April Blether

‘To a generation for whom everything which used to nourish the imagination because it had to be won by an effort, and then slowly assimilated, is now served up cooked, seasoned, and chopped into little bits, the creative faculty (for reading should be a creative act as well as writing) is rapidly withering, together with the power of sustained attention…’

– Edith Wharton (1862-1937)

Edith Wharton believed that the wireless and cinema, which were being introduced in the late 19th Century, would gradually atrophy the imagination; she referred to them as imagination’s world-wide enemies. As I’ve been reading Esther de Waal’s book ‘Seeking God: The Way of St Benedict,’ this year, it has had me thinking about what I’m giving my attention to in this age of distraction and what is it that diminishes sustained attention. Now that we have mobile phones, television, movies, and social media at our fingertips which don’t require a sustained attention, Wharton’s words seem very prophetic. Funnily enough, if I’m going to watch a movie it usually has to be an epic of some sort or a very long BBC production and I don’t do it very often. So far this year I’ve watched two movies – not epics – but about issues in which myself or someone in my family’s past had some personal experience with.

The Viceroy’s HouseNew Delhi, India, March 1947. The huge and stately Viceroy’s Palace is like a beehive. Its 500 employees are busy preparing the coming of Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, who has just been appointed new (and last) Viceroy of India by Prime Minister Clement Attlee. Mountbatten, whose difficult task consists of overseeing the transition of British India to independence.

The movie doesn’t go into a lot of detail about the carnage caused by Partition but a fictional book that does depict this big time (!!) is Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh. The two movies have a common theme – two groups of people living peacefully as neighbours until sectarian violence breaks them apart.

Belfast – this movie is semi-autobiographical, based on true events from Kenneth Branagh’s childhood. Born in Belfast in 1960, Branagh and his family escaped The Troubles by moving to England when he was nine. I mentioned my own experience of the Orange & the Green in Scotland in a conversation at an online book club and a friend told me about this movie. If you’d grown up in Ireland or Scotland in the sixties you’d relate to it. We were good friends with an Irish family we met when we arrived in Australia and this would have been their experience.

“For the ones who stayed; For the ones who left; and for all the ones who were lost.”

Where we were in Scotland we didn’t have bombings or overt violence, but the Catholic/Protestant divide was tangible even as school kids. My Dad use to sing the Irish Rover’s song, Me Father he was Orange and me Mother she was Green, although in our case it was the other way around.

Speaking of Scotland, we enjoyed Brigadoon at the beginning of April, the annual Highland Gathering in Bundanoon. In true style, it drizzled most of the day, but a bonnie time was had by all, to be sure.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is highlanders.jpg

Two New Authors – not counting D.E. Stevenson as I’d already read a book by her years ago, but she feels new. I’d highly recommend Spring Magic which I read this month. Rosamunde Pilcher is new to me and I read Winter Solstice (2000) which is mostly set in Northern Scotland. A lovely story of broken hearts, grief, new beginnings and second chances. I loved the ending of this story.

‘It is the manner in which you have put your possessions together that melds into such a pleasing whole. I’m sure you own nothing that you do not think to be beautiful or know to be useful.’

‘Perhaps that was the worst of all. Not having someone to remember things with.’

Norah Lofts – the historian and author, Alison Weir, said that Lofts was her all-time favourite author. Her books are mostly out of print, but I picked up a couple at a free library in a shopping centre: A Rose for Virtue (1971) which is based on Napoleon’s stepdaughter Hortense Beauharnais, daughter of Josephine, and Here Was a Man (1936) – a novel of Sir Walter Raleigh. She certainly brings her characters to life and her writing is very good. I’ll write more about her later.

In the Best Families (1950) by Rex Stout – I always enjoy Stout’s Nero Wolfe books. Wolfe’s man, Archie Goodwin usually does all the running around for his boss, but Wolfe’s arch enemy Arnold Zeck, has forced the corpulent, gormandising and sedentary detective to leave his home – something unthinkable and never done before. Has Wolfe turned coward? Archie is left to solve a murder on his own with no idea if he will ever see Wolfe again. A great story with a super twist.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah – a book club choice, I listened to this narrated by the author on Audible. Noah, the son of a Black woman and a White man, was about six years of age when Apartheid ended. Up until then his very life was a crime. He tells of his upbringing, his mother’s influence on his life and her determination that he would not be disadvantaged, how he became a comedian – all very articulately and with a heavy dose of ‘F’ words and other language. Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom was a helpful background to Noah’s story.

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham – I’ll write about this later. I’ve read two other books by Wyndham and this was very different to either of them. I enjoyed all three and this was very hard to put aside!

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898) – the first book (novella) I’ve read by Henry James and I can’t say that I was very inspired by it. There have been many interpretations of this ‘Gothic/horror/ghost’ story, but it fell flat for me. A young governess takes on the care of two orphaned siblings whose uncle and guardian wants to go off and live his own life and not worry about them. Two former employees, now deceased, appear before the governess and she feels that her charges are in danger. It’s all a bit weird and I’m in no rush to read anything else by Henry James at present.

8 thoughts on “April Blether

  1. I’m very curious about Norah Lofts! I’ve never heard of many of these and they sound intriguing! Pilcher IS a beautiful writer, I unfortunately don’t totally get on with her dismissal of some of the traditional value stuff. 🤷🏻‍♀️

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel that way about most modern authors, Amy, but I hadn’t read anything by Pilcher before so wasn’t sure what to expect. You certainly notice attitudes like this when you’ve been immersed in the writing of older authors such as Elizabeth Goudge or D.E. Stevenson. I thought Pilcher redeemed things a bit at the end with this one, but as you pointed out, the traditional values went by the wayside.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ohhh, we watched Belfast recently, too! My mom and I especially liked it. It’s such a different time and place to our own, but we felt parallels to the growing political divisions in the US (hopefully, never to reach the same point of violence). I’m glad to hear the movie was reasonably accurate!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think Rex Stout is all that familiar over here. I have to either read his books on Kindle or buy from Amazon in the US so a series (TV?) would be even more obscure. Might be on youtube so will have a look. 🤔


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s