Tag Archives: Romance

The Holiday – Stevie Smith

Celia works at the Ministry in the post-war England of 1949 and lives in a London suburb with her beloved Aunt. Witty, fragile, quixotic, Celia is preoccupied with love — for her friends, her colleagues, her relations, and especially for her adored cousin Casmilus, with whom she goes on holiday to visit Uncle Heber, the vicar. Here they talk endlessly, argue, eat, tell stories, love and hate — moments of wild humour alternating with waves of melancholy as Celia ponders obsessively on the inevitable pain of love.

Alarm bells were ringing fairly early on with this one, it was all to do with the dreadful, disjointed, uninteresting conversation at a dinner party. A lack of speech marks didn’t help the book’s case either.

Getting over that hurdle early on, the book opened out into an assorted collection of meditations on the experiences of love and politics and the past, before becoming mildly irritating towards the end.  This is a book that will probably polarise opinions of all who read it.

There is little to add to the above blurb in terms of storyline, you are getting precisely what you read there.  It all rests on the quality of said writing and that is where this reader would have preferred more balance, what Smith says is much more interesting than the way She has written down.  Whilst the whimsical structure and thought processes of Celia and co. work well enough, it is the writing itself that troubled me.

There is plenty of repetition of certain words, whether in the same sentence or throughout a conversation, it’s distracting to be told four times within a page that the same character is saying something maliciously, for example.  Whether this writing is an intentional choice or through lack of a decent editor, I don’t know but it soon becomes tiresome.  There is a richness to our language and often I was mentally inserting my own words to avoid the repetitiveness.

It all feels very English, the countryside setting in summer is delightful and I enjoyed being there.  The novel possess a dreamy melancholia for the past (relationships and ways of life); as well as the uncertain future – to the backdrop of the Indian independence, and the waning of the British Empire – for the characters as well as the country. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 18/03/2017 in Fiction


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I Remember Sunnyside: The Rise and Fall of a Magical Era – Mike Filey

sunnysideupFirst published in 1982, I Remember Sunnyside is a mine of golden memories, bringing back to life an earlier Toronto, only hints of which remain today.

Like the city itself, Sunnyside was an ever-changing landscape from its heady opening days in the early 1920s to its final sad demolition in the 1950s. The book captures the spirit of the best of times a magical era which can only be recaptured in memory and photographs. It also presents the reality of a newer Toronto where change, although necessary, is sometimes regrettable.

In a bid to further inspire me to words, Resa recommended this book  which had already grabbed my imagination before it even arrived and although it didn’t pull me in quite as much as I had convinced myself it would, it was nonetheless still a quirky, interesting, immersive and speedy read.

Mostly my pre-reading thoughts were inspired by such literary mainstays as Joseph Heller’s thoughts on Coney Island, Stephen King’s Joyland as well as, to a lesser extent the feeling of exploring Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. Films such as The Lost Boys and The Warriors played a part with their atmospheres as well.

Establishing a fundamentally, albeit mostly American idea of what to expect, I feel the fond imagery of these amusement parks is established in the romantic landscape these days as something of a golden age. It is hard to imagine people speaking so eloquently today about their experiences at Alton Towers or Disneyland as this:

…as I thought of the days of Sunnyside when all things seemed possible and the late afternoon sun lit up the summits of the rollercoaster and you felt you were somehow at the source of things, a warm and tattered tent of life, convinced that something wonderful was going to happen within the next few minutes…

It’s a fond feeling of nostalgia to those who lived it and a love transmitted down to those readers who never got to experience such times and instead got the sanitised parks of later years.  It’s an evocative adventure to put ourselves back there, a place of charm and excitement, it makes me think of those long ago nostalgic days of rides and shows sadly gone in this modern age of queueing for hours to get 30 seconds of ‘thrill’. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 28/09/2016 in History, Memoir, Photography


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The Whisper


The Whisper

A rustle, displacing anticipatory silence
Words barely made out, hinting at enticing possibilities
The gentle breeze of impassioned words, sighed
Coated with sweet passionate pledges

The gentle purr of promises
Seductive susurration
Raising goosebumps
Tempestuous images flow

A sweet and swirling murmur
Conjuring intimate images, crashing through the mind
The frenzied beating of a heart in ecstatic turmoil
The aural effect setting aflame desires

Silence settles, ripples subside,
The calm before the eager storm…


*Have no clue to the source of this photo just came up on a pinterest, sorry.


Posted by on 20/04/2016 in My Writings, Poetry


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Letters to a Young Poet – Rainer Maria Rilke

RilcomeBorn in 1875, the great German lyric poet Rainer Maria Rilke published his first collection of poems in 1898 and went on to become renowned for his delicate depiction of the workings of the human heart. Drawn by some sympathetic note in his poems, young people often wrote to Rilke with their problems and hopes. From 1903 to 1908 Rilke wrote a series of remarkable responses to a young, would-be poet on poetry and on surviving as a sensitive observer in a harsh world. Those letters, still a fresh source of inspiration and insight, are accompanied here by a chronicle of Rilke’s life that shows what he was experiencing in his own relationship to life and work when he wrote them.

Letter writing is a dying format and being a prolific emailer, I daily lament the lack of horrible tasting stamps to lick.  It was for that reason that for a few seconds I was tempted to write this review in the style of a letter to Rilke but then sense came back to me and I saved myself from at least one cliché the post.

After reviewing Christopher Hitchens’ Letters to a Young Contrarian a month or two back, it’s only right that I review the book that set the template for the ‘Letters to a Young…’ series.  Like the aforementioned work, this is also a slim book, focused solely on the letters of Rilke himself.  That we do not get to see the letters sent by young poet Franz Kappus  doesn’t detract from the book at all and could arguably have lessened the impact of this wonderful collection.

Fittingly for a poet, Rilke’s writing is very lyrical and precise but it’s his humble and caring attitude that makes his words more compelling from the off.   His is the voice of experience, not jealously guarding his poetic territory but a supportive man from the start whose encouragement grows stronger and intimacy deeper the more they correspond.  Modest, encouraging, gracious and self-effacing almost to the point of no return is his way and .this connection transcends the original person it was aimed at and speaks to us all.

Rilke’s letters show a vast appreciation of nature, of love, memory and experience, without which poetry for him would not have been possible. He is at pains to highlight – in a wonderfully exact, bordering on the romantic – way the challenge of poetry, of looking into your own self to find the words and not looking to others for recognition that you are at the top of your chosen art.  At all times there is an underlining of how difficult and long the road to greatness is. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 06/04/2016 in Essays, Poetry


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Dark Fey: Standing In Shadows – Cynthia Morgan

FeymanjiIf you haven’t read Dark Fey: The Reviled then this synopsis for book two is going to contain a shedload of spoilers that you may want to avoid, however the review itself won’t divulge any plot information that will ruin your reading pleasure.

Gairynzvl escaped captivity among the DemonFey who had abducted him as a child through a daring act of treason and was rescued by Light Loving Fey. Now, he wants to return into the dark realm of The Reviled to attempt a rescue of the innocent childfey trapped there.
It will take more than one Fey to breach the borders of The Uunglarda and to slip past the legions of Dark Fey who abide there. It will take magic and strength, courage and military strategy and it will shake the foundations of everything The Fey of The Light have accepted as truth for thousands of years, but Gairynzvl knows the secret ways in and out of the dark realm; he is able to open portals and through his gifts of telepathic empathy and he can find the childfey standing, waiting, in the shadows.
Slipping into the darkness through darkness is easy. Escaping out again with terrified childfey is another matter. If they are captured his band of liberators will pray for death long before it comes and their success could spark full scale war, unleashing the barbaric hatred and viciousness of The Reviled upon the peace-loving Fey of The Light.
Can Gairynzvl convince the Fey of the Light to allow him to return to the Uunglarda, the realm of The Reviled? Who will join him to aid the Innocent childfey trapped in the realm of shadows and fear? And Will the Fey of the Light risk a savage war in order to rescue them?

The cover photo is great, there is no denying that and were I to see it in a bookshop my interest would be piqued.  More of this type of cover I say, rather than those dreary copy cat covers that seem to be so prevalent on the shelves these days.  As well as looking nice, it also sets the scene for a darker and more foreboding sequel.

Like the first book, this is a fantasy steeped in the natural, of the polar opposites of light and dark and the overlapping of the two and whilst the plot took, for me a little while to get going – the characters even get time for a ball game – once it gets going though, it moves along at a pleasing pace. It is an interesting mix, the plot feeling both urgent yet also fairly relaxed at times, giving the book a more ethereal feel. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 12/02/2016 in Children's Literature, Fantasy


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The Children’s Book – A. S. Byatt

Children'sBookItAin'tFamous author Olive Wellwood writes a special private book, bound in different colours, for each of her children. In their rambling house near Romney Marsh they play in a story-book world – but their lives, and those of their rich cousins and their friends, the son and daughter of a curator at the new Victoria and Albert Museum, are already inscribed with mystery. Each family carries its own secrets.

They grow up in the golden summers of Edwardian times, but as the sons rebel against their parents and the girls dream of independent futures, they are unaware that in the darkness ahead they will be betrayed unintentionally by the adults who love them. This is the children’s book.

Why it took me three years to get around to reading this Christmas present I do not know, shame on me should be heaped on me but not in public please.  The Children’s Book is a novel of extravagant language and layered descriptions,a visually rich treat with striking backdrops and a wealth of flawed and intriguing characters, of generations that rise and diminish in the natural order of things.

To begin with the balance between plot and description was a little to skewed to the detail side of things, especially with the book opening in a museum.  Not that I didn’t enjoy that sort of thing but it would have been nice to have a little less so early on when establishing the characters and themes but stick with it as the first part especially is a sumptuous reader’s delight.   The book is superbly researched throughout in all manner of subjects from art to politics and the enquiring mind will revel in all the rabbit trails it will lead them on.

Reality and story are intertwined in all these characters’ lives touching them in various ways, the two live side by side as dualities in the memory and become both the reality and also the made up tale.  Real life brings veiled secrets, betrayals, love, hate, new understandings of the world, the battle of the classes, the struggle of feminists, the advent or war, the quest for a better, fairer society, the realisation the of self and also of the cycle of life; in terms both of generations and the paths that people take and the same roles and mistake made over and again.

The made up world lying closely in tandem brings an intrigue into the mechanisms of art,  the recycling of old ideas bringing forth the new and vibrant adventures.  The stories created are symbols to mirror the real world, yet also to aid that need to escape the very same.  As evidenced at the time the book is set with such magical stories coming out such as Peter Pan, Puck of Pook’s Hill, Five Children and It, Wind in the Willows, The Railway Children, The Secret Garden and so on. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 05/02/2016 in Fiction


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Memories of My Melancholy Whores – Gabriel García Márquez

HoeOn the eve of his ninetieth birthday a newspaper columnist in Colombia decides to give himself ‘a night of mad love with a virgin adolescent’. But on seeing this beautiful girl he falls deeply under her spell. His love for his ‘Delgadina’ causes him to recall all the women he has paid to perform acts of love. And so the columnist realises he must chronicle the life of his heart, to offer it freely to the world. . .

There is a certain unpalatable nature to the subject matter of this book but that being said there is little in the way of vulgarity here as Márquez presents his unnamed writer as a lonely man who manages to retain the sensual in his sometimes disturbing obsessional pursuits.

One of the hallmarks of the author is his ability to mix beauty and baseness together to create something believable, yet also dramatic.  The passions of those who find themselves alone in the world, either nearing the end or just surviving are altogether more haunting than most authors usually give credit for.

The Scholar as our central character is known, shares a fascinating – and for the most part silent – language that is more about the body and its fancied properties than actual reality.   The relationship with ‘Delgadina’ is ultimately using only the inventive imagination of captivation that the unfortunate man possesses and chooses to cling to.

It is refreshing to see a character who is full of the vibrance of life and at the whim of fervour even at 90.  One who after all his experiences still finds himself as flawed as the rest of us despite years of experiencing life and learning its accumulated wisdom.  These sorts of characters have always been the forté of G.G.M making them at once sympathetic – up to a point in this case – and believable, whilst retaining a pitiful air.

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 08/01/2016 in Fiction


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