Three Haikus

  1. Child of my child, I

scoop you up and hug you, breathe

you in and keep you.

2. Daffodils today;

chuir siad gliondar ar mo chroí,**

glowing, golden bright.

3. A rose, heart-stopping

red, intoxicating scent,

irony of thorns.

** Irish for “they bring joy to my heart”.

A Review of “Keep Your Eyes on Me” by Sam Blake

I love a good thriller and “Keep Your Eyes on Me” doesn’t disappoint. It truly is a page-turner. The premise is based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel – Strangers on a Train, and of course, Hitchcock’s movie of the same name. However, that doesn’t take away from this novel. The two protagonists are women, two very different women, but equally determined to avenge the wrongdoers.

Lily and Vittoria meet in a waiting lounge in an airport and before long they get into conversation, becoming more and more intimate as time passes. Lily tells Vittoria about how her brother, Jack, was taken advantage of in a card game; he has lost the family shop to a man with a suspicious history in the Art business. Why would he want Jack and Lily’s shop? Was he dealing drugs? Laundering money? Or what? And Vittoria – she is tied up in a prenuptial agreement with her unfaithful husband and would do anything to get out of it before she is left with nothing.

Lily is the softer of the two, more worried about her brother than anything. Vittoria is tougher, and it is she who works out the plan of revenge. At this point the reader is fully involved and reading quickly; the tension makes it hard to put it down. You know there is more going on than you’re aware of – something devious at the back of everything but what could it be?

The prose is straightforward, without fluff or padding; the dialogue is terrific; the plot ingenious and the characters believable. And the ending – it’s ambiguous, and all the better for it!

It took me a couple of chapters to get really into this book but apart from that it’s terrific and I am happily giving it 4.5 stars.

10 movies/series as good as, if not better than the books.

  1. Death in Venice – I read the short story, but oh, that wonderful movie!
  2. Gone with the wind – again, unforgettable movie.
  3. The Godfather – I read the book decades of years ago. I couldn’t read it now but the movie is still terrific.
  4. The Forsyte Saga: I have this (in three volumes) three times over the years, but I have to admit that the very first series, with Eric Porter as Soames, was tremendous.
  5. Brideshead Revisited – who could forget that wonderful series, so rich and deep and colourful, every character perfect.
  6. A Room with a View. I have read all of E M Forster’s books, and I have seen the movies but this one in particular is an absolute joy and delight.
  7. Misery. I find it almost impossible to read Stephen King – he’s too much for me – but Misery was a great movie – I’ve never trusted Cathy Bates since!
  8. The Shining – again a great movie. Who could ever forget Jack Nicholson?
  9. The Shawshank Redemption. I think I’ve seen it three times, I’ve only read the short story once.
  10. Brokeback Mountain. When I first read this book, I thought it was the loving-est love story I had ever read and I made everyone I knew read it too. I worried about a movie coming out but it was great, the two guys were marvelous and it looked lovely too.

amazon.com/author/elizabethmerry

twitter @elizabethmerry1

Real Neat Blog Award

I have been nominated by Carll @ The Pine-Scented Chronicles for this award. Here are the rules:

Put the award logo on your blog.

Answer the 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.

Thank the person who nominated you and add a link to their blog.

Nominate any number of people linking to their blogs and let them know you nominated them by commenting on their blogs.

Come up with 7 questions for the people you nominated.

So here are my answers to Carll’s questions:

Tell me more about your blog; what motivated you to start?

Two things: First, I had just published a book myself on Amazon Kindle and wanted to post excerpts from it on a blog. And secondly, I was tired of creative writing and thought I would post some poems I wrote a long time ago, and also write reviews of other books – which I love doing.

What inspires you to keep on blogging or writing?

I’m enjoying the process; I love to comment on other blogs; talking about books and writing is such fun.

Off the blogs you’ve written, which do you like the best?

I think I like best the review of Patrick de Witt’s first novel “Ablutions” because I love the book so much.

What book or movie best depicts your life?

Eugénie Grandet by Honoré de Balzac. She had a very strict father!

How are you coping with lock down?

I hate when all the shops are shut – it reminds me of Sundays long ago.

What three things have I learned during lock down?

I live alone and I love it, and during these days I’m very happy to have an excuse to spend more time alone. I hate wearing a mask – it steams up my glasses. There are two kinds of people – those who follow the social distance rule, and those who won’t.

Give one piece of advice to those who would like to begin a blog of their own.

Have everything clear in your mind; what you want to blog about, how often you want to do it, and learn from those you are following.

Thanks Carll @ The Pine-Scented Chronicles for the nomination, I appreciate it; it’s a real fun thing to do.

My nominees are:

The Travellothoner @ Bombay Ficus

João-Maria @ (CALIATH)

Jan Paul @ J. P. D. T.

Island Traveller @ This Man’s Journey

Sarvagya @ Desproticar

My questions:

  1. How much time to you spend blogging every day or week?
  2. How many bloggers do you follow?
  3. Have you more time to blog during lock down?
  4. Do you have a long list of books to read, music to hear, blogs to write?
  5. Who is your absolute favourite author/musician?
  6. Do you feel under pressure to blog, or write, or review, or read?
  7. Do you really enjoy blogging?

I hope you all enjoy this as much as I did.


“1984” an excerpt . . .

From my dear, old, battered, often read copy of 1984. Read and ponder this paragraph. Can we imagine such a world? No words, no books, no conversation. Dante could have included this scenario in his Inferno! My youngest child was born in 1984 – I didn’t call him Winston.

Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. Already, in the Eleventh Edition, we’re not far from that point. But the process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller. Even now, of course, there’s no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime. It’s merely a question of self-discipline, reality control. But in the end there won’t be any need even for that. The revolution will be complete when the language is perfect. Newspeak is Ingsoc and Insoc is Newspeak . . . Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?”

From “Siblings”

The kitchen was too warm, and it was quiet except for Sarah’s occasional tobacco cough and the rustling of thin white pages. Sarah read quickly, stopping sometimes to laugh silently, her shoulders shaking. A bluebottle buzzed in the heat and flew to the pile of dirt in the corner. Tea-leaves, eggshells, bits of porridge – Sarah no longer noticed them, no more than she noticed the thick oily grime on the shelves and window-sills, or the matted clumps of dust on the floor. Her thin hand stretched from the sticky sleeve of a black cardigan as she read and her skirt, once a pale grey, was patterned with dribbles of tea and porridge.

            The sudden, small noise in the hall made her look up. She waited, listening for her brother’s key, frowning, her eyes searching the floor and the walls and then she rose from the chair. Barney’s pipe lay on the mantle-piece; she stuffed it with tobacco and lit it with the long matches he always used, and after puffing and coughing she opened the door and peered out into the hall.

            The postcard was bright against the dark linoleum. It looked new and neat and strange beside the pile of old newspapers. Sarah’s breathing filled the hall as she smoked faster. She bent awkwardly and picked it up, a picture of mountains and a lake. Her fingers trembled over the address. It was addressed to them all. To Barney and Martin and herself.

            Sarah kept her eye on the door, listening for Barney but the only sound was the bluebottle buzzing in the corner. She sighed deeply, looked to the door, and then read the card but the words made no sense to her. She read them out in a loud whisper.

            “Hello my dear cousins. Just a quick word to say I’ll be back from overseas in a few days and I`d like to call and see you all on the 20th – I`ll be bringing my new wife!! I`ll keep all the news until I see you. Love and hugs, Richard.”

            “Bringing new wife . . . Richard,” Sarah read again. “Oh, what does it mean?”

            And then the front door opened and closed and Sarah subsided into her chair. Barney came in rubbing his hands together, bringing with him a taste of salty air and a whiff of beer and whiskey from the pub.

            “Well then, Sarah,” he said. “Is the porridge ready? What a morning we had, a crowd from the city, you should have seen them, down for some party or other. I never saw people so nice about themselves, looking at the chairs before they sat down, looking at the tables. What do they expect in a public house – polish and perfume? I don’t know what the city pubs must be like. And Charlie hounding me to dry the glasses and bring up crates of beer, more beer every ten minutes.”

amazon.com/author/elizabethmerry

3 Haikus

  1. Blessed, healing rain

soaks into my parched skin and

flushes out all grief.

2. Narrow, stone-walled streets,

palace, church and square resound

with strains of Mahler.

3. My new laptop lives –

it whispers, groans and purrs and

winks its crimson eyes.

From my collection “From There to Here” which I will publish on Amazon Kindle before the end of the year.

A Review of “A Friendship” by William Trevor from the “After Rain” collection

William Trevor often makes me laugh. There are situations in his novel, “The Old Boys” that I remember at odd times and that make me laugh out loud no matter where I am. And this story does the same, but only at the beginning. It’s a thing that William Trevor does – you think the story is about one thing but it turns into something else entirely. The friendship in question is between Francesca, married to pompous Philip and with two sons, and Margy who livens up Francesca’s life with tales of her various love affairs. The two have been friends since childhood but have very little in common. As Trevor says:

“Their common ground was the friendship itself.”

Francesca seems an ethereal creature, tall and blonde, hardly aware of her surroundings, or of what her boys are up to. Margy, however, sees everything, She is small, dark, quick, with a touch of spite, especially where Francesca’s husband is concerned. And this spite is what eventually wrecks the friendship. Philip doesn’t help  himself however; he is known as “bad news” in their dinner circle:

” . . . he displayed little interest in the small-talk that was, increasingly desperately, levelled at him . . . he was not ill at ease; others laboured, never he.”

Margy, on the pretense that it was time she thought about settling down, proposes that they contact their old college friend, Sebastian. But Sebastian had always fancied Francesca, and shortly after they all meet up for lunch, he and Francesca begin an affair. Margy facilitates this by lending them her apartment from time to time.  Philip finds out by accident, a slip in conversation:

“Oh heavens, I’ve said the wrong thing!”

Philip pretends that he and Francesca often meet up with Sebastian. He confronts Francesca, who is contrite and says it wasn’t much. They have a row, clear the air, and decide to continue as before, with one difference:

“‘Drop me?’, Margy said, and Francesca nodded . . . ‘It’s how Philip feels.'”

“On the pavement . . . they stood for a moment in a chill November wind, then moved away in their two different directions.”

This is the body of the story, but it begins with Francesca’s two sons, aged six and eight, pouring wet cement into their father’s new golf bag, complete with new clubs. Even thinking about this makes me laugh. Trevor writes it down in such a matter of fact way, without as much as an exclamation mark.

“Sharing the handle of the bucket, they found they could manage to convey their load . . . they had practised; they knew what they were doing.”

“‘We know nothing about it,’ Jason instructed his brother. ‘Nothing about it,’ Ben obediently repeated.”

Francesca is oblivious; Margy sees it straight away but says nothing and the four sit down to lunch. Ben decides to break the monotonous silence and mentions his teacher:

“‘Miss Martindale’s mother died . . . a man interfered with her.'”

His mother is shocked but Margy is amused.

“Ben said all the girls had cried, that Miss Martindale herself had cried, that her face was creased and funny because actually she’d been crying all night. Margy watched Jason worrying in case his brother went too far.”

And that’s all there is about the boys, except for a sentence to say that when tackled by their angry father they said it was just a joke. But for me, they make the story memorable. I loved the pair of them. Very often children are interesting and exciting and you wonder what will become of them. But generally very little does; they grow up and stop pouring cement into new golf bags.

The writing, as always, is delicious.

“Flasher”

He bent his knees, leaned back

To give a better view

Words gathered in my head

Shaped the story to be told

At his expense

Does this man live alone

In a dingy, broken room?

No friends, no love, no life

A soul full of angry tears –

To shock, the only cure

Did he wake and think –

Yes! It’s been a while

Sniggering over toast

Looking forward to

The glory of exposure

And when I had scurried off

Did he shake with wicked glee?

Or, zipped up and re-arranged

Did he turn away to hide

A sorry, red-eyed face?