I read Owls Do Cry by New Zealander Janet Frame (1924-2004) when I was in my twenties. Not that that is remarkable. What is remarkable is her personal story, which translates into fiction through much of her work, and this novel is no exception. The setting is the coastal town of Oamaru where the ‘Withers’ family face many hardships, including money problems, mental health issues, a disabled child, death, and grief. It is a profound book, touching and disturbing, for when Frame writes about ‘Daphne’s’ experiences in psychiatric hospitals, she is speaking of herself. There are passages which float between the lucid and the wild but Janet Frames’ writing carries the reader into these worlds using unique and brilliant prose. Continue reading →
This was the question friends asked when I mentioned I was going there. And now since visiting, I can answer this question more definitively for them. Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia. Any the wiser? I thought not, because until recent times it made up one of the two states of Czechoslovakia, and only in 1993 did Bratislava become the capital of the newly formed Slovak Republic, with the Czech Republic being the other part of that change. So? Where is it? Continue reading →
I have already mentioned how much I enjoyed Madeleine Thien’s book Do Not Say We Have Nothing (see post 29 July) but what it stirred in me was not just the plight of its characters and the awful choices they had to make, but the strength of the love which bound people together despite their dire circumstances. It reminded me of a novel that someone I know intimately wrote a few years ago, but left untouched, as she struggled to think of a way to correct the structure. Continue reading →
‘Do Not Say We Have Nothing’ is not a title supported by my new bookends, sadly enough, but it was on loan from my book group. The author of this moving novel is Canadian Madeleine Thien, and I am pleased that I was given the opportunity to read her work.
I have been writing a story for sometime now about my father, John Frederick Lingard Fowlds, who died when I was a teen. He never got to know how I, or my brothers and sister turned out as adults, or ever got to meet any of our children, and grandchildren. I began writing his story, fictionalised to some degree, to give the wider family some idea of what kind of person he was. Writing about him has been relatively easy, as he was a funny, warm and loveable man. Very artistic too. The hard part is the loss I still feel for him after so long, and maybe the reason I am taking so long to write his story, is that I don’t wish to lose him again. Continue reading →
It is always interesting how one idea can trigger off others, and writing about travel diaries got me to thinking about the major unfinished travelogue of mine, which is idling on my computer. I have salved my conscience a little, by uplifting some passages from the longer story and posting them in various blogs. This post is adding to that list, and shall focus on a single day in Villefranche-sur-mer and a fleeting look at some of its art.
I met Jennifer Beck while tutoring illustration classes some time back, and had long admired her writing for children. When I noticed her latest book in my local bookshop I picked it up, admiring the pencil and watercolour sketch by Robyn Belton on the cover. The Anzac Violin tells the real story of New Zealander Alexander Aitken and the part a violin plays during his time as a soldier in the first world war. Continue reading →
The day I posted my last blog, my cat Ninja, as if thinking my Japanese ceramic horse and the Chinese Warrior replica were taking precedence in my affections, managed to break both within a few minutes of each other. He was up on the bookcase and decided to push a glass paperweight off the side (rather like a baby throws a rattle from its cot). Unfortunately, my warrior bore the brunt of this act, with one hand being severed by the heavy glass ball. “I can fix it,” my husband said, “it’s a clean enough break.” Continue reading →
While researching for my last post, I opened a file I had not touched in a while. It contained several drafts and assignments for a travel writing paper I had completed through a New Zealand university. I opened each in turn, quite pleased at the diligent student I had been. But something intrigued me about one assignment in particular.
I was scrolling through a number of essays I hadn’t looked at for a while and came across this one, which I wrote after visiting my elderly mother a few years before her death. This is not a series of amusing anecdotes, no embellishments of a personality, or extolling of one’s virtues; just a story of a daughter visiting her mother and the impact of becoming a stranger to the woman who had given her life. Continue reading →