Tag Archives: Love

Torn

The roses in the garden were wilting, as though they were nodding their approval of your ignorance towards me. So I tugged them from the earth, removed their mocking heads, and threw them into the sad September breeze. The stalks they cried. The thorns they hailed. And the embers of petals floated back to me, and melded to my sweating body like greedy leeches. The embers still remain there, burning into my soul, like a wild and sorry tattoo.

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Book Review – Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

Hello Readers,

This week, I finished reading ‘Instructions for a Heatwave’, by Maggie O’Farrell.

The review below contains my thoughts on the book from a writing perspective. Please note that there will be spoilers.

The title of the book ‘Instructions for a Heatwave’, and its cover design, were the first things that made me pull the book off the shelf (in a charity shop in my home town). I admit that sometimes I am guilty of judging a book by it’s cover, but I do believe that a book title and cover design, which have both evolved together beautifully in modern times, play a powerful part in informing us of the genre of a book and what we are to expect from it. I believe the cover design should be a big bay-window into the world of a story; illuminating theme, plot, mood and feeling. For instance, a key chain hanging from the back of a chair, might indicate to the reader that there is a deep-set mystery in a house that needs to be unlocked. A bridge over stormy waters might indicate that there is a dangerous, suspenseful adventure to endure, across continents. I have always been intrigued by cover design. When I finally finish writing my first novel, I will hope to have had some input into the cover design – to ensure that it is giving the reader a precise visual story into the world of my novel.

The cover for Instructions for a Heatwave depicts a still-life table setting situated in front of a window; with a light fabric curtain blowing in the breeze. Through the open window we see white clouds on a backdrop of light blue sky. Words that summarize this setting are pastel-stripes, sun, summer, heat, domestic setting and home. This cover summarizes the book perfectly because the setting takes place in London, in 1976, when a very long and uncomfortable heatwave had occurred. Having read this on the back of the cover, I have a very good reason to believe that I might not have actually chosen the book after all; but that the book had chosen me! The very reason for this, is that my Mum had been pregnant with me in that very summer of 1976, and she has often recounted how tiring and uncomfortable that very summer was carrying me around, under her cotton Seventie’s dresses! This book had an immediate personal affect on me, even if it was only because of the time and setting. I was intrigued to know more – to get insight into a time and a world, when I had not yet seen daylight.

Throughout the book, the reader is placed amidst the tremendous heat, beside the characters, inside their houses. To summarize the story, it is one of family, and the chemistry between that family, through a moving event in their lives.

The story begins with a Mother, a Wife, carrying out a domestic action in the kitchen. We are then introduced to a Father, the Husband, who decides to go to the shop that morning (as he usually does) but doesn’t return. The author then holds the suspense of the disappearance, by introducing us to the three siblings and their worlds. We enter their homes, their lives, meet their partners and their children. And here we learn how siblings can turn out to be very different; even when they have derived from the same close-knit family such as this one. The Mother and Father, unsurprisingly, have had a powerful impact on their children, throughout their lives. The author writes so authentically about this family’s chemistry, that at times it mirrored my own family! We see the arguments, the psychological mind-games, the care, the ‘not-talking’, the laughs, the bonds, the knowing of each other inside-and-out. This book is family-drama writing at it’s best.

In this story, we have siblings that embrace the Irish Catholic family traditions – such as wanting a loving and caring family of their own. And we have siblings that tend to knock the tradition sideways and tell us that we live in modern times and old beliefs are no longer valid – as in when we see the younger sibling ‘Aoife’ (Eve) moving away from her family and home. I had a strong sense of the Mother psychologically struggling to try to keep the Irish traditions valid in her children – whilst they are up against a new, evolving, modern world in which they are living.

You could say that although the theme of this book is about a missing person, it doesn’t entirely focus on this part at all. It is not really an investigation into how the Father disappeared, or where he is; but it is how a family are brought together and how they deal with such an awful event in their lives (and how they are going to solve it). We have the characters search their homes for clues of his disappearance, but there is no sense of urgency, no police or search teams.

As the book goes on, we learn that the Mother had told her children lies and had held the lie for many years. And these lies were (from my perspective) an attempt to keep the Irish tradition alive – for a Mother and Father to set a perfect example for their children.

But in all of this, we realise that lies cause damage and although humans are capable of forgiving, it is in the forgetting that we have trouble. There is no doubt that these lies had a negative affect on the children, but at the same time, we understand why the Mother may have hidden the truth through the pressure of religion and tradition at that time. We understand that there may have never been a right moment for her to speak the truth – and so the lie had festered – until one fine day it had been revealed to all. At the same time that these lies are revealed, so are other family-related issues in the past that appear on the Father’s side; and this leads us to the very reason as to why the Father had disappeared.

I found myself tearful at times when I read certain paragraphs in the book; that spoke of the childhood memories. It reminded me of my own family – my Uncles, Aunts, Nans, Grandads, Mum, Dad, and my three Sisters – and all the great times we have enjoyed and still speak about to this day. Isn’t it ironic that sadness exists in happy memories? I think that there is a certain sadness in time moving forward – and this story is very powerful in bringing that concept to light.

This story shows us how parents and our own childhood have a profound impact on our adult lives, in our thought processes, in our beliefs, and in our actions. On a darker note, we also learn how we are all capable of lying to protect loved ones; sometimes even to set good examples, become good role models.

At the end of the book, we learn that even after the character’s became aware of the lies, they were still able to forgive each other – because they are family. Learning to forgive, might possibly be one of the most important things that we can all learn in life.

At the end of the book, the Father returns – having dealt with certain problems in his life that happened long before he had met his Wife. It appears that it may have been important for the author to have the Father deal with his own problems away from his family, and for the Mother and siblings to deal with theirs, together. May be the separation was a powerful contrast to the pulling together of family in the end.

Looking at the book, as a whole, we feel like we have dropped in on this family’s life for a short but important moment in time; just like we would with a soap opera. We have confidence that when the Father walks through the door again, that their lives will continue – even though the chemistry and opinions between them may have changed. This tells a perfect story of life-continuing and getting through it’s ups and downs. We have faith that this family will stick together through thick and thin.

This was a great book to read about family. I must admit that this review was a huge challenge to write – partly because it is far from the genres I know well, partly because it was so tightly woven and cleverly written, and partly because I had to think more deeply about the life-themes in this book.

This book was unlike any other book I have read; where I could pick out certain obvious plot points, clever twist workings, character changes etc. Everything in this book seemed to meld into one fine, natural, roll of fabric that was hard to pucker. This is why I had no choice but to focus on the themes.

I do hope I have given the book justice. If there are any elements of the book that you would like me to discuss or dig into further then please ask. Thank you for reading.

The next book review will be on a horror novel called ‘Life Expectancy’, by Dean Koontz; which I am three-quarters of the way through reading.

Until next time, happy reading, happy writing!

Love,

Donna x

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Book Review – The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Hello Readers,

Today, I finished reading the haunting, magical and suspenseful novel, ‘The Miniaturist’, by Jessie Burton (her debut novel). The review below contains my thoughts of the book from a writing perspective. Please be warned, this may contain spoilers! This review was originally posted on Goodreads.com.

In the first chapter we are introduced to Petronella, the book’s main protagonist, who is entering a new house, a new world, to be with her new husband; Johannes. I find this to be an interesting beginning in novel writing; usually, plots in novels will begin with a character living out there daily lives, when suddenly, they are thrown off path for whatever reason. Here the author has placed the trigger in the past, and has planted Nella in the result of the trigger. In the beginning we want and need to know where Nella is, why she is there, and what she will be facing – this creates that essential initial suspense in writing.

On the title header of the chapter, the author states the place and date (seventeenth century) of where the book begins. This helps the reader visualise the period. This method is also good when we don’t want to place the time, date and era in the actual story for whatever reason – it allows the author to focus on description and story of that time period – which also hints at the ‘show’ don’t ‘tell’ rule in the narrative.

We meet some of the other character’s of the Brandt household in the hallway. This is a perfect setting and stage for their interaction. The setting helps to build the claustrophobic and haunting overtones and themes of the story to come – in fact the setting is a character in itself!

The characters are given clear physical descriptions and unique traits from the outset – which are all essential elements in ensuring the reader gets an instant ‘early’ image in their mind of the characters; which will stay with them throughout the book. It is also through physical description, action and dialogue that we begin to understand the relationships and chemistry between the characters – the differences in the character’s personalities helps to build the conflict in the story.

The author had undertaken considersble research of Amsterdam and it’s history in order to write the book. After I finished reading it, I felt I had come away with a good understanding of Amsterdam’s history – and it is always great to learn something new through fiction! I learned about seventeenth century Dutch houses, Churches, laws, trials, religions, food, currency and professions. I loved how the author had initally visited The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam; where she had viewed real-life Petronella Oortman’s miniature house. She had walked away inspired, wondering who would have owned such a beautiful thing. I guess this really does tell us that some of the best inspirations come to us when we question something,  and want to know more about it. It’s the ever magical why, what, where and when of fiction – and that wonderful trigger of when research begins.

I can only guess that the author wanted to keep the miniaturist character as mysterious as possible, because this mirrored the author’s mysterious feeling’s towards the miniature cabinet. I felt that the miniaturist character did have her own story to tell far away from this book – I would still love to know what she looked like, how she acquired these foretelling skills, and (in more detail than this book explained) why she chose to impact other’s lives by using these skills. A new book from this character’s viewpoint would also be amazing.

There are some strong themes in the book; love, obsession, jealousy, secrets, lies, superstitions, violence, fear, regret, death, decay, among many other’s – and they all entwine into a fantastic carefully woven plot – which has several twists!

I thought the ending was carefully wrapped up with all of the loose ends tied. Although the very last event was inevitable, I still wondered whether something magical was going to happen to save the day – and that process is ‘suspense working the reader’ at it’s best. The fact that no magic happened in the end made the story very raw and real.

Finally, one thing that really blew me away was when I visited the author’s Pinterest page (a collection of research images that she used as inspiration for the novel). I had clear visions in my mind of the character images, based on the author’s descriptions; but it was only when I visited the author’s Pinterest page that my visions were confirmed to be almost identical! This itself was a magical experience, and can only highlight the author’s excellent eye for detail. I also recommend creating storyboards for your writing’s – they become great inspiration and prompts when needed.

I recommend this book to those who enjoy a haunting, suspense-thriller. This book is a truly amazing read by a brilliant debut writer. I will look forward to Jessie’s next book called ‘Belonging’ – set in Spain and London in the 1960’s.

Until next time,

Donna x

@alittlebirdtweets2015

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Untamed

Glistening lips kissing raw,

Beneath pale moonbeam,

Inclement hearts squander love

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Burning Violin

Gypsy teeth gripped black roses

Dancing to Cohen;

Goodbye soaked our blue raincoats

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Popworld

Glitterball

 

Midnight, beats pumping, last orders. She watches him; he winks. She smears gloss to hungry lips. Gloss, she thought, it always mesmerizes him.

Morning after; their heads throb, and he induces rejection, mascara tears. Passing her tongue over furred teeth, she walks home with regret. Love, she thought, is more appetising beneath the glitter ball.

©2014.alittlebirdtweets

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Faded

FotoSketcher - tea2

(Piano Instrumental ‘Dream of Flying’ by Brian Crane plays)

I had watched her lips dance upon the rim of her teacup; her bitter breath had fused with steam, had formed fumes of rejection.

“Just leave it Frank!”

I had posed her a floret of my affection, worlds of pipe dreams; but to her it had meant disintegration in love.

(Piano Instrumental ‘Dream of Flying’ by Brian Crane fades to silence)

©2014.alittlebirdtweets

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Scarlett

rose

She handpicked the last rose of summer; watched the petals wilt into a ballet of depression. The ghost of his apology of deceit had bred in her mind for days. She knew that walking unafraid in a world devoid of him could never equal the burning desire of a restored heart. She crushed the rose in her hand. Someday she would visit his office and attempt to rekindle the love of her lover; a man whom she would always believe to be a raw diamond in the earth.

©2013.alittlebirdtweets

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The Locket

Annabel encased the ancient locket with her soiled hands; and in the twinkling of a second, a silver luminosity radiated through the gaps in her fingers. It illuminated her pulsing ruby blood, reminded her that she was alive, that she was still capable of loving herself.

She pulled the clasp, opened the locket, and studied the intricate hieroglyphics etched inside. She blew away the seeds of earth that had managed to cling to it; in the years since it had last been dug up, opened.

Her steely breath fired life into the locket, and waves of white light encircled her, warmed her soul. She smiled, closed her eyes, and finally released the self-doubt that had, for a long time, devoured her.

©2013.alittlebirdtweets

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Vogliatemi bene (Love me, please)

Puccini’s Madame Butterfly permeated the kitchen with its melancholy, as pungent tones of Bolognese elated their senses. As they chinked flutes, sipped on Sauvignon, kissed and embraced, she closed her eyes and envisioned that they were a couple, in love.

©2013.alittlebirdtweets

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The Letter

I stagger along the tree-arched footpath; the bronze light through decaying trees no doubt casting cracked contours upon my face. I take a swig from the bottle. I seek the nearest bench and curl up on its mouldy slats. I eye every passing stranger who looks at me with fear and disgust. I must look vile. I abandon the thought and take out the torn notepaper from my pocket; a letter that he’d left upon the kitchen table for me to find, one year ago. I read it for what must be the billionth time; each and every word causing my heart to bleed, my soul to cry.

My dearest Sally,

I spoke with the doctor today. He said I only have three months to live.

I am devastated. I am lost. I need to run.

I cannot let you see me deteriorate every day.

I want you to remember me for who I am.

I am headed to a place far from here; the sea shall wash away the pain.

Please do not look for me.

I will always love you my angel.

Our love will never die.

Smile your beautiful smile, always.

Your husband,

Charlie.

I take another swig from the bottle, close my eyes, and fall into stagnation.

©2012.alittlebirdtweets

 

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The Dream Maker

‘Isaac, shortly you will enter your desired dream. Now you must ensure that your body is in a relaxed state, and that you allow my first few words to sink slowly into the alcoves of your mind. For several minutes my words will introduce you to the setting, and thereafter, the path you take, the characters you encounter, will be of your own design. Should you feel uncomfortable with the dream at any stage, be sure to tap my palm three times, and I will talk you back into reality. I cannot stress enough, the importance of these taps. Failure to react in good time, can lead to violent nightmares, confusion, and more than often, seizures. It can take patients weeks to recover psychologically; while some never do. Ok, are you sure that you are ready to proceed; to pursue your answer?’

‘Yes Dream Maker,’ Isaac replies, ‘I’m ready.’ His body lays stiff on the surgery bed. His dark-rimmed eyes speak of months of sleepless nights, brought on by the frustration, of never knowing who had murdered his dear wife, Irise.

‘Isaac, then we shall begin.’ The Dream Maker places his bony fingers on Isaacs’ forehead, and as he begins to speak, blue vapours spiral from his mouth, and slowly fill the room.

‘Now… relax… breathe slowly… and let your five senses open. You are walking towards the peaked horizon of earths’ circular soul… you see cerulean skies rotate into silver-watercolour-curls in the far distance… they are inviting you… and you step in… you are now strolling towards the end of a rainbow… there you smell the colours of crimson and coral, of cobalt and ochre… and you see that the rainbow is a bridge… that it has a sign… the sign bears an arrow… you are following the arrow… you are walking over the rainbow… you have suddenly stopped at the start of a silver path… and it is here, Isaac, that you make your dream your own.’

Isaac shuffles on the bed. His eyes twitch, as he accepts this new, vivid world; and he continues to dream of his own accord.

Coldness hits me… it’s nearing dusk… time is ticking… I need to find Irise… I’m sprinting along the silver-winding path… insidious trees overhang and attempt to reach out… to touch me… to stop me… but I’m too fast. I arrive at the end of the path… it opens out onto a floral yellow carpet… I walk over it… I can hear weeping… the weeping is coming from behind a tree… I sprint to the tree… there’s a woman with flowing, auburn hair… she is standing in a yellow robe… her face is pale… her eyes are hollow… she tells me she is a lost angel… that she’s my lost angel… she is opening her hands to reach me… to touch me… I am confused… this is not Irise!… this is not my Irise!… I need to escape… to run…

Isaacs’ body twists violently on the bed. His eyes have moved to the back of his head. The Dream Master stands up ‘Isaac, tap my palm three times!’ he urges. But Isaacs’ body continues to distort, uncontrollably.

She tells me that she is my Irise… she is gripping me… pulling me towards her… I try to break free, but my feet are floating helplessly… she is putting her face close to mine… it is Irise!… her face had been distorting into the faces of others… of her family… her friends… I hadn’t recognised her… Please Irise! Stop pulling me! I have come here to help you! To identify your murderer! To kill him, when I return to earth! So we can both be at peace, when he dies! She is laughing at me… she tells me I don’t remember anything… that I am a fool for coming here… that we can never be at peace… she loosens her grip on me… I fall to my feet… my feet are sinking into the floral carpet… she is walking away… I try to follow her… but my feet are grounded… Come back Irise! Tell  me who killed you! She looks over her shoulder… she tells me that she will weep forever… that her distorted faces… the ones I have seen… were the faces of the people that miss her… love her, down on earth… that my face will never be seen in hers… because I never loved her… I am confused! I love her! I thought she loved me? She doesn’t love me! She can’t love me, for she is walking away! Leaving me here! Come back Irise! I love you! I have always loved you! Why do you run from me? She is laughing… she tells me I am strange… she tells me how I hated her for years… that I had resented her… for sending me to a shrink… that I had struggled with sanity for many years… that I’d go through depressive states…manic highs… that I’d made her afraid to be around me… that she couldn’t take any more… that she wanted to leave… that I wouldn’t let her leave… that I’d hated her but wouldn’t let her leave… she tells me that I was the one that killed her…

she is weeping… she is smiling at me… she is walking away… she looks behind her shoulder… she tells me that my ears will forever hear her weeping… she is fading into the horizon… my body is shivering… it’s cold… so cold… I am trying to move my feet… to follow her… to tell her I love her… again… but they are stuck… it’s nearing dusk… I am standing here… alone… grounded… and her weeping haunts my ears…

‘Isaac, tap!’ The Dream Master shouts, as the bed flips to the floor. The Dream Machine moves from low-to-high-alert in seconds; its high-pitch deafens the Dream Maker. He flees the room, where the blue vapours have turned into hot amber billows. And in that moment, Isaacs ’heart stops beating.

©2012.alittlebirdtweets

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Lovable Beast

From the corner of my eye, from the softness of my pillow, I see him sleeping; his mouth is ajar, silently breathing in dust motes that float erratically above the quilt. He looks peaceful, beautiful, somewhat angelic, in slumber; a wonderful contrast to the lovable beast that inhabits him, in consciousness. He opens his eyes; did he sense me looking at him, I wonder? Does he know I look at him this way every morning, and think such things? He smiles at me; the creases of middle-age have formed in the corners of his lips, the lips I would kiss, every morning, adoringly and without hesitance. We pillow-talk, reflect on our past, until the dust motes settle. We speak of our families, our friends and of our two beautiful teenage children – but our conversation always fails to lead to the one, difficult-to-ask, forever-grinding, question, Why have you been cheating on me?

©2012.alittlebirdtweets

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A Love Song

From a bird’s-eye view, through an open roof, you’ll glimpse me alone; strumming a guitar, in the attic of a house, in a tired seaside town. I scribble lyrics to melodies; sing to backing tracks of seagulls’ cries; they perfectly mimic the beats of my disjointed heart; the one you nurtured, tasted, threw out to sea.

     #Ships they sail away,

The lovers disappear,

     They hold on to nothing,

We hold on to fear#

Notepapers escape my hands, as they‘re lifted up to the skies by the salty-air breeze; and I wonder if the Universe will ever hear my love song.

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