It is 9/11 today and below is my review of a novel that shows the ongoing impact on one family while placing their loss in a wider, historical, human context.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – by Jonathan Safran Foer

Foer writes like an angel – or rather a cherub, since his protagonist is a 9 year old boy.  Oskar’s father died on 9/11 and in an effort to deal with his loss, Oskar embarks on an odyssey through New York, trying to find the lock that belongs to a key his father left.  His research reveals that there are 162 million locks in New York, but he has a name which narrows the search down to possible.  As Oskar progresses, we are also shown more and more of the continuing effect on his grandparents of the bombing of Dresden in 1945.

We may count, or fail to count, the numbers involved in the big events history records, but each one is made up of innumerable individual tragedies.  This family has suffered twice, and what we see in the juxtaposition of old and new grief is that the effects last a lifetime.  However hard they try, those left behind cannot let go.

We see largely through Oskar’s eyes and hear his voice, so the characters are at first sight cartoonish, but as Foer stands them in the light we see more and more of their complexity.  Particularly poignant is his portrayal of Oskar’s mother, who is not fully revealed until the end of the book, but it is Oskar himself who resonates with truth.

The reader does not have to ask or answer difficult questions about historical perspective or ethical slights of hand.  We are simply placed inside the family, incredibly close, and suffer the fall out with them, which is extremely loud.  This is a book about grief and while you will meet enchanting characters, be stunned by the quality of the writing and laugh along the way, if you survive to the end you will be beyond tears.

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A Summer in Spain

There’s a gecko in the garden                                     image002
And a cicada in the tree.
A locust sunbathes on the path
Where ants march so orderly.

Plant leaves rustle with the breeze,
Petals pink and red free fall
Then dance in the golden sunlight
Chasing shadows by the wall.

All rests in peace and quiet
In the afternoon’s heat haze.
It’s siesta, we are sleeping
Through the sauna of the day.

No sound of people calling,
No splashing in the pool,
No sizzle on the plancha
Til with sundown we feel cool.

Then the gecko in the garden
Will hide beneath the sage and thyme.
The locust will be long gone
And the cicada out of rhyme.

Now we parade in candles’ glow,
And greet the darkening of the day,
Raise a glass of foaming shandy,
Breathe the citronella spray.

The night is ours, let’s claim it,
Send our voices through the air,
Borne on song and laughter
This sweet summer time to share.




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Bloomin’ Heather

heather mountians tatryWelcome to my new website. It is still a work in progress, but below are a few words to start. Please feel free to send me your heather pictures to add to the website.

Please click the buttons on the black bar beneath the title to access my theme pages.

There are new posts on Verse and Places! (June 6)

So you want to be a writer?

I want to be a writer and do what writers do:
Sign autographs, make loads of dosh, have discussions on BBC2.

I want to be a writer and see what writers see;
Right through the dross to the golden gloss bought by Tesco and ITV.

I want to be a writer and say what writers say,
With incisive thoughts and snap reports on the happenings of the day.

I want to be a writer and go where writers go:
To far off places and behind faces, describing it all just so.

I want to be a writer and hold what writers hold:
In the palm of the hand, time’s grains of sand, life’s story to be told.

I want to be a writer, to be what writers are.
If I wield a pen and count to ten, will the words come from afar?
Or will they bubble up from deep inside, from feelings not to be denied?
Will they come out flat and need some work? Will I persevere, try not to shirk?
Will I find the thread I lost in bed at 2 o’clock in the morning?
Or will I suffer for art, feel the pierce of the heart,
But still leave my audience yawning?

I want to be a writer and live as writers live.
I’ll be one for a while, with a shrug and a smile, if you’ll read what I have to give.

heather 1

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