Awaiting revelation: Summer Read-around – 14 August 2019

QUESTION: What do you get if you combine an enchanted valley, a mysterious death, a funeral, a Victorian ghost story, a swoop of swallows, nostalgic reflections, romantic love, a hospital visit, and a lovelorn lady?

ANSWER: Another fascinating evening at an AWC Summer Read-around, this time in Greta’s welcoming home, complete with delicious pancakes and banana muffins.

Carrie started by sharing the opening chapter – The Valley – of her YA Fantasy novel. We were introduced to the feisty, fourteen year old protagonist, Emily, who is self-possessed and has an eclectic dress sense, unruly red hair and, most significantly, unusual eyes. Our group was enchanted  and, other than suggesting the breaking up of ‘chunks’ of description in order to encourage the flow of action, we were eager to find out what lay ahead – especially, regarding the importance of Emily’s unique eyes.

Gail, too, shared an opening chapter, this time of a crime novel, set in the grim reality of a deprived Ayrshire community in the late 70s, locally named ‘Plummet Valley’. Two gallus, adolescent boys, accompanied by one of their fathers, make a gruesome discovery: a hanged man, in a lock up, and for once in their lives, they welcome the arrival of the police. But what is the cause of this well-known man’s death…? We enjoyed, too, the choice of detail – such as the mention of the original shoe protectors called ‘segs’ – which so effectively evoked the time setting.

Continuing the crime genre, Anne provided us with another chapter of her suspense-filled novel, this time from later in the piece. It is the day of the funeral of murdered woman, Emma Howard. Narrator, the Rev Simon Harrington, who discovered the body, is not coping well with the prospect of the ceremony, and is particularly keen to avoid meeting the investigating detective – but why? We were all struck by the powerful realism of the tension and awkwardness of the crematorium gathering and, ending the chapter with Harrington finding himself face to face with the detective, provided an excellent cliff hanger.

And, as if it had been neatly planned, Eddie followed with a story predominantly set in a graveyard. This spooky tale, entitled Not a Ghost of a Chance is set in Highgate Cemetery in late Victorian times. Enterprising local, Friend Henry, has seven mouths to feed and resorts to an ingenious way to tap wealthy American tourists for their silver dollars, by offering two-hour long, atmospheric tours of the East and West cemeteries, complete with well-developed patter regarding the celebrity occupants of the graves, such as Mary Ann Evans and Karl Marx, but it is Henry’s depiction of the tragic lives of Lizzie Siddal and Dante Gabriel Rossetti which is his tour de force, and can be guaranteed to terrify the tourists. Eddie employs an excellent twist – which I’ll not reveal here – and generated unified delight from those listening.

Our host offered two short pieces, both of which were gems. Les Hirondelles (hope that’s accurate spelling!) is an exquisite little poem. It takes the form of an observation of the flight of swallows which accompanied, and guided, Greta and her husband, along French canals during their recent holiday. Perfect is the analogy of the birds’ ‘Barnes Wallis’ precision and their squadron-like formations. And as if that was not enough, Greta next shared a clever flash fiction piece, for which we suggested the title Reflections. A nostalgic reminiscence, from a place of retirement and old age, this too has an unexpected ending and no amount of torture will force me to reveal it here!

I brought along a recently-written poem for its first reading, in the hope of acquiring fine-tuning feedback, and finding a title. Based on a hospital visit for tests, I had found the writing of it therapeutic. Happily, it found an appreciative audience, and acquired a title – Fake Serenity. Yet again, I’m not going to reveal exactly what it’s all about!

Just like buses, poems often come in bunches! Martin honoured us by sharing a very special poem he had written, and committed to memory, a sweet and heart-felt love poem called Valentine written for a very special person.

And last, but by no means least, (imagine trumpet fanfare) Jeannette read the story she has been trying to bring into the world for at least two years. Entitled Semi Skimmed, it features Sally, a forty-something female who appears to have a shy admirer. Eventually she plucks up the courage to confront the milkman who we believe to have been responsible for the little love letters tucked beneath the milk bottles. But all is not what it seems. Yes, it’s yet another twist in the tale and a very unexpected one, at that, so yet again my lips are sealed.

I am sure there will be opportunities to have these twists revealed in the months ahead. Now if that doesn’t whet your appetite, I don’t know what will!

Thanks Greta.

Carolyn O’Hara

One comment

  1. Great blog Carolyn. Sitting in the garden in France reading it. Makes me feel homesick but where is home, I ask myself?9

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