Everybody's Reading

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Review by Peter Flack of "Radio Sunrise" by Anietie Isong

Anietie Isong's Radio Sunrise is a bitter satire on life in post colonial Nigeria that would have pleased fellow Nigerian musician and political commentator Fela Kuti. It is the story of Ifiok, a radio journalist who wants to produce radio drama and do the right thing from the point of view of story telling, but keeps on running into nepotism, superstition and politics. It's a world of brown envelopes that would have even satisfied Neil Hamilton. 

Ifiok's radio show is cut due to government pressure for more time for religious broadcasts and official announcements, so Ifiok accepts a news job. He is sent back to his home region to report on the successful conversion of former extremists who engaged in attacks on oil pipe lines and kidnappings to peaceful educational pursuits. Ifiok teaches them how to make documentaries. Meanwhile the government has reneged on its agreement with the oppositionists, so they make a special documentary, for national consumption. 

This is a witty, sardonic book, that looks at the failings of human nature with a kindly heart. But it is still an incisive piece of satire. Do yourself a favour. Read it.

About the reviewer
Peter Flack is a former teacher and member of the  National Union of Teachers. He is co-founder of the Whatever it Takes literacy project and chair of Everybody's Reading Festival in Leicester.

Review by Katherine Hetzel of "The Knowing" by Kevan Manwaring

The Knowing follows the story of Janey, an American singer who, when we first meet her, is pretty much at rock bottom in her life. But when a mysterious journal is left for her, everything changes; she is forced to confront the past, clean up her act and find a new path with the help of her Scottish ancestors.

Janey discovers she has The Knowing – she is able to see beyond our world and into faerieland because of a curse laid on a distant relative and passed down through the female line. The journal provides the link between the two worlds, with Robert Kirk – captive of the Fairy Queen and one of Janey’s ancestors – writing about his life in captivity and living in the hope that, one day, a descendant of his will release him. In relation to fairyland, the author is knowledgable and draws on existing literature from Robert Kirk’s own research into all things faerie in the 17th century, as well as having done some serious research into the music that Janey sings and the Scottish landscape she visits.

What makes this book interesting is that, throughout the main narrative provided by Janey, there are points where the reader can hear parts of the story told by other voices – read Robert Kirk’s journal, or see the life of one of Janey’s ancestors through whom The Knowing is passed, for example. Although readers are assured that they can read the main narrative on its own without following these links, I did not find it so; in certain places, the main narrative would not have made sense without visiting the ‘other voice’, yet in other places, the break in narrative felt false and unnecessary, even annoying at times. I confess to not following all of them, because a lot of the information relating to Janey’s ancestors had been revealed by researchers Allen or Eliza before we encountered the same information, albeit told differently. Using digital media in this way is reasonably novel, so perhaps it is something to be refined in future works. The novel has an appealing plot and uses digital media in a clever way to bring other voices into the main narrative.

About the reviewer 
Katherine Hetzel is an ex-microbiologist who took to writing stories for her children when they were young. She now writes mainly for children, having published two books of short stories and one novel (StarMark) to date, with another due to be published this summer. She has also been published in several anthologies for adults, blogs at Squidge’s Scribbles, and enjoys visiting schools to deliver creative writing sessions.