Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8 by Naoki Higashida review – why autism is misunderstood

The author of the bestselling The Reason I Jump movingly addresses a range of topics from the perspective of an outsider

Naoki Higashida is, by any measure, a phenomenally successful author. His first book, The Reason I Jump, written when he was just 13, entered the bestseller charts in Britain and the US. It has now been translated into 30 languages, making him, according to his co-translator, the novelist David Mitchell, the most widely translated living Japanese author after Haruki Murakami. He has published several other books in Japan, but Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8 is the second to make its way into English.

Higashida is profoundly autistic. In person he is largely non-verbal, apart from a few stock phrases (“I’m home!” “Welcome back!”). He has a number of typically autistic traits: he jumps, he has meltdowns when plans go awry, he cups his ears and ...

Hollie McNish: The politics and poetry of boyfriends, babies and breastfeeding

The Ted Hughes prize winner explains why she does not wish to be squeezed into a ‘performance poet’ box and why you can love hip-hop and Paradise LostHollie McNish has stopped talking for a moment; this doesn’t happen much during the interview. I have just asked her why she thinks her “poetic memoir”, Nobody Told Me, recently won the Poetry Society’s Ted Hughes award (previous recipients include Kate Tempest and Alice Oswald). “I really don’t know,” she says after a brief pause, shrugging and pulling awkwardly at the sleeves of her jumper. “I don’t think it’s because those experts in poetry [the judging panel] think the poetry in that book is good.” But obviously they think it’s good – they would hardly have given you the prize if they didn’t. She shrugs again. “It’s because it has reached a wide audience,” she explains. “It’s because of where the poetry has gone, not ...

Hollie McNish: The politics and poetry of boyfriends, babies and breastfeeding

The Ted Hughes prize winner explains why she does not wish to be squeezed into a ‘performance poet’ box and why you can love hip-hop and Paradise LostHollie McNish has stopped talking for a moment; this doesn’t happen much during the interview. I have just asked her why she thinks her “poetic memoir”, Nobody Told Me, recently won the Poetry Society’s Ted Hughes award (previous recipients include Kate Tempest and Alice Oswald). “I really don’t know,” she says after a brief pause, shrugging and pulling awkwardly at the sleeves of her jumper. “I don’t think it’s because those experts in poetry [the judging panel] think the poetry in that book is good.” But obviously they think it’s good – they would hardly have given you the prize if they didn’t. She shrugs again. “It’s because it has reached a wide audience,” she explains. “It’s because of where the poetry has gone, not ...

Hollie McNish: The politics and poetry of boyfriends, babies and breastfeeding

The Ted Hughes prize winner explains why she does not wish to be squeezed into a ‘performance poet’ box and why you can love hip-hop and Paradise LostHollie McNish has stopped talking for a moment; this doesn’t happen much during the interview. I have just asked her why she thinks her “poetic memoir”, Nobody Told Me, recently won the Poetry Society’s Ted Hughes award (previous recipients include Kate Tempest and Alice Oswald). “I really don’t know,” she says after a brief pause, shrugging and pulling awkwardly at the sleeves of her jumper. “I don’t think it’s because those experts in poetry [the judging panel] think the poetry in that book is good.” But obviously they think it’s good – they would hardly have given you the prize if they didn’t. She shrugs again. “It’s because it has reached a wide audience,” she explains. “It’s because of where the poetry has gone, not ...

Bleaker House by Nell Stevens review – how not to write a novel

Worried that she had lived too boring a life to write good fiction, Stevens set off to a remote island. Her book’s best feature is its honesty “I want to know how good at life I can be in a place where there are no distractions,” Nell Stevens explained to her mother on the phone. She had left her home in London to do a postgraduate degree at Boston University, and was now considering what to do during her “global fellowship” – a three-month study period in which students were encouraged to travel, explore, and write. “And where is that, exactly?” her mother asked. “The Falklands,” said Stevens. “I think it’s the Falklands.” Continue reading...

The Awkward Age by Francesca Segal review – modern-day family fallout

Love and duty are tested when two families merge in a sharply observed morality tale for our timeFrancesca Segal’s sharply observed second novel asks what parents owe to their children, and vice versa. After five years of widowhood, Julia Alden has met and fallen in love with James Fuller, a handsome American doctor. James and his teenage son, Nathan, have moved into the north London home Julia shares with her teenage daughter, Gwen. But as the novel opens, this is not so much a blended family as an elaborate civil war. Gwen is desperate to have her mother to herself, and wants Nathan and James out of the way; James finds her irritatingly needy. Nathan can’t bear the highly strung Gwen; Julia hates the way Nathan preys on her daughter’s insecurities. Holding it all together involves endless restraint and diplomacy, but, for Julia and James, it’s worth it for ...

Sound by Bella Bathurst review – losing and recovering the miracle of hearing

This fascinating memoir of a dozen years of deafness opens out into an exploration of science, music and silence
If you had to choose, would you keep your hearing or your sight? In answering this perennial question, most people choose sight, says Bella Bathurst in this fascinating book, which documents her own voyage into deafness. But “if sight gives you the world, hearing gives you other people”, and other people are as essential to our existence as air or light. To lose your hearing is to lose the social connections that make you who you are. It is to always miss the punchline; to feel forever a beat behind; to lose confidence, and identity, as well as pleasures that suddenly seem fundamental, such as music and birdsong. Dealing with these losses involves remaking yourself in profound and surprising ways. Until she was 27, Bathurst writes, “I accepted the ordinary miracle ...