The Tragedy Paper

The Tragedy Paper

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan
Let me first start by saying; I love the cover of this book. It’s the perfect summation of the novel.
Blurb
“Every year at an exclusive private boarding school in New York State, the graduating students uphold a historic tradition – they must swear an oath of secrecy and leave behind a “treasure” for each incoming senior. When Duncan Meade inherits the room and the secrets of Tim Macbeth, he uncovers evidence of a clandestine romance, and unravels the truth behind one of the biggest mysteries in the school’s history”

This is a simplistic summary, and it is a simple story, but it has rich characters and a captivating setting (who doesn’t love a boarding school setting). The main character, Tim, is an Albino, LaBan uses this to emphasize the teenage struggles of ‘do I, don’t I, fit in’. I don’t feel Laban was exploitative or insensitive, I feel she used this condition as an effective tool to express the feelings of many young people.
The “treasure” Tim leaves Duncan, is a set of audio CD’s telling his story of the previous year. Duncan discovers their lives are taking similar and often parallel paths. As Duncan plays the CD’s the story unfolds and we hear how Tim deals with his social inadequacies  at a new school, and as a teenager in love. Tim’s insecurity and self doubt ultimately leads to “the tragedy’. Duncan learns from Tim’s mistakes and discovers insight to himself and his own doubts are reassured through the therapeutic effect of Tim’s CD’s.

What I enjoyed most about the book, is the suspense that LaBan creates. The rhythm of the novel is like a ticking clock. The characters and the reader are hyper aware of time passing. This creates tension and a sense of urgency. We are left waiting for Tim’s words to reveal the secret, and wondering what the tragedy will be. As Duncan is continually drawn back to Tim’s CD’s, so are we. We are given clues throughout the book and can piece together a vague idea of the coming tragedy, but this, in no way, detracts from the book.

I really enjoyed this book, and LaBan’s writing. I found I was grabbing the book at every moment.

Published: 2013
Publisher: Corgi Books
Pages: 308

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In Memory of Maya Angelou

I was saddened to hear the passing of one of my favourite poets today, Maya Angelou. In memory of her, I wish to share one of her poems that I love.

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Maya Angelou

THE Agatha Christie Mystery

newspaper 1index

This post is a little bit of fun. There are so many interesting author stories out there I thought I’d delve into the 11 day disappearance of crime novelist, Agatha Christie. For those of you haven’t heard this before I hope you find it as intriguing as I do and for those of you who have heard it then –sorry.

It was a cold December night in 1926 when Agatha Christie kissed her daughter goodnight and stated she was going for a drive in her Morris Cowley. The following morning the car was found abandoned, by a lake with the hood up, inside, were her fur coat and a small suitcase.

Mrs Christie’s disappearance became the hot topic around dinner tables, bus stops and even parliament. Theories where coming left and right, some pointed to foul play at the hands of her unfaithful husband others at publicity stunt. If it happened to a crime writer today I would definitely say publicity.

Her disappearance had fellow writers Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes) and Dorothy L. Sayers (Lord Peter Wimsey) on the hunt. Sir Conan Doyle even consulting a psychic. 15,00 volunteers and 500 police scoured the land, waterways and searched by air.

 

Mrs Christie was found 11 days later, at a spa Hotel in Harrogate, when a musician at the hotel recognized her. She had been staying there under an assumed name (more on this in a minute) since the day after her disappearance. This created more speculation as Mrs Christie claimed she had lost her memory. This may be the case, as she was under a lot of stress at the time. Her mother had recently died and her husband was leaving her for his mistress. Prior to the night of her disappearance Agatha had told friends that she was going to take a break in Yorkshire (which happens to be where the Hydropathic Hotel is located). On the night of her disappearance though Archie Christie (Agatha’s husband) had already left to go to a friend’s house to meet up with his mistress miss Nancy Neele. This is the curious part, the name Agatha used to check into the hotel was Teresa Neele.

Doctors diagnosed amnesia, but journalists (suspicious bunch they are) and police weren’t convinced. Mrs Christie had plenty of money on her person and it appears to be a highly unlikely coincidence that she would choose to register under her husband’s mistress’ last name.

Over the years expert have come forward claiming, evidence of a nervous breakdown and a stress induced condition known as “Fugue “ state (stress amnesia) in 1999 author Jared Cade interviewed Agatha’s brother- in –law who pronounced that Agatha created the hoax to spite her adulterous husband Archie.

Whatever the real reason she sure created a stir. The today the Hydropathic Hotel in Harrogate is known as The Old Swan and is now the fitting meeting place for the annual crime writing festival.

 

 

 

 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

ocean end of lane

Neil Gaiman is mostly known for his wonderfully dark, Stephen Kingesq children’s novels, but he does dip his quill into the realm of adult fiction and it’s just as atmospheric and haunting. In his current novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, he delves into an adults’ recollection of his childhood. The narrator is a seven year old boy whose name we never learn, while reading the book I didn’t notice the absence of a name, it wasn’t until I finished that I went looking; maybe I missed it. Obviously this was deliberate and I wondered whether Gaiman was either trying to say it was insignificant or, more likely, that the character was unsure who he was.

Through a magically symbolic story, Gaiman explores how our memories of our childhood are perceived differently as an adult and how we are affected by them. The blend of fantasy and realism had me wondering if the boy’s imagination created an unreal world so he could deal with the real problems of his father’s infidelity and a family where he didn’t quite fit.

What I enjoyed most about this novel was Gaiman’s attention to the details of a child’s relationship and observations to the world around him and his interactions with his family. This excerpt shows his ability to capture a world through a child’s eye:

“Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences”

Bridge of Swords

bridge of swords

Sometimes the name of the leading character in a novel can make all the difference to me –I mean how great is the name Katniss Everdeen? I had one of those ‘name moments’ while reading Bridge of Swords by Duncan Lay. The protagonists name is Sendatsu, his name will not leave my thoughts, I keep saying it over and over again, I try to sleep and his name pops into my mind Sendatsu, Sendatsu! Lay has obviously created a memorable character. Its not just names that makes this fantasy novel memorable, Bridge of Swords is the first in the Empire of Bones trilogy, and it is an epic novel with a tale to tell.

Sendatsu is an elf, who passes through a protective barrier that shields the Elfan world from the human world; he was forced into the unfamiliar world to find the answer to the loss of Elfan magic. Sendatsu becomes involved with two humans named Huw and Rhiannon, these two characters provide the novels subplot. Wars are being fought in the human world and no matter how hard Sandatsu tries to stay uninvolved his warrior skills come to the aid of many and his involvement is set.

The plot and subplot explore the themes of power, greed, family and love. The themes are gently woven between the beautiful, cultural, Japanese like Elfan world to the raw, gritty, rough, medieval human world. Duncan Lay is a talented and skilled writer who manages to bring scenes to life. His action scenes are the breath holding, edge of your seat type, that have you page turning for more.

I have some catching up to do as the third book in the series was recently released, but am looking forward to see how the story unfolds.

Valley of Shields (Book 2 Empire of Bones)

Wall of Spears (Book 3 Empire of Bones)

The Company Of Liars

Company of Liars

 

How I came to possess this book was one of those surreal moments. I stood in the secondhand bookstore amongst the dusty shelves and tattered books, my eyes were glazing over, inundated with choice, but seeing nothing. I ran my hand along the binds until it stopped at one book jutting out amongst the nondescript tomes. I turned the book over and read the many encouraging reviews from, surprisingly, reputable sources.

“An infectious tale of medieval intrigue” -The Herald

“A ghostly yarn…. A richly evocative page-turner” – Daily Express

Finding this book was pure serendipity. It was published in 2006. How did those eight years pass and I did not hear of this novel? I’m not going to go through the whole story, but I will give you the dust-jacket blurb as it says it best.

Blurb

  • A scarred trader in holy relics  A conjurer. A musician and his apprentice. A one-armed storyteller. A young couple on the run. A midwife. And a rune-reading girl. A group of misfits bands together to escape the plague. But in their midst lurks a curse darker and more malign than the pestilence they flee.

The backdrop is England in the midst of the black-death plague, but it is the minor stimulus that brings our nine main characters together. These characters have so much life they are running off the page sitting in my lounge room having a cuppa and conversation; they are that vivid. The story is richly matted with medieval historical facts and the supernatural. Maitland blends these elements so seamlessly that you start to question the history of medieval superstition and wondering whether magic may have truly been afoot.

If you have not read this book go out and buy it now, NOW!!

Company of Liars By Karen Maitland

Publisher: Penguin