Shadows On The Grass

In November I was pleased to asked by Misha M. Herwin to be part of her blog tour following the launch of her third novel, Shadows On The Grass. For those of you unfamiliar with Misha’s work, she’s a prolific writer who writes both young adult literature and mainstream novels. She’s better known for her YA trilogy, Dragonfire and the popular Clear Gold series. Her mainstream work has included the time-slip novel House of Shadows and the keenly observant Picking Up The Pieces and this month saw the release of her third novel, Shadows On The Grass..shadows-on-the-grass

My first observation of this new novel is that it’d be foolish to assume this is solely women’s literature, it’s most definitely not. Yes, the action is centred around several women but that’s where the similarity with other women’s fiction ends. Set in 1960’s Bristol the story segues easily from 1965 to past events in time building the characters piece by piece, while also drawing on historical events.

The narrative belongs to three generations of women struggling to come to terms with their desires, their identity and their Polish heritage. Mimi and Marianna grow up in turmoil, exiled by the Russians and desperate to retain their identities they end up in Bristol. Mimi is a character that’s difficult to warm to, she’s cold and demanding and throughout her life she shows herself to be a selfish mother. Her old friend and cousin, the Royal Marianna seems to be her saving grace but scratch the surface and there’s a darker side to the princess.

For me the star of the novel is Hannah, Mimi’s downtrodden daughter, all she’s ever wanted is acceptance from her mother and now Mimi is dying she spends her days tending to the ungrateful woman out of her sense of duty. Her husband doesn’t help things with his constant need to smother her and protect her, in his defence he’s so ineffectual that he really cannot comprehend that his cloying love is holding his wife in emotional chains.

Hannah’s daughter, Kate, is a rebellious teenager, trying unsuccessfully to throw off the , shackles of family life and her Polish heritage. Her young life is centred around her desire to become a woman. She’s flagrantly sexual in her demeanour but initially afraid to cast off the restraints of her Catholic upbringing. At times she’s as caustic as the bitter lemon she drinks and unforgiving in her attitude to her mother. Possibly this is a trait she’s inherited from Hannah as she in turn inherited it from Kate’s grandmother, Mimi.

Historically there’s passages in the text that stop you in your tracks and propel you towards Google, in a bid to research further the repression of the Polish people in Russia. Thus giving you a better understanding of Mimi’s internal rage and Mariana’s misplaced humility: she’s an enigma and although fictional I’d love to read her memoir.

26814465_10210054074299651_9093542159813022445_n

My favourite thing about reading anything written by Misha Herwin is her attention to detail and the ability to create sublime sentences. You’d be forgiven for thinking that she pondered over every line crafting and redeveloping it to make it perfect, but I doubt she’s that pretentious; she naturally has the knack of writing a line that makes the reader stop and read it again before continuing with the story. Lines like, ‘Exhaustion fed on her, like some malevolent spirit; it sucked the words from her mouth, the thoughts from her brain.’ and ‘Her fingers were laden with rings, huge stones set in gold, rubies like gouts of blood, sapphires dark as despair.’ make Herwin’s work a joy to digest. And my favourite , ‘she struggled to avoid using the surname that rattled like pebbles in a tin.’ perfectly sums up the inability of an English tongue to pronounce a Polish name.

If you’re looking for a good read, maybe this summer’s beach holiday book, check out Shadows On The Grass available from Amazon now.

For more information on Misha and her work, follow her blog here

Visit Tim Diggles’ blog here for more of his photography projects.

Advertisements

October Sunshine and a Kindle

Today I finished reading my book. An actual book. One with pages made from paper and a cover with artwork. I’m not a big reader, managing a book a year, but since arriving in Italy I’ve been gradually getting through the paperbacks I brought with me;. Nothing lends itself better to sitting in the sun than having a book to read, so my intake has increased. To feed this burgeoning new habit I’ve invested in a Kindle. I tried the Sony e Reader a few years back and couldn’t get on with it, so felt resigned to be one of the hard-copy book lovers rather than an e book admirer. But Kindle has changed my mind, yes I do still like the feel and smell of a printed book, but the convenience of a Kindle has so many benefits.

I can carry my library with me as the device fits into my bag alongside all my other gadgets and work related paraphernalia. I can put articles I’m working on onto it and read and review them when I’m away from my workspace and I can download a new book in an instant, no waiting for it to arrive via DHL or any other delivery service that take an aeon to  get here.

100_7869-crop

Unpacked, set up and synched to my laptop I was ready to enter the digital literary age, my first task was to download my two favourite novels, that I like to have at all times; both unusual choices for man, I guess. The first is Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë’s novel of unrequited love and loathing amid the wild Yorkshire moors never fails to satiate my need for something dark and brooding, and I can dip in and out reading random chapters when the need takes me.  The second is the Charlotte Brontë classic, Jane Eyre, I was given a copy of this book as a child of ten for an excellent attendance record at Sunday school, and I found the characterisation and plot exciting: yes even as a ten-year old. This isn’t a book I can dip in and out of, so every now and then I re-read it. The last time was back in 1996 during a spell in Croatia just after the Bosnian conflict, I was reading as the plane took off from Manchester heading for Split, when a man in the aisle next to me leant over and thinking he’d be funny said, “He goes blind and his wife’s a mad woman who dies when she burns the house down.” Pretending I didn’t know the story, I remonstrated him him for spoiling my book telling him It was the only I brought with me. His wife then got involved and gave him a harsh tongue lashing and for the remainder of the flight I smiled inwardly as he spent an uncomfortable four-hours sat across the aisle from me.

100_7870-crop

I continue to download a few other books and then decide to give the device its first outing. It’s a pleasant October day and the sun is shining, making it a sitting outside opportunity. I scroll through the books I’ve loaded onto my Kindle and select one I’ve been wanting to read for sometime. It’s by north Staffordshire author, Misha Herwin; someone I’ve had the privilege to have critique my work. The book is Dragonfire, a story for young adults, first published by Finstock Press in 2008 and for Kindle in 2012.

As I’m sat in the warm Italian sunshine reading I become transported into the world of two teenagers who by misfortune are in care. They have something different about them, gifts that normal teens don’t have: I won’t say here what they are as that would spoil the story. I’m taken down tunnels where strange beings lurk, there’s a great collection of characters including a strange talking creature who is always right, an asthmatic dragon and a small mute boy is thrown into the mix. The story introduces us to bullies turned good and an odd married couple with more OCD issues than I have.

The writing is superb, the pace is constant and written without any padding; those chapters that authors seem to write to get the word count up. Very quickly I find I’ve read a third of the book in one sitting, so I decide to put it down, to save it for another day, but this doesn’t happen and an hour later I’m sat outside, Kindle in hand with Alf asleep at my feet while Olive chases lizards. Suffice to say normally I don’t read quickly but I complete Dragonfire in three sittings. It’s a superb book for teenagers, with no patronising passages or overblown morals, it’s a romp through the realms of fantasy and reality whilst keeping its characters feet firmly upon the ground.

Dragonfire

Cover reproduced with permission. © Mick Walters of http://mjbookcoverdesign.wordpress.com/

So Today I finished reading my first e book and I’m inside the house, downloading more to store on my new electronic gadget. If you’d like to read this wonderful story here’s the link to Amazon and the Kindle version: Dragonfire on Kindle