Learn as much by writing as by reading.
“Instruments of Darkness” depicts an interesting historical time around the 1770s. Although the main plot plays out in England, there are shapshots of the American war of independence and life at sea around the world. Old noble families with old money are crumbling morally and financially in comparison to new industrial gentiles, who buy into manor houses. Secrets are hidden under the surface and while some wish to let them lie, others search to uncover the truth especially when an unknown man and a nurse are murdered.
These others are Harriet Westerman, nouveau riche, who runs the Caveley estate while her husband is at sea and Crowther, natural scientist, who only partakes on Harriet’s insistency and carries secrets of his own. They fight a tough battle against suppressed truths and general contentions that inquisitiveness is not in the interest of society.
“Instruments of Darkness” was a great read – excellent story, good characters, and both enough details to make it interesting and enough pace to keep the pages turning, but I doubt the book will stay with me long. I find myself comparing “Instruments of Darkness” to “The Alchemy of Murder” by Carol McCleary and McCleary’s book just has more oomph. That said, I still recommend “Instruments of Darkness” to reader, who enjoy historical fiction and crime novels.
Kathy Hepinstall is an author, I will keep an eye on. In “Blue Asylum” she has written an original story, but it is her language and narrative style that raises her above so many other talented authors. Hepinstall masters the fine art of writing by omission. She leaves the readers hooked by not confiding all the characters’ secrets, but carefully hints at them, making them snippets of truth for the reader to play with in their mind. Furthermore, she relishes the moments building up to a pivotal moment and than omits the scenes, we as readers have read thousands of times before. The result is a masterpiece about shattered minds and shattering beliefs in a time shattered by a grusome war.
The plantation wife Iris Dunleavy is placed at the Sanibel Asylum after being judged mad by a court of law. She arrives at the backwards paradisiacal island outside the reach of the raging Civil War to be treated by Dr. Cowell. Other prominent characters are Ambrose Weller, a soldier broken by his actions in the war, and Dr. Cowell’s son, Wendell, who grows up amidst lunatics and the fierce natural surroundings. All four, and the rest of the motley of characters, have their conflicts with insanity versus sanity, secrets, truth, and freedom. These themes transcend the novel’s front and back covers into the lives of the readers. The questions, the characters ask of themselves are as relevant today as during the Civil War.
In fine, I have to say, I adore the ending of the “Blue Asylum”. There are no playing violins here nor glorious riding into the sunset, but a retreat to a place of sanctuary in order to let the experiences of “Blue Asylum” crystalize and become a new strength. I recommend “Blue Asylum” to readers of historical fiction and to those who enjoy the rare literary gems, whose brilliance surpasses all the shiny and pretty stones on a beach.
Life definitely has its twists and turns or as someone once said, life is one damn thing after the other and my life is pretty topsy-turvy at the moment. By ‘at the moment’ I really mean for quite some time, beginning with the choice to have a child alone and my son is now almost two years old. The funny thing is that one choice leads to other choices and before long I find myself in a completely different world than before.
As I write these words, I am in the middle of my three hour commute to work with the sun rising over the fields in lovely pastels and me on the train zooming by. I begun a new job at the art museum Ordrupgaard, which specializes in French impressionism. I am currently living in my childhood home, which embodies comfort and support, but I am looking for a new home closer to work. You would think that a long, long commute would give me oceans of reading time – I thought so, but in reality I spend most of the commute searching on line for possible homes or simply zoning out. Regardless, reading and this blog are my refuge during busy days and major life changes.
Changes can feel like bombs, leaving you shell-shocked and stricken, but what surprises and comforts me is that the development of change I am going through feels good. Sure, there are sleepless nights where panic creeps in, but on the whole I feel pretty calm about quitting my job in Greenland, moving to Denmark, facing unemployment – albeit luckily only shortly, getting a new job, buying a car, and now looking for a new home. I hope your life changes feel the same way.
En listig lille bog med underoverskriften: en opbyggelig fortælling for de små, men “Lille Duduk og Store Godok” er ikke så uskyldigt, som en bog, hvor fortælleren er John Silvers papegøje, lyder. Dog finder jeg heller ikke, at fortællingen giver alt religiøst en overhaling, som bagside kommentaren får det til at lyde. Jeg vil snarere beskrive “Lille Duduk og Store Godok” som en eventyrlig fortælling, hvor mødet med troende mennesker og en spøgse Mr. Solong spiller en væsentlig rolle for papegøjen, der her i historien kalder dig Duduk.
Store Godok eller som jeg læste det God-OK er Gud eller i hvert fald en gud, som almægtighed ikke kan eller må betvivles. Med andre ord en sandhed så stor og ikke mindst magtfuld, at der ikke må stilles spørgsmål ved han. Scener, hvor Godok nævnes, minder mig om Inkvisitionens storhedstid. Som pendant hertil er Mr. Solong, der i væremåde og spydige tale minder mig om Mr. Mephistopheles.
“Lille Duduk og Store Godok” har mange tråde til kendte eventyr og Duduks udvikling kan på sin vis beskrives som en omvendt grim ælling. Duduk begynder som farverig papegøje men finder ud af, at han faktisk blot er en sort krage, der så at sige må lande på jorden igen og finde sin plads her.
En børnebog er “Lille Duduk og Store Godok” ikke, men jeg kunne egentlig godt tænke mig at dele bogen med en 10-12 årig og høre, hvad han ville få ud af den. Til voksne vil jeg sige, at det er nemt at læse denne bog for hurtigt og derved miste nogle af Nordbrandts perler.
“So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloudshadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
By now my readers should not be surprised by a review of yet another Alice Hoffman novel, but “Local Girls” is not the center of Hoffman’s authorship. Here she is more socially conscientious than I prefer for the “everyday’s magic” author. “Local Girls” is a series of titled chapters about Gretel and the people in her immediate circle. I have read other reviews, wherein the book is characterised as a collection of short stories, but I read it as a novel.
Writing about reviews, other reviews (I realize that is a very generic term) are less than enthusiastic about “Local Girls”, but one of the features I liked in this book is the way, Hoffman writes around the central character of Gretel and the themes that in different ways influence the different characters.
Responsibility is one of the central themes in my opinion. Gretel dreams of leaving the suburbian hell of Franconia but stays to take care of her cancer-sick mother. The mother shirks responsibility for her kids, caving in to cancer, but her cousin and best friend wakes her and starts a catering business. Gretel’s friend, Jill, drops out of high school when she is pregnant and marries the less than bright father. Gretel’s brother abandons a Harvard future to work at a local grocery store and self-destruct with drugs. All the characters have to come to terms with their responsibilities.
A constant feature in Hoffman’s novels is the immanent belief that life holds the characters in its hand and will not let go. Long live Rilke’s ” Letters to a Young Poet”! This feature is one of my favorites in Hoffman’s authorship and it is noticeable in “Local Girls”. Not every character rides into the sunset and there is no grand the end, but quiet optimism shines over Gretel and Jill as they agree that they survived life so far.
I recommend “Local Girls” to readers who enjoy dramatic fiction and social realism.