#BookReview by Lou – Pianos and Flowers By Alexander McCall Smith @McCallSmith #KnopfDoubleday #PenguinRandom

Pianos and Flowers
By Alexander McCall Smith
Rated: 5 stars *****

Pianos and Flowers is a book of short stories by the man who has brought so many excellent series, such as The No1 Ladies Detective Agency and many more.
Pianos and Flowers is an exquisitely written short story within itself that also has other short stories within. Each location is primarily in Scotland. Some settings are Glasgow, Dundee with other places mentioned such as Stirling, Broughty Ferry, Dunfermline, Perth, Aberdeen and more… There are also other locations too, such as Cambridge and more…
There are interesting photos throughout, which go well with each story. It’s most definitely worth a read. I’ve written some short reviews of some of the stories.
Please do check out the blurb and the reviews below. I also have another book by Alexander McCall Smith I am reviewing soon for you. All with many thanks to Knopf Double Day Publishing Group.

Piano and Flowers cover

Blurb

From the beloved and best-selling author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, a charming collection of stories about life and romance

In these fourteen delightful tales, Alexander McCall Smith imagines the lives and loves behind some of the everyday people featured in pictures from the London Sunday Times photographic archive. A young woman finds unexpected love while perusing Egyptian antiquities. A family is forever fractured when war comes to Penang, in colonial Malaysia. Iron Jelloid tablets help to reveal a young man’s inner strength. And twin sisters discover that romance can blossom anywhere—even at the altar.

Throughout Pianos and Flowers, McCall Smith employs his indomitable charm to explore the possibilities of love, friendship, and happiness.

Piano and Flowers cover

The book starts with Piano and Flowers and an exquisite photograph of the characters that draws the eye in and along to some unusual topiary. The photograph becomes essential to the story. It’s like when you’re in an art gallery, looking at the beautiful paintings and photographs and working out what the artist is telling you or making up a story to fit what you observe.
I love the way Pianos and Flowers all unfolds. It’s observant and thoughtful and takes readers from the garden in the photo to life further afield, the image in the photograph is central to the writing. At the end you are asked to actually look at the photo again. By this time you have names to the people within it and know about their lives. Readers will also learn about the piano and flowers and their significance.

I’d Cry Buckets has another photo of rolling Scottish hills and people with a pony. This time, it’s written differently, more how people are used to reading a shory, perhaps, in its style, and yet the photograpgh depicts the landscape Bruce and David are in. What to do with life though? Go travelling or university? These are the decisions that have to be made and if it is uni, then which one? Oxford or St. Andrews? The story is thought-provoking with pangs of sadness and so desperately I find myself wanting it to work out for the pair. The writing is so evocative and is more than some coming-of-age stories. It goes further in telling more of their lives, beyond their youth.

Sphynx – At 26 years old, the daughter of a greengrocer at the Firth of Clyde. It’s about from being around the Clyde shipyards and the Gorbals to moving around a bit to London to finding a chance of frendship. I like that she’s a strong woman who tries to avoid self-pity as much as she can. It’s a fascinating story of different lives and bits of society, as well as an interest in all things Egyptian.

Maternal Designs – Richard’s father was a successful builder in Stirling and his mother, a daughter of a Dundee Jute Merchant were ambitious for him and wanted him to go to University – not just any one, but Cambridge. He himself isn’t quite so ambitious. He becomes an architect and highlights the differences in how men and women view a home. It’s also interesting how Stirling is viewed in this particular story and the ambition that ensues.

Anthropology is the main theme of The Dwarf Tale-Teller of the Romanian Rom and Dr. anthropologist, Edwina McLeod, wants to study headhunting and it isn’t the sort of headhunting western countries would think. There are songs and rituals and rating history in villages within this, where she meets the Rom people, who are very particular, and a story-telling dwarf who readers can find out if actually is willing to impart in a traditional tale or not.

In Dotty, there are twins in Glasgow and that question if dressing them the same is what is wanted or stifling individuality and whether there really is “equal-ranking” among them.

Zeugma is interesting and says some truth about changing trends. There’s an older librarian who complains about the clothing of one of the library patrons and a younger librarian who thinks he’s rather stuffy. There is a day when the young librarian is offered a shared bike ride on the way to work by a distinguished professor, when most don’t learn any junior’s name. This one seems different. This is when readers can learn what Zeugma is, on this unexpected, interesting, scenic ride.

From Urchans in Scotland, with connections to many Scottish places, they became successful in various ways and there was one who chanced his luck and later became an actor.  It becomes an intriguing story as there’s one who carries a box and it’s written in a way that really, you do want to find out its contents. It has twists and turns that are unexpected as some are dark and yet full of intrigue from beginning to end.

St.John’s Wort shows there is so much a person can worry about, even in the 60’s from the paths countries have taken that lead to Communism. After all, Communism doesn’t just happen. There’s always a road as it were, that leads a country there, step by step, whether the people in that country realise its gradual process to it is happening or not. Finally, people were getting worried and Brian is perhaps more so than most, but also perhaps a bit more cautious than most and being a bit more depressed than most. It shows the “power” of St. John’s Wort.

Blackmail is about having a job that is right at the bottom of the jobs pile, the bottom rung. It’s also about a professional blackmailer lurking around.

La Plage is the final story takes place at the beach, complete with bathing machines. It has some humour, and apparently one of the character’s mother’s is actually right about something! It’s a fascinating story with the perfect ending line to finish off this book of short stories.

#BookReview by Lou of #ChildrensBook – Sammy’s New Food Week By Charlotte Olson, Illustrated by Nick Roberts @suziebooks

Sammy’s New Food Week
By Charlotte Olson
Illustrated By Nick Roberts
Rated: 4 stars ****

Charlotte Olson writes Suzie and Sammy books. They are a visual aid for young children and are simple stories to help in certain situations.

I thank Charlotte for contacting me after word of mouth or word of tweet from children’s author Nikki Saunders. I thank Charlotte for sending me a PDF copy of her book.

Discover the blurb, review, website and social media links and other titles.
Available Now!

Sammy's New Food Week

Blurb

Follow Sammy as he tries a new food every day of the week. Monday, some yummy broccoli through to Sunday where Sammy tries some roast chicken.
You never know, you might like to try something new too, just like Sammy has!

Review

This is a fun book with bold illustrations and short book for young children and aimed primarily at those who find it challenging to try new foods. Each page has a friendly way, through story-telling and pictures of showing Sammy eating different type of food each day of the week from brocolli on Monday to apples on Wednesday to fish on Friday and many more all the way from Monday to Sunday. 

The book focuses on 1 topic and is written in a non-complex way, making it easy for children to understand and to follow. It’s also great for those with shorter attention spans.

It would make a great conversation opener and through Sammy being shown trying all the different foods, it could be used as a resource for parents and in a wider context of techniques, in nurseries and schools for encouraging children to give new foods a try in a gentle, non-invasive way.

Media Links and Other Titles

Website: suziebooks.co.uk              Twitter: @suziebooks

More Sammy and Suzie titles
Dressing Up Day
Moving House
Visiting Grandparents
Star Chart
New Food Day
Goes to a Funeral
Going to the Hairdressers
Bathtime
Going to the Seaside
Going to the Swimming Pool
Going to the Park
Toilet Time

#Review by Lou of Blank Podcast @Blankpod by Giles Paley-Phillips @eliistender10 @jimdalycomedy #Podcast

Blank Podcast
By Giles Paley-Phillips
and Jim Daly
British Podcast Awards Nominee 2019
Rated: 5 stars *****

Blank Podcast pic 

Giles Paley-Phillips is an author, musician and an Ambassador for Action Aid UK.
Jim Daly is a comedian and author.

Description

Everyone has those difficult blank moments sometimes.

Whether in your personal life, career, relationship, or in a public situation, writer’s block, social anxiety, imposter syndrome, being off-form or having an identity crisis can affect anyone at any time. It’s part of the human condition and yet it can throw us off course and make us feel helpless.

Giles Paley-Phillips and Jim Daly host an informal, insightful podcast in which they chat to well-known people from comedy, acting, writing, broadcasting, politics and sports about their careers and how they get through these moments when things aren’t going to plan


Together Giles and Jim have created Blank Podcast where they talk about moments that aren’t going so well in a relatable and non-judgemental and down to earth way. It isn’t as depressing as it sounds. It does have some good uplifting and insightful moments as they talk to everyone from authors to actors to documentary makers to comedians and more…
It is very fascinating as what they talk about isn’t what they usually talk about. It’s those “blank moments” and almost a peek behind the scenes as it were. “Blank moments” take the chats in various directions, which makes it engaging and pretty compelling. Blankness means something different to everyone.
There will be an accompanying book early next year simply called Blank.

I listened to a few of the podcasts, which has some pretty well-known famous people. They are recorded in the Nordic Bar in Oxford. The podcasts appear Every Wednesday Morning. It is FREE and you can subscribe as well so it can drop into wherever you choose to listen to podcasts.

Before I move on, I would like to thank Giles Paley-Phillips for getting in touch with me to listen to his podcast. I was told I could just do a shout-out about it if I wanted, but once I got listening, I got inspired to write a blog because this is good!

Here are links where you can access Blank Pod and further below is a little about some 3 I have listened to and a bit of info on 3 episodes I have listened to so far.

http://podcasts.apple.com/hr/podcast/bla
Castbox http://bit.ly/2PHWUCI
Spotify http://spoti.fi/2qikmYK
Acast http://bit.ly/2qgGLpA

Blank Podcast pic

Michael Rosen

Known for writing poetry and children’s books and more…

It was interesting hearing about when he was younger and where he lived in London and reveals “MetroLand” and some secret places. You can find out what he means by this in the podcast. There are some insights into his life going back as far as being a child and what a very different type of world it was back then, into how his parents were and what they stood for and it may not be all that you would assume and not all is what you would think would go together at all in their religion and political leanings.

There is some humour that pokes through within this podcast as he, with great candour and vivid memories, talks about his life and that of his parent’s lives.

He talks of his career plans. How they changed from wanting to be a doctor to being a writer and also how his parent’s rated career paths. He did other jobs apart from being a writer, including with the BBC and find out the mysterious goings on.
There is an interesting part about creativity and how everyone is creative in some form or another and about what he calls “ego-strength”, which is absolutely fascinating and I think people will find useful and is certainly thought-provoking in his advice. He also talks about his children’s poetry and the risks he takes and how he is fascinated by performance and writing and all the different forms that he is involved in.

Rebecca Callard

Known for acting in The Grand, Coronation Street, The Detectorists, Ordinary Lies and much more

Discover what is in Rebecca’s film collection (she still has VHS) and her reminisces of video shops as well as what they are watching by more modern means and some of the most watched Netflix shows. It is interesting to hear why she watches certain shows. It’s interesting hearing her mindset from when she was younger to now about acting and watching it, including her love of horror and yet affects her.

They also talk a bit about insomnia and what perhaps affects this and also how it could have started very early on in her life and the anxieties and how it affects her and also how she learns lines and how to manage work, family and insomnia. It’s talked about in such a convivial way. She talks about her challenging times and stage-fright and how she felt isolation, until people around her told her how they’ve had it. She talks about the importance of talking about things and the discussion goes onto some deepness and how people can be hard on themselves.

Rebecca Callard has started writing and the projects she started and didn’t finish. She finally finished a piece and won a prize and garnered some success and may write more. Some of her ideas sound rather good and refreshing. Find out more in the podcast. She touches on her mother Beverley Callard having depression and also how strong and successful she is. She also talks of true friendship!

Louis Theroux

Known for making documentaries and more…

He talks a bit about his life of flitting between the US and the UK. He is writing a book and is most famously known for making documentaries. He talks of feeling most home in the UK.

It is interesting as he talks about some of the people he has met along the way in tv.

He is writing, what he calls a professional memoir. He talks about being a studious and curious person and talks of some of his interests and also how he drifted into certain jobs, including journalism and other jobs that perhaps you wouldn’t immediately associate with him. He taks about getting into that stage where you don’t quite know about what the next steps were and moved around in the US. He takes listeners around different parts.

He talks about needing structure and direction in life and seems like that’s more what he is used to. It’s relatable to and having a period of time of not knowing this.

He talks of what sounds like some real challenges in some of his films, social media. He also talks about some of his documentaries and it is some great insights from Louis Theroux’s point of view. He talks about the times when things change direction, the research and being on location. It is a fascinating peek behind the scenes a little that isn’t shown on tv.

He talks a bit about the junctions that appear in life and to try and keep things fresh.

Links

http://podcasts.apple.com/hr/podcast/bla
Castbox http://bit.ly/2PHWUCI
Spotify http://spoti.fi/2qikmYK
Acast http://bit.ly/2qgGLpA

#Bookreview by Lou of Love In Lockdown by Chloe James – Happy Publication Day @FionaWoodifield @ElliePilcher95 @AvonBooksUK #WomensFiction #Romance

Love In Lockdown
By Chloe James
Rated: 5 stars *****

Love In Lockdown shows so many displays of love through kindness, empathy, romance and much more. It is emotional but it is also uplifting about all of life, from human to nature during lockdown and how people connected and what occurred and how nature became the most vibrant it has ever been in decades. It has glimmers of humour, warmth and hope in what is a unique and surprisingly delightful read that everyone will be able to find something to connect and relate to in this book, which is the first of its kind to focus on relationships and community during the stress of the backdrop of Covid 19. It is far from depressing and instead leaves an unexpected warmth.

Thank you so much to Ellie Pilcher from Avon Books who sent me an invite to review.
Please do discover the blurb and full review below.

Love In Lockdown pic

Blurb

What if you met the right person at the wrong time?

Lockdown is putting Sophia’s life on pause – just as she planned to put herself out there and meet someone. When the first clap for the keyworkers rings out around her courtyard, she’s moved to tears for all kinds of reasons.

Jack is used to living life to the fullest. He’s going stir-crazy after just days isolating. Until the night he hears a woman crying from the balcony under his. He strikes up a conversation with the stranger and puts a smile on her face.

Soon their balcony meetings are the highlight of Jack and Sophia’s days. But even as they grow closer together, they’re always kept apart.

Can they fall in love during a lockdown?

Perfect for fans of The Flatshare.
Love In Lockdown pic 2

Review

This unique book reflects the times that we live in, but that doesn’t mean it is all doom and gloom; far from it! It is a book that is not now just universal because love is, but also because we are all in some form or another experiencing living with Covid 19. It is all relatable and yet, as much as Covid 19 is challenging and can be harrowing, this book is surprisingly uplifting as well, within a wonderfully written realism of a community coming together through the stressful times, and yet relationships are formed despite this. It is written well with so much acknowledged throughout, whilst telling a great story.

There is Erica who works as a midwife and Jenny who is having to self-isolate due to having underlying issues. Everything from the weather being gorgeously sunny to what was on TV to Zoom  to what happened in education to clapping for the NHS is included and more… In some ways this is a novel that may help people never to forget these moments and also will show generations to come what we are currently living through and have lived through, all in a fictionalised book that has so much reality. It is all moving and endearing. There is also the worry and emotion that runs through these moments and also a baby being born. It, quite originally, shows  the father and his emotions throughout the pregnancy and when the baby is born. He is a complex character with some secrets to behold and has some twists and turns in his life.

The loss of freedoms is pronounced and how humans had to adapt to living socially distanced and also virtually, but so is the vibrancy of nature that emerged in all its splendour, taking back its space.

It’s also a love story about meeting someone online during times of lockdown as the App, Hinge is discovered. There is some humour attached to this. There are also cakes and cocktails and all the social distancing on the balcony and courtyard as life changes and yet still goes on.

The book shows how connected people can be and it is interesting getting to know all the characters personalities and seeing some as “drama queens” and others showing kindness and empathy. It is in some ways thought-provoking without being heavy, as characters realise that priorities change a bit within their lives during the pandemic and for what to focus on afterwards and how relationships can change.

It is ultimately and meaningful, delightful book to read.

The Greatest Beer Run Ever – A Crazy Adventure In A Crazy War – Soon to be a Movie by John “Chick” Donohue and J.T. Molloy #GreatestBeerRun #JohnChickieDonohue @Octopus_Books @RandomTTours #NonFiction #NonFictionNovember

The Greatest Beer Run Ever – A Crazy Adventure In A Crazy War
by John “Chick” Donohue
Soon to be a Major Movie
Rated: 5 stars *****

Adventure like no other! The Greatest Beer Run Ever – A Crazy Adventure In A Crazy War is an enthralling page-turner that greatly enhances any knowledge of Vietnam and is highly unique! This is an adventure that has not been told before until now, in what is a fascinating book!

Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to review and of course Monoray for sending a hardback copy of the book, that will soon be a major movie.

Greatest Beer Run Cover (1)

Blurb

THE GREATEST BEER RUN EVER: A Crazy Adventure in a Crazy War is the amazing
true story of a young man going to take his buddies a few cans of beer – in the heat of
the Vietnam war. In 1967 – having seen students protesting against the Vietnam war, some
New York City bar friends decided that someone should hop over to Vietnam to buy their
various neighbourhood army buddies a beer, to show them that SOMEONE appreciates
what they’re doing over there. One man was up for the challenge: John “Chickie” Donohue.
A U. S. Marine Corps veteran turned merchant mariner, Chickie decided he wasn’t about
to desert his buddies on the front lines when they needed him most.
Chickie set off on an adventure that changed his life forever. Armed with Irish luck and
a backpack full of alcohol, he made his way to Qui Nho’n, tracking down his disbelieving
friends one by one. But Chickie saw more of the war than he ever bargained for…

SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOVIE
Peter Farrelly, writer and producer of Green Book, is turning THE GREATEST BEER
RUN EVER into a movie, currently slated for Autumn 2020 (TBC). In 2018 Green Book
won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay and the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Original
Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor. Farrelly has also directed and produced Dumb
and Dumber, Shallow Hal, Me, Myself and Irene, There’s Something About Mary, and the
2007 remake of The Heartbreak Kid.

Greatest Beer Run Cover (1)

Review

John “Chick” Donahue, was, at 26 years of age, a US Marine Corps veteran working as a merchant seaman, when challenged to do something, whilst in a bar – The Hedgehog Inn in NYC. A tradition brought about from ancestry from Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales. It’s more serious than any old joke about An Englishman, A Scotsman, An Irishman walked into a bar…. These men had known death of family and friends in the Vietnam War, as if that wasn’t enough, they had to deal with protestors, which were more than just frustrating to John. This is when the most fantastical challenge was brewed up, to track down their comrades in Vietnam and give them beer, hugs, support etc. It almost sounds unbelievable, but this actually did happen.

Turns out John also knew Frank McCourt from Angela’s Ashes fame. I should think many people still remember this book and will find what he has to say about an incident, highly interesting.

The book moves onto showing a bit about the political scene and also, more interesting, the thoughts that went through the men’s minds when they saw people protesting about the war and their comrades just going about their duty in Vietnam; whatever you think about the war itself, this becomes thought-provoking and very, very “human” and is told well, from this point of view. It’s almost looking a bit behind the scenes as it were as it delves deeper than the surface and it is an enthralling read. No matter how much you know about the Vietnam War, this will add to readers knowledge and show a whole different uniqueness.

What started as an almost flippant comment about taking beer to Vietnam becomes real, the support for it to happen is phenominal and the adventure, something, as crazy as it sounds, nothing short of inspiring! It’s such a treat of a book of a little known event, that now can reach wider audiences and has even inspired a film company to turn it into a movie is nothing short of miraculous and is a good find! It takes people from NYC to Qui Nhon, Vietnam to their fellow comrades, with beer in their arms and Irish songs in their voices. There is a fascinating insight into what was happening in Vietnam during the war and the GI’s and the weaponary and the danger John “Chick” Donahue was around as he witnesses POWs. There is a great feel of the time that he was there at a perspective  that, perhaps, unless you were there, wouldn’t otherwise have known about. There is all emotions mixed with fascination and even in a war ravaged place, there can be kindnesses. Although, ultimately there is sadness as there always will be in war, but there are pockets that are astonishing with people being kind to each other. It uplifts it all a bit and amazingly is not at all a heavy read. It is somewhat a page-turner, leading to a poignant end.

There are fabulous photos throughout the book, which feels so poignant and brings about a heightened emotion and in a sense, some certain respect and adds a real richness and further understanding of this period of time.

Is it worth the hype and no doubt the hype it will get when the movie is made? Absolutely! It’s so unique and yes it’s sad about the Vietnam war, but out of this is terrific beyond the call of duty type friendship, comradeship, kindness and care. This book brings a whole different light onto a period of time that is mostly noted for it being so tragic.

About the Author

John “Chickie” Donohue joined the United States Marine Corps at the age of
seventeen and spent several years as a Merchant Mariner after his discharge. His
work took him to numerous foreign ports, including Saigon during the Vietnam War.
After the war, he became a Sandhog, or tunnel builder, and eventually became the
Legislative and Political Director of Sandhogs, Local 147, Laborers International Union
of North America, a post in which he served for over three decades. Donohue is a
graduate of the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government where he
received his Master of Public Administration degree. He is happily married to Theresa
“Terri” O’Neil and spends his time between New York, Florida, and West Cork, Ireland.

Greatest Beer Run BT Poster (1)

#BookReview by Lou of Crow Glen – A Spiritual Universe of An Irish Village – Exquisite and Insightful – 4 stars. #NonFiction

Crow Glen
By Marella Hoffman
Rated: 4 stars ****

 

Exquisite, insightful and erudite into a part of Ireland

Exquisitely written and erudite, Marella Hoffman, originally in Ireland herself, begins looking into Ireland, specifically Gleann an Phreachain or Glen of the Crow and the surrounds of North Cork in ways that are insightful as she takes you on a journey of discovery into people’s present and history, culture where there is heartbreak, joy and more…

Please follow down to discover more in the blurb and review and about the author. There is also a link to her website showing you more about her venture in France as well.
I thank Marella Hoffman for getting in contact to provide a quote for the book and for a review. Please note, my review is non-biased.

CrowGlen, cover

Blurb

An odyssey through big time in a small place, this book unfolds 1,000 years of history in Crow Glen, the village of Glenville, County Cork. Returning to her native place, an emigrant ethnographer uses original oral history recordings, archival documents and collective memoir to reveal the layers of Irish history in this microcosm. The Fianna, pre-Christian nature worship, the Bards, the Famine, the War of Independence, locals’ Catholic practices on the body, in the home and in the landscape – all are resuscitated out of the land, the archives and folk memory. There are circles of emigration and return. Irish Americans come back to the village 170 years after their ancestors’ coffin-ship exodus. Their memories engage a rich dialogue with those of the villagers today. Secrets emerge, revealing historical facts of national importance. We discover that Crow Glen was a major HQ for the Irish armed effort in the War of Independence, hosting visionaries from Thomas Davis to Ernie O’ Malley, Liam Lynch to Tomás Mac Curtain. Crow, the village’s ancient icon, has a bird’s eye view over the centuries and the lives below. He shows us Fagan, the hedge-school teacher; Sweeney, the gamekeeper on the colonial estate; Ó Duinnshléibhe, the Gaelic manuscript calligrapher; and some of the country’s greatest Irish-language Bards who worked in Crow Glen, the Nagle Mountains and the Blackwater Valley from the fourteenth century onwards.Nineteenth-century locals continued Crow Glen’s Bardic tradition with witty songs and biting satires that celebrate the landscape, regulate feuds and remember emigrants. In this book, the land speaks too. Lyrenamon, Mullanabowree, Toorgariffe – exotic placenames stud the area’s black soil like jewels. Townlands speak their original Irish-language meanings, yielding messages about how our ancestors lived there. Wherever we are, the strengths and resources of previous generations in Crow Glen can help us face the challenges that lie ahead of us all today.

Buy Link: Amazon Buy Link With Free Delivery

Review

This is a curious and highly intriguing and interesting book about Crow Glen, a mysterious place near Cork in Ireland. There is even a map of places where people can go on walk and an Irish folk song included, which adds to the richness of this book, which mostly circles around Marella Hoffman, Norma O’ Donaghue, Nell and the Carney’s and also has like a tour round a manor house.

Firstly Marella tells you a little about herself and the research methods she used and her discoveries of historical treasures, including a letter sent to the Prime Minister at the time. The areas of Ireland she researched seem shroud in mystery and spirituality and differing experiences of the place from person to person, as explained at the start of the book. It’s very interesting and very accessible, as is the entire book for any reader interested in Ireland and indeed is from Ireland.

The origins and evolving language is explained in chapter one as is how to get to Glen of The Crow to join in its fairytale state of living, where it seems to be a very unique place where things, including time, don’t totally work in the conventional way. With this book, you’d be sure to find it by the directions given and the rich, scenic descriptions, which seem almost dream-like, as does the ritual of returners and how they are welcomed back into the fold.

The descriptions of the trees within the area is cleverly done, in an almost tactile manner, as though you could reach out and touch them, but the descriptions go even further than that as by now, its all caught up finely and yet deliberately in the mystique and quirks of the place.

There’s an intensity of religion that is conveyed to be rather different from other places. It’s written with, whether you’re a religious or spiritual person or not, in a respectful manner, whilst also with authenticity, with parts of how Marella herself remembers it, but also through talking to Norma. It goes on, into interesting detail about how it is being a Catholic there and how it can become a huge part of life and also how it has changed from historical to present times as it seemed to consume a huge amount of time, compared to nowadays. There is great insight into this way of life and also into people’s homes and also how they sit within the religion and spirituality and explores differing viewpoints. It’s all rather interesting and perhaps not all as your may expect.

The book moves on like a family is leaving Crow Glen in “other worldly” fashion, in the way it is described, which introduces Johanna Carney who is moving away with her large family in 1847. Her homestead still exists, but back then there was hardship and also Cromwell’s army invading.

There are events within this, such as smuggling and of the usual type people would think of. Every so often there are nuggets of the very unexpected that heightens interest more in this place that seems full of curiosities.

There’s a wonderful sense of history that converges with the present, but also what comes across is there are differences too that emerges as time moves on and changes made.

Marella then gets the opportunity to speak with people related to Johanna, where an insightful interview between Chris and Mary takes place, that pulls the reader into learning more about their ancestry from Ireland to America and there is a real sense of the importance of treasuring family history to pass onto future generations to enhance their knowledge.

There is some rich mythology that has spawned from what is a place that seems somewhat hidden, or was and it has taken time for young people to realise there is a whole world, from much of the outside world  like The Children of Lir being turned into swans. It turns into an even more extraordinary book.

It isn’t all spiritual and religion, nor fairytale like, there is a political element to this book further along as well about the 1920’s  and the IRA and spies and an intriguing man who was Lieutenant Seymore Lewington Vincent. This is written in a way that brings another dimension to Glen Crow and Cork and a further understanding of what was going on in the political world. There is also a part which refreshingly details the women’s contribution to the revolution.  This is absolutely not a dry section of the book by any means, but one that gives some history, espionage and action, where there are some twists and turns involving Nell.

 It concludes with a considered and thought-provoking Afterword, followed by a glossary and bibliography.

About the Author

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Marella Hoffman (née Buckley) was raised in Glenville, the Irish village featured in this, her ninth book.
After writing a PhD thesis on literature, she first lectured at University College Cork. She has held research awards or positions at universities in France, Switzerland, the US and at the University of Cambridge, where she was based for almost a decade. She has also worked extensively for governments, designing systems that boost democracy and social justice among excluded communities. Her tools for assisting dialogue between refugees and host communities were published recently as part of a toolkit for the United Nations.

A Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, her books have studied topics like the attitudes of the
permanently unemployed White underclass in an English town; refugees’ experiences of nationality and identity in their adopted homeland; or the ecological practices and lifestyle of an 87-year-old hermit shepherd in the French Mediterranean mountains. Her work has been published by Routledge, the Sorbonne University in Paris, other academic presses, regional publishers and as journalism.

She is married to the author and medical scientist Dr Richard Hoffman. They produce much of their work from their writers’ retreat near the Bordeaux vineyards in southern France, where they are rewilding several acres as an ecological nature reserve. They also accommodate visiting writers and families on holiday. For information, a virtual visit or to holiday at the Bordeaux centre, visit http://www.marellahoffman.com