The Books Piled Beside the Bed – Pt 4

 

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The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

She wrote ‘Room’ which was made into a movie.  Did you see it?

In The Wonder Emma Donoghue was inspired by the phenomenon known as ‘the fasting girls’. apparently wide spread in terms of both global reach and ages, with fifty cases documented and no conclusions necessarily drawn.  She tells the story of Lib, an ‘educated sceptic’, a nurse trained under the great Florence Nightingale who is summoned to Ireland to become an observer of an 11 year old girl, Anna, said to have been months without food yet still thriving.  Entering into an impoverished and pious household Lib is determined to discover the truth.  How is the child being secretly fed, by whom?

It’s hard to feel warmth for Lib as she bumbles about in a community that makes no sense to her.  Yet as her heart warms towards the child, so we warm to towards her. It’s an engrossing story, with an unexpected ending.  How far would you go for the love of a child?

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The Muse by Jessie Burton

This is her second novel, the first being ‘The Miniaturist’ which I reviewed relatively unfavourably ages ago.   I was assured this was a very different read.

It was.  It is unusual, intriguing, multi-layered and contains a bit of a mystery…… a great mix for any novel!  The story moves in place and time between London in the late 60’s to Spain thirty years earlier.  We meet two young women, both it seems dealing with a feeling of inadequacy about their art, unsure of who they are and what their place in the world might be.

It begins in London, 1967 where Odelle Bastien, originally from Trinidad and now living in London for five years is still looking to find her place –   a home, a good job and publishing success.  Abruptly life changes when Odelle is offered a typists position at a London Art Gallery under the tutelage of the glamorous Marjorie Quick.  About the same time a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.

The story moves to Spain 1936 as Civil War breaks out and the Schloss family, Harold and Sarah and their 19 year old daughter Olive take a finca and become acquainted with the young artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his sister Teresa.   The five become entwined as danger and unrest moves ever nearer and tragedy unfurls around them.

Moving between the two stories a mystery builds and I enjoyed following the clues that lead to the eventual outcome – not quite what I expected it to be!

Image result for salisbury square by geoff le pard

Salisbury Square by Geoff Le Pard

I’ll start by saying this is a book I would definitely not have chosen to read had it not been written by a writer I admire and fellow blogger and Master of All Genres Geoff Le Pard.   On his blog, Geoff  practises  his art, flexing his typing fingers and  letting his imagination go where it will with weekly doses of short or shorter writing prompts.   And nearly every one of ’em a gem!  Many of his stories are humorous.  This novel however, is not one of that kind!

The subject matter is grim, the reality gritty and Geoff pulls few punches in leading his readers into the harsh, sad world of the underbelly of London.  Peopled by survivors of dysfunctional families, featuring the lot of immigrant workers, drug addiction, homelessness and hopelessness and dealing with survival, betrayal and revenge.   I found it hard going at first.  The situation is grim from the start, the characters are not easy to love, their lives are messy, they are messy and things just keep getting messier.  Despite this however, somehow I was drawn in.  Empathy kicked in. Once that happened I was hooked, I needed to know somehow, somewhere, there would be redemption for someone.

The chapters are short – and get shorter as the book progresses.     Each chapter is headed by a place and a time.   This becomes imperative reading as the novel progresses and the pace picks up.  The short chapter format is an excellent device, it’s like watching a movie where the scenes switch between two or more places as the characters reveal more of themselves, as the tension builds and we sit on the edge of our seats, holding our breaths watching, waiting, hoping  ……  Every time I review one of Geoff’s books it seems I can see it as a movie.  This one is no exception.  The first was a comedy, the second a drama and this one gets filed under ‘bleak’ as in films like, say, ‘Trainspotting: I and II’ (and I say this without ever having seen either of those particular films, but I saw the trailers and that was enough for me).

Bleak!  But as I closed the book there was a certain satisfaction, there was redemption,  there was heart, there was hope.  And I realised I had grown to know and become fond of many of the characters that  shuffled through the pages.  And that, from this reader’s point of view, is quite something!

I have just one harsh criticism to deliver Mr Le Pard sir.  Please don’t end your book on page 280 and without blinking give me Chapter 1 of your next novel on page 281.  I needed time to sit and think and relive what I had just read and to allow the characters to file before me so I could weigh and measure and say – well, yes, there was redemption and there is hope.  And to stare at a blank page while doing so.  This is how I come to terms with the end of a good story.   At that precise point I didn’t give a damn about either Buster or Moo!  (But now of course I’m quite looking forward to reading that tale!)

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So there we go folks, three of my latest reads – from which I learn that judging a book by it’s cover (or it’s predecessor) may not necessarily allow me the opportunity to widen my world view or deepen my understanding of people.  I’m grateful to all three authors for taking me into unexpected places and thereby enriching me and adding to my gratitude for the life I live!!

If you’ve read any of these books please do chime in with your responses and if you haven’t read them, stick them on your ‘books to read’ list ……  I’d love to know what you think afterwards.

Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did!

The Books Piled Beside the Bed: Pt 3

Christmas always brings me a new range of books courtesy of my dear eldest daughter, The BookRep.  This past Christmas was no exception, despite the fact that we had all agreed  ‘We Aren’t Doing Christmas This Year!’.  She sends me enough reading matter to get me through to Mother’s Day, I think it’s the second Sunday in May here.  Then I take delivery of a few more books to get me through to my birthday in early September, which in turn stocks me up til the following Christmas.

Aren’t you envious?  I LOVE my regular restocking of the pile of books beside the bed.  It is an eclectic and enjoyable pile – books I’ve never heard of, books I want to read, books of fiction, fact, good literature, old literature, poems, essays, short stories; books instructional and uplifting, books containing new thoughts and information, books by loved authors and books by new authors.

And it’s not just books supplied by the BookRep in that pile – oh no! Sometimes I even purchase a book or two myself, sometimes I am gifted books by other kind folk – the pile is a never ending, always changing heap of anticipation and delight.

Delicious!!

Surveying the new pile brought me up with  jolt as I realised I still hadn’t completed intended reviews of books that were once in the pile but which have now been removed to the ‘read’ shelves in the living room.

My blog posts slowed down considerably last year, did you notice?  I was busy organising myself and apparently can no longer multi-task.  So, here I am to celebrate kicking off 2017, let’s take a look at a second novel from a fellow blogger:

My Father and Other Liars by Geoff Le Pard

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In my last book post I reviewed Geoff’s first book ‘Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle’ which, despite the title was a great read and, maybe because of the title, is a comedy waiting to be made.   So I was looking forward to settling in to read his next one.

‘My Father and Other Liars’ is very different.  I should have known by the cover, which had always quite puzzled my eye and scrambled my brain in some odd manner…….  This is a complex, multi-charactered look at a complex, multi-layered issue of today.  Complex family relationships, particularly father and child, are interwoven with a dramatic, fast paced story (so fast paced, I sometimes had to back track to sort out who did what) and the interweaving of religion and science.

The main characters, Maurice (Mo) Oldham and Lori-Ann Beaumont knock into each other at a Pro-Life Rally.  He is looking for a story to impress his absent father and she needs rescuing from a group of interrogative journalists grilling her about her father’s church.  They think never to see each other again, but some months later Lori-Ann turns up on Mo’s doorstep, bruised, destitute and desperate to track down her missing boy-friend.

Moving between the US, the UK and Nicaragua, the novel introduces us to the Church of Science and Development, one where religion and science unite with embryonic research at the core.   Throw in political investigations, mysteries from the past and a few dead bodies and the result is a fast paced (did I say that already?) thriller dealing with complex issues of ethics in scientific research, family secrets, personal and religious beliefs, and political interests with their own agendas.  And just in case you are wondering, there’s a quiet, slow blooming of a little romance as well.

When I finished this book I was struck by how well the characters were developed.  Despite my own personal views, I felt for those protagonists whose actions and beliefs were so very different to mine.  Geoff Le Pard has a real gift in presenting characters as human beings one can empathise with despite their behaviours or different beliefs.  Life is rarely black and white, and perhaps ultimately this book reveals the layers of grey that make up our relationships, our history, our beliefs, our actions and our world.

The thing I most delight in with Geoff’s writing is his ability to switch genres at the drop of a hat.  The inside of his head must be a maze of ideas and words and pictures running the gamut of all possible genres and then some.  To have a look at what I mean visit his blog TanGental and read some of his short stories or accompany Geoff and Dog on one of their meanders about the streets and parks and sights of London, I’m sure you’ll find something to delight you.

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Regular readers of my blog know we lost a great poet a few weeks ago. I always intended to write a review for Cynthia of her book.  But, alas, I waited too long.  She knew what I would say though, so here I write it just for you:

A Certain Age, Poems by Cynthia Jobin

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I’m no poetry maven, I’m just a person who knows what she likes.  My friend Cynthia passed away on 13th December last year.  Her collection of poems has sat beside my bed, or on the arm of my chair for the past couple of years.  Her ability with and knowledge of poetic forms was vast.  She wrote poems that tore at the gut, making me wonder what it had cost her to go so deep and express so eloquently.  She wrote poems that caused a gurgle of laughter to erupt, a sigh of empathy to escape, a moment of silence to linger on.  She wrote words that made me look anew at nature, at my actions and even at my thoughts.  She was a woman who had grown through pain and loss into extraordinary kindness and appreciation of the simple things in life.

I read her poems again now, with an even greater appreciation for her ability.  Bennison Books is working with John Looker to publish a second collected works of Cynthia Jobin, in the meantime we have ‘A Certain Age’ to enjoy again and again and again.

So, two writers who come much recommended by me for your new year reading lists.  I hope you will meander through their blogs and find something to enjoy.

Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did!

 

The Books Piled Beside the Bed – Pt 3

This edition of the Book Pile features reads from some fellow bloggers – I hope you will check them out and see for yourself what has so pleased me.  And as a complete aside, today happens to be my third anniversary on WordPress – what a great three years it has been – thanks to all you lovely folk out there xoxo

Bits of a Boyhood

An on-line biography found here subtitled ‘Growing Up in New Zealand’

I have never liked reading electronically, though many have told me the kindle is eye friendly- I just like books! I like the weight of them and the smell of them and the feel of them. I like reading covers and back covers and author profiles. I like rifling the pages and fiddling with my book mark which is tactile and friendly in my hands when the story is winding down or I am winding down ……….  Despite that, late last year I spent some time reading an on-line biography written by Mr Bruce Goodman of Weave a Web fame. Covering the fifties and sixties and set in rural New Zealand the story is told compassionately and humorously of growing up in a large, rambunctious, Catholic family.    I know much of the era and the areas and the descriptions resounded strongly for me.  The pathos and humour of a boy sometimes struggling to understand the complex world of older siblings and grown-ups was a delightfully innocent read.  Do wander over and have a read, it’s free and it’s delightful and give my friend Bruce a thumbs up.

And, coincidentally, Just to stay in a similar vein, I began this past months reading of real books with the delightful

Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle – Geoff Le Pard

DeadFlies

I should start by admitting I’m not much given to reading a book where the protagonist is a nineteen year old youth …..  and I continued past the first pages only because I had promised to read and review Geoff’s book.  And yep, was I glad I did!

I’m a fan of Geoff’s writing style –  found on his blog TanGental.  I loved his month long supply of short stories back in November and marvelled over his ability to swap genres and weave on-going dramas for the same character.   My question was would his ability with short stories bear up in the quantum leap to a novel?

I can’t remember when I last read a book where the story unraveled so clearly and independently before my eyes in the form of a movie.  There is something in the author’s writing style that allows the reader, or at least, me; imaginative space to ‘see’ the characters and the context in it’s entirety, the whole scene unfolds like a movie – the entire book is a movie waiting to happen!

The story is wryly witty, the ongoing movie informed me when incidents evolved into laugh out loud comic moments or segued into moments of despair or desperation.

In the end what I loved most was the manner in which the story unfolded and revealed itself only as much as it did to the poor befuddled teenager, Harry.  Girls are a mystery to him and these ones were to me as well.  His parents behaviours and words make no sense – what is going on?  Harry’s love and care for his grandmother is a tender side story that weaves throughout, though even she is now a mystery to him.   As Harry twigs more to what is going on, so do we.  The characters reveal themselves sometimes in surprising ways and the end denouement is exactly what Harry himself would have wanted!

I’ve got another book by Geoff Le Pard in the pile.  I deliberately didn’t pick it up straight after finishing this one – I was so tempted, but I wanted to give this book time to settle.

[But I’ll tell you about the next one, next month, because now this post is up, that book is open!]

So I started in on

The Sunday Philosophy Club – Alexander McCall Smith

I actually struggled to get into this little book. I found the character of Isabel Dalhousie a bit stiff and unreal and not quite right…….  I wonder if it is because it is a man writing – and his descriptions of a woman’s thought processes and emotions are not necessarily actually accurate.   Or maybe I have just never known a woman of such a degree of philosophical ilk.  Despite this, the thing I really like and appreciated was that the story stayed real, quite relatable to how real people I know might have responded in such a scenario.  In other words, no derring-do, no flights of fancy, no taking on the baddies in the face of great odds.  Just a slow peramble through gentle nosings and visits and the unravelings of the mystery.  When the gripping bit does come it is actually chillingly real. I know I’d respond the same way.    I don’t know if I’d read another one, but I might.  If you are a fan, please do share your thoughts on these books, I’d love to hear them – I might be being totally unfair and judging prematurely and thereby missing out on further good reads.  [Heaven forbid!]

SundayPhilosophyClub

Included in the ‘currently reading pile’ are two little volumes I’m opening at random and reading a page from most evenings.

One –  [A Compendium of Inspiration]

The first is a gift sent to me by my friend Norah which I mentioned in my last post.  The photo shows the cover which bears the inscription ‘How many people does it take to make a difference’ alongside the giant digit one.  Inside the front flap poses the thought: Instead of asking ‘What can I get from life?’ watch what happens when you ask “What can I give?”  Which is a philosophy I thoroughly approve of!

One

 

It’s filled with little inspirational texts and quotes to ponder and muse over and take into sleep.  I feel really honoured that Norah thought of me when she saw this book and went to the trouble of sending it to me.  It’s appreciated and enjoyed Norah, thank you.  It makes a lovely gift!

A Certain Age – Cynthia Jobin

The second book I’m picking up every evening is an anthology of poetry from the pen of the rather delightful Cynthia Jobin who blogs at littleoldladywho where you can savour her words both written and spoken.

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Cynthia writes about the commonplace, the every day, she writes too of love lost and love found.  She writes of her animals, her family, the seasons and festivals.  And sometimes she writes and I wonder, ‘Now, what triggered that?’

The art of the poet, I feel, lies in making the reader share the experience, in causing the breath to catch, the eye to burn, the ‘Oh!’ to form or a chuckle to rise and so often, having read, to sit and let silent contemplation fill the soul.  I so often experience one or more of these responses when reading the work of Cynthia Jobin.  Do wander on over and see for yourself.

That’s it for this month on the reading front.  Do share what you are reading and add in any thoughts to the books I’ve mentioned.

Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did.