Helen Dunmore∼Your Blue-Eyed Boy

Your Blue Eyed boyWhen a writer whom you admire immensely, dies, and you have to start referring to them in the past tense, even though you know that their work will endure, long past their own personal expiry date (5/6/2017), the question is, which book of theirs do you review?

Should it be Helen Dunmore’s last book, Birdcage Walk, which contains insightful references to the illusory nature and often damaged durability of life? Or perhaps it would be more meaningful to pay homage to the novel whose influence, if you are kind enough to look for it, can be seen in my own writing (especially in the flash fiction, Winter Baby).

As both a writer and reader, I cannot resist opting for the novel which impressed me the most, the book I have read endless times, whose characters gained my attention years ago, and were seemingly unwilling to let me go. So for me, in remembrance of her brilliance, it’s got to be, Your Blue-Eyed Boy.

The novel is about blackmail, ‘the most intimate of crimes’  it’s about how it makes you feel, how it entangles and corrupts your soul and the lengths to which it can make you go, in order to keep your dark, shameful secrets from destroying your already troubled life.

“The wind blows harder and your house begins to move on a sea that was always there, beneath the crust of the land. And you are afraid, but you are beginning to move with it.”

Simone is deeply in debt, she has taken a job she doesn’t want or enjoy, in order to support her family, through her husband, Donald’s bankruptcy and subsequent emotional breakdown. Donald is gravitating towards suicide, his attitude of relentless negativity is wearing Simone down to a point in which things look very desperate indeed.

Add to the mix, a disturbed middle-aged man, recently released from prison, who was once her lover and has become her nemesis; the prognosis is not healthy, the characters are horribly damaged and appear to be on the verge of dissolution and disintegration.

“He has consumed himself. He has made himself not exist anymore in this middle-aged man with bulky flesh and face. He has lost his fine sharpness. He is loose and blurred, like a photograph out of focus, stickered with a note from the laboratory that tells you where you have gone wrong. I look for what I knew before.”

The writing is beautiful, dark and uncompromising in its willingness to explore what it feels like to face a serious threat, only to discover, that perhaps the most deadly danger of all, was already lingering, malevolently, inside of you.

Why do I enjoy her writing so much? It is her style, which is unique; her special combination of poetry and prose blending seamlessly, giving a sense of transcendence as if she is pushing at the boundaries of what it is possible to express.

♦♦♦

Helen Dunmore & her poetry: Passionfood-three poems about love.

 

Please note that I will be taking a two-week holiday break and then I will be back with some travel reviews

 

You’re Not Supposed to Cry ∼ Gary Duncan

After I mentioned this book by Gary Duncan in the previous post (when I was interviewed by Fiona Mcvie), I thought it would be a good idea to write a book review – as hopefully, you will already be aware, I try to keep  a balanced  blend of books, travel pieces and my own writing on this site, and I haven’t reviewed any new books for almost a year!

gary photo

So why this one? Obviously, I really enjoyed reading it or I wouldn’t be posting this; but what was so special about it? This book is actually a collection of flash fiction – around 60 in total, each one beautifully crafted and insightful from writer and editor Gary Duncan, who runs the website Spelk, which is dedicated to amazing pieces of flash fiction. Do I have a personal favorite? , Yes of course, for me it got to be Better Than This,  in which a young man with sex on his mind, is lured into babysitting for a woman who appears to have no moral qualms about deceiving him, or leaving her young children with someone she barely knows; in order to enjoy a night out with her equally horrible boyfriend. The story made me smile, but horrified me at the same time!

In this collection, the situations and characters are very flawed and human, and there are many layers of complexity, which draw you into a fragmented, but instantly recognizable, fictional world. But instead of  me wittering on  endlessly about how much I  enjoyed it, here is my actual review:

This superb collection of flash fiction offers readers a perfectly formed, miniature world of other people’s wishes, desires, dreams and regrets. The elegant but understated writing style creates a dynamic tension between the simplicity of the stories, and the complexity of the lives and actions of the beautifully formed characters, which we are observing. Each story, memory, fragment and feeling, has been crafted with a very poignant sense of emotional intelligence.  Some stories are subtle; some will make you smile, while others are uncompromisingly honest. This book is a kaleidoscope of multifaceted characters and situations, whom you will remember long after you have finished reading; finding their hopes, fears and very human humiliations, have somehow, quite imperceptibly, blended into your own.

Yes – it really is that good – but don’t just take my word for it! – check it out for yourself…

 

Gary’s book at Vagabond Voices

At Amazon co.uk