Bookends #2 March 2018

Today’s Bookends post comes from inside my snowy bower in Wales. My village was in the eye of the storm that came through on Thursday, recording the highest snowfall in the country. Though the snow is still coming down it looks as if the road out of the village is now clear. Hope so because after two days confined to barracks I’m getting a little stir crazy. There is only so much baking, eating, reading one can do….

When I relaunched Bookends last week I said that each post would consist of just three things that have caught my attention, aroused my curiosity; stimulated my interest

  • a book
  • a blog post and
  • an article

So let’s kick off this week with a book that has been in my ‘to read’ collection for a very long time. But since it’s International Women’s Day in a few day’s time (March 8), it feels appropriate to highlight a collection that explores the lives of colourful, intrepid women in history.

Book: Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman.

Almost Famous Women

The women who feature in this debut work are creativly impulsive, fiercely independent and sometimes reckless. In They include a cross-dressing Standard Oil heiress Joe Carstairs, an aviator and writer who lives alone in Nairobi; Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter; Oscar Wilde’s wild niece, Dolly; and James Joyce’s daughter. This is a work of fiction though Megan Bergman based each story on biographical information (sometimes very scanty).



Blog Post: The Emerald Isle beckons

It’s March so it must be time for Reading Ireland month which is hosted by Cathy at It’s easy to take part — you just read something which is related to Ireland. It could be a book by an Irish author, or set in Ireland or characters who are of Irish origin. If you’re stuck for ideas, Cathy has a list of around 100 suggestions on the site. More info can be found on the Reading Ireland announcement page.

And finally…

Article: Can novels change our attitudes to death?

In an article for Electric Literature, professor John MacNeill Miller asks whether novels such as Lincoln in the Bardo, which deal with the afterlife, can help address our phobia about death.

Maybe not the most uplifting topic for the end of the week but one that got me thinking about death scenes in literature. Two come to mind immediately: Emma Bovary in Gustav Flaubert’s Madam Bovary and Paul Dombey in Dombey and Son. The first is not how most people would want to spend their final moments on this earth; the second is considerably more traditional though rather sentimental.  Have you come across any scenes that are more realistic, neither sentimental nor dwelling on the gruesome?


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

26 thoughts on “Bookends #2 March 2018

  • I recently read Kent Haruf’s Benediction, which is a story about someone who finds out they’re dying. A very intense but beautiful look at a person’s final days. You raise an interesting point about learning about death through books – maybe it’s the only way we really can, in an objective way.

  • I almost wrote the exact same thing as the person above me! Almost Famous Women sounds fascinating.

    • I would offer to pass on my copy but I have it only in e book form. I know there is meant to a way to share them but I couldnt get the instructions to work

      • Yeah it’s not really easy to share them I’ve figured it out once before but couldn’t replicate it a second time. Plus I’ve got to get through my backlog!

  • Kris Bauers

    I’m going to have to check this one out. I’ve seen it in a few places, your review has tipped me over the edge! I’ve been exploring different avenues to great titles and recently found a great resource, so I thought I’d share! is a storytelling platform with a great variety of genres and quality works. It’s great for the avid reader or even a soon to be author! Thank you again! I look forward to picking this title up!

    • Thanks for that link Kris – will have to take a look at it

  • I can’t think of any realistic deaths in fiction off the top of my head. There are always those that nearly kill us, such as the death of Matthew in Anne of Green Gables.

  • I’ve always wanted to read Almost Famous Women. I’m always afraid though, with compilations of mini biographies of people like these, I’d easily forget most of the people they featured.

    • If the writer has done their job well, then they should be memorable…..

  • Hope spring comes to you soon. We are going towards autumn. Ireland month sounds like fun but it will need to wait. I am travelling in March. Death in books is mainly crime for me but nothing I read makes me think differently. The show that did make me think more about it was Six Feet Under. Film/tv has more influence for me than books.

    • I can understand why film has the influence – its much more graphic usually, and you can’t hide away from it. Safe travels – hope you are going somewhere fun

  • piningforthewest

    In Anna Karenina Nikolai Levin’s death was so like my father’s it was difficult to read. Tolstoy based it on his brother’s death I think.
    I haven’t been out of the house for four days, the east of Scotland got it first I think, luckily we were well stocked up with food, but I’m getting fed up with it all now.

    • You did get a massive dose of the white stuff didn’t you. Ours thankfully has mostly gone though there are large piles at the sides of some roads. Reading A Karenina must have been an awful experience, a bit too close to reality

  • Almost Famous Women sounds like the sort of project I would dream up. Except I would probably not complete it. As far as death in fiction goes, it seems as various as in life. In the last five books I read: death by rescue inhaler malfunction, death by stress and something like tuberculosis, death by freezing in an ice sculpture and death in bed from old age, death by torture. I can’t say any changed my views about death except to add to my imagination about it.

    • You’re right – it does sound like a fascinating project. I’m involved with a group of writers and actors who walk around a cemetery and write/perform pieces based on the people we find buried there. Trouble is I love the research part so much I get carried away. But the people I’ve learned about have been fascinating – a man who was a missionary for 40 years at a leper colony in S Africa, a young engineer killed in a shipwreck, a shipping magnate who built a church in memory of his beloved wife. the stories just go on and on

  • I’m among those who don’t like “Lincoln in the Bardo.” It doesn’t impact my views of life and death at all, and annoyed me with all of the trivial conversations that sounded more like something I’d hear in a Walmart than a cemetery.

    • The premise of the book didn’t appeal to me and then when I heard there were hundreds of characters, I decided it was not for me…

  • Sounds like you had a lot of snow. It was comparatively tame here in Switzerland. But it’s different in bigger cities anyway.
    The article sounds interesting. I noticed several nonfiction books about dying recently. They all sounded fascinating.

    • it was horrendous for a few days – three of the four roads out of the village were completely blocked by a wall of snow. Lots of buildings now closed because their roofs couldnt take the strain and supplies of veg/fruit etc are not yet back to normal. But we’re fine except for not having any heating because the boiler has just packed up…..

      • I had no idea. Sounds awful. I guess living in a country that’s prepared for snow makes you unaware of what can happen somewhere where it’s less likely. Funny enough, I hardly ever see snow where I live anymore. I hope things will get better soon.


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