Monday, 29 July 2013

Book Review: A New Map of the Universe by Annabel Smith

Grace dreams of designing a house for her lover, Michael, a place where they can begin their life together. But before she can step into her future with Michael, Grace must journey into the past to confront its crippling legacy of silence and secrets.

This lyrical, engaging novel spans two generations and both hemispheres as Grace navigates her new map of the universe. It is a story about grief and passion, architecture and astronomy, but above all it is a story about finding yourself.

I read Annabel's Smith literary novel A New Map of the Universe as part of the AWW2013 Challenge. I came across a review of this book from last year's AWW Challenge and it sounded like a beautiful piece of writing. I decided to check it out for myself.

This novel is literary fiction at its finest. The story is entirely character-driven; the heart of the narrative is the emotions of each of the main characters - Grace, Peter and Madeleine. But that doesn't mean there is no plot. Quite the contrary - a lot happens as this story spans two generations and two countries. Smith writes with brevity and lyricalism to highlight the major events that advance the plot forwards, while never losing touch with the most important element - the characters.

A New Map of the Universe follows Grace as she attempts to understand her life and the people who have influenced her - namely her parents Peter and Madeleine. Like the blurb says, it is a story of grief and passion. There is a lot of loss, sadness and regret in the story and for that reason it was very emotional to read. But there is also a lot of love, hope and awakening for the characters.

The novel is broken up into four parts - two from Grace's point of view, and one each from her parents'. I liked this as it enabled me to see deeply into Grace's family history, to see how lives can be forever changed by the things that are left unsaid. It reminded me that we are all a product of our personal family history, of the way our parents were treated by their parents and by the heartaches that hurt those we're close to.

A New Map of the Universe is a touching story about family legacy and the long-ago secrets that threaten to hold us back. Told in sensual language, the narrative explores the depth of human relationships and the impact grief can have on generations. It's a beautiful novel.  

Monday, 15 July 2013

Book Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

For the Eclectic Reader challenge I needed to read a dystopian novel. I chose Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go because I heard about its science fiction element and was intrigued to see how its dystopian world would be created on the page. 

Never Let Me Go follows the lives of three children - Kathy, Tommy and Ruth - as they grow together at an English boarding school and then on into adulthood. They do not live normal lives, however, as a terrible fate awaits them. The book is narrated by Kathy and slowly reveals the sci-fi element that shadows, influences, and ultimately destroys these young people.

The book is one long run-on memory. Kathy looks back over her life and the events that have stayed with her, the ones that influenced who she turned out to be, the moments that saw her shift from a child to a teenager to an adult. It's a book full of Kathy's inner life; it's her reminiscing and coming to realisations that she missed the first time around because she wasn't mature enough or knowledgable enough to see things clearly when they happened. We meet the rest of the characters only through Kathy's memory. Tommy is thoughtful and kind, but I did not like Ruth at all. She is manipulative and it infuriated me that Kathy herself seemed to hardly notice Ruth's true nature.

I found reading this book hard going, and not just because of the dystopian subject matter. The book is written in a strange style - it's an entire narrative of introspection. It does get a bit repetitive at times as Kathy is constantly trying to make sense of everything that happened to her and she often goes back over events in far too much detail. Ishiguro does succeed in portraying the oppressed and restricted life of Kathy, but I wasn't a big fan of his style of writing.

The sci-fi element of the book was quite subtle, even though it was always hanging around in the background. It soon becomes obvious that Kathy and her friends are little more than lab rats, but I never really came to understand the gritty details of how this process works. Ishiguro's narrative is so focussed on Kathy's thoughts and her perspective on the actions of herself and others, that the science behind their lives takes a backseat.

The book's blurb mentions a love triangle which does occur, but the book is actually about a lot more than that. It's about human rights. It asks the question - if your life is predestined should you be allowed to live a normal life up until your destiny is fulfilled? Never Let Me Go is a complex story with a harsh theme on the fragility of life and the power that others can hold over us. It's also a tragic story of lost opportunities. All in all, a very sad book indeed.

Friday, 12 July 2013

100 Questions for my 100th blog post

To celebrate my 100th blog post here on Healing Scribe, I wanted to do something different and special. I wanted to share some more of who I am and my truth, so I've trawled the internet to find 100 interesting questions to ask myself. Answering the questions has been enlightening for me. :-)

So here's 100 random things about me...

1. Favourite word? Love
2. Favourite drink on a hot summer's day? Pimms
3. Favourite drink on a cold winter's night? Tea
4. Favourite movie of all time? Dirty Dancing
5. Favourite book? The Time Traveler's Wife
6. Favourite colour? Purple
7. Favourite artist? Jackson Pollock
8. Favourite song? 'Let Go' by Frou Frou 
9. Favourite pastime? Reading
10. Favourite birthday, and why? My 28th in 2010, the day my husband proposed

11. Favourite natural landscape? Rainforests
12. Favourite flower? Tulip
13. Favourite paid employment ever? Proofreading a manuscript for a small publishing house
14. Favourite dessert? Chocolate brownie
15. Favourite household chore? Washing
16. Favourite shiny object I own? My engagement ring
17. Favourite perfume? White Musk from The Body Shop
18. Favourite dinner my mum made?  Roast Chicken
19. Favourite item of clothing? Polka dot dress
20. Most treasured book in my collection? My signed copy of Eat, Pray, Love

21. One item I would take to desert island? My hubby :-)
22. Best sporting event ever attended? ATP World Tour Finals 2012 - Federer vs Murray
23. Favourite ice cream? Ben & Jerry's Half Baked
24. Favourite environmental sound? Thunder
25. Musician I admire? Adele
26. Favourite famous person who I admire, living or dead, who I'd like to meet? Oprah
27. Best time I've had playing with a pet? Making our dog jump over a line of cushions
28. Favourite board game? Scattergories
29. Favourite TV re-run I could watch 50 times? Any 'Friends' episode
30. Experience of the supernatural? Feeling the presence of an angel while giving a Reiki treatment

31. Nicest thing I've ever done for a little kid? Teaching a girl how to write her name
32. Was I named after anyone? No
33. When was the last time I cried? Today, watching a movie
34. Do I like my handwriting? Yes
35. Do I use sarcasm a lot? Yes
36. Would I bungee jump? Never!
37. Mountain hideaway or beach house? Beach house
38. Summer or winter? Summer
39. If I was a fruit what kind would I be? Blueberry
40. If I could time travel what time would I go to? Ancient Egypt to watch the Pyramids being built

41. If I won the lottery what would I buy? A house
42. If I could have any five people to dinner, living or dead, who would they be? Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, Roger Federer, Oprah, Robert Downey Jr.
43. Earliest memory? First day of pre-school
44. What would my superpower be? Time travel
45. Favourite animal? Horse
46. Do I believe in reincarnation? Definitely
47. If I got a tattoo where would it be? Foot
48. Favourite beer? Corona
50. Favourite day of the week? Saturday

51. Favourite number? 3
52. Favourite comedian? Ellen
53. Favourite childhood book? The Big Honey Hunt
54. Favourite outdoor activity? Walking
55. What sound do I love? Laughter
56. If I had to change my first name what would I change it to? Lily
57. If I could be any fictional character who would it be? Harry Potter
58. What did I do growing up that got me into trouble? Slamming doors during a tantrum
59. What do I do if I can't sleep at night? Toss and turn
60. What is the strangest thing I believed as a child? The world was once black and white (I got this idea from seeing old B&W TV shows/movies)

61. Which animal scares me most? Spider
62. Where's my favourite place to take out-of-town guests? South Bank, London
63. When do I find myself singing? All the time; I love to sing!
64. Dog or cat? Dog
65. Coke or Pepsi? Coke
66. Batman or Superman? Iron Man ;-)
67. Pancakes or waffles? Pancakes
68. Santa Claus or The Easter Bunny? Easter Bunny brings chocolate! :-)
69. Do I believe in life on other planets? Yes
70. 3 of my best personality traits? Compassionate, loving, helpful

71. Celebrity crush? Robert Downey Jr
72. What would be my last meal of choice? Chicken Burger
73. Favourite memory from teenage years? First kiss
74. If my shoes did the talking what would they say about me? This woman likes to sit down a lot ;-)
75. Sports I played in high school? Tennis and Netball
76. What is my pet peeve? Singers who mime
77. If I could meet anyone in the world who would I meet? Ellen DeGeneres
78. If I could be famous for one thing what would it be? Something I'd written
79. Where have I visited that I'd like to go back to? Cat Island, Bahamas
80. Do I believe in God? Yes - universal energy, not a man in the sky

81. Favourite movie quote? "Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads"
82. Do I remember my dreams? Sometimes
83. Have I ever won a trophy? Yes, 'most improved' tennis trophy
84. What's under my bed? Boxes
85. How far away from my birthplace do I live right now? The other side of the world!
86. Can I touch my nose with my tongue? Yes
87. How many rings before I answer the phone? Two or three
88. Do I like my name? Yes I love it
89. What do I do when driving alone in a car? Sing!
90. The one cause I feel strongly about? Equality

91. Do I play an instrument? I can play the piano, but haven't done so in years
92. An activity I think is really romantic? My hubby pulling me to him for a kiss
93. Would I like to build or design my own home? Yes
94. Favourite swear word? F**k
95. Blue or black inked pens? Black
96. Is the grass greener on the other side? Usually not
97. If I could have three wishes what would they be? Inner peace for me, world peace, and equality for all
98. If I could ask my future self one question what would it be? Will I have kids?
99. If I had one hour to live how would I spend it? Hugging my loved ones
100. What inspires me? Love