Sunday, 11 October 2020

AudioBookReview: Travels With A Donkey by Robert Louis Stevenson, abridged narraton by Denis Lawson

Travels With A Donkey

Travels With A Donkey by Robert Louis Stevenson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I re-listened to the abridged audio book of this classic traveloque that I have as others in my face to face book group read the whole thing. It is well narrated by Scottish actor Denis Lawson. Beautiful lyrical writing by the author whose adventure and science fiction tales are the tracks of my youth 'Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Kidnapped and Catriona, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Tales of Terror, The Master of Ballantrae, The Black Arrow and the like, and whose travel writing - Letters from Samoa and In the South Seas" inspired me to travel to and write about his ultimate reting place in Vailamu Samoa. Modern sensibilities may be dismayed by his treatment of Modestine early on as he attempts to get the donkey to move at the appropriate pace but the writing pulls you in and along. What travel writing should be. It still gives a warm feeling all these years on from first acquaintance.

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Book Review: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I "discovered" theis author after reading his short story You Have Arrived at Your Destination which I loved and I was not diasappointed with his longer work either. Towles has created a lasting character, with a superb storyline, witty, paced writing which is superbly read by voice over artist Nicholas Guy Smith. I admit I was interrupted in my listening mid way and perhaps this made it feel a bit overlong, but I thought the build up to the ending was marvellous especially for any lover of the movie classic Casablanca which coincidently I had only just recently rewatched for the umpteenth time. 

I see that Kenneth Branagh has bought the movie rights to the book and there is supposed to be a TV miniseries of it coming out, presumably now delayed because of COVID. I'm really looking forward to that as I think it should translate to the screen very well, so fingers crossed Rostov's Metropole will be as lasting as Rick's American Café

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Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Short Story Review: Anabasis by Amal El-Mohtar


Anabasis by Amal El-Mohtar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this as part of the collection Nevertheless, She Persisted: Flash Fiction Project .
This story can be found online

First, I thought I had better check what "anabasis" meant - "Anabasis (from Greek ana = "upward", bainein = "to step or march") is an expedition from a coastline up into the interior of a country" according to Wikipedia.

Upon starting to read this I was completely entranced by an early section which I found rivetingly poetic -

"My real mouth is full of sharp teeth and a sharper tongue, three languages coiled like snakes in my throat, scaly and silent. My real mouth is an armoury of words forged in the furnace of my chest, hot as a spitted sun. My real mouth is a storm, and my voice is thunder.
To pass among you I wear a different mouth: full lips unparted, always smiling. I paint it pretty colours. It speaks only when spoken to, softly. To pass among you, it tells you stories: I am sweetness. I am sunshine. I am here to hold your hand through the horror of my name. My mouth is a coin, and I spend it. "

According to the publishers , the story was inspired by a 2017 news story about the trecherous border crossing in the snow into Manitoba for refugees seeking Canada which reports that "A two-year-old member of a large group of refugees who walked into Manitoba from Minnesota ..told his mom he wanted to die instead of finish the walk". Heartbreaking.

El-Moktar's writing is stunning, she uses the Sumarian poem, Inanna's Descent into the Underworld to contrast with the mother's walk across the snow "Borders are shape-shifters,too: they change what goes through them. Time was, the only border worth crossing was into the underworld, to fetch back a lover's life" That writer is Canadian is extremely relevant to this piece - her passport, her struggle to remain Canadian in light of the border guard eyeing her as Arab, as Muslim. Her empathy with the predicament of those crossing
"If I could take each of my words and lay them in the snow at her feet. If I could.. eat this distance between us. If I could devour this border, if I could tell it to smile while I broke its teeth, if I could unsheathe the sword of my mouth and strike it down, if I could thread the needle of my mouth and stitch good shoes for her baby, if I could cut a path into this country with the sharpness of my tongue..." 
Unbelievably poignant.

I am very impressed by this piece, my mouth, my words fails to convey how much. 5 stars are not enough.

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