Category Archives: Authors

A God In Ruins

agod  A God In Ruins by Kate Atkinson

Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2015

Borrowed from my public library.

The first book I read by Kate Atkinson was When Will There Be Good News? .  I remember devouring it, loving the characters, loving the writing.  I read all the Jackson Brodie books, and was excited to learn about Life After Life.

It took me weeks to read that book.  I kept picking it up and putting it down, not sure if I would ever get through it.  I think it was the time shifting, creating a kind of vertigo, much like the main character, Ursula Todd, felt, constantly dying and being reborn.  I ended up finishing the book, really enjoying it, and amazed at Atkinson’s writing abilities, at how different Life After Life was from her other novels.

Atkinson calls A God In Ruins a companion piece to Life After Life.  I read it over five days, taking it in at a moderate pace. It follows the life of Ursula’s younger brotherTeddy, and lovingly weaves in family members, Teddy’s parents, his wife, child and grandchildren.  It also shift chronologically, following the lives of these people in a way I found less jarring, filling in the Todd family story and allowing for mystery, elements of family drama that evolve because of events finally revealed at the end of the book.

There is history it both of these novels, World War II, the blitz, the British and Allied bombing of Germany.  Atkinson dug deep, she holds nothing back in her descriptions of the blitz, in the scenes of Teddy and his crew in their Halifax bomber, flying to and from their bombing runs.   A God In Ruins is beautifully written, deeply engaging and I found it emotionally honest.  I highly recommend it, even if you haven’t read Life After Life.

There, I’ve jumped in, glad to be back in the water.  I find myself reading more and more historical fiction lately, particularly World War I and World War II.  Not sure what that is about but any suggestions would be appreciated.

 

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Filed under Books, British, Historical Fiction, Kate Atkinson, Uncategorized

Iainbanks

Iain M. Banks 2/16/1954 - 6/9/2013

Iain M. Banks 2/16/1954 – 6/9/2013

 

According to a post at the Daily Minor Planet website Iain Banks now has an asteroid named after him.  I’m sure he would be very pleased.

The official citation for the asteroid reads:

Iain M. Banks (1954-2013) was a Scottish writer best known for the Culture series of science fiction novels; he also wrote fiction as Iain Banks. An evangelical atheist and lover of whisky, he scorned social media and enjoyed writing music. He was an extra in Monty Python & The Holy Grail.

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Filed under Authors, Iain M. Banks, RandomPost

Chinua Achebe 1930-2013

Chinua Achebe. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe/The Guardian

Chinua Achebe. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe/The Guardian

When I returned to college to complete my BA, my first creative writing professor handed us a list of required reading. Things Fall Apart was at the top of that list.  Achebe was my introduction to World Literature and I have been thankful ever since…

A piece from the Guardian: Nigeria in mourning for Chinua Achebe

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Filed under Authors, Chinua Achebe, Death, Nigeria, World Literature

Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel

bodiesBring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2012

Winner of  Hilary Mantel’s second Man Booker Prize.  Wolf Hall, the first book in Mantel’s proposed trilogy, won the Booker in 2009. My first Long-Awaited Reads novel and the first book for the 2013 Historical Fiction Challenge.  If you were to ask me right now I would say that Hilary Mantel is my favorite author.

Katherine of Aragon is shuttled off to the country.  Anne Boleyn is Queen.  King Henry grows distant from his second wife and, when Anne fails to give him a son, the King’s minister, Thomas Cromwell, senses change.  It is Cromwell’s knowledge of the past that brings the future into focus.

Bring Up The Bodies is not as densely written as Wolf Hall , but that doesn’t take away from the power of Hilary Mantel’s writing.  This is the second book in the planned trilogy  about Thomas Cromwell’s life and the interweaving of dialogue and description bring all of her characters vibrantly to  life, almost as if I were watching them on stage and not curled up reading with a cup of coffee.  There is drama, action and an almost physical sensation of movement.

Duke Charles Brandon approaching King Henry in front of  Eustache Chapuys, ambassador of Emperor Charles V:

He, Cromwell, follows on the duke’s heels.  If he had a net, he would drop it over him. ‘Leave what you’re doing, Majesty.  You want to hear this, by God.  You’re quit of the old lady.  She is on her deathbed.  You will soon be a widower.  Then you can get rid of the other one, and marry into France, by God, and lay your hands on Normandy as dowry…’ He notices Chapuys.  ‘Oh, Ambassador.  Well, you can take yourself off.  No use you staying for scraps.  Go home and make your own Christmas, we don’t want you here.’

Henry has turned white.  ‘Think what you are saying.’  He approached Brandon as if he might knock him down; which, if he had a poleaxe, he could.  ‘My wife is carrying a child.  I am lawfully married.’  from page 128.

I can hear the bumbling Brandon and feel King Henry’s fury.  Many biographic and fictional accounts of this time period, including A Man For All Seasons and The Tudors (which I have not seen), Thomas Cromwell is portrayed as an evil figure.  Mantel has given him swift intelligence and a conscience, even if he does not hesitate to destroy those the King finds standing in his way.  He had traveled widely in his youth and learned much from what he’d seen and heard.  He constantly applies this knowledge to the changing political environment around him.

He had met an old knight once, in Venice, one of those men who made a career of riding to tournaments all over Europe.  The man described his life to him, crossing frontiers with his band of esquires and his string of horses, always on the move from one prize to the next, til age and the accumulation of injuries put him out of the game.  On his own now, he tried to pick up a living  teaching young lords, enduring mockery and time-wasting; in my day, he had said, the young were taught manners, but now I find myself fettling horses and polishing breastplates for some little tosspot I wouldn’t have let clean my boots in the old days;  for look at me now, reduced to drinking with, what are you, an Englishman?

…How shall I improve, he said to the old knight, how shall I succeed?  These were his instructions: you must sit easy in your saddle, as if you were riding out to take the air.  Hold your reins loosely, but have your horse collected.  In the combat à plaisance, with its fluttering flags,, its garlands, its rebated swords and lances tipped with buffering coronals, ride as if you were out to kill.  In the combat à l’outrance, kill as if it were sport.  Now look, the knight said, and slapped the table, here’s what I’ve seen, more times than I care to count: your man braces himself for the atteint, and at the final moment, the urgency of desire undoes him:  he tightens him muscles, he pulls his lance-arm against his body, the tip tilts up, and he’s off his mark;  if you avoid one fault, avoid that.  Carry your lance a little loose, so when you tense your frame and draw in your arm your point comes exactly on target.  But remember this above all else: defeat your instinct.  Your love of glory must conquer your will to survive; or why fight at all?  Why not be s smith, a brewer, a wool merchant?  Why are you in the contest, if not to win, and if not to win, then to die? from pages 165/167.

A  perfect lesson to take into the court of King Henry the Eight.

Bring Up The Bodies follows Cromwell through the death of Katherine of Aragon, the King’s developing fascination with Jane Seymour and the trial and execution of Anne Boleyn, on of the most chilling scenes I have ever read.  Chilling and beautiful, if that is possible.  I can not wait for the third novel in this trilogy, and anything else Mantel writes in the future.

There is a wonderful column about Mantel’s process of writing Wolf Hall in the Guardian and a fascinating profile of the author in The New Yorker.

LAR Button Final

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Filed under 2013 Historical Fiction Challenge, 2013 TBR Double Dog Dare, Booker, Hilary Mantel, Historical Fiction, Long Awaited Reads Month

Dickens In December

dickens-button-01-resized

An event for the coming of Winter, organized be Caroline and Delia.  I had said that I wanted to read some classics during the dark time and what better way to start than with this lovely event.  There is A Christmas Carol Read-along and the weekend of December 14th and 15th is dedicated to watching movies based on Dickens’ novels.  Why don’t you join us?

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Filed under Charles Dickens, Classic, Events, Read-Along

A Pulitzer Poet – Lisel Mueller

Thanks to Lu and Kelly for creating the Poetry Project and suggesting the theme of reading the Pulitzer Prize winning poets in August.  I have been reading poets who are new to me.   One of my favorites is  Lisel Mueller who won the Pulitzer in 1997 for the collection Alive Together.  I borrowed this book from my library but will be sure to add a copy to my poetry collection.

Mueller’s poetry very clear and direct, based in present time and yet deeply connected to the past.  She uses folk and fairy tales  in her poems, as well as everyday events.   Her poems tell stories, are often personal,  never heavy-handed and are filled with wonderful imagery.  I find her writing striking, deeply moving and quite beautiful.

Here are two poems from Alive Together:

Sometimes, When The Light

Sometimes, when the light strikes at odd angles
and pulls you back into childhood

and you are passing a crumbling mansion
completely hidden behind old willows

or an empty convent guarded by hemlocks
and giant firs  standing hip to hip,

you know again that behind that wall,
under the uncut hair of the willows

something secret is going on,
so marvelous and dangerous

that if you crawled through and saw,
you would die, or be happy forever.

Why We Tell Stories

For Linda Foster

I
Because we used to have leaves
and on damp days
our muscles feel a tug,
painful now, from when roots
pulled us into the ground

and because our children believe
they can fly, an instinct retained
from when the bones in our arms
were shaped like zithers and broke
neatly under their feathers

and because before we had lungs
we knew how far it was to the bottom
as we floated open-eyed
like painted scarves through the scenery
of dreams, and because we awakened

and learned to speak

2
We sat by the fire in our caves,
and because we were poor, we made up a tale
about a treasure mountain
that would open only for us

and because we were always defeated,
we invented impossible riddles
only we could solve,
monsters only we could kill,
women who could love no one else
and because we had survived
sisters and brothers, daughters and sons,
we discovered bones that rose
from the dark earth and sang
as white birds in the trees

3
Because the story of our life
becomes our life

Because each of us tells
the same story
but tells it differently

and none of us tells it
the same way twice

Because grandmothers looking like spiders
want to enchant the children
and grandfathers need to convince us
what happened happened because of them

and though we listen only
haphazardly, with one ear,
we will begin our story
with the word and

Lisel Mueller

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Filed under Authors, Poetry, Poetry Project, Pulitzer, Thoughts

The Poetry Project

Time for the Poetry Project, organized by Lu and Kelly.  August’s Poetry Project theme is Pulitzer Prize winning poetry.  Of course, you can read and post about any poetry you choose.  I’m planning on reading the work of several Pulitzer winning poets I’m not familiar with but would like to start off with one of my favorites, W.S. Merwin.

Thanks

By W.S. Merwin

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

Copied from Poets.org.

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Filed under Authors, Poetry Project