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Not to Be Overlooked

By Natalia Alvarez and Rachel Gray

Not To Be Overlooked introduces a variety of wonderful but lesser-known books to assist readers in finding their next great reads. This week’s column covers a review of The Price of the Haircut by Brock Clarke and Threadneedle by Cari Thomas.

Threadneedle by Cari Thomas

Threadneedle by Cari Thomas is an enthralling mix of magic and romance, set in the heart of London.

We follow Anna, who is a witch learning to control her magic. She lives with her emotionally and physically abusive Aunt who has spent her life trying to teach Anna to control and constrain her magic. When Anna meets Effie, her whole world changes. Effie wants to make a coven of witches and she ropes Anna and two other witches into her plans. Anna suddenly discovers a whole other side to magic, the freedom and wonder of being a witch, something her Aunt has never allowed.

In addition to exploring magic, we also get a moving portrayal of emotional and physical abuse by a family member, and the way Anna deals with it, and how her friends react to it. I really appreciated this element – it was sensitive and brought another important aspect to the novel.

Anna was a very interesting character, she wished to be invisible to everyone while at school, but would stick up for herself, and ultimately did have a lot of confidence in herself and her beliefs. I felt so pleased for her when she was able to come out of her shell and fully stretch her magic and herself.

I think my favourite part of the novel was the magic system itself. Anna and her Aunt control their magic through tying knots in threads, which is a really unique and interesting system! I really enjoyed learning more about how they tie knots to contain emotions and therefore magic. The author has obviously spent a lot of time figuring out the details of the magic system, and I appreciate the explanations she offered. There are also all types of elemental magic in the book which is one of my favourite types of magic.

The novel is packed full of twists and turns from page one. You really can’t trust anyone while you’re reading, there is backstabbing and betrayal everywhere! I was on the edge of my seat reading this novel – I couldn’t take my eyes off it!

Overall I enjoyed this magical novel. It reminds me of the TV show Gossip Girl in some ways – Gossip Girl crossed with magic!

The Price of the Haircut by Brock Clarke

If I had to give a single word to describe the way the stories in Brock Clarkes collection made me feel it would have to be ‘unexpected’ and I mean this in the best possible way. The Price of the Haircut is a collection published in 2018 by Algonquin Books made up of eleven short stories. This is his third story collection and it is obvious from the very first story that Clarke has perfected his ability to turn any occurrence into something profound. He examines the relationships between people and their prejudice as well as how they respond to a society that expects too much of them and leaves readers usually with more questions than answers. The Price of the Haircut exists within the realm of social satire, tackling important and relevant issues from one story to the next in the form of the everyday man simply attempting to make it from one day to the next.

Some of these stories include ‘The Grand Canyon,’ where a woman on her honeymoon airs her grievances with her new husband in one long stream of consciousness style sentence. Another is ‘What is the Cure for Meanness’, where a teenage boy attempts to differentiate himself from the verbally abusive father who left by giving gifts to his mother without realising he does more harm than good. The title story ‘The Price of the Haircut:’ follows a group of middle-aged white men with bad and expensive haircuts contemplate the morals behind going to the barber they heard about on the news with dirt cheap prices, but who the mayor says made a racist comment during an appointment which sparked a race riot in the city.

Each of these stories along with the others in this collection examine individuals who are, in some way or another, broken and flawed. Each has a story to tell and much like everyday people you pass on a day to day basis, their struggles go unknown to the general public. It isn't until a more detailed examination is done that the hidden conflict comes to light.

I think Clarke’s collection is perfect for all readers, but especially good for those who prefer taking in small bits of media at a time. Each story, in my opinion, is meant to be read and then mulled over before moving on to the next. This is a guaranteed fulfilling read that promises to leave readers thinking about it for a long time.



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