Yara Rodrigues Fowler’s debut is unlike any other book you’ve read. A blend of prose and poetry, it’s a collection of short pieces that gradually cohere into a larger narrative. But while it’s formally experimental, it never feels like a chore. Holding the disparate elements together is a strong sense of identity and voice – the development of which is, in fact, partly what Stubborn Archivist is about.

To read the full piece in the Observer, click here

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe

“I thought the kid was being abused,” begins this taut, fascinating novel by the French writer Delphine de Vigan. It could be the beginning of a thriller – is he? Isn’t he? Who by? – but Loyaltiesaddresses far more subtle, interesting questions. How far should we go to protect those we love? Loyalty may be a noble instinct, the basis of friendships and families – but what is its price?

To read the full review in the Guardian, click here

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe

Let me count the ways in which I love my new phone: the clicky silver keys; the 10 minutes it now takes to write a text; the tinny jingle it plays when you switch it on. That’s right, I’ve dumped my iPhone and bought myself an old-style, internet‑free dumb phone (or “feature phone”, as the new branding would have it).

To read the full article in the Guardian, click here

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe

When I asked my eight-year-old son what he would like to wear to a forthcoming wedding, his response was clear and immediate: “A red suit with white spots, a matching hat and gold shoes.” This seemed fair enough to me. Who in their right mind would not want to wear such a fabulous outfit?

To read the full article in the Guardian, click here.

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe

In 1988, at the age of 11, Tom Gregory became the youngest person ever to swim the English Channel. It took him just under 12 hours to complete 32 miles, fuelled by tubes of tomato soup and the odd chocolate biscuit lobbed into the sea by his coach, John Bullet.

To read the full article in the Guardian, click here.

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe

The most maddening and self-defeating aspect of the Brexit mess is that it consumes political energy and media coverage that is desperately needed elsewhere. More than anything, it is needed by the hundreds of thousands of people in Britain who do not have adequate homes, and most urgently by the estimated 4,500 people who are sleeping on the streets of British cities each night. It only takes a short stroll through any city centre to see that this country is in the grip of a crisis – rough sleeping has increased by an estimated 134% since a Tory-led coalition took power in 2010, according to National Audit Office figures. The lack of any big policy initiative aimed at getting a grip on this situation – or indeed any real public debate on the issue – is a national disgrace.

To read the full review in the Guardian, click here.

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe

Until very recently, I would have gnawed off my own arm more readily than take off my clothes in public. Partly because I am pale, I’ve had two children and my tummy does not resemble a washboard, but primarily because I am British. Public nuditycomes about as naturally to me as allowing somebody to skip a queue.

To read the full piece in the Guardian, click here.

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe

Has the advertising industry moved on since the days of Mad Men? Not as much as one might hope, according to Rachel Pashley, who has 20 years’ experience in the sector. She found female audiences were continually referred to as “busy working mums”, while men were seen as having aspirations and ambitions. In response, she convinced her agency to fund a “global insight study”, covering 8,000 women in 19 different countries. By gathering evidence about women’s own values and priorities, she hoped to bring the Donald Drapers of today up to date.

To read the full review in the Guardian, click here.

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe

The protagonist of Guardian journalist Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett’s debut novel may only be in her 20s, but nostalgia is already her default setting. Harmony obsessively catalogues her life according to objects she has lost – beach buckets, worry dolls, a white slip – and, in the grip of a “quarter life crisis”, has moved back in to Longhope, the north London house she lived in as a young child, “the only place that had ever felt unshakeable to me”. Neither of her current flatmates – posh boho Lucia and decent council worker Josh – knows that she lived there before.

To read the full review in the Guardian, click here.

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe

Marathons, marathons, everywhere: last weekend Brighton was taken over by runners, and tens of thousands more will fill the streets of London on Sunday. In the next few weeks there will be races taking place across the UK, from Milton Keynes to Liverpool, Newport to Stirling. The popularity of the 26.2-mile challenge shows no signs of waning – the Brighton event only started in 2010, and now 12,000 people take part. There are 40,000 places in the London race, and a whopping 386,050 people applied this year – the highest number ever. The majority of them had never run a marathon before.

To read the whole article in the Guardian, click here

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe

In this new collection of short stories, William Boyd writes with the leisurely confidence of an author who has earned the right to take his foot off the gas. With a score of novels under his belt and a clutch of awards, Boyd is the kind of established name who gets big, commercial commissions; he wrote a James Bond novel in 2013, and one of the stories here, “The Vanishing Game: an Adventure…” was originally written for Land Rover. The book focuses largely on a wealthy set of west Londoners – art dealers and artists, film directors and actors – and although Boyd teases a little at their creative pretensions, he stops short of skewering them.

To read the whole review in the New Statesman, click here

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe

Louise O’Neill is an established writer for young adults, with a reputation for hard-hitting books tackling feminist themes. Her debut, Only Ever Yours, won plaudits for its Atwood-esque depiction of a world in which women are bred for male pleasure. The follow-up, Asking for It, addressed the gang rape of a young woman, and won children’s book of the year at the Irish book awards.

To read the whole review in the Guardian, click here

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe

“If a tree is starving, its neighbours will send it food,” observes Farouk, one of the characters in Donal Ryan’s wise and compassionate novel. “No one really knows how this can be, but it is. Nutrients will travel in the tunnel made of fungus from the roots of a healthy tree to its starving neighbour.” Through a series of interlinking monologues, From a Low and Quiet Sea explores the ways in which human beings, too, sustain one another through deep and sometimes hidden connections.

To read the whole review in the Observer, click here

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe

Last Sunday afternoon was the classic start to February half-term: the rain was sheeting down outside, and we’d already played every game in the cupboard and watched too much TV. My sons, aged five and eight, were beginning to squabble and whine, and I knew from experience that if we didn’t leave the house in the next five minutes things were going to get ugly.

To read the whole article in the Guardian, click here

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe

The annual January “wellness” jamboree means that as a book reviewer my desk disappears beneath a tower of advice on every area of health, from ayurvedic eating to mindful cleaning. But it has long struck me as strange that on one area of our lives the thriving wellness industry is very quiet indeed: sex. If you want to know how to make the most of this fundamental pillar of human pleasure and happiness, how to access the ultimate source of inner glow, good-quality advice is thin on the ground.

To read the whole article in the Guardian, click here

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe

If the assault on the NHS by the Tory government could be said to have an upside, it is that doctors have been prompted to communicate with the wider public about what they do, and how, and why. This is a profession long characterised by its stiff upper lip, by respect for patient confidentiality and by an overwhelming lack of time (as these books make clear, uninterrupted urination is a luxury for an NHS doctor). Public relations have not been a priority – presumably doctors felt it was safe to assume that their work spoke for them.

To read the rest of the review on the New Statesman website, click here

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe

 

In my family there is a before and an after: one event against which everything else is measured. The new year that changed me took place just “before”, and my memories of it have the tantalising glow of all precious, lost things. It was 1990-91, and I was 11, fresh from my first term at secondary school. My parents had been invited to stay and see the new year in with some friends in their cottage in Pembrokeshire. My sister, Jess, and I were dragged along reluctantly. We didn’t really know Brian and Carla, who were relatively new friends of my parents.

To read the full article in the Guardian, click here

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe

Is it conceivable that we, the British, might one day in the not too distant future get over our obsession with booze? Catherine Gray thinks so, and she has statistics to back her up. Apparently 43% of British women and 84% of British men want to drink less; spending on booze, fags and drugs has recently fallen below £12 a week “for the first time ever”; and a recent survey found that 43% of Brits had been teetotal over the past week. Only 3% of millennials say that drinking is “an essential part of socialising”, and there has been a “40% rise in millennials choosing to be teetotal”. Gray concludes from this that booze is soon to go the way of our formerly beloved fags: “In 50 years’ time, our grandchildren could be saying ‘I can’t believe people used to drink for fun?!’”

To read the full article in the Guardian, click here

 

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe

It was the frog that pushed me over the edge. I’ve never been a Harry Potter fan myself – I was already out of kids’ books when they first came out, and those clever grown-up covers weren’t enough to tempt me back – but I’d always admired JK Rowling from afar. Who wouldn’t? A writer whose imagination transfixed the world, whose riches now exceed those of the Queen, but who has founded a children’s charitypays her taxes in full, and remains both poised and politically engaged: as role models go, it is hard to think of a better one.

So I was pleased when my seven-year-old son went Harry Potter crazy. Having never read to himself before, he was suddenly racing through book after book, his bedside light on late into the night. His brother and several of his friends caught the bug – just as the Suez canal flowed through Clarissa Eden’s drawing room, Hogwarts overshadowed our house, as children constantly dashed about on broomsticks, casting spells and looking for snitches.

To read the full article in the Guardian, click here

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe

Over the last few months I have been watching with mixed feelings as the Rampion wind farm emerges like a great monster from the sea off Brighton beach. It has happened so quickly: one morning in the early summer a few small grey stumps appeared on the previously flat horizon. Only weeks later, the first turbines were up, instantly giving the familiar sea view a new, industrial edge. Since then more and more have appeared, row upon row of them. Though they are eight miles offshore, they dominate the view from the beach now, and create strange optical illusions; in some weathers they look close, and in others very far away. Occasionally, on a seemingly clear day, they inexplicably disappear from view.

To read the rest of the article in the Guardian, click here

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AuthorAlice O'Keeffe