Held by Herons – 31 December 2023

As I convince myself that the fat raindrops hammering on the roof of the Arcade sound like thousands of champagne corks popping, I notice that it’s New Year’s Eve and it looks like we made it. I hope you have had a superb break over the past week, have eaten too much (like me – we need to talk about Montezuma’s), have enjoyed fine drinks (shout out to the salted caramel espresso martini craze) and have cuddled pets and friends and family or just taken time out for yourself (all good options).

We are closed on 1st January so that I can finish reading Held by Anne Michaels. A regular Arcade wanderer recommended it to me and I am so grateful that they did. It opens in 1917 with John lying on the battlefield, able to see an injured young soldier but not to reach him and recalling his first meeting with his love, Helena. The events of the novel run up to 2025 and are told in spare fragments which make you want to hold onto every sentence, every tender image of love.

Doubtless your newspapers are teeming with lists looking ahead to 2024. Yet I am going to add one more. A short one. A few titles coming out early next year about which I am very excited.

The Vulnerables by Sigrid Nunez
A writer, a college drop-out and a parrot named Eureka find themselves living together in an apartment in Manhattan while the world outside implodes. Strangers, they must learn to find connection and recognise the small acts of care they can offer to one another.
The Singularity by Balsam Karam translated by Saskia Vogel
A mother, a refugee, searches for her missing child. When she does not find her, she throws herself into the sea. A pregnant woman, on a business trip, witnesses the act and is led to recall her own family’s flight from a war-torn country.
The Foot of Clive by John Berger
A new edition, introduced by Benjamin Myers, of Berger’s novel set in a 1960s hospital ward. One bed is curtained off, guarded by policemen and contains a murderer, who may die before he is due to be hanged…

There is No Blue by Martha Baillie
I am only human and I begged for an advanced copy of this memoir on the basis of the cover. Sorry; booksellers are swayed by these things too. It’s a stunning triptych of essays about the author’s mother, father and sister. The writing is laden with grief and heavy with beauty.
Empireworld: How British Imperialism Has Shaped the Globe by Sathnam Sanghera
Following his brilliant Empireland, which examined imperialism’s effect on Britain, Empireworld expands its view outwards to the rest of the world. Sanghera looks at Britain’s idea of Empire’s effect compared with the world’s experience of it, arguing for honest engagement with the present as well as the past.

Wrong Norma by Anne Carson
That’s right. There’s a new Anne Carson collection. Need I say more?
Since Carson herself argues that her books should be published without cover copy, no, I will not. I can’t wait.

Details of all our events are on the website, including book groups and author events. The next Poetry in Herons is on Saturday 13th January and will feature Matt Bryden, Josephine Corcoran and Isabella Mead, all of whom have recently been published by Live Canon.

May your New Year’s Eve be as wild as you wish it to be and your 1st January as serene as a heron.