The Genie and the Lamp

Indian scarves

Namaste from India! As Aladdin is hitting our screens, here’s something I wrote several years ago…

The Genie and the Lamp

“You have three wishes!” he proclaimed.

“I’ll grand your heart’s desire!”

“I want to fall in love!” I said,

“I want to feel on fire!”


Lo and behold, I fell too quick

And soon became obsessed.

With somebody who failed to be as

Equally impressed.


And so I called my genie friend,

And told him that, instead,

My ideal guy should think I was

The best thing since sliced bread.


Hey presto! Such a man appeared

To brighten up the dark.

But still, behind those starry eyes,

I couldn’t feel that spark.


I called my genie back, with “You know

Full well what I mean!

I want to fall head over heels

With someone just as keen!”


The genie smirked, and magicked up

The lover of my life.

And we were living fairy tales

Until I met his wife.


I shouted for my genie.

I cried. I cursed my fate.

I said, “I want another wish!”

But he said, “It’s too late.”


© Joanna Rubery 2017

A brand new album for 2019

Alster through willows

2019 sees a brand new album: the songs I wrote in Hamburg on my beautiful Yamaha Clavinova. Thanks to my neighbours in Eppendorf for not knocking on the door when I was playing quietly during the Abendruhe.

Frohes neues Jahr!

New Year, New Music

Beach at Blankenese

Ein frohes neues Jahr to you…and now that I’m back in the UK, I’ve put together an album of my favourite-ever songs to kick off 2019:



Books of the Year 2018

woman and books

In a departure from the usual, I thought I would list all the books I’ve read this year. I choose books mainly based on recommendations from friends, followed by recommendations from reviews in the papers and on the radio, and then from suggestions on my Kindle. This year, however, I wanted to include in my reading some classics that I had never looked at properly before. Here’s the list, in reverse order. I’ve marked the ones that surpassed my expectations with *, and any that I thought were overrated with !

  • White Oleander – Janet Fitch
  • Cry, the Beloved Country – Alan Paton
  • Vox – Christina Dalcher
  • Less – Andrew Sean Greer *
  • Help me! – Marianne Power *
  • Release – Patrick Ness
  • The Spare Room – Helen Garner
  • Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney
  • The Power of Acceptance – Annemarie Postma
  • The Happiest Kids in the World: Bringing Up Children the Dutch Way – Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison
  • Letting Go – David R Hawkins
  • C’est La Vie – Fabrice Midal (in translation)
  • Journey by Moonlight – Antal Szerb (in translation)
  • Four Seasons in Rome – Anthony Doerr
  • The Forgetting Time – Sharon Guskin
  • The Grass is Singing – Doris Lessing
  • The Jane Austen Book Club – Karen Joy Fowler
  • Portnoy’s Complaint – Philip Roth
  • Say My Name – Allegra Huston
  • The Wife Between Us – Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
  • Notes on a Nervous Planet – Matt Haig
  • The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell
  • There are No Grown-ups – Pamela Druckerman
  • David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
  • Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe *
  • Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert (in translation)
  • Three Men in a Boat – Jerome K Jerome
  • Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
  • On the Road – Jack Kerouac !
  • Men Explain Things to Me – Rebecca Solnit
  • Hunger – Roxane Gay
  • Like Water for Chocolate – Laura Esquivel (in translation) !
  • Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
  • Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
  • Under the Volcano – Malcolm Lowry
  • The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*** – Sarah Knight
  • Lucky Jim – Kingsley Amis
  • Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
  • Lolita – Vladimir Nabukov
  • Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy (in translation) *
  • Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë !
  • The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – Agatha Christie
  • Middlemarch – George Eliot *
  • Beloved – Toni Morrison
  • The Photographer’s Wife – Suzanne Joinson
  • The Gustav Sonata – Rose Tremain
  • A Dark-Adapted Eye – Barbara Vine
  • Where Have All the Boys Gone? – Jenny Colgan
  • We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Doll’s House – Tania Carver
  • All the Single Ladies – Rebecca Traister
  • Lullaby – Leila Slimani (in translation)
  • The Paris Wife – Paula McLain
  • The Return – Victoria Hislop !
  • Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie
  • The Sun also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
  • The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafron (in translation) !
  • The Hours – Michael Cunningham
  • Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
  • Memory Wall – Anthony Doerr
  • Kitchen – Banana Yoshimoto (in translation)
  • My Education – Susan Choi
  • Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel
  • The Power – Naomi Alderman
  • Force of Nature – Jane Harper
  • Then She Was Gone – Lisa Jewell
  • How to Break Up with your Phone – Catherine Price *
  • I See You – Clare Mackintosh
  • The Anchoress – Robyn Cadwallader
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman
  • The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
  • Friend Request – Laura Marshall
  • Anatomy of a Scandal – Sarah Vaughan

Thanks for tweeting about this, Allegra Huston!

Shot in the Dark

Brandenburg Gate

At this time of year, Europe always turns a shade darker. I’m reminded of a quote from the Hungarian writer Antal Szerb, whose Journey by Moonlight I have just finished: “In London November isn’t a month, it’s a state of mind.”

I mentioned back in February that one of my flash fiction stories from last year had been selected for publication in an anthology, but then didn’t give any more details: it’s the story below, which has always been one of my favourites.

Microfiction in 250 words: The Photograph

Mehr Musik! A new album for autumn

Piano card tricks

Viele Grüße from Germany! After a summer of travelling around Santiago de Compostela, Porto, Lucca, and Oxford, I’m now working in the beautiful northern port of Hamburg, and here is my latest collection of songs:

Fallen Angel

Fallen Angel

[I’m travelling around so much that, this year, the blog is going to take a summer holiday too. Meanwhile, here’s a short story written and set in Liège twenty years ago, before the euro, before smartphones, before Two Days One Night, and well before the more recent news headlines about that city.] 

Ça va?” asks Pascale as we bump over yet another pothole on the way up a mountain to her parents’ house for Sunday lunch. Actually, a mountain might be too poetic a name for it. It might be a slag heap. There are so many of them, decaying slowly on the outskirts of the city. At first glance they look like volcanic cones full of exotic promise and then close up, all you see is the disappointing reality of industrial decay. I met Pascale last week in an old attic, which has been the local chapel since the council ran out of funds to heat the church. I squeezed in among dozens of Catholic refugees, kneeling on the bare boards. Pascale took pity on me because she thought I was a refugee too, at first. I threw my clothes in the bin the next day. But she was actually closer than she realized.

“Now you can meet some real Belgians,” she says encouragingly to me. “It must be quite hard being British abroad and not being a typically British… What do you call it? A lager loot.”

Continue reading “Fallen Angel”

More competition news


[I recently discovered that one of last year’s stories had been shortlisted for the Writers Online 750-word short story competition, so – quite happily – I’m reposting it here!]


We feel sorry for Justine because she has a – I’ll keep my voice down – boyfriend.

Mimi and I have long been Free, but Justine’s still shackled to a man. She’s tied. She’s tangled up. She is – in other words – Trapped.

“She’s late,” says Mimi. “What’s her big news, anyway? Has she seen the light?”

“About time!” I say. I was Trapped once. Last year, I spent several weeks entangled with a green-eyed guy called Sam. He kissed me up against the fridge, but left trails of laundry everywhere. When I found his dirty socks in the sink, I saw sense.

Continue reading “More competition news”

Competition news


[I was very pleasantly surprised to read – in the Galician rain – that my latest microfiction story had been longlisted for the Irish Fish Flash Fiction prize. So here it is:]


The third seat – the window seat – was empty. So was the aisle one. Violet toyed with her book in the middle. A chill was slicing in.

There were a few last-minuters loping down: a red-faced guy with a belly, and a sun-kissed young man. Violet looked straight ahead.

The red-faced guy shuffled into the row opposite with a grunt and a trace of onions.

“Ah,” said the sun-kissed young man, stopping short, and Violet’s heart took a breath. He looked round with a frown. “I thought there were three of us?”

No way, thought Violet, suppressing a grin. There’s no way he’s on this project too.

“I guess they’re running late!” she said, and offered her hand, but he was busy stowing his case.

“Well,” he said, to no-one, “I guess they’re running late!” and he folded his limbs into the aisle seat.

“Violet,” said Violet, after a second.

“Robert,” he said, with a yawn, and started rifling through the magazines. The pilot crackled an announcement. Violet looked sideways, at the shape of his nose, the sweep of his hair.

She opened her book, and closed it again.

“So,” she began, “Is this your first posting abroad?”

“What?” said Robert, and then there was a flurry and a voice, a female voice, calling, “Sorry! Typical me!”

Robert was already on his feet. The red-faced guy was gawping.

“So sorry!” said a young woman. “I’m always late!”

“We’d have held them up,” said Robert, grinning, and she smiled back: “Wouldn’t be a first!”

Violet curled up tight and let their third colleague slide past into the window seat.

“So,” called Robert, leaning over Violet’s lap, and she contorted forward, and then back. “Is this your first posting abroad?”

The chill was beginning to prickle. The flight was thirteen hours.

© Joanna Rubery 2018