Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Titus Andronicus and J G Ballard, for PORT

Afternoon: I've written a short piece on the connection between Titus Andronicus and J G Ballard, for PORT magazine. Read it here.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Review of THE BROKEN KING in the Financial Times

Some nice news: Suzi Feay reviewed THE BROKEN KING in The Financial Times a couple of weekends ago, which someone pointed out to me. Luckily a friend had kept hold of a copy. It's not available online yet, but it's a subtle and intelligent review: ""[Womack] does conjure an eerie poetry of the subconscious, a kind of Alice in Terrorland," she says, which is exactly what I was going for.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Author of the week on Quadrapheme

PW is Author of the week on Quadrapheme: read it here.

Nick Harkaway's Tigerman: review in the TLS

Top of the morning to you: I've reviewed Nick Harkaway's Tigerman, for the Times Literary Supplement. It's available on the website (subscription only) or in the elegant print version on newstands.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Reader review of The Broken King on The Guardian

Here's a sweet reader review of The Broken King on The Guardian. Read it here.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Reviews of THE BROKEN KING on Lovereading4Kids

The week begins with something nice: a lovely review of THE BROKEN KING by The Guardian's Julia Eccleshare, on Lovereading4Kids: "A magical story full of powerful images and unexpected consequences." Read the full review, and some comments from readers, here.

There was also a nice little review on Parentsintouch: "This mesmerising fantasy is inspired by Browning's Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came ...This page turner of a novel grips throughout and will have the reader keen to read the rest of the trilogy."

Monday, 2 June 2014

First review of THE BROKEN KING, by Kate Saunders, in June issue of Literary Review

Hello all, the very first review of THE BROKEN KING, by Kate Saunders, author of many children's books including The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop, is out. It's in the June issue of Literary Review, which also has on its front cover Jonathan Beckman's book about Marie-Antoinette, and contains a piece by Patrick Hennessey and a picture from Willem Marx's book on Balochistan, amongst many other delights. Literary Review doesn't post everything online, so I've put Saunders' review below, but do check out the magazine's website here. And do get hold of a lovely print copy if you can.
Kate Saunders
“Steal the Sun”

The Broken King
by Philip Womack

Beware of what you wish for; Simon, the young hero of this spendidly engaging book, is being driven mad by his little sister, Anna. He suddenly remembers an old story that contains a “rhyme for getting rid of annoying siblings”. And the next thing he knows, Anna has vanished. This is guaranteed to strike a chord with any reader who has wished they could get rid of a tiresome brother or sister.

But of course he didn’t mean it – the thing about annoying siblings is that you can’t live without them either. Some dark force has whisked Anna away and Simon, in agonies of guilt, is force to acknowledge how much he loves her. What can he tell their parents? The family is going through a tough time – Dad has lost his job and moved them all from London to a rented cottage beside the sea.

Out walking, Simon has a dazzling vision of a golden woman who rides a golden deer with wings. “I know where your sister is,” she tells him, “in the world of the Broken King.” This lady is from the Golden Realm and she’s here to send Simon off on a magical quest – strewn with all the classic ingredients of a good quest, including prosaic objects with unexpected powers, evil knights who change into swans, and three mysteriously worded “tasks”: “Eat the shadow”, “Steal the sun” and “Break the air.” Not clich├ęs, just your basic quest-pack.

What gives this story its zest is the charm of the two main characters – for, of course, the pack must contain a companion. Simon is joined by 13-year-old Flora, who wears smudged eyeliner and a tatty black leather jacket. Flora’s along for the ride because she made the same wish as Simon and accidentally got rid of her 18-year old brother. He’s into drugs and was tearing Flora’s life apart, but, like Simon, she is now admitting her deep love for the sibling she wished away. Consumed with guilt, the two children assume they are about to walk through the gates of hell.

The Broken King echoes with references to all kinds of mythologies, jumping effortlessly between Greek gods and the Brothers Grimm, with a classy dash of Victorian gothic. It is the first volumee of a trilogy, “The Darkening Path,” and Philip Womack tok as his inspiration Browning’s Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.

The first book suddenly stops with all ends dangling – which is frustrating. Novels that are part of a series should deliver more immediate satisfaction. But I’m only complaining because The Broken King is superbly written and totally gripping, and I want the next bit now.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

The Hay Literary Festival: Heroes, Assassins and Dragons

The year before last, I received an email headlined: "Hay Festival." Terribly excited that at last I had been invited to speak at Britain's best-known literary festival, I opened it, only to find it was from a PR company telling me what the line-up was. So when, this year, I received another email with the same headline, I ignored it for ages. Luckily I eventually opened it, as this time round it was an actual invitation. I couldn't have been more delighted.

The train that I took from Paddington on a Tuesday afternoon was pullulating with people, most of whom seemed also to be doing talks at Hay. ("We live in a post-ironic world" was the general level of conversation.) On arrival at Hereford, I shared a car with two other authors, and was driven through impeccably lush countryside to my B and B, a charming house which belongs to an artist called Shan Egerton.

In the author's tent,  I ran into a friend who works for PEN and The White Review, and we had dinner and talked about Chilean anti-poets dancing at the age of 90, and how there's no time to read everything anymore.

Everything was muddy the next morning: hordes of people wearing sensible parkas and wellies were the order of the day, in contrast to my brogues and light summer jacket. I should have listened to Charlie Fletcher, one of the two authors I was doing my talk with (the other being Justin Somper), who advised bringing some seriously weatherproof kit. Still, I managed to make it through the day virtually unscathed, spending the time before my event sitting in the hospitality suite, and spotting famous writers gradually filling up the sofas: Sebastian Faulks was there in a smashing purple jacket.

I had an hour or so to look at the bookshops, and of course bought something in every one I went into. I would like to be able to spend a day or more there. What I love about second hand bookshops is the serendipity of things: there is no bullish marketing, or bestsellers thrust into your face, but you can turn a corner and find something beautiful. I came back with a version of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex for children, with startling Indian illustrations; a PG Wodehouse novel which introduces the excellent Psmith to Blandings Castle, and with a Chris Riddell cover , and a nineteenth century translation of the Greek Anthology.

The talk itself went well, chaired by the admirable Julia Eccleshare. We discussed making magical worlds; did some readings, and then went into questions. In the Starlight tent everything took on a  gentle glow, and, fortunately, nobody fell asleep.

All too soon I was back on the train, lugging my box of Berry Bros wine, and with a white rose in my lapel. A fellow passenger took me in and said, simply, "Why?" I shrugged. "Hay," I replied. It seemed to do the trick.

Review of Constantine Phipps' What You Want in The Spectator

Afternoon all: I've reviewed Constantine Phipps' new book, What You Want, for The Spectator. Read the review here.