Friday 29 December 2023

Our Stars

Hiding close the southern horizon but both visible facing due south  on 25 Oct 20023.

We always shone brightly together, RIP N, Always loved, S








Tuesday 26 December 2023

Book Review: The Wall by John Lanchester

The Wall The Wall by John Lanchester
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first heard part of this book abridged on BBC R4 and only recently managed to sit down and start it in earnest. Dystopian fiction, a world after what is only known as The Change, after which sea levels have risen dramatically and Britain was built a defensive perimeter Wall round all its shoreline to keep out the Others. Lanchester creates well his bleak world where people man the wall as sentries for years at a time,where the Others try to scale it, those who succeed are chipped and put to work as Help, those that don't die, the sentries on duty when there is a breach are sentenced and put to sea. Kavanagh is our narrator as he begins his two year stint on the Wall.
This an addictive read, with good world building and a steadily building up storyline. The compelling book was longlisted for the 2019 Booker and deservedly so.

Saturday 9 December 2023

Book Review: Walk the Blue Fields by Claire Keegan

Walk the Blue Fields

Walk the Blue Fields by Claire Keegan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars 

I really enjoyed this collection . Afterwards some stories resided in my mind better and longer than others, but what isn't diminished is the strength of Keegan's writing, her keen eye for the timelessness of the situations people find themselves in. 

See this 2022 review of her writing

(1) The Long and Painful Death - I wondered if this would be a story about someone dying gruesomely or from a lingering disease. I considered missing this first story in the collection but I dived in and urge you to do the same. A young writer has just arrived in residence at Henrich Boll's house, her first day is interrupted by the arrival of a German professor wishing to see the house. Only after he leaves can she write.
(On the edge of the village of Dugort, on Achill Island, on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, is Heinrich Böll Cottage ( . Once belonging to Nobel Prize-winning novelist Heinrich Böll, the cottage offers fortnightly residencies to writers and artists, providing time and space for you to work. )

(2) The Parting Gift - young woman leaves abusive family.

(3) Walk the Blue Fields - a story of weddings - a young woman's ( with doubts about the future success of this bond) , a priest's with God ( this bond is struggling) , a Chineseman's with healing massage ( the successful bond), and a bond between two of them broken because of another bond - "two people hardly ever want the same thing at any given point in life. It is sometimes the hardest part of being human".

I really liked this story, it is one of those short stories with many layers and much depth that can successfully translate to the big screen, like Proulx's Brokeback Mountain did.

(4) Dark Horses - In the bar in rural Ireland they drown their sorrows and place their bets. It may be Norris who has "drunk two farms" but it is Brady who is the dark horse. He is a man who Leyden, who needs help shoeing his own horses, "didn't think you had it in you" and whose dreams are filled with their presence and their owner "the finest woman (who) ever came around these parts" whom he lost over his drunken behaviour.
Keegan once again masterfully creates ber characters, their lives and situations. Her dialog is spot on.

(5) The Forester's Daughter - Story of a farming family, the Devlins, the father "with his 'three teenagers, the milking and the mortgage", the daughter's heartbreak over a dog, the mother's over how her life turned out. Long buried secrets emerge one evening as the mother tells her neighbours a less than adequately disguised story.
The longest story in this collection it feels well rounded, complete and once again would make a terrific movie drama.

(6) Close to the Water's Edge - This story is not based in Ireland, instead we are with a young man, a student, celebrating his 21st with his mother and her millionaire husband. We know little or the young man other than what happens that evening, we are told his mother's mother's back story but the story leaves so much unsaid, untold. It leaves us readers to decipher both the gaps and the ending. Was this Keegan's intention? There is a poignant motif that is repeated like the tides in the story.
The grandmother who needed her first sight of the sea before settling down yet she "with only an hour to spend (on the coast) , would not get into the water, even though she was a strong river swimmer " because "she had no idea how deep it was" instead "she jumped into the road and stopped (her husband's) car. Then she climbed in and spent the rest of her life with a man who would have gone home without her"
How is his experience swimming in the sea going to effect his life? Will he change his flight and leave? Or will he confront the bigoted millionaire? The story does not tell.

(7) Surrender (after McGahern) The afternote in Keegan's book says this story was inspired by an incident recollected in John McGahern's Memoir concerning his father who sat on a bench in Galway and ate 24 oranges before he married. Keegan transposes this onto a police sergeant .

(8) Night of the Quicken Trees - back to the folk, folklore and superstitions of rural Ireland, this time in a highly comical story of mid-life singleton Margaret Flusk and her bachelor neighbour, whom we only know as Stack. There's the usual child out of wedlock, the fortune teller, the gossips rooted in the place, in the land, steeped in traditional ways , superstitions , faith and its consequences. But there is also a deft comic touch in the language,the dialog and scenes. Josephine the goat "who had the run of the house" is just hilarious. It is a mixture of the mundane aspects of life, the dreams fired by folklore, and all the way things can pivot, whether that is between love and faith, between hope and despair, between healing and hatred. All perhaps with Josephine having the last laugh. What a way to end a collection. Brilliant.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Book Review: Chess Story (alt title is The Royal Game) by Stefan Zweig

Chess Story

Chess Story by Stefan Zweig
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not a writer that was known to me and I've forgotten how it got onto my TBR list.
The narrator is aboard a passenger ship heading to Buenos Aires when he realises a Chess Champion and child prodigy, Mirko Czentovic, is as well. He organises amateur games with the aim of drawing the champion out of his detachment, and with the aid of a fee paid by a chess loving traveling businessman, he succeeds in doing so. As the passenger lose game after game , another man, Dr B, lends them some advice. This changes their game. This man's back story explains his incarceration by the Gestapo in WW2 and why he now no longer plays himself and why now he is persuaded to take on the champion.
You do not have to understand chess in great detail to enjoy this novel as it is the nature of the game and the psychological aspects of gameplay that are critical as Dr B's madness boils up until he has to withdraw from the game.

View all my reviews

Thursday 23 November 2023

Devastating beauty by Sheila Ash


Hidden seeds flowered by desert rains
Memories of you watered by grief
Both flower with devastating beauty.

© Sheila Ash 2023
RIP N (25-10-2023)

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Audio Book Review: The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudesley by Sean Lusk

The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudesley The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudesley by Sean Lusk
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a first novel and as such was quite impressive. Historical setting, tinges of steampunk - clockmakers, spies, incarceration in a Sultans palace, a son's search for his father, Dickens like characters - Mrs Morley was excellent and very well characterized and read on the audio by actress Clare Corbett ( , Tom Spurrell, clockmakers assistant extraordinaire, with the male characters by Bert Seymour ( . I thought the story well crafted. An enjoyable read. Will be keeping an eye open for his next novel.

View all my reviews

Monday 6 November 2023

Ghost Waves by Sheila Ash

Ghost waves

Sea waves seen distant on approach
A choice to be made – run away or dive in?
The waves of grief are but ghosts
Stealth predators, creeping, silent stalkers
Snaring unawares.
They unbalance, deliver tsunamis of memories,
Splinter hearts into a thousand tears,
Then just as suddenly pass.

Always loved, RIP N 25th Oct 2023

© Sheila Ash 4th November 2023


Thursday 2 November 2023

The Beautiful Dawn by Sheila Ash - the rewrite - in memoria for N

I first wrote this in 2018 for the most important person in my life in my life.
Following his death last week, I've revisited it and  tweaked it.
For all our dreams unrealised and for those "beautiful moments" shared.
RIP N ❤️ Always loved, S

The Beautiful Dawn the rewrite  - in memoria for N





Once I dreamt of her, The Beautiful Dawn,
while softly humming James Blunt
and watching you sleep.
white voiles breezing in the open windows
caressing the morning’s silent entrance
the sun stirring as you should be.
coral sands and blue waters calling
the sail is up, the wind astern
outward to the ocean
that endless horizon of dreams
we set sail.

© Sheila Ash, 2 Nov 2023

Note:It is of course a reference to James Blunt song
and the dream of a boat to be called The Beautiful Dawn

"Beautiful dawn,
lights up the shore for me
There is nothing else in this world
I'd rather wake up and see
with you"