The best of the year’s HIP Reads, in no particular order of merit,
as chosen by Literature Editor PETE DONOHUE

Dhanmondi Road 

By R.H. Young

Early in the year HIP’s ELLY GIBSON reviewed this first novel set during the aftermath of the Bangladesh war of independence, and said of it:

“All in all it’s a big thumbs up for me for this debut novel from East Sussex resident Robin Young. It’s a memorable coming-of-age story of a flawed but likeable hero…Young’s writing is as honest as it is informative, and he observes the human condition well. He moves through his story at just the right pace, and his characters are strong, plausible and fully rounded. I feel like I gained something from this book and it stayed with me afterwards, which is so important for a reader. I look forward to his next work.”

This week the author told HIP: “Nationally (and internationally) the book has received some attention. It was to be featured at the London Book Fair in March as a new title, but of course this was cancelled.  However it was featured at the online Frankfurt Book Fair, in October.  It was also featured at the international book fair in Sharjah and will be featured at a New York book fair in mid-2021. The book seems to have generated a lot of interest in the US and I have had many enquiries about it following Frankfurt and also
it has been very favourably reviewed by a Bangladeshi reviewer.”

Available from local independent bookstores, Amazon, and at libraries
across the county.

Turbulent Spinsters: Women’s Fight for the Vote in Hastings and St Leonards 

by Ann Kramer

HIP’s BEN BRUGES was particularly impressed by prolific Hastings author Ann Kramer’s latest book and explained: “Most of social historian Ann Kramer’s meticulous research comes from the Hastings Observer’s records, and one of the interests in the book is in tracing the way the paper moves from outrage and outright opposition to the struggle for votes for women, to grudging support while criticising methods. 

“Kramer carefully traces the history (herstory?) from then to the stepped victories of 1918 and 1928 and concludes: ‘Starting from small beginnings in the late 1860s through to the turbulent years before the First World War, bands of thoughtful, determined women in Hastings and St Leonards devoted many years of their lives to the cause of achieving votes for women. They hosted meetings, booked public halls, took up public speaking, networked, wrote letters, lobbied politicians, joined huge marches and even broke the law in their absolute commitment to winning the vote. Women in Hastings and St Leonards today owe these dedicated campaigners a great deal.’ 

“The book celebrates the involvement of these early Hastings activists in the eventual success of the campaign for women’s suffrage. Highly recommended.” 

Available from Bookbusters and other local bookstores or from Amazon.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists in words & pictures

by Scarlet and Sophie Rickard

Back in September PETE DONOHUE reviewed a graphic adaptation of Robert Tressell’s classic semi-autobiographical novel of 1914 The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, then just out from the UK’s leading independent graphic novel publisher SelfMadeHero. Written and illustrated by Lancashire born sisters Scarlet and Sophie Rickard, the book is set in the fictional town of Mugsborough, easily identified as being based on Hastings & St Leonards where Tressell (the pen name of Robert Noonan) lived when he wrote it more than a hundred years ago. Sadly, Noonan died from tuberculosis at Liverpool Royal Infirmary in 1911, three years before his socialist masterpiece was published.

At the time the publishers told HIP: “The 350 full-colour pages of Scarlett and Sophie Rickard’s sumptuous adaptation celebrate the joys of fellowship and creative endeavour as beautifully as they convey the ugliness of its exploitation.

“Orwell called Tressell’s novel ‘a book that everyone should read’; the Rickards’s adaptation is a work of art that everyone should see.”

With its powerful narrative and wonderfully rendered brightly coloured illustrations, some featuring scenes and buildings easily recognisable today, HIP Literature wholeheartedly agreed. 

‘This is an important and enjoyable must-read.’

A perfect seasonal gift available from: 

Should We Fall Behind 

By Sharon Duggal

In October HIP’s LUCY BROWN reviewed this second novel from the author and interviewed her on its publication: 

‘Brighton author Sharon Duggal launches her latest book Should We Fall Behind on October 22nd. The novel is a piercingly accurate depiction of unnoticed lives. From the homeless protagonist Jimmy, the carer tending to her silent husband and the single mother battling to raise her daughter, Should We Fall Behind is a story of loneliness and connection, difference and similarity.

“Duggal is unflinching in her portrayals: the rawness of Jimmy’s existence; the bitterness of a grieving widower, the abuse suffered by a mother now guarded and fearful for her child: the characters are not perfect, just human, and behind the hurt are glimpses of compassion. It is in the optimism of newly homeless Betwa, the lack of prejudice in the child Tuli and the generosity in the maternal but childless Rayya. Should We Fall Behind is a tender account of the ordinary; a book that is ultimately about us, not them.”

More information can be found at: 

swallowing paregoric babies 

By Pete Donohue

To round up the year I am including my own recently published full collection of poetry, not simply because I like people to buy it but also because I will donate any royalties I receive from the publishers, for sales between now and 1st February 2021, to Hastings Independent Press to help us towards our endeavour to return to printed editions next year. 

One reviewer wrote: “Pete Donohue is one of our favourite poets writing on
the planet today. swallowing paregoric babies finds and reveals relevance and moving experiences in the flow of life all around the poet and (presumably) the reader. The insights and revelations are novel and intriguing; the language is unique and inspiring.” 

82 poems over 158 pages. $15 cover price works out at about £15.68 including postage for UK delivery. Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
LuLu & Google Books, but more money will go to HIP if you buy direct from the US publishers UnCollected Press at  

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