Monthly Archives: August 2016

Silk – Alessandro Baricco


Hi all! 

Another book review to close August. Can you believe it’s the last day of the month? I can’t! I feel like time is whizzing past me and I’m struggling to keep up. It also means with September fast approaching, I’m one step closer to being back at work. Better to put that thought on the back burner and concentrate on my review today. Today’s book is a little, cute thing I found at a charity book shop on my travels: Silk by Alessandro Baricco. 

Originally written in Italian in 1996, this book was translated in 1997. What’s strange is I stumbled across this 20 years later. It was sticking out, on a slant on the shelf. It caught my eye. I quickly saw that the cover was beautiful and the back of the book was full of quotes like:  

“A moving allegory of life as a quest…”

and

“A heartbreaking love story told in the form of a classic fable…”

Clearly a bargain at £1. 


What’s it all about?

The 1860s silk trade was booming and Hervè Joncour travels around the world buying silkworm eggs. Eventually, after problems with the silkworm eggs in Africa, Joncour travels to Japan. He buys eggs from the interesting character of Hara Kei, a French speaking nobleman. Joncour falls in love with his mistress, a rather curious and silent character, ultimately incredibly beautiful also. He makes a note of her eyes in particular. 

“Suddenly, without the smallest movement, the young girl, opened her eyes.” 

During his second visit to Japan, Jancour learns about the aviary of exotic birds that Hara Kei has built. His mind, however, seems distracted by the young girl. He leaves a glove her the mistress to find in a pile of clothes: a token. Towards the end of this visit, the mistress gives him a love note written in Japanese, the first of many over the travels. Unable to understand, Joncour visits Madame Blanche, a rich draper and brothel owner. She translates the letter for him. 

“Come back, or I shall die.” 

During Joncour’s third visit to Japan, Hara Kei’s mistress released the birds from the aviary. Through the darkness, as time progresses, they make love, thus starting their affair. It should be noted that Joncour was married to Hélène. She waits patiently at home for his return. Hara Kei conducts the silkworm egg transaction via another associate and refuses to say goodbye when Joncour leaves. 

However, when it is time for Joncour’s fourth trip to Japan, war had broken out in Japan. He finds Hara Kei’s village was burnt to the ground; nothing remained. From what appears to be out of nowhere, a young boy appears and gives him the glove that he dropped on the pile of clothes for Hara Kei’s mistress. Showing unlimited trust, he follows the boy to a place where the refugees from Hara Kei’s village are camping. 

“In front of him, nothing. He had a sudden glimpse of what he had considered invisible. The end of the world.” 

Unlike his previous visits, Hara Kei refuses to welcome Joncour, rather urging him to leave. They are living in a war and clearly nothing was left. Nevertheless, Joncour refuses to leave. The following morning, Joncour sees the body of the boy who guided him, hanging from a tree. Hara Kei has executed him for carrying the glove to Joncour and bringing him back to their village. 

Rather hastily, Joncour procures a supply of eggs but leaves far too late in the season to transport them. The silk mill, despite its earlier success, sits idle. To help the workers in the seven mills, Joncour decides to essentially landscape his garden, offering work to those who were missing out in the idle mills. 

“Occasionally, on windy days Hervé Joncour would go down to the lake and spend hours in contemplation of it because he seemed to descry, sketched out on the water, the inexplicable sight of his life as it had been, in all its lightness.” 

Time passes and Joncour receives a letter, again written in Japanese. This cues another visit to Madame Blanche who, after some reluctance, translates this for him. It is an erotic love letter from a woman to her beloved master. It’s lyrical, almost moving.  It tells the tale of a love that we all hope for. After reading, Madame Blanche gives him some of her trademark blue flowers. 

It is at this point that Joncour decides to retire from the silkworm egg business. At this point he and Hélène have three daughters. Unfortunately, Hélène gets sick and dies of a fever. Joncour lives a life of existing, visiting his wife’s grave whenever he gets lonely. It was at one visit he notices Madame Blanche’s blue flowers there. This sparks one final visit to her. 

“When loneliness mastered him he would go up to the cemetery…The rest of his time was taken up with a liturgy of habits that succeeded in warding off sadness.” 

It is with great sadness that at this visit, Joncour learns that this great love letter was authored in fact by his wife. 

“She even wanted to read it to me, that letter. She had the most beautiful voice. And she read those words with an emotion that I’ve never been able to forget. It was as if they really were her own words.”


Overall:

This novel is quite possibly one of the most highly descriptive, moving and emotionally charged novel I’ve probably ever read. It is beautiful and lyrical. It keeps you thinking about it long after you’ve finished reading it. It’s probably one of the best £1’s I’ve spent. 

Big love xx

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The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery


Back to books today! I’m focussing on one of my summer reads which I really enjoyed: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. 

I bought this book for three reasons; the cover is very pretty, the title intrigued me immensely and the fact that it is set in Paris. It turned out to be a great little find. I would definitely recommend it. The novel is about facing life head on, rather than living behind masks and walls we make for ourselves, which are meant for keeping others out. It is a lesson in showing how not only do we deceive others, but we also deceive ourselves. 


What’s it all about? 

The narration is split in this novel between the two main characters: Renee and Paloma. Renee Michel is a concierge who believes that every concierge is perceived to be beneath others and lacking the intelligence of those they work for. It is because of this that Renee tries to hide the fact that she spends her days revelling in the works of Marx and Tolstoy. This was easier to do when her husband was alive, she could hide behind his interests, but since his death her lack of interest in television and what was current was harder to hide. However, Renee has found that the wealthy prefer to ignore what is right under their noses, rather choosing to believe in what they already perceive to be true. This is how Renee has managed to hide under their radar for more an twenty years.

“I have no children, I do not watch television, and I do not believe in God — all paths taken by mortals to make their lives easier. Children help us to defer the painful task of confronting ourselves, and grandchildren take over from them. Television distracts us from the onerous necessity of finding projects to construct in the vacuity of our frivolous lives: by beguiling our eyes, television releases our mind from the great work of making meaning. Finally, God appeases our animal fears and the unbearable prospect that someday all our pleasures will cease.”

In the building where renew works, there is a highly intelligent twelve year old girl called Paloma Josse. She has decided to commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday. As the daughter of a diplomat and his bored wife, she feels as though no one ever sees the real her. She hides her intelligence and her true thoughts from others. Paloma has decided that it is much easier to kill herself rather than continue to fight for some kind of recognition from her parents, sister and peers. Her death will be a fitting one; by setting fire to her parents’ apartment in an attempt to force her family to see beyond their wealth and status. 

“We don’t recognize each other because other people have become our permanent mirrors. If we actually realized this, if we were able to become aware of the fact that we are only ever looking at ourselves in the other person, that we are alone in the wilderness, we would go crazy.”

After a death in the building, the widow decides to sell the apartment. Disliking change and ever worrying about what or whom shall move into he apartment, the other residents speculate. The catalyst for this being that there hasn’t been a new tenant in the building in more than two decades. For Renee, her excitement is hidden more underneath. Besides, it is not her job to gossip or get excited about such goings on. 

“In our world, that’s the way you live your grown-up life: you must constantly rebuild your identity as an adult, the way it’s been put together is wobbly, ephemeral, and fragile, it cloaks despair and, when you’re alone in front of the mirror, it tells you the lies you need to believe.”

Kauri Ozu, the new tenant, is a charming and polite man. He is the one man that will bring great change to Renee and Paloma’s lives. During their introduction, Renee makes an offhand comment that draws Kakuro’s attention to her love of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. This sparks curiosity and intrigue in Kakuro. He invites Renee to dinner in his apartment once he has settled. As well as this, Kakuro becomes friends with Paloma’s after he learns she is studying Japanese at school. The friendship between the three begins to grow. 

Over time, the friendship between Renee and Kakuro blossoms. Renee is overwhelmingly relived to have a friend with whom she can be herself, who understands her and shares her own interests. They have great discussions about literature, music (brought on by borrowing his bathroom!), art and philosophy. Yet, there is a flaw. Renee struggles with reconciling herself with this relationship as her past has taught her that the social classes cannot mix without some form of conflict. Therefore, when Kakuro invites Renee to dinner to celebrate his birthday, she says no. Kakuro does manage to persuade her eventually and thus their relationship blooms. 

“The peace of mind one experiences on one’s own, one’s certainty of self in the serenity of solitude, are nothing in comparison to the release and openness and fluency one shares with another, in close companionship.”

Paloma, with her own struggles, asks Renee if she could visit her apartment to escape the chaos of her own home. Paloma’s becomes a regular visitor and forces Renee to share her reasons for turning down the dinner invitation of Kakuro. It is here that we as a reader are allowed a little insight into the past which seems to haunt Renee so. She tells the story of how her sister died after being used and deserted by a rich man. Little does Renee know, Paloma takes this information to Kakuro. 

Kakuro, ever the gentleman, comes (to Renee’s surprise) to her apartment to explain how he has no desire to use and desert her. After all, Renee is not her sister. It is at this point, that Renee looks towards the future, something she is yet to do in this novel. Before we can get excited, a cruel twist of fate results in Renee getting hit by a truck. Sadly, she dies. Paloma struggles with grief and promises not to see her plans of her own death on her birthday, rather she wants to learn from Renee in order to have a happy and fulfilling life. 

“I find this a fascinating phenomenon: the ability we have to manipulate ourselves so that the foundation of our beliefs is never shaken.”

Overall

I really enjoyed this book. It challenges beliefs about class systems and relationships. It shows that we all hide something through fear or frustration, yet there is always someone who can relate to you. People are naturally brought together by comment interests. Give this book a try, you may just love it! 

Big love xx

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Time for a Change 

Hey everyone! 

Hope you’ve having a great start to the week. I personally cannot believe how quickly time is going. I’ll be back to school before you know it.

This post is a little different today. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone of books and places, and ever so slightly tipping my toe into something new: hair. I’m not an expert and I don’t claim to be, but this is about a change in me. 

Now, since being a teen I have usually done something with my hair, whether it be change colour or grow it long to then get immediately frustrated and cut it all short. 

However, I fancied a bit more of a change.  I haven’t dyed my hair for years, and when I do, normally it is just a flat brown to bring my hair back to its natural colour. BUT, I’ve gone for something different. (Again those of you who know me well will know I’m not a huge fan of change.) I have the most trust in my hair dresser so I guess this made it easier. 

I went for a balayage. My hair has got quite long again (for me) so I thought it would like quite pretty for summer. I was shocked that this was quite a technical way to colour hair. It’s bespoke to each individual, which means that although people have the same concept, no two hairs will be coloured the same. Uniqueness! 

Here it is part way through the process (looking oh so glamorous in my plastic cape): 


And the end result:


It is a treat for me to have my hair curled because I can never do it, or spend the time on it to make it look great. 

Finally the result with my hair natural:


What do you think?  This may sound crazy but I feel much happier, more confident and like I’ve been sun kissed. It’s sooo shiny and when I’m outside you can see lots of different tones all blended in together. It’s hair art apparently. But, what do I know? 

Hope you’re feeling as happy as I am!

Big love xx

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Summer at the Seaside

Hi everyone!! 

Hope you’re having a great week so far. I just wanted to explain my slight absence, I’ve been on holiday to Paignton in Devon. I have a number of fond memories, as a child, being on holiday at various British beaches. We have a huge amount to offer; there’s always somewhere new to explore. If you remember last year, I was holidaying in Ilracombe. You can recap that here & here. This year it was time to explore a different part of Devon. 


The weather was lovely and warm, the sun was nearly always shining and I also managed to read a number of books! I was feeling a bit down about reading but this helped me to get my groove back. I’ve got a little tan too. Relief! 


I wish you all a happy, healthy and enjoyable summer. We deserve it after all! 


Big love xxx

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Snowshill Manner & Gardens

Hi everyone!

Happy Saturday! Hope you’ve all had a great one. 

Today I went exploring to another National Trust property and gardens. This time it was the Snowshill Manner and Gardens, once home to the eccentric Charles Wade. The house is dated back to the late 15th century; it boasts amazing gardens and surroundings, set in the heart of the Cotswolds. 


It’s hard for me to believe that this charming little house holds 22,000 items, all collected by Charles Wade himself. He didn’t want to create a museum, just a collection of things he liked. My personal favourites were the beautiful cabinets filled with numerous trinkets and bits and bobs. 


The attic was my favourite room. It is filled with bicycles. Bicycles on the floor, walls and ceiling, all different sizes. It really does need to be experienced first hand. Oh, and a ship on the ceiling too…


I’ll need to revisit this place. There’s always more to see. I’d like to see the development and progress of the restoration of the model fishing village. 


So, today was just lovely. Life is about seeing new places and trying new things; making memories. I feel like I experienced something else today. I loved it! I’ve genuinely never seen a place like it. 


For more information visit The National Trust Website

Big love xx

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Hey everyone! 

I hope you’re all happy and well on this lovely Monday morning. August already!! I can’t believe it. One week into my summer holiday as well. Time really does fly. 

Well, yesterday the big day finally came, the day when the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play script was released, on Harry’s birthday nonetheless. 

I’m excited but apprehensive like everyone else I guess. When you grow up with something it becomes a part of you. When something gets changed or adapted or added to, you always wonder whether it will be as wonderful as you expect it to be. Yet, I’ve got no doubt I will fall in love with this. 

However, this is marred with some sadness. It is the end. I can’t believe this is really it. Rowling said herself: 

“He goes on a very big journey during these two plays and then, yeah, I think we’re done. This is the next generation, you know. So, I’m thrilled to see it realised so beautifully but, no, Harry is done now.”

Could this ever really be the end when so many live and breathe Harry Potter? 
Regardless, I’ll see you on the other side. Have you got yours? 

Magic is happening all over again. I can’t wait! 

Big love. Xx


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