September 30, 2023
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Book Reviews Fiction History

CARDS & CLAY – One man two worlds By Ian Cochrane

Author: Ian Cochrane

Genre: Historical Fiction

Year Published: 2023

Nerdection Rating:

“Nerdection Good Read”

“Experimental yet relevant rumination”

Cards and clay follows a turn of remembrance, a walk through a stream of consciousness that dips and dives between third and first person narration, inter-spliced vignettes that serve the story’s overall purpose: rumination. But the question is, is the book bogged down by this style more than it is helped by it?

Clutched with cards, made of clay and smooth as metal, Michael recounts, through letters of a dead friend, the experiences of living in the countryside, the smells, the sounds, the fervor of his country and people that made him into the man he was.

Spoiler-Free Plot:

The year is 2019, Michael shifts in his seat and pulls out a faded deck of cards; a box is shipped, a collection of writings from a dead friend arrives and brings bouts of sadness into frame. Distant memories — traumatic, some fleeting — boiled back into view. Taken aback and sifting through the atmosphere of a cafe he’s all too familiar with, Michael can’t help but feel he is violating a naked body by reading through each endeavor and escapade without his friend’s permission.

Through each passing day and night, cat-piss snarling against his nose and inflaming his surroundings, Michael reads the letters — diary entries — reminiscing on forlorn times. Through the stories, struggles, people known and unknown, Michael feels closer yet so ever more apart from Don.

Flashbacking from present to past that interconnects the narrative with feelings of regret and sorrow, spanning across continents and age, decades and yesterdays, Cards of Clay is a look into the lives of those that have left us, while the rest stay behind, forced to peel back layers of someone in order to get to know who they really were.

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My Take CARDS & CLAY – One man two worlds:

From an initial read-through, the handwritten notes came off more idiosyncratic than descriptive in terms of facilitating the reader’s understanding of who Don (Michael’s dead confidant) is, and what he is going through.

Though some segments of this book are rough around the edges (the opening more specifically), I trudged through and soon, the book became a breeze.

The flashing from third person to first person at first was daunting and a task I found myself rereading sections to fully understand, but it was beneficial to me in the end to better juxtapose the distant lives that are being lived.

While this book may not sit in my mind for very long, it did not overstay its welcome as most literary fiction does, it came to say what it wanted, and left quicker than you expected.


I can whole-heartedly recommend this for any reader who wishes to dive into something more experimental and is willing to pull themselves together during small bouts of slog in the initial openings of the book, as the pace picks up, so do the themes, but at a certain point you as a reader have to decide for yourself, is it worth it? For me it was!

About the Author of CARDS & CLAY – One man two worlds

Ian Cochrane is an Australian travel writer calling Melbourne home.  He is a member of the  Australian Society of Authors and resident writer with Bayside Visual Arts group, Sandy Street Art Project Inc.

Ian has also penned several books, along with tabloid travel and food features, his writing described as –

“… observational and anecdotal, his vignettes illuminated by the assorted zany characters he meets. Anyone with an open mind and a sense of humour, will find resonance in Cochrane’s adventures.”

 – Susan Kurosawa, travel editor, The Australian

Ian Cochrane Website

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