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Turning, she looked across the bay, and there, sure enough, coming regularly across the waves first two quick strokes and then one long steady stroke, was the light of the Lighthouse. It had been lit.


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Available in the Penguin Modern Classics edition pp. Not a traditional fairy tale, but The Sleeping Beauty is the story of an awakening.

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The central characters are not in the first flush of youth but love manages to awaken them from inner deadness. It is set in a seaside backwater and begins with a dreamy walk along the cliff. This cover was an inspired choice for an early Virago edition. It is on display at the Falmouth Gallery until mid-September. It was the cover that first attracted me to this novel.

Its intricate, dense and convoluted patterning of natural objects reflects the storyline. It was designed by Peter Dyer, with acknowledgement to William Morris. Morris was contemporaneous with the setting of the novel. Many people commented on it, saying they had read it in a much drabber schools editions. This cover captures the rituals of the Seal people north of Roman Britain.

Angel at the Gate by Wilson Harris

It was also inspired by the mysteries and dark dangers of the ancient world. It is by C Walter Hodges. Thinking about … Book Covers was a blogpost from January , which includes more examples and links to archives etc. Advice for authors.

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It draws on work for Salt Books that frequently have captivating covers. Do you have any covers to nominate as adding something to the book? Or is an exceptionally pleasing cover? The author of The Book of Memory is not afraid of contradictions, starting with the title. Memory is both the name of the protagonist and — well you know what memory is — unreliable. Memory herself is a white black woman. As I said, contradictions! Memory is in Chikurubi Prison, Harare, in post-independent Zimbabwe. She has been sentenced to death for the murder of her adoptive father Lloyd, a white man.

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What we read is her account written for a journalist. She had a troubled childhood, brought up in a township. Her father works at home as a carpenter and does most of the childcare because her mother has serious mental health problems. Before the story begins her older brother has died, she is not sure how.

Memory has her own problems, for she has been born with albinism and suffers from the torments of her fellow school students, the beliefs of many people that she has been touched by witchcraft, and her physical vulnerability to light and water. Eventually a white man, Lloyd, gives her father money and takes Memory away to his home, Summer Madness.

She lives with Lloyd for about 8 years, not understanding how such a generous man could do something as dreadful as buy her from her family. But she now can take advantage of living in the white area, of improved skin care and educational opportunities. Lloyd is imprisoned for two weeks. On his release things are bad between them so Memory leaves the country to study in Cambridge. After several years she returns and finds that Lloyd has forgiven her. The country is changing, becoming more troubled.

In this heightened context, Memory returns home one day to find Lloyd dead. She is arrested and convicted of murder and begins her stay at the prison. The reader is constantly faced with contradictions about identity and meaning in life. Memory is a black woman, and suffers racial discrimination as a result. But she is a white black woman. Lloyd is a member of the privileged white hierarchy, but he is generous and liberal and does not share the macho posturing of typical Rhodesian white men.

The country of Zimbabwe is new and trying to move into its future, but many of the people are held back by the beliefs in spirits and fate that dominate, especially in the rural areas. Memory is a highly educated woman, on Death Row. The Book of Memory captures the particular cultural mix and tensions that run through Zimbabwean society today and in the past. Readers know that memory is imperfect and can cause the wrong meaning can easily be given to events.

People who appear cruel may provide comfort; your family may have been more generous than you know; the violent death of a white man may be misinterpreted. I found that the first part of The Book of Memory moved too slowly for me.

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Only gradually do we find out why Memory is in prison, about her albinism, about her family and its history and how it was that she was sold to Lloyd. While the framing of the novel leads the narrative drive, it also makes for much repetition about the present-day events in prison. From the point when she leaves her family to live with Lloyd the novel develops more pace. There is a great deal of humour in this novel, despite its grim setting, and its grim subject matter.


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Much of this comes from the prison setting, especially the nicknames that prisoners and wardens are given. The interactions are full of wonderfully inventive malapropisms. I love the idea of rigour motion , of saying reminded instead of remanded , and the expectation of Amnesty International after the election. The guard Patience is a particularly rich source of misspeaks. Unlike the others, Patience prefers to speak to us in English.

She is in training to be a court interpreter. I overheard Patience and Mathilda talk about a funeral Patience had attended at the weekend. They fought until he fell in and smashed his head on the coffin, and just like that he was deceased. I have never seen such boomshit.

We were all in mayhem. Much of the conversation between the women is conducted in Shona. The words are sprinkled in the text, and usually it is possible to understand the meanings from the context. The author born in grew up in Zimbabwe and later read law in various universities in Zimbabwe and Europe, including Cambridge. The Book of Memory is her second book. Few books have unsettled me as much as The Little Red Chairs. In my reading group we agreed it was a powerful, difficult and in some ways enchanting book.

There is also a luminous description of a village in the West of Ireland from which the main character flees, and innumerable other stories of displacement and loss from around the world. There are many stories in this novel, to the extent that it could be argued that telling stories is proposed as therapeutic and healing to individuals and to communities. The story that leads the novel begins in a rural community with the arrival of a visitor. He tells them he comes from Montenegro, and without explanation he settles in their community offering himself as a kind of new age healer.

Fidelma, an energetic and attractive Irish woman who longs for a baby which she is unable to conceive with her older husband, asks Dr Valdimir if he will help her conceive. He agrees and the consequences are truly terrible. There is tension from the opening pages. Dr Vlad does not fit in this generous community, in this gentle landscape.

And we have been given plenty of warnings that wicked things are going to happen. The title: to commemorate the 20 th anniversary of the siege of Sarajevo, 11, chairs were laid out along metres of Sarajevo street. The paragraph explaining this precedes the first section of the novel. Sarajevo October , photo by Bizntaze via Wiki Commons. Dr Validmir: Vlad is not a name to inspire confidence.

Angel at the Gate

He is portrayed as a dark character, always in black clothes, secretive, mysterious, untrusting, on his guard. Moju: the mute kitchen porter at the Castle Hotel reacts to the voice of Dr Vlad with complete hysteria. The story follows Fidelma as she is violated by disappointed followers of Dr Vlad.

She flees to London, and falls to the bottom of the heap as she tries to find accommodation and work, to simply survive. Small acts of kindness, different communities, havens, help restore her. Finally she goes to The Hague, where Dr Vlad is on trial. His final speech to the tribunal is chilling, as he denies every charge in an increasingly illogical and crazy manner.

Fidelma is able to name him for what he is.

There is so much in this novel, the reading group felt it could have been twice as long to do justice to the lives within it. We asked and discussed all kinds of questions. We were interested in the contamination by evil and what restores, redeems people. Father Eamonn, who had not stirred from the fire, just looked across from the fire at her and shook his head, dolefully. How did Dr Vlad manage to evade capture for 13 years? Should communities be less trusting?