Category Archives: Bristol

Life Chances, a novel that traces Broken Britain, from the University of Bristol

The University of Bristol team, Productive Margins, have not only produced a novel but have also set up an Etsy shop to sell the products they have created.

The novel is called Life Chances and it tracks the journey of an aspirant journalist as she explores ‘Broken Britain’, uncovering the personal stories of refugees, migrants, and families living in low-income situations and dealing with the UK authorities. They discover that it is not easy to gain a foothold on the economic ladder or find security for your children.

The authors (community members, researchers and artists) lived the lives of the characters while writing the novel, primarily by making jewellery and enacting the jewellery co-operative that is a major storyline. Fiction has now turned to fact with Life Chances authors Moestak Hussein and Akilah Tye Comrie setting up ‘Life Chances CIC’ for real. The jewellery-making business aims to help people living in marginalized communities to take back control of their lives.

Life Chances is written and edited by Simon Poulter and Sophie Mellor (Close and Remote), Nathan Evans, Moestak Hussein, Akilah Tye Comrie, Trasi, Safiya, Saediya and the wider community of research volunteers in Bristol and Cardiff.

The novel is one of the outputs from the University of Bristol-led Productive Margins project that aims to find new ways of engaging communities in decision making with regulatory services and policy makers.

Bristol Book events coming up in February

11 February – 14:30
Waterstones, The Galleries
Children’s author Maz Evans talks about her book Who Let the Gods Out?

Waterstones, Broadmead, Bristol, BS1 3XD
T: 0117 925 2274 W: www.waterstones.com

 

 

 

11 February – 11:00 to 16:00

Waterstones, The Galleries

Walker and travel writer Christopher Somerville will be at Waterstones signing copies of his new book January Man and the Times Britain’s Best Walks.

https://www.waterstones.com/events/christopher-somerville-in-the-shop/bristol-galleries

 

 

11 to 19 February – 14:00 – 16:00
Foyles, Bristol
Half-Term Story Corner
Children’s Event, Free Event
For the little ones during half-term, there will be colouring, drawing, quiet reading time, and complimentary squash and biscuits!

There will be a cosy corner set up in the children’s section between 14:00 and 16:00 throughout the whole week of half-term as well as free refreshments and giving away stickers.

Foyles, Cabot Circus, Bristol, BS1 3BH

23 February – 18:30 – 20:00
Spike Island

As part of the Novel Writers series, Emma Flint talks about her novel Little Deaths.

It’s the summer of 1965, and the streets of Queens, New York shimmer in a heatwave. One July morning, Ruth Malone wakes to find a bedroom window wide open and her two young children missing. After a desperate search, the police make a horrifying discovery.

The sexism at the heart of the real-world conviction of cocktail waitress Alice Crimmins for the 1965 murders of her two young children forms the basis of British author Flint’s gripping debut.

Spike Island, 133 Cumberland Road, Bristol BS1 6UX

27 February 2017 – 19:00
Waterstones, The Galleries

Dorit Rabinyan talks about her new novel All the Rivers. chance encounter in New York brings two strangers together: Liat is a translation student, Hilmi a talented young painter. Together they explore the city, share fantasies, jokes and homemade meals and fall in love. There is only one problem: Liat is from Israel, Hilmi from Palestine.

https://www.waterstones.com/events/festival-of-ideas-at-waterstones-dorit-rabinyan/bristol-galleries

Waterstones, Broadmead, Bristol, BS1 3XD
T: 0117 925 2274 W: www.waterstones.com

28 February – 19:00
Waterstones, The Galleries

Simon Sebag Montefiore talks about his internationally acclaimed book The Romanovs, the Waterstones Non-Fiction Book of the Month.

 

Elizabeth Blackwell, born in Bristol, a doctor in New York

From the Writer’s Almanac for 3 February.

“It’s the birthday of the first woman to graduate from medical school, Elizabeth Blackwell, born on this day in Bristol, England, in 1821. She wanted to become a doctor because she knew that many women would rather discuss their health problems with another woman. She read medical texts and studied with doctors, but she was rejected by all the big medical schools. Finally the Geneva Medical College (which became Hobart College) in upstate New York accepted her. The faculty wasn’t sure what to do with such a qualified candidate, and so they turned the decision over to the students. The male students voted unanimously to accept her. Her classmates and even professors considered many medical subjects too delicate for a woman, and didn’t think she should be allowed to attend lectures on the reproductive system. But she graduated, became a doctor, and opened the New York Infirmary for Women and Children.”

From Changing the Face of Medicine:

She also published several important books on the issue of women in medicine, including Medicine as a Profession For Women in 1860 and Address on the Medical Education of Women in 1864.

Elizabeth Blackwell was born in Bristol, England in 1821, to Hannah Lane and Samuel Blackwell. Both for financial reasons and because her father wanted to help abolish slavery, the family moved to America when Elizabeth was 11 years old. Her father died in 1838. As adults, his children campaigned for women’s rights and supported the anti-slavery movement.

In her book Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women, published in 1895, Dr. Blackwell wrote that she was initially repelled by the idea of studying medicine. She said she had “hated everything connected with the body, and could not bear the sight of a medical book… My favourite studies were history and metaphysics, and the very thought of dwelling on the physical structure of the body and its various ailments filled me with disgust.” Instead she went into teaching, then considered more suitable for a woman. She claimed that she turned to medicine after a close friend who was dying suggested she would have been spared her worst suffering if her physician had been a woman.

London to Bristol route a success for James Attlee

Station to StationJames Attlee’s book Station to Station, about the London to Bristol route, is on the shortlist for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year.

Station to Station is a tale of journeys unlike those of the commuters who “lifting their eyes momentarily from an e-reader or pausing in their perusal of a newspaper to stir a cup of coffee, they may notice a town flashing past that they will never visit and wonder what happens there.” Attlee visited and wrote and travelled and observed as the GWR’s writer in residence. He was given a free travel pass and used it.

I first wrote about this veritable feast of travel anecdotes in Bristol247 and delighted in reading about Brunel’s cheeky plan to turn the horse at Cherhill into a steam locomotive that included the offensive letters GWR, after the villagers there opposed the railway; and then of the landscape’s “shifting gradations of colour, contour and light beneath the heavy sky,” on the way to the railway bridge at Maidenhead before passing the “view of the 12th century St Mary’s church at Cholsey where Agatha Christie, the author of the Miss Marple mystery 4.50 from Paddington, lies buried.”

Station to Station also has the honour of being one of five out of the six books on the shortlist that are by independent publishers. Guardian Books will undoubtedly be proud and this is one more book-related success for the media group. They were recently sold to the two employees who ran it. Long may the future of books and of Stanfords be a profit-making one.

Libraries are not wishy-washy cultural ‘love of books’ havens

I wrote this a few months ago when I was Books Editor at a regional magazine. I thought it was pretty strong in terms of its wording so was reluctant to publish but now re-reading it, it doesn’t feel strongly worded enough. Bristol is very lucky to only have one library close out of 27 and I say this because I am an avid reader of Public Libraries News and the devastation across the UK is just incredible. I urge you to read it and see exactly what is happening as the Conservative government devastates public resources.

What makes me even angrier than the government destroying our libraries is the wishy-washy cultural claptrap that fiction authors come up with at times like this. They focus on the beauty of literature and how it inspires the soul and how readers are better educated, perhaps, and that libraries are important because every child can find something that speaks to them in the pages of fiction.

FICTION.

Fiction is cheap. If you want fiction you can go to a charity shop and pick up a book for 50p. Fiction is wonderful and delightful and feeds the soul – perhaps – but it misses the huge role that libraries play in our democracy.

Do you know how much non-fiction books cost? If you were told you had cancer and you wanted to read about it in more depth and were thinking of buying a medical textbook, you would need to pay over £60. Books on science, politics, law, construction, engineering, anything that requires learning and education. Fiction is lovely but cheap. Knowledge is essential and unaffordable.

So I’m sick of people talking about how their grandfather used to take them to the library where they spent wonderful moments and decided to write more fiction so more children could have wonderful moments. The true crime of our libraries shutting down is the full-frontal assault on democracy and knowledge. The government is destroying sources of information. They are taking away the power from citizens of educating and informing themselves. What gets left afterwards is the mass of elite-owned media which so far have been supporters of the government.

The following shows just this when you consider how anti-Corbyn they have all been, including most importantly, The Guardian, even though it claims to be of the left:

“Other than that, we’ve got three London boroughs making waves. There’s a lot of action, notably from Unison, about Barnet’s proposal to cut library services and almost half their library staff in the process. Amazingly, the Shadow Chancellor comes out with a fulsome note of support for the protestors. That’s a real, very real, change from pre-Corbyn days.”

The following is what I wrote months ago. I didn’t expect to ramble on so much in the preamble and have probably said all I wanted to say. My point is that people talk of libraries as a privilege but they are not a privilege. They are an essential part of a functioning democracy. To call them a privilege is to allow them to be destroyed because in times of (manufactured) austerity all we can afford are the basics. Well libraries are the basics. They are the bare necessities and if you listen to fiction writers you will soon start believing that maybe they are not necessary after all.

The ‘cultural fiction narrative‘ is a decoy. Ignore it and remember that when you need information you won’t be able to afford it. If you need your soul to sing with the passion of someone’s artifice, you’ll probably find it at your local charity shop.

Anyway, here is the piece:

My bibliophile uncle who loved books so much that he rented another apartment for all of his, died recently. He was a lawyer.

He didn’t just find his cultural self and soul through middle of the range commercial fiction or classic literature that was published within the last couple of centuries. He found knowledge, information and education. He had the basis of culture.

Fiction makes up less than half of what a library can offer and it’s not until you need to learn about your history, the government, medicine, health or anything that requires a Dewey decimal number that you realise not every book costs around a fiver.

Libraries seem a privilege because they are associated with culture and entertainment but you have no idea what a privilege access to information is until you lose it.

At your local library, for £3.50 you can borrow any book published in the UK, including textbooks. Textbooks that can cost over £100.

I don’t begrudge fiction and I don’t think it’s just entertainment because it comes in large print, on ebook, in audiobooks (downloadable on my phone) , out to prisons and as part of a mobile library. It isn’t the fiction you can pick up at oxfam, it’s access and format and resources.

The necessity and privilege of being able to read Marx and Locke an John Stuart Mill is not greater than finding magic in Enid Blyton or Roald Dahl but taking away education and information is devastating to society. Taking away the fiction which describes and relates the magic of us to everyone is taking away a sparkle and lifeline from a certain section of our city.

When those consulting on our libraries look at the benefits to the city they consider everyone but not everyone has any interest in the library.

The weakest and most vulnerable have nowhere else to go because everywhere else requires some form of payment.

There are others who don’t need free books, access to daily newspapers and magazines or who have any interest in book clubs or readings or literary walks. They can afford access to information no matter what the cost and the library is not for them.

For lovers of libraries there is always a story of love and connection and access to the rest of the world through books. The stories seem personal but they are only individual in the sense that we divide public goods and share them amongst each other. We all benefit individually when we all grow culturally and as a society together. When it all breaks down we all lose as a society and more importantly grow in our isolation. This is exactly what Thatcher was talking about when she said there is no society there are only individuals.

Together we hold the safety net for the weakest, apart we protect only ourselves. We can only grow together. You take away our libraries and next you take away our power as citizens.

You think I’m exaggerating but I come from a family which houses its books in a flat of their own. The libraries in Bristol aren’t confined to one person- they are all of our mistress. Open access for all. Now that’s love.

The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds and how men get to speak while women stay silent

secretlife4yearolds_150309a

The following are some thoughts after seeing the show:

I have just watched the Secret Life of 4 Year Olds which is based on observation over two weekends, each six months apart, observing children. The men with PhDs, who said they had never been able to listen to children like that before (this group of children wore microphones), were the only ones who commented on behaviour while the female teachers were not shown expressing any opinion even though they had a lot more contact with children this age. This felt one-sided. 

The children were fascinating but I won’t comment on their behaviour. 

Channel 4 describes the show as follows: 

 This documentary follows 10 four-year-olds as they meet at nursery, exploring how children make and break friendships, share, stand up for themselves, and find their place in a new social group.

Dr Paul Howard -Jones is from the University of Bristol and one of two educational neuroscientists who observe the children from behind the scenes by observing the action on monitors. The show cuts away at regular intervals to the two male scientists reacting to the children while watching them and listening on headphones. 

Jones said :”Even though I wasn’t interacting with the children, I found myself becoming incredibly involved, emotionally, in the narratives that were developing for each individual child.”

The other scientist was Dr Sam Wass from the Cognition and Brain Science Unit at Cambridge University.

The two women who do interact with the children are “highly trained teachers” and their profiles are not posted on the website and their opinions are not sought. 

 The questions I have about this show 

 1. How much of children’s  behaviour is copied from their carers? 

 2. How can the scientists draw conclusions from the children’s actions without seeing how their carers behave? 

3. Do the teachers agree with all the conclusions?

 4. what do the teachers have to add about individual children and group behaviour based on their experience and education?

5. What do they think about the limitations and benefits of filming  children over such short periods of time?

Week 7: Clever Girl vs Things Unborn

Two things are unavoidable in Bristol novels: slavery and the suspension bridge. I’m now almost certain that a reference to Bath Spa University will have to be added to that list.

Tessa Hadley would have walked alongside C.J. Flood, Nathan Filer and Anna Freeman at Corsham Court in Bath as she lectured and still lectures at that university. One way in which she stands out from the rest however is that she has often been published in the New Yorker, including two chapters from Clever Girl.

clevergirlIn Clever Girl, she writes about Stella who we follow from the bedsit she shares with her mum in Kingsdown in the 1960s, all the way to adulthood and through most of Bristol. Stella’s auntie ‘Andy went to work on the factory floor of the chocolate manufacturers where Uncle Ray was in dispatch.’ The chocolate manufacturer is Fry’s which was based at Nelson Street.

There is a move from the city centre to a new estate on Stoke Bishop. We chart her various phases through location. Young, single mother Stella works on Park Row and lives in a commune.

What got very tedious for me was the constant description of everyone’s face and personality. The way they were labelled in such detail. Hadley says that “I never think that the material detail is an addition to the story. A story is what it is through the detail.” And yet those details have to progress the story not just be used to add words.

Stella is a sad and burdened kind of character who is talked about by her future self as if she spent her whole life lacking self-awareness. The characters aren’t easy to enjoy but the story did bring up something very Bristolian that doesn’t get discussed very much; the wide disparity between those who participate in higher education and those who don’t. Or those who have opportunities and those who don’t.

polar2_bristol

The map of Bristol above shows a range of areas with different levels of participation in HE. Dark blue areas are where most young people will go on to HE and the red patches show areas where few, if any, do. In Bristol, it is often the case that these areas are right next to each other. Clifton, Cotham and the city centre are all areas of higher participation and right next to St Philip’s where very few young people may know anyone in HE.

The two universities in Bristol are also very different. One is full of “girls and boys with glossy hair and loudly assured voices who’d been to private school” and the other is UWE, surprisingly not mentioned in this book. Stella in later life gets three As at A Level and ‘with these good grades [she] applied to university” and got in to study English literature. This of course makes little sense in real-world Bristol University. Every one who applies there has three As (or A*s now). Good grades are only a distinguishing factor if that’s what separates you from the other candidates. At Bristol this does not and most people of Stella’s background apply to and attend UWE instead.

Things Unborn by Eugene Byrne is the contender against Clever Girl this week and while I knew it was a novel set in London with very little Bristol reference, I just couldn’t resist writing about Byrne and seeing what his fiction was like. If there is ever a writer who knows Bristol then it is he. He has written about Bristol in magazines, online and in published books. He wrote about Brunel and about plans for Bristol that never did get built.

Things Unborn, however, is just not that informative about this West Country city. There is a wink at Bristol with reference to the Locarno Music Hall which used to be where the O2 Academy is now and was popular in the 1960s. There is also a pretty great description: ‘The great city of Bristol was the light and the shadow of their lives, a huge, sprawling, noisy port where merchants got rich on slaves and sugar, and the poor drank and pissed their money and miseries away in stinking dockside ale houses.

In 1962, the USA and Russia went to nuclear war over Cuba…after millions of deaths, people started returning. Not just those killed in the Atom War, but people who had died centuries previously. And they were always reborn in the place where they died, at the age of their death. In Britain, there were struggles for power between Catholics and Protestants, another Monmouth Rebellion. Now, in 2008, Richard III rules the country – although he holds no real power. And Protestant fanatics would see him, his government and their “Liberal Settlement” destroyed. A handful of policemen and their allies must hunt down the conspirators.

Protagonist Inspector Scipio Africanus lived his previous life as a slave in Bristol and is a reference back to a black slave or servant in the household of the Earl of Suffolk. He died aged about 18 and was buried at Henbury Churchyard, Bristol, in 1720. His grave is one of the few known burial places in the UK of an African from the period when Christian Englishmen traded in slaves.

The links to Bristol are there but not enough to make this book a real contender. It’s a heavy-going read with a lot of information to process. There are many explanations about the new reality, about the retread procedure, about each and every past era from which the people who have died have arrived. Also the new reality consists of current police procedures, geographies, machines and products that all take some explanation and then there’s the parallel world’s history, current politics and future trajectory. And in between all this there is a storyline.

The effect is one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld meets Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. A quality production but not light and breezy.

This week’s winner is unquestionably Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley.

Week 6: Eye Contact vs Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion

Airship300 Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion is published by Wizard’s Tower Press who also produced the tribute Colinthology. They are a curious publisher who specialise in science fiction and fantasy but don’t want submissions and won’t read them if you send any. This isn’t the only reason they have become a firm favourite, they are also very friendly and are big fans of the south west.

The short stories in the current Roz Clarke and Joanne Hall edited work are Bristolian from title to end. The title is a play on the phrase ‘shipshape and Bristol fashion’, a term dating from 1840 when talking about the treachorous port of Bristol. Its very high tidal range of 13m meant that if things weren’t tied down they would end up overboard.

Not only is the time period fitting to these stories but their genre seems surprisingly apt. “Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century.” It all makes for a very respectful tribute to this city. The following quotation from the introduction says it quite nicely:

Take a walk around Bristol, and history seeps from the walls. The city can claim more than its fair share of firsts, including the first iron-hulled steamship, the first female doctor, the first chocolate bar and the first use of nitrous oxide as an anaesthetic, the invention of the Plimsoll line, the first undersea telegraph cable, the world’s first test tube baby and the first transplant organ grown from stem cells, and a large share of the world’s first supersonic airliner. Now, from this fertile ground comes an anthology charting other realities and alternate histories, in a collection as rich and varied as the true history of this great British city.

— Gareth L. Powell

“Not bad for a little city” said Bristol Culture editor, Martin Booth,  when I read the above to him and he would add that Bristol is where Ribena was invented too.

Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion doesn’t shy away from the less glamorous aspects of the city such as its slavery connections and the tobacco industry but all is included in a rich Bristol setting.

Two excellent stories from its collection are Joanne Hall’s Brass and Bone which is based in Clifton and touches on the use of the Suspension Bridge in both folklore and local awareness.

The Girl with Red Hair, by Myfanwy Rodman is written so beautifully and hauntingly while making sure to use Bristol to its most picturesque best, never losing sight of its story. Not all the stories are as strong but all are true to their setting.

eyecontact Eye Contact by Fergus McNeill on the other hand is a debut novel published by the same company that has published Stephen King. They are big and they have money to spare. McNeill’s work is about a serial killer whose method of choosing victims is in the title.

It starts on Severn Beach with a body and then begins from the serial killer’s perspective in Clifton. There is a subtitle in parentheses – DI Harland Book I and it has a sequel, published in 2013, with its follow-up title DI Harland Book II.

As all slickly published and promoted books, these days, there is a trailer.

Eye Contact is set in Bristol but it has no love of the city. At least none more than a passing acquaintance because of the fact that it is set here. Clifton Down, Whiteladies and Starbucks feature prominently in the beginning and even after a walk up to the Clifton Observatory, and the obligatory mention of the Suspension Bridge there is no sense that these characters are part of their setting.

Clifton is an obvious choice of a setting for tourists and casual Bristolians but when a character in Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion visits a pawnbroker on Hobbs Lane then you know you’re reading someone who knows their city.

Eye Contact could be set anywhere without the story changing. The depth of the characters doesn’t go far enough to touch anything more than a curiosity about the plot. The writing is smooth, it’s slick and it’s glib. If you like Peter James then you’ll like Fergus McNeill, and if you love Jeffrey Archer then you’re in for a treat.

For the purposes of this tournament however, there is only one choice for the work that is shipshape and Bristol fashion and it’s the collection of short stories which references many airships. Not bad for a little publisher, who certainly outshone Hodder & Stoughton on this occasion.

Week 5: the Fair Fight vs the Accidental Proposal

Once again I got it wrong in the case of a book’s setting. The Accidental Proposal is set in Brighton, not Bristol. It wouldn’t have fared well against Freeman anyway so I won’t say any more about it.

The Fair Fight is Anna Freeman’s debut novel after completing her BA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and then her MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is now a creative writing lecturer at Bath Spa University (where Nathan Filer also lectures).

Bristol, 1799. In Frog Lane, right in the city centre, is a brothel called the Convent and that’s where plain and unremarkable Ruth is born and raised. Destined to follow the profession of those around her she instead catches the eye of Mr Dryer, local merchant and boxing enthusiast.

Dryer takes Ruth under his wing and she soon makes a life as a female boxer – a pugilist – dropping more than her fair share of blood in the sawdust at the infamous Hatchett inn, where in modern times Freeman worked for six years.

On the other side of the class divide is genteel, rich, pockmarked and angry Charlotte, Dryer’s wife. She has lost most of her family to small pox, all except for her bullying brother who hides from the world and spends most of his time staring at the bottom of a bottle.

Freeman provides not only a level of emotional depth to her characters that makes them believable but her research adds some details which while not well-known ring true because they are based in reality.

She was inspired to write The Fair Fight after reading one of her nieces Horrible Histories books. She says “I had no idea that it happened but female prize-fighters used to write challenges to each other in newspapers. I read about Elizabeth Stokes who, in one example, answered Ann Field’s taunt with: “I, Elizabeth Stokes, of the City of London… Do assure her … that the blows I shall present her with will be more difficult to digest than any she ever gave her asses.”

Most women fighters were either prostitutes or suffering in poverty and while they may have made names for themselves in the ring, they had little value outside it.

Freeman’s research also encompassed reading diaries of Georgian women. “There are all these extracts from the diaries of spinsters and loads of them are so bitter and angry.”

There is an examination of injustice and personal power in the Fair Fight and quite a comprehensive look at the Bristol of the times. From schooling at St Michael’s Hill to the poverty in the dirty centre by the docks and the rich houses and families at Queen Square, there is a great sense that this take could not have taken place anywhere else. There is even a festival by the Harbourside which seems the ancestor of our current Harbour Festival.

The Fair Fight is not only a great Bristol novel but also one of the best books of the year.

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on August 28.

Week 4: Bristol Bells vs Where’s My Money?

In front of a low, old house, opposite St Mary Redcliffe and tall business buildings, there sat a thoughtful effigy of Bristol’s best known literary figure, the boy poet Thomas Chatterton. This figure is hidden whilst the house is being repaired but a plaque still helps identify the location.

Feeling disgruntled and under appreciated in his home town of Bristol, Chatterton left for London in 1770. Finding no luck there either his life came to a sad end by the time he was 24.

Since I have not included poets in this tournament, however, I would have had no need to mention him were it not for Emma Marshall.

Marshall, author in 1890 of Bristol Bells, and of over 200 more stories in her lifetime, liked to base her works around a famous figure and in this case it was Chatterton.

The story is also about Bryda, the beautiful and refined granddaughter of a farmer, who wants to follow the sound of the Bristol bells and leave her house in Dundry. When an old debt needs to be repaid she has no choice but to gain employment as a servant in the same house where Chatterton is apprenticed to a lawyer.

Marshall clearly, and fittingly to the story, outlines what is known of Chatterton’s sad and short life. Bristol Bells is a pleasant and short read with two stories running parallel. It is informative of one of the great literary figures of Bristol as she includes bits and pieces of his life and snippets if his poetry along with biographical information.

Much of the story takes place between Corn Street and Dowry Square with ventures to Hot Wells and St Vincent’s Rocks. There is a villain and a love interest, suspense and intrigue and a delightful introduction to the Bristol of 250 years ago.

Power of expression: 6/10
Bristol content: 11/15
Bristol integration: 9/15
Characterisation: 6/10
Total: 32/50

Mike Manson’s Where’s My Money, on the other hand, is a classic in contemporary Bristol fiction and as the cover suggests, it will indeed make you laugh out loud.

Max Redcliffe joins the Ministry of Work at the unemployment office on Union Street after having been on the other side of the counter for quite a while. His colleagues include Lee Woods and Ashley Hill and if you don’t recognise a couple of these names then you’re obviously not a Bristolian.

There is a wicked charm to Redcliffe’s story of his adventures in the unemployment office which while failing to deliver much of a narrative arc does provide lots of entertainment and information about the south west city.

From cider to slavery, tobacco to chocolate, the Downs and the Clifton Suspension Bridge, there is so much Bristol in its pages that this story could not have taken place anywhere else and yet the book does not feel overburdened with facts.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge, hanging by a thread across a vertiginous gorge, is one of the world’s most fabulous bridges, and it goes nowhere. There’s nothing on the other side of the bridge apart from a few big houses and a wood. The bridge is an expensive conceit. And rightly so. This golden gateway frames the Avon Gorge – transforming the landscape of grey cliffs and hornbeam woods into a sublime vision of grandeur.

Set in the 70s, it is funny and consistently Bristolian and manages to cover the decade pretty well too. The only thing that seems to have changed in 40 years is that we now have some great places for coffee. Three in fact. Oh and that the Bristol sound is no longer jazz.

Power of expression: 8/10
Bristol content: 15/15
Bristol integration: 13/15
Characterisation: 8/10
Total: 44/5020140727-220433-79473448.jpg