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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

Not to be Overlooked

By Nayisha Patel and Jasmine Aldridge

This column introduces a variety of wonderful but lesser-known books to assist readers in finding their next great reads. This week’s reviews are of Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone and Publishing and Literary Networks in the South West by the 2023–2024 MA Publishing cohort at University of Exeter.

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Review by Nayisha Patel

Tamara Ireland Stone's novel Every Last Word delves deeply into identity, mental health and the restorative power of friendship. The novel takes readers on an inspiring and heartbreaking journey of self-acceptance through the perspective of its protagonist, Samantha McAllister.

At first glance, Samantha seems like a normal teenage girl navigating the highs and lows of high school life. But behind her well-manicured exterior is a secret that she is afraid to reveal to anyone: she has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Stone sensitively and realistically captures Samantha's battle with OCD, illuminating the condition's stigma and the toll it has on people who suffer from it. Samantha's path to self-acceptance lies at the heart of the book. She sets out on a mission to discover her identity while she battles the intrusive thoughts and obsessive behaviours that trouble her. In the process, she finds a secret poetry club called Poet's Corner, a haven for misfits where she meets people who embrace her for who she really is. Through her newfound friendships and the ability to express herself creatively, Samantha starts to gather the bravery to face her inner demons.

The novel's depictions of friendship and community are among its best features. Samantha takes comfort in the unwavering support of her fellow poets as she negotiates the complexity of high school social relations. Stone skilfully conveys the camaraderie that develops among Poet's Corner residents, demonstrating the transformative potential of acceptance and connection. Stone writes in a poetic style that transports readers to Samantha's world with rich details and poignant imagery. Samantha's path of self-discovery is richly complemented by her surroundings, which range from the quiet serenity of the neighbourhood swimming hole to the hallways of her high school. Stone crafts a narrative setting that is both emotionally evocative and engaging through meticulous attention to detail.

Every Last Word, at its core, is a narrative about the value of authenticity and the restorative potential of self-expression. This is a moving and thought-provoking story that demonstrates the power of friendship to change lives and the resiliency of the human spirit.

Tamara Ireland Stone approaches significant subjects with tact and elegance. Readers will find themselves engrossed in this intriguing story with its vividly rendered characters long after turning the last page.

Publishing and Literary Networks in the South West by 2023–2024 MA Publishing, University of Exeter 

Review by Jasmine Aldridge

The South West is well known for its beautiful scenery, stunning coastlines and cultural cities such as Exeter, Bristol and Bath. Yet, there is much more to this dynamic landscape than meets the eye. In recent years, the South West has emerged as a hub of creativity; from thriving independent publishing houses to driven literary charities, the region is fast becoming a beacon of bookish promise. 

Publishing and Literary Networks in the South West celebrates an emerging network of talent. Entirely produced by University of Exeter students in the MA Publishing programme, this open-access eBook incorporates multiple voices, styles and topics. This creates an exciting and dynamic read which offers an engaging snapshot of the South West’s literary scene. The uniqueness of the focus and the variety of networks covered allows the book to appeal to anyone’s interests and is perfect for those living both in and out of the region. 

Including eight interviews, six reviews and seven feature essays, the reader is guided through some of the highlights of the South West’s valuable creative contributions. With features including a tour of the region’s independent bookshops, an interview with Barry Cunningham of Somerset-based publisher Chicken House, a detailed survey of the Cornish publishing industry, an essay on Dorset-based charity The Bank of Dreams and Nightmares, reviews of the festival Africa Writes – Exeter and Plymouth’s creative network Queer Out Loud, the diversity of the region’s creative communities is truly highlighted. Throughout these pieces, the importance of community networks, literary activism, the revival of Cornish as a minority language and much more are explored. 

Each piece has its own personal flair and the language throughout is engaging and accessible, with the full-colour visuals and images immersing the reader into their journey through the book. If you enjoy non-fiction, are passionate about the publishing industry or want to learn more about the South West as a whole, then give this a read. Not only is it informative, but there are genuine messages of hope, success and community spirit present in every piece. There is also a real sense of celebration as the future of publishing moves beyond the London-centric boundaries it has long been confined to.

To find the open-access eBook and read more information about this publication, go to the Publishing and Literary Networks in the South West website.



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