Allegory or Myth?

A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is a story to stimulate memories. It has a complex plot with an edge of fantasy, possibly myth, or maybe allegory? For this reader it was deeply personal narrative. While reading A Year of Marvellous Ways, my own dreams became more lucid and drew me into another realm. In this way Sarah Winman has drawn me back into the creativity that has deserted me over the years. I am grateful for this.

I understand that this is not the book for many readers. Perhaps we need to be in a certain frame of mind to enter into Marvellous Ways’ world?




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Allegory or Myth?

Coming of Age

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is not really a review so much as a reflection.

Following on from the Neapolitan novels, Elena Ferrante’s insights into dysfunctional family life turns my understanding upside down.

I still have to process this story to be able to write about it coherently.



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Coming of Age

Road Trip Memories

This morning, when I saw the ocean, I remembered how excited we used to be to see the sea – the Indian Ocean. The long, long drive of over 2,600kms (1,600 miles) from the farm in Zimbabwe, south to Fish Hoek near Cape Town. Some years there were four children in the back seat. My mother would be in the front next to my father who did all the driving. This meant the car was quite squashy. Sometimes one of us was allowed to sit in front. The journey took three or four days because, not only was it a long journey, but not all the roads were sealed.

The first overnight stop would be in Louis Trichardt (now called Makhado), not far from Beit Bridge – the border between Zimbabwe and South Africa. I can’t really remember the other stops, although we usually stayed in the same places each trip. I do remember Parys because, apparently, that is where I managed to push over a massive wardrobe looking for Father Christmas. The crash was heard throughout the old hotel. Of course, my parents came running. Thinking I was in, or under, the wardrobe, they struggled to lift it. I was hiding under the bed knowing I was in deep trouble. Fortunately, I’ve forgotten what happened next, I was only about five years old.

If he could, Dad would bypass Johannesburg but would stop in to see friends in Pretoria.

Once we were in the Western Cape, past the surreal landscapes in the Karoo, we would start to recognise the landmarks. The countdown had begun. The Hex River Pass; De Doorns in the Valley of the Vines (do you remember the book by Joy Packer?) then Paarl, named for the huge pearl-shaped rock above the town, meant we were not far off. We were never allowed to climb around on Paarl Rock. There was the sad story of a young boy who slipped down in one of the fissures in the rock and could not be saved. How true it is I don’t know.

Coming from a landlocked country, the ocean was the most wonderful thing for us. The first view was cause for much shouting! “I saw the sea first!” But it was usually Mum or Dad who saw it first.

All my life I wanted to live within sight or sound of the sea and now I do. Yes, still the Indian Ocean but on the Australian side. I live walking distance to the beach and can hear the breaking waves when the wind is in the right direction.

where I live now.

Road Trip Memories

Ring neck parrots

Ring neck parrots are also called‘twenty eights’ because their excited call sounds like ‘vingt-huit’ – French for 28. I don’t think it does, but then again what do I know.

The first time I saw one of these birds we had just crossed the Nullarbor from East to West in our little blue Ford Laser. The hatchback loaded up with all our worldly goods. The stuff you carry when you migrate between countries for whatever reason.

“Stop the car!” I yelled out when I spotted the parrot. Roland was concerned, “What’s the matter?” “That bird, sitting by the side of the road, it’s emerald green.” And so they are! Bright green. I still, after all these years, get a thrill when I see them, even when a flock of them decimate the apricots on our tree.

That was a random thought that occurred today.

Ring neck parrots

Review: Scratched: A Memoir of Perfectionism

Scratched: A Memoir of PerfectionismScratched: A Memoir of Perfectionism by Elizabeth Tallent

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To be honest, I did not want to read this book and I did not want to write this review. However … it was the last book I had to read while our library was closed (due to Covid 19). I did start a few times before I buckled down and read the whole book.

In Scratched, Elizabeth Tallent has exposed herself with such intimacy and candour it is difficult to read more than a few pages at a time. There is complexity in the autobiography that makes for demanding reading. Occasionally, I found myself asking, ‘who was she married to then?’ or, ‘when did her mother allow her back into the family?’ Things like that. Yes, her story advances but in a turned way – linear it is not! So, my usual (bad) habit of reading a book backwards didn’t work at all.

In the event, I had a clear view of Elizabeth Tallent: her physical appearance, her complete desire for perfectionism – to the detriment of her happiness for much of her life, and that she sees as ‘home’. Her personal narrative of depression made me weep. Her experience of psychoanalysis, and how she bares her soul right there.

I discover, on finishing the book, that, if I could write like her I would write a lot more than I do.

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Review: Scratched: A Memoir of Perfectionism

Review: The Offing by Benjamin Myers

The OffingThe Offing by Benjamin Myers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At first I thought there were echoes of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts. In fact it is nothing like Fermor’s book. Benjamin Myers uses copious amounts of adjectives and likes to show off his expansive vocabulary. Sometimes the writing verges on purple prose, “It was a dark and stormy night …” and this nearly put me off reading past the first few chapters. Nevertheless, I persisted and I’m glad I did.

This story of a young man from the coal mining town of Durham is a gentle read. Robert sets out on his travels and finds that post-war England is more than the grimy, soot covered home he’s always known.

My call is that this is a good book to read on holiday.

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Review: The Offing by Benjamin Myers

I don’t remember

I don’t remember hitting Graham on the head with a Marmite bottle when I was two; but he remembers.

I don’t remember learning to write and I don’t remember how I felt when I first went to school in Waterfalls.

I don’t remember when I first started on a spiritual path and I don’t remember what set me off.

I don’t remember when I decided to become a student at university – when I was 48.

I don’t remember the name of the tree behind the garage at the Big House.

There is something else I don’t remember but I’ve forgotten what it is, so it couldn’t have been very important. I wonder if I ever will remember?

I don’t remember when I decided I enjoyed writing. I don’t remember when I realised that I could write and that some other people liked to read what I’d written.

Not remembering is different from forgetting.

I don’t remember

A New Start

Well, here’s a turn up for the books. I’ve started blogging again – thanks to my friend Allison whose blog is a constant inspiration to me.

The latest book I’ve read, Perfect Motion: How Walking Makes Us Wiser. by Jono Lineen. Review to follow.

One thing I do know is that I will have to update MSWord sooner or later. I keep getting reminded that mine is out of date. They’re always thinking of ways to do something new, and being on a Mac, I will have to buy the new edition.

This has been a cold winter. I don’t know if it is because I’m getting older but the winters seem to be getting colder. Here is a photo of the winter ocean at Falcon Bay. I think it looks like molten lead. Mind you, today was a beautiful day and I was able to soak up the sunlight.

IMG_8097.jpg

A New Start

The Fast 800 by Michael Mosley

The Fast 800: Australian and New Zealand editionThe Fast 800: Australian and New Zealand edition by Michael Mosley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent and informative.

Dr Michael Mosley is a motivated and professional health practitioner. In this book he draws on scientific research to support dietary suggestions for those with diabetes mellitus. Therefore, the underlying trope is to improve health for those who have tried many other means of solving this and other health problems. His own experience with Type 2 diabetes (and pre-diabetes) set him on the path to discover ways to improve the prognosis. On the way, he uncovers some interesting (and innovative) science regarding dementia, PCOS, hypertension, and other diseases so prevalent in the industrial world and modern society.

Mosley’s writing is informal but every claim he makes is backed up by real science.

The recipe section is comprehensive with some illustrations to show the reader what “800 calories” looks like on the plate.

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The Fast 800 by Michael Mosley

Review: Saga Land, the island of stories at the edge of the world by Richard Fidler & Káre Gíslason

Saga LandSaga Land by Richard Fidler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story of Káre Gíslason’s search for identity segues with the Viking sagas of Iceland. Instead of the vicious and horrifying physical violence that underpins the Viking culture, Gíslason’s personal saga is psychological. The impact of his father’s denial of him as his son haunts him. Richard Fidler accompanies Gíslason to Iceland, and motivates him to take steps to ascertain his Icelandic identity.

The Icelandic sagas are there, told in the context of the places the authors visited. I found the quantity of characters and their names confusing. I had to resort to keeping a list. Many of the names are similar, many starting with ‘Thor’ as in Thórd Sturluson, Thórdís Snorradóttir, Thorfinn, Thorgerd, Thorgrim, and so on and so forth. There is a list at the beginning of the book that is helpful.

My main issue with this book are the black and white illustrations. Really, they could be omitted without disadvantaging the book in any way. Imagine, if you will, the blurred CCTV pictures of hooded criminals with the Police caption, “Have you seen this person?” Well, that is the quality of most of the black and white photos in the book. Pathetic. The colour plates are reasonable but I’m not sure what they pertain to – thereby irrelevant.

I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.

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Review: Saga Land, the island of stories at the edge of the world by Richard Fidler & Káre Gíslason