PETTERSEN STEALS THE SHOW WITH A NIL POINT PERFORMANCE

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OutStealingHorsesWhere do you like to read? The train, the bus or snuggled up on the couch with a mug of cocoa or a glass of something stronger. Maybe with the recent inclement weather you’d rather be lazily swaying in hammock under a couple palm trees.

The other day I found a perfect place to read, you may not agree as to most of you it’s a place of work. I was in the lobby of a Police station; it’s brand spanking new, okay maybe a couple of years old. But its a damn site more welcoming, then the old confessional style window that is still present in some of the older stations. With it’s warm pinky peach colouring and a wide marble topped opening. What got me was the silence; god, I felt I could have completed ‘War and Peace in one sitting while there. But alas the lone female Garda, was quite adamant that it was a different story behind the desk, where she was single-handedly manning the phones and radios.

For this months book ,we move to the opposite range of the spectrum. Pacy and hectic are not how I would describe it. The Norwegian writer Per Pettersen recently won this years Dublin IMPAC literary award. With his English translated book ‘Out Stealing Horses‘. It tells the story of Trond a Norwegian teenager in 1948, who one morning while out in the woods witnesses a friend suffer a breakdown. This leads to the discovery of a personal tragedy and the consequences which will rip their two families apart. Years later and now an old man, Trond is living the life of a recluse in the hills following the sudden death of his wife. When a figure from his past forces him to go back over the whole sordid affair.

This book maybe only 250 pages long, but even that cant save it. From the outset it is a slow moving mess which loses the reader in it’s confusing leaps back and forth between the past and present. The narrative is positively grey, In a summer of rain and overcast skies the last thing I needed was a book set in the colourless Scandinavian winter.

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The judges who selected this book to win the prestigious award are so out of sync with this reader to be almost in Oslo themselves. Did we read the same book, if so, they were probably strapped down to do so. Me, I was on the verge of checking into rehab afterwards. As for it’s selection, I personally wouldn’t have selected it for a bring and buy sale, let a lone a recognized literary award. I hope Mr Pettersen enjoys his €100,000 prize money and the accompanying profits from it’s sales.

This books triumph, doesn’t say much for the other shortlisted books which included such luminaries as Sebastian Barry and Salman Rushdie!!!!!, the judges were probably afraid they’d get a Fatwa placed on them.

(Previously published in http://www.murphysview.blogspot.com in 2009)

THE COMPETITION MAYBE GONE TOMORROW, BUT CHILD’S REMINDS US HE’S HERE TO STAY

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Gne Tmrrw CvrThere’s something we all do on a regular basis, sometimes subconsciously, sometimes deliberately. What? We’ve people watched; you don’t need a specific place. You can watch passers-by from a coffee shop or office window, in a car at traffic lights – by staring at the person in the car behind in the rear-view mirror. You sit there wondering where they’re from or going to, whether they’re singing to themselves or talking to someone on a hands-free. Okay so if you can lip read you know what they’re saying, game over. But for most it’s a fun if slightly voyeuristic game of wondering what their job is or are they married, single, etc.

In the opening chapter of Lee Child’s latest book “Gone Tomorrow”, his hero Jack Reacher is playing the same game. It’s two in the morning on a subway train beneath New York. He’s not doing it to pass the time though; he’s mentally running down a twelve-point list (eleven for women) devised by the Israeli’s, to spot suicide bombers. Of the five others in the carriage one woman is meeting ten of the criteria. So, Reacher being an ex-military police officer has a dilemma. Does he approach her? What if he’s wrong, what if it’s fatigue clouding his judgement? He follows his gut and confronts her, but it goes badly and she pulls a gun and shoots herself.

After that, what seems like a late night suicide on a subway train has the interest of the Fed’s and a mysterious group of well-dressed heavies with fake business cards and a Senator with a military background, Reacher can’t walk away. Especially as he believes he’s responsible for the woman’s suicide. It all leads to a thrilling up to date story with a dramatic climax.

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This is Child’s eleventh novel featuring his light travelling, drifter Jack Reacher. He lives off his army pension and carries just his fold up toothbrush, ATM card and an expired passport as well as the clothes he stands up in. I know a few Celtic Tiger Cubs who now lead the same lifestyle. But unlike Jack who also doesn’t own a mobile and just barely knows how to use one, they dream of the days when they won’t have to take public transport.

This is a rock solid thriller that should have a warning on it like I saw on a t-shirt a while ago, it said in large bold lettering “Bomb Squad, if you see me running towards you, keep up!!!” 

Lee Child’s last offering; “Nothing To Lose“, was below par mainly due to a lame plot. In this he’s delivered a tour de force that will again weld him to the top of the bestseller lists far beyond tomorrow.

(Previously published on http://www.murphysview.blogspot.com in 2009)

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‘IN YOUR FACE’, SOBERS ME UP FOR THE SEASON OF EXCESS

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In Your FaceI was emotionally hit twice this month; firstly by my other half who proved that you can hurry love, especially if it’s making a dash for the “Last train to Clarksville, leaving me on my own in the left luggage office. Secondly was when I read this month’s book, In Your Face  by Lia Mills.

Lia is a Dublin author whose previous two books were Another Alice and Nothing Simple. Two years ago she went to her dentist with a problematic wisdom tooth, which had been rubbing against her cheek; it was subsequently removed but a short time later her cheek became sore again. When she went back to the dentist they found a small lump. Results of a biopsy discovered she had an invasive non-differentiated squamous cell carcinoma, a tumour in her cheek.

The book is a diary of her 21 month journey from the discovery of the “Crab” as she refers to it; through the surgery which resulted in the loss of half her face and reconstruction using skin and bone grafts; to the traumatic and almost life sapping chemo.

This is not a book for the faint hearted, there were times when I found myself holding my neck and cheek, others when I was close to tears and occasions when I laughed uncontrollably at her wit in the face of adversity or the antics of the people she came across. As diaries go this is definitely up there with Anne Frank and reminded me of the last book on the subject I read, “Champion’s Story” which chronicled Bob Champion’s triumph over cancer and his subsequent Grand National win. As was then, this is pure no punches pulled story telling, where we experience first hand her highs and lows. I was reminded that Lia and people like her are the reason I run the Dublin Women’s Mini Marathon each year in drag for a cancer support group in Bray.

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She also re-affirms the shambles that our health service is in, especially when months after the operation she discovers the leg that was used for the bone graft, and which she’d been advised to walk on was broken in the operation and has set badly, hence back again for another operation to reset it.

What makes the book heart warming is the sterling work of the multi-cultural nursing staff, and the staunch unyielding support of her friends and family. While the real characters are the other bewildered patients whom she shares wards and a bed with at one stage and their hilarious antics, at times I had to remind myself I was reading a work of non-fiction and not an Irish parody of  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest .

As we run full tilt towards the season of excess, I can

certainly recommend this as a sobering replacement to the over Lia millstelevised It’s A Wonderful Life. One thing that you take from this book is, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

Me, I’ll try to remember that when love high-tails it out of my life again.

(Originally Reviewed December 2007)

(published http://www.murphysview.blogspot.com 2009

LORNA NEEDS, KEN, A FEW CHARLIES AND THE ANGELS TO SAVE HER DEBUT

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AnglshairCvrAs I watched the Irish entry fall fowl of the eastern European judges in the Eurovision again recently. I was reminded of the ABBA song “I Have a Dream” (didn’t we all, the return of the glory days), one of the recurring lines in it states “I believe in Angels..”.  Well, do you? Lorna Byrne does, so much so she’s written a book about them.

Angels In My Hair” is the Dubliners first book. According to the blurb on the back Lorna is a modern day Irish mystic, who’s called upon by theologians and religious leaders of the world for advice on what the angels tell her. Well if she is I’ve never heard of her and she’s never been in the news either. Back to the previous question, yes I believe. So it’s a little hard for me to write a bad review about this book, because I’ll be worried that the angels will bestow bad luck on me.

So after saying a few Hail Mary’s here goes. The book’s basically a biography, in which she describes in rather laborious detail the hard up bringing she received as well as the constant put downs by people including her own family who thought she was retarded, but this was only because she took herself off to talk to the Angels, including such angelic luminaries as Michael and Elijah; now I thought he was a prophet. Supposedly archangel Michael regularly appears in human form to her and the Angel of death is a common misheld conception, who works to save our lives rather then take them. Also the angels Lorna sees do have wings, and I thought that was just an artist’s impression.

According to the author there are hundreds of angels everywhere lornabyrne-and-wingsand if we could all see them, we’d discover that the place is seemingly over run with them. Everyone has a guardian angel or two around them and they are forever whispering into our ears. The angels say the voice in our heads is them speaking to us. Right.

Nowhere in the book does she talk about her appointments with the afore mentioned religious leaders, there are recollections of sick children she helped and a worried medical student, plus her being shown at an early age, a vision of the man she would grow up and marry and being regularly reminded that he would die a young man. The only famous person on or in the book comes by a testimonial on the front cover by one William RoacheMBE – aka Ken Barlow. So that should sell a few extra copies then, that’s if  you haven’t already listened your guardian angel.

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I found thbook concentrated too much on her and not enough on how her unique powers helped others or the authorities. Is this a sand between your toes or poolside read? Maybe but it’ll depend on your beliefs, if you’re religious yes if not then you may just find yourself chucking it away in disbelief.

(First published http://www.murphysview.blogspot.com 2009)