Saturday, 10 June 2017

The Olive Harvest by Carol Drinkwater


The Olive Harvest.

Through some awful accident I have managed to read the third in the trilogy before the second and for that reason I am loathe to provide even a hint of what the story reveals in terms of timeline to those who( more cleverly  than I) ,can actually count years in order and are reading the books chronologically.

Instead I can passionately and unreservedly say that this  book like the 'The Olive Farm' before it,is a true sensory gift. I am a recent convert to these kinds of books. As I hit my late thirties I seemed to have been seeking, even vicariously a simpler and yet richer experience and Carol has provided the most perfect window into that. In fact I think she has probably spoiled me for other authors!

That is not to say that life on the farm was idyllic or perfect by any means and this book in particular reveals some really dark times, where landscape and Mother Nature herself brought down an ominous weight to the story.  It is in contrast though with this darker examination of the land that she loves, that the joys of life are shown more starkly with a sheer brilliance and clarity that burns into the reader's imagination and remains indelibly etched.

To say that Carol writes beautifully about the natural world  is like saying Shakespeare wrote passable plays. Carol has an incredible talent for descriptions of nature at it's most tranquil and delicately exquisite. At the same time though, she exposes the harshness, the raw power and the bitter truths that reliance on the land and the need for balance and sacrifice for the greater good can reap in one's soul. These too achingly beautiful in their ferocity.

The country people we encounter, the familiar faces and those revealed anew in this third book are realists and stalwarts they have seen it all before and despite several years in situ, Carol was still a newcomer, an innocent and naive of the realities of some areas, the steeling of resolve that is needed to make the hardest decisions and it is her struggles to maintain her principles but be true to the traditions and unspoken rules that have made the time honoured Olive industry so enduring is another interesting facet to a story that truly is about love, the deepening of bonds, the spreading of roots and the joy of seeing the smallest thing grow and thrive  as a reason to celebrate life as a whole.

I adored this book and I am not ashamed to admit that I cried some gentle tears at it's final paragraphs. I suggest you settle down somewhere where flowers grow, perhaps next to your herb garden or lavender bush and just immerse yourself for a while, then pause to see the beauty of your own environs, drink in the scents and sounds and then read on. You will not regret it.




Thursday, 8 June 2017

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy


Inevitably this book is going to be compared with The God of Small Things, I think people will either love or hate it, I personally found it to be a deeply textured and thought provoking read. I do not generally précis books in my reviews and this book is so densely packed with brilliantly observed characters that to attempt to distil them down would be a disservice to the skilled weaver of tales that is Ms Roy.

What I can  say is this is a deeply personal book, much as Small Things was before it and that despite certain political leanings, that it is a heartbreaking and interesting examination of conflicts that remain even into modern day between Pakistan and India through the prism of several normal folk who are on the fringes of society. It is a vibrant story, written in beautiful prose even when approaching matters of violence, discrimination and degradation.


Ultimately I left the story feeling uplifted and positive about the human condition and equally entertained and educated about a volatile and intriguing area of the globe.

Friday, 2 June 2017

The Handmaid's Tale - REVISITED


I am a proud Dystopian book fan and I think I can categorically say that Margaret Atwood is a prophetic Genius.

Having read The Handmaid's Tale when I was nineteen, given to me by a dear friend who has taught me much  about feminist issues,  the specifics evaded me so after the much lauded Television adaptation hit UK shores, I thought I would revisit the book. My pervading memory from my callow youth was one of  mild outrage at the treatment of women as baby vessels in a distant future, but in actual fact the book is far more disturbing  and infinitely more nuanced.

I am a childless woman entering the age group  when women loose the potential to conceive or carry to term so this now is a much more faceted story for me personally.

Offred is a brilliant central character, she is the epitome of modern woman actively rebelling against efforts to turn women into classifications and destroying every possible way for expressing individuality.  She is a valuable commodity. She has proven fecundity and yet her own child is used as a weapon of manipulation and yet she herself exploits her position as a protected asset and higher in the strata than poor barren women.

The ruling class seemingly powerful are in actual fact beholden to the circadian  and hormonal rhythms of chattels.

However  Offred is not a activist she is a realist,  she knows her room for manoeuvre is limited,which makes her more relatable than her younger modern counterparts Tris and Katniss.



This is not science fiction or Dystopian fantasy, this is modern day global reality showcased in a chilling and resonant story written with a sparse  prose that is at once at once starkly bleak and yet described with such brilliant eye for sensory detail. The use of colour to show rank and standing, the lack of any kind of humanising by the manner of address to the Handmaid's are all brilliant devices to create divides and boundaries to prevent transgressions which might topple what when examined from the reader's outside eye,  is  a somewhat  vulnerable ruling class.

Fear is created through mis informaion and omission and the acceptance of the change for the "Better Good "in the early stage of this patriarchal coup is one of the most disturbing elements.  It is common knowledge that When the book was penned Atwood drew on reserves of knowledge of civil injustices already happening across the globe, but reading the book in 2017 is an even more sobering activity.

Whatever your side of the political spectrum it is hard to avoid the correlations between modern day Pro-lifers in the USA or the teachings of Al Qaeda and Isis, even to some degree the treatement of disabled children in parts of Africa where the weak are deemed devils and destroyed by witch doctors.

What I find most interesting and telling is that even moderate countries are veering into what Atwood cites as triggers for the changes. Women are sold and exchanged on the black market as sex slaves and servants even in modern London and the digitising of finances and the decline of physical currencies all provide a similar Petrie dish for the  more enterprising fanatical puritan group.

This book is a Tour De Force and Margaret Atwood  a literary trailblazer.