Monday, October 30, 2017

A Halloween Post: My thoughts on A Haunted House by Virginia Woolf!

I have been reading my way through the novels of Virginia Woolf. Now with Halloween upon us tomorrow, I thought about a ghost story of a different kind...

What if you lived in an old house that you loved and knew was haunted? Not sure who the ghost was or why it stayed in your house? Perhaps, your life triggered a memory for that ghost. What do you mean ghosts don't exist? Oh, yes they do!  They watch us; they see and hear us all the time. They appear to us via sound, imagery and smell but you must remain aware and open minded to experience their visitations.

“Here we left it,” she said. And he added, “Oh, but here tool” “It’s upstairs,” she murmured. “And in the garden,” he whispered. “Quietly,” they said, “or we shall wake them.”

As I said, A Haunted House by Virginia Woolf is not a novel or a novella even it is one of her short stories published in a collection called Monday and Tuesday in 1921.  It is only a few pages in length. I am deeply touched by this short story. At the heart of it, is love. Love experienced between a man and woman, a married couple, who lived in the house before the author's current occupant; the female married protagonist.  The ghostly couple had the best-married years of life here together and have left their hearts here together along with their unforgotten treasured memories. The love between the current couple spurs their ghostly visitations and Virginia Woolf's conversations between the ghostly couple are just beautiful.

“Here we slept,” she says. And he adds, “Kisses without number.” “Waking in the morning—” “Silver between the trees—” “Upstairs—” “In the garden—” “When summer came—” “In winter snowtime—” The doors go shutting far in the distance, gently knocking like the pulse of a heart.

In this very short tale, any reader would be touched by the deep sentimentality and heartbreaking honestly of the true connection between man and woman (in this case) and the blessing of a happy life together. One which abides through the ages.

Leonard Woolf and Virginia Woolf with their dog Pinka

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Last Bronte: The Intimate Memoir of Arthur Bell Nicholls by S.R. Whitehead: A Review

He was Mr Brontë's right hand man and Charlotte's husband.

He fell in love with two sisters and revered a third while, to the troubled brother, he tried to be a friend. Arthur Bell Nicholls was the intimate witness to all the triumphs and tragedies of the Brontës' adult lives and The Last Brontë is his testament.

PaperbackFirst328 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by Ashmount Press
ISBN13 9780955283

I always struggle with my reviews. I want to always be fair and I try to remain open minded. Especially, when it comes to real figures such as The Bronte Sisters, their masterpieces, and of course, Mr. Nicholls.  I am a very strong admirer of Charlotte Bronte for as much of a strong-willed, opinionated woman as we can gather she was from her letters.  I have not researched into A.B. Nicholls life, so I don't know lf his letters survive.  The Last Bronte by S.R. Whitehead is a novel and he does wonderfully bring Arthur Bell Nicholls to life. His staunch religious beliefs, his working for Mr. Bronte, his friendships with all three sisters all found within these pages. It was interesting and very refreshing to read the male perspective for a change.  I enjoyed the novel very much and the author has a  lovely writing style. However, I was disappointed not to find a bibliography list, there was no notes section whatsoever, either. These two would have been very helpful for readers. Since there are lots of religious prayers cited within conversations between Nicholls and Bronte members. Also, the letters between Charlotte Bronte and Mr. Nicholls were wonderful to read but it started me thinking as to whether or not any of his letters survived? It would have been so nice to have a bibliography or notes section to flip back to. 
Arthur Bell Nicholls study as it looks today 
The Bronte Parsonage Museum
The Bronte Society

One of the facts we know about Arthur Bell Nicholls was he was the husband of Charlotte Bronte. Sadly, they were only together for nine months when she died early in her pregnancy. S.R. Whitehead, author, created a very interesting story line between Anne Bronte and Nicholls. In the novel, he falls for Anne romantically but he marries Charlotte for reasons I thought were a bit sad really. I don't want to ruin anything for readers but the marriage between Charlotte and Arthur doesn't happen until late in the novel and well let's just say if Anne Bronte is your favorite you will be very happy!  

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

My Review of The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

I said my story had many beginnings, and the day the camera arrived was one of them. After all, without the camera, there wouldn’t have been any photographs. Without the camera, I wouldn’t have a story to tell. . . .
1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.
One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 1, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006249984X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062499844

Magical..., Enchanting..., Sublime ..., are just some of the words I could use to begin.  It's all true!   

Whether or not you are familiar with the story of the Cottingley fairies from the nineteenth-century doesn't really matter. I needed a book to read that would put me in a peaceful mood and a contemplative one at that. This is it for me!  Truly, The Cottingley Secret is a retelling of the controversial events of Frances Cottingley from Yorkshire, England and the very interesting photographs of a little girl in a wood playing with fairies!  

I didn't know the story at all but I have seen the photographs online over the years and always wondered what really happened. Author, Hazel Gaynor with incredible imagination and foresight has created two story lines connecting families across two decades.  I was hooked from the opening paragraph.  

When I hear the word Yorkshire, I think nature and beauty but I also immediately think of The Bronte Sisters.  What I loved about The Cottingley Secret was that it introduced me to a part of Yorkshire unfamiliar to me; Cottingley. I appreciate the author's adept usage of Yorkshire terms i.e., nowt meaning nothing  and a lot of thou's and thee's.  I have some friends in and around Yorkshire who I contacted to ask if the slang usage or terminology was authentic. Luckily for me, I was told a firm "yes".  

Also, I am relieved that Hazel Gaynor did not feel the urge to wrap up Olivia's present day story line in a big red bow with a happily ever after ending. I don't want to give anything away but there is a love interest named, Ross, whom I immediately loved.  You see, dear readers, sometimes in life you are not always promised a happy ending. For some people some obstacles cannot be cleared. Sometimes you have to start with friendship and see where that leads. 

I actually had a childhood experience that involved fairies that I never truly talked about. Suffice it to say, I wholeheartedly believe in them and they do exist. A huge thank you to Hazel Gaynor and Frances Griffiths for reminding me of my past childhood experiences. 

I hope everyone who wants to read a truly, beautifully written and engaging story, gives The Cottingley Secret a chance. You will not be disappointed. 

To purchase the book in the United States,  Amazon US

To purchase the book in the United Kingdom,  Amazon UK

For the author's website,  Hazel Gaynor

A book review of The Ghost Ship by Kate Mosse

New York Times  bestselling author Kate Mosse returns with  The Ghost Ship , a sweeping historical epic of adventure on the high seas. The B...