Saturday 11 December 2021

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ B : A Year in Plagues & Pencils by Edward Carey


Gallic Books 
4 November 2021

My thanks to Gallic Books for my copy of this book

'I blame the pencil. I hadn't meant to do it. I wasn't thinking. It just happened that way.'

In March 2020, as lockdowns were imposed around the world, author and illustrator Edward Carey published a sketch on social media with a plan to keep posting a drawing a day from his family home in Austin, Texas, until life returned to normal. One hundred and fifty pencil stubs later, he was still drawing.

Carey's hand moved with world events, chronicling pandemic and politics. It reached into the past, taking inspiration from history, and escaped grim reality through flights of vivid imagination and studies of the natural world. The drawings became a way of charting time, of moving forward, and maintaining connection at a time of isolation.

This remarkable collection of words and drawings from the acclaimed author of Little and The Swallowed Man charts a tumultuous year in pencil, finding beauty amid the horror of extraordinary times.

๐Ÿ“– My thoughts..

We all coped with the extraordinary year of lockdown in our own way. I chose to take a photo-a-day, however mundane, as a reminder of how I lived through a global pandemic. Edward Carey chose to record his daily life in a series of beautiful black and white illustrations, how I wish I had his talent for taking the ordinary and making it so wonderfully extraordinary.

This small but beautifully compact little book had my attention from the cover and the inside content didn't disappoint as, day by day, we are privileged to see the world through the eyes of this talented artist and writer. The drawings are simple, poignant, beautiful and quirky, some are even a little bit frightening, but they are all exceptionally imaginative. I especially loved the author's musings, so succinct and yet lovingly described. Anyone who can wax lyrical about the TombowB pencil from Japan is truly an artist.

Some of the drawings made me laugh out loud, there's a super image of Donald Trump (day 79) and a perfectly poignant image of a poppy for remembrance (day 238). From the great, Freddy Mercury (day 171) and the good, Sean Connery (day 227) to the definitely scary, Black Death (day 228), from the benign Highland Cow (day 177) to the iconic Robin (day 259), there is never a moment when the book doesn't reveal a cornucopia of delights.

I really didn't know what to expect when B : A Year in Plagues & Pencils was offered to me to review but I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to read such a special little book. It will definitely have a welcome place on my bookshelf as a fascinating reminder of an extraordinary time.

About the Author

Edward Carey is a novelist, visual artist and playwright. He is the author of four acclaimed novels Observatory Mansions, Alva&Irva, Little and The Swallowed Man. Little has been published in 19 countries and was long listed for the International Dublin Literary Award, The RSL Ondaatje Prize, the Walter Scott Prize and the Rathbones Folio Prize, and was shortlisted for the HWA Gold Crown and was a Times and Sunday Times Book of the Year. His YA series The Iremonger Trilogy was published in 13 countries and has been optioned for film and adaptation. Born in England, Edward teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.

Twitter @EdwardCarey70 

@BelgraviaB @FMcMAssociates


  1. What an unexpected and lovely book! Thank you for the recommendation :-) Hilary

    1. It's such a treat of a book, I'm so pleased to hear that you're enjoying reading it :)


Thanks for taking the time to comment - Jaffareadstoo appreciates your interest.