#SilentSunday ‘Back to the Keyboard!’ #Haiku #amwriting

Back to the keyboard,

After plotting and planning,

One word at a time.

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After over a year writing and rewriting various drafts of The Ghost Wife, I still wasn’t satisfied, so I stopped to plot and plan, all over again, from the beginning.

I Stared from scratch, back to basics, with main character arcs, secondary character profiles, scenes, sequels, and three-act structure.

No more excuses!

It’s time to write!

Happy Sunday!

#TuesdayBookBlog ‘The Dutch House’ by Ann Patchett @ParnassusBooks1 #BookReview #Audiobook by @TomHanks

The Dutch House: A Novel by [Patchett, Ann]

I am ashamed to say that this is the first novel I’ve read by Anne Patchett, and I’m so glad I read it. I was so impressed that I read her most famous novel Commonwealth, straight after, and I enjoyed it even more, but more about that another week.

The Dutch House (from the blurb).

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. The story is told by Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakeable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

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Ann Patchett

ANN PATCHETT is the author of seven novels and has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including England’s Orange Prize, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the American Bookseller’s Association’s Most Engaging Author Award, and the Women’s National Book Association’s Award. Her books have been both New York Times Notable Books and New York Times bestsellers. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages.

In November, 2011, she opened Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, with her business partner Karen Hayes.  She has since become a spokesperson for independent booksellers, championing books and bookstores. In 2012 she was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

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My Review

The Dutch House is such an emotional novel that I had to wipe away some tears as I listened to the last lines.

It’s hard to describe the beauty of the story and the smoothness of the prose, in a novel where nothing exceptional happens and yet so many extraordinary things take place over three generations.

Danny, the narrator, is an honest and endearing character. We first meet him as a child trying to understand the world and the contradictory adults in his family. As he grows up, he becomes a generous and reliable narrator who tells every character’s story with insight and empathy.

Danny chronicles a tragedy about dysfunctional families, including deficient parenting and the destructive power of jealousy leading to cruelty bordering on abuse, and yet it’s also an uplifting tale of love, forgiveness, and goodness.

Nothing is repaired, because the past can’t be changed, and yet everything works out, because life’s like that; it’s a cycle, so, in a way, we are always going back and revisiting the past, occasionally, as in this case, with some improvement.

A warning, the beginning is slow, but it’s well worth persevering, and if you can, listen to Tom Hanks magnificent reading. Unforgettable.

A must read for anyone who enjoys family sagas set in 20th century USA, and for those who believe in the healing power of forgiveness.

*****

More reviews by Luccia here!

#WorldMentalHeathDay Prevention and Support #Joker

World Mental Health Day is observed on 10th October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. This year the focus is on suicide prevention, there’s more information and videos for classroom use on the topic here

Firstly, I’d like to remind everyone to take the time to listen and spare a kind or encouraging word to those we interact with every day, especially if they look as if they need it,  because we all need a smile, a hug, or a supportive word.

Secondly I’d like to share with you my reflections after watching the film, Joker, earlier this week. I wasn’t planning on seeing the movie because I had heard that it was too violent and disappointing, not only by US critics, but also in the UK, where a recent Guardian review describes it as ‘the most disappointing film of the year’. Fortunately, one of my best friends, Elena, convinced me to go with her, and I’m so glad I did!

Joker does include violent scenes, although they are not more graphic than most action movies or video games kids play, and they are not just thrown in for effect, they are embeded in the story line.

It is also dark, because it portrays a heartless and cruel society, and distressing because it proposes no explcit solution to the subsequent violence, and foreshadows an increase in madness and bloodshed.

On the other hand it does accomplish a positive goal, and that is creating empathy with the main character’s life and circumstances. I want to make it clear at this point that I am in no way condoning or justifying Arthur’s behaviour. There is no justification for such extreme violence.

Some may think encouraging empathy is not a positive or necessary goal, that there is nothing to be understood, because the mentally ill should be locked away to protect the rest of the population, but that is neither a long term nor an ethical solution.

There are two solutions implicitly hinted at throughout the film.

In the first place prevention and in the second place adequate, professional and pharamcological support for those who need it.

Arthur was an illegitimate son, born to an unstable mother, herself having been in institutions, while he was physically and mentally abused by step-fathers, rejected by his biological father, ignored by social services, dismissed by mental health services, laughed at by colleagues, ridiculed by passers by and attacked by bullies and gangs.

I kept thinking that so much could and should have been done to prevent the escalation of the decline in his physical and mental health. I am convinced he would have been a different person if he had had better parenting, education and social and mental care.

Whatever you believe, the film certainly encourages debate and analysis of how societies could imrpove mental health issues and social welfare, and that in itself is an invaluable benefit.

Other reasons to watch Joker are, great acting, directing and photography, a moving and action packed story, and a fabulous soundtrack. Here’s my favourite song taken from the staircase scene towards the end of the film.

Here’s the complete playlist on Spotify

There are plenty of great songs such as, Send in the clowns, That’s Life, Put on a Happy Face, Stormy Weather, White Room, Smile, and many more.

Have you seen Joker? What did you think?

Are you planning on seeing it? Why or why not?

#TuesdayBookBlog ‘Half a World Away’ by @MikeGayle #BookReview

Today an uplifting and complex novel about disfunctional families, birth and adopted parents, and the emotional ties that bind siblings.

Half a World Away: The stunningly heartfelt new novel from the bestselling author of The Man I Think I Know by [Gayle, Mike]

Blurb

Strangers living worlds apart.
Strangers with nothing in common.

But it wasn’t always that way…

Kerry Hayes is a single mum, living on a tough south London estate. She provides for her son by cleaning houses she could never hope to afford. Taken into care as a child, Kerry cannot ever forget her past.

Noah Martineau is a successful barrister with a beautiful wife, daughter and home in fashionable Primrose Hill. Adopted as a child, Noah always looks forward, never back.

When Kerry reaches out to the sibling she lost on the day they were torn apart as children, she sets in motion a chain of events that will have life-changing consequences for them both.

Mike Gayle

My Review

Half a World Away is a touching story about a brother and a sister (same mother different father) separated at a young age and taken into the foster system.

Years later, when they meet again as adults, under complex personal circumstances, their lives have taken drastically different directions, but the biological and emotional connection remains. Their bond as sibings is undenieable and strong enough to see them through a devasting crisis.

The main characters have birth, foster and adopted parents, and yet the birth parents were the least supportive. It made me think about the nature versus nurture debate, and whether our DNA has anything to do with who we will become, as opposed to our life experiences and the affection of those who love us in spite of not sharing any biological factors.

The novel will make readers laugh, smile and cry. A moving and uplifting read. Set in the streets of London, which is always a treat.

More reviews by Luccia here! 

 

#TuesdayBookBlog ‘My Life as a Rat’ by @JoyceCarolOates #BookReview

My Life as a Rat: A Novel by [Oates, Joyce Carol]

I’m a bit behind with my reviews. I’ll be catching up gradually. Today, I’m starting with the last book I’ve read, which is My Life as a Rat by Joyce Carol Oates.

I am ashamed to admit that although I have read some of her poems and posted about one of them here, I had never read any novels by this author. Then a few weeks ago, I read an interview with the author about her new novel, in the Guardian, and my interest was peaked, but when I read the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, I was almost put off. I say almost, because I’m an avid reader, reviewer and writer, and I know how subjective most reviews are.

Some of the negative terms which appeared were, too long, repetitive, slow, disappointed, disorganised, violence, abuse, disturbing. That made me realise it would not be an easy book to read, but I decided I was up for the challenge.

I started reading the book on my Scribd subscription last Friday, and I couldn’t stop until I finished it on Sunday night. It’s hard to introduce other readers to such a brilliant book in a few hundred words, but I’m going to do my best.

Joyce Carol Oates

My Life as a Rat is a heart-rending novel which deals with topics such as, abuse, domestic violence, ignorance, racism and gender inequality.

It presents these topics honestly and brutally, so much so that some people may feel uncomfortable, or even disgusted. Well this isn’t a light romance, this is a raw and harrowing view of a segment of the population. Extrapolating Violet’s town, family and life to every woman in the world would be absurd, even though Violet is not the only girl who has lived or lives so close to so many ignorant and/or evil people.

In spite of everything Violet experiences, I find the novel hopeful because the reader is led to believe there is an implicit answer to the senseless violence, lack of love, gender inequality, racism and ignorance, and that’s Violet’s attitude to adversity: learn the lesson, get up and move on! That is to say she persevers, she tries to do the right thing, she actively searches for a better education, she wishes to accept her responsibility in events, forgive herself and others and repair whatever she can, and especially, she never loses the ability to keep reaching for her dreams.

Violet is a wonderful character who never gives up, she’s bigger than the events she overcomes, because she’s able to move on, keep loving and forgiving, and I think she stands a good chance of finding happiness, perhaps, one day…

A must read for anyone who wants to understand what’s wrong with our society and how we can find ways to heal and be reconciled.

*****

Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction Challenge #99Words #SixSentenceStory ‘Sorrowful Interlude’

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Sorrowful Interlude

Ruby welcomed her unfailing, weekly customer, handing him his usual two dozen daisies. Ralf nodded, smiled and limped towards the cemetery, carrying a cane and their favourite flowers.

He shook his head, reading the familiar inscriptions; Jane, beloved daughter of Ralf and Ada Grimmer, 10th August 1980 – 23rd September, 1999, and Ada, beloved wife and mother, 5th May 1950 – 23rd September, 1999.

He arranged the flowers, knelt and told them about his week, before saying his usual farewell, “Goodbye for today.”

Ralf refused to believe their separation was definite. “We’ll meet again soon, after this sorrowful interlude,” he whispered.

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Sorry it’s a little sad, but that’s where the two prompts took me.

Ralf refuses to believe that death is anything but a brief, albeit sorrowful interlude, between this world and the next.

We’re all certainly going in the same direction. Nobody leaves this Earth without dying first, whether we meet again is an option which some refuse to believe and others refuse to deny…

I’m taking part in the Carrot Ranch weekly challenge with ‘Interlude’. I’m afraid it’s been a while since I took part in this challenge, so this post is the end of that interlude!

I’m also taking part in the weekly ‘Six sentence story‘, with this week’s word prompt, ‘regret’. It’s my first time taking part, I think.

The two words merged as Ralf’s story popped into my mind. My mind’s elusive and impulsive creativity will never cease to amaze me!

Hope you’re having a creative Monday!