‘Gossip from the Forest’ – some thoughts
September 13, 2013 | Posted By: Marnie Forbes Eldridge
Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland
I saw this book advertised and it spoke to me, reached out and said you must read me – you must buy me. So I did, not as an e-book, it needed to be tangible, touched and kept. It promised the connection to things that stir me; trees, fairy tales and real places in real times. I knew nothing of the author Sara Maitland, I now have hints; pilgrimages of silence in the Sinai dessert, a purposeful and engaging speaker, an ‘old girl’ of St Mary’s, and a writer whose ideas and stories stay with and change you. Each chapter within this book is a different forest, a different month and a different fairy tale. It is a look at British Isles heritage, the stories and origins that have their spirit in the landscapes and souls of the people and places. It is a book I will return to. I needed to share it with friends so it became and will continue to become a present from me – some books just have to be shared. The tale of Little Red Riding Hood has haunted me since I was a child and now Maitland’s version of the story and setting resonates and disturbs deeper and I must visit those trees once more….
I loved this book. The fact that it started in March was a jolt to my system already contemplating the fact that I felt the year started in March not January, and then as I read on more meditative insights began to come to light. It is a book that helps you look within the tangle of your own life, look at the stories that shape you and the trees and landscape that penetrates deeper than any manmade construct.
I read this at a time when I needed the wisdom of stories, I needed the guidance of a sage and I wanted to connect to something that sustains the spirit. Trees do that for me, stories do that for me and actually they do that for many of us… “The Gossip of my title is the encouraging, private, spiritual, spiritual talk that we all want in times of trouble. Stories that are not idle; tales that are not trifling.” Sara Maitland – I thank you.
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Sweet Tooth – A book club choice
March 7, 2013 | Posted By: Marnie Forbes Eldridge
Ian McEwan Sweet Tooth:
Coming back to a book gives you a different perspective on the story, narrative and ideas. My first reading of this book was very different to my second and perhaps also because it became a book club choice. I relished the fact that it was an Ian McEwan book that I enjoyed – the last few have left me cold. It was on first reading from a woman’s perspective, exploring identity what the self is and how perceptions are made, on second reading the knowledge of the end of the story coloured my view of the characters and viewpoints – it wasn’t as gripping, it wasn’t as engaging and I skipped many pages, especially the included short stories of the imagined author. But it was the group’s comments and an article one of them kindly showed us by McEwan that stayed with me. Why did I like him as a writer? He is apparently a ‘man’s writer’ – never really thought of that before and in his article he talks of the ‘god’ of inspiration – no female muse or white goddess here and now I am left questioning why I took to his early work – was it because my boyfriend at the time tried to shape me and directed some of my reading, maybe this was why I could connect to Serena? As always with book club I was left with many questions, little sleep and the desire to read more… As for Sweet Tooth, well I enjoyed it – first readings are always the most telling; I liked slipping into its world, ideas, glimpses of history, questions about the constructed self and McEwan is a masterful writer, he constructs a sentence in a way that makes you bow to his writing ability.
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Thoughts on a book club book
December 2, 2012 | Posted By: Marnie Forbes Eldridge
The Land of the Green Plums by Herta Müller and translated by Michael Hofmann.
Seen through the eyes of a group of students this is a bleak and distressing exploration of Ceausescu’s reign of terror in Romania. The book is set in a world inhabited by the author. It isn’t imagined, it is felt and the distance that the writing evokes between author and reader is also in every relationship. The poem that is repeated throughout haunts the story:
“Everyone had a friend in every wisp of cloud
that’s how it is with friends where the world is full of fear
even my mother said, that’s how it is
friends are out of the question
think of more serious things.”
There is no trust, there is only fear. In leaving the provinces for the hope that the city offers, one shackle is replaced by another. The colours, language and images of the book add to its desolate atmosphere; the insipid green of the plums stuffed into guards mouths; the egg-like blue tumour just below the surface of Tereza’s skin; and the violent red of the blood that is guzzled behind closed doors. It is not a comfortable read; however it is compelling, and revealing of a part of modern history that reflects so much of the human condition.
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