April Miscellany!

April has been a bit of a bust for me on the blog, something which now seems to happen annually. All the effort of Reading Ireland Month means I find it hard to get back into the regular swing of things, but Easter, a sick daughter and a lot of other work has meant that I’ve hardly posted at all this month!

Despite that, there was still plenty going on in April, so here are the books, movies and music I’ve been enjoying over the last few weeks.

Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv by Andrey Kurkov, translated by Reuben Woolley

Strange things are afoot in the cosmopolitan city of Lviv, western Ukraine. Seagulls are circling and the air smells salty, though Lviv is a long way from the sea. A ragtag group gathers round a grave – among them an ex-KGB officer and an ageing hippy he used to spy on. Before long, Captain Ryabtsev and Alik Olisevych team up to discover the source of the ‘anomalies’.

Meanwhile, Taras – who makes his living driving kidney-stone patients over cobblestones in his ancient Opel Vectra – is courting Darka, who works nights at a bureau de change despite being allergic to money. The young lovers don’t know it, but their fate depends on two lonely old men, relics of another era, who will stop at nothing to save their city.

There’s lots to enjoy in Jimi Hendrix in Lviv, but overall I found it incredibly slight. Charming, quirky characters notwithstanding, the narrative itself just isn’t focused enough (lots of people call to lots of other people’s houses and drink vodka) and the source of the intriguing anomalies is a bit of a let down when finally revealed.

I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai

I read The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai pre-blog and didn’t really get on with it, for reasons I now can’t remember, but Susan’s great review of I Have Some Questions For You made me think that I should revisit Makkai’s writing. I’m glad I did as I really enjoyed this literary mystery set at a New Hampshire boarding school.

Bodie Kane, is a successful podcaster who is invited back to her alma mater to tutor students in the art of the medium. One student, however, wants to make a podcast about the 1995 murder of Thalia Keith, and what they consider to be the wrongful conviction of her killer. This causes a dilemma for Bodie, as she was a classmate of Thalia and always had her own theory about who was responsible for her death.

Makkai covers a lot of themes here; exploring the #MeToo movement and the insidious nature of violence against women, the morality of true-crime podcasts and very nature of truth itself, but she does so with a sharpness and sensitivity and never sacrifices the propulsive nature of her plot.

Close to Home by Michael Magee

Named by The Observer as one of the ten best new novelists of 2023, Michael Magee’s debut novel Close to Home is a Belfast novel, but more than that, it is a distinctly West Belfast novel.

Sean Maguire has returned to the city from Liverpool with a degree in English and a dream to write a novel, but prospects are thin on the ground and he is eking out a living working in nightclubs, sharing a squalid flat with his best mate Ryan and spending all his spare cash on drink, drugs and nights out. At a house party, he knocks another young man unconscious and the fall-out from this impulsive act threatens to derail his already precarious situation.

Drawing on his own experiences, Magee has crafted a novel that explores the economic and personal constraints that have left Sean in a liminal space, being pulled in different directions by the life he wants, and by the life he wants to leave behind. Sean is part of the generation who were promised something better by the Good Friday Agreement but instead find themselves inhibited in different, but equally stifling ways. This portrait of modern masculinity is played out against a milieu of job shortages, rising rents and ongoing sectarian distrust. Magee is a compassionate and insightful writer and his debut is shot through with humour and emotion, despite the difficulty of the subject matter.


In Corsage, Austrian director Marie Kreutzer, imagines the home life of the Hapsburg Empress Elisabeth of Austria in 1877, the year of her 40th birthday. Hers is a life of luxurious loneliness – a national treasure to her subjects but an unfulfilled woman behind the doors of her castle. Despite her position, she is as isolated and restricted as any woman, shunned by the court, maligned by her husband and body-shamed by everyone she comes into contact with.

Vicky Krieps is magnificent in her depiction of defiance and despair, as she struggles to maintain her flawless image and that of the empire she is expected to incarnate. While historically accurate, Kreutzer plays with the realism by inserting some interesting anachronisms into her narrative and the final moments of the film are unforgettable.

An Irish Goodbye

There was a lot of buzz about the sheer number of Irish contenders at this years Oscars, but interestingly, the one that was least talked about was the one that had the biggest success on the night. An Irish Goodbye is a gorgeous short film set in rural Northern Ireland, which sees two brothers, one home from London and one with Downs Syndrome fighting over the future of the family farm, following the death of their mother. An Irish Goodbye is a really charming film, exploring themes of loss, family and responsibility with a very light touch. It will have you laughing and crying in equal measure.

Plus, it gave the Oscars one of its most heart-warming moments, when an audience of Hollywood’s great and good sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to the film’s star – James Martin.

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

This Oscar-nominated documentary follows celebrated American photographer Nan Goldin in her crusade against the philanthropic monolith- the Sackler family- due to their role in the fuelling of the opioid crisis.

The Sackler’s are the pharma billionaires behind the explosion in OxyContin addiction. Goldin was prescribed the drug for pain relief and became addicted almost immediately. She founded the advocacy organisation P.A.I.N.(Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) in part to support other survivors and those who lost family members to the drug, and also to challenge the manner in which the Sackler’s launder their reputation through hefty donations to museums and galleries. This is a really powerful film, which carefully meshes biographical elements of Goldin’s work and career, with her campaign to have the Sackler’s take responsibility for the pain their drug has inflicted on hundreds of thousands of Americans.

I reviewed a couple of albums for the folks at No More Workhorse recently including Garden Party by the wonderful Rose City Band and Manzanita by Shana Cleveland. However my non-stop player this month has been the new album from boygenius, the American indie rock ‘supergroup’ featuring Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus.

Monthly Miscellany

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

13 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I’m so sorry to hear your daughter has been sick, Cathy.
    I loved I Have Some Questions for You. I’m about 100 pages into Birnam Wood now and loving that too! I’d been a bit hesitant because of the mixed reviews, but it’s right up my street.


  2. I found Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv a bit “slight”, too. (What a good way to say what I felt: ineffective!) I am always sad to not participate fully in your Irish Reading Month, as it comes when I am neck deep in the International Booker Prize longlist…I fully understand that lag of trying to recover from a challenge and find something to sink your teeth into.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I do hope your daughter’s feeling better, Cathy. Glad to hear you were impressed by the Magee. I thought it was thoroughly deserving of all the prepublication hype. Fingers crossed May will be a more restful month for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I totally understand how you would feel a bit let down after all you put into Reading Ireland month. I’m glad your daughter is better now. I just watched An Irish Goodbye. I had wanted to read it before, but it was not available to me until now. Have a good weekend and I hope May finds you back in your groove.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hope your daughter’s back to fighting fitness! I have the Makkai on my reading list, so I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it – it’ll be my introduction to her, so I have no preconceptions.


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