Tag Archives: love

#BookReview ‘In a Summer Season’ by Elizabeth Taylor #classic #love

What a painful, heart-wrenching read is In a Summer Season by Elizabeth Taylor. It is about love – giddying heart-spinning young love, the intensity of teenage crush, the love and companionship of friendship, parental love, second love, age-gap love, tragic love and lust-love. Elizabeth TaylorWidow Kate is seen by friends and family to have married again, unwisely, to a younger man, the charming and feckless Dermot. Kate’s sixteen-year-old daughter Louise hates the way Dermot speaks to her mother, while Kate’s son Tom struggles to make his way in his grandfather’s business and retired teacher Aunt Ethel fears for the new marriage which she believes is founded solely on sex. As Kate adopts new hobbies to fit in with her husband – going to the races, the pub – Dermot feels excluded by the things he doesn’t know, and by Kate’s shared experience with first husband Alan. The household exists in an uneasy alliance. For the first half of the book, this calm is layered with a troubling current eventually brought to the surface by the arrival of Alan’s oldest friend, Charles, and his beautiful daughter Araminta. Tom becomes too caught up in his own calf love for Minty to worry about his mother, Lou falls for the local curate, while Ethel tells all in sensational letters to her friend Gertrude. ‘Ethel had a way of bending her head at closed doors, not listening, as she told herself, but ascertaining.’
None of the characters are endearing. Their paths to the truth, or not, about love – their own love and that of others – their assumptions, misjudgements and blindness, are beset with challenges. Some I forsaw, others I didn’t. Elizabeth Taylor draws a delicately coloured picture of life in a middle-class English family in the Home Counties in the fifties. Times are changing, post-war, particularly the role of women. Kate drifts, used as she was to being the junior partner to her first husband Alan, now she finds herself acting as both mother and lover to her second, younger, husband. Neither are truthful to the other.
More a story of consecutive scenes than a novel with increasing tension, In a Summer Season was published in 1961 and so combines the slower classic style of the older novel, injected with the new sexual tension appropriate to the times. The ending, so long awaited, finally arrived abruptly. My favourite Taylor novel, to date, is A View of the Harbour.

Read my reviews of other books by Elizabeth Taylor:-

If you like this, try:-
Touch Not the Cat’ by Mary Stewart
My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You’ by Louisa Young
The Confession’ by Jessie Burton

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
IN A SUMMER SEASON by Elizabeth Taylor #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5tQ via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘The Only Story’ by Julian Barnes #love #literary

I seem to be developing a Marmite relationship with Julian Barnes. I loved his early work and The Sense of an Ending but had difficulty with his last novel The Noise of Time. So I approached The Only Story with trepidation. Julian BarnesMy stomach sank as I read the first page. The first paragraph poses a question: ‘Would you rather love the more, and suffer the more; or love the less, and suffer the less? That is, I think, finally, the only real question.” A pertinent question to which each of us has our own private answer. My difficulty with the first few pages is the lack of characterization; because it is told in the first person, we do not know who is speaking, there is no context. That of course comes later, and a few pages in its starts to warm up with the description of a tennis match. But ultimately I could not shake the perception that it was Julian Barnes the man speaking, not a fictional character, in the way American authors such as Wolfe and Roth seem to become characters in their own novels.
But this is a lesson in patience. I read on and the story started to come alive as the relationship of Paul and Susan unfolds. A teenager and a woman in her forties; it is first love for Paul but, as The Only Story is told completely from his perspective, we don’t know what it is to Susan. We only know what she tells him, not what she thinks. It is telling that one day after finishing the book, I could remember the name of his character but not hers.
The story is told in three parts: in the first flush of love; in the difficult times that follow, and as Paul looks back in later life. Barnes changes narrative voice from the immediate first person for nineteen-year old Paul, to a combination of first and second in the middle section; and the more distant third person in the final part, symbolic of the passing years and perhaps of pushing emotions and guilt away. The turning points in the novel are the turning points in the relationship, as love turns to familiarity, to duty and becomes a burden. I think the author intends The Only Story as a rumination on the nature of love, when in fact it is an account of a teenager learning that young love does not stay young love.
The writing is beautiful to read, as always with Barnes, but as the story progressed the pace slackened and I grew tired of repetition. I finished it wishing I had felt more engaged with the other characters in the story; Susan’s husband is a peripheral character who behaves oddly, and I would have loved to see more from her caustic friend Joan.
A sad story, but not a new one.

Click here to read my review of THE NOISE OF TIME.

If you like this, try:-
‘Curtain Call’ by Anthony Quinn
‘Fair Exchange’ by Michèle Roberts
‘The Roundabout Man’ by Clare Morrall

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE ONLY STORY by Julian Barnes #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3pO via @SandraDanby







Book review: Separated from the Sea

Amanda HugginsAbout love, loss, partings and freedom. About yearning for a connection with another person but sometimes recognising it is better to walk away. Separated from the Sea by Amanda Huggins is a collection of poignant stories that cannot fail to touch you. Some of the stories spoke to me personally because of the Yorkshire settings, but locations range from Japan to America and Europe. Huggins has mastered the form; just enough detail, just enough emotion to pull you in and a well-disguised twist at the end.

I have chosen three stories to focus on. In ‘Whatever Speed She Dared’ a woman drives on an empty motorway across the Pennines in the dark of night. She is tempted by what lies ahead, a new future. But an encounter with a skittish rabbit gives her pause for thought.

In ‘Sea Glass’ two children walk on the beach. Alife tells Cathy that pieces of blue sea glass are the souls of fishermen lost at sea. Another two pieces, he says, are the eyes of ships’ cats swept overboard. ‘If you match a pair of eyes, and sleep with them under your pillow, then the cat’ll find his way back to land.’ A melancholic longing for love and belonging that cuts to the heart.

In ‘Already Formed’, a woman watches a boy arrive at the holiday cottage next door and his presence prompts memories of her son Rory. A child that never was but still exists in the core of the heart, more true than a true love that was a mirage. A sad story, totally believable.

Huggins is a highly accomplished writer who uses language both beautiful and at the same time sparing, there are no indulgent passages of prose to detract from the main message. Every word is weighed before inclusion. A delight.

Read my review of Mandy Huggins’ flash fiction collection Brightly Coloured Horses.

If you like this, try:-
‘Uncommon Type’ by Tom Hanks
‘You Think It, I’ll Say It’ by Curtis Sittenfeld
‘Men Without Women: Stories’ by Haruki Murakami

‘Separated from the Sea’ by Amanda Huggins [UK: Retreat West]

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A poem to read in the bath… ‘Name’

Today’s poem to read in your bath is another by the wonderful Carol Ann Duffy. I flick through her slim anthologies, looking for poems to select for this feature, and stop again and again: ‘this one, and this one… and this one.’

‘Name’ is about the delights on new love, not necessarily young love, just the feeling when you realize liking is loving.

[photo: wikipedia]

[photo: wikipedia]

Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library or click the link below to hear Duffy read the poem aloud.

When did your name
change from a proper noun
to a charm?

Its three vowels
like jewels
on the thread of my breath.

Duffy encapsulates that feeling of new love so well it is impossible to read without being drawn back through years of memories.

To read another Carol Ann Duffy poem, ‘Elegy’ in my blog series ‘A poem to read in the bath…’, click here.

To listen to Carol Ann Duffy read ‘Name’ click here for The Poetry Archive website.

In 1989, Carol Ann Duffy spoke to the BBC Programme ‘English File’ about what inspires her to write. Click here to watch it.

Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy 16-6-14


Rapture’ by Carol Ann Duffy [UK: Picador] 

Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:-
‘Runaways’ by Daniela Nunnari
‘Sometimes and After’ by Hilda Doolittle
‘Happiness’ by Stephen Dunn

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A #poem to read in the bath: ‘Name’ by Carol Ann Duffy http://wp.me/p5gEM4-14G via @SandraDanby


Book review: Love and Eskimo Snow

Love and Eskimo Snow by Sarah Holt 28-7-14This is a novel about the nature of love and its different forms. It begins with death. Bea Bridges is killed in a car crash. The story of her childhood is told retrospectively, interwoven with the love lives of three other women – Missy, Claire and Elizabeth – from childhood crush to first kiss, friendship, first love and lust.

I waited for the women’s’ lives to connect, were they all connected with the car crash? When the strands did combine, it wasn’t what I expected.

It is an interesting study of the different types of love. Bea: the unqualified, un-questioning love of a child for her parents. Missy: a nurturing love for her boyfriend Lee who is a trifle chauvinistic about her needs and his needs. Elizabeth: who meets fellow student Joey and loves him as a brother and best friend. Claire: sexual attraction, masquerading as love.

It is a cleverly structured debut novel, Holt [below] is a former journalist, with an intriguing title. The Sami Eskimos have around 200 different words for snow: wet snow, slippery snow, icy snow. Holt doesn’t find 200 meanings of love, but she does examine how love varies from relationship to relationship, person to person and context to context. How do we learn to love? From watching our parents’ relationship? From our peers? And do we ever learn to recognise the type of love we are feeling at a particular moment?

[photo: valleypressuk.com]

[photo: valleypressuk.com]

There are some poignant moments. Bea as a child had nightmares of being buried alive, so her father gives her a silver-coloured plastic key which she keeps in her bedside drawer. As an adult she still has that key, but it is not put into her coffin.

The loose ends of the story are connected by Bea’s mother as she reads her daughter’s journal after the funeral. And then wishes she hadn’t.  A reminder that there are no convenient answers and this is not a ‘happy ever after’ ending. The novel defines a genre label. It has romance, yes; relationships, yes; but is it a romance novel? Not quite, there is a deeper message to the plotting.

To read the first two and a half chapters, click here.
‘Love and Eskimo Snow’ by Sarah Holt [Valley Press]

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Elegy’

Today’s poem to read in your bath is about timeless love that persists beyond death. ‘Elegy’ by Carol Ann Duffy is from her anthology Rapture, published in 2005, before she was appointed Poet Laureate in 2009. Her poetry is at once instantly accessible, and bears deep consideration.

[photo: Picador]

[photo: Picador]

Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library.

Who’ll know then, when they walk by the grave
where your bones will be brittle things – this bone here
that swoops away from your throat, and this,
which perfectly fits the scoop of my palm, and these
which I count with my lips, and your skull,
which blooms on the pillow now, and your fingers,
beautiful in their little rings – that love, which wanders history,
singled you out in your time?

The love, the longing, the wistfulness, brings tears to my eyes.

Click here to visit Carol Ann Duffy’s website.
Listen here to Carol Ann Duffy interviewed by The Guardian after her appointment as Poet Laureate.

Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy 16-6-14


‘Rapture’ by Carol Ann Duffy [Picador]