Henry Lin. Author of The 100-Pound Gangster. 4/5 on Goodreads. Henry Lin spent most of his precocious youth involved with the international criminal underworld.Originally published: 20 September 2016.Genre: Autobiography. This was a really interesting read. It’s fascinating to get an insight on how the author feels about various events which have taken place in his young life.
Maria Luisa Lang. Author of The Pharaoh’s Cat and The Eye of Nefertiti. 4/5 on Goodreads. 16 May 2015 – 184 pages. I absolutely loved both of these books. They made me laugh out loud and they made me cry. Read The Pharaoh’s Cat first.
Mike Russell. A
Lucille Turner. British author of The Sultan, The Vampyr and The Soothsayer. “A butterfly has landed on a patch of milk parsley. Wings held vertically so it’s not going anywhere – for the time being. Once he would have leant across and seized it. Now he’ll let it fly.” I really enjoyed Lucille’s writing and I’m looking forward to future books!
H.P. Lovecraft. American author of horror and weird fiction stories. Similar to Poe, Chambers and Machen, but unique. Best known for The Call of Cthulhu and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. “The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind.” He’s the only dead one on the list, but make sure you check out this author if he’s new to you!
1442: When Vlad Dracula arrives at the court of the Ottoman Sultan Murad II, his life is turned upside down. His father Dracul cannot protect him; he must battle his demons alone. And when the Sultan calls for the services of a soothsayer, even the shrewd teller of fortunes is unprepared for what he learns.
Meanwhile, the Ottoman Turks are advancing through the Balkans with Vienna in their sights and Constantinople, the Orthodox Greek capital, within their grasp. As Eastern Europe struggles against the tide of a Muslim advance it cannot counter, Western Christendom needs only one prize to overthrow its enemies. – Blurb
BRONZE PRIZEWINNER AT THE INDEPENDENT PUBLISHER BOOK AWARDS 2017 FOR BEST EUROPE FICTION
Released: November 10, 2016
The Sultan, the Vampyr and the Soothsayer by Lucille Turner is paranormal fiction presented as a historical novel. This is excellent and intelligent indie writing at a nice and hefty (and importantly, necessary) 486 pages.
I highly recommended this book to fans of supernatural or historical fiction, even if one of those genres isn’t usually your thing. Each character is fascinating and the settings are tangible.
Despite being set around war and conflict, there’s a real lack of action, which is a positive in my opinion. In many ways, this book reminded me of the first season of Game of Thrones where, unlike the books and the later seasons, we’re aware that fighting is going on but we don’t have to sit through the boredom of every punch and stab.
I much prefer the scheming and back-stabbing that we see through the dialogue and slight actions of the characters. Having said that, I wouldn’t have minded a few juicer scenes in this book… perhaps the odd swift murder or even sex scene.
I feel this would have fit in quite nicely with the overall tone of the book. The actual vampire stuff that you’d expect from the title and theme of the book is very minimal and this works surprisingly well.
LUCILLE TURNER’s first book, Gioconda, was published by Granta Books in 2011. A novel about the life of Leonardo da Vinci, it went on to win the Hislibris prize for historical fiction and was translated into several languages. She has a Master’s degree in Comparative Literature and has worked as a translator, a journalist, a teacher and a book reviewer. She lives between Bournemouth and Nice and blogs about historical fiction at www.lucilleturner.com.
“With a multifaceted narrative, diverse characters, and stunning historical detail, this book is completely absorbing. The author stirs together history, myth, political intrigue, and religious conflict to create a gripping, expertly researched story. Was it a curse, a medical condition, or the simple fears of local farmers that led to the legend of Count Dracula? See what you think after reading. Highly recommended.” THE HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY
I’ve decided to play around with my ratings for this review and use a letter rating system (I am a teacher after all), so The Sultan, the Vampyr and the Soothsayer gets a well deserved A-.
Lucille Turner kindly sent me a paperback in exchange for a 100% honest review.
I will soon be reading and reviewing David Smith’s Letters to Strabo – in the meantime, here’s a guest post from the author.
PUBLISHED 28th November 2016
Set in the late 1970s, Letters to Strabo is the fictional autobiography of Adam Finnegan Black, or ‘Finn’, an innocent young American who is insatiably curious about life. His ambition is to be a travel writer, like his heroes; Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and the ancient Greek ‘father of geography’, Strabo.
When Finn was young, his father Jerry went missing in a scuba diving accident in 1960’s Alexandria. After graduating from Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, Finn sets out to fulfil a promise made to his mother at her death.
David Smith — Guest Blog
Letters to Strabo – naming the characters
Behind every great love is an epic story waiting to be told.
My fourth novel Letters to Strabo is both a love story and a coming-of-age tale, set in the late 1970s. It takes the form of a fictional odyssey recorded with disarming honesty by my protagonist, an innocent young American writer called Finn Black. His adventures, both funny and evocative, follow closely the itinerary taken by Mark Twain on his own tour around the Mediterranean a century earlier in: The Innocents Abroad. The novel is structured around the seventeen chapters of the ancient Greek Strabo’s great work: Geographica; a book that Twain quoted from extensively in his own tale. In Finn’s words:
“I researched how famous travel writers made their first journeys for a series of articles. It fascinated me how they all took something worthwhile out of that first experience on the road, whether they later became writers, journalists or even philosophers. It opened my eyes to all sorts of new possibilities I wanted that life. I wanted to get going, to write and make my fortune. Find out what had really happened to my pa and maybe find a bit more of that mythical free love I’d been missing, too.”
Finn’s full name is Adam Finnegan Black. The ‘Finnegan’ has dual meaning. It’s a nod to Mark Twain (Huckleberry Finn) but also to James Joyce ‘Finnegan’s Wake.’ There’s a connection between these two as Joyce once joked that the end of Finnegan (i.e. the word fin in French) was such a good Twain joke that it deserved a good wake (the Irish celebration before a funeral).
I gave Finn the first name Adam, because I’d already chosen the name Eve for his pen-pal Eve, the beautiful archivist he meets at Olana in the Catskills at the beginning of the novel. Their love story is the thread throughout the book, described through her Letters to Strabo. Adam is also referred to by his friend Ahmet, a boy that Finn meets in Turkey when he shows him a photograph of Eve: “’A very beautiful woman and a very beautiful name,’ he said. ‘You know Adam means man in Turkish so it is fitting.’”
Finn’s surname Black reflects the fact that his father Jerry Black was a descendent of the US Attorney-General Jeremiah Black. Finn refers to his surname at the beginning of the novel “Well as for Black, I fear that all too well describes the recent temperament of my heart. But so be it.” Finn spends part of the novel searching to find out what happened to his father, a professional diver, when he drowned in Alexandra in 1962.
Actually giving names to characters can be a lot of fun, almost a god-like activity. One of the themes running through the novel is Homer’s Odyssey, another Mediterranean journey often referred to by Strabo in his great work. So Françoise Circe, the french girl he meets in Spain and then journeys with the Paris and Venice is a reference to the witch Circe that Odysseus meets on the island of Colchys. She invited them all to a grand feast, but one of the dishes was laced with a magical potion which changed his companions into pigs – a word Françoise quite often uses to describe men she doesn’t like: “’Come on Finn, allons nous,’ she said. ‘I don’t like that ignorant man. He’s swine. He’s likes a PIG.’”
Finn also later meets two Italians in Naples: Galatea and Martino, whose nickname is Polifemo. The latter’s subsequent death at the hands of Galatea, in Finn’s presence, is a reference to the killing of the one-eyed giant Polyphemus by Odysseus; Galatea being the “milk-white” object of the giant’s desire.
Finally the girl Nicky that Finn meets on Mykonos while he is lying asleep and naked on a lonely beach after washing his clothes: “I was woken from my siesta by a beach ball landing on my head, quickly followed by the sound of girls giggling. I realized my carefully positioned towel had fallen off my waist. I was completely naked.” She is named after Nausicaa the beautiful princess who almost steals Odysseus’s heart and leaves him a message: “Farewell stranger,’ he said. ‘Do not forget me when you’re safe at home again, for it is to me first that you owe a ransom for having saved your life.’”
David Smith is a British author who has now published four works under the Troubador imprint. His first novel Searching For Amber has been described as “A powerful and notably memorable debut” with a review describing it as “masterly and confident” and another as “Extraordinary, poetic, enchanting, sublime”. In addition to writing, he is currently CFO of a blue chip UK public company and lives near the South Coast in England with his wife and three teenage children.
Our third short story is Mike Russell’s Flock.
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw sits, as usual, on the 7:00 a.m. train, on his way to work. Dressed in his black raincoat, pin-striped suit, white shirt, black tie and black shoes, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw reads the morning newspaper, either nodding or shaking his head in agreement or disagreement with the various articles. Each movement of his head, be it a nod or a shake, maintains and strengthens who it is that Anthony Tobias Bradshaw believes himself to be.
‘Why does he continue to go to work?’ is a question that many people have whispered behind the back of Anthony Tobias Bradshaw; not because Anthony Tobias Bradshaw is past retirement age and in receipt of a pension (though he is) but because the business for which Anthony Tobias Bradshaw continues to work closed down twelve years ago.
If anyone were to ask Anthony Tobias Bradshaw why he continues to diligently repeat the same administrative tasks, Monday to Friday, nine to five, in an abandoned office building, for a business that no longer exists, he would undoubtedly reply:
‘Because I am Anthony Tobias Bradshaw. That is what I do.’
The train slows to a halt. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw lays his newspaper on his lap and peers out of the window. The station that Anthony Tobias Bradshaw sees is not his destination. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw looks at his watch; his destination is not due for another twenty-seven minutes. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shakes his head.
‘Yes, sir?’ the young guard replies, rushing through the carriage towards Anthony Tobias Bradshaw, eager to be of service.
‘This is the 7:00 a.m. non-stop train, is it not?’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw asks.
‘Yes, sir,’ the guard answers. ‘This is the 7:00 a.m. train and it is non-stop.’
The guard smiles, happy that he has been able to help. Before Anthony Tobias Bradshaw can ask the guard why then, if the train is non-stop, has it just stopped, the guard walks on through the carriage with the satisfied feeling of a job well done.
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shakes his head then picks up his newspaper and resumes reading. Whilst Anthony Tobias Bradshaw reads, the carriage doors open and an elderly woman in a multi-coloured shawl steps onto the train. She walks towards Anthony Tobias Bradshaw and sits in the seat opposite him.
The carriage doors shut and the train continues on its way.
The elderly woman stares at Anthony Tobias Bradshaw.
‘In the future,’ the woman says, ‘I remember a man like you.’
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw slowly lowers his newspaper.
‘I am sorry, madam, are you talking to me?’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw enquires, knowing perfectly well that she is but wanting the woman to understand just how impertinent it is of her to be doing so.
The woman ignores Anthony Tobias Bradshaw’s question and says:
‘One day, the man realised that he wasn’t a man at all but that he was, in fact, sixteen birds. At the moment of realisation, the birds all suddenly took flight, each one flying off in a completely different direction.’
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw slowly shakes his head.
‘Is that so?’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw says. ‘And what exactly is it that you are attempting to communicate to me by sharing this little work of fiction, this little fairy story, hmm? I presume that you intend it to have some sort of symbolic function, though I really cannot see what on Earth that might be.’
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw waits for an answer but the woman simply stares at him with an expression that clearly shows her disdain for everything he has just said. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shakes his head then returns to his newspaper.
The 7:00 a.m. non-stop train eventually reaches its destination, the extra stop somehow not having added any time to the journey, and Anthony Tobias Bradshaw packs his newspaper away in his briefcase, shakes his head one last time at the elderly woman in the multi-coloured shawl who is still staring at him with the same expression, then Anthony Tobias Bradshaw stands up, steps off the train and walks towards the derelict building in which he works.
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw enters a large room filled with rows of empty, dust-covered desks and empty, dust-covered chairs. Though all of the desks and chairs are identical, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw always works at the same desk, his desk, and sits on the same chair, his chair, both of which are significantly less dust-covered and are situated at the far end of the room. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw walks to his desk, removes his coat and hangs it on the back of his chair, sits down and opens his briefcase.
‘I should not have even entered into conversation with her,’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw says aloud to himself. ‘I should have just shaken my head then ignored her. That is what I should have done. To even entertain the possibility that such nonsense has meaning is a weakness that leaves oneself open to attack.’
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw feels a breeze, looks around him and sees an open window. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shakes his head, reprimanding himself for not having closed the window the previous day. He hears a rustling sound coming from the waste-paper bin beneath his desk, looks inside the bin and sees a pigeon flapping about amongst the screwed up newspapers. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shakes his head.
‘This is what happens,’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw says aloud, ‘when one leaves just the tiniest opening.’
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw opens his desk drawer and removes a pair of scissors, a ball of string and a bulldog-clip. Using the scissors, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw cuts a one metre length of string from the ball. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw then ties one end of the length of string to the bulldog-clip. The other end of the string, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw ties to the paperweight that is sitting on his desk. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw then reaches into the waste-paper bin, takes hold of the pigeon, attaches the bulldog-clip to one of its legs, carries it to the centre of the room, sets the paperweight down on the floor, then lets go of the pigeon. The tethered bird flies about frantically, pulling on the weighted string, unable to escape. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw walks back to his desk, sits down, watches the bird for a while, nodding in satisfaction, then begins his usual daily tasks.
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw works through the day, pausing only at midday to eat a cheese and tomato sandwich that he bought, as usual, from the newsagents in the station that morning, then at 5:00 p.m. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw closes his briefcase, puts on his coat and leaves the office, ensuring before he does so that all of the windows are firmly shut.
At the station, as usual, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw buys the evening newspaper, then catches the 6:00 p.m. train. On the train, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw sits reading the evening newspaper, nodding or shaking his head at the various articles. The 6:00 p.m. train travels to its destination on time without incident.
‘Hello, Celia,’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw calls as he enters his house.
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw closes the door behind him, sets down his briefcase, hangs up his coat and removes his shoes.
‘Hello, Celia,’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw calls again.
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw’s wife always has a hot meal waiting for him when he arrives home. The meal always consists of meat, potatoes and three vegetables on a large, white, china plate with cutlery and condiments, positioned at the far end of the dining table. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw’s wife always eats before Anthony Tobias Bradshaw gets home because Anthony Tobias Bradshaw prefers to eat alone.
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw enters the dining room.
Instead of the usual one large, white, china plate at the end of the table, there are sixteen small, white, china plates covering the whole of the table. There is no cutlery, no condiments and each plate, instead of containing a hot meal, has in its centre a small pile of seeds.
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shakes his head.
‘Celia!’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shouts. ‘What’s going on? Is this a joke?’
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw walks into the kitchen. His wife is not there. In the middle of the kitchen table is a large packet of birdseed.
‘Celia!’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shouts.
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw walks upstairs. His wife is nowhere to be seen. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw walks back downstairs, enters the living room and sits in his armchair, shaking his head again and again whilst waiting for his wife to appear. When the clock strikes midnight and his wife is still nowhere to be seen, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw walks back into the dining room, picks up the sixteen small plates, takes them into the kitchen, pours the birdseed into the bin and puts the plates away in the cupboard. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw then walks upstairs and goes to bed.
The next day, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw sits again on the 7:00 a.m. train and reads the morning newspaper, nodding or shaking his head at the various articles, then nodding his head with particular vigour when the train arrives at its destination without having made any erroneous stops.
Inside his office, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw nods in satisfaction at the tethered pigeon, then walks to his desk, removes his coat and hangs it on the back of his chair, sits down, opens his briefcase and begins the day’s tasks. As usual, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw works through the day, pausing only at midday to eat a cheese and tomato sandwich, then at 5:00 p.m. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw closes his briefcase, puts on his coat, leaves the office and walks to the station. There, he buys the evening newspaper, then catches the 6:00 p.m. train home.
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw closes the door to his house behind him, sets down his briefcase, hangs up his coat, removes his shoes, then calls:
There is no answer. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw enters the dining room. Sixteen small plates cover the dining table as before, each with a small pile of birdseed in its centre. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shakes his head then picks up his briefcase and stomps upstairs.
In the bedroom, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw undresses in front of a full-length mirror. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw shakes his head at his naked reflection, then opens his briefcase and removes a bulldog-clip. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw attaches the clip to the end of his tongue. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw produces another clip from his briefcase and attaches it to the end of his nose. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw produces two more clips and attaches one to each of his ears. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw produces more clips, attaching one to each of his eyebrows, one to each of his nipples, one to the back of each of his hands, one to each of his thighs, one to each of his knees and one to the top of each of his feet.
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw then produces from his briefcase a pair of scissors and a ball of string from which he cuts sixteen lengths. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw attaches a length of string to each of the bulldog-clips that now adorn his body.
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw looks at his reflection and nods.
‘But how to harness them?’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw says aloud.
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw searches his reflection, then finds the perfect solution. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw ties each of the loose ends of string to his penis. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw nods in satisfaction, then puts on his pyjamas and goes to bed.
In the morning, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw wakes at the usual time, washes, dresses, walks downstairs and puts on his shoes and coat, picks up his briefcase, then leaves his house and walks to the station. The bulldog-clips and strings mean that Anthony Tobias Bradshaw has to walk rather carefully but, other than slowing him down a little, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw does not find them too troublesome.
‘The usual, sir?’ asks the newsagent, deciding not to mention the entirely obvious pieces of stationery attached to Anthony Tobias Bradshaw’s face and the connected strings that disappear down into Anthony Tobias Bradshaw’s collar.
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw nods, then hands over the exact money for his copy of the morning newspaper and his cheese and tomato sandwich.
On the 7:00 a.m. train, only the young guard shows any sign of noticing Anthony Tobias Bradshaw’s peculiar adornments, and even then his only reaction is a brief expression of concerned shock, which is quickly and professionally replaced by a congenial and un-judgemental smile.
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw arrives at his office, nods at the tethered pigeon, walks to his desk, removes his coat and hangs it on the back of his chair, sits down, opens his briefcase and begins the day’s tasks. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw works until 5:00 p.m., pausing only at midday to eat (with some difficulty) his cheese and tomato sandwich, then Anthony Tobias Bradshaw leaves the office, walks to the station, buys the evening newspaper and catches the 6:00 p.m. train home.
In his house, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw enters the dining room, clears away the sixteen new plates of birdseed, sits in his armchair in the living room until midnight, then walks upstairs to bed.
In the bedroom, Anthony Tobias Bradshaw stands in front of the full-length mirror and undresses. Anthony Tobias Bradshaw nods in satisfaction at the fact that all of the clips and strings are still in place. Then Anthony Tobias Bradshaw turns around and gasps.
‘Celia!’ Anthony Tobias Bradshaw says.
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw’s wife is lying in the bed. She is wearing her multi-coloured shawl.
‘Turn the light out, dear,’ she says as if she has not been absent for the past two days and nothing is amiss.
Anthony Tobias Bradshaw stands and looks at his wife. He feels as if he has not seen her for longer than two days; he feels as if he has not really seen her for years. He is overwhelmed by her beauty, by the beauty of who she is, of who she really is, and Anthony Tobias Bradshaw experiences his first erection in twenty-five years accompanied by the noise of sixteen bulldog-clips snapping shut as they are all pulled at once from their various locations. The bedroom is filled with the sound of fluttering wings and that which used to call itself Anthony Tobias Bradshaw feels utterly fantastic.
© 2016 Mike Russell.
Mike Russell is a Brighton based author and now has two short story anthologies published – Flock is from his second book Strange Medicine.
Come back tomorrow for short story number four!
Yesterday I posted my review of Leonora Meriel’s wonderful book The Woman Behind the Waterfall. Today we have a guest post from Leonora herself and a giveaway of 5 signed copies of the book! Details of the giveaway can be seen at the end of this post.
Heartbreak and redemption in the beauty of a Ukrainian village
For seven-year old Angela, happiness is exploring the lush countryside around her home in western Ukraine. Her wild imagination takes her into birds and flowers, and into the waters of the river. All that changes when, one morning, she sees her mother crying. As she tries to find out why, she is drawn on an extraordinary journey into the secrets of her family, and her mother’s fateful choices.
Can Angela lead her mother back to happiness before her innocence is destroyed by the shadows of a dark past?
Beautiful, poetic and richly sensory, this is a tale that will haunt and lift its readers.
To me, the world is full of magic.
Some of it is right in front of our noses – out there in the street; in the park; in the passers-by; in a gesture; a cloud; a falling leaf.
Some of it is right here inside our heads – those worlds churning in our minds that lead us to write, to paint, to play games, to dance.
And some of it is in our dreams – the flying, the dark magic of nightmares, the child’s viewpoint, the unnamable joy.
For me – all this magic comes from one place – the universal mind; and no one has expressed it better for me than C.J. Jung with his “collective unconscious”. In my imagination, I picture it as a great, chaotic sea, with archetypes, dreams, memories, all of the emotions and feelings and experiences of the world poured into it. And from this great churning sea, we build our individual worlds: the society we choose as our social architecture; the belief systems we practice; the relationship models we create and re-create over the generations.
But all these models – all these choices – are just one variation. And in my imagination, the variety is endless. Worlds, belief systems, societies, usage of that legendary 95% brain power. Everything could be different! And art is the place where we explore that – the alternative worlds, the alternative expressions of this world, the subconscious manifested into our lives, the dreams become real.
Literary Fiction, Magic Realism
Publishing Date: October 1, 2016
Page count: hardback, 234 pages, paperback: 262 pages
To me, as I step out of the house each day, I see the pavement, the houses, the sky, the trees in season, the cars, the relationships and their dramas. And yet, I feel so aware that this is just a fraction of what is happening. My very perception is limited by what I expect to see. Someone expecting to see all bad things would see the darkness in the street. A resilient optimist would see the flickers of smiles and touched hands; colours, nature – this is all conditioned from our expectations.
And so, when I write fiction, I try to present a wider world, with a little of that brimming magic which, to me, is always there. I try to express the subconscious spilling out the way it does; the dreams mixing with the waking days; the heartbreak which resounds back through generations of archetypal heartbreaks in the universal mind.
In “The Woman Behind the Waterfall” I contrast two different worlds. Lyuda, a young, depressed mother, lives in her own darkness – she sees the world around her and she remembers her mistakes and she can’t see any happiness at all. She drinks Ukrainian homebrew – samohon – to dull the pain.
Her seven year old daughter, Angela, is on the border where her child’s imagination is about to move into a singular understanding of the world. But for the time in the book, she exists in a place where everything flows into everything else – all creation is one – and she is a natural part of it. Angela sees a bird and feels its spirit, and then she is flying in the bird:
Sometimes I prefer to sit in the tree above. A bird. A leaf. A single star from a cluster of lilac. I catch a thread of song across the garden and release myself into it, shift the girl into a quiet background and enter the breath of music which carries me into the bird.
And for a moment I am that music, shimmering against the air, and then I am creating the music. It is I who am singing. I am within the spirit of the bird. And I look around me at the springtime garden and I know why I am singing. The insistent green that is everywhere! The birds that are returning to familiar gardens! The flowers exploding into bloom with every new instant of sunshine!
Angela is also in tune with her subconscious. She is open to the archetypes and to the whispers of the women who make up her generations. Her soul and her imagination are open to guidance:
“I lie on the bottom of the river, which is clear like a sheet of glass. Below me, pale spirits from that other river—the river below this river—rise up and bring me flowers. Women in ragged white with long trailing hair made from the riverbed strands. I hold out my hands.
Take them, my Nightspirit says.
I take the flowers and the women sink back into the depths.
The riverbed clouds over into silt and weeds and stones.
I rise to the surface.”
The symbolism of the river and the water represents the flow of time, and the continuation of the experience of life. All our experiences – through each of our lifetimes and bodies – represent another drop in the eternal flow of life; just as all living things are connected to the flow of everything else – a wonderful concept from the ancient spiritual texts, now proven by the quantum scientists (yes – I read several quantum physics books as research for “The Woman Behind the Waterfall”).
Angela expresses her natural, childlike curiosity when she enters the spirits of different living things: birds, flowers, the river, the air. However, towards the end of the book, she uses it to also express her powerful emotions. When she believes that her mother is going to kill herself, Angela transforms into a storm, and lashes rain over the village, destroying, screaming, furious and wild:
“I draw the clouds to me, seeking the water from the sky and keeping it close; gathering the thoughts into form, one after another, cloud upon cloud, closer and closer into the darkest place. And I call to the sky that there is no need here for light, and the sky closes as I cover it with my anger, and when at last everything is dark and everything is brought into a tight, furious centre, then I whisper to the clouds around me, “It is time,” and I release a scream into the universe and the clouds let out a deafening roll of thunder that goes on and on and on, and lightning flashes down repeatedly onto the garden and the village and the river and over everything that I know, and when the thunder and my scream are finished, then I pull my arms from around my chest and I hold them out and I let the rains pour down onto the earth.”
The main theme of “The Woman Behind the Waterfall” is the search for happiness, and the mother, Lyuda’s, path from her closed, three-dimensional world, out into Angela’s wonderful, magical, natural, joyful multidimensional world. Angela fights hard to show her mother how to enter this place:
I hear the birds singing in the lilac tree nearby and I close my eyes on this late spring morning and my hand is in Mama’s hand and I feel something light flowing from her hand to mine and I think, what if she could?
I whisper to her to close her eyes and I know when she has closed them because I feel another rush of lightness from her hand to mine and I whisper again—“Mama, fly!”—and suddenly Mama and I are great white storks flying through the clear blue air and the wind is rushing cold and bright against us and against our feathers, and we are pushing the air down with powerful wide strokes and Mama’s wide, strong wings are beating next to mine and my smaller wings are beating down, down beside her and I feel her powerful love protecting me with each beat, beat, beat. We are flying over the rooftops of our village—some thatched, some red-tiled—with the long strips of gardens trailing out from tiny houses and the spring-lit trees below us and I can feel Mama’s joy absorbing the completeness of every movement, every barb of every feather creating each stroke of her wings and carrying her beside me through this bright, rushing air. The lightness, the power, the wind. We fly and fly towards a huge nest at the top of a tree and I feel a pull towards it and Mama comes to land in a cave of twigs and I land behind her and she turns and wraps her wide wings around me, little bird disappearing into softness.
It is only as Lyuda accepts the magic around her into her life, that she begins to feel the possibility of happiness.
The difference between the closed, physical world that Lyuda inhabits, and the open, magical world that Angela does, is stark in “The Woman Behind the Waterfall.” But this is how most people live. They believe in one version of the world, and close out the brimming creative magic which is all around. The world of dreams. The world of the subconscious. The world of the 95% brain. The world that every other person perceives. The unlimited possibilities.
It is the job of writers and artists and musicians and the creative industries to bring these other worlds to those ready to hear them. Music that takes you on an ethereal journey; paintings by Chagall and Magritte which speak directly to your subconscious and are scooped out of the universal mind. Writings of novelists such as García Márquez and Isabel Allende.
These worlds are all around us. Our only job is to open up to them – and our own magical realities will become so much richer.
Leonora Meriel is the author of “The Woman Behind the Waterfall” (published October 2016, Granite Cloud), called “an intoxicating world” by Kirkus Reviews; “a timeless and universal novel” by Goodreads reviewers, “a strange and beautiful novel” by writer Esther Freud. Her upcoming novel “The Unity Game” will be published in May 2017.
“Readers looking for a classic tale of love and loss will be rewarded with an intoxicating worlds” – Kirkus Reviews
“A strange and beautiful novel” – Esther Freud, author of Hideous Kinky, Peerless Flats, Mr Mac and Me
“A literary work of art” – Fiona Adams, Richmond Magazine
“Timeless and universal novel” – Goodreads & Amazon reviewer
“A beautiful, thought-provoking exploration of family ties” – MP, Amazon reviewer
Leonora Meriel has very kindly offered to give away a signed copy of The Woman Behind the Waterfall (usually $11.99-$16.99 unsigned!) to 5 lucky Examining the Odd readers! The winners will be chosen at random and no purchase is required to enter.
The competition will open with the publishing of this post and will be closed to entries at midday GMT on Sunday 19th March 2017. To enter, you simply need to comment on this blog post. For legal reasons, all entrants must be aged 18 or over, and you cannot enter if you live in Canada, sorry.
Once the deadline has passed, I will use random.org to choose the 5 winners. Winners will be notified within three working days of the deadline and will be contacted via whatever means possible based on their comment/profile. Their details will then be passed on to Leonora who will personally send the books to each winner. Good luck!
This week’s Sunday Song is The Tiger Lillies’ Edith Loves Albert. I hope you enjoy it!