Monthly Archives October 2018

A poem to read in the bath… ‘A thousand years, you said’

Written in 8th century Japan, this poem speaks of the longing of love shadowed by impending death, and it is as relevant today as it was then. I discovered this poem in The Picador Book of Funeral Poems, and then stumbled on it again in an old paperback on my bookshelf, The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse. It was written by Lady Heguri in mid-late eighth century. No details are known of her, except that her poems are addressed to Yakamochi. ‘A thousand years, you said, As our two hearts melted. I look at the hand you held And the ache is too hard to bear.’   ‘The Picador Book of Funeral Poems’ ed. by Don Paterson Amazon UK Read these other excerpts, and perhaps find a new poet to love:- ‘Runaways’ by Daniela Nunnari ‘Winter Song’ by Wilfred Owen ‘The Cinnamon Peeler’ by Michael Ondaatje And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: A #poem to read in the bath: ‘A thousand years, you said’ by Lady Heguri https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3dS via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Poetry.

#Bookreview ‘A Ladder to the Sky’ by @john_boyne #Ambition #Plagiarism

Maurice Swift is one of life’s takers. A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne is the story of his life, told mostly by a series of people he meets, spends time with, has relationships with. Note that I don’t say ‘and who he loves’, because Maurice Swift loves only himself. He is single-minded and does what he needs to do to get on and get what he wants; he wants to be a major novelist and, oddly for such a self-obsessed person, a father. I read the book in a strange state of tension wondering to what lows he would next sink, waiting for him to get his just desserts. Boyne’s novels are always thought-provoking and this is no different. But I found it a difficult novel to read in that Maurice is not the sort of person you want to know. He lies, dissembles, steals, discriminates, copies, exploits and basically sucks dry a person until, when he has got all he needs, he moves on. We first encounter Maurice in West Berlin in 1988. The sixth novel of sixty six year old Erich Ackermann has won a prize and, on the subsequent publicity tour, he notices a young
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘Three Sisters, Three Queens’ by @PhilippaGBooks #Tudor

‘What is the point of love if it does not make us kind?’ Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory is a story of three women, princesses all, who marry for duty, for their country but who long to marry for love. It is a not a tale of sisterly love, more of sisterly rivalry, envy and spitefulness. The three women become sisters of England, Scotland and France but each knows despair and great unhappiness, they are alternately supportive to each other and shamelessly selfish. The three women are Margaret, older sister of Henry VIII; Mary, his younger sister; and Katherine of Aragon, his first wife. All women have been raised to do their duty, to behave correctly, to smile when in pain, to nod to their husband when they disagree, and to always put themselves second. It is a story of English and Scottish politics, the switching of allegiances, the lies and flattery, the convenient silences. The story is told by Margaret, married young to James IV of Scotland, who is horrified after their wedding to be presented with a mob of children, his illegitimate sons and daughters. She appeals to Katherine for advice who tells her to swallow
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The America Ground

The America Ground by Nathan Dylan Goodwin is based on a fascinating piece of local history, indeed Goodwin’s own family history, and made into a historical thriller. On April 28, 1827, a woman is murdered in her bed. Eliza Lovekin is the second to be killed, Amelia Odden is to be next. This is the story of Eliza, her daughter Harriet and a piece of ground in Hastings, East Sussex, which for a short period of time was claimed as a piece of the United States of America. Forensic genealogist Morton Farrier is on the trail of his own adoption story, the identity of his birth father. But a visit to his adoptive father seeking answers sets him instead on the trail of a new mystery. The portrait of a woman from the 1800s: ‘Eliza Lovekin, Hastings, 1825’. Morton’s client is the proprietor of an antiques business who wants a potted family history of Eliza to add value to the painting before it goes up for sale at auction. Initially resenting time away from researching his own family, Morton is soon captivated by Eliza’s story. In the 1827 story strand, we follow Harriet Lovekin, teenage daughter of Eliza, as she
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Categories: Book Love and Family history research.

Great Opening Paragraph 111… ‘Reading Turgenev’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“A woman, not yet fifty-seven, slight and seeming frail, eats carefully at a table in a corner. Her slices of buttered bread have been halved for her, her fried egg mashed, her bacon cut. ‘Well, this is happiness!’ she murmurs aloud, but none of the other women in the dining room replies because none of them is near enough to hear. She’s privileged, the others say, being permitted to occupy on her own the bare-topped table in the corner. She has her own salt and pepper.” ‘Reading Turgenev’ from ‘Two Lives’ by William Trevor Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘The Children Act’ by Ian McEwan ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen ‘Dance Dance Dance’ by Haruki Murakami And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: TWO LIVES by William Trevor #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2qN
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

My Porridge & Cream read: Kelly Clayton

Today I’m delighted to welcome crime author Kelly Clayton.  Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Naked in Death by JD Robb, pen name of Nora Roberts. “I first read Naked In Death over 15 years ago. I was reading a considerable number of books a week and was a regular visitor to the local library. I read most genres but was buried deep in a Nora Roberts phase at the time. I was searching through the Nora books when I realised I had read them all. Panic! So I kept looking along the alphabetical shelf, and almost the next author was JD Robb [Nora Roberts’ pen name for her crime series].  The book, Naked In Death, was the first of a series and it sounded good – set slightly in the future, it followed a New York homicide detective, Eve Dallas. I borrowed it as part of that week’s haul and headed home. I was back at the library the next day for the following two books in the series. The In Death books cover crime, slight sci-fi element (but very subtle), romance, friendship, the destructive nature of humans and how the past doesn’t have to define us. Eve Dallas is a tortured kick-ass
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

#Bookreview ‘Things Bright and Beautiful’ by @anbara_salam #literary #womens

How to describe Things Bright and Beautiful by Anbara Salam? It is a tale of the 1950s set on a Pacific island where the author authentically creates the sweltering heat, the humidity, the tropical jungle and the natives. It is a claustrophobic tale of differing religious beliefs where confusion, conviction and malaria bring about an unexpected ending. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, it was a wild card choice and I really enjoyed it. Bea and Max Hanlon arrive on Advent Island in the remote New Hebrides as Max takes up his post as island missionary to spread the word to the heathen natives. It is not what they expected. Bea is soon picking rat droppings from their bag of rice while Max deals with a lack of clocks making scheduling a morning service difficult. Not to mention the group praying and singing at night, this ‘dark praying’ is intended to expel dark spirits and is done outside the Mission House whilst Max and Bea attempt to sleep. The authorial tone is at first fond and humorous as Bea and Max face up to their difficulties shackled by language differences and the late arrival of their trunks.
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Categories: Book Love.

#Book review ‘Elmet’ by @FJMoz #contemporary #womens

A powerful book about the nature of family in today’s society, Elmet by Fiona Mozley is also about our relationship with the earth, nature, and existence without the trappings of modern life. Except it is impossible to escape completely. The narrator, fourteen-year-old Daniel Oliver, is walking north in pursuit of an unnamed someone. As Daniel walks on, we see flashbacks to what happened before he set off on his journey. Danny’s life with his sister Cathy is split into two parts: living with Granny Morley beside the seaside where their father and mother are, separately, occasional visitors to the house; then later, living in a wood with Daddy, in a house hand-built, foraging off the land. At the beginning the descriptions of the rural landscape made me think this was a historical setting but Elmet is set today, making the circumstances of the family more disturbing. They live off the land and the money earned bare knuckle fighting by Daddy, John Smythe. They live on the margins; the children are home-schooled, and receive payment in kind [a carton of orange juice from the milkman, chops from the butcher] for favours done. Daniel and Cathy visit a neighbour’s house each morning
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Categories: Book Love.

How Jeffrey Archer writes

Jeffrey Archer “I am not a writer, I am a storyteller.” [address to students in India, in November 2016]  Archer’s writing regime is ruthless. “I rise at 05.30 every morning and I write from six until eight. I take a two hour break and write from ten until twelve. I take a two hour break and I write from two until four. I take a two hour break and write from six until eight. The first draft usually takes about seven weeks, eight weeks. Every word handwritten.” By the time the book is finished it has gone through 14 drafts and he has spent around 1000 hours on it. “I wish there was a shortcut but there isn’t.” He has sold around 330 million books. His first book, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, published in 1976, is said to be based on his own near-bankruptcy. I find his writing routine both reassuring and intimidating. Reassuring because I have always been a worker, a doer. I like routine. And the fact that Archer’s books go through 14 drafts is not dissimilar to my re-drafting, though I don’t consciously number them. It is more a matter of them evolving.
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Categories: On Writing.

Book review: Panic Room

Panic Room by Robert Goddard starts in the voice of someone unnamed, someone who feels safe in a beautiful, calm place, who wants to stay there forever but who knows that is unrealistic. It made me ask so many questions: who is the speaker, where is this safe place and why isn’t it forever? It’s a while before we learn the identity of the first speaker. We are next introduced to Don Challenor, an ordinary middle-aged bloke, an estate agent who has been sacked, who is given a temporary job by his ex- wife Fran. To prepare for sale a multi-million property, Wortalleth West in Cornwall, for a client of Fran’s. Don jumps in his vintage MG to drive west, not realising how his life will change. In the house he sets about his job, taking photos and measurements in order to prepare the sales brochure. Except the dimensions of one room don’t make sense. There is a mystery void. A steel door which cannot be opened. Is it a panic room? Why is it there? What’s in it? Is it dangerous? Could someone be inside, watching? Or are they trapped? Why not simply ask the owner of the house?
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Hangover Square

Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton, first published in 1941, is deservedly being re-discovered as a perceptive portrayal of people getting-by, living in the low rent district of Earls Court, London, months before war is declared. It is the mournful tale of one man’s hopeless love for a woman who exploits him relentlessly, his inability to see her for what she is, and the battle of his psyche, half of which is telling him to commit murder. George Harvey Bone loves Netta Longdon despite, or perhaps because of, her disdain for him. ‘When she had finished making up, she went into the sitting room to change her shoes, and he followed her. He was always following her, like her shadow, like a dog.’ This is a novel about love, about living on the edge, and schizophrenia, and about the underbelly of a city paused on the brink of war. The story flicks back and forth in George’s head between his lucid moments planning a new life in Maidenhead when he will stop drinking, and what happens after the ‘click’ in his head – a blackout or loss of sense of time and place – when he realizes the only solution is
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton is a whodunnit version of Groundhog Day set at a country house party. There is a twist: the Bill Murray character must live each day in a different body, a host, and solve a murder or never escape back to his normal life. I found this to be a tortuous, convoluted and mystifying plot, impossible to review without giving away clues (intentionally or not), but I will have a go. If you like conventional detective stories which follow the rules of crime fiction, presenting a challenge to be solved, this may not be for you. If you like going on a mystery journey where nothing is as it seems, you will like it. Mysteries work when the reader has something to cling onto, to make them identify with a character, to make them care, to give them someone to root for. This story has so many unknowns I spent most of the story in a state of confusion. Like Coco Chanel dressing for the evening and then removing two elements to ensure she wasn’t over-dressed, I finished this book wishing the author had undertaken a similar cutting exercise. The solution to
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Categories: Book Love.

Famous writers, reading… William Faulkner

Double-Pulitzer prizewinner William Faulkner looks comfortable, reading The Silver Treasury of Light Verse. This book was published in 1957 in America by New American Library and the photograph of Faulkner [below] looks to date from this time. He died in 1962 aged 64. I studied American Literature at university and read Faulkner. His books still sit on my bookshelf, slim Penguin Classics editions. The one that stayed with me is As I Lay Dying, about the death and burial of Addie Brunden. Her family takes her coffin by cart to be buried amongst her folk in Jefferson, Mississippi.   ‘As I Lay Dying’ by William Faulkner [UK: Vintage] See these other famous people, reading & writing:- Ernest Hemingway William Golding Bella Lugosi And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Famous writers, reading… William Faulkner reads THE SILVER TREASURY OF LIGHT VERSE #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3cV via @SandraDanby
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Categories: On Writing.