Review: The Dust Never Settles by Karina Lickorish Quinn


‘I have seen ghosts. They will not rest. The whispers of the past are all around…’

Sweeping from the bustling beaches of contemporary Lima to local ceviche bars crammed with fishermen, music and folklore; from the rise and fall of the Inca Empire to a civil war that will devastate a nation, The Dust Never Settles is a love letter to Peru.

And running through it all, like the warm smell of orange blossom she remembers from her childhood, is Anais, who has returned to the country she loves after seven years abroad. Her beloved grandparents have passed away, and the time has come for her to sell the ‘yellow house on the hill’.

As Anais prepares to say a final goodbye, she is haunted by memories. Dark truths of previous generations are hidden behind these crumbling walls – secrets that threaten to overwhelm her…


Many thanks to the Squadpod for bringing this book to me attention, and to the publishers for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. Apologies it has taken me so long to write this – I read the book a while ago, but am still catching up with reviews. I’ve raved about it several times, though, and will continue to do so for reasons I explain below.

I love this book. It’s absolutely chockful of elements that add up to a perfect read for me. We have a brilliantly original protagonist in Anais, a setting that lives and breathes as a character (or many!) in its own right, and a narrative that takes us to dazzlingly unexpected places. There are things here that I am trying hard to achieve with my own work-in-progress, so as a writer, this book had an extra special resonance for me, but as a reader, it’s a sheer delight. It calls to mind One Hundred Years of Solitude, and Pedro Paramo, and, more recently, When I Sing, Mountains Dance (which I also read in 2022) – books that take you on a sweeping journey through generations, that make the borders between past and present permeable, that broaden the limits of reality and rationality and stretch them into something new and strange. It’s the type of novel I find so exciting – books like The Dust Never Settles are, I think, the reason I read.

Anais is a fascinating character, trapped as she is between the world of the living and the ghosts of the past, and the fact that she is pregnant adds another delicious layer of complexity. The yellow house on the hill is such an atmospheric place – I could see it so clearly, in all its shifting guises. The book swoops through time in a dizzyingly acrobatic way, and the touches of myth and mystery that permeate the story add to the sense that this is an old story being remade in a new way.

It’s a book that is both playful and meaningful, funny in outrageous and sometimes shocking ways, but also deeply moving. It has so much of life threaded through it – it feels tapestry-rich, a full and satisfying book that leaves you somehow changed.

I hope I’ve managed to convey something of the profound effect that The Dust Never Settles had on me. I still think about it months after reading, and I know it is one of the few books I will absolutely make time to reread. Probably very soon! Every aspect of this novel worked perfectly for me, and reading it was a joyous experience. I can’t recommend it highly enough, and will be looking out for more from this author.

The Dust Never Settles by Karina Lickorish Quinn is published by Oneworld Publications and is available to purchase here.


Review: Ravished by Anna Vaught (2022)


Ravished, subtitled A Series of Reflections on Age, Sex, Death, and Judgement, is the second collection from Anna Vaught. These are peculiar tales, weird fiction, gothic, unusual, full of literary allusion, threaded through with classical and Welsh reference, occasionally starring the author’s relatives and the Virgin Mary. Sometimes funny, morbid, potentially inspiring, Ravished is both revolting and pretty; both awful and yet optimistic in the stress it places on playful language and the abundance of the imagination. The stories explore revenge, angels, an encounter with faith, death and loss and are full of off-kilter experiences, such as a chat with the holy spirit on a bench, a love story in an embalming parlour, passing the time with the man who’s going to bury you and why you should never underestimate the power of the landscape or the weird outcast you passed by.


Many thanks to Reflex Press for providing me with a copy of Ravished in exchange for an honest review – I apologise sincerely for the delay! I did read this wonderful collection before publication, but have been a very slack book blogger these past few months. I promise to do better in 2023!

I’m a huge fan of Anna Vaught’s writing. I loved her 2020 novel Saving Lucia and her previous short story collection, Famished, so I was delighted to see that she had a new book coming out. The short stories I’d read by her before were beautiful and strange, mesmerising in their use of language, and this collection is no different.

The titles alone are works of art – the contents page reads like a poem. From ‘A Welsh Grave Digger Laments (or Why It Is Better to Be Dead in Wales)’ to ‘Love, Now and Then, on a Primrose Bank’ to ‘The Unguents of Ada Morgan,’ the richness of the treasure that lies within is hinted at from the very start. Death is threaded through the stories not as an abstract concept but a physical presence – graves, embalming parlours, the work of laying the dead to rest forms an integral part of the book. And yet despite this morbid fascination, there is comfort here, too – the beautiful shapes that Vaught sculpts with her words represent a brave, playful, intriguing engagement with all the strange dark corners of existence.

As in Famished, the narrator of the stories often engages directly with the reader – we are ‘my dears,’ ‘my sweet ones,” implicated in the tapestry being woven by the frequent use of “you” as a direct address. I think this speaks to the project that the author is undertaking (gravedigger pun intended) here – Vaught is delving deep into the realms of gothic-tinged horror and weirdness in order not only to bring to our attention the strangeness of it, but also the beauty – she is excavating what we might be too afraid to unearth on our own. In that sense the stories – and the author – function as a kind of gentle guide, a calm hand pressed against our backs as we confront the other-worldly, the inexplicable, the dark parts.

Anna Vaught’s prose often gives me the sensation of being rocked, the cadences and rhythms running through it lulling me into a kind of dream-like state, in which the peculiar nature of the stories becomes temporarily familiar, a new normal where nothing is, in fact, normal. It’s a fascinatingly immersive experience, and one that I struggle to articulate fully, as you can probably tell!

My favourite stories were the ones with Evans and Myfanwy, their relationship traced with such tenderness and delicacy, as well as the delicious interlude of ‘The Bookshelves of Amos Biblio’ – one for all book lovers to enjoy. But it’s the sum total of the work that has stayed with me more than any individual moment or story – I love how layered and carefully crafted the book is, and how well it sits beside her other works that I have read. I’ll read anything Anna Vaught writes, and luckily, she is prolific – with a new novel coming later his year from Renard Press – and I’d recommend her work to anyone wanting to discover a truly original literary voice.

Ravished by Anna Vaught is published by Reflex Press and is available to purchase here.