrews

Image: Cover Illustration of Crimson Mistress, designed by header5buck 

Author: Sandrine Spycher

Indie Author Ann Livi Andrews

Ann Livi Andrews is an independent author from the USA. This busy mother of a two-year-old son qualifies writing as “the most basic form of art.” More than only art, writing is for Mrs Andrews also a witness of history. She sees writing as an indispensable tool working on several levels. “From mere fantasy and creativity to teaching someone a skill to documenting history,” she says, “we know so much because someone took the time to write it down.” And although Mrs Andrews is admittedly always busy and finds it hard to fit writing in between different little jobs and taking care of her child, writing holds an important place in her life. Not only is it a “stress reliever and a way to maintain emotional health,” but also a tool to fight insomnia.

Ann Livi Andrews has been writing since she was in first grade, though she’d had “stories swirling around in [her] head.” She writes because she has stories to tell; like that of the pencil and the eagle, her first ever written story. Suffering from insomnia, Mrs Andrews says that she can’t go to bed until all the words are put on paper. “A sense of peace” emanates from putting those thoughts on paper.

It is partly thanks to her husband that Ann Livi Andrews chose to self-publish her work. With his marketing background, he was the one to encourage her to “find some inner courage and put [herself] out there.” Since then, Mrs Andrews received positive reviews; for instance a reviewer wrote that they had “found this little gem by accident.” And although the book in question (short stories) was for her a side project, it received a large amount of positive feedback and encouragement, which “definitely put a smile on [her] face.”

One of the stories written by Mrs Andrews bears the title of Hollow Towns: The Beginning. The story begins in a sort of climate change apocalypse, where the reader is introduced to several characters who are not, apparently, linked to each other. Yet, all the characters seem to suffer from a kind of amnesia. This element allows the writer to cleverly build her story around memory and uncertain past events.

The reader discovers what is happening at the same time as the character, however there is always a missing element. While the vague outline of the narrative builds incredible suspense, it can also prevent a full understanding of the story. One could also reproach the writer the several repetitions and the incessant questions at the end of paragraphs. Yet, the intrigue is developed in such a way that it leaves you clinging to the book, waiting to discover any climatic ending. The dialogs are sharp and well organized; they allow the reader to better understand the characters’ feelings. Moreover, the light writing style makes the book a quick read.

Apart from the Hollow Towns series, Ann Livi Andrews is also working on a series called Rehab for Superheroes from which Crimson Mistress is volume one. Crimson Mistress is a story full of suspense and mystery. The mystery is set right from the beginning with the somewhat strange character-narrator who is Clementine. She is a superhero, but getting sick while the city outside her window is burning.

The reader is immediately thrown into a suspenseful narration where they will try to fill in the blanks with their own imagination. Indeed, bits of info are given along the pages, but the suspense stays at a maximum level as very little is revealed about the setting, time, or even the main character herself. She seems to be struggling with regrets and internal conflicts which are cleverly described through flashbacks and memories. One detail does seem out of place, though: the fact that the superhero publishes short stories in her free time. Against Clementine is what seems first to be an incredibly evil villain. One could almost be put off by how much of a jerk he is at first. Yet, after an interesting switch in the narrative, he turns out to be quite an interesting character as well. However, Butlerians among the readers will probably be annoyed by the fact that the villain is portrayed as a father-figure who answers all the questions of the apparently clueless heroine.

The main reproach that could be addressed to the author is the amount of repetitions. Some more time could also have been accorded to editing as some inconsistencies in style appear (use of abbreviations, use of numbers). Yet, her somewhat flat style makes for a quick read where suspense and descriptions are interwoven. Mrs Andrews’s strong point is definitely her ability to create suspense. As mentioned above, suspense appears right from the beginning of the story because it starts in medias res. And is finished on a huge cliffhanger; something to make the reader hungry for more.

Despite the inconsistencies, the numerous repetitions, and the gendered hierarchy of knowledge, I enjoyed reading Crimson Mistress. I would recommend it to any fan of suspenseful science fiction, and to lovers of short stories with interesting characters.

Ann Livi Andrews has an incredible potential for writing suspenseful stories which will keep you awake and turning the pages. She admits writing for herself, and editing for her readers. And though she has to squeeze writing early in the morning or late at night—“Either way, it’s writing versus sleeping,” she says—she always finds time to read and write dark fantasy and apocalyptic fiction. As a master of suspense, Ann Livi Andrews displays great skill in writing. Keep an eye on her for she might soon be a bestselling author of weird stories.

2015 - Summer

Short Stories To Shklovsky

Image: © John Schultz,

Author: Sandrine Spycher


You know that feeling when your heart starts beating faster, when your sight almost fails you, and you can’t speak properly anymore. And then you start smiling stupidly at whatever people tell you. And you’re feeling good, although slightly dizzy. Your world is balancing back and forth, as if you were on a boat swinging to the rhythm of an Ed Sheeran tune. Perhaps you’ll even start dancing soon. There’s something like a sweet vibe going through your body, from head to toe. And it’s a delight to let it move you. Let it take control of you, just as if nothing else mattered in the world. Then perhaps you’ll close your eyes for a minute and slowly breathe in.

Breathe in to regain control of yourself. And when you open your eyes, you’ll see them laughing at you because you can’t stand straight anymore. That’s when you know that last glass was just the one too many. So stop drinking. And try not to aim for anyone’s shoes when you have to throw up.

So did you think I was describing love?

Well perhaps there’s a link between drinking and love. Perhaps it’s not impossible to find your soul-mate at the English Christmas Party. And perhaps you’ll feel the fast heartbeats and the dizziness when you wake up “on the right side of the wrong bed” on the next morning.


I saw them come, with their dreadful roars and menacing moves. They advanced, weapons in hand, their eyes concealed behind their huge limbs which kept moving forward in big threatening gestures. I could already feel the heat of their horrible hearts approaching.

I called to the wind to help me raise my voice. And I cried for help but no one heard. I saw my brethren fall before me as I stood, a powerless witness to this mass murder. I heard the scratching and crackling of torn skin. I saw feathers fly away and wished I could move. But my symbiosis with the land—that which I thought would protect me against wind, rain, and storms—seemed to be the ally of my enemy, conspiring for my fall.

When they were finally on me, the saw cut through my skin and my body. I fell heavily to the once cherished earth. I was cut in two pieces, my heart still beating where my roots clung to the ground. And that’s when I noticed my little friend, that innocent baby Jaguar fighting his way away from the war engines.

He ran as fast as he could. He climbed on my sisters to hide in between their leaves. He trembled with fear as he saw his mother slain at my foot. He cried his little heart out. A heart broken by the mechanical hands of the bipeds.


The trees are huge. Although naked, they cast a large shadow on the ground. It looks dark and feels cold because of those big black shapes. Sunlight can hardly break through the canopy, even though the leaves are not on the boughs but rather making a slippery carpet on the ground.

The air is wet and heavy. Animals are sleeping or dead. Silence reigns on this dreadful kingdom of creaking wood. The lost wanderer hears nothing but his fast heartbeats and his quick irregular breathing. Shivers run down his back. He feels like a thousand eyes are spying on him. The eyes of the forest. Silent, omnipresent, oppressing ghosts.

Broken boughs crack under his footsteps, otherwise silenced by the soft carpet of snow. White snow, here and there, fallen from the naked branches, contrasting with the black shadows. White, but not luminous. Cold snow. Cold as the lost wanderer’s cold heart. He walks emotionless through the trees, barely even feeling the fear which run up and down his body in dreadful wet shivers.

Suddenly, a movement. The lost wanderer stops. His eyes go from left to right and right to left. What was it? Where was it? Nothing moves anymore. It was just an instant, a flash, like blinding lightning in the darkness of the night. It’s gone.

The lost wanderer feels the fear creep into his flesh now. He shivers. His hands tremble. His pace grows unsteady. Where does that fear come from? Who dwells in the dark corners of the forest? That beast, that unknown monster which makes its poisonous venom run through the earth.

But the wanderer knows it. He knows the face of the monster. It is the pain of a broken heart, the weight of solitude, the threat of loneliness. Behind closed eyes, the forest disappears. The dark, the silence, the dreadful feeling of being lost. But as soon as he opens his eyes, the calm dream vanishes and the solitude of the dark path comes back. Sometimes, a slight movement, her eyes, her hand. A mere memory. And then it’s over. And then she’s gone. And then the monster creeps in once more.


Have you ever heard of the Swiss sea? Have you ever seen those white waves flood the mountain sides?

It is a sea more beautiful than the Mediterranean, they say. It comes and goes along with the weather, and is more likely to be seen in winter. It invades the plains, drowns them in its thick whiteness, leaving them flooded and hoping for redemption.

But when you see it from the mountain tops, it is absolutely breath-taking, they say. The little curly waves hardly move at all, even if the wind blows on their white wings. It expands, still and silent, at your feet. It makes you feel like you are on top of the world with nothing under you but that beautiful white sea.

It is light and mild, just like the thought of a loved one, they say. It makes you dream, giving you visions of a lost otherworld. It looks magical, as if created by the hand of mighty Tolkien. It adds a dreamy touch to the green pastures of the Swiss Alps.

If you travel above the white sea, you won’t even get wet, they say. You don’t need to worry about being overtaken by the waves, for they won’t soak your socks. No need to take off your shoes to run along the beach, which is as long as the mountain side.

And do you know what makes that sea so beautiful? Well, it’s made of fog.


2015 - Summer

The Tragedy of Macbeth : Interview with Florence Rivero, director and actress


Author: Corinne Morey

The Tragedy of Macbeth directed by the talented Florence Rivero was presented during this year’s Fécule Festival and received high praises from students and other members of the Unil community. Despite her very tight schedule, Florence took the time to answer a few of our questions regarding her interpretation of this timeless play.

Dear Florence, you now have quite a few successful play directing experiences behind you and I am confident you have many more ahead. Could you tell us what was your main challenge for this play in particular?

For this adaptation of Macbeth, I decided to mostly focus on the internal and psychological struggle of the characters, avoiding any supernatural or mystical interpretations. A very significant challenge was how to show to the audience the psychological distress our characters are going through. How does one show a fragile mind, a psychological manipulation, psychopathological consequences, hastily made decisions from a broken mind and internal suffering? To do so, a lot of work was done acting-wise and with the relation towards the audience. However, the most important element was the adaptation of the original script. That is where it all started, the first step, where everything had to make sense so it could actually work later on stage. This is the first of four productions where I have done an unrestricted and careful adaptation of a Shakespearian play, focusing on what I personally wanted to highlight.

What do you wish to emphasise most in your version of Macbeth? What approach did you choose for this play?

My emphasis is on the psychological journey of the character of Macbeth. That is the reason why I kept the original title of the play in its entirety: The Tragedy of Macbeth. I really wanted to show this tragic character’s mental decline. I do not see a bloodthirsty man wanting power; I see a man who is destroyed by it, even during the process of acquiring it. I want the public to feel compassion for him or at least to relate to his tragic being. He is not an evil character; he is lost and mentally disturbed.

You are rather known in Unil for staging the lighter and more comic of Shakespeare’s plays. Was this a change for you or have you already had this kind of experience in the past?

Our choice to start doing comic plays four years ago was because the troupe and I thought they were easier to do and more accessible to the public (I question that now). However, after our first play, Much Ado About Nothing in 2012, my wish was to follow up with a tragedy, but I did not feel ready as a director. We then did A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2013 and I still did not feel ready after it. Nevertheless, I wanted to start experimenting, that is why I decided to direct A Winter’s Tale last year. It is a tragicomedy that presents a very serious and sad first half, followed by a comical second part. That experience really helped me to make the transition to a classic tragedy. I would still love to do more comedies, but I think I feel more comfortable doing tragedies. They inspire me greatly.

We guess you had your say in the selection of the cast, of course. Who plays the main character Macbeth and why did you choose this person?

Raphaël Meyer plays my main character. We met when he did the casting for A Midsummer Night’s Dream back in 2013, where he eventually played my character’s love interest. Raphaël and I have been together as a couple since then. In 2014, he played Camillo in A Winter’s Tale, a small character yet a motor for many of the actions and twists of the play. Raphaël transformed Camillo from a simple functional character to an endearing, complex and multidimensional one. I was so impressed by his work that when I decided to do Macbeth, I thought he would be perfect for the role. Sadly, he didn’t want to audition for it since he felt incapable of portraying such a big and intense character. It actually took me months to convince him and to reassure him that he did have the talent and acting potential to do it. He did finally audition and got the role by a unanimous decision of our four-member jury. I’m very lucky to have him as Macbeth, although I cannot lie, it is a difficult challenge to direct your significant other. Fortunately it worked out great at the end, for both the play and for our relationship!

Blood is a very important symbol in this tragedy; will there be blood for all our gory/gothic lovers?

Blood is extremely important in this play! For me, its physical presence is fundamental. However, it is very important not to overuse it. Shakespeare mentions the presence of blood in several scenes and in my opinion, those should be the only times where it must be shown on stage. Blood represents the tangible reality. It should be there to remind both the characters and the public of the consequences of their actions. So to answer your question, yes, there will be blood.

Your choice of character for yourself also changes from what your public is used to. You play the witch who prophesizes many, if not all, of the events of the play. What made you choose this character and what do you like most about playing the witch?

As most of you may know, the witches in Macbeth are originally three sisters. In this adaptation, I decided to portray them as only one character: a mentality disabled beggar. I like the fact that she is a real person, suffering from real psychopathologies. Her prophecies can then be interpreted as merely coincidences, or maybe as psychological influences on Macbeth’s decisions and actions, and not as a mystical force. As an actress, playing this character has been very demanding. It is both a very physical and mental character and it demands a lot of energy. I’m usually exhausted after one scene, but it has been a very enjoyable experience.

If you did not get the chance to see Florence Rivero’s version of The Tragedy of Macbeth, it will be played three more times on the 29th, 30th and 31st of May at the Centre Pluriculturel et social d’Ouchy (CPO)! For more information please visit the Sweet Sorrow Theater Group’s website at!

2014 - December

Indie Author G. G. Atcheson

Image: Cover design for The Legacy: Fate by Yanik Dallaire. Source

Author: Sandrine Spycher

Indie Author G. G. Atcheson

G. Atcheson, born in Montreal, Canada, is an independent author whose science-fiction books are already high-rated by online reviewers. And although she hated writing at school, Mrs Atcheson has always been a self-proclaimed dreamer. Words didn’t find their way to the paper, but many stories still lived in her mind. “Whether it was to put me to sleep at night or on the long commutes to work,” she says, “I’d close my eyes and imagine.” That imagination only needed a little impulse to turn into The Legacy series. That impulse happened one night as Mrs Atcheson was discussing TV shows, movies, and books with her husband; they found out that the two things they liked most (aliens and vampires) never appeared together. Soon after, she sat down at her computer to write her sci-fi novels.

G. Atcheson chose to self publish her novels because of the freedom it allowed her. And above all, she “wanted [her] characters to stay how [she] imagined them and not how the publisher would want them.” She writes her books in the point of view of an alien as a kind of linguistic strategy. Indeed, born in Montreal from French speaking parents, Mrs Atcheson does not write in her mother tongue but in English, especially after moving to the United States in 2000. She chose to write from that particular point of view so that her mistakes wouldn’t show. However, she needn’t worry about this issue because, like a reviewer told her, her French origin doesn’t show in her writing. And this shows just how meticulous she is in her work.

G. Atcheson’s science-fiction novel The Legacy: Fate is the story of LX (or Alex for Earthlings) who crashes on Earth, light-years away from his destination, while on an exploration mission. Alex knows he must not fraternize with the natives, and he does his best to keep away from them. That is, until he meets Mellie, an attractive young woman with speed and strength which, though unknown to Earthlings, are oddly similar to Alex’s own special abilities. He will thus start going out with her, first out of scientific interest but soon also because of tender feelings. For her, Alex will break his own people’s rules up to the point of no return. He will face betrayal at the hands of his new friends, and torture at those of his new enemies. And while Alex might be the only chance to save Earth from doom, he may have to break his primary Oath: the vow never to take a life.

The Legacy: Fate is a very well constructed novel with lots going on: unexpected plot twists, sub-plots combining into incredible climax, complex characters evolving on different levels, etc. The book starts with a short prologue which immediately throws the reader in the action, promising a thrilling and entertaining story. The language is fluid and makes for a quick read. Moreover, the pronoun you is used to address an implied reader in a quite light and witty dialog-like style. The novel is written through the eyes of an alien, with an internal focalization. This allows several powerful things. First, a lot of suspense is created as the reader discovers what happens at the same time as the protagonist. Then, a funny level is added to the story with the alien’s misunderstanding of Earthlings’ manners and jokes. More importantly, this particular narrator is cleverly used by Mrs Atcheson to criticize some human practices (such as hunting, for instance). The alien’s viewpoint is also an interesting device to defamiliarize certain common things. Money, for example, is referred to as “thin paper used in trades.” Earth’s description through alien eyes at the beginning of the novel is very striking as well. One more strength of this brilliant novel is the great intertextuality. One cannot read Alex’s exploits without thinking of Superman. A lot of historical events are also quickly mentioned to give some background to the novel and to enrich the character of Alex. There are, however, little reproaches that could be addressed to Mrs Atcheson about Fate. The most important one would be the projection of Earth traditions on her alien protagonist (he prays God, wears a wedding ring, etc.). Another negative point is that of the missing parental advisory. Indeed, the novel contains some swearing and sex scenes, but the reader has no way to know it before actually reading those scenes. Besides, these sexual encounters are almost the only descriptions of the protagonists’ relationship. The final combat scene is also slightly disappointing as its main focus is somewhat displaced from the main narrative (but I won’t say more, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you). The Legacy: Fate could also have done with a little more editing, but it is nevertheless a very clever novel which surprises by how well very different things—ravaging weather, aliens, vampires, and crime—are brought together. And what is most astounding is that it actually works; everything incredibly fits together despite the different genres.

G. Atcheson writes in the hope to give company to lonely people. As she says herself, “more people than we know are alone. Sometimes it’s by choice, other times it’s due to health reasons. They are stuck at home or in the hospital, and I believe books offer a good way to occupy their time. Our characters become their friends. As an author, we owe them good stories with relatable characters, something that will keep their mind off their everyday struggle.” Mrs Atcheson has this very humane mind (just like her character Alex) which also shows in her love for pets. Not only did she want to be a vet when she was a teenager, but she now owns three dachshunds and two cats. And although she admittedly writes for herself first, she also wants to share her fiction with sci-fi fans. “I hope that others who have a special love for [science-fiction] will be happy to discover there is someone out there who is writing about them. I can’t be the only one, can I?” Indeed she isn’t the only one. G. G. Atcheson writes original and unique stories, with great potential for more perfection and which would deserve a place on your shelf.

2014 - December

A Paterian Charol

Image: Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Source

Author: Charlotte Coudresse

A Paterian Charol

“I shrink from approaching Pater’s style, which has a peculiarly disagreeable effect upon my nerves – like the presence of a civet cat”.

J.A. Symonds, Victorian poet, literary critic, and feline lover.

This article is a (futile) attempt to do justice to a figure that has progressively waded out from the conventional literary horizon. Walter Pater, as mesmerizing and influencing as he was in the Victorian “naughty nineties”, does not hold sway on the modern mindset. Too much does he typify the stiff and shy scholar with his natural quietude. His over-the-top theorisation of cultural icons, his swelling and stilted analysis grind the gears of modern critics. His purple and highly evocative style raises objections; bulimistic seems his foray into too many literary genres (essay, pseudo-biography, novel). Plus, not one single sane soul could confide in Pater’s objectivity. The impressionistic approach of the Studies in the History of the Renaissance bids adieu to any modern form of criticism. Pater does not vindicate Matthew Arnold’s classicism, which imposes a critical distance from the object of analysis. Contrariwise, he does not intend to escape the emotion engendered by a work of art (and paving the path for the reader-response criticism, by the way): the subjective reaction enacts the deeply elusive significance of the object of art. Therefore, the reader will not find any fact-grounded or historical criticism: only the “impression of pleasure” is the stake of interpretation, the lens that furnishes the key to Mona Lisa’ smile, or Du Bellay’s spleen-inducing exile in Roma. As surprising as it seems to the 20th century eye, the odds for Pater to shoot to stardom were high in the 19th, with Wilde crowning himself as his most prominent epigon. The outrageous aesthete (too quickly) drew the conclusion that Pater was the trailblazer of the new Hedonism. As a core figure in Oxford’s literary milieu but arcane author to the mass, Pater naturally felt flattered, notwithstanding an understandable wariness. For in the fray and bustle of decadence, in the collision between aestheticism and Victorian moralism, to purport the doctrine of art for art’s sake was a considerable danger, and Pater was soon deemed as poisonous and condemned to a metaphorical pilorit.

That too could be considered as an adjunct inducement for the modern reader, who will soon be enchanted by the long, winding phraseology and complex synthesis of every artistic manifestation in one single sentence. Take, as a foretaste, the literary portrait of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa:

“The presence that rose thus so strangely beside the waters, is expressive of what in the ways of a thousand years men had come to desire. Hers is the head upon which all “the ends of the world are come,” and the eyelids are a little weary… All the thoughts and experience of the world have etched and moulded there, in that which they have of power to refine and make expressive the outward form, the animalism of Greece, the lust of Rome, the mysticism of the middle age with its spiritual ambition and imaginative loves, the return of the Pagan world, the sins of the Borgias. She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave”.

Outrageously subjective, the all-encompassing association of diverse ideas conjures up an amiable wandering in a dream-like state, as well as it compels the reader to fuel the enthusiasm for old – to the verge of redundancy – topoi. The continuous fascination, from the fledgling allurement of the novice to the “hard, gem-like flame” of the weathered reader, holds sway in the long run, perhaps because of the diverse subjects that Pater embraces. His most praised essay on the Renaissance entails the pictural as well as the literary arts, from Leonardo de Vinci (quoted above) and Botticelli to less known figures, like the German scholar Winckelmann. This subjective line-up is easily explained by the fact that all of them embody a strong individuality that acts as a blazing torch for the centuries to come; an inspiration that would lead to a renewed understanding of life, to briskly sum up Pater’s conclusion.

For the gripped audience, Pater’s novel Marius the Epicurean would fulfil the wish of seeing a human, deep-coloured incarnation of the sometimes abstract philosophy (yes, let us confess that drawback, but we promise it is the only one). Pater wrote it out of fear of being hastily judged on his disreputable aestheticism, but notwithstanding the back-story, the novel, set up in the Roman age, remains compelling and singularly modern. Unless the Greek Studies reveal themselves as a must-read and compulsory input for the curious mind. Fortunately, the Oxford World’s Classics have recently re-edited the Renaissance studies for a modest price; the rest of the works can easily be bought in the Cambridge Library Collection. The Renaissance has not only swept the 14th,: it has also come for Pater, “dead many times”; nonetheless resurrect as swiftly as his dame Lisa.

PATER, Walter, Studies in the History of the Renaissance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

2014 - October

‘The Casual Vacancy’ by J.K. Rowling

Image: Photo © Lila Mabiala

Author: Lila Mabiala

Review The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

The Casual Vacancy - by J.K. Rowling
Source © J.K. Rowling. All rights reserved

The Potter generation was faced with a true wake-up call in 2012 when J.K Rowling published The Casual Vacancy. Like many, I struggled with the fact that not only was Harry Potter over, but Rowling had truly moved on. Hopes of returning to the comforting common rooms of Hogwarts and celebrating wizarding history were dashed when The Casual Vacancy flooded bookshop windows. I felt betrayed and didn’t pick the book up until two years later, this summer. When I did, the blurb felt like another let-down: a novel set in a small English town against a political backdrop? Surely there could be nothing less magical and un-Rowling like?

And then I started reading. I turned the pages and…just like that she had me.

The story is set around Pagford, an otherwise nondescript small town somewhere in Britain. There’s a school, doctor’s practice, a deli and its new café, a law office and a hospital a small way away. Each of these involves a set of characters. It is a small-knit community where everyone somehow depends on each other. But Pagford is in fact almost a suburb of Yarvil-the bigger, badder town where children meet up at the shopping centre, a livelier and less village-like place. But in its ambitions to grow, Yarvil’s council estates have edged too close for comfort. Worse yet – an addiction clinic is housed in a Pagford building. Anyone who has lived in such a setting even in Switzerland will recognise the rivalries which develop between neighbouring towns. Questions of expenses, borders and school districts… tensions work up until something gives. In this case, it’s a vein in Barry Fairweather’s brain.

Rowling’s Skills at creating attaching – and detestable – characters is soon apparent. Though we only get second hand accounts of the character who is in fact the most important, everyone else feels irkesomely real. The Mollisons are the closest thing to a royal dynasty Pagford has to offer. Both generations are haughty and heavy; striking in their calculating coldness. All the while one can’t help but feel pity for Samantha and even Shirley, the women behind their imposing husbands. On the other end of the spectrum is Krystal Weedon and her broken home. Though insulting and not always easy to understand, she represents less well-off part of the community which struggles to be recognised as a valid member of it. She is particularly touched by the death of Barry Fairbrother and struggles to come to terms with it, making her someone the reader wants to protect and encourage.

The story covers all levels of the community, a massvie range of emotions and relationships. Each of the characters gets a turn in the spotlight, making this novel a beautiful portrait of British society. It also seems to encourage reflexions on our own place(s) in society: whether parent or child, student or teacher, employer or employee, carer or in need of care, we all have duties and an immeasurable impact on those around us. The Casual Vacancy, under cover of a petty political drama is in fact a fully-blown, heart-wrenching collection of lives.

Oh and one more thing… in true J.K Rowling style, the first 300 pages are all there for setting the scene to an unexpected, chaotically frightening ending. This will remind you of having the breath knocked out of you, the feeling of devastation and somehow the yearning for more at the end of any of the seven Harry Potter novels. Just as well the characters are set to take life in a miniseries being filmed as we speak.

2014 - October

Indie Author J. David Clarke

Image: Missing Time cover design by Kimi A. Philips. Source

Author: Sandrine Spycher

Indie Author J. David Clarke

J. David Clarke is a talented independent author from Texas, who writes various genres such as science fiction or young adult fantasy. However, writing was not his first dream. Indeed, Mr Clarke started life with the goal of performing in live theater. After becoming a Fine Arts graduate of Southwest Texas State University and having majored in acting, he wanted to perform and teach acting himself. Yet, as life is often unfair, it did not allow him to follow his dream. Not able to move to New York as he had wished, he instead had to work in different jobs to pay off debts. After taking care of his elderly grandfather, Mr Clarke finally turned to writing. First, he posted chapters of a story “concocted as an experiment,” like he says himself. Those chapters were eventually reunited in his debut novel Missing Time.

As most indie authors, J. David Clarke has no marketing machine behind him. He was published in the literary journal of Tarrant County Jr College. Later, discovering tools for self-publishing, he decided to publish his own work online. Not yet making much money from his books, he writes above all “for the love of creating stories which bring people together in their fascination for cool characters and bizarre tales.” His working team involves himself, his computer, and a giant list of ideas for upcoming tales. Mr Clarke is currently working on his fourth novel Time Lost, the conclusion of his science fiction trilogy of which Missing Time is volume one.

Missing Time is the story of eight teenagers involved in a school bus crash, and waking up with special powers, such as flying, reading minds, or resurrecting the dead. Each remembers a different thing, but none knows what actually happened during the bus crash. Being hunted down, they must put their memories together to find who wants them dead, and answer the question of what happened during the missing time.

J. David Clarke’s science fiction debut novel is filled with action, suspense, and plot twists from beginning to end. The unusual use of narrative structure allows the author to work on the characters’ distorted memories and visions through short scenes and vivid flashbacks. Although some chapters might seem elliptic or lacking in plot background, the dynamic writing makes Missing Time a fast and easy read.

The characters in Missing Time all have very diverse personalities, which are cleverly revealed through their dialogs and interactions. Moreover, Mr Clarke builds their relationship through memories, thus giving the reader different viewpoints on each protagonist.

This novel is fueled with lots of intertextuality, such as X-Men or Heroes, sometimes explicitly evoked by the characters. And although his style is a bit flat and repetitive, Mr Clarke has the reader wondering, along with the protagonists, what is going on; a question which is beautifully emphasized by the thrilling, and somewhat abrupt, ending of the novel.

Missing Time is an absolutely breath-taking page-turner which will make you cling to it and ask for more. I’d recommend this novel to all sci-fi aficionados, and possibly also to anyone interested in questions of memory and forgetting.

Apart from Missing Time, J. David Clarke has written three books. Volume two of his science fiction trilogy 313 is called Time Spent; and he anticipates the release of volume three, Time Lost, in late 2014. He also wrote a collection of short stories under the title of The Rubberban Man and Other Stories. He is working on an epic fantasy series, Keeper of Days, and hopes to have completed volume one this year. Last but not least, he published a young adult fantasy adventure called The Wizard in my Window, to which a sequel is planned.

The Wizard in my Window is a great story which gets you clinging to it, turning the pages to find out what is going on. The story is that of young Timothy Collier and his family who move into a big old house. Timothy finds a mark on his bedroom window with the shape of a wizard. First his family thinks it’s just a scratch on the window, but soon magical items start appearing out of nowhere. Timothy and his sister Nichole have fun playing with the objects, until they find out that the magic belongs to an ancient wizard and that it’s not devoid of danger. Soon the whole family has to face the wizard’s powers and his old enemies.

In this novel, half stated things create great suspense; the reader is not told the truth and has to wait until the end of the book to finally discover it. The mystery begins right away as the writer cleverly puts his story through the viewpoint of the window in the first chapter. Plot twists are also very good. The characters are well created and realistic. Their interaction as a family—kids fighting, for instance, or hiding things from their parents—is very convincing. Moreover, there are a lot of funny moments in their dialogs. Several references to other works of fantasy can be noticed throughout the book. One would think of Jumanji or Prince of Persia, for example.

The only reproach that could be addressed to Mr Clarke about this novel lies in the incoherence between Greek and Latin references. Indeed, the Wizard says he was born in Greece, why then are the book, names, and spells in Latin? There are also a number of typos, but not enough to put you off. To summarize, this short novel is a good read which I’d recommend to any fan of magic, humor, and suspense.

J. David Clarke’s writing is a must-read among contemporary fiction. And although he says that there is “nothing very extraordinary about [him] at all,” I believe he has an extraordinary talent for making up original, thrilling stories, which deserve the greatest attention.

2014 - October

John C. Espy’s Eat the Evidence: A Journey Through the Boroughs of a Pedophilic Cannibal’s Mind

Image: John C. Espy’s Eat the Evidence: A Journey Through the Boroughs of a Pedophilic Cannibal’s Mind Book Cover. Source. All rights reserved.

Author: Elvis Coimbra Gomes

Raw. Revolting. Unrestrained. These are the three words that pop into my mind after reading John C. Espy’s Eat the Evidence: A Journey Through the Boroughs of a Pedophilic Cannibal’s Mind, the first book in a series by Karnac Press. Based on hundreds of hours of interviews, Espy delivers the biography of the child predator Nathaniel Bar Jonah in a journalistic style. Although the protagonist was born David Paul Brown in 1957, Espy always refers to him as Bar Jonah (a self given name with a religious background) in order to shape his monstrous character. The reader follows the protagonist from his birth up to the murder of 10-year-old Zachary Ramsay in 1996 in Great Falls, Montana. We discover a constantly lying character, who gets the confidence of many parents in order to get access to their children. The more we read, the more we get frustrated by the naivety and ignorance of Bar Jonah’s surroundings. Wouldn’t a woman find it weird, if her lover didn’t want to share the same bedroom in order to preserve his virginity until marriage, but welcomed little boys to sleep in his bed with him? We get disgusted when Bar Jonah offers his special chili con carne (made out of human flesh) to his neighbors. We get revolted by his release when Christian psychologists evaluate him and understand that his deeds were “in the service of the Lord.” And we even get challenged to question if pedophilia is not only another sexual orientation that is fortunately seen as immoral when another pedophile, Doc Bauman, questions Bar Jonah’s murderous attitude.

Through very short, but detailed, descriptions of the character and his atrocious killings, Espy culminates in twisting the reader’s stomach. You feel suffocated by Bar Jonah’s hunger. The sharp and direct words sting your olfactory senses once you realize that the description of Bar Jonah’s horrid scent is invading your nose. This however won’t let you put the book aside. After a deep breath of fresh air you pick it up again because of the thrilling, fast-developing plot that turns you into an investigator of the Ramsey case.

It might be disappointing that the plot is told in a third-person narrative, however this might also be the strength of this book. Espy’s aim wasn’t to pity Bar Jonah’s condition, but to show how this psychopathic mind works. He wanted to “take the reader inside the inner world of a serial pedophile but also to allow the reader to experience someone as pathologically primitive from within.” Before plunging into the narrative, Espy takes time to educate the reader on the condition of a pedophile which instantly shapes the monstrous character of Bar Jonah: “It is imperative for the reader to understand that pedophiles live for only one purpose and that is to manifest their pedophilia. Everything that the pedophile does is to find a way to express this profoundly primitive psychological state of being. Inherent in the world of the pedophile is the aspect of lying, deception, and manipulation; they are the life’s blood of his inner and interpersonal world and are manifest through a primitive psychological mechanism called projective identification.”

Although the editor missed some spelling mistakes, this book might not be the best read for some people due to its harsh treatment of such disturbing topics. As a big fan of torture porn movies like Hostel (Eli Roth, 2005) and the Saw franchise (2003-2010), I had an uncomfortable, yet insightful, reading experience. The book really does “take the serial perpetrator into the psycho of the reader” as does the synopsis state. Espy really punches you in the guts with his raw vocabulary and sometimes cynic tone and leaves you craving for the second part A Parasite in the Mind (published in September 2014). A must read for all those who want to get instructed and who are interested in the dark boroughs of a troubled human mind.

2014 - October

A.M. Homes’ May We Be Forgiven and the Essay I Never Wrote

Image: Photo © Lila Mabiala

Author: Lila Mabiala

A.M. Homes’ May We Be Forgiven and the Essay I Never Wrote

All the time I was reading May We Be Forgiven, I kept having to jot things down, thinking they corresponded to the exact topic of an essay I had written a few semesters back. I thought either for a class on Post-modernism I took in Lausanne or a more recent one about the Post-1945 Novel in Fribourg. This novel was like an echo to everything I had learned and been interested in.

The book rings a tribute to all things Am-Lit. Aside from references which are spelled out in full, a lot of elements nagged me throughout, challenging me to identify and remember. I’ve only taken two American literature classes in my university career but obviously they covered some vital bases. Enough for me to want to tear this book apart and dissect it.

Harry Silver has a brief affair with Jane, his brother George’s wife. A cheeky peck, car crash and a couple unforgiven acts later, the Silver brothers’ lives are turned upside down and shattered into a million pieces. The book follows Harry during the full year following that fateful Thanksgiving evening. A book which starts and ends with Thanksgiving? That’s right, we’ve just been catapulted straight into Americana.

Welcome –

Fans of Nabokov’s Lolita

Harry has something distinctly Humbert Humbert-y about him. It’s not only about a shared initial. He’s a middle-aged university professor. Simple enough (fans of Delillo, don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten Jack Gladney). Though Harry never detects it in himself, the reader can’t help but feel an awkward sense of déjà-vu when he goes on road trips with the children, and frequently shares his bed with them. He plays the role of surrogate father to the T. At one point he even compares his own excitement to the way “Humbert Humbert once liltingly tripped over the three syllables in Lo-lee-ta” (p 183).

Recap: lonely professor, attachments to children under his responsibility, road-trips through America (where the children are in charge) – check, check, check.

Fans of DeLillo’s White Noise

Homes’ tribute to Delillo couldn’t be clearer. Harry actually runs into Don DeLillo as a person more than once in the novel– when grocery shopping for example. And how could we forget the meaning Delillo invests in the setting himself in his blatant denunciation of consumerism. Jack Gladney is a professor of Hitler studies, Harry Silver a Nixon over-enthusiast. Both men’s obsession with a single historical figure can undoubtedly be paralleled.

Recap: fear of death/need to feel alive, initially harmless betrayal leading to murder, intellectually ambitious eldest sons, abundance of children with Stories, …- that’s clearly a pass.

Fans of Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters

“She has a weird problem where whenever she goes to someone’s house for a weekend she steals drugs from everyone’s medicine cabinets” (p321) sounds just like the Rhea sisters. This is only one example of self-medication in May We Be Forgiven. It is an issue which crops up in a number of American novels I have read, and one that would merit looking into. That’s what I was aiming for the topic of “One pill to save them all: counting on medication to solve all one’s problems”, using some of the novels I am mentioning here (White Noise, The Corrections, as well as Invisible Monsters obviously).

Recap: serious sibling issues, pill guzzling – you bet!

Fans of Franzen’s The Corrections

For an epic family portrait. But mainly because Enid and Alfred Lambert are all the (grand)parent figures in May We Be Forgiven. The complicated nature of family relations and the dangers of festive meals are also common to both novels.

Recap: old-age ailments and miraculous recoveries, not forgetting…wait for it…the lonely professor (in the shape of Chip Lambert) – it’s all there.

Fans of the Double

This is one of the most complex themes in literature and anyone interested in it is in for a treat with Harry and George Silver. Are they really separate? They can definitely be read as one and the same, as projections of each other. Are they ever seen in the same place at the same time? It’s a truly troubling dimension of the story; proceed with determination and a good eye for detail. Things like “I have no doubt that the only thing that stopped him was narcissism – to kill me was also to kill some part of himself” (p178) will titillate these fans. I myself somehow thought of the narrator as being called George at times; Harry’s name is very seldom mentioned

Recap: mistaken, borrowed, stolen identities – not only between George and Harry but also Amanda and Heather…there is enough to stay entertained long enough.

May We Be Forgiven is a magnificent pot-pourri of a strikingly difficult to label tradition of literature in America. Homes has acted like Frankenstein, skilfully putting it all together, with seamless narration, compelling penmanship and a confidently demented pace. The content is dramatic and worrying but the tale of redemption behind it all is heart-warming and full of hope. This is probably one of the best books I have read in a while, making me want to betray my passion for all things Romantic and dive into contemporary American literature instead. What about that essay, I hear you say? Well, as I was gathering my notes to write this review, I just couldn’t find it anywhere. How come I could remember researching it so vividly though? Well, I found out that in fact I had only started elaborating the topic as one of two exam questions…and I never got the chance to discuss it! Is it a bad sign when you wish you could sit an exam all over again, just to be able to go further with an idea? Or maybe it’s just the sign of a truly good, thought-provoking novel…