Friday, 31 May 2013

The Promise - Ann Weisgarber

The Promise

I didn't read Ann Wiesgarber's first book, so I came new to this author. If you like a story told by more than one character, like me, you will certainly be drawn to this book.
It's the story of two women. Two women who love one man. But it isn't a slushy tale of romance at all - in fact, the story is built around the hurricane that struck the island of Galveston, Texas in 1900; the worst natural disaster of the 20th century in the US. The two women could not be more alike - Catherine, a woman shunned by her family and friends for carrying on an affair with a married man; and Nan, an illerate young housekeeper, caring for the widower and son of her friend recently dead of malaria.
It's easy to tell who is talking as each chapter begins - Catherine is well educated, and has faultless manners, whilst Nan is a country girl, a homebody. The each love Oscar, a dairy farmer, in a different way, one for saving her reputation, and one because, well, just because. I don't want to say any more about these relationships because they are what the book is all about, and they are what makes the book worth reading. The storm itself happens towards the end of the book, but the descriptions of it and the aftermath, are chilling, and based on actual happenings.
Well written, background well researched, and a read that grips the heart because it is set at a time when people knew their place, and bad choices in life had to be paid for. There is a child in the story, too. Andre, who misses his mother, loves the housekeeper, and shys away from the new wife of her father. Great skill in describing how a child might feel when presented with a new "mama" when the grieving for the old one is not yet passed.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Installing a Seniors' Button - HELP?

Mr Mac has just come up with a brilliant idea for those of us who are long in the tooth.  A Senior's Button.  How or where this is to be installed we don't know - but imagine!  Long boring coversations at parties? Sales persons in shops?  Cold callers on the phone?  a thousand uses for a button to switch 'em off!

You get bored, you press the button, which then plays a message of your choice.  Mr Mac's choice is

     " Look! I'm old, OK?  I don't have enough time left to waste it on you!"

What would you have when you pressed your button?!!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Mahem in Majorca!

This is just a taste of 2013's Majorcan holiday.... those of you who  where there will recognise yourselves, and that's all we need to know, really!
Mr and Mrs Mac enjoying the ambience - and the red wine of course! - in character as Sir Lew and his friend Anna
Will - fiance of Anna and supposedly rich NZ sheep farmer - love the 'tache!
Mary Jane - widowed but still full of fun!

Victor - all the ladies love him and the feeling is mutual!
Fanny - Loves family life (not) and is a suffragette!

Lew - our host.  ex-army officer, and an eye for the ladies.....

Baby Doll - gold only for this girl!

Bill - quiet but deadly!
Ruby - driving, dancing, loves life and Lew too.

Ivana - Eastern European housekeeper - questionable taste in underwear!

Hudson - spivy American - and where does his money come from?
Anna - can you see her living on a sheep farm in New Zealand?!!!

Penny - loves Jazz, bursts into song at inopportune moments!

Coco Chanel - tonight's "special" guest - wearing every bloody pearl she owns (and some she doesn't!)

Sunday, 26 May 2013

A Land More Kind Than Home - Wiley Cash

Sitting on my bookshelf for a couple of years is another one of those books that I was "saving", and when I started to read it I knew it was special.  North Carolina is the setting for the book, and North Carolina is also the home of the author, Wiley Cash, whose first novel this is.  I hope he has more than one book in him as I wait eagerly for the next.  He is able to build characters that you can truly see within  a couple of lines.  You can feel and smell everything around you, the poverty, the flowers in the meadow, the tobacco plants growing in the fields, then their smell when put up to dry for selling.  On the back cover part of the blurb  says "... spellbinding, hearbreaking story about cruelty and innocence, and the failure of religion and family to protect a child".  That just about sums it up, but you need to read it.

Children are quite often bystanders and watchers in life's ups and downs; and often they are forgotten, or ignored.  It is certain that many adults have not the slightest idea what children think about certain things.  And this is the case with nine year old Jess and his slightly older brother Christopher, called
"Stump" whose parents started their long run down the road of estrangement when it was discovered that Stump was definitely a mute, and possibly severely autistic.  Jess supports his brother in every way he can, they go out fishing and catching salamanders, and digging out rocks with quartz in them to keep.  They lead a poor, but well fed and happy childhood and when Moma goes off to her evangelical church meeting every Sunday, they spend time with Miss Adelaide Lyle, who takes Sunday School outside the church - having told the Pastor, one Carson Chambliss, that kids should not see the things that happen in his services, which are conducted in an old grocery store with newspapers over the windows. Chambliss never forgives her for this..... but you know from very early on what a manipulative, clever, evil man he is, and so you know there is trouble brewing in town.   It is clear from the early pages and the back of the book that a child has died - and that is the tale within.  How the child died, why the child died, and how this can be resolved.  

The characters here are beautifully drawn.  The Sunday School teacher Adelaide Lyle, a spinster who loves children and fears the pastor; Jess Hall, the younger boy and brother of Stump, who is afraid of telling the truth and sets tragedy in motion;  Sherriff Barefield, called on to get to the bottom of the child's death, and having a death in his own family connected to the Halls.  Moma Hall, the mother of the boys, broken by the birth of a not quite right child, and Papa, with a drunk for a father, love for his boys, but maybe not quite enough.  They are smaller but important characters, and then of course there is Pastor Chambliss, around whom the story revolves.  The major characters get blocks of chapters to tell their side of the story - a trick you either like or dislike.  I liked it here very much.

It's a hard story to read.  It's a good book to read.  It's a wonderfully written book.  The idea was suggested to the author by a happening in Chicago, but knowing next to nothing about that city, he drew on his own area, where there are tales galore about just the type of people who inhabit his pages.   I had to keep turning those pages - even when I knew I would not like what was over the page - and I got to the end with a sense of satisfaction.  A brilliant read - I recommend it.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Just don't know what to read next? Here's an idea!!

Just got to pass this one on!
 Look here 
Such a good idea if you spend hours shilly shallying round the books shelves trying to decide what to read next!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Away - Amy Bloom

Away by Amy Bloom      Lillian Leyb is the  young Jewish mother of Sophie, presumed dead.  Lillian lost her entire family when, in one of those awful times when a population takes against Jews,  her husband, mother, father, and possibly her daughter were hacked to death by neighbours in their village for being Jewish.  She is hit over the head, but feigns death, and her four year old daughter Sophie who was missed by the attackers, is dropped out of the window by Lillian and told to run.  With nothing left to live for, Lillian sets out for the land of America - there is nothing left of "home", and she decides she had just as well move on.

She spends her first few months in New York working for a Jewish theatre impresario, sewing costumes for his productions, and becoming his mistress whilst being a cover for his son, handsome, gay and obviously not "out" in the 1920s.  Kindness is offered, emotions are buried, life is becoming settled, until a distant family member arrives with news that Sophie may not be dead.  Time to get back home and search for Sophie.

Poverty, and all that goes with it are described in detail, as are the trappings of wealth for those who have it.  To get to Siberia, where she is certain her daughter now is, Lillian must leave her comfortable flat, her lover, his friend who has taught her to speak "American", and any home comforts she has found in Manhatten.  She must travel across country to Seattle by train, hidden in the cleaning cupboards of two trains, and then make her own way up through Canada to Alaska. Other characters in this book speak far more than Lillian, and yet she has plenty to tell the reader.  Those she meets along the way are described so well you can see them, smell them.  She is party to a murder (accidental), she has stolen money (from the dead person), she must go on with her journey - for emotion must be repressed and Sophie must be found.

Books about making your way in America are not scarce, but I must say this is up there with the best of them. I loved Colm Toibin's Brooklyn, and I loved this book, too.   Descrptions of different ways of life are eye openers.  Research is spot on, and if you just find out one little thing from every book you read, well, isn't that something?  I had no idea about the linemen in the Yukon - single men who passed on the telegraph messages "down the line" and lived solitary life in little cabins out there in the wilderness.  There is also a particular style within the book of describing what has happened to each major character once Lillian has moved out of their lives.  I liked that. 

I have included below the American cover for this paperback.  The one at the top is the UK paperback edition, although I have no idea why such a drab cover was chosen.  On the other hand, what a glorious bowl of fruit has to do with the story I have no idea.  Just saying!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

A newer kind of book critic

John is an artist.  Every so often he posts a new book critique on his blog.... but there is a difference!  He "draws" his opinions - and they are a joy to read.  Go have a look! 

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Light, Coming Back - Ann Wadsworth

The first thing I want to say about this book is that as soon as I finished it I looked for other books by Ann Wadsworth.  None. And this one published in 2001.  I would read others by her if she published as she has a wonderful style, easy, flowing, descriptive.

Mercedes Medina is 59, married to a terminally ill classical cellist 25 years her senior.  He found her, hooked her and married her, and her entire life since has really been about Patrick - is he alright?  is he comfortable? is Bessie (the cello) on the plane? was the last rehearsal OK? would Patrick like anything other than eggs for breakfast?  Patrick is the kind of man I would have walked out on years before, but love is a funny creature, and there is no doubt that she feels that being part Patrick's life is the most wonderful thing that ever happened to her.  So why do we start the book with Mercedes in a mental health facility?

We find out, quickly, that the request to be there came from her:  "I'd rather like someone to cook for me for a while" was what she told her doctor, when she experienced a breakdown.  The book, in three parts, starts then with her feelings some months after the death of Patrick.  She misses him dreadfully, but more than that, she misses Lennie, with whom she fell haltingly but totally in love whilst Patrick was still alive.  It's the darkness of no Patrick and no Lennie (who disappeared just prior to Patrick's death) that haunts Mrs Medina.

The middle section, and by far the largest part of the book, describes her life in the Boston, Mass. apartment she shares with Patrick.  Their life together described in the smallest detail, her feelings about him, the knowledge that he will die very soon. Meanwhile, Patrick is a perky, sarcastic, clever and (for me) thoroughly unlikeable man.  But you know, she loves him.  And then, one day in the local flower shop she meets Lennie.  There's something about Lennie, and Mrs Medina feels she must go back again and again.  They have a few coffees, and she knows what she feels but cannot explain it..... for Lennie is a 30 year old woman.

The front cover of this book has a quote from the Lambda Book Report "Arguably the finest piece of lesbian fiction ever written".  If you want lesbian fiction, I can't say that the quote is true, as I haven't read much of it!  But if you just want a damn good book to read I can recommend this one to any reader who likes a well written story that's a bit different.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Thank you for viewing! Here's a new picture to look at....

Well, someone must be reading me regularly, because my figures are up, up, up.  Thank you!!  I seem to be popular in Russia and America as well as the UK, and there are people dropping in from all over, which is exciting, even though I cannot see you.  Hi e-friends!  OK, no more dribble.....

Thought you all might like to see the house in which the blog is written so I have put it up as my header picture.  It was taken 3 years ago, but at exactly the same time of year.... there are just more tulips right now!

For those who don't know.... it's known as a 2 up 2 down, although in fact it's three of both, as there is also a kitchen and bathroom.  The window to the left of the open door as you look at the picture is where I do my blogging.

Early One Morning - Virginia Baily

I was attracted to this novel purely by the cover (as I suppose this is meant to happen!) and it has very little about the contents on the b...