country building Australia
Australia, blogging

Children of Victorian England

In the 1800’s in Victorian England, scores of children under the age of 20, roamed the streets in a Dickensian world, eeking out an existence made famous in the 1968 movie, Oliver.

In the day, Britain feared a French revolution might erupt within the lower classes and so wished to contain this potential political menace by executing or shipping any trouble-makers off to North America, or Australia. In those times, to commit a crime of any sort was seen as a character flaw which could not be altered through rehabilitation.

Fagin was based on real life character called Ikey Solomon

Why did Victorian Children Live on the Streets

Street children were often the progeny of delinquent parents, or who had parents who’d abandoned them or were sitting in a Debtor’s prison. A child could take its chances living on the streets, working in a dangerous textile factory or remain in squalid conditions in a poorhouse, if they were lucky.

Child Workers and Conditions in Textile Factories

In 1851, more than 500,000 of Britain’s children sometimes as young as six, were working in the textile mills.

Being small, children were used to crawl inside textile machinery to clear blockages in the spinning frames. It was extremely dangerous and many were killed or injured, as the machinery was slow to stop if a worker got caught.

The machines were very loud and they thundered relentlessly all day long. Workers could be fined. beaten or sacked for falling behind. In cotton mills, dust from the yarn covered the workers and got in their throats. To make the cotton strong, factory owners kept their mills warm and damp. This meant that the workers suffered from lung and chest infections.

primaryfacts.com

With these options, it was no surprise that many children took their chances living on the streets.

Penalties for Child Criminals in England

In Victorian England, a child caught stealing would be sent to reform school or sentenced to hard labour. Once they had amassed a record of over 200 crimes, the child would hang from the gallows. If the magistrate was kind, a death sentence may be commuted from hanging to transportation, for life, to a convict colony, in Australia.

Sometimes, these children were the lucky ones, and other times, not.

Steve Harris’ book called,”The Lost Boys of Mr Dickens,” recounts the real-life story of two young boys, in the 19th century, sent by the British Government, as impoverished and unwanted juveniles to exile to Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania, in the world’s first prison built exclusively for children.

tasmania prison
The ruins of Port Arthur’s Prison in Tasmania

Prejudice, moral panic, harsh justice and expedience saw unwanted boys condemned to severe isolation, solitary confinement, hard labour in chains and thrashings in a juvenile version of notorious Port Arthur, a ground-breaking chapter in the history of juvenile crime and punishment. Some quietly endured in the hope of salvation through rudimentary trade and Biblical instruction, but others became relentlessly defiant and mutinous in a brotherhood of resistance and bullying, inexorably slipping from hope to hell.

Booktopia.com

A Convict in the Family

Paterson Museum

Ironically, having a convict ancestor in one’s family history is now seen as an asset to a Genealogist. Not only is there widespread documents and history related to convicts, but many times, there are details of their physical description and life story, sometimes even their words, letters or deeds they performed.

country building Australia
Paterson, Australia where my convict ancestor lived

John Martin, although not a child convict, was convicted of stealing a sheep’s carcass, at 24 years of age. His sentence of life imprisonment aboard the convict hulks moored in British harbours was commuted to transportation, for life, to Australia. Therein starts our Australian family adventure as John was my 3 x Great Grandfather.

John Thomas Martin was indeed one of the lucky ones to escape the gallows or a potential life in the textile factories. John went on to become a convict overseer, gain his ticket of leave and later marry into one of the first free settler families in Australia, having a large brood of 11 children, one of which was Eve Martin, his daughter, my 2nd Great Grandmother.

I wonder why Eve wore her heart brooch upside down?

Forestwood Cottage Martins Creek
Martin family cottage, ”Forest wood.“

Their farm near Paterson in country New South Wales was called ‘Forest Wood,” and the small town of Martin’s Creek now bears the family’s name. From the inscription his free settler wife, Jemima had inscribed into his tombstone, one might think she was determined that history would know of his true character, more than his criminal past.

John Martin’s Grave

“He was an affectionate husband and a kind father.”

Something to Ponder About

Iceland
Book review, Community

Summer Reading

Summer in Australia, means that many of us can use the excuse of the heat, to relax inside the air-con with a good book, guilt free. And if you are anything like me, it would usually be a good crime novel that you reach for.

As my summer is now over, I thought I’d share a few lesser known authors I read, in particular some Icelandic authors. 

Iceland Thingvellir

Authors from Iceland

One Icelandic author that you may not be familiar with is psychological thriller/crime writer, Arnaldur Indridason. I really enjoyed the tone of his books, particularly how he depicts the cold bleak landscape of Iceland using this to not only to illustrate the tragedy and sadness in the plot, but also to reflect thoughtfully on the past.

It’s easy to feel sympathy for Indridason’s protagonist, when the character reveals the great personal cost of police detective work. Two of Indridason’s books include, The Draining Lake and Tainted Blood which is alternatively: “Jar City” and both give an insight into police procedures.

Jar city is the story of a murder mystery that spans a generation and discusses the implications of inherited traits or diseases in a country where they Human genome project is extremely topical. (The Icelandic genetic pool has, to a large extent, been isolated from external influences). Jar city has been made into a motion picture and the cinematography in certain rural scenes, is absolutely fantastic, as one would expect from a country as scenic as Iceland. And right now, virtual travel is best!

‘The Draining Lake’ delves a little into historical fiction and Icelandic political attitudes during the Cold War era, so it also provided an insight into cultural beliefs of that time. For example, police staff being rung at home by members of the public or getting into political arguments with suspects, seems not to be an unusual occurrence for detectives in Iceland. 

Iceland

One Review states,” THE DRAINING LAKE boasts an interesting and unusual angle, especially for those of us not familiar with Iceland’s recent history. There’s a link to the Cold War and spying, and to the 1950s when idealistic Icelandic teenagers went to study in East Germany. Unlike Indridason’s earlier books, where I never felt much of a sense of place, Iceland and its society plays a more vital role in this book – particularly as the posting from hell for diplomats! “

Suggested reads  by Icelandic authors: Arnaldur Indridason or,  if your preference is not for thrillers/crime, you might like to try Iceland’s Nobel prize for Literature winner Halldor Laxness, whose books are available include, Independent People, The Fish can Sing, Iceland’s Bell and Atom Station. I hope you find these entertaining as Icelandic literature is something well worth pondering over.

snow

Reading Recommendations

Blogger M-R has just referred me to the Daughters of Time, which I downloaded on the Kindle last night, so I am keen to get started on that book today.

I hope you enjoy discovering some new authors this summer. (Or winter if you are living in the south).

Do you have any recommendations of books you have read lately?

Crime fiction/Historical Fiction/Autobiographies? It matters not the genre.

I would love to hear them.

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Community, Motivational

Marie Kondo – Because of you

Geraniums

Dear Marie,

My husband, (aka MOTH), is not happy.

Because of you, our house will never be the same.

Because of you, my house is tidier.

But the MOTH – The ‘Man About the House’ – is frustrated!

If you haven’t heard of Marie Kondo, it may be that you don’t have a TV set or haven’t stepped inside a bookshop, of late. Marie Kondo, a Japanese lady, advocates the Kon-Mari method of Organization. Through her TV show and book titled, “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying,” Marie has brought a new wave of organizational and tidying techniques to the world.

Marie’s particular brand of household magic involves a range of vertical storage solutions, lots of folding strategies, and sorting one’s possessions into certain categories. The central tenet behind her de-cluttering techniques is to hold each item in turn, to one’s heart, whilst asking yourself the question, “Does this item spark joy in me? ” If the answer is yes, the item is kept; if the answer is no – the item is gratefully thanked for its job in one’s life, and then promptly ditched.

Gympie shopping

I began to read Marie’s book and then this happened –

The process of sorting and folding begins

Like a thrift shop’s sorting table, this was a scene from my house shortly after I started to read Marie’s book.

Around about that time my husband started to “lose” things.

I was reading Marie’s book and he was uttering a variety of indignant lamentations.

“Where is that hard drive I left on the desk,” he demanded, as I perused Chapter 3. Midway through reading Chapter 5, he asked me, “..Those batteries I had beside the TV, what’s happened to them?” By the closing chapter of Marie’s book, the crescendo of laments had reached a point of desperation, “Just where ARE my shoes?” he cried.

(They’d been moved to their new ‘spot,’ of course, at the bottom of his wardrobe).

I have to say Marie: – Because of you, papers are now never left to pile up on desks; shoes are regularly moved from under beds and chairs, and miscellaneous items are no longer stored, “to hand”, as a visual reminder.

But the MOTH cannot find anything because it is packed away neatly in cupboards and drawers, in places he never looks! So, he is definitely not happy with Marie.

bird-talk-yell

Marie is also to blame for the careful rolling and folding of every piece of clothing I own. She’s responsible for the discarding of lots of my unused “stuff.” It is also, though, her fault for my having increased capacity in storage cupboards; a strong ability to locate those less frequently used items faster, and even to blame for me being capable of selecting coordinates in a blink of the eye.

marimekko shop helsinki

For Marie is right.

A lot of that “stuff,” we accumulate over time, sits at the back of storage cupboards, and will most likely never be worn, or used.

Then there’s that feeling of guilt I no longer have for buying extra clothes, or purchasing things I won’t always use. Prior to reading Marie’s book, I used to admonish my daughter for throwing out so many new-ish clothes and goods, in so short a time after their purchase, thinking her a wee bit wasteful.

Up-cycling a T shirt into a plaited belt

I am was a big up-cycling and recycling advocate, who could always find another use for any item. To throw out clothes that might be re-fashioned was akin to sacrilege.

But Marie believes that tidying and de-cluttering is a way of taking stock and finding out what we really do like. And Marie’s advice is spot on when she stated many of those so called ‘rescued and re-fashioned items would simply accumulate in storage, only to be thrown out years later, without ever being up-cycled.

Well, I did recycle a few items from my stash, but probably much less than half, I have to admit.

Where am I

Where does this feeling of wanting to buy and keep material goods come from?

After spending a lifetime tidying and honing tidying into a fully fledged international business, Marie has an explanation for this behaviour. Marie says:-

We amass material things for the same reason we eat – to satisfy a craving. She insists that through tidying and de-cluttering, people come to know contentment.

A new way forward for my things

Marie’s method is a way of respecting and organizing our possessions, caring for them and appreciating what we have and what we choose to keep. By employing the Kon-Mari method, Marie frees us from the burden of accumulating more and more ‘stuff,’ and in this way, tidying becomes a a life-changing experience.

And what happens to the MOTH’s shoes now that I have finished the book?

They are still placed neatly under the chair, each evening.

I guess Marie should address MOTHS in her next book.

Something to Ponder About


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Community

2019 – How Does it Look So Far?

I am not really someone who makes New Year resolutions as I prefer a little more structure around the aims and goals, however a little planning in February, can’t go astray, can it?

Lake
Boreen point lakeside beach

I found this little memo on the net and thought it was a prompt to think about general and personal goal setting for the year ahead. Even though we are two months in, I still feel  that I am just getting started with 2019.

Here are the ‘resolutions’ and my answers.

A bad habit that I am going to break – reduce or stop overreacting to personal bad news with knee-jerk judgements.

A new skill I would like to learn – I love languages and learning to speak a little Polish and Old German will help me in reading historical records, as well as be welcome stimulation of the linguistic neurons in my grey matter!

A good deed that I am going to do – assisting the Smith family and helping to re-distribute food via Qantas volunteer program. I like to support community projects and endeavours.

A book that I would like to read – I would love to reduce some of the books currently on my TBR shelf – one that comes to mind is Anna Funder’s, ‘All that I Am.’

A new food that I want to try – I’d be willing to try anything fermented or pickled – the probiotics contained within are so good for you.

A place that I would like to visit –  I would like to say something remote like the Faroe Islands, but as I am busy at home this year, there will be no long holidays, unless I count a potential, but not scheduled visit, to the Mornington peninsula, in Victoria or getting involved in research at the Genealogical Society headquarters.

I am going to be better at being – non-judgmental and maintaining calm ….. ohm……

Are you someone who sets goals or makes resolutions?

Do you reassess them regularly? Are they a useful prompt, or temporary navel-gazing?

Join in with the Seven resolutions and tag me in so I can read up on your inspiration for 2019.

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Proverbial Friday – Global Wisdom

I find there to be profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and I marvel at the way they are so succinct in communicating messages to the reader. Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and from across cultures. They speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned. Quotes, like proverbs, make us think more deeply about something.

Each Friday, I post a Proverb or Saying and a Quote that I find thought-provoking. 

I hope you will too.

raindrops

 

“When it rains soup, the poor man has no spoon.”

– Swedish Proverb

 

 

 

Dalahest - Traditional horses

 

 

 

Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.”

– Robert McKee

 

guitar art

 

Robert McKee, A Fulbright Scholar, is the most sought after screenwriting lecturer around the globe. He has dedicated the last 30 years to educating and mentoring screenwriters, novelists, playwrights, poets, documentary makers, producers, and directors internationally. However, McKee has been criticized for teaching screenwriting without ever having a script of his made into a film.

 

Thinking about the Swedish proverb, does it seem a little shallow or simplistic, to you? Poor communities can after all, have a very rich life, albeit not in materialistic or monetary terms. Is the proverb referring only to financial matters ?

And what do you make of Robert McKee’s words? Media can be used as a propaganda tool but is the media capable of suggestions of thought? Storytelling can teach us lessons in allegorical form, but can it also lead to misconceptions  by the reader or viewer? Take, for example, teenage girls who think they should look and act a certain way, based on watching mainstream TV? Do you think that media is purely entertainment value for the discerning viewer and that entertainment value can be separated from unrealistic impressions that relationships should be always be blissful, and an institutions such as marriage is always just a walk in the park. If this is true, could storytelling still be conducive or counterproductive to happiness?

I would be pleased to hear your thoughts.

 

 

Proverbial Friday – Something to ponder deeply about

~ Amanda

cropped-somethingto-ponderabout.jpg

 

Community

Proverbial Friday – Global Wisdom

Proverbs and sayings provide us wise words from all corners of the world whose subtext is a moral lesson or statement. 

Best savoured a little at a time, these sayings are often handed down from generation to generation.

Each Friday, I post a saying, or proverb and a quote that I find thought-provoking. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

 

An American Indian Proverb this week that seems self-explanatory: –

 

 

 

Every accomplishment begins with the decision to TRY. Therefore, must we also, at this point, decide to be brave?

Or does the desire to be thought of as brave come later?

 

 

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There is little need for me to introduce the author of the quote, for this week. Perhaps you did not know that Ernest Hemingway talked about the FBI spying on him later in life. He was treated with electroshock.

It was later revealed that Hemingway was in fact watched, and Edgar Hoover had him placed under surveillance. Perhaps, in light of this, the following Hemingway quote is particularly apt.

 

 

Ron Mueck
Ron Mueck Figures

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”

– Ernest Hemingway

 

What do you make of the quotes?

Do you find many people don’t listen fully to what is said?

What factors influence whether they listen or not?

 

Some Wisdom to Ponder About this Friday*Blog

Now posting on Fridays*

Ethereal
Community

Proverbial Friday and Global Wisdom

Proverbs and sayings often provide us with wise words from all corners of the world. 

Best savoured a little at a time, I find there to be profound wisdom in the words and marvel at how they succinctly communicate messages to the reader. Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and from across cultures.

They speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned.

Quotes, like proverbs, make us think more deeply about something.

Each Friday, I post a Proverb or Saying and a Quote that I find thought-provoking. 

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

raindrops 20150618_071310 

The WordPress community really is amazingly giving, as two bloggers have indirectly contributed to this week’s ‘Proverbial Friday’ post.

The proverb this week, comes from a book generously given to me, by LeggyPeggy.

Whilst short in length, this proverb originated in religious texts (NB. I am not at all religious), and yet it made me ponder the intrinsic nature of strength, versus wisdom.

“Wisdom is better than strength.” [Ecclesiastes]

 

Mt Pilatus

 

Strength is often considered an asset in life. There are those who say, that the weak or submissive are left behind.  We are encouraged to take the initiative, be on the front foot, be pro-active and assertive. We are warned that we might be left behind, cast aside in the wake of others in financial or intellectual achievement, in progress, or in personal growth. But this proverb made me stop and consider this a little deeper.

Should strength be the first and foremost goal? Should strength be valued at all? For strength without wisdom, can even be dangerous. History tells us that some leaders had strength but little wisdom.

What do you make of the proverb’s words?

The quote this week comes from a dear blogger friend, Ineke from Iscrap2, who recently published her memoir with these inspiring words, for parents, on the inside front page:

bear and happy girl

“The best thing you can give your children,

next to good habits,

are good memories”

– Sydney Harris

Birthday

Do you agree with Sydney Harris? Or is there some other value, more important than habits and memories that parents should share with their children?

Join in the conversation and let me know your thoughts.

PicsArt_06-09-08.43.48

Now posting on Fridays

Some words to Ponder About

–  Amanda

 

 

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Forestwoodfolk on Pinterest

 

Community

Proverbial Friday – Global Wisdom

Proverbs and sayings often provide us with wise words from all corners of the world. 

Best savoured a little at a time, these sayings are passed down from generation to generation.

Each Friday, I post a saying, or proverb and a quote that I find thought-provoking. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Europe 2011second batch 075

 

Don’t open a shop unless you know how to smile –
Jewish Proverb

 

Is this proverb just as it says, or could it have a deeper meaning?

 

book

 

C.S. Lewis wrote, “We read to know we’re not alone.”

For years I read to my children, and all but one enjoys the fruits of a world of knowledge and ideas forged through either books, magazines or via the Web.  The youngest one, I am happy to say, has now discovered the delights of reading poetry! Perhaps those years of reading have finally paid off?

Reading is a solitary activity, yet it makes accessible a world of people and ideas, via our imagination. I am never alone when I read.

When I read non-fiction books, I am with the author, and in a fictional tale, usually crime fiction, I am in the mind of the protagonist.

Do you agree with C.S. Lewis, and do you always identify with the protagonist?

PicsArt_06-09-08.43.48
Now posting on Fridays

Amanda  – Something to Ponder About

Vejen, Denmark
Book review, Community

Invisible Murder – Book Review

With the topic of refugees and terrorism very much in the news, this novel by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis, is written for our time and makes for illuminating reading.

traffic (3)

 

Two impoverished Roma boys are scavenging for something to sell in the ruins of an abandoned Soviet military hospital. Purportedly to improve the lives of themselves and their poverty-stricken families in a rural village of Hungary, one of the boys embarks on a radical plan. Far away in middle class Denmark, Red cross nurse, Nina Borg inadvertently risks her own life and those of her family, to assist a group of Hungarian refugees but little does she know her actions will have disastrous ramifications.

index1
Source: Economist.com

“Jobbik. It had to be Jobbik, taking to the streets to protest the Jews, Communists and Romas from ‘ruining out nation.’ Lusja straightened herself up pursing her lips as though she had found something disgusting on her shoe. ‘God spare us from any more racist, goose stepping idiots.’ The driver turned in his seat. ‘Jobbik aren’t racists,’ he said. ‘They’re just for Hungary.’ Lusja straightened up in her seat and stared daggers at the driver, 128 pounds of indignant humanism versus 260 pounds of overweight-but-muscular nationalism. ‘And what kind of Hungary would that be?’ she asked. ‘A Hungary clinically scrubbed of all diversity? A Hungary where you can be arrested just because you skin is a different colour? A Hungary where it’s totally okay for Romas to have a life expectancy that’s fifteen years shorter than the rest of the population?’

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Source: Hungarianfreepress.com

A novel that is carefully crafted and well-balanced, allowing you to understand both sides, their personal  motives and furthermore, to feel empathy for the characters woven into the story line: The studious brother who in one brief moment is denied a legal career and betterment for himself, and his family, only because of a racially slanted agenda, his quest to save his wayward orphan brother who, by way of contrast, chooses an extremist, crash-through course of action, and the consequences for each; the innocent bystanders; the well-meaning humanitarians in Denmark, the terrorist thugs and ordinary residents of homogeneous, suburbia integrating with ‘foreigners’.

Are they all helping or hindering the cause? What toll does it take, personally, on those who help the less fortunate, the traumatized, the dangerous, and those on the fringes of society?

In the face of a changing Europe, this Scandinavian novel illuminates some salient points to ponder about inter-related events that shape our modern lives.

Rating 8/10

Other Novels by these bestselling authors: The Boy in the Suitcase

 

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No Dead bodies – Just a True Story of Courage and Love

 Quite unusually, I’ve been reading a book that has no dead bodies contained within its pages.

(See my book review page here for the lists of crime fiction novels I usually read). 

Biographies of interesting people, are also on my book shelf, but the title of this book, given to me by a work colleague, did not give me any clue as to the intensity of the story within.

 

Horse boy is the story of one family’s journey to heal their severely autistic son. Conventional western therapies were yielding little success and their son’s tantrums and neurological trauma appeared to be  increasing, exponentially.  Spurred on by an accidental discovery that Rowan had a special gift with horses, the family embarks on a monumental adventure that takes them to the outer regions of Mongolia. 

Continue reading “No Dead bodies – Just a True Story of Courage and Love”

kristina ohlsson book review
Community

Not Your Average Crime Novel – ‘Unwanted’

kristina ohlsson book review
Unwanted

‘In the middle of a rainy Swedish summer, a little girl is abducted from a crowded train.’

Suspicion immediately falls upon the husband who has previously been violent towards his estranged wife in the past, but is he really the killer? Despite hundreds of potential witnesses about on the platforms, no one notices that the girl  is taken from an arriving Stockholm train. Days later, she is found, dead, her body dumped outside the emergency department of a hospital, in the far north of Sweden.

If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you will almost certainly know that I have a predilection for crime fiction. Especially Nordic crime fiction. Many of the Scandinavians write in a highly descriptive way that gives a depth to the narrative and the  visual imagery. This sets them apart, I feel, from crime writers from other regions. And it doesn’t help that I like the dark, rain-sodden, fog- filled descriptions of the Scandinavian countryside! Well, I am a winter person, living in a sun- soaked country where everything is hot and dry and brown, so can you really blame me?

‘UNWANTEDis a brilliant first novel by Swedish author, Kristina Ohlsson and gives me  no reason to change my overriding view of  Scandic crime novels. Yet it is better than your average read. Far better. Whilst the crime might be a tad more unsavory than that found in other novels, the reader is spared the goriest of details, yet remains fully aware of the terror taking place.  Skilled writing, I think!

In this novel, you are very much taken along for the ride with the detectives, seeing what they see, thinking what they think. Readers are given more insights into the police process and procedures. We see how it is they try to piece the murder puzzle together: what steps must be followed, what angles have to be investigated, when discovering a new lead and how collaboration reveals important snippets of information. I’ve not found this in other crime novels. So it comes as no surprise to find that Kristina Ohlsson herself has worked for a police organization in Sweden and no doubt this makes her writing all the more authentic, and readable. It seems like real life!

Many crime novels reach their climax via a detective/investigator fitting the pieces of information together by having a private epiphany of sorts, which is only partially  shared with the readers until the final reveal; thus the reader is usually left to figure out his or her genius in crime analysis, for themselves, before a later explanation is given.  But not so with Kristina’s writing. She takes you along, on the roller coaster, with her characters, and I found this terribly appealing and definitely a ‘can’t put down’ factor.

The reader is also reminded that police detectives are humans with their own sets of personal entanglements and dramas and the policeman’s families also suffer from a case. Peder, a mid level detective on the team, with ambitious, slightly misogynistic leanings, begins to have marital problems as he tries to juggle the needs of his infant twins, his tired depressed wife, his long working hours and his own personal needs outside of work. At one point, he breaks down and it is his Mother who attempts to console him in a profound statement:

‘Things will change, Peder,’ she says. ‘Misery has its natural limits. There comes a point when you know for certain that things can’t get worse, only better.’

Now that we have been introduced to Peder, I am sure his personal journey will continue in subsequent novels, in this crime series. I will surely ponder about that.

Overall Rating: 9.5/10

CPD (Can’t put down) Factor: 9.5/10

The good: Wonderful descriptive writing and imagery without being over the top

The bad: Haven’t found anything bad about this book yet.

The Ugly: We learn that police make blunders and have to live with that, somehow.

What will you think of it?

Will you enjoy it as much as me?

Who are your favourite crime authors?

 

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Sea Glass by Anita Shreve – Book Review

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New Hampshire, 1929, and an eager young salesmen proposes to a young bank worker he hardly knows. He thinks she is beautiful and she lays aside his flaws, as she might a small stain on a beautifully embroidered tablecloth. Pure and dignified, she begins her new life as a married woman, with high hopes, but both the Wall Street crash and oppressive working conditions for the city’s mill workers (who are readying to strike), mean that the newlywed’s love and resilience is to be tested to its limits.

Honora reaches down to touch the fabric in the carton. Faded chintz, and something else. A framed photograph tucked in to the side of the box, as if snatched from a dresser at the last minute.  A photograph of a woman and a boy. Years ago, Honora thinks, studying the dress that falls nearly to the ankle. The stairs creak under her weight, which even with the bedding isn’t much.  At the top of the stairs a sense of emptiness overwhelms her and for the first time she feels the enormity of the task ahead of her.

 

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This is one of Anita’s better texts, and captured my attention, particularly for the excellent and subtle way she not only describes the scenes but in addition, conveys the emotions of the characters and the atmosphere and life of the era.

Though McDermott is just twenty, already he is a loom fixer. Her has been in the mills since he was twelve, the day his father pissed off. Every day, except Sundays the din rises up around him and makes a hollow sucking sound in his ears, as if he had dived in to the ocean and was trying to come up for air. He repairs broken looms and checks others to make sure the cloth is weaving properly. He hates his job, since the bosses have ordered the machines to go at a faster and faster speed.

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This novel also gave me a snapshot of the difficulties of everyday life and the stoicism of the women living in that era. The ingenuity of their saving ways: how every last object was saved and turned into something useful. Nothing was wasted.

The people of this time were the original recycling environmentalists!  A woollen jumper full of holes can be un-ravelled and knitted up into a new jumper! A coat that has seen better days or has stains can be un-hemmed, reversed and then transformed into a smaller skirt. These people lived through hard times and not only survived on very little but made very little go a long way.

Communication was reliant on the written word and the postman. Families received invitation for get-togethers, months in advance. Hardship was a common theme, Rich men became poor overnight. And throughout it all, Honora remains composed and unflustered, collecting beautiful pieces of sea glass on her daily beach walks.

beach sand (Small)

The early twentieth century is not that long ago and yet, lives are so very different from then. Thank you Anita, for writing a delightful tale that left me with a smile on my face and something to ponder about.

Rating: 8.5 /10

 

 

shadows
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Shadow – Book by Karin Altvegen

Very Lord of the RingsNowadays people talk a lot about chasing happiness. There are a multitude of books courses about being happy. Feeling happy has become something that we constantly desire convinced that when we have found the secret to being happy, everything will fall into place perfectly. Not being happy has come to be equated with failure. Is it possible to be happy each waking day, year in year out? Is it something worth striving for? Karin Altvegen explores this in her novel, “Shadow.”

Prior to reading this book, I had only read one other book by this author. Shame which had been described as:

“An existential thriller about the power of fear and the brains capability to repress things that is to painful to remember. About the fatal consequences of an atypical childhood.  And about the biggest shame of all: The feeling of not having been loved by one’s parents.”

It seems this theme and moral stand is continued in Karin’s novel, Shadow; So it was with trepidation and a pre-conceived idea that I read this book. And it certainly was about not facing one’s fears and loneliness! The shadows of the past can be forgotten, but their imprint might be indelibly fixed.

This is the story of a son trying to emulate his father: a psychological thriller about relationships and how the past can influence the future – how actions live on after they are long forgotten – what starts from a lack of good parenting, is then compounded by a serious lack of communication, ends with characters who take drastic and monumentally tragic couses of action.

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Featuring the writers Alice and Axel Ragnerfelt who hold a dark secret, ‘Shadow’ is a family history marked by what seems almost to be a generational pattern of despair. communication.

“She remembered how at first she was so proud to bear the Ragnerfeldt name. Her friends would get a dreamy look in their eyes whenever he was mentioned, and they wanted to hear all about what he was like. But when they noticed her ambivalence and lack of enthusiasm, she was met with suspicion, as if her words had sprung from envy. No one wanted to hear anything negative about Axel, the national treasure. She stopped saying what she felt and joined his crowd of admirers, at least outwardly. It was easier that way.”

One protagonist ponders the moment at which a personal calamity begins?

“When does the first flake fall that will form the snowball? At what stage does the movement start? Was it the day when he secretly chose the linguistic path, …. By now everything had been in motion for a long time. There was only one hour left until what they thought was theirs would be lost for ever.”

“But even a bell’s invisible crack is revealed by a dull peal. Had the evil always been inside him? Or had it taken over when everything was stolen from him. When all that remained to him was the ability to shatter in order to retaliate.  Too late he realized that he had directed his revenge at himself. That what he had shown himself to be capable of had chained him to a shame too heavy to bear.

So how does he handle it?

Gratefully he felt it (the alcohol) take over. The feeling of liberation when the brain when numb. When he was no longer capable of comprehending the depth of his pain. Why weren’t human beings born this way? With their blood spiked from the start with a small percentage of alcohol? With the defense mechanism disconnected and the soul in a state of peace. Was survival really so important that it outweighed all suffering?

Sometimes I think that today we have trouble finding happiness because of our deep fear of suffering. Is happiness a type of contentment?
Contentment is a feeling of having obtained or achieved what can reasonable be desired. And this novel discusses individuals who struggle with contentment…..the courage to settle down and dare to be satisfied with what they have.Very Lord of the Rings

But then on page 154 Altvegen writes, “Someone who puts caution first stifles the life he’s trying to save.”  and the writer’s astute observations made me ponder more about happiness and life, but in a different way.  A tale of murder and family secrets is not for everyone, yet I wondered why this novel was left sitting on my TBR shelf, for so long. It is seriously good.

Shadow is a novel  by Karin Altvegen from 2007 that has been translated into English.

Rating: 8/10

The good: Skillful and suspenseful convoluted plot that switches back and forth with  surprising twists and turns. The depth and layers of this book gives me somethings to ponder about.