Book Review: Nina George The Little Paris Bookshop

Sometimes books come along that you think were written for you and this one was definitely written for me. A middle aged man is a bookseller in Paris but not just any bookseller. He sells books from his barge on the Seine managing to choose the perfect book for each person to cure their particular malady – usually revolving around matters of love or the lack of it. After recently feeling revived from an encounter with a newly divorced new neighbour he sets off to the south of France in the barge to find his lost love who left him twenty years ago. He takes a blocked writer with him and on the way he picks up a lovelorn Italian who is also searching for someone.

This book is beautifully written, lyrical, magical, peopled with eccentric characters. Its theme is love, the loss of it, the resurfacing of the ability to love, France itself, food, landscape. It will make you fall in love with France all over again. If you are not careful it might make you fall in love with a person again. Watch out!

Book Review: The Fault in our Stars John Green

I enjoyed this book. It describes the love affair between two teen cancer patients who meet at a therapy group. Stated like this the book sounds horrendous but it is much more enjoyable than it sounds. It is funny, irreverent, not at all mushy while still dealing with the big questions about life and death that dying of cancer will throw up for you. The star crossed lovers head over to Amsterdam to meet the heroine’s favourite writer. He turns out to be a cynical alcoholic. Back in the US there is a plot twist which will make you cry and the author is almost redeemed. Young adult romance might sound icky but actually it was a good read and deep enough to keep my interest. Recommended.

Book Review: Hannah Kent Burial Rites

This is an excellent book.

Based on true events, Hannah Kent tells the tragic story of Agnes, a farm worker in Victorian Iceland. Accused and convicted of murder, Agnes is sent to live on a remote farm while she awaits execution by beheading. As the author delineates the detail of Agnes’ mundane days more is revealed about what really happened and the reader’s sympathy for Agnes grows.

The real joy of this book is the quality of the writing. The description of the vicious hardness of rural life in Iceland is beautiful. It reminded me in some ways of Wuthering Heights because of this. The weather and landscape are always central, indifferent to the goings on of humanity. The book is visceral, uncompromising, as cold as a shard of ice.

I loved it.

MY REVIEW OF 2015

So let me set down some thoughts of 2015.

Looking outward it wasn’t a good year. There was global warming, the continued war in Syria, the rise of ISIS, the flooding of the north and the endless stream of wretched refugees into Europe. It is hard to think of the positives.

Looking inward, for me it was not really a good year. I dropped out of my CELTA course (teaching English as a foreign language) in February. The careful restoration of my health and self-esteem from the previous year was dealt a hard blow which I have spent the rest of the year trying to recover from. I have been bullied in the work place many times and here it was again. A morbidly obese talentless woman taking her own self-loathing out on me. It always happens like this. My depression rolled in again like a sea fog, spreading its tendrils into every corner of my life, deadening me, covering me with a too heavy blanket. My depression. I don’t have the sort of depression where I want to do myself in. I have the kind of depression that is physically debilitating. I have no energy, I feel heavy and hopeless. I went to the doctor and they gave me tests. There is nothing physically wrong with me. No further action they said. So another pathetic attempt by me to receive help for my affliction ends in failure. I have the wrong sort of depression. They don’t know what to do with me.

I set about curing myself. Part of it was getting my rescue dog Didi. He came from Romania, a hurt broken thing with a gammy leg that hangs uselessly and a fear of many things. I loved him and he loved me. We healed each other. We went on holiday to Cornwall. He was afraid of the sea but he loved the coastal paths. He was scared of the crowds in the villages. We spent the summer on long forest walks in Suffolk and sometimes at the coast. He has gained confidence. He is feisty, growls at strangers, barks a lot and bit one of my house guests. This is no matter. He has a heart bigger than any person and could just snuggle with me all day. He has helped me more than I have helped him.

Didi has taken a lot of my time up, demanding attention like a baby. The result is I have hardly written. I have still not finished my second novel. The year seemed to be full of unfulfilled dreams and unfinished projects. People have done their best to make me feel useless and of no worth. Maybe I am no good in the work place but I have nurtured and loved a dog and that’s worth something to me and to God if not to the scum of humanity that I keep meeting.

I attempted self care, started to eat healthily, exercise and gave up drinking for months. This all went to pot when a massive bout of flu laid me low. Another unfinished project – myself.

As I reflect on the year I know I have wasted a lot of time and I have dwelled on things, events and people who have no worth. I spent too much time on social media where I met more fake friends. People who will only follow you if you agree with every thought they have and flatter them endlessly are not worth knowing or worrying about. Ridiculous feminists who worry about problems that don’t exist, who try to demonise one half of humanity when the demon is within themselves,I have no time for you and your made up words and made up problems.  I have given up my volunteering work as I would rather spend time with my dog than people who do not deserve my labour.

Looking forward, I know I have finally said goodbye to teaching. I no longer have the personality or the will to do it if I ever did. I still haven’t found my purpose but I know it must be out there somewhere. I have learned that the world is sick and people have made it so. I have learned that there are a lot of people who are deeply unpleasant, who take pleasure in hurting others. I don’t feel anger any more. I feel sorry for them as they must be in pain in their godless, cruel Darwinian world.  I want to commit to writing again, to stop worrying about having a day job which has caused me nothing but trouble, to trust that things will work out in the way that they should, to develop my spirituality further. I will stop listening to the bad advice of stupid people. I will stop caring what people think of me. I will follow my own path. I would still like to travel but I will have to find a different way to do it. I will care for my dog and my cat. I will nurture and love. I will find a way to do my bit to heal the Earth to tread lightly, to do no harm. I will seek out people who appreciate me and not give a second thought  to those who don’t. I will look for love and goodness in people and avoid the evil doers.  I will surrender to God’s plan for me whatever it may be. I will fast and pray and meditate. I will eat healthily and I will exercise. I will do yoga. I will spend time in nature. I will fail and I will get up and try again. I have my house up for sale. I am going elsewhere. I am on my way to the future.

2016 will be a better year. Do not be afraid. Embrace it.