Saturday, May 19, 2018


Ian Rankin. WATCHMAN. Orion, 1988/2004.

A very early Rankin without Rebus. Miles Flint is a watchcman, a spy for MI5 whose main work is surveillance. He is pulled off a botched assignment, redirected to Belfast where he evades an ordered assassination, and returns to London then Edinburgh to root out the bad guys. Not as interesting a character as Rebus. Nor do I find spy capers very interesting. Without proper supervision, the worst of humanity seems to surface. An interesting picture of Great Britain during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. 

cover image of reeds in water

Friday, May 11, 2018


Mary Oliver. BLUE HORSES. Penguin, 2014.

OMG this is beautiful. I just want to find someone, a group, and be allowed to read these poems aloud to them. Sigh. 

cover of Mary Oliver's Blue Horses the Franz Marc painting

And I paid New price for it (very unusual for me to do that). And I chose it from several other Mary Oliver titles. It was the cover image I could not resist, and the poem about the painter and his blue horses is equally beautiful: "I would rather die than try to explain to the blue horses what war is."  The volume seemed to be calling to me, longing to be included in the CNF piece about horses I was working on at the time. "Bearing the Brunt."

Mary Oliver knows and writes about mindfulness and choosing to see and celebrate the miracles which surround us.


Michael Crummey. The Wreckage. Anchor, 2006.

May 2018 selection for the Hawthorne Book Club. A novel of Newfoundland and WWII. 

cover image of The Wreckage showing soldier kissing a girl

The Wreckage by Michael Crummey is a novel of Newfoundland and World War II. It opens in the Pacific, with a Japanese soldier with a Canadian connection promoted to work in a POW camp.

The main plot line involves a young couple, Wish and Sadie, who meet and are attracted to each other in an island outport. Religious prejudice is one of the problems keeping them apart. Wish, thinking he has killed Sadie’s brother Hardy, runs away to Halifax and enlists. Gets to Singapore. Is captured and sent to the POW camp where the Canadian-Japanese guard tortures him and his friends. 

In the meantime, Sadie escapes the island and moves to St. John’s, looking for and then waiting for Wish. With nothing heard in over three years, she gives in to her American suitor and, pregnant, moves with him to the States where they marry and raise a family. Fifty years later Sadie returns to St. John’s with Johnny’s ashes and she and Wish re-connect.

We had an interesting discussion centering around: writer bio; writing style where emotions are concerned; character motivation; links between settings in space and time and between the stories of various characters (use of post-modern writing techniques); and the issue of “sadistic arousal” which is crucial to Wish’s self-image and decisions. Readers agreed that they would read more Michael Crummey.

Monday, May 7, 2018


Terese Marie Mailhot. Heart Berries: A Memoir. Doubleday, 2018.

Love this memoir by American Indian writer Terese Marie Mailhot, formerly of Seabird Island Band, Agassiz, BC. Heart Berries is a memoir about mental health, emotional and relationship challenges, complicated by race and culture and artistic/writer gifts. It is about parenting skills, and about repressed memory. If this were my daughter’s story, I’d be counselling her not to waste herself on undeserving men. Because most of us have been there, done that, and, hopefully, survived to tell the tale. What elevates Mailhot’s tale is the addition of the cultural wisdoms braided with Catholic symbolism, and the wonder that someone ill is still able to see and record the anguish as she lives it.

PS I forgot to mention. The part of this book which is about co-dependence and female martyrdom reminded me a lot of Elizabeth Smart's novel By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept.


May 1, 2018

Keane, Mary. PATTERNS of  VISION and EXPERIENCE: An Art Concealed in the Poems of Thomas Hardy. MA Thesis. Dalhousie, 1972.

A close reading of the poetry of Thomas Hardy focussing on techniques and intentions. Inspired me to make a blog of my Hardy photos, from two visits to Dorset. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018


Ian Rankin. MORTAL CAUSES: An Inspector Rebus Novel. Orion, 1994.

It's at least five years before the Good Friday Peace Agreement in Northern Ireland. Around the fringes of Edinburgh's Fringe Festival, sectarian criminals are stockpiling weapons in Scotland to arm for the anticipated civil war. Big Ger Cafferty has escaped from prison. Rebus is still living with Dr. Patience and still driving his old car. I still love Rebus.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The GUYND: A Scottish Journal

The GUYND: A Scottish Journal. Belinda Rathbone. Norton, 2005.

I chose this memoir at a local library book sale for several reasons:  

  1. I've been reading widely in memoir as background for my current CNF-in-progress; 
  2. I love reading about Scotland (Ian Rankin, Alan Cumming) and this story sounded a bit like Monarch of the Glen; it is about marrying a Scottish laird some fifteen years her senior and moving into his crumbling mansion north of Edinburgh.
  3. I love houses and interior design (decorating); 
  4. I'm curious about why/how couples get together; 
  5. I'm curious about cross-cultural interactions (here, American vs Scots; female vs. male); 
  6. I'm curious about how/why relationships end.
cover The Guynd

I would say that my curiosity was satisfied with 5 of 6 of the above. As for the relationship ending, the reader is left to infer, which is probably sore subtle, more respectful of the other parent of your child, and not really part of the story. Enough said that it seems inevitable, and it involves awakening self-awareness on the part of the narrator. 

I certainly enjoyed the story, partly, no doubt, because it confirms my belief that renovations/restoration projects are always fatal. 


Ian Rankin. WATCHMAN . Orion, 1988/2004. A very early Rankin without Rebus. Miles Flint is a watchcman, a spy for MI5 whose main work is ...