Meanwhile, Over At Shiny: The Honours, by Tim Clare, and Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, by Caitlin Doughty


Shiny New Books is an online book recommendation magazine, published four times a year to highlight the best of fiction, nonfiction, reprinted fiction, and literary news in its Bookbuzz section. I now write reviews for them, and the Summer 2015 edition is up today!

First, Tim Clare’s historical/fantastical novel The Honours, published by Canongate and set in interwar Norfolk. Here’s the beginning of my review:

It’s rare for any book, let alone a book marketed as literary fiction for adults, to open with a thirteen-year-old girl lying flat on her stomach in a marsh. It’s rarer still for that teenaged girl not to be the victim of some horrific tabloid crime, but rather a shotgun-wielding deadeye; and it is rare in the extreme for her quarry to be, not a pheasant or a rabbit, but a dog-sized bat-creature from a parallel universe. This is how Tim Clare begins The Honours.

Tempting, eh? It’s like Buffy mixed with Doctor Who plus a little bit of Downton Abbey if Downton Abbey were populated by creatures of eldritch horror. Read the rest of the review here.


The second book I reviewed for this edition was actually–gasp!–nonfiction, a memoir by a young mortician entitled Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. Canongate has published this one too (they’re really bloody good, those people):

Caitlin Doughty was a twenty-three-year-old with a degree in medieval history when she decided to become a mortician. The decision wasn’t spontaneous; she had been obsessed with death, she tells us, ever since, as a little girl, she watched another child fall to her death in a Honolulu shopping mall. Still, it’s an unusual career choice, which she freely admits. Her hope in joining the funeral industry seems to have been to exorcise some of her long-standing fears about death and mortality, whilst also feeding her attendant obsession with them. What eventually happened was this memoir, which chronicles not only her journey from fear to acceptance, but her growing interest in helping fight the culture of silence and ignorance that surrounds death, dying, and mourning rituals in modern Western (by which she mostly means American) culture.

It’s a generous-hearted book about learning not to fear death and about empowering the dying, and their relatives, to make informed choices about how you die and what happens to you afterwards. More here.

I’ll be reviewing Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things for the Extra Shiny edition in August, to coincide with its paperback release, so stay tuned for that!

Please do spend some time poking around the rest of the reviews at Shiny New Books; I think it’s a public service, like talking to your favourite librarian or bookseller or friend or mother-in-law, or whoever else recommends your books to you. It’s also edited by some great and dedicated people, whose own work can be found here: Annabel’s House of Books (Annabel), Harriet Devine’s Blog (Harriet), Stuck In A Book (Simon) and Tales From the Reading Room (Victoria).


6 thoughts on “Meanwhile, Over At Shiny: The Honours, by Tim Clare, and Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, by Caitlin Doughty

    • To demystify and yet to retain sanctity–that’s what I’d like for my own death more than anything else, and no more than people deserve.

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