Saturday, November 28, 2015

Pagan Spring, by G.M. Malliet

Pagan SpringPagan Spring by G.M. Malliet
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have begun reading the two series by G.M. Malliet: St. Just and Max Tudor, both set in England. It's a little strange that I should pick this book to write a review of, the third book in the second series of hers that I've read. But, the spirit catches you and you fall down. (Wait, that's a different book.)

I love mystery novels. I've read all of the Agatha Christie books I could get my hands on. I have thought about it and I believe that there are three aspects that I love: Characters, plot and the puzzle. In that order. I know a lot of mystery readers try to figure out whodunit before the end. I won't say that I don't do this, but it has never been the main attraction for me.

So, Pagan Spring, the third book in the Max Tudor series. We have an ex-spy (Max Tudor) who has decided to become an Anglican priest and ends up in a delightful village called Nether Monkslip. (I am always a sucker for delightful villages.) The first book in the series, Wicked Autumn, did a wonderful job of introducing the main characters in the village. So, when in Pagan Spring I read a tiny snippet about Lily Iverson, I was already familiar with her as a person from having read Wicked Autumn. This made me happy, made me feel a bit like an insider. With Max you don't get a James Bond sort of feeling. He's not brooding or arrogant. Along the same lines, he's not a cocky Poirot. Max is real, has very real feelings of self-doubt, regrets and love. It's convenient for him (usually) that he is a beautiful man who draws record attendance to his small St. Edwold's Parish church.

Not many of the people who live in the village are from the village, but they all seem to come together to make it whole. Gabby Crew is a relative newcomer and an intriguing character who adds an epistolary touch to the story with the emails she sends to a recipient – known only to her for most of the book. Even Suzanna Winship, who seems to be chomping at the bit for a bigger and better social life, has a place here, because what village doesn't have somebody who longs for just that? After three books in this series, I long to taste Elka Garth's pastries; I dream about them when I should be working. And, what village would be complete without a witch? Except that Awena Owens isn't a witch, she just has a new-age/quasi-pagan approach to life, love and spirituality. I feel that the "Writers' Square" adds to this feeling of family; it is a sort of embodiment of the sentiment. How else to describe people who come together to get on each others' nerves and defend each other to their dying breath?

I found myself trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together in my head, to figure it all out before the ending chapter revealed all. I had this desire much more in Pagan Spring than in any other of the Malliet books that I've read. It started with the opening - the Prologue. I had to go back and read it several times, trying to tease from it a clue and/or its place in the overall book. I had to reread several parts of the book, trying to pick up on the stray sentence that I had overlooked, the phrase in the dinner scene that could tip me off.

Rereading these parts was not a burden. The prose is beautiful here. Some of it I have been tempted to transcribe onto a canvas and embellish with other images and found pieces to make a literary collage. Malliet has placed me off the beaten path, in a tucked away village in South West England. I feel that I know these people. When I finally did finish reading it, I had to sit for a couple of days and ponder the story before reading anything else. Some books are that way; you have to savour them for a little bit before moving on.


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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Alejandra Almuelle

A more complete exploration into the artist herself is warranted, but I haven't had the opportunity to interview her yet. I have known Alejandra Almuelle for years and I've watched her art grow. Her truly fascinating personality is reflected in her work, as she explores subjects that interest her. And, in her life she never stops exploring – exploring her own life, the world around her, traveling and people. Her mind seems always to be working, and when I see her it's as if I've stepped into whatever she's contemplating at that particular moment.

I haven't been able to figure out if the emotional response that I get from looking at her work is what she intends. I always feel that it has a dreamlike quality. It's not a pleasant, sugarplums-dancing-through-my-head kind of dream, but the kind of dream that leaves me wondering – later, when I think about and try to understand them – what my mind was doing.

Here are some pictures that I've taken recently. I encourage you to visit her on Facebook. As far as I know, she doesn't have any other web presence at the moment. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

After the Rain

It's always interesting to see what pops up after the rain. Having been in a drought for so long, one forgets what it's like. This year has been of extremes – our drought was resolved by record floods in May and floods again at Hallowe'en. That kind of rain is different. What one sees after that kind of rain is debris on fences and inside of friends' flooded homes. 

This weekend, however, we saw rain. Though the ground is still saturated from Hallowe'en, the rain wasn't enough to cause the kind of damage that we saw then. It was just a light rain lasting most of the day Friday and again Saturday afternoon. The kind of rain in November that calls for laying in bed reading with cats sleeping in attendance.

And, after the November rain the back yard is an autumnal celebration. (We won't think about fire ants whose hills pop up like the armies of Mongols, seemingly invincible and making homeowners wish they had never been born. November is not the season for fire ants.) White mushrooms have popped up overnight and the grass is green, despite the cool temperature. The ground is spongy on the grass and muddy where there is none. Everything smells... I'll say natural for lack of a better word. Clean would not describe it, but it is certainly fresh. Cool. Crisp. Alive. The cats are stalking and pouncing on the bugs who still crawl through the grass and plants. Our back yard is hardly the manicured lawn of St. Augustine grass of idealistic magazine pictures. We have all manner of greenery growing on the ground and we are happy as long as it's green and doesn't have stickers. And because it has been wet for a few weeks we haven't been able to mow, so the grass (and plants) are taller than usual, allowing the cats to crouch down with their ears flattened while they stalk their prey, and to bound through it as they cross the yard. It's more exercise than these fluffy cats have had in quite a while.

The things I see remind me of the scientifically magnified images that one sees of germs and viruses.

But, really it's just the busy work of our bug friends.