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Posts from the ‘fiction’ Category


#Ireland David Park

Shortlisted books:  read 1/5



  1. Tom, the narrator, is travelling from Belfast to Sunderland in
  2. heavy snow to collect his son from
  3. Sunderland university for the Christmas holidays.
  4. It proves to be a very emotional journey.



  1. Weak point: David Park is trying too hard…..
  2. Park’s writing is interesting, but a bit belabored.
  3. There are more words and images
  4. ….there than you really need to make the point.
  5. Example: “Ice-up car the words have nowhere
  6. to go and so they hang until frozen in silence”.
  7. Weak point:  the backstories felt like a chunk of events
  8. the author is simply trying to get out the way.
  9. Flashback scenes, dream sequences or piece of dialogue
  10. were dishwater gray…..recap information
  11. purely for the reader’s benefit…did not add tension to the story.
  12. The gimmick of a child asking father silly riddles got on my nerves.
  13. The use of a another gimmick…a the car’s navigational voice
  14. (satnav) as a constant thread in the narrative
  15. …was annoying.
  16. I tried to stay focused but after 30% of the book my
  17. mind was drifting snow, blinded by Park’s white-out of
  18. never ending references to winter.
  19. Sometimes …less is more.
  20. In short…this book was not in sync with “my personal satnav.”
  21. It was all I could do to ‘hold on to the steering wheel’
  22. and at least finish the book.


Last thoughts:

  1. This book is just not my cup to tea.
  2. But this does not diminish the book’s merit
  3. …in any way.
  4. I don’t think this will win the
  5. 2019 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the year
  6. …perhaps I’ll be proven wrong.
  7. #Read the book and….form your own opinion!

#Ireland Anne Griffin




  1. This book will appeal to many lovers of a well-written
  2. sentimental story about a 84 yr old Irishman
  3. sitting in a hotel bar…toasting ‘for the last time’
  4. the 5 most important people in his life.

Motif: Five monologues are linked by the presence of a stolen coin.

Strong point:

  1. The first 2 toasts (Tony, brother and Molly, sister still-born)
  2. were the best.
  3. Was that a tear I pinked away
  4. ..or a speck of dust in my eye?
  5. Whatever it was…I felt very moved by these chapters.

Weak point:

  1. Unfortunately after 50 % of the book….I lost interest.
  2. his story really had no direction, no progression at all
  3. especially since the reader already knows
  4. …the ending from the get-go.
  5. The last toasts felt like ‘filler’
  6. …for instance the long toast about
  7. …the  first day Maurice met his wife.
  8. As Montaigne once said:
  9. “Those who have A thin body fill it out with padding.
  10. Those who have slim substance….swell it out with words.”


Weak point:

  1. I will be curious if this new book will make it on to
  2. longlists for Irish book awards. It wouldn’t surprise if it did.
  3. I just am not a fan on sugar-spin sweet stories.
  4. I like a bit  more  ‘bite’.

Last thoughts:

  1. We don’t become our wisest selves without effort.
  2. It requires us to become skilled…
  3. in managing our emotions,
  4. in forming intimate relationships.
  5. and at letting go.
  6. After learning these life lessons
  7. …Maurice is ready to share them with the reader.
  8. This is a powerful debut novel.
  9. It is good….but not great.
  10. Perfect reading for the beach or in waiting-rooms.

#Ireland: Dermot Healy


Finished: 04.03.2019
Genre: novel
Rating: C


  1. Part 1: Alcoholic playwright
  2. Part 2: Sergeant (father of actress) in RUC during The Troubles in No. Ireland
  3. Part 3: Aspiring actress in a toxic relationship with playwright
  4. ..and still sleeping her way to the top in the theatre world.
  5. These are the basic components.
  6. Part 1 and Part 3 were filled with the shenanigans of
  7. Jack (stereotype alcoholic Irishman) and Catherine.
  8. These lovers will never be compatible.
  9. They do nothing, go nowhere and do it slowly.
  10. It was like watching somebody kill themselves with a butter-knife.
  11. Part 2 was the BEST.
  12. Dermot Healy should have written the entire book about
  13. the complex character Jonathan Adams (No. Irish policeman).
  14. You sensed the fear Adams experienced
  15. of being assassinated by the IRA.


Last thoughts:

  • Strong point: the book…it is intense, part 2 is riveting.
  • Weak point: the writing is not entrancing and beautiful throughout.
  • #MyHonestOpinion





#Classic: Essays by Montaigne



  1. Michel de Montaigne  explores the human condition
  2. …in a very personal and clever manner.
  3. His essays chart the course of 20 yr of self-investigation.
  4. He pretends to most of the vices.
  5. If there be any virtue in him, he says, it got in by stealth.



  1. I enjoyed the most personal essays:
  2. Book I
  3. This selection of essays is ‘the hook’.
  4. They are personal and frank.
  5. Unfortunately there are also many essay in
  6. book II and III  …. I consider ‘duds’.

Happiness not be judged until after our death
Educating children

Book II

  1. …including 140 pages entitled “Apology for Raymond Sebond’
  2. The “Apology for Raymond Sebond” is
  3. three times as long as any other essay that Montaigne wrote
  4. The essay has been seen as an attack on authoritrian religion and
  5. a covert threat to Christian faith.
  6. It was a slog to listen to….and
  7. I just started to do some household chores
  8. …and let the words go in one ear and out the other!
  9. This essay sticks out like a sour thumb
  10. If you encounter this essay and feel as I did
  11. …just skip it!


Affection of fathers for children
On resemblence of children to fathers


Book III (…there were only 3 essays I liked)


Last thoughts

  1. Montaigne is the frankest and honestest of all writers.
  2. He does have opinions that still ring true today.
  3. Strong point: Montaigne writes about themes that charm the
  4. reader ( see my list of favorites).
  5. We relate to them.
  6. Strong point: Montaigne’s style is not dry….but daring
  7. …filled with depth and witty observations.
  8. Weak point: don’t approach these essays expecting
  9. that they are an easy read (21st C standard)…they are not!
  10. The book was published 1580 and
  11. …written to one sex only.
  12. A certain nakedness of statement was permitted
  13. …which our manners of a literature addressed
  14. …equally to both sexes, do not allow.
  15. Montaigne could have used the advice of one of his
  16. favorite authors:
  17. “The eloquence that diverts us  to itself harms its content.” (Seneca)
  18. #SomeEssaysBoring

#Fantasy Snuff by Terry Pratchett


Finished: 28.02.2019
Genre: fantasy
Rating: B+


  1. Commander Vimes is persuaded by his wife, Lady Sybil
  2. and Lord Vetinari (boss) to take a family holiday.
  3. They go back to Sybil’s roots in the countryside.
  4. Comic relief: Wilikins, Vimes’s thug-turned-butler, accompanies them.
  5. As Vimes arrives in the countryside he senses crime.
  6. “Where there are little crimes, large crimes are not far behind”
  7. Commander Vimes, pg 169)
  8. Pratchett, though diagnosed in 2007 with dementia,
  9. penned a number of sizable pieces while living with the disease.
  10. He said only his spelling and typing were affected
  11. …..he still had the
  12. words to write 5 more Discworld novels.
  13. Snuff was great fun to read.
  14. I haven’t laughed out loud while reading…in a long time.
  15. I’d love to visit “the therapeutic baths at Ham-on-Rye” (pg 25)!


Last thoughts:

  • I would recommend using an audio book.
  • Through the voices the story and the
  • quirky characters come alive!



#Classic: Heart of Darkness



  1. Despite my restraint (book embargo) I still bought
  2. 5 classic books in January.
  3. I was disappointed….not having enough self-control.
  4. The plan for February is to read as many classics as
  5. I can….on my IPOD!
  6. There are 20 audio classics just waiting for me.
  7. The Heart of Darkness has been on TBR since 2017.



  1. Love triangles:  none
  2. Women: Kurtz’ fiancée in Brussels and native mistress in Congo
  3. Major characters: Marlow and Kurtz 
  4. Minor character: “The Russian” (…very irritating Russian accent on audio book)
  5. Genre: Gothic horror novella
  6. Plot twists: no twists or turns only the the idea of
  7. ‘what is going to happen’ kept me reading
  8. POV: unnamed narrator (1st pers) tells the reader about
  9. Marlow telling his story also as 1st person narrator (frame POV)
  10. Title: The Heart of Darkness: interiour workings of the mind
  11. Symbol: journey up Congo River =  sin
  12. Symbol: journey down Congo River = redemption
  13. Structure: 3 parts
  14. present day London/Belgium
  15. journey from Congo Central station –> to Kurtz up the Congo River
  16. return to Europe and a meeting with Kurtz’ fiancée
  17. Message: obsession that drives its victim (Kurtz) beyond the limits of humanity
  18. Message: the darkness of the human heart…man’s capacity for evil.
  19. Setting: London –> Belgium –> Congo –> Belgium
  20. Major theme: madness, moral corruption
  21. Minor themes: racism, violence
  22. Body count: 2 (Kurtz and helmsman)
  23. Conrad’s statement: cynical, critical take on European Imperialism



  1. This was NOT my favorite Conrad novel/novella.
  2. I had to force myself to sit down an listen to this audio book.
  3. Part 1 started with lyrical descriptions of moon, sea, mist, light
  4. that  initially hooked me to keep reading.
  5. Unfortunately these were the only beautiful descriptions in the book IMO.
  6. Part 2: chaotic description of a steamship struggling to creep up river.
  7. Part 3: climax:  Marlow and Krutz finally meet.
  8. Conrad did me a favor and described his book for me
  9. with his comments about Kurtz’ pamphlet:
  10. vibrating with eloquence…but too high strung”.
  11. This book is Conrad’s way of asking ourselves
  12. …if we would have the courage like Kurtz to peer over
  13. …the edge of the abyss:  “The horror, the horror”.


Last thoughts:

  1. Conrad captured something about the way power
  2. operated across continents and race.
  3. I would highly recommend the award winning
  4. book Congo by David Reybourck. (2014)
  5. It is a gripping epic imperialistic policy of the Belgians in Congo.
  6. . . . more exciting than the novel The Heart of Darkness!


Favorite quote:

Part 1:
Watching the coast…is like thinking about an enigma
There it is before you smiling, frowning, inviting,
grand, mean, insipid or savage and always mute with an air of whisper
‘Come and find out.’


Jenny Erpenbeck Man Booker 2018 finalist (international)




  1. Reading does not stop when you lay down the book.
  2. It leaves a weight upon our waking thoughts.
  3. I read this book in one day….
  4. …it felt like breathing pure oxygen.
  5. I don’t care for fiction unless the
  6. emotional payoff is worth the time it takes
  7. to draw out some sort of meaning.
  8. This was a perfect example of fiction with a
  9. …social conscience.
  10. The book drained me….in a good way.
  11. I haven’t read a fiction book that swept me into the story as this one did.
  12. Erpenbeck touches on a ‘heikel punt’ (dutch) sensitive issue
  13. …migrants…in Germany.
  14. You can’t turn on the news without being confronted with it.
  15. This is exactly what happens to the main character Richard.
  16. Skillful writing….is a gift.


Last thoughts:

  1. I do not have the mental energy to write a review.
  2. I am empty.
  3. Please have a look at an excellent
  4. review by  Reese @Typings
  5. She summed it up perfectly.
  6. Jenny Erpenbeck is truly a very gifted writer.
  7. This book was runner-up for
  8. …Man Booker 2018 (international)
  9. ...but is worthy of winning the prize!
  10. The best book I’ve read this year
  11. …a stunning achievement.
  12. Absolutely #MustRead



#Classic Death of a Salesman



  1. Before we begin the book….we know how it will end!
  2. The story revolves around
  3. …Willy Loman, (…notice name “low man”).
  4. He is a 63 yr salesman, who cannot understand
  5. …how he failed and cannot live the American Dream.
  6. Central: the hardships that come with trying
  7. …to meet social expectations in America.
  8. Irony: We never learn in the play what Willy sells!


Characters:  major

  1. Willy Loman – insecure, self-deluded traveling salesman.
  2. He mirrors an everyday “character” of Post WWII American society
  3. inflexible to advice he just shuts people out and refuses to listen
  4. Tragic flaw: ridiculous idea of being “well-liked” as a way to succeed.


  1. Linda Loman – quintessential 50s housewife, devoted doormat
  2. blinded by loyality.
  3. Biff is telling her the truth but she is not listening.


  1. Hap Loman: son who represents Willy’s sense of importance,
  2. ambition, servitude to expectations.
  3. He lived in Biff’s shadow all of his life, ignored.


  1. Biff Loman: son who represents Willy’s vulnerable, poetic, tragic side.
  2. He has had twenty to thirty jobs,
  3. all of them fail to improve his station in life.
  4. But Biff is the only character in the play
  5. who changes from ignorance to knowledge.


Theme:   betrayal

  1. Generations of Loman men betray their family.
  2. They place their desires above their families well-being.
  3. Grandfather: suddenly leaves  when Willy was 4  yr.
  4. Father:  suddenly leaves to find success in Alaska.
  5. Willy: betrays family (wife) with s sordid affair.
  6. Sons: Biff and Hap,  abandon father
  7. in restaurant to trail after 2 women.


Theme: suicide as a means

  1. Willy is determined to eliminate himself in
  2. what has turned out to be an unfulfilling life.
  3. The payment of his insurance policy will help family survive.
  4. Suicide is a method for something else.
  5. Irony: Willy Loman is worth more dead
  6. ….than alive.



  1. Structure: 2 acts + Requiem  (118 pg)
  2. Reading time:  2,5 hours 
  3. The acts are divided into conversations
  4. about the past and present.
  5. Timeline: an evening and the following day.
  6. The he action is interrupted by
  7. flashbacks or memories of a
  8. period approximately 17 years earlier.
  9. late 1920s – early 1930s (The Depression)


Staging the past and present:

  1. Shakespeare never tried to show the past as the present.
  2. His characters describe a past event in dialogue.
  3. Miller uses the forestage to illustrate
  4. Willy’s imaginings the of past.
  5. Flashbacks track Willy’s mental decline.


  1. Miller was modern because of his staging (forestage)
  2. and he believed a tragic downfall can  happen
  3. to a common man, as Willy Loman.
  4. Aristotle stated a tragic hero is always
  5. a very important person.



  1. This is one performance I wish I had seen March 2012
  2. Death of a Salesman (link play review NYT, 2012)
  3. with Philip Seymour Hoffman.
  4. It is a novel in a nutshell…so powerful!
  5. I’ve watched the movie (1985) starring Dustin Hoffman.
  6. To my delight I found the complete audio recording
  7. of the Broadway play (2012)  click here
  8. and listen to Hoffman’s  stunning performance!
  9. The voices mesmerized me.
  10. You could hear Willy hallucinatory….delusional.
  11. Death of a Salesman  is considered the best play
  12. …written by an American playwright.


Feedback:  comment Cleo @ClassicalCarousel (new blog!)

This play was just a complex as a novel…and only 2,5 hrs reading time!
I did not even go into the symbols in the play (rubber hose, silk stockings and a flute)…but you can discover them your self. I did notice after reading the play that Arthur Miller used music as a symbol. If I had not listened to the 2012 version on You Tube…I’d never known! You miss this symbol if you are not aware that the play begins and ends with flute music…and at other times in the play. It is a reminder to Willy that he could have chosen a free and wild life in the country like his father did. Lost opportunity…poor Willy


Last thought:  my favorite quote:

  • “Willy was a salesman.
  • He’s a man way out there in the blue
  • …riding on a smile and a shoeshine,”




#Classic Mrs. Dalloway



  1. Oxford World Classic is an excellent choice to read.
  2. ISBN 9780199536009
  3. There is a trove of extra information available
  4. …even a map of Mrs. Dalloway’s London!
  5. I also listened to the audio book ( 7 hours 5 minutes)
  6. I like to know what I’m getting myself into before I read a classic.
  7. This book is best read after doing some research.


Scrope Purvis  is name of arms dealer who made a huge amount of money for Nobel Explosives Company that provided arms for WW I (WW I)

Lady Bexborough : is the woman Clarissa  most admired Lady Bexborough refers to Kathrine Mansfield  who died in 1923. (good friend of V. Woolf)

Structure:  There are no chapter headings. Big Ben: The chiming  of Big Ben is a structure technique. “First a warning, musical; then the hour irrevocable.” Also the storyline is an overlapping of observations.  We read of moments of ‘near misses’. People whose paths cross but are never meeting. This feels like pathos that appeals to our emotions…the “what if'”-situations.

Images:  Many images take you into WW I. Septimus experiences many hallucinations. He sees Evans coming out of the trees.  “But the branches parted. A man in grey was actually walking towards them. It was Evans!” Shortly after  WWI there was a project to plant young trees as a memorial to the war dead.

Favorite quote:    description of friends Septimus and Evans

“It was a case of two dogs playing on the hearth-rug; one worrying a paper screw, snarling, snapping, giving a pinch, now and then at the old dog’s ear, the other lying somnolent, blinking at the fire, raising a paw, turning and growling good temperedly.”   Amazing!

Favorite quote:    description of Elizabeth (Clarissa’s daughter)

“ a hyacinth sheathed in glossy green, with buds tinted a hyacinth which has had no sun.”

Sexuality: We think with a title like  Mrs. Dalloway the book wil  be all about marital bliss….but  Clarissa was in love with Sally Seton  “a kiss that turned the world upside down.”  Sally has a radiance as she enters the party unexpectedly!  We read the Clarissa’s erotic desires. Woolf also creates a critique  up the social system that restrains people. Virginia Woolf  creates fluid characters and a fluid sexuality is included in them.

Marriage: Clarissa and Richard…”They went in and out of each other’s lives without any effortThere is a need for space and freedom within a relationship.



  1. I knew one day I would read Virginia Woolf.
  2. It has taken me decades to get to this point.
  3. Mrs. Dalloway is a day in the life novel.
  4. Mrs.Dalloway reflects on her choices made 30 years earlier.
  5. …marriage proposal by Peter Walsh
  6. …decides to marry Richard and ends up in a ‘chilly’ relationship.
  7. It is centers around four intersecting lives in Edwardian England.
  8. Woolf shows the interaction between
  9. ….proper British people who speak politely to one another.
  10. The reader  senses that there are
  11. fierce and passionate undercurrents and
  12. ..thoughts that seems to be unspoken.
  13. Read:  the  E-book…as I listened to the audio book.
  14. Juliet Stevenson is an excellent narrator!
  15. Movie: watched Vanessa Redgrave as Mrs. Dalloway
  16. Movie: watched The Hours (N. Kidman, M. Streep and J. Moore)
  17. The book was better than any film!


Strong point:   something new for the 1920’s

  1. It’s a novel that takes place in a single day in June.
  2. This was new and certainly different in 1925.
  3. James Joyce did it in 1922. (Ulysses )


Last thoughts:

  1. Mrs. Dalloway is considered  Woolf’s masterpiece.
  2. She deals with mental illness (shell-shock WW I, Septimus).
  3. How the mental ill are handled and especially
  4. …how difficult is was
  5. to care (Rezia) for a person suffering mental issues.
  6. Woolf  also able to encode lesbian-erotic into the  text (Sally Seton)
  7. …that passed the censors in 1925!
  8. #MustRead…at least once in your life!



#Classic Great Expectations


Finished: 11.11.2018
Genre: novel ( 461 pg)
Rating: C-



  1. This book starts out fatigued and colorless.
  2. Joe the smithy and Mrs, Joe (Pip’s acerbic sister) flat characters.
  3. Limping convict Magwitch midst the muskets in the marsh
  4. …we know he will be a pivotal person in Pip’s life.
  5. Waiting for the Gothic parts of the book and Miss Havisham.
  6. But unfortunately cobwebs, a faded wedding dress and
  7. …clocks all stopped at 8:40 am do not a classic make.
  8. This book just missed something
  9. …it felt incomplete like:
  10. burger without a shake
  11. coffee without cake
  12. pie without the filling.
  13. I know Dickens can do better!


Last thoughts:

  1. The book got off to to a rough start.
  2. The audio book I was using was awful.
  3. I just could not read with
  4. …voices that kept screeching! (Mrs. Joe)
  5. Luckily accepts book exchanges.
  6. I would NOT recommend Great Expectations
  7. (narrator Matt Lucas) 2018.
  8. The best narrator is
  9. ….Simon Prebble’s version date 2011.
  10. Great Expectations
  11. Length: 18 hrs and 32 mins
  12. Unabridged


My Dickens template.

  1. Deaths : Mrs Joe Gargery (Pip’s sister) – Drummle (dies in an accident)- Miss Havershim  – Magwitch (in hospital)- Compeyson (drowns in Thames)
  2. Nicknames: Philip is called “Pip”, old chap, Handel and Wolf; Dummmle is called ‘Spider’. Whopsle takes a stagename as actor Waldengarver – Orlick called himself Dolge – Magwitch (Provis or Mr Campbell)  Mr. Barley (Clara’s father) nicknamed “GrufAndGrim”.
  3. Star crossed lovers: Estella  and Pip
  4. Little person (dwarf): None
  5. Little baby dies: None
  6. Prop:  (secret) letters sent from Pip to Wemmick; Miss Havisham to Pip – Wemmick to Pip (burn after reading!) – sent by Orlick to lure  Pip into an ambush – letter from Joe for Pip
  7. Eccentric but loving:  None (no great caricature like Mr. Micawber in DC)
  8. Lawyer: Mr Jaggers – confidential agent for others, all with secrets to be kept!
  9. Unrequited love: Miss Havershim….jilted by the altar by  her fiancé
  10. Profesional money lender: None
  11. Villian:   Dolge Orlick (murderer)
  12. Trusting and  naive girl: None
  13. Young lower class girl…reached a good position:  Estella, ( adopted by Miss H.)
  14. Marriage:  Biddy and Joe Gargery – Wemmick and Miss Stiffens – Clara and Herbert
  15. Simpleton….but very loving:  Mr. Joe Gargery
  16. Schoolmaster: Mr Matthew Pocket, Pip’s tutor (education always in Dickens’s novels)
  17. Fairy godmother:  Miss Havisham…but in a Gothic way
  18. ….unlike the lovable Aunt Betsey in DC.
  19. Dickens likes to toss shoes for luck: …as Pip leaves for London;
  20. …old shoe tossed …for  Barkis and Peggoty when they get married! (DC)
  21. What is a ‘toady neighbor?  Mrs. Coiler (flatterer; sycophant)
  22. Quirky names:
  23. Flopson:  nurse for the Pocket’s family… described as a non-commissioned officer
  24. Pumblechook…Dickens creates a new adjective
  25. ….”Pumblechookian parlour”   (beautifully decorated)
  26. Bentley Drummle:  who was so sulky a fellow that he even took up a book
  27. as if its writer had done him an injury.
  28. Georgiana:  indigestive single woman, who
  29. called her rigidity religion, and her liver love.
  30. Son caring for father:  Wemmick cares for his father (hard of hearing) “The Aged”
  31. Daughter caring for father: Clara Barley and her father ‘GrufAndGrim’ Barley.
  32. Theater: description of the hystrical amateur performance of Hamlet (ch 31)
  33. Friends for life: Herbert Pocket and Pip (…in DC it was Tommy Traddles and Davy)
  34. Pub: The Three Jolly Bargemen ….in DC it was The Six Jolly Fellowship Porters
  35. Strangest quote:
  36. Brag is a good dog, but Holdfast is a better.” (ch 18)
  37. What does  this mean?
  38. …it’s alright to talk big (brag) but it is better to act on
  39. …what you say and keep your word (holdfast).