Love Kyle Gray's work and affirmations, his authenticity. This has been my bus reading for the last few months and I looked forward to it every time,Love Kyle Gray's work and affirmations, his authenticity. This has been my bus reading for the last few months and I looked forward to it every time, for the inspiration and open mindedness it invokes, and the way the world just feels so much better than the media suggests it is. Tune into angels to feel good and know you are protected. Thank you....more
Ties is a novel about the short and long term effect of the first grand infidelity, on a couple, on their adult children and even on the life of theirTies is a novel about the short and long term effect of the first grand infidelity, on a couple, on their adult children and even on the life of their cat.
As I began to read, I had a strange feeling of deja vu, or should I say deja lu, the voice of the woman who writes the letters in the opening chapters isn't the same, but the premise of her abandonment, being left with two children, it's as if this novel reignited elements of how I imagined Elena Ferrante'sThe Days of Abandonment which I read last summer and I found myself back there, in the same apartment, experiencing the same circumstances, only these are not the reflections of the same woman, nor of the same writer - well no - this is a man writing these letters from a woman (Vanda) and then in a voice that rings more true, that of the man (Aldo) who abandons, who wanted to suspend the life he found himself in, in pursuit of something else that claimed nothing more than pleasure from him.
In Ferrante's devastating, gripping novel, the voice of the wife takes hold of the reader from the outset, she is calm and rational, appearing reasonable on the outside, all the while anger and rage builds inside her like a furnace.
In contrast Starnone's protagonist Vanda, through excerpts from a few of the letters she wrote Aldo, that he rereads on the night of their return, 40 years after they were written, is angry, opinionated and doesn't hold back from sharing any of the catastrophic thoughts that come to her, about the damage he has done and is doing to her and the children.
The narrative structure is interesting, as the story is set around the departure and return of Vanda and Aldo from a holiday at the sea. They are in their 70's and for the week they will be away they've asked their adult children to feed the cat.
The three parts of the novel encompass, book one, the letters Vanda wrote when her husband left her, the departure for the holiday and the return narrated by Aldo, within which he deconstructs the marriage and his part in it; book two, the return to their apartment and the circumstance they find themselves in, evoking in him a long period of contemplation, going over events, memories and perceptions as he tries to understand how it all came to this.
I held back. In general, faced with difficult situations, I slow down; I try to avoid making the wrong moves. She, on the other hand, after a moment of bewilderment, dives headfirst into terror, fighting it with everything she's got. She's always behaved this way, ever since I've known her, and it was what she did now.
There is one scene where Aldo discovers an old photo of Vanda and it is as if he sees her the first time, he sees something of the essence of her, in youth, and fifty years later, has a partial realisation of what he had lost, of what he had failed to see, and by doing so, extinguished in her.
I recognised the features of that period: flimsy clothes she sewed herself, scuffed shoes with worn-out heels, no make-up on her large eyes. What I didn't recognise on the other hand, was her youth. This, then, was what was alien to me, : her youth. In those pictures Vanda radiated a glow which-I discovered-I had no recollection of, not even a spark that allowed me to say: Yes she used to be like this.
And book three, narrated by the daughter Anna, on one of the alternate days she has agreed to feed the cat, convincing her brother who she hasn't seen since he was favoured in her Aunt's will years ago, to meet her there.
The novel is called Ties, a translation of Lacci or laces, which has a double meaning in Italian, meaning both the cords that we use to tie shoes and the connections or bonds between people and or things, a metaphor for the ties that continue to bind despite separation, distance, change, age. There are attempts to let go, by all the characters, attempts to distance, to free themselves of the bonds that tie, but none that really succeed, in some, the attempt to separate will result in the creation of new and more numerous ties, the son Sandro moves from one relationship to another, each resulting in another child.
It's an intriguing novel, with what I felt was a slightly bizarre and unexpected ending, that invoked in me comparisons with The Days of Abandonment, however this novel was like reading from the outside, like looking at things from a distance, with a more questioning response, whereas Ferrante's novel succeeded in transporting the reader into the narrative, it's more cathartic and slightly terrifying, as she brings you to right to the edge of sanity, making you sense the danger in letting that temporary instability be observed by the outside world, a situation that many women in past centuries were indeed committed to asylums for, provoked as they were by the cool, insensitive abandonment of the patriarch....more
Stay With Me is the meaning of the Yoruba, Nigerian first name Rotimi, which in itself is the short version of Oluwarotimi.
"Still they named her Roti
Stay With Me is the meaning of the Yoruba, Nigerian first name Rotimi, which in itself is the short version of Oluwarotimi.
"Still they named her Rotimi, a name that implied she was an Abiku child who had come into the world intending to die as soon as she could. Rotimi - stay with me."
I'm guessing that Ayobami Adebayo uses it as the title to her novel, because it relates to the twin desires of the main characters in the book, Yejide in her yearning to become pregnant and to keep a child, to be the mother she was denied, having been raised by less than kind stepmothers after her mother died in childbirth; and her husband Akin, in his desire to try and keep his wife happy and with him, despite succumbing to the pressures of the stepmothers and his own family, he being the first born son of the first wife, to produce a son and heir.
"Before I got married I believed love could do anything. I learned soon enough it couldn't bear the weight of four years without children. If the burden is too much and stays too long, even love bends, cracks, comes close to breaking and sometimes does break. But even when it's in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn't mean it's no longer love."
Torn between the love of his wife and meeting the expectations of his family, for two years he would resist their suggestions, until the day they came knocking at his door, to inform Yejide that matters had been taken into their hands, that there was nothing she could do but accept it, suggesting it may even help.
"For a while, I did not accept the fact that I had become a first wife, an iyale. Iya Martha was my father's first wife. When I was a child, I believed she was the unhappiest wife in the family. My opinion did not change as I grew older. At my father's funeral, she stood beside the freshly dug grave with her narrow eyes narrowed even further and showered curses on every woman my father had made his wife after he had married her. She had begun as always with my long-dead mother, since she was the second woman he had married, the one who had made Iya Martha a first among not-so-equals."
The narrative is split into five parts and moves between a present in 2008 when Yejide is returning to her husbands hometown for the funeral of his father, and the past which traverses the various stages of their marriage and their attempts to create a family and the effect of the secrets, lies, interferences and silences on their relationship.
The narrative voice moves from first person accounts of both Yejide and Akin, ensuring the reader gains twin perspectives on what is happening (and making us a little unsure of reality) and the more intimate second person narrative in the present day, as each character addresses the other with that more personal "you" voice, they are not in each other's presence, but they carry on a conversation in their minds, addressing each other, asking questions that will not be answered, wondering what the coming together after all these years will reveal.
The portrayal of the pressures on this couple to meet expectations and the effect of the past on the present are brilliantly conveyed in this engaging novel, which provides a rare insight into a culture and people who live simultaneously in a modern world that hasn't yet let go of it's patriarchal traditions. Denial plays a lead part and when the knowledge it suppresses is at risk of being exposed, violence erupts.
Simultaneously the country is in the midst of a military coup, which also threatens to destabilise the country and puts its citizens in fear for their lives.
The novel also addresses the significant presence of the sickle cell gene on people's lives, something that is perhaps little known in the West, but in Nigeria with a population of 112 million people, 25% of adults have or carry the sickle cell trait, which can cause high infant mortality and problems in later life. It is a genetic blood disorder that affects the haemoglobin within the red blood cells and the recurring pain and complications caused by the disease (for which there is no cure) can interfere with many aspects of a person's life.
Stay With Me has been longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2017, a worthy contender in my opinion and a unique social perspective on issues that are both universal to us all and particular to the Nigerian culture....more
Astonishing, a work of art, an interwoven tapestry of stories that weave across the generations to create something so beautiful, so heartfelt, the thAstonishing, a work of art, an interwoven tapestry of stories that weave across the generations to create something so beautiful, so heartfelt, the thing that connects them is so strong, even when it isn't known by its characters, somehow Yaa Ngasi conveys that to the reader, so that by the end when something quite magical happens, there is a feeling of grieving for all that has past and of relief that something new has been found.
I love, love, loved this novel and I am in awe of it's structure and storytelling, the authenticity of the stories, the three dimensional characters, and the rounding of all those stories into the healing return. I never saw that ending coming and the build up of sadness from the stories of the last few characters made the last story all the more moving, I couldn't stop the tears rolling down my face.
How to give it justice in a review, it is so much more than story, we are so much more than our our own personal experience and the place(s) we have lived.
Homegoing begins with the image of a partial family tree, with two strands and the novel will follow just one family member down each strand, the first two characters who begin these family lines are the daughters of Maame, Effia and Esi.
Effia, whom the villagers said was a baby born of the fire, believed she would marry the village chief, but would be married to a British slave trader and live upstairs in the Cape Coast Castle.
'The night Effia Otcher was born into the musky heat of Fanteland, a fire raged through the woods just outside her father's compound. It moved quickly, tearing a path for days. It loved off the air; it slept in caves and hid in trees; it burned, up and through, unconcerned with what wreckage it left behind, until it reached an Asante village. There, it disappeared, becoming one with the night.'
Effia's father, Cobbe would lose his crop of yams that night, a precious crop known to sustain families far and wide and with it he uttered a premonition which would reverberate through subsequent generations:
He knew then that the memory of the fire that burned, then fled, would haunt him, his children, and his children's children for as long as the line continued.'
Esi, whose father was a Big Man, in expressing her empathy for their house girl, would precipitate events that lead her to be captured and chained in the dungeons beneath that same castle, awaiting the slave trading ships that would transport them to their slave masters in America.
'They took them out into the light. The scent of ocean water hit her nose. The taste of salt clung to her throat. The soldiers marched them down to an open door that led to sand and water, and they all began to walk out on to it.'
In these first two chapters of Effia and Esi, the recurring twin symbols of fire and water are introduced, something that each generation subconsciously carries with them and passes on, they will reappear through fears, dreams, experiences, a kind of deep primal scar they don't even know requires healing, its origins so far back, so removed from anything that can be easily articulated.
Fire (yang) is like the curse of the slave trade, raging through the lives of each generation, even when they appear to have escaped it, as with Kojo's story, a baby passed to the arms of a woman who helped slaves escape, whose parents are captured, but he will live freely, only to have one member of the family cruelly snatched, perpetuating the cycle yet again, orphaning another child, who must start over and scrape together a life from nothing.
'They didn't now about Jo's fear of people in uniform, didn't know what it was like to lie silent and barely breathing under the floorboards of a Quaker house, listening to the sound of a catcher's bootheel stomp above you. Jo had worked so hard so his children wouldn't have to inherit his fear, but now he wished they had just the tiniest morsel of it.'
Water (yin) to me is the endless expanse, the rootlessness, floating on the surface, feet never able to get a grip, efforts floundering. This symbol is carried throughout Essi's family line, a cast of characters whose wheels are turning, who work hard, but suffer one setback after another.
The novel is structured around one chapter for each character, alternately between the twin sides of the family, the narrative perspective changing to focus on the new generation, through whom we learn something of what happened to the character in the previous generation, who've we left behind two chapters ago.
The irony of the structure is that we the reader read an entire family history and see how the events of the past affect the future, how patterns repeat, how fears are carried forward, how strong feelings are connected to roots and origins, we see it, while they experience the loss, the frustration, the inability to comprehend that it is not just the actions of one life that affect that life's outcome.
This book is like a legacy, a long legacy that revolves between the sadness of loss and the human struggle to move forward, to survive, to do better, to improve. And also a legacy of the feeling of not belonging that is carried within those who have been uprooted, who no longer belong to one place or another, who if they are lucky might find someone to whom they can ignite or perhaps even extinguish that yearning 'to belong'.
'We can't go back to something we ain't never been to in the first place. It ain't ours anymore. This is.' She swept her hand in front of her, as though she were trying to catch all of Harlem in it, all of New York, all of America.'
And in writing this novel, Yaa Gyasi perhaps achieves something of what her final character Marcus is unable to articulate to Marjorie why his research feels futile, spurning his grandmother's suggestion that he perhaps had the gift of visions, trying to find answers in a more tangible way, through research and study.
"What is the point Marcus?" She stopped walking. For all they knew, they were standing on top of what used to be a coal mine for all the black convicts who had been conscripted to work there. It was one thing to research something, another thing entirely to have lived it. To have felt it. How could he explain to Marjorie that what he wanted to capture with his project was the feeling of time, of having been a part of something that stretched so far back, was so impossibly large, that it was easy to forget that she, and he, and everyone else, existed in it - not apart from it, but inside it.
Yes, she achieves it through literature, through fiction. And this literature at its most powerful and best....more
The Good People centres around the lives of three Irish country women, Nora, who has recently become a widow in the same year her daughter passed awayThe Good People centres around the lives of three Irish country women, Nora, who has recently become a widow in the same year her daughter passed away, Mary, the teenage housemaid she employs to help her take care of the 4-year-old cripple, the grandson her son-in-law left with her and Nance, an ageing spinster who lives in a mud shack near the forest, the one with "the knowledge" whom certain members of the community go to when the remedies of the doctor and the priest yield no cure.
Nora hasn't consulted Nance before, but her husband Martin had. She is also wary of others and their superstitions and so keeps the boy hidden from their prying eyes, lest they connect his condition to the string of bad luck in the community, for there are some saying he has 'the fairy in him' as if he has been possessed.
The novel follows the events that occur during the time Mary comes to stay with Nora, as the widow increasingly begins to doubt the child is her grandson and treats "it" as if he is something else.
The novel immerses the reader deep into the folklore of 19th century Ireland, portraying her characters and the core community around them as believers of those ancient ways, practitioners of rituals, despite the existence of more rational medicines and beliefs. The old ways brush up against the new and culminate in a challenge of one versus the other, through the justice system.
Clearly, an extraordinarily well-researched novel, based on certain real events, it succeeds in creating an authentic sense of place, inside the very primitive home of Nora imbued with a strong sense of dread that this is not going to end well. We are shown how things came to be for all three characters and the reactions of the community around them, quick to fear and to judge.
What it really excels at, is to make the reader wonder what is real and what is not, after the rejection of the doctor and the priest, we understand how the maid and the widow want to believe in the knowledge of Nance and her alternative "cure", a fascinating insight into a cultural folklore that had much of its community in its grip (and some say it still does).
Despite this authenticity, I found it lagged in the mid-section, as some of the backstory of Nance was filled in causing me to lose interest in picking the book up for a while. It picked up again as the author returned to moving the plot forward. ...more
A beautifully balanced, humble account of how Jo Malone made it to where she is now and the incredible obstacles that both 'made her' and that she hadA beautifully balanced, humble account of how Jo Malone made it to where she is now and the incredible obstacles that both 'made her' and that she had to overcome in order to arrive at where she is today.
I absolutely loved this book, from its at time heartbreaking accounts of struggle in her childhood, whose response was always to take on more responsibility, to help at home whether it was making face creams in the kitchen to help her mother, tidying the house, selling paintings at the market with her Dad, to coping with an undiagnosed dyslexia and the uttered words of a teacher who predicted she would come to nothing.
When she begins to go it alone, but with the important and incredible support of her husband behind it, she begins to flourish and her creativity sings, reading her descriptions of being in the creative zone, of creating a scent, playing with the notes of fragrance my post it notes were flying. I had to refrain from dog-earring pages and scribbling in the margins as the book was lent to me, but having become interested and immersed in the aromas of essential oils 20 years ago and being someone who also creates aroma blends and loves nothing more than to experiment with create a blend, I could totally relate to the bliss Jo Malone feels when she's doing her thing in a creative sense.
Though she has her share of fears and trepidation at entering into the unknown, her life has been scattered with signs and synchronicities that propelled her forward, to meet those who would show her the way, encourage her to take the next step, work through the challenges, admit the mistakes, learn from them and move on if possible....more
The book begins as Didion thinks back to her daughter's wedding seven years earlier, which then triggers other memories of her childhood, of family mo
The book begins as Didion thinks back to her daughter's wedding seven years earlier, which then triggers other memories of her childhood, of family moments, of people and places, numerous hotels they have frequented. She reflects too on her role as a mother, something she hadn't wanted to be, until suddenly she did, pregnancy had been something to fear, then it became something she yearned for, though it was not to be. She has difficulty understanding her daughter's fear of abandonment, knowing how much she needs her child.
When we think about adopting a child, or for that matter about having a child at all, we stress the 'blessing' part. We omit the instant of sudden chill, the 'what if' the free fall into certain failure. What if I fail to take care of this baby? What if this baby fails to thrive, what if this baby fails to love me? And worse yet, worse by far, so much worse as to be unthinkable, except I did it, everyone who has ever waited to bring a baby home thinks it: what if I fail to love this baby?
Didion examines details of her daughters childhood and life and drawers of photographs and momentoes of people that have left her. Not nearly as compelling at her year of magical thinking, and a little too much a collection of names dropped that I found myself skipping over, which all felt terribly sad.
When she speaks of herself, her prose is poetic, mellifluous, at ease. When writing snippets of motherhood and recalling images of her daughter, her language becomes stilted, dissonant, the connections between her thoughts less fluid, the pain too sharp. Aging has been a long process, one she realises she has seen in her mother, grandmother, but won't see in her daughter.
The book is as much about an acknowledgement of her own ageing, recognising her own 'frailty', her obsession with illness, with every little malfunction or symptom of a thing that never shows up on any of the numerous scans or tests she has. It is as if she writes her own lead-up to death, one which never arrives, as the multitude and thoroughness of all the tests she regularly has show her how very much alive and in good health she is, despite herself.
Swimming Lessons is an evocative, thought-provoking novel that begins with an intriguing mystery, evolving into melancholy as the events of Ingrid's mSwimming Lessons is an evocative, thought-provoking novel that begins with an intriguing mystery, evolving into melancholy as the events of Ingrid's marriage, the wife of Gil and mother of two young girls who disappeared 12 years before, are revealed.
The novel begins with Gil inside a second hand bookstore, having found a scrap of paper within a books' pages, moving closer to the window to try and read it. It is a letter dated 2 July 1992, which his attention is diverted from when he glances out the window and sees a woman in a coat who he believes is Ingrid, missing, presumed drowned for twelve years.
When chapter two begins with a letter addressed to Gil from his wife dated 2nd June 1992, a quick scan ahead reveals the novels pattern, alternate chapters, one set in the present around Gil and his daughters Flora and Nan, the other a chronological revelation of the letters his wife wrote to him over the month before she disappeared, each of them placed within one of the many books that were on the shelves of their home. And now here is is having just discovered one within the pages of a book in the local second hand bookshop. Quite an extraordinary and brilliant concept, it opens the novel with the maximum intrigue and desire to know what went on between these two.
After Gil's sighting, events bring the family together, highlighting their similarities and differences, exposing various family secrets and lies and all the while, each letter like a dripping tap, one by one revealing more of the relationship between Ingrid, the young Norwegian university student and Gil, her literature professor and the very different path her life would take once their lives intertwinded. The letter's are her story of a marriage, told to him (or perhaps to us the reader) as if he were an outsider, even though much of the dialogue she writes is his.
Dear Gil, Of course I couldn't write the story of a marriage in one letter. It was always going to to take longer. After I finished my first letter I meant to send it straight away. I found an envelope from an old electricity bill in the kitchen table drawer, and thought I'd walk to the postbox as the sun came up before I could change my mind. But perched on the arm of the sofa in the dark with the pen in my hand there was a noise from the girl's room (the squeak of bedsprings , the creak of the door), and without thinking I grabbed a book from the nearest shelf, shoved the letter inside and pushed it back into place.
Ingrid's story focuses on the marriage, without ever straying into her past, her home country, her own ambitions or desires. Those omissions create a presence that is never mentioned, they weigh on the reader, who on reading begins to feel the futility of her existence, she is isolated, without friends or family and struggling as a mother, she has forsaken all on a whim, fulfilling desires of a man whose star in decline, while hers will be extinguished before it has a chance.
Swimming Lessons is an incredibly accomplished novel with well drawn characters, including that of 'the marriage,' perhaps the chief protagonist itself, as the letters reveal more of 'the marriage' than of Ingrid herself.
It is something of an homage to books, readers and writing as they are all given important roles in providing clues and holding secrets of this marriage.
It is a book that invites discussion and would be a provocative novel for a bookclub, there is so much that invites discussion and would likely bring out quite different points of view.
Intriguingly, my copy of the book also had something old slipped between the covers, not a letter, but an old black and white photograph of 'The Lake', Alexander Park, yet another intrigue within the intrigue, I'm still wondering where that came from and whose handwriting is on the back and what story that photo could tall, if it could give up more than just a still, lifeless image.