In brief: The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race; The Half Sister; Floating – review

Powerful essays inspired by James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Catherine Chanter’s gripping family tragedy, and Joe Minihane’s wild swimmming pilgrimage

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race
Edited by Jesmyn Ward
Bloomsbury, £17.99, pp240

It was reading James Baldwin’s 1963 essay The Fire Next Time that inspired Jesmyn Ward to gather the great voices of her generation in this harrowing yet hopeful book about race. The National Book award-winner writes that Baldwin “told me I was worthy of love. Told me I was worth something in the world. Told me I was a human being”. Standout pieces include Garnette Cadogan’s superlative essay on walking the streets as a black man, Natasha Trethewey’s searing poem Theories of Time and Space, and Ward’s own piece on getting her DNA tested. The Fire This Time is dedicated to murdered teenager Trayvon Martin and the many other black people who have been “denied justice for these last 400 years”.

The Half Sister
Catherine Chanter
Canongate, £14.99, pp400

In April 2016, an earthquake causes devastating damage to Wynhope House and Valerie Steadman’s body is found beneath the rubble. She had been staying in the country home of her estranged half-sister Diana on the night of their mother’s funeral. Whether Valerie’s death was accidental or linked to Diana provides the tension in this gripping novel, which is filled with the acute psychological insights that distinguished the author’s debut, The Well. Despite some stilted dialogue, Chanter’s gift for depicting emotional upheaval pervades this tale of crumbling families.

Joe Minihane
Duckworth, £9.99, pp240 (paperback)

Joe Minihane writes with refreshing candour about the depression that struck the year he gave up his job to go freelance. Swimming was the only thing that provided succour, prompting him to read Roger Deakin’s Waterlog and copy the naturalist’s wild swimming pilgrimage through Britain. With a talent for detail – he refers to the “soaring high” of seeing a kingfisher – Minihane examines how his engagement with the outdoors took him on a transformative emotional journey.

• To order The Fire This Time for £15.29, The Half Sister for £12.74, or Floating for £8.49, go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99


Anita Sethi

The GuardianTramp

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