Oct/Nov 2016

e c l e c t i c a   r e v i e w s   a n d
i n t e r v i e w s

Reviews & Interviews

(These are excerpts—click on the title to view the whole piece!)


Ann Skea reviews...

Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and Painting the Water Lilies
by Ross King
Monet, at 74, was a highly respected and well-established artist whose work attracted very high prices, especially amongst American collectors. However, this was not always the case. Ross glances back at Monet's impoverished early years when bailiffs once seized his paintings from the wall of an exhibition and he claimed to have survived one winter living on potatoes. He looks, too, at Monet's early links with the Impressionists, some of whom became lifelong friends. And he writes of the times of public derision, which eventually turned to acceptance and then to renown.

by Holly Throsby
Goodwood, as teenage Jean Brown tells us, is "a glass half-full kind of town" where everybody knows everybody and the most dramatic events are "minor traffic-accidents or a lack of rain." That was before August, 1992, when young Rosie White, the coolest girl in town, "dropped off the face of the earth," and then a week later popular old Bart, of Bart's Meats, went fishing on the lake and never returned.

The House Between the Tides
by Sarah Maine
This is a complex plot, but Sarah Maine handles her book's many themes and characters very skilfully. For a first novel, Maine's book is impressive. I found it absorbing reading, and apart from my own occasional problem keeping the two Camerons from two different eras distinct, it was easy reading with a mystery to unravel, a Scottish island to explore, loves, hates, betrayals, and family secrets to be revealed.

by Adrien Bosc
This small, lively, and absorbing book, is beautifully bound so that a dark star-filled sky is seen through a round aircraft window in the steel-grey dust-jacket. It has been the well-deserved winner of an Arts Council of England Pen award for literary translations and the Academie Francaise Prize.

A Chinese Affair
by Isabelle Li
We first meet Crystal when she is married to an older Australian man with a grown up family. He has "had the snip," but she is pregnant. How this came about is not stated, but a later story allows the reader to believe she may have had a loving liaison with a young Chinese artist who is about to move to America. Crystal's dilemma is how and when she should break the news to her husband, but this, frustratingly, is never resolved. Often in later stories, too, situations are developed, but the outcomes are not revealed. This can be frustrating, but the stories themselves are beautifully told.

Pearl: a New Verse Translation
by Simon Armitage
Yes, the teachings and the purpose of the poem are now no longer central to many readers' lives. But the poetry, the feelings, and the beauty of the imagery are timeless.

The Wisdom Tree: 1. Gotham / 2. Venice
by Nick Earls
The Wisdom Tree is series of five novellas to be issued at the rate of one per month ending in September. I have read the first two and am looking forward to reading the rest. Each of these novellas deals with a situation in which personal and family circumstance require a balance of responsibility, duty, and love. Each story is separate, with different narrators in different countries, but there are underlying links between all of them.

The Last Painting of Sara De Vos
by Dominic Smith
The painting that is the cause of the problem is the only known surviving work of a 17th century Dutch woman, Sara de Vos. Sara is Dominic Smith's creation, as is the life he invents for her, but she is based on a real woman artist of the Dutch Golden Age, Sarah von Baalbergen, who in 1631 was the first woman artist ever to be admitted to the Harlem Guild of St Luke, which controlled all aspects of an artist's professional life.


Gilbert Wesley Purdy reviews...

Night Sky with Exit Wounds
by Ocean Vuong
The few distinctly American locales in this volume only highlight how tenuously he is connected to them. But then a grandmother's stories are an even more tenuous connection to Vietnam. In a strange way, a small immigrant Vietnamese nail salon in East Hartford, Connecticut, where his mother provided for him by doing manicures and pedicures, is Voung's home country.

Time Will Clean the Carcass Bones
by Lucia Perillo
The diagnosis of multiple sclerosis she received while writing her first volume, Dangerous Life, made something different out of this title poem, and, arguably, out of her life. In time, the youthful defiance she and her readers so appreciate became an undaunted insight into the decay that goes with living and the aging process.

Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems
by Pablo Neruda, translated by Forrest Gander
His inner reserves of poetry proved to be inexhaustible. Though the time for original conception and painstaking revision would never again be available, he would be able to draw on those reserves for the rest of his life. The new style of the Odas, with their short lines, often containing a single word, and their simple ear-borne rhythms, would make him the inspiration for yet another revolutionary new style of poetry.

and discusses his book of poetry...

Mind Dance
At the same time, the means of reaching a potential audience at minimal expense was positively and rapidly being programmed out of the Internet experience. The big players were announcing that their proprietary studies indicated that the public wished independents would stop finding inventive ways to get their products in front of them. The same studies are purported to show that the public has no objection whatsoever to being presented with paid advertising.


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