Friday, 25 November 2011

Friday, 11 November 2011

11/11/11 Aftermath

Have you forgotten yet?...
For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.

But the past is just the same-and War’s a bloody game...
Have you forgotten yet?...
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz–
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench-
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, ‘Is it all going to happen again?’

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack–
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads—those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?...
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget.

Siegfried Sassoon 1919

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Go-Between

The Go-BetweenThe Go-Between by L.P. Hartley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A stunning, heartbreaking book set in the forgotten world of pre-First World War England. I was not sure I would get on with the novel at the start, I found the opening quite slow and the use of memorabilia a rather cliched way of going back in time but when the story really got going it had me hooked. I was struck by the vulnerability of Leo and the utter selfishness of Marion, but most of all by the powerful way in which the author brings the household and all its members to life. I am always interested in how authors deal with memory, both that of individual characters and collective memory such as a significant moment of history, and what makes The Go-Between so painful to read at times, particularly near the end, is the knowledge that the First World War will consign every detail of that society to history and that few of the male characters to whom we have been introduced will survive to old age.

View all my reviews

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Medieval Castaway

Poor Banished Children has been reviewed in The Weekly Standard. I was glad she talked about the psychology of slavery because one of the things I was trying to do with the book was to explore precisely what might happen emotionally and psychologically to a person taken into slavery, to get 'under the skin' as it were, of a woman in a situation few of us could ever imagine having to bear. I didn't want it to be just a stock portrayal of victimhood because there are plenty of those out there and I hope I partly succeeded in bringing some of those emotional complexities to life.

The only thing that amuses me, reading reviews are the number that contain the words 'this is not for the squeamish.' The strange thing is that I am an exceptionally squeamish person who would probably have to keep closing my eyes if I ever watched this novel as a film, but I was so shocked by some of the stories I read when I was doing my reearch for the book that I was determined to be as realistic as possible. The original draft was much more graphic, but a friend who read it suggested that in some situations 'less is more' and advised me to go through the manuscript with that thought in mind. I went through and toned down or edited out any detail I did not think entirely necessary and also made use of techniques such as dream sequences and disturbed flashback (where the narrator is distracted or confused in the act of trying to remember) to soften the horror slightly. I realise that the end result is still very violent in some places, but I hope not gratuitously so.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Who Wrote Shakespeare's Plays?

Having been to lectures as a student on the subject of whether Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe or even Elizabeth I wrote them, I'm going to have to be boringly conventional and say that I think William Shakespeare probably wrote Shakespeare's plays. Still, it is good to see a bit of literary controversy being stirred up by the new film Anonymous (which looks from the trailer like a pretty third-rate rehash of every conspiracy theory ever mooted on the identity of the Bard). I only wish there had a been a more pro-active approach taken to the Da Vinci Code when members of the great British public were taking that fabrication as fact.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Yeeees! Oh Frabjuous Day!

OK, you probably have to be a Malteser living in Britain to be quite as excited as I am by this news, but Amazon UK has started selling Kinnie, the taste of summer days on the beach in a 500ml bottle, the finest soft drink ever invented, available with free delivery. This calls for some good, colourful, absurdly noisy Maltese fireworks...

Friday, 28 October 2011

New book pending

I finally signed the contract for another book earlier this week and posted it back to the publisher. I always feel girlishly excited at the thought of another project and can't wait to set to work polishing and editing the manuscript. I try to make every book as different as possible, so there are some familiar themes but the action is set in near-contemporary London. Watch this space.