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Reviews Written by
Victoria Field "fal" (Canterbury, Kent, UK)

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The Overhaul
The Overhaul
by Kathleen Jamie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended, 20 Jun. 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Overhaul (Paperback)
I'm reviewing this one after just posting a review of Falling Awake as I think I've articulated the reason why I return to these poems - they are anchored in voice, place, specificity as well as evoking the greater picture of our relationship to time and the world around us. Kathleen Jamie's poems work on me slowly - they are accessible and yet the surface is just the beginning, reading and reading brings more and more riches. Whenever I've taken her poems to groups, I've been moved again by how much there is to find here.


Falling Awake
Falling Awake
by Alice Oswald
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Wanted to like this ..., 20 Jun. 2017
This review is from: Falling Awake (Paperback)
I so wanted to like this as Alice Oswald is one of the stars of contemporary poetry and I find her observations in interviews and prose pieces illuminating and soul-enlarging. Having read reviews and comments here, I can only assume it's a matter of taste as to whether the imagery, similes and music of the poems hit the right note in the reader. I've tried several times to read the collection but find the language clotted and abstract, or simply difficult to 'get' as in the swan-plane crash poem. Looking forward to discussing the book with my poet friends who love it ...


Writing on Water
Writing on Water
by Maggie Harris
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.17

4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended, 10 Jun. 2017
This review is from: Writing on Water (Paperback)
Maggie Harris has a gift for finding the voice of her characters, especially those who are silenced in different ways. This is a brilliant collection of stories that moved me to tears more than once as well as laughter. Maggie evokes place vividly and moves effortlessly from the Caribbean to the UK as well describing a migrant crossing from Africa. A couple of the stories weren't, for me, as strong as the others but there is so much to enjoy here, I whole-heartedly recommend the book.


Alchemy: The Art of Transformation
Alchemy: The Art of Transformation
by Jay Ramsay
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book, 25 May 2017
I loved this book. Any account of alchemy written in our times will be partial and reflect concerns with individual psychology and personal development but Jay Ramsay manages to do this without selling short the original scope and splendour of 'the Work'. I gained many insights and found the meditations powerful and helpful. A great introduction with the added benefit of quotations from some of my favourite poets including George Herbert and Peter Redgrove.


The Writing Game : A Comedy
The Writing Game : A Comedy
by David Lodge
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars ... television and it stayed with me as a very funny take on writing workshops, 23 May 2017
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I saw this years ago on television and it stayed with me as a very funny take on writing workshops. I returned to the play as I was looking for some fictional material for an online course on 'Running Writing Groups' that I'm co-tutoring for the Professional Writing Academy and still found it laugh-out-loud funny. Yes, bits are dated and the construction of the play does make it a bit predictable but still plenty to ponder on what it is we might be doing both as writers and facilitators of writing groups.


The Child that Books Built
The Child that Books Built
by Francis Spufford
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

5.0 out of 5 stars ... only just got round to reading it and can't recommend it highly enough to anyone interested in the mysterious ..., 23 May 2017
I realise this book goes back a long way but have only just got round to reading it and can't recommend it highly enough to anyone interested in the mysterious and wonderful practice of reading. I found the book compelling (even though I'd describe my own experiences slightly differently) in the way they interrogated what is that happens when marks on bits of wood pulp somehow translate into the worlds that fiction can conjure in the private space of our imaginations. Solitary childhood reading is both escaping from and to and the brief biographical details given here give a context for Francis Spufford's reading. As so often happens, this is a book I borrowed from the library that I will end up buying as it is so relevant to my work in biblio-poetry therapy that I want to share and explore parts of it with my students.
One tiny quibble, at the risk of sounding like a grammar-anorak - the use of who in accusative and dative constructions niggled a bit in an otherwise brilliantly written book.


The Happy Kitchen
The Happy Kitchen
by Rachel Kelly
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.49

5.0 out of 5 stars This book made me feel happy.., 19 May 2017
This review is from: The Happy Kitchen (Paperback)
This book made me feel happy ... cheerful, personal, well-researched and I loved Rachel's diffidence about her own cooking at the beginning. I'm not especially interested in cooking but I do love fresh, wholesome food and avoid meat and dairy where possible. The recipes were very much to my taste and I've used several of them several times, especially some of those where it all goes in the blender and comes out delicious.
I also enjoyed the way the beauty of vegetables is celebrated and the joy of creating a happy kitchen where celebration and gratitude can contribute to happier lives for everyone. I had this from the public library but am just ordering my own copy.


The Evenings: A Winter's Tale (The postwar masterpiece)
The Evenings: A Winter's Tale (The postwar masterpiece)
by Gerard Reve
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.38

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His parents annoy him and time spent with his friends is tedious, 27 April 2017
This book is extraordinary – a slow build masterpiece that brought me to tears at the end. Its protagonist is unappealing, unkind, self-obsessed, lazy and aimless. His parents annoy him and time spent with his friends is tedious. Nothing dramatic happens in the novel, it simply describes ten evenings building up to New Years Eve 1947 in which Frits drifts around, looks in the mirror, listens to the radio and has repetitive conversations with his friends and parents.
It reminds me a bit of Sylvia Smith’s Misadventures and also The Diary of a Nobody, except there is the vast hinterland of the war behind this smallness. For me the novel is about ‘smallness’ – Frits lives in a small country that has somehow survived the huge disaster of the war – never mentioned in the book.
Frits’ father is deaf and blocks out the world, has unappealing eating habits and his underwear hangs open, his mother cooks grim-sounding meals and obsesses over stove going out. They repeat the same conversational openings over and over.
Frits’ friends enjoy stories of accidental death, steal and are casually cruel to animals. They are neurotic about going bald, get drunk occasionally and have no ambition other than to get through the day. There’s an atmosphere of repressed sadism and hatred beneath the friendships.
It’s so real and very sad. At the end though, there’s a glimmer of compassion when Frits prays for his parents and their small lives and decides not to subject his toy rabbit to a series of planned torture. Nothing happens but there’s some glimmer of possibility for a new year.
I loved it.


Deaths of the Poets
Deaths of the Poets
by Michael Symmons Roberts
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.48

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, gossipy, a bit blokey but worth the read, 29 Mar. 2017
This review is from: Deaths of the Poets (Hardcover)
When I tried to think what this book is about, the dominant theme is one of peering into people's houses, especially houses where people who are now dead once lived. The authors even interview an estate agent and his secretary (when researching Rosemary Tonks). The travelling is dizzying as the authors ricochet across the Atlantic and down to Greece and Italy, across to Wales, both North and South, but not, as far as I remember, anywhere further North than Hull. Two of my abiding interests are poetry and death so the title drew me in. There's a lot more about death than poetry here and also, and probably the main theme, what it means to have a legacy or not. The authors visit many archives and describe what will remain of us in the form of bits of paper of various kinds. They are fastidious though and when the material - or the house in the case of Anne Sexton - is too close to either death or its twin sex - as with Thom Gunn and Frank O'Hara, they back off.
I liked it best at the beginning where the travel and the chapter themes felt worked and polished - more like poems - and lost it a bit later where it seemed everything and any old dead poet they came across was given a few paragraphs' worth. Towards the end, they list the many houses of Robert Frost but don't, as I recall visit them, perhaps running out of steam as the end of the book has a breathless quality.
A few more quirks - the first person plural was fascinating but perhaps was one of the reasons the book was over-long - combining two accounts of their travels perhaps. It helps that they are both male,.both university Professors of Poetry, Northern, red-haired, radio presenters, similar age, similar taste, straight, enjoying the same kind of cocktails and having the same reactions, mostly. Only at the end in the acknowledgements do 'we' learn that in fact that the joint authorship was to some extent manufactured in that they have cut and paste individual experiences into the book. That seems a bit dishonest, especially in a book full of biographical information. The travels don't quite tally - they use the phrase 'a year ago' a few times and it's hard to connect the hot weather in one bit of America with freezing in another and whilst there's a lot about the domestic arrangements of the dead poets, the two authors somehow float free of jobs, families and their own chronologies.


Re-Enchanting the Forest: Meaningful Ritual in a Secular World
Re-Enchanting the Forest: Meaningful Ritual in a Secular World
by William Ayot
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A strong case for the use of rituals in contemporary Britain, 1 Mar. 2017
Highly recommended for many reasons.
It's a compelling memoir of how the author came to understand himself, his childhood wounds and his place in the world through engagement with rituals of various kinds. The story is a moving and powerful one.
It's a manifesto for the need for more and more meaningful rituals in the current world and it's full of useful references and leads. Never pompous, the writer is often self-deprecating and well aware of how this subject could seem arcane to outsiders. It left me wanting some more depth of analysis of how ritual might work but the excellent bibliography gives plenty of leads.
It's also a very enjoyable 'read', well written and pacy.


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