Books

24 December 2014

Happy Christmas

I would like to wish you all a very happy Christmas (or holiday season) and to thank you for being such persistent blog followers during the past year - it has been most encouraging. I hope that 2015 will be exceptionally wonderful for you all, in all ways, bringing you much happiness, harmony and success.

My next post will be on the 3rd or 4th January 2015 when I will be continuing with my book reviews.

21 December 2014

Hughes by Andrew Riemer


This amazing book about the art critic Robert Hughes (photo on the right from The Guardian), written by a friend of his from university days, is well worth reading. It is beautifully written and gives an extremely perceptive picture of both the man and the critic. 

Riemer (on the left - photo from auslit.com) sees the education Hughes received at the hands of the Jesuits in Sydney as the creative force behind Hughes's international success not only as a critic but also as a person who deeply and accurately understood art and its place in society. Hughes himself outwardly rejected Catholicism, but it was actually the discipline of that religion that gave him the insights and the understandings that eventually propelled him into the limelight. 

His accumulated knowledge and power of analysis allowed him to see what others around him failed to grasp, be it the death of modernism in America or Australia's cultural emptiness. As Riemer writes: Though it is never stated explicitly, the prevailing impression left behind by Hughes's record of his return to Australia is of a cultural and social emptiness, akin to the emptiness of the great open spaces, but without their spiritual consolation.

Hughes may have rejected conventional, traditional religion but he was very aware, no doubt because of those early years with the Jesuits that, in the end, '... art and religion are the same thing.'.

17 December 2014

The Light Between Oceans by M.L.Stedman


I read this book on the advice of someone who had read it and loved it. I was not disappointed. While the main character, Tom Sherbourne, joins together, not only the other characters but also events stretching from WWI through to the 1950s, it is the lighthouse that has the central position. 

The description of the lighthouse, off the south-west coast of Australia, and the area around it, is beautiful, and it permeates the entire book. There is a delicate balance between poetic descriptions of natural features, both on the island and on the mainland, and the suspenseful telling of the story. 

Without going into too much detail, the discovery, by Tom, the lighthouse keeper, and his young wife, Isabel, of a dead man and a baby washed up in a small boat initiate an overwhelming sequence of events. Right and wrong become blurred at the edges and decisions made, for whatever reason, draw heavy lines across the lives of all those involved. In fact, like the horror of Tom's experiences in WWI, these choices and experiences embed themselves in each and everyone of the people affected, stretching across decades. A book well worth reading.
(The photo of M.L.Stedman is from www.elle.it)
Watch the video. 






14 December 2014

Quotes



This time, I decided on something a bit different: two thought-provoking quotes, one in English and one in Swedish (for my Swedish blog followers).

Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran  
Agresto (an American sent to Iraq to do something about the universities) believed that Iraqis hadn’t focused on ethnic and religious divisions before the war, and it was the CPA’s (Coalition Provisional Authority) quota system that had encouraged them to identify themselves by race and sect. . .’ P.284

Förbländningen av Elias Canetti
De handlar och vet inte vad de gör; de har sina vanor och vet inte varför; de vandrar hela sitt liv och känner ändå inte sin väg: sådana är de, massmänniskorna. P.82

10 December 2014

Lilian's Story by Kate Grenville

If you want to be part of the book Giveaway on the 16th December (the winner can choose either The Space in Between or Room Nineteen), you must have subscribed to my Newsletter by the 15th December.


Lilian's Story is the story of Lilian Singer (aka Bea Miles), who is born into a middle-class family but who eventually ends up as a bag lady, quoting poetry for a few pence, on the streets of Sydney. Lilian's early life, coloured by prosperity, advantage and the incestuous advances of her father was lived during an age when the words education and women were very rarely uttered in the same sentence, and it was only thanks to her independent spirit and strong will that she eventually gained admission to university.

An extremely intelligent woman, Lilian refused to conform to others' expectations, and, although her life took many turns for the worse, she always retained a cheerful and positive outlook on everything around her.

When I was a child, I often stayed with my grandmother, who lived in Paddington when Paddington was still working class. We would catch the tram along Oxford Street, and, sometimes, we would glimpse Bea Miles walking along the street. “That is Bea Miles,” my grandmother would say, not without a touch of sympathy in her voice. When I read Kate Grenville's book, it was with the feeling that I already had a 'connection' with the main character. The book takes those sketchy images from my childhood and expands them into a real person. Lilian's Story is a wonderful book - extremely sad, exasperating and, in parts, even humorous. I would definitely recommend it.


Photo of Kate Grenville from www.news.com.au

06 December 2014

If on a winter's night a traveller by Italo Calvino



I read this book some years back, and, apart from it being a great book, I thought I would mention it here, directly after Cloud Atlas, because David Mitchell, the author of Cloud Atlas, was fascinated by Calvino's book when he first read it as an undergraduate. Even though, many years later, after a second reading, he noted that he “didn't find it ‘breathtakingly inventive’ as he had the first time...”, he goes on to stress that “however breathtakingly inventive a book is, it is only breathtakingly inventive once – with once being better than never.”

The structure of If on a winter's night a traveller, with its broken chapters and its separate stories, obviously had a very positive ‘once being better than never’ impact on the future author of Cloud Atlas. It also had a a very positive impact on me.

In essence, the book is about reading, and you are the main character in the book. At the beginning of the book, you discover that the pages in the book you are reading are in the wrong order, and you return to the book shop to get a new copy. There is another person having the same problem as yourself, and, eventually, the two of you meet, and you both set out to find a complete version of the book.

The book is divided into twenty-two sections or chapters, where every odd-numbered section (in second-person) tells about your quest to read the book you have started (a quest that always seems to be thwarted in one way or another), and every other section is about those books - a delightful mix of genres, topics and geographical locations. Forget beginning, body and conclusion, because If on a winter's night a traveller shows that such structural limitations are not necessary in the telling of a suspenseful and interesting story (or stories).

The photo of Italo Calvino is from www.roncaney.it 

03 December 2014

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell


This would have to be one of the best books I have read in 2014. At 529 pages, it is not a book that can be read in one sitting, but it is a book that is difficult to put down. Mitchell weaves together six totally separate stories from different time periods and different parts of the globe into a whole that stretches beyond place and time.

I found it fascinating how he changes styles, and even language, between the stories: for example, in the first story, set around the mid-nineteenth century, he uses a slightly archaic English, while in the story entitled 'Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After', he takes the liberty of creating completely new words and ways of expressing them.
 Photo of David Mitchell from www.theguardian.com

His grasp of factual knowledge in the areas forming the basis to his stories: music, the exploration and subjugation of the South Pacific, corporate greed... is admirable, and, as the novel progresses, it can be seen how the totally separate stories merge with each other in subtle ways. At the heart of the novel is the possibility of reincarnation and the idea that life - as a life source - continues, no matter what.

Everything is connected and interchangeable; life and death are part of the same process; nothing is wasted, everything is important. I think that the book can be best summed up in the words of one of the characters, Zachry, who says: 'Who can say where the cloud's blowed from or who the soul'll be tomorrow?' 

In 2012, Cloud Atlas was made into a film by Lana and Andy Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer. Watch the official   trailer. 

29 November 2014

My third Newsletter will be published this coming Tuesday, and, for the whole month of December, subscribers will have the opportunity of buying either of my two books at a discount. Also, on the 16th December, there will be a new giveaway, and the winner will be able to choose either Room Nineteen OR The Space in Between. However, you must have signed up in order to be part of the draw (or the discount).

Next week, I will be reviewing Cloud Atlas, an amazing book by prize-winning author David Mitchell.

26 November 2014

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer


William Shirer based his book on six years working as a reporter of the Third Reich, captured documents – including diaries of people like the propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and the Italian Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano ‒ as well as British Foreign Office reports and testimony from the Nuremberg trials. All 1143 pages of the resulting basically neutral account of NAZI Germany from 1932 to 1945 (add another 100 pages for the index) are amazing, even though the book does not always escape an American interpretation of German history. 

Nevertheless, when weighed against the monumental undertaking of chronicling this period in minute detail, such personal interpretations are possibly neither here nor there and can be either accepted or rejected by a discerning reader. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is a book, which, at the same time as it is a historical record, is also a great page-turner. It gives a thoughtful understanding of these eventful years, not only in relation to Germany but also to the rest of world, and is worth reading.

 Photo from en.wikipedia.org

23 November 2014

Liking and not liking

It is interesting to reflect on the fact that a review is simply one person's experience of something, and, in the case of this blog, that something is a book. When I write that I do not particularly like a certain book, there are probably thousands of others 'out there' who would disagree; the same is true when I extoll the merits of a book - there will always be others who do not agree with me, for whatever reason. As individuals, we have the right to like or dislike, but, there should always be some kind of intellectual or emotional basis for our liking or disliking: if we say that we like something, then we have to be able to give a reason for our opinion.

The line between like and dislike is heavily nuanced, especially when it comes to books. For example, I may like the theme of the book, but I may be disappointed with the characterization. I may love the language, but I may feel that the story itself is a non-story. Nothing is really ever black and white.

Unfortunately, certain social media sites ignore the nuances and settle for the black and white - we like or we dislike. I feel that this is having a marked effect on how many people now regard other people and the world in general: people are good or bad, actions are right or wrong, political decisions are beneficial or disastrous - there is nothing in between. Are we beginning to lose the ability to form intelligent, considered opinions on things where like and dislike are actually at opposite ends of the scale and where we should be able to verbally defend our reasons for standing at some point in between?  

19 November 2014

Genie: A Scientific Tragedy by Russ Rymer


This story about a little girl who suffers such horrendous physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her parents that, when she is finally released from their care at the age of thirteen, she has no language and no social skills is definitely a tragedy. That the scientific community then saw a chance to study language from a number of previously impossible perspectives need not have been a tragedy had the people behind all the research and experimentation not lost sight of the fact that Genie was actually a human being with very human needs. 

The first part of the tragedy was Genie's misfortune to have been born into a completely dysfunctional family; the second part was the fact that those people who later assumed responsibility for her physical, emotional and psychological well-being did not fully understand her need to be able to bond with one caring human. They were all focused on their research, and, somewhere between the reams of tests and papers, they all lost sight of Genie; when they finally realized that she was still there, it was too late. 

RussRymer has woven together a desperately sad story with substantial descriptions of scientific research into the origins of language, and the result is extremely interesting, compelling and definitely readable. It is impossible to read the book without questioning oneself where the line goes between what is ethically acceptable and what is not.


 Photo of Russ Rymer from  mvbookfestival.com




15 November 2014

The other day, Xerxes phoned me. (I know, the name is most unusual, and it could well be a nom de plume, but, of course, he was phoning, not writing.)  Anyway, whether he actually is Xerxes or not is of little importance. This is the gist of our conversation:
Xerxes:   Do you know that 'thingy' on your blog?
Diane:     ??
Xerxes:   Something about a letter...
Diane:    A Newsletter?
Xerxes:   Yes, that's it. A Newsletter.
Diane:    And?
Xerxes:  Well, I didn't get one.
Diane:    But you had subscribed?
Xerxes:  Subscribed? I read every blog post you write; I assumed that it was automatic; that it was like a reward for like 'sticking around'.
Diane:    No, I'm afraid it doesn't work like that.
Xerxes:   It doesn't?
Diane:    No, it doesn't. If you want the Newsletter, you actually have to subscribe. There is a subscription form on the left of the blog. You type in your email address and then click on 'subscribe'.
Xerxes:   And that's all?
Diane:     That's all. You don't have to put in any other information, and if you later want to unsubscribe, it's just as simple to opt out.
Xerxes:   So what's the difference? I mean, like, what's the difference between your Newsletter and your Blog?
Diane:     The Newsletter only comes out twice a month, while I post twice a week on the blog. On the blog, I review books I've read; in the Newsletter, you can read about Vegetarian Cooking, Numerology, Creating gardens, the books I've written, and much more...
Xerxes:   But I've already missed the first Newsletter...
Diane:     That's really not a problem. The next Newsletter will be published on the 18th November, and there you'll have a chance to download the introduction to the Numerology Course that was in the first Newsletter. The first Newsletter was more of an introduction, so you haven't missed a lot.
Xerxes:   I've always wondered what vegetarians eat, and that about Numerology might be interesting - perhaps it will tell me if I'm going to win the lottery?
Diane:     No, it won't tell you that, but it will tell you other things.
Xerxes:   I'll subscribe today.
Diane:     Glad  to have been of help, Xerxes. Keep in touch.  

12 November 2014

Ireland and Her Story by Justin McCarthy


This book, written in 1903, gives a very good background to Irish history, beginning with the Celts arrival in Ireland around the dawn of time and ending with Second Home Rule Bill and the passing of the Land Bill at the turn of the nineteenth century. McCarthy does not go into unnecessary detail, but he provides a platform for further study and investigation. He ends his book on a positive note, and, indeed, relative to all that had previously happened in Ireland, the passing of a Home Rule Bill was positive. However, in 2014 with the added awareness of everything that has happened in Ireland since 1903, it is possible to see just how relative a word like 'positive' can be. The fact that McCarthy was born in 1830 means that he was writing about many issues contemporary to himself which gives the book an integrity and an authenticity which is both refreshing and extremely valuable from the point of view of understanding the Irish situation. 
 
Photo from www.libraryireland.com

09 November 2014

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini


The blurb at the front of the book says that this "... is a novel about friendship, betrayal and the price of loyalty. It is about the bonds between fathers and sons, and the power of fathers over sons..." I agree, but it is also a story about love: the need to be loved or, at the very least, the need to belong. Moreover, it is a book about choices and the responsibility that is an integral part of any choice. It is not always that we want to assume full responsibility for our choices, and the degree of responsibility we accept or do not accept will, in turn, often instigate other choices and other degrees of responsibility.

(Please note: spoilers in this paragraph)  
Baba's liaison with Ali's wife is a choice he makes, but he then weighs his need to take full responsibility for his son Hassan against the social mores of the day and place. He straddles the line, hoping that material gifts will, in some way, obliterate his responsibility on a deeper, emotional level. He chooses not to tell Amir that he has a half-brother which, in turn, impacts on the way Amir relates to Hassan, who, by virtue of his mother, belongs to the Hazara minority which is looked down upon, especially by the Pashtuns - the ruling class to which Amir and his father belong. Amir makes a choice not to go to Hassan's assistance in his time of need, and it takes almost the whole book for him to realize that, eventually, he has to take responsibility for that action - or lack of action - by taking care of Hassan's son, Sohrab. It is impossible to run away from the choices we make.

The book is well written and it gives an indirect but very poignant picture of Afghanistan before the Russian invasion (and, of course, before the invasion by America and her allies). It is obvious that the author has lived in Afghanistan, because he brings it alive in a manner that is very difficult to do if one has not actually experienced the smells, the sights, the nuances of light and the sounds of the land and its people.

I felt that the story was extremely well-balanced, and I was very pleased that it did not have the obviously happy ending that could have been possible, and would probably have been the case, had the author been completely American and not only by proxy. 

 Photo of Khaled Hosseini from www.magialiteraria.com

07 November 2014

I seem to have got a little out of sync here (normally I post on Saturday/Sunday and then, again, on Wednesday). The reason is most probably the launch of my Newsletter - first issue last Tuesday. It has gone well, and I have already had some great feed-back. If you have not yet subscribed, and you would like to, all information is to the left of this post.

I have just finished reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. It is a fantastic book, and I will be writing about it a little further down the track.

In the meantime, have a great day, and I will try to get back into my normal posting routine as soon as possible.

02 November 2014

Den kalla elden by Arnaldur Indridason


Indridason, a writer of Scandinavian Crime Fiction, is from Iceland, and he wrote this book (in direct translation: The Cold Fire) in 2010. Although the book has been translated to Swedish, I have not yet found any reference to an English translation (although many of Indridason's earlier books have already been translated). When the book is finally translated to English, it could well be given a completely different name.

This is a tale of loss, revenge and murder set against the very prominent harshness of an Icelandic winter. I felt that Indridason managed to sustain a certain air of suspense throughout the book, with the reader knowing vaguely what may have happened but not exactly why or how. However, that said, I also felt that much of the story was built on a mixture of co-incidence and the, at times, extremely strange actions of the main character, Erlendur, which, in any normal situation, would have been considered bizarrely outside the law.

Although descriptions of the harsh landscape and even the characters themselves are well-rounded, giving a good background to the story, Erlendur's obsessive concentration on things that have absolutely nothing to do with him is, at times, quite disturbing. The ending, though vaguely hinted at in the beginning of the book, is, I felt, slightly out of sync with the book as a whole. Easy to read. Something to fill the gap between more challenging books.



 Photo of Indridason from www.babelio.com

26 October 2014

Two States - One Nation? by Günter Grass


This book was written in 1990 on the cusp of Germany's reunification. While many were praising the idea of merging the GDR and the Federal Republic, there were a few, like Günter Grass, who felt that it was a step in the wrong direction. In a number of essays and speeches, he argues the case for retaining two separate states, each following separate policies in regards to domestic, social and political questions while, at the same time, sharing a definite German culture. The structure of the book means that it is easily read, and it also allows the reader to 'pick and choose'. Grass's arguments are well-rounded, and the book gives the reader much to think about, especially now, more than twenty years after reunification. Was Grass right? Read the book and decide.
  Photo of  Günter Grass from manifesto-surrealista.blogspot.com

22 October 2014

Take Your Best Shot: The Prime Ministership of Julia Gillard by Jacqueline Kent


This book, only 123 pages in length, gives a very good portrait of Julia Gillard during her three years and three days in office. It is intelligently written with many references to things Julia said, and it gathers together the highs and lows of her prime ministership into an 'easy-to-handle' bundle. Kent makes no personal evaluation but presents everything so that the reader can make his/her own evaluation. I feel that the only evaluation that can be made is that Julia Gillard, with her tenacity, her clear vision, her efficiency, her graciousness and her strength of purpose, would have to be one of our very best prime ministers. Although Kent did not refer to it directly, the contrast between Julia and the two men in opposition to her - Rudd and Abbott - is striking to say the least. Both men failed miserably in most of those things that made Julia the person she was and is.


Photo of Julia Gillard (above) from wwww.abc.net.au   

Photo of Jacqueline Kent (to the left) from  

19 October 2014

Newsletter

Beginning on the 4th November, I will be publishing a Newsletter twice a month. There will be a course on Numerology, running over four or five months, and articles on vegetarian cooking, gardening, hiking and much more. There will be information on how my books came to be, as well as background information to both The Space in Between and Room Nineteen. Special offers and giveaways will also be a feature of the Newsletter. However, to receive the Newsletter, you must subscribe. The information in the Newsletter will not be available anywhere else.

Sign up today and be sure of receiving the very first Newsletter (and the first part of the course in Numerology). Your email address will only be used for the Newsletter, and, if you eventually decide that you do not wish to continue subscribing, you can unsubscribe at any time.




16 October 2014

Giveaway


The Giveaway (two copies of Room Nineteen) has now ended, and I would like to congratulate the two winners, Mónica from Portugal and Kristy from USA. For the more than fifteen hundred people who missed out, the book is being offered at a very reduced price from my website.   

This is an offer that definitely cannot last, so don't miss out.



13 October 2014

Desert Queen: The Many Lives and Loves of Daisy Bates by Susanna de Vries


As a novel, this book does not work; however, it does work as a collection of interesting information about Daisy Bates and the period in which she lived and worked - late nineteenth century/early twentieth century. (Daisy, originally from Ireland, spent many years living in the Australian desert, studying Aboriginal culture). The writing, unfortunately, is mediocre and there is a lot of repetition which, as the book progresses, becomes extremely irritating. Whether this can be totally attributed to the author or to bad editing is difficult to say.

Having read The House of Mirth earlier in the year, it was interesting to compare Lily Bart of that book with Daisy Bates of Desert Queen. Both women are from the same period, and both are intent on attaining financial and social security in what is most definitely a man's world. It is, however, interesting to see that while Lily Bart lacks the moral strength to achieve what she sets out to achieve and, in all probability, commits suicide, Daisy Bates actually does have the moral strength but, in the end, although she probably would never have admitted it, is unable to break through the male-erected barrier to female academic recognition. This is the book's very sad reality: had Daisy been accepted on the same level as any male doing similar work, I doubt that she would have spent almost twenty years camped in the desert, handing out dishes of porridge to the native people. Instead, she would have had economic security which, together with the acceptance of others working in the same field, would have allowed her the freedom to pursue her important research in a variety of directions.

That said, Daisy's vivid imagination, and the fact that she invented an entire history for herself, does tend to reflect badly on the complete authenticity of her research: one cannot help but wonder where Daisy the scientist disappears into the background and where Daisy the imaginative story-teller takes over. However, I have chosen to accept that, in essence, her research is probably fairly accurate. As a Christian, she "... insisted Christianity was irrelevant for Aboriginal people who, she thought, should maintain their unique culture and traditional way of life..." which, I feel, says a lot about Daisy's moral values and also about her sincerity.

Like The House of Mirth the message in this book is depressing; however, while The House of Mirth is beautifully written and can, therefore, be appreciated as a work of literature, Desert Queen is a mere collection of depressing information (much of which we must take with a grain of salt), without the satisfaction that comes with good writing. To sum up, I found the book interesting because of the information about Daisy Bates, but I was totally disappointed with the book itself.


08 October 2014

Perfect Stranger by Kay Schubach



This is a book about domestic abuse, and the most admirable thing about it is the honesty of the author. Kay Schubach is writing about herself in an extremely vulnerable situation, and yet she manages to describe the sequence of events without moulding her reactions to fit preconceived ideas of how, in hindsight, she should have acted. That said, I was amazed that such a sophisticated and world-aware woman could have been taken in by such a man as Simon Lowe. Even at her first meeting with him, all the signs are there warning her to leave him alone. That she should have extended that first meeting with sex at a nearby hotel is difficult to fathom; however, given her utter desperation for a child, it is possible to see why she may have ignored her intuition and clung to an erroneous image of Simon as the man of her dreams and, hopefully, the father of her child.

Kay makes a disastrous mistake by pretending that Simon is the man for whom she has been searching, but her mistake can in no way justify the way Simon then treats her. The few months she spends with him are a nightmare, and, at times, it is difficult to comprehend that anyone could be as violent, cruel, vindictive, jealous and immature as Simon Lowe.

The book is well written, and Kay makes it very obvious just how difficult it is for a domestic-violence victim to break away from her oppressor. The fear that fills Kay's every day is both tangible and terrifying. That she is eventually able to extricate herself from the situation is an indication of her inner strength and her sense of self; many other women would, unfortunately, not be able to do what she did. A book that is definitely worthwhile reading.


Photo from

05 October 2014

Books and Book Shops


Once upon a time book shops were quite ordinary. There were no glossy posters screaming at us to buy the latest best seller - in fact, the word best seller was not part of the language - no shelves of brightly bound books where seductive artwork tried to wrest our attention away from the actual writing within the book, and no tables, positioned right at the entrance to the shop, piled high with the remnants of last week's best sellers. Book covers were plain, and rarely did they give any indication of what the book itself might be about. The book itself was the main player - if it was good, people bought it; if it was not good, then it eventually disappeared.
The book is no longer the main player. Everything now revolves around that one word marketing, with the glitz not always the sign of a great book. The need for profit has elbowed itself to the top of the pyramid; 'greatness' is relative only to the number of copies that can be sold in a certain period of time. Like most other things in our society, books have become a consumer item with a use-by-date.
Whereas the book was once able to 'talk for itself', the voice now belongs to a marketer whose main ambition is to sell more books and make more money.

01 October 2014

The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler


As with all books by Anne Tyler (at least, the ones I have read so far), the theme is always ordinary. In this case, it is about a family and all the everyday things that happen during the life of that family - a life that spans the years from the early 1940s through to the twenty-first century. This sounds quite uninteresting, but Anne Tyler shows that ordinary can actually be quite fascinating. Let's face it: ordinary is what we all have to cope with, day in and day out; it is refreshing, therefore, to encounter an author who is able to sift through all the layers of ordinariness and find the things that enthral and move us emotionally. The writing is particularly good; the characters are believable and well structured. This is definitely a book that I would recommend.

 Photo from www.theguardian.com

28 September 2014

News Update

Last week, the bower bird moved to another part of the garden - between some lavender and a clump of jade. He only moved a couple of metres, but it was a big job. First he had to dismantle the bower, strand by strand, and then build it up again in the new place. He is still moving all the blue objects and rearranging them. For a while, I almost considered giving him a helping hand; however, on second thoughts, I decided against it. I hope that his two girlfriends have appreciated the move and all the energy that went into it.


24 September 2014

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn


Suspenseful and enthralling from page one, Gone Girl certainly ticks all the boxes for the thriller genre (and I believe that it is about to hit the big screen at the beginning of October). It is the type of book you cannot put down until you reach the last page. Extremely well-constructed and well-written, it is definitely a book worth reading. Questions crowd in on every page: Where is she? Is she dead? Was he involved? Was someone else involved? It is, however, a difficult book to review without giving away part of the plot, so I have written a separate review (see Pages on the right-hand side of this blog) ONLY for those of you who have already read the book. DO NOT read this extra review if you have not read the book, because it will ruin the book for you.

  Photo from www.salon.com

22 September 2014

Giveaway

For those of you who may not have noticed, two copies of Room Nineteen will be given away by Goodreads on the 16th October. There is still time to enter in the draw: click on Giveaway under Pages on the right-hand side of this blog. Good luck.

20 September 2014

The Life Before Us by Romain Gary (Émile Ajar)


This is a beautiful book. Told from the perspective of Momo, an orphan Arab boy who does not know his actual date of birth, it is filled with an innocent humour that is never far from the reality of poverty and deprivation in which the story takes place. Many of the words he uses are completely wrong, paralleling the actual word in pronunciation but miles away from it in meaning, something which only tends to add to the underlying humour. Rosa, the sixty-eight-year-old Jewish ex-prostitute who takes care of Momo and several other children on the sixth floor of a block of flats, is overweight, ill and on the verge of losing her mind. She is incapable of looking after the children but she loves them, especially Momo. This is a book about love set against a background of immense tragedy and despair; in the end, it is love that pushes aside everything else and becomes the only thing that is important. Definitely recommended

 Photo from richardagemo.com

16 September 2014

More on Bower Birds

I was overwhelmed by the number of people who were interested in the post on bower birds, so I have decided to extend it with a couple of recent photos of our bower bird. The bower (the construction in the centre of both photos) is built from small sticks and pine needles and is surprisingly sturdy. The bower bird's collection of blue objects can be seen in the background.

13 September 2014

Bower Birds


Sitting at the computer, wondering what to write, I looked out on the garden and saw our three bower birds hopping around among the bushes. Bower birds are fascinating, and we consider ourselves extremely honoured to have three Satin Bower Birds - a male and two females. The birds are reasonably large - the male is a beautiful blue-black colour, while the females vary in colour from green to brown (ours are both more green than brown). The male builds a bower that he then decorates with anything and everything that is blue: feathers, stones, flowers, plastic drink tops, plastic straws, small toys, ALL the blue pegs from my peg basket... He then sings and dances in his bower in the hope of attracting some ladies. Our bower bird (who has been with us in the garden for about three years) has been most successful this year, having found himself two very pleasant lady friends. They eat mainly fruit, are very good mimics and seem to get along with the other birds in the garden. Having been around us so long, the male is reasonably tame, and he probably wonders what we are doing in his backyard... 

10 September 2014

Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child


This thriller is one of a series by Lee Child, (actual name Jim Grant), with an ex-military policeman, Jack Reacher, as the main character. From what I can gather, the only red thread joining all the books is Jack Reacher, and the books can probably be read in any order. For me, this was the first Jack Reacher book I had read, and I did not encounter problems through being unfamiliar with the past history of the series.

The book, all five hundred pages plus, moves at a very fast pace with each relatively short chapter ending with a 'hook', forcing the reader to turn the page simply to see what is going to happen. The writing, though not of any literary significance, is good with much use made of the short, terse sentence. Although Child is English, he lives in America, and he is obviously well-acquainted with New York; his explicit description of the underground map as well as different streets and buildings is very well-handled. Never having been in New York, I did not find the descriptions in any way confusing, instead, I feel that they actually add to the overall suspense. As with most books from this genre, co-incidence and imagination are the two big players, but I feel that the reader gets so swept away with what is happening that he/she does not feel a need to question the credibility of the characters, the situations and/or the background - the three things that finally tie everything together. This is a very big plus in Child's favour: I have read other books from this genre where the co-incidence factor is so badly managed that the book picks up a 'not-worth-reading' label after only a few pages. 
 
Of course, there is violence, with some expert description pertaining to guns and knives which tends to heighten the feeling of authenticity, and there is sex (which, I believe is a must with this kind of novel). However, it was refreshing that the sex was more implied than centre stage.

All over, I enjoyed the book as a form of easy-to-read escapism. It did not necessarily raise any topics that challenged my thinking, and I did not continue to think about the characters and the plot after I had finished the book; however, while reading the book, it was enjoyable - probably a bit like eating chocolates.


Lee Child from www.theguardian.com

 

06 September 2014

The Death of Forever by Darryl Reanney

In a recent post, I mentioned The Death of Forever by Darryl Reanney - a book that discusses many ideas, all related to how we view time:  consciousness, death, the arrow of time, cyclic time, linear time, the ego-self, entropy, the illusion of time actually moving...

As Reanney says: It is not time that is moving, it is our own sense of an individual self voyaging “by virtue of the choices it makes among the hills and valleys of a future that is already there (...) Our sense of the serial passing of time is very much a construction of our own minds.”
                                       
There is far too much in the book to fit into a 300-word post, but The Death of Forever is definitely worth reading. Even if you do not agree with everything that Reanney has to say, it is a book that will make you think.
 
Writing about what can happen to our concept of time when the ego-self collapses, Reanney quotes (among others) Jesus: "Verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am." and Goethe: "One moment holds eternity." He also quotes T.S.Eliot, and, to conclude this post, I will include a few lines from Eliot's poem 'Burnt Norton'.

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction 
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.
(...) 
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now.
 
 

03 September 2014

The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín


This novella or prose poem, approximately one hundred pages, is extremely beautiful. Written from the perspective of Mary, it gives what I can imagine could be a very real and emotional picture of her as a woman coping with the loss of her son. I found it interesting that the writer, a man, was able to break into the psyche of a woman and describe it so well. Although linking in biblical references, TheTestament of Mary runs parallel and, at times, even at a tangent, to what is assumed and believed. Colm Tóibín has succeeded in making Mary more human and, in doing so, he has put her suffering, and even the suffering of her son, in a completely different perspective. It is the ordinariness of them both that shines through and it is just this ordinariness that makes the suffering that much more poignant. Beautifully written, The Testament of Mary is definitely worth reading. 



  Photo of  Colm Tóibín  www.telegraph.co.uk