African authorsIrish authorsSunday Salon

Snapshot May 2016

morris dancersI could pretend that I was up at dawn to greet the first of May in the time honoured way, followed by a bit of a caper around the village maypole. I did neither of these. Nor did I go and watch any Morris Men in action or take part in a May Queen parade. No doubt these things were going on somewhere in the UK today though I suspect there were more people heading to the shopping malls than the village green.

So what was I doing on the first of this month??

Just Finished

I finally got around today to finishing Devoted Ladies by M.J Farrell (otherwise known as Molly Keane), a novel which shocked readers at the time because it featured a lesbian relationship. I’d read about two thirds of it by the time I took off for my long trip to USA but it hadn’t grabbed my interest so I left it behind. Today when I picked it up I found it a lot more interesting and I could see why Keane has such a strong following. I still feel the book sagged in the middle and I wanted a lot more about the tense relationship and battle of wills between Jane and Jessica and less about two cousins Piggy and Hester who live in a run down country house in Ireland. I’m glad however I didn’t give up on it if only because of the way in the final pages Keane showed even a faintly ridiculous figure like Piggy could not forever tolerate being the butt of everyone’s jokes. If this is an indication of  Keane’s ability to create deep and complex characters, I’ll be keen to look for more of her work.

On the Horizon

I’m toying with opening The Gathering by Anne Enright, which won the 2007 Booker Prize. It was her fourth novel and somewhat of a surprise winner – although the unanimous choice of the judges it had been considered an outsider.  This is a novel in which the Hegarty siblings gather in Dublin for the wake of their brother Liam, an alcoholic who killed himself. His sister Veronica uses the opportunity to look through her family’s history to try and make sense of his death. I’ve read the first few pages just to get a feeling for the book and have fallen in love with the immediacy of Enright’s style.

My other option is another Booker prize winner, Life & Times of Michael K by J. M Coetzee which was the 1983 winner. It’s a short work which traces a journey made by Michael K, a poor man with a cleft lip, from Cape Town where he works as a gardener to his mother’s rural birthplace.  Along the way he encounters hardship and hostility. I’ve read only one other book by Coetzee (Disgrace which also won the Booker prize) and loved his style so am hoping Michael K will prove just as rewarding.


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

15 thoughts on “Snapshot May 2016

  • Anne Enright can be such a powerful writer! I didn’t think The Green Road, which was up for the Man Booker last year, was as good as The Forgotten Waltz which I’ll never forget. I’ve been wanting to read The Gathering for awhile.

  • I’ve read a couple of Molly Keane novels and liked them a lot. Sometimes, though, books have to hit you at the right time.

    • Any recommendations for me Guy? I think it was just a case of the wrong choice but I haven’t written her off at all

  • I’ve read two of Coetzee’s books: Foe and Waiting for the Barbarians. I enjoyed them both. I think I have Disgrace sitting around here somewhere. I hope you enjoy!

    • I don’t know either of those Rachel. Will have to take a closer look now

  • I almost never give up on a book when I’ve read that far even though it sags in the middle.

    • I don’t think I do either when I’ve invested that much time in it already

  • Both of the books you’re considering next sound pretty intense! Hmmm..Devoted Ladies sounds like it’s worth a try. Glad to know you’ve arrived home safely and soundly! 🙂

    • I went for The Gathering in the end. It has a strong feeling at the beginning of the narrator feeling hard done by but I think this is only the start of the recriminations against her family

  • Here in Birmingham (yes, Land of Industrial Revolution and we do know what a tree looks like, thanks very much) we get a reasonable amount of Morris Men performing. I’ve found it’s now not limited to Spring, but teams also perform in the City Centre – pretty much whenever 2 or more groups can be found together.

    I do stop and watch, and will add money to any hat that goes by – my main enjoyment comes from watching the tourists (Americans and Japanese in particular) who have *no idea* as to what’s going on…and why a white guy being “blacked up” is one of the few instances where PC has Not Gone Mad (thanks very much)

    • whenever I see the morris dancers I’m struck by how energetic their routine is. I know people laugh at them but you have to be quite fit to last the rounds

    • I love what I’ve read so far – much stronger than The Green Road….


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