Setting this aside for now. I should love this book. I should adore this Irish-American-literary-character-driven story that is so beautifully writtenSetting this aside for now. I should love this book. I should adore this Irish-American-literary-character-driven story that is so beautifully written, but it's not sucking me in. One third of the way through, and I'm battling to remember what has gone before.
It's an undeniably good book, but I'm setting it aside for now. I hope to return and find it a more compelling read....more
I had a Maeve Binchy phase, oh, about 20 years ago. She wrote these cosy books about an old fashioned Ireland, where people were quirky, knew everythiI had a Maeve Binchy phase, oh, about 20 years ago. She wrote these cosy books about an old fashioned Ireland, where people were quirky, knew everything about everyone, and were never nasty to each other. Bad things happened to good people, but they got past it. I outgrew Maeve, but from time to time I pick one up, for a pleasant re=read.
The Copper Beech is one of her ensemble cast stories. She takes a central theme and weaves the individual stories around the centrepost. It's a bit like reading interconnected short stories rather than a novel. Her style and plots are predictable, stereotypes abound, and there's an underlying order to things that her characters seldom deviate from. People pair off neatly, reproduce on cue (or suffer madly before finding a suitable alternative), agonize over their lives, become stronger, get over it. The bad guys get their low-key just desserts. But most of her stories are set in the 1950s or earlier and so she gets away with it. Overall, I think she does better with her earlier works "Light a Penny Candle" for example, which follows one storyline and fewer characters.
She's the macaroni cheese of Irish fiction and I love her for it....more
A sad and beautiful book, that moves like a stream, slowly, slowly, until it spills out to the sea in a great rush.
This is the story of Roseanne McNulA sad and beautiful book, that moves like a stream, slowly, slowly, until it spills out to the sea in a great rush.
This is the story of Roseanne McNulty, 100 year old resident of the "Leitrim Hotel" (the local's name for the Roscommon lunatic asylum, so named because half of Leitrim is in there) told in the alternating written records of Roseanne and her psychiatrist, Dr Grene. It's slow moving, but lush and beautiful with language and phrases of Ireland (that reminded me acutely of my time living there). It's set in the time of the IRA and De Valera and Ireland's tortured and troubled history of the early-mid 20th century through to the near-present.
I loved this on several fronts: the language and writing, the deceptively simple story (so compelling) and because it's set in an area of Ireland where I lived for a while (Roscommon and Sligo). There's something anchoring in reading about an area you know well. Even though Roseanne's Sligo was 60 or so years away from mine, the Metal Man, the Coney Island causeway markers, Strandhill, Knocknarea, Queen Maeve's grave, Rosses Point and Roscommon town are like old friends, with many aspects unchanged in Roseanne's memory and mine.
It's also a reminder of how Ireland has changed, and for the better. There's less cruelty done now in the name of religion, the conflicts are mostly gone. "The Secret Scripture" though, brings up a time not so far away, in living memory for those as long-lived as Roseanne.
It's not an easy read in places, there's so much cruelty, manipulation and hatred on the surface, but underneath it all is a story of love in all its forms.
At first, the ending felt forced to me, but upon reflection, Barry has built the book from the ending, rather than contrived an ending for the book. Simply beautiful.
I've marked this up from 4 stars to 5 in the time it's taken me to write this....more
Yay for the Kindle which allows me to download (and keep) old favorites. McCaffrey's Dragonsong and Dragonsinger are in that group. While I loved theYay for the Kindle which allows me to download (and keep) old favorites. McCaffrey's Dragonsong and Dragonsinger are in that group. While I loved the Pern novels as a kid, for the most part now, I'm too irritated by what didn't really register as a kid: the strong sexist tones that ran throughout. The early books in these series were written in the 1970s and luckily we've moved on a lot since that time.
The "Menolly" books though, have always been my favorites. On the surface, I should loathe them: superhumanly gifted teenage girl, who can play any instrument, sing like a bird, would make a dragonrider, a hard worker, beloved by everyone, swift enough to be a hold runner, and a supremely talented songwriter whose songs delight people at the first hearing. She's also passive in many ways, incredibly modest and unsure of herself and her talents. She's taken to Harper Hall, where in the space of a week, masterharpers seek her opinion, she instantly can play other instruments, she's invited to play with an elite group of musicians, she conducts the whole choir, oh, and her fire lizards can sing and no-one's taught them THAT before. Luckily, her looks aren't mentioned much, and when they are it's fairly non-committal (lanky, too tall, wide shoulders and pretty hair). Thank zod she isn't a stunning beauty with purple eyes and the long-lost lovechild of Lessa and Flar. I think they are possibly the only two Mary-Sue cliches left unexplored.
There's also the whole class system on Pern: the drudges slave in the kitchen for no reward it seems, and just go about serving klah to the elite and cleaning and cooking. Yet the Pern books are rife with "and the peasants cheered" statements. I don't know about you, but if I were a drudge on Pern, I wouldn't be cheering any supremely talented 15 year old, or Lord Holder, I'd be wondering why there wasn't a little more equality in the world.
Much too has been made by others far more eloquent than me about the lack of opportunity for women on Pern: you can work in the kitchens, tend the children, gut fish, cook, heal... Oh, what wonderful 1950s careers for women these are. You might end up Weyrwoman, but even though your dragon is the supreme one, you are still beholden (and forced to mate with) the rider of whichever dragon succeeds in flying yours. There are passive ways of controlling this, but no real way of bucking the system
That said, these books hold my heart in a very real way. I must have read them a dozen times, most recently this morning (thank you, Kindle). There's a charm to them, and Menolly for all her annoying gifts is human and likeable enough, and her joy in her music is heartwarming and real. There's a lovely comfort in the unconditional support she receives when she gets to harper hall, and her tentative friendships. The outcast loner taken into the bosom of a new "family".
Nothing much happens in this book, it's a Day in the Life Of, but it's one of my Happy Books. I can take it out, reread and an hour has gone by.
So even though I should loathe this, I don't. I love it. Forever and ever amen.
Some wonderfully acerbic twisty pieces, and some longer, rather unfocused ones. I adored "The Celtic Tiger" and "A Robin in Autumn Chatting at Dawn".Some wonderfully acerbic twisty pieces, and some longer, rather unfocused ones. I adored "The Celtic Tiger" and "A Robin in Autumn Chatting at Dawn". Not so much the longer travelogues....more
**spoiler alert** Gather round children and listen to your Auntie Cheyenne. This is probably the only piece of advice you will ever get from her that**spoiler alert** Gather round children and listen to your Auntie Cheyenne. This is probably the only piece of advice you will ever get from her that is worth a cracker, so listen well. Are you comfortable? Are you listening?
Children, if you have a friend, a friend who sympathizes with you, keeps you company, comforts you, and is the only person in the world who truly understands you, that is a good thing because everyone needs a good and loving friend. But if that friend separates you from your family, if that friend alienates you from everything you've known and loved, if that friend constantly tells you to keep your friendship a secret because no one else could ever hope to understand, then children, you should run like hell as fast and as far as you can. And that piece of advice holds true in internet chat rooms, for strangers with lollies at the school gate, and for disembodied voices in the desert at Mt Gehab that tell you your family wants to sacrifice you in the desert so that it will rain and save the family farm.
The above cautionary tale sums up the book. Ros and his invisible friend, Escher, flee the family home in fear of his life. They wander on with a stolen camel (I loved that camel!), with Ros following Escher's lead. There are clans of traveling nomads, battles with crabblers, a conversation with a man'kin, and a wonderful stone mage, who leads Ros to the truth.
The writing is extremely well constructed, with an easy style that leads you through the story. I was engaged with the characters, and enjoyed the ride from start to finish. The only reason I'm not giving this 5 stars is that the ending, the big denouement, was way too easy to work out. I had it sorted from the mid point of the book, and was then waiting for Ros to catch on as well. However, accurately guessing the ending in no way spoiled the journey, but if it had been better disguised it would have enhanced my pleasure.
Another op shop find, picked almost randomly on the title and because it was Irish. I plodded through this, and nearly abandoned it a couple of times.Another op shop find, picked almost randomly on the title and because it was Irish. I plodded through this, and nearly abandoned it a couple of times. (It nearly got left at the checkout in Woolies on a particularly slow day when I was reading as I waited for the woman in front to return to the line after her third trip for something "urgent" she "just had to have, omg, I'm SO sorry... you don't mind do you?", and then I accidentally-on-purpose left it in a coffee shop but the waitress ran after me to give it back). So I finished it.
Brian and Julia's 5 year old son is killed in an accident, and their marriage falls apart, mainly because they never really related in the first place. Julia takes herself off to Ireland to stay with Brian's abusive father, and Brian takes to the labba with major depression, and relives his childhood.
I didn't feel anything for this book except irritation that it was the only book I had with me. There's a detached quality to the writing, that I suspect is deliberate, but it had the effect of pushing me out of the story. I didn't care about Brian and Julia. I didn't care that bad things were happening to them, and that's not a great mindset in a reader. The pace was slow, and the writing a bit too self-consciously literary and filled with superfluous details.
If you like maudlin musings from self-absorbed unlikeable characters, set against the old abusive-church-going-father, down-trodden-mother-with-too-many-kids, plot set in Ireland, maybe give this a go, but otherwise, meh....more
There are three people (so far) in this world whose book recommendations I trust absolutely. One of them recommended Claire Keegan as the next John McThere are three people (so far) in this world whose book recommendations I trust absolutely. One of them recommended Claire Keegan as the next John McGahern. No, not on that level, but a sound and beautiful collection of short stories all the same....more