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Monday, April 30, 2018

The Bell by Iris Murdoch

This is one of the best books I have read, I was sad when it ended and kept reaching for the book only to have to tell myself I had finished it, there was no more to read.

Although this book was written in 1958, it seems timeless, it is a study of people and their motivations. The story is set at a private house that has a cloistered Benedictine convent on the property. The main house is in the fledgling stages of becoming a lay community to be a buffer between the convent and the outside world. The lay community is evolving slowly, it is led by Michael, he owns the house and property and had aspirations to become a priest. Mr. and Mrs. Mark are a middle aged couple who had some marital issues before arriving, but are now assisting with the day to day running of the community, he does the accounting and she organizes the day to day activities. Catherine, a young woman, is living with the lay community but is planning soon to become a cloistered nun at the monastery, her very troubled twin brother is staying in the lodge house temporarily, the community do not know how to deal with him. Then there is Dora, a main character, who is in an unsuitable, abusive marriage with Paul, a man much older than her and a scholar. Paul is not part of the community, he is simply staying at the house while he studies historic manuscripts at the convent. Dora joins him at the house at his request after a brief separation due to an affair. Two other visitors arrive, a very nice man James Tayper-Pace, and he brings along a student Toby who has interest in visiting the community. And the last character, Sister Clare, who resides at the convent and dispenses wise counsel, although she appears in the story here and there, her influence on the community is always in the present.

The story begins, the characters are introduced, and the scene set. Lots of little things happen, we slowly discover the back ground of each person, and begin to understand their motivations and responses to situations that arise. The novel is philosophical, it is a study in human nature, in morals, in the perception of right and wrong, love and control. Slowly things reach a crescendo that affects all of the characters, and with that I will reveal no more so as not to spoil the reading of the book.

There are a lot of Latin quotations in the book, be sure to google them and get a definition, understanding them helps in understanding the narrative of the book. And you will learn the definition of Toby's favorite word, rebarbative.

I borrowed this book from the library, but have since ordered a used copy from Amazon, as I know it a book I will read again. The descriptions of location and characters brought the story alive. The human emotions and behaviors were realistically depicted, we are all fallible, sometimes wise, sometimes foolish, and often driven by motivations we don't always  acknowledge.

If you are looking for a philosophical character study with an excellent plot this book is for you.

Peace be with you,


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Books I Read Last Year That I Will Definitely Read Again

The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux
An excellent book, thought provoking, disturbing, a study of a mad man, very well written, very believable. I was led to reading this book after reading:

The Dolphin People by Torsten Krol
Who is Torsten Krol - no one knows, well I assume perhaps his publisher knows the true identity of the author, but no one else apparently does. This too is a study of a mad man, it is disturbing, thought provoking, well written and it led me to read:

Callisto by Torsten Krol
What a wacky, fast moving, disturbing book, so much happens, it is craziness yet it makes sense, and it really makes you think about the insanity of our government, homeland security, police policies etc. A good story.

Hidden Lives by Margaret Forster
A memoir, and a delightful book, the very first part was a bit hagiographic, about the great grandma who not much is known about, but then the book moves into it's own as the grandma's life is unfolded, and then the mother's life, and finally the authors life. The story had some parallels to my own mothers life and I purchased a copy for my Mom and she really enjoyed the book. Margaret Forster was a prolific writer, she wrote Georgie Girl, which is perhaps one of her more well known books as it was made into a rather good movie in the 60's. After Hidden Lives I was led to reading this book:

Diary Of An Ordinary Woman by Margaret Forster
This moving book is a diary of woman from the age of nine to close to her death in her 80's. The diary moves through the early 1900's, WW1, the interim years, WW2, recovery after the war, the changes in British life through the 50's, 60's, 70's etc. It is excellent, when I finished the book I grieved for the diary writer, Millicent King, she was a good woman who lived through difficult situations and was always strong and capable. The book is written as if the Diary was real, the premise is that Margaret Forster the author was asked to take a strangers diary and publish it, it is actually a work of fiction, but it could be the record of any woman's life growing up and living through the years that Millicent did.

Margaret Forster wrote many, many books, and I will be reading more of her books this year and know I will not by disappointed by them.

Peace be with you,


Thursday, April 5, 2018

Dreams - What Does This One Mean

I am writing this to simply make a record of a very vivid dream I had last night.

In the dream I am in a kitchen/diner type room with very modern stream line cabinets, utilitarian looking, in a dark brown finish, on the counter there is a lot of prepared food, a bit like a pot luck. In the eating area sits my mother-in-law (she died in 2002), my husbands grandmother, Nellie, (she died in 1993), my father-in-law, my husband, a few other people, and my husbands youngest brother.

My mother-in-law looked radiant as did Nellie, my father-in-law who suffers from mild dementia, was very lucid, he said he was taking a new medicine and he also looked about twenty years younger than he does in real life, he is 88. My brother-in-law, who we rarely see was being very friendly and sociable. Everyone started singing, kind of folk type music, someone was playing an instrument but I couldn't tell you what kind, everyone was smiling, glowing, the music was wonderful, it was a scene of joy and happiness, then in the dream I needed to use the bathroom. For some reason I had to leave the room, or apartment to locate a bathroom. I went down a hallway, took an elevator down a floor and finally located the bathroom. The bathroom was old fashioned, the tank was high up and had a pull chain, when done I flushed and left the bathroom. When I returned to the hallway I had no idea how to get back, I went up a flight of stairs as I couldn't find the elevator, I entered a hallway with lots and lots of doors all with numbers on them, I had no idea which door was the right door to go to, I just wanted to return to the group, to the music, the singing, the togetherness and I had no idea how to get there.

Then I woke up.

So what was that all about? I have no idea! It was so vivid, and it brought such a feeling of peace while I was in the room, and such a feeling of agitation when I couldn't find my way back to the room. It did not seem my usual sort of dream at all.