Thursday, February 23, 2017

#poweredByindie Review of Kate O'Brien's The Land of Spices

I read The Land of Spices over twenty years ago and immediately became a fan of Kate O'Brien's books. Recently I was drawn to read it again and enjoyed it even better the second time around. Once again I was filled with admiration for her style, her beautiful, evocative writing, erudite and dramatic, the depth of her character portrayal, the tautness of the story. Set in an Irish convent school the two main characters are the highly intelligent Reverend Mother Marie-Helene Archer, a rather lonely introspective figure who is daunted by the Irish environment, so rustic and unsophisticated, very different to her cultivated English background. Through her letters to her superior in Belgium we learn that although challenged by it, she is not satisfied with her task as convent head and wishes to be recalled. But when six year old Anna Murphy comes as a boarder to the school because of the unsettled atmosphere at home between her parents, her father who drinks too much and has a roving eye, her mother who thinks it best for her child to go to the nuns who educated her and with whom she has kept in close contact since her schooldays, Reverend Marie-Helene changes her mind, thrust into a protective role towards Anna with whom she identifies, reminded of herself at that age. The child has the same gift for remembering and reciting poetry, the same quest for knowledge. She recalls her own childhood with her erudite father who had early on mapped out a career for her, a college education followed by a brilliant career. At eighteen Helen Archer witnesses a traumatic incident only gradually revealed and it changes the course of her life, causing her to enter the religious order against her father's wishes. As a result the relationship between them is never the same. Mere Marie-Helene has a great influence on Anna's life and supports her against the bias of some of the nuns who, in the name of character building, wish to make humble and submissive the bright, intelligent little girl, as well as the cruel snobbish attitude of one or two of the wealthier pupils who have heard the rumours of her parents' breakup. But most of all Helen Archer influences Anna in her choice of an academic career, encouraging her in face of her grandmother's opposition, for this proud wealthy old lady holds the old fashioned belief that it is only men who should continue on to higher education and a woman's place is in the home as wife and mother. An erudite and compelling book. Now that I am reacquainted with Kate O'Brien I hope to reread more of her work; in particular my favourite set in Spain, Mary Lavelle.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

#poweredByindie Just when I thought I had made a breakthrough..

Just when I thought I had made progress I took two steps back. I am referring to blog sharing on Google+. Tonight is one night I was convinced that I wouldn't be up until the small hours trying to solve the problem and all because I managed to write and share a blog with Google+ without having the blown up profile photo dominating the post.

How did this happen?

Well, for the first time when I hovered over the enlarged profile photo I got the option of a clicking on a lefthand arrow which returned me to the blog. When saved it was sans photo. Next time out, however, I couldn't share the blog at all so this one is in the nature of a test.

There is a saying beware of getting what you ask for. Maybe I should have left well alone!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

#poweredByindieThe malice of inanimate objects

I think it was Evelyn Waugh who said something about 'the malice of inanimate objects' I think he was talking about such things like the sweeping brush lying in wait for you on the floor which you step on by accident and it leaps up and bashes you on the nose.

 One of the worst incidents I ever heard was about the man who went up the ladder to knock a nail into the wooden beam and when it wasn't in the right place and he needed to take it out again, he slapped the wood in his frustration hoping to loosen it and it flew right back at him and embedded itself in his brain. Sadly, with fatal consequences. Minor irritations would be energetically brushing sand from the car seat and being almost blinded in the process or when the toggle on your overcoat gets caught on the door handle firmly yanking you back and making you drop the tray you carry.

What is bugging me at the moment is my profile photo which has somehow blown itself up to full size and appears embarrassingly in addition to my thumbnail photo as a background to all my shared blogs. How it came to do this I don't know only that I've wasted too much time on it already.

Seeking help from Google+ I was directed to Blogger Forum Help by an agent who shall be nameless and when not having solved my problem I turned back to Google+ for assistance encountered this same person again who this time sent me a message asking me how much money was it worth to me to rectify the fault, this was followed promptly by an appearance on screen of the smiling would-be assistant himself who declared that he was now free to personally deal with my problem, estimating upwards of £30 for a successful outcome and a variety of credit cards for ease of payment. At which point I exited the conversation.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The story of four sisters and much more

The Lost Sister Laura ElliotThe Lost Sister by Laura Elliot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Lost Sister caught and held me right from the beginning. So much so, having finished this remarkable book, travelled so far with the Lambert sisters since the time of their parents death in a car accident until they set out together some twenty years later to journey to New Zealand for their youngest sister's wedding, I must confess to feeling acutely lonely for them all. Rebecca, Julie and Lauren have not heard from Cathy, since she ran away from home aged fifteen. When they receive a phone call from her asking them to attend her wedding in New Zealand they are unable to refuse this olive branch and, with mixed feelings,decide to go. So many questions need answering, so many personal issues to settle.
Beautifully written with a wonderful mix of poetry, music and depth of feeling the author brings us back in time using the medium of letters from the eight year old Cathy to her dead parents - touchingly addressed to Nirvana - which allow the reader come to know the child and her older sisters,the terrible loss and upheaval they experience in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Rebecca, the eldest, takes responsibility for her younger sisters' welfare even though her actions and decisions sometimes made her unpopular with them. On arriving in New Zealand this role is still hers as she makes them keep to their tight schedule while covering huge distances of this immense country packed into the cramped quarters of a camper van. They combine travel with sightseeing and we come to know not only about the Lambert sisters and the tensions between them with past hurts and grievances sometimes bubbling to the surface, but the spectacular landscape and the fascinating ethnic lore. But this is a close loving family who have shared a lot and survived in a fashion. The darkness of the past, with its secrets and betrayal, while always in the background there, nevertheless, exists great affection between them. There are funny moments bonding them even closer - like urging each other to go with the flow and discard their bras following the example of travellers before them and to tie their bras to a fence festooned with garments of every size and colour.. Bikers arrive on the scene and Julie and Lauren rush to take cover behind the camper van. Rebecca, the only clothed one, draws the men off and makes them tea in the camper. When her sisters finally emerge they take it in good part. There are even romantic encounters on this journey that might result in worthwhile relationships and time for the sisters to explore their strengths and weaknesses and face up to certain issues. When the sisters finally reunite with Cathy at Havenswalk old memories are painfully revived and searing self-knowledge experienced. As the drama unfolds, the past revisited and painful issues faced there is the hope of better, happier times and more honest relationships between them in the future. Very enjoyable book. Highly recommend.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

#poweredByindie The best thing about my Ipad

How do I love my Ipad. Let me count the ways.

There are so many. The neat look of it, the ease of carrying it about, not to mention the long battery life. But without a doubt what I like best is reading Kindle books when tucked up warm in bed, these times the best place for catching up on my reading.

I have come to appreciate this particular pleasure all the more since losing the facility a few weeks ago because of an error in my Ipad to do with the email and password used for setting it up some years ago and recently changed. Many frustrating hours trying to puzzle it out, seeking help from Amazon through my Author Central Page and making at least ten changes of AppleID password all became clear at last.

It came down to the cloud setting and by exiting all devices managed to regain my sanity and my reinstalled Kindle. The downside was the loss of all my purchased books, many still unread.

So what about all those people almost religiously clinging to their print books, enthusing about the smell and feel of them. Well,  I suppose they have a point. But better than anything to my mind is that bright screen, the ability to increase the font size - no need for glasses - and the way each new page jumps to attention when, anxious to get on with the story, you lazily swipe it.

Okay, so there's no new book smell but that's a small price to pay.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

#poweredByindie Makeover for writers.

Chatting with a writer friend recently she told me that someone she knew was getting a new knee. 'I wish I could get a new me,' she added wistfully. She's not the only one I suspect when the years have taken their toll on ageing limbs and dulled the faculties.

Whatever about new body parts writers can start over it seems, reinvent themselves by using a new author name and republishing their books online with new covers and even new titles. Only the plot remains the same but, if altering details here and there suited their purpose hey, that too can suffer a change into something rich and strange.

There are advantages, of course, to presenting yourself as a brand new author. You gain a new readership and another chance to draw attention to your books published a decade or two before. But what about giving up your name that has stood you in good stead for so long?  It must be like relinquishing your identity. and the actual rewrite of your novels a form of forgery.

 It makes you wonder if it's worth it all, running the risk of losing your former hard-earned readership. The thing is you won't know, will you, until you have taken the plunge and tried it  Last word those writers who have taken that step tell me they are very pleased with the way their writing career has taken off second time around, some have been launched in America and their readership is growing fast.  And they are making money. In this regard no doubt Dr Johnson would heartily approve having had very decided views on the subject..

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

#poweredByindie The great thing about being a writer.

The great thing about being a writer you get to portray life as you would like it to be for your characters.Life doesn't always go well for them but then life isn't always fair or just, that's for sure.  You get to test their courage and resourcefulness with the option of bringing them through or letting them go under. Even your villains go through reverses and, here again, you can allow them to be top dogs for a while, bearing in mind they are human too, for it's true to say no one is all black and even gangsters have families and someone to love them.

All of it goes into constructing riveting plots to keep your readers reading your book and not someone else's. Playing God is irresistible so long as it doesn't  turn out like the film 'Bruce Almighty' when it soon became clear to him not everyone is cut out to be a deity.  Still, as writers we can dream awhile.