Monday, 26 September 2022

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD by Ailish Sinclair @AilishSinclair #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In a Nutshell: Ancient Scottish drama: 'a story of chosen sisters, fierce warriors, divided loyalties and, ultimately, love'

What a marvellous book this is.  I read it quickly, trying not to whizz through it once I got to the last twenty percent!  The title refers to the relationship between Morragh and her sister, Onnagh; they are not birth sisters.  Morragh was treated in the most brutal way as a young child, and Onnagh saved her.

The notes at the back of the book tell of the historical facts and theories on which Ms Sinclair has based this story.  It takes place in a time before Christianity, when the ancient Scottish Taezali tribe believed in pagain spiritual presences.  Morragh, in whose voice the tale is told, is mute - until the events of one spring and summer change her life and that of her community; the men from Rome have travelled north to conquer their villages and challenge every aspect of their existence.

Morragh is blessed with second sight and acute intuition; she is also able to see what might take place in the future.  I love this aspect of the book - I am not usually a fan of the fantastical or supernatural, but her gift felt oddly real.  Possible.

It's a fabulous story, a real page-turner and so well written.  It made me think about the passage and circle of time, of the constancy of the land on which we live and the transient nature of human life.  Loved it. 

Monday, 19 September 2022

BLACK ROCK by David Odle #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

 4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In a Nutshell: Small town thriller set in Indiana, with hints of supernatural.

The story starts in a classic fashion for this sort of tale - a family en route to somewhere else turns off the road to find a toilet and anything that might ease their journey on a dark and lonely night.  The scene is filled with foreboding, and sets the stage nicely for what comes next.

A curious fellow called Benjamin Clark is threatening the town's Pastor Thomas Loggins - he knows a secret from Loggins' past, and will reveal it unless the Pastor pays a terrible price.  Thing is, Clark has done this before.  More than once.  Going back many years...

Some don't agree with my theory that writing talent is something you need to be born with - you can hone it, develop it or ignore it, but if the talent is not innate, you will have a hard time delivering a story in such a way that makes people want to keep turning the pages.  Which is what it's all about.  David Odle certainly has this talent - the suspense worked so well, and I was totally invested in the story.  Just two aspects let it down, for me, was that it wasn't very well edited.  I felt it could have done with another draft or two, and a more eagle-eyed proofreader.  The other disappointment was the lack of resolution about Benjamin.  It's hard to explain this without giving the plot away, but I needed to know more about his history and motivation than I was told.

All in all, though, it's a good book, and I'd recommend it for the storytelling quality alone.

Monday, 5 September 2022

MICHEL THE GIANT: AN AFRICAN IN GREENLAND by Tété-Michel Kpomassie #TuesdayBookBlog

5 GOLD stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: Birthday present from my sister.

In a Nutshell: Teenage boy in Togo, West Africa, in the 1950s, becomes obsessed with the idea of visiting Greenland after reading an article about it.  Eight years later, he arrives there.  This is the story of his adventure.

What a story!  

This is not a tale of picture book Inuit folk beaming by sledges as they break ice to fish and build igloos; the author discovered that Greenlanders are not the hardworking, innocent people of his imagination, either.

The memoir begins in Africa, showing Kpomassie's life in Togo. He explains his fascination with Greenland and determination to get there.  The first village he visits, Qaqortoq, on the southern coast, is friendly, yes, as the people drift in and out of each other's houses, are always happy to put up a visitor in colourful houses where the coffee pot is always on - but he also details the drunkenness that is as much a part of their life as the cold, and the casual attitude to sex: 'Greenland morality was beginning to disgust me'.  He is disappointed by the lack of adherence to their native culture, which is down to the influence of the Danish, who owned this enormous island at the time.  Since then, there has been a move to reassert their own cultural identity, self-rule has been established, and the country has been slowly moving towards complete independence from Denmark.

Qaqortoq, recent photo

Kpomassie eventually reaches the far north and discovers the hunters, the kayaks - the frozen world of which he'd dreamed.  Everywhere he is shown great hospitality, except in one village in the north where his only option is to stay with the poorest family in disgusting conditions (seriously, don't read it while you're eating).  He is clearly something of a celebrity, due to his colour and height, and I gathered that he's a rather charismatic man; everyone appears to like him, and he is very popular with the ladies.  In the far north, wife-swapping is a recreational activity, with public 'dances' especially for this purpose.

I love that he finally reached the far, far north, and played a full part in the lives of the people he met, hunting and fishing.

This is an honest, graphic and often funny account, as much about the day-today social life and people as a descriptive journal about the landscape and culture - it's not a pretty travelogue type of memoir at all.  Greenland is somewhere I've often wanted to visit; now, not so much.  Highly recommended to anyone who loves this sort of story - unputdownable!

Article about Kpomassie, now 80 years old, HERE