Paperbacks: Sea Stories: New Writing from the National Maritime Museum
Wish Her Safe at Home
Aller Retour New York, By Henry Miller
The Private Lives of the Impressionists
Nobody's Home, By Dubravka Ugresic


Sea Stories: New Writing from the National Maritime Museum (NMM £7.99)

This wonderful collection of new short stories inspired by the sea contains many surprises. Lovers of maritime writing will find it no surprise, though, to see Sam Llewellyn, an experienced sailor, included. His strong political views on the fishing industry are skilfully presented in "The Shoals", a story compelling not just for the bitter slice of history it serves up but for the extraordinary way that he invokes the all-consuming power of the sea. Growing up in Norfolk at the end of the 19th century, Alexander Rourke soon makes himself as unpopular as his father, the local gamekeeper. While other boys are happy to fish with a simple rod and line, Alexander finds it more effective to use a net – the same net his father accidentally drowns in. When his mother dies, Alexander buys a boat with stolen money and eventually invests in a trawler that catches so many fish in its vast nets that the traditional ways of fishing become impossible. As Alexander grows wealthier the Norfolk fishermen are left with the choice of either working on his fleet or going to the workhouse.

Roger Hubank's "The Island" tells of a young woman returning to the small fishing community where she grew up, to accompany her father on his annual pilgrimage to her mother's grave. A story about how easily people can become trapped by the past – or perhaps why the past can seem so attractive when your life is tied to something as unpredictable and overpowering as the sea – it includes some beautiful descriptions of Orkney seascapes.

What makes this collection so special, though, is the inclusion of work by such unorthodox writers as Niall Griffiths. His nightmarish "Bathyspheres" tells of a terrible descent to the depths of the ocean: "I thought I'd never stop sinking. Had an image of myself, a tiny dot in a blackness so big that it couldn't be measured. Like one star in space."

Wish Her Safe at Home, By Stephen Benatar (Welbeck Modern Classics £7.99)

When Rachel Waring, "dull, diffident... middle aged", inherits a large house full of antique furniture from her reclusive great-aunt Alicia, she decides she simply has to go and live there. This strikes the reader as a curious decision, as Alicia had spent her last days there with the body of her maid, Bridget, who'd killed herself. In the months leading up to Bridget's death, neighbours regularly reported hearing screams from both old women, who appeared to be senile. Rachel, however, seems effervescently happy.

Given the choice between what she calls the "glooms" – dark reflections on her sad, unfulfilled life – and carrying on regardless, Rachel decides to do the latter, tumbling into madness. As a young girl she retreated into a private world with fictional friends taken from novels; as a woman she believes she has many lovers, including a dead philanthropist and her vicar.

Originally published in 1982 this horrifying exploration of madness at least deserves to be called a cult classic.

Aller Retour New York, By Henry Miller (Hesperus £8.99)

When Henry Miller returned to New York from his adopted home, Paris, in 1935 he wrote about the journey for one of his friends. Reprinted more than 70 years later, his account still has the power to offend – which would probably have delighted him.

In between the blustering misogyny ("Women are better off in the countries where they are supposedly mistreated") and racial swipes of the kind common to much pre-war American literature ("All these movie houses were once good theatres; now they are filled with chinks, wops, polkas, litvaks, mocks, croats, finns") there are, however, some arresting moments. During his voyage he remarks on how the ship's captain entertains society women on the poop deck while keeping an eye on his crew through his opera glasses. Contemplating flying, "that obsession for the air which seems to have the Americans by the balls", he talks about moving into a mystic dimension where the passion for speed ends. Standing at a cigar store he meets a circus animal trainer called Will Self.

The Private Lives of the Impressionists, By Sue Roe (Vintage £9.99)

The idea of artists as lonely figures quietly starving in depressing garrets still has some currency. Roe's meticulously researched account of what the French impressionist painters went through shows where a large part of that idea stems from; although canvases by these artists sell for millions of pounds today, their work was ignored or mocked when first shown.

Of course this isn't exactly news and, although Pissarro's time in England (living in suburban Norwood), Degas's obsession with the underdogs of Parisian life, and Renoir's struggles as a penniless artist are covered in detail, it's the broader sweep of history Roe captures, from the siege of Paris to the first impressionist adventures abroad, that is impressive.

When the work was first exhibited by Paul and Charles Durand-Ruel in New York in 1886, there was "none of the ferocious uproar the impressionists had initially aroused in their own country. The luxurious rooms in Madison Square were quiet, as viewers looked thoughtfully at paintings... which represented two and a half decades of dedication and struggle."

Nobody's Home, By Dubravka Ugresic (Telegram £9.99)

Ugresic is Croatian, although she has lived in self-imposed exile since taking issue with Croatia's late president, Franjo Tudjman, in the early 1990s. This collection of her essays glitters with witty and profound observations on modern Europe.

"What Is European about European Literature?" she asks, before arriving at her conclusions by way of some sparkling asides on the Eurovision song contest. Winners of awards such as the Man Booker Prize behave, she suggests, remarkably like kitsch pop stars.

Elsewhere she declares: "Cities are like coats... The relationship between a coat and its owner is a personal one; the same can be said of the relationship between a city and its inhabitants"; and that, while Eastern Europe is becoming modernised, Western Europe is growing increasingly Sovietised. A genuinely free-thinker, Ugresic's attachment to absurdity leads her down paths where other writers fear to tread. How rewarding a reader finds these wanderings depends to an extent on his or her ability to digest the entire book as a whole.

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker