It may have been a slow start here on the blog this year (- hello first post of 2018!), but it’s actually been all stations a-go behind-the-scenes.
I spent a lot of time over the festive break organising my thoughts, plotting and planning content and thinking long and hard about what this space should be offering, both for me and for you, my dear readers.
There will be a few changes around here over the next few months, with far more of a focus on Northern-based design brands and Manchester-related news to reflect my new firmly established surroundings, away from the Big Smoke down South. I hope you will be as excited about that as I am!
I’m kicking things off for 2018 with a post that also ties in one of my new year resolutions: to read more. I’ve been talking about it for a while but having now established a good working week routine, I’m keen to utilise the time I’ve saved by slashing my daily commute (from at least an hour on the hellish public transport of the capital to a far more leisurely 15 minute, above ground, tram trip) and put that valuable extra time to better use: no more excessive netflix binges or wasted time scrolling social media aimlessly, and more quality time with my nose stuck in a good novel.
And what better way to start than by immersing myself in quality fiction based in my new home town? The idea came to me when I was sent a copy of Lucy Diamond’s latest novel On a Beautiful Day (Pan Macmillan, out today), and discovered much of the action taking place in bars and cafes I knew and loved around the city! I think there’s something so lovely about stumbling across a book set in a space so familiar to you, and while there’s an abundance of London-based novels, this was the first I’d read set in Manchester.
Of course, a good reading session needs a good coffee/cake accompaniment, don’t you agree? So I’ve rounded up a selection of Manchester fiction novels + potential cafe pairings below, to help ensure I get my 2018 reading goal off to the best possible start!
‘On a Beautiful Day’ & Moose Coffee
An early scene in On a Beautiful Day is set in Moose Coffee, a popular American-style diner in the heart of the city that serves up giant plates of fluffy pancakes dripping in maple syrup, creamy scrambled eggs and giant mugs of steaming hot coffee. It’s a place I’d been meaning to visit all last year, so as soon as it popped up in the novel I knew I needed to treat myself to a visit for my next reading session. Not eating dairy meant I needed to eschew the pancakes for smashed avocado on sourdough but vat of coffee in hand, I snuggled down into one of the booths to work my way through another good chunk of the book..
On a Beautiful Day* centres on the lives of four female friends – India, Laura, Eve and Jo – in the aftermath of a shocking accident that takes place right in front of them, acting as a catalyst for each of them to address the unexpected twists and turns that life can often take. While the jazzy cover may indicate a typical frothy chick-lit novel, the story is no where near being stereotypical or cliché, and instead provides an authentic and heartwarming take on the value of friendship when your world is in turmoil. It’s a quick but satisfying read, making it a perfect novel to have kick-started my new literary habit, and one I’d wholeheartedly recommend!
→Moose coffee, 20 York street, Manchester
‘Sirens’ & Grindsmith
Next up on my 2018 reading list is Sirens*, the debut novel from Sky Arts writer of the year Joseph Knox, who is described as ‘the next big thing in crime fiction’.
Set in a gritty urban Mancunian metropolis, the narrative apparently references much of the city’s iconic landscape – including the dark shadowy thoroughfare of Deansgate – which makes me think I should devour it perched in the window of Grindsmith espresso and brewbar, watching as the city’s vibrant and eclectic community pass by..
→Grindsmith, 231-233 Deansgate, Manchester
‘Monster Love’ & Tea Hive
Shortlisted for the 2008 Orange Prize for Fiction, Monster Love* by Carol Topolski is described as a ‘dark and deathly literary thriller,’ set in an affluent Manchester suburb.
Reviews talk of a ‘deeply emotive edge’ to the narrative, often unpredictable and unsettling, and while it’s drawn quite a few negative reviews for being heavy going, I’m inclined to think that it might be my kind of novel.. one I imagine settling down to read at Tea Hive in Chorlton, with a large pot of tea and a slab of vegan cake on hand for comfort.
→Tea Hive, 53 Manchester Road, Chorlton
‘Cold Water’ & Fig + Sparrow
Cold Water* by Gwendoline Riley is described as a ‘poignant picaresque of barmaids and barflies’ offering a snapshot of the life of lead protagonist carmel mckisco; a wry twenty-year-old girl working nights in a Manchester dive bar. Dreamy and evocative, with poetic prose and minimal action, this debut novella looks like it could be easily consumed in one sitting.
It’s one I plan to enjoy tucked away in a cosy corner of the Northern Quarter’s popular lifestyle cafe, Fig + Sparrow, as the frenetic pace of city life bustles all around..
→Fig and Sparrow, 20 Oldham Street, Manchester
‘North and South’ & Chapter One
Getting stuck in to a classic literary novel set in the industrial North calls for coffee and vegan cake accompaniment at Chapter One books, where you can lose yourself for hours between the pages safe in the knowledge you’re not going to be thrown before the clock strikes midnight. Elizebeth Gaskell’s North and South* centres a voyage of self-discovery in Victorian Britain, offering a nuanced portrayal of what divides people and what brings them together. Regularly featured on lists of the best English fiction, I can’t believe I’ve never gotten round to reading it before, nor any of Gaskell’s other critically acclaimed works.. something I certainly intend to rectify this year!
→Chapter One, 19 Lever Street, Manchester
If you’ve any other novel suggestions for me – Manchester-based or otherwise – please do let me know in the comments below!
Photography of Grindsmith and Fig+Sparrow © Alexander Ward; all other photography © Kate Baxter.