Reading is my salvation. Writing reviews for books helps me to understand and process my thoughts about what I've read. Reading others' reviews and having discussions helps me to learn what I might have missed.
Where will this technology take us? This week on Saturday in Stereo listen to the Peachy Books review for Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, written and read aloud by PeachyTO.
Please visit the Peachy Books YouTube channel or click on the video below to check it out. If you enjoy the reading, I’d be thrilled if you would ‘like,’ subscribe, and hit the notification bell; it will help my channel to grow, and you’ll be the first to know when the latest Read-a-Louds are available. Thank you so much for your support!
To find the written review for Klara and the Sun and see the Sunshine bookmark I was inspired to make, please click here.
‘Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery None but ourselves can free our minds’ – Redemption Song – Bob Marley (as quoted in Educated)
Welcome to one of the lengthiest book reviews I have ever written, as there was a lot to find here and many poignant quotes to share. What follows is a mix of summary, commentary, and admiration for the fierceness of a woman who was able to persevere in the face of endless adversity.
After having spent the first 15 years of my life caught in the crosshairs of an unstable and abusive alcoholic father, without the assistance of any adults that would stand up to him, there was much I could relate to in Tara Westover’s struggle. Her story personally affected me much more than I had expected, and I was all in from beginning to end.
Educated is a candid recounting of Tara’s sojourn to self-discovery. With an obvious gift for writing, hers is a memoir that reads like literary fiction, so at no point did I feel trapped in the depths of her despair. I was often taken away by her contemplative and affective prose instead of feeling laden with sadness, as can sometimes be the case with life stories.
I have always supported homeschooling (done right), and had I the patience and resolve for such a task would have had my son learn at home as well. The Westover’s, however, were unaware of their limitations. What Tara and her siblings endured on that mountain was merely indoctrination that left them woefully unprepared for the real world. The minimal instruction their parents provided them was instead of an education, willful neglect, and dereliction of duty.
With a parent often floundering in the recklessness of mania, the disregard the Westover children met with due to their bipolar father and silent mother frequently caused me to seethe. The persistent bodily harm the children were subject to was shameful. Whether when being coerced to work in the family junkyard or whilst enduring the near-fatal car wrecks they landed in when their father was in a depressive episode, their fate was always in his hands. The continual isolation from school and doctors meant no checks and balances from the authorities, and the children were left to fend for themselves.
The hypocrisy in the home was rich and would be laughable if it were not so disastrous. They were strictly monitored concerning clothing choices, fraternising with members of the opposite sex, or being a part of a dance class, only to be left unprotected while dodging flying objects – or being set ablaze – in their junkyard.
A lack of parental guidance may force a child to depend on instinct, instilling in them a sense of hypervigilance. What forms as a necessity for survival when younger can root into a fortress of fear and isolation later in life.
‘Those instincts were my guardians. They had saved me before, guiding my movements on a dozen bucking horses, telling me when to cling to the saddle and when to pitch myself clear of pounding hooves. They were the same instincts that, years before, had prompted me to hoist myself from the scrap bin when Dad was dumping it, because they had understood, even if I had not, that it was better to fall from that great height rather than hope Dad would intervene. All my life those instincts had been instructing me in this single doctrine – that the odds are better if you rely on yourself.’
Trauma can turn you to stone, may convince you that you are impervious to pain, that you could never fall victim again. And this, in and of itself, is the effect that renders you impenetrable. This imposed encasing of your emotions leaves you incapable of letting in the good while you incessantly battle against the bad.
‘How I hollowed myself out…. I had misunderstood the vital truth: that it’s not affecting me, that was its effect.’
Tara commenced her education by reading math textbooks in the balcony section of the local theatre, where she was allowed to sing. Finding a way to make sense of the world was a step towards enlightenment, while the logic and order found within trigonometry helped to eclipse the chaos she was living.
‘I began to study trigonometry. There was solace in its strange formulas and equations. I was drawn to the Pythagorean theorem and its promise of a universal – the ability to predict the nature of any three points containing a right angle, anywhere, always. What I knew of physics I had learned in the junkyard, where the physical world often seemed unstable, capricious. But here was a principle through which the dimensions of life could be defined, captured. Perhaps reality was not wholly volatile. Perhaps it could be explained, predicted. Perhaps it could be made to make sense.’
It can be impossible to break the chains of dysfunction that tie us to our abusers, as we instinctively push anyone who tries to love us away, unable to reconcile what love even is. When chaos is all that you know, how can you feel comfort or solace in the calm embrace of an outsider? When will they realise who you are, and from whence you came?
‘If someone had asked me, I’d have said Charles was the most important thing in the world to me. But he wasn’t. And I would prove it to him. What was important to me wasn’t love or friendship, but my ability to lie convincingly to myself: to believe I was strong. I could never forgive Charles for knowing I wasn’t. I became erratic, demanding, hostile. I devised a bizarre and ever-evolving rubric by which I measured his love for me, and when he failed to meet it, I became paranoid. I surrendered to rages, venting all my savage anger, every fearful resentment I’d ever felt toward Dad or Shawn, at him, this bewildered bystander who’d only ever helped me.’
Tara continued to struggle with her identity when making choices based on her newly acquired knowledge. Her personal growth and strength implanted with it a sense of sadness, as it served to further divide and alienate her from her family, pushing her nearer estrangement. Although finding her own way was a necessity, as well as a reflection of her inner fortitude, it left her with a void that a family of origin fills, be they toxic or safe, loving, or detrimental.
‘ The truth is: that I am not a good daughter. I am a traitor, a wolf among sheep; there is something different about me and that difference is not good…I am not sorry, merely ashamed.’
The mistreatment Tara suffered was never exclusive to her father, her relationship with her brother Shawn mimicking that of a battered wife trying to survive her tyrannical husband. After countless beatings that kept her mired in shame, she blamed herself, as a traumatised brain is wont to do. It seemed that over the years, she coped by vacillating between fear and fondness for what she told herself was a special relationship they shared.
‘I begin to reason with myself, to doubt whether I had spoke clearly: what had I whispered and what had I screamed? I decided that if I had asked differently, been more calm, he would have stopped. I write this [in her journal] until I believe it, which doesn’t take long because I want to believe it. It’s comforting to think the defect is mine, because that means it is under my power.’
Not until Tara had heard accounts of Shawn’s abuse towards other women – even needing further admission from the men in their lives – did she trust her thoughts or the words in her journal.
We can speak endlessly about the damage inflicted by her father and brother, but I feel her mother needs to take a fair share of the blame, as well.
Not only did Tara’s mother not protect her, in many ways, she ‘parentified’ her. Like when trying to guilt her into caring for her abusive brother; that which her mother certainly had not prioritised the time to do herself, given how he turned out.
This ‘mother’ was often more concerned about covering up the image and fragility of her son, to the detriment of her daughter, and was quick to cut her off if she did not comply with the instructed narrative.
The exemption that Tara’s parents afforded their son at her expense saw her struggle with self-reliance and self-worth. I assume their allegiance to him is due to him being male, but it may also be for them to stay firm in their denial of how he turned out.
She found solace in her studies, as she took the ACT admissions test (twice) and stumbled through Brigham Young University. Accustomed to isolation, Tara suffered from social awkwardness and untold ignorance regarding societal issues and events in history. But, she stayed the course, and through ability and dedication, found herself with an opportunity to take her education to England.
In what seems like poetry, Tara went on to study historians at Cambridge. By escaping the dark shadow of misinformation cast by her father’s teachings, she was enlightened and able to study experts in the details of the past.
‘From my father I learned that books were to be either adored or exiled. Books that were of God – books written by the Mormon prophets or the Founding Fathers – were not to be studied so much as cherished, like a thing perfect in itself. I had been taught to read the words of Madison as a cast into which I ought to pour the plaster of my own mind, to be reshaped according to the contours of their faultless model. I read them to learn what to think, not how to think for myself. Books that were not of God were banished; they were a danger, powerful and irresistible in their cunning.’
In the eyes of her father, all of her hard work and fearless determination still were not her own. He dared to take credit for her successes, declaring that it was on behalf of her homeschooling that she achieved such honours. He believed she should publicly relay more gratitude to her parents for this.
No matter how far she travelled, she forever felt tethered to her family and her responsibility to her roots. Often there were opportunities for the Westover’s to drag Tara back into the family fold of delusion and deceit.
Being asked to forsake all that she had amassed, to fall right back into that which marred her start, was not only selfish on the parts of her parents but impossible for such a devoted and transformed person to allow. To do so would have been a sure contradiction to the mountainous acts of bravery, grit, and dedication that she channeled to become the person she now knew herself to be.
‘Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind…. If I yielded now, I would lose more than an argument. I would lose custody of my own mind. This was the price I was being asked to pay, I understood that now. What my father wanted to cast from me wasn’t a demon: it was me.’
The rejection she received because of her integrity almost caused her to fail her Ph.D. at Harvard. She became consumed with depression and loss as she bore witness to the tug-of-war between where she was going and where her family needed her to be.
‘The thing about having a mental breakdown is that no matter how obvious it is that you’re having one, it is somehow not obvious to you. I’m fine, you think. So what if I watched TV for twenty-four straight hours yesterday. I’m not falling apart. I’m just lazy. Why it’s better to think yourself lazy than think yourself in distress, I’m not sure. But it was better. More than better: it was vital.’
The entirety of her family’s love, save that from her brother Tyler and his wife, was conditional. An offer of reacceptance into the cult of Westover was eventually put forth, via ultimatum, that would see Tara throw herself on the altar of their perceived righteousness, seemingly as a sacrificial gesture of humility.
In the end, the fool’s paradise that her family expected her to reside in was too ridiculous for her emotional education to allow. She could exist with the guilt that she continued to allow them to assign her, or she could move on and live a life grounded in truth, taking pride in herself and her hard-won achievements.
‘But vindication has no power over guilt. No amount of anger or rage directed at others can subdue it, because guilt is never about them. Guilt is the fear of one’s own wretchedness. It has nothing to do with other people.’
Ultimately, I think the unresolved conflict that she waged within herself was rooted in her need to accept the different parts of who she was without shame or guilt. She had to reconcile that the girl that hailed from that dangerous mountain, living in the shadow of its demons, was also a part of the woman she now was. The convergence of these two personas would allow her to move forward in good faith and good health. Sadly – or graciously – this would have to be without the stranglehold of her family.
When perusing Goodreads, I saw that Tara’s mother had written a retaliatory book to her daughter’s claims laid out in Educated. From what I observed in various reviews, it was nothing more than an attempt to gaslight and invalidate Tara’s experience of her childhood.
She vehemently denied that Tara and her siblings were insufficiently educated or raised. In fact, she spent a lot of time defending her husband and his deranged behaviour.
In my view, their book provides proof that Tara continues to be the recipient of bad parenting. The Westover’s had no interest in protecting their children when they allowed unmitigated mental health issues to fester, and it was their (ignorant and paranoid) way or bust. She could not have proven Tara’s case any better than with the writing of their tone-deaf book.
Educated has made me a fan of Tara and her writing. I patiently await any lead she has left in her pencil.
I foundmyself thinking about Landslide by Fleetwood Mac a lot when reading this book, and even took a break to listen to it; it feels like a song that just fits the story.
Almost forgot to post this! My Free Bird Pencil Bookmark, inspired by Tara.
Have you read Educated? What is an inspiring memoir that you favour? I’d love to expand my collection with some stories of resilience, and would be interested in what you’ve enjoyed.
What could possibly go wrong? This week on Saturday in Stereo listen to the Peachy Books review for The One by John Marrs, read aloud by PeachyTO.
Please visit the Peachy Books YouTube channel or click on the video below to check it out. If you enjoy the reading, I’d be thrilled if you would ‘like,’ subscribe, and hit the notification bell; it will help my channel to grow, and you’ll be the first to know when the latest read-a-louds are available. Thank you so much for your support!
To find the written review for The One and see the DNA Strand bookmark I was inspired to make, please click here.
Mindfulness is something I lack, and if it were not for crochet, it is unlikely that I would ever practice it. Reading aloud to my son is the next closest thing that has me focusing in the moment.
Now, if we were talking about hyper-vigilance, mindfulness’ evil twin, I would say I’ve got that in abundance, thanks to Complex PTSD. It scarcely leaves me any time to be mindful, which may be why I struggle with meditation.
That is where books like this come in handy. Colour is a splendid tool for grounding, or at least it is for me. Seeing the vibrant hues mix and match together helps slow down my chaotic mind as I try to process the vividness of the image before me, occupying my senses and keeping them from becoming hijacked by unregulated emotion.
When having to endure an anxiety attack, colour can play a critical role in gaining control again. Spotting the brightest colour in the room, naming it, then spelling it out; repeat. Find another and start again.
Tricks like these can be a real saviour, especially if you aren’t with others when it happens. Emma Leith has included many thoughtful suggestions and helpful ideas from her life as she shares with the reader the health struggles that have led her to be more mindful.
‘Draw your attention toward what is happening in the present moment by gently tuning into the different sensations in your body. Notice without judgement and without trying to change anything, simply observing.’
Sage advice such as this accompanies each project as you work your way through the bright yarn and turn your troubled thoughts into beautiful treasures that will lift your spirits and clear your mind.
I started with these gorgeous mandala coasters and am ridiculously smitten with the colour combination I chose. The mix of rust, red, brown, yellow, and coral give a warm and cosy feel to my dining room and match perfectly with the dark wood decor. I plan to use the same colours and come up with some matching placemats or a table runner, to finish the look.
My son liked the coasters and wanted me to make him one in the colours he preferred. I like his choices and enjoy the beach feel his combo gives off. I decided to match his coaster with the desk organiser pattern in the book, which he will use this week when school starts. 🥳
He uses his coaster every morning with his cup of herbal tea and has requested a matching cup cosy. The never-ending list of crochet projects continues alongside my bottomless TBR list!
The tea cosy pattern in Mindful Crochet is super adorable, so I just had to make one to fit my French press. I am not particularly fond of how the colours turned out. I rotated a variegated yarn with solid pink and white and though it’s not terrible, I expected more. It might be the pom that’s irking me. Anyway, it fits, it’s cute, and it will keep my coffee warm longer, so nothing else matters.
The cosy in the book is shown below, incase you are curious if the pattern will match your tea pot. I added stitches and used buttons to fasten one side in order to make one that fit my coffee pot. I love the bright and fun yarn Emma Leith uses here, very bold and stimulating.
Mindful Crochet is a great book to get for an advanced beginner and up, but with the basic techniques shared in the book an eager student could learn from a novice position. Add a few YouTube tutorials, and you’re off to the races!
Gorgeous Mandala table toppers, curtains, and cushions will have you turning your outdoor patio into a crochet paradise, wowing your guests with the explosions of colour.
These are some pretty stressful times we are living in, and picking up a creative habit can be a way to ease an overactive mind. If you are just starting and don’t have any supplies, try heading to your local thrift store to see if they have any yarn and hooks that you can use to practice with. You might even get lucky and find a set of hooks or some pretty yarn. Given how inventory can change from week to week, do not give up after your first mission.
Yarn is expensive in Canada, especially the higher quality brands that are only sold at local yarn shops and not offered at big box stores or Amazon. As much as I love to support local businesses, sometimes there is no option when needing to buy many balls of yarn, or multiple colours.
If you are in the market to buy some affordable yet better quality yarn online, I recommend the US company Knit Picks. There are no unexpected duty fees or customs charges when it arrives here in Canada, unlike when ordering from Europe. I am unaware if this would be the case for your country, though, so be sure to check out the details on their site. From affordable luxury yarns to basic acrylics, they have every colour and fibre you need, with a top-quality seal of approval, even offering some organic options. Knit Picks was my go-to site for natural fibres when running my Etsy shop a few years back, and it’s the first place I look when in need of some cotton for my bookmarks.
If you do choose to get this book and make some of the projects within it, please come back andshow me what you create!
Do you have any hobbies or techniques that you use to help with mindfulness? I’d love to know; as it has been a lifelong struggle for me, I’m always looking for new ideas.
I just did the math, and I have been crocheting now for 35 years. That explains why my wrists groan under the worsted weight of cotton, an 11-gram hook, and a moderately tight stitch.
I try to limit myself to small timespans: two hours or breaks every 45 minutes. Instead, I get tangled up creating something and don’t want to stop until I see my vision through. Art is like that for me, all-encompassing and urgent.
With the majority of my time spent typing, playing with my yarn, and sometimes my Ukulele, I may need to get some repair work on these wrists in a few years. At least that should buy me some more time.
I’ve heard loads of people claim how they wish they had learned to crochet, or how it has always been a goal to do so. To all of them and you who may feel the same way, I say do it!
There are plenty of avenues for learning the craft these days, and with all the spare time people may continue to find themselves with, given our current pandemic situation, this is the time.
Get a beginner’s book, watch a YouTube channel, search for tutorials on blogs. There is no reason everyone can’t learn to do this with the will and a heavy dose of patience. Practice and time produce stellar results, and it won’t take 35 years!
Start slowly and give yourself the space to make mistakes; that’s how you learn best. I know I spent the first two years making scarves with only one or two stitches repeated. Accept your mistakes gracefully instead of getting frustrated. I’ve seen people get really discouraged when they have to rip back their work to fix an error, some even giving up in shame, which is silly, in my view. Repetition produces a better result, that is simply what practice looks like.
Get comfortable holding the yarn, maintaining consistent tension, and keeping a proper stitch count in place of rushing into making something you are not skilled enough for yet. That will only produce annoyance and disappointment.
Before you run off to find some yarn and a hook – I love Clover hooks (in case you were looking for an opinion) – I hope you’ll be able to draw some fibre art inspiration from these 5 Creative Crochet Books.
Crochet 101 by Deborah Burger is the right place to begin. Starting with a proper foundation gives you the knowledge and the confidence to be better faster, and in our world of instant gratification, that is the best you can hope for when learning something new.
Detailed chapters explaining all the necessary techniques needed to become competent in the art of Crochet are here, along with clear tutorial photos showing the appropriate placement of hands and yarn.
I really cannot say enough about this book, with its thoroughness, organised layout, and cute practice projects. I have bought it for two of my nieces and recommend it as an excellent place to start a journey into a beautiful and time-honoured hobby and skill.
Crochet One-Skein Wonders by Judith Durant & Edie Eckman has 101 projects! Woo hoo, that’s what I’m talking about! If you are going to buy a book, you might as well get one stacked with practical patterns, and in this case, you would need no more than a skein’s worth of yarn to boot.
With all of the free instruction online these days, as heavily doused in advertising as most patterns are, you may wonder why one would even get a book? For me, I hate to be a slave to technology, so I like the feeling that if I am ever without power, I could be just a candle away from crocheting as my ancestral grandmothers did. Between my books and my yarn, I’ll never be bored.
These small and creative options are the perfect handmade inclusion to elevate a gift to the next level and are sure to be well-received treasures.
Mindful Crochet provides you with an explosion of colour, a feeling of lightness, and a sense of grounding. Calming patterns using bright and cheery hues give you a sense of joy and peace whilst creating something beautiful.
Emma Leith has put together a thoughtful book that includes tips and wise words about the importance of being mindful and how you can achieve it. With today’s ever chaotic world this book makes the perfect crochet companion on a search for health and wellness.
Read the full review, including some delightful projects I made from this soothing collection, in The Gallery.
Granny squares are some of the most satisfying projects to make in crochet. Finishing a section in one session gives you an accomplished feeling that you miss when sitting down for hours with the endlessly repeating stitch of a simple blanket or scarf.
Use a basic stitch pattern leaving colours combinations to shine, or choose something more detailed to tell a story, as the options in this 3D Granny Squares book do. Adding one of these special themed squares to a simple granny square baby blanket would be just the thing to take it to the next level.
The hardest thing for me will be choosing which one to make first!
One of the biggest booms for the hobby of crochet has come via the popularity of the Japanese art called Amigurumi.
Mainly consisting of a single stitch repeated in a spiral, these creative toys can be a great tool to get people interested in learning the craft.
I love this book for its sea creatures and their actual likeness to the real deal! Kerry Lord is an amazing talent, and you can’t go wrong with any of her fascinating and fun menagerie patterns.
Do you crochet, knit, or enjoy any other fibre arts? Have you ever received a handmade item from someone, that you treasure? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
August has been a rough month. With the kiddos heading off to school next Thursday, or in our case, booting up for another round of virtual learning, I was feeling the pressure of our summer vacation’s end and took a blog-free timeout for a week to focus my attention on my son. I’m not sure what the blogging etiquette is for this sort of thing, so I left the explanation of my absence to this monthly review post for ease and brevity.
Because of this impromptu break, I ended up reading four books with my son and only two on my own. No matter, though, at least I totaled at six to completion, in keeping with the pattern of the last three months.
The two of us enjoyed The Secret Garden immensely. We were lucky enough to find a book at the library that contained recipes for the food mentioned within, so watch for a review in The Gallery over the coming weeks for this fun cookbook, and see some photos of our delicious makes.
Who Was Mister Rogers by Diane Bailey
My boy picked a great one this time: Who Was Mister Rogers? He was only my favourite children’s entertainer of all time – that’s who he was and that’s who he shall remain.
Addressing sensitive issues with children, validating their feelings, and encouraging them to love themselves for who they are whilst taking the time to love their neighbour; was there ever a more beautiful or necessary message than that?
I’m excited to do a full review on this Who HQ title along with a companion post on some of his more momentous episodes, so stay tuned. 😉
George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl
George has had enough of his wicked grandmother’s surly and selfish nature, so when she regales herself by frightening him with tales of eating bugs and practicing Wizardry, he thinks it’s time he had a little fun of his own.
Roald Dahl has tapped into every child’s wish to mix up a witch’s brew in this wild and wacky tale. As he seeks revenge on his nasty grandmother by concocting a medicine that is sure to either set her straight or send her flying to the moon, either option is all right by George.
My son requested that I make a Read-a-Loud of this book, as he found the grandmother very entertaining. Watch for that on Storytime Sunday later this week.
To listen to the dramatic reading of Chapters 1 & 2, click here.
Summer Brother by Jaap Robben
Summer Brother was the first to arrive of the long-listed 2021 International Booker Prize titles that I had put on hold at the library in the spring.
This Dutch offering by Jaap Robben was sad, pathetic, enraging, and touching. The heavy scenes playing out were made lighter by the naivety of the thirteen-year-old narrator, but the main takeaway for me here is how terrible at parenting people can be, no matter where they reside.
This story makes you uncomfortable, disgusted, and dreadfully sorrow-filled for the many innocents taken out along the way.
The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket
The Baudelaire children lose their parents in a fatal fire and, sadly, must bounce between various family guardians until their bequeathed estate is awarded to Violet, the eldest, on her 18th birthday. With such a hefty sum of money tied to them, the children have a target on their back as their distant relative, Count Olaf, attempts to gain access to them and their fortune.
A Series of Unfortunate Events is a fun collection, no doubt, but at times it lingers as repetitive and formulaic. The key is to take sufficient lapses between each volume, so I figured out, as a four-month break from the predictable antics of Count Olaf proved enough to make this fourth volume exciting for us again.
This time the Baudelaire children must live out their orphaned days at the Lucky Smells Lumbermill, where they are forced into manual labour and near starvation. There are some sour types they must contend with, but at least no Count Olaf. But is he ever really far away?
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Wow, a lot is going on here, given it mainly took place in one block of brownstones! Doctor Fox is a shut-in, unable to fight her fears and leave the safety of her four walls. With a glass of Merlot in one hand and a Nikon focusing in the other, this depressed and lonely woman passes her time by spying on the surrounding families on her wealthy street.
Admittedly, I found the storytelling a little sluggish here and there, but that might have more to do with my ignorance of the Silver Screen references invoked throughout. Otherwise, this was a clever tale that explored the psychology of damaged people, which I LOVE in a story; see my review of In The Woods by Tana French here. Even though I was sure I had it figured out more than once, I was duped and unawares upon the unveiling.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Having only a vague recollection of its contents, I was pleasantly surprised by how much my 8-year-old son loved this book!
Relished by countless children across the world for over a century, this legendary classic is timeless in its characters, their struggles, and its overlying messages. That said, some scenes provide teachable moments about racism and the effects of colonialism, which make reading this aloud with a child ideal.
Well, almost ideal. I struggled to read the Yorkshire dialect sprinkled throughout in a sensical way for the first few paragraphs. In exasperation, I stopped trying so hard and instead read it with an accent, albeit a poor one, and it went much smoother, haha. I fared better in getting the words out, and they went by faster.
Have you read any of these titles? What was your favourite read from August?
This week on Saturday in Stereo we have the Peachy Books review for The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell, read aloud by PeachyTO.
Please visit the Peachy Books YouTube channel or click on the video below to check it out. If you enjoy the reading, I’d be thrilled if you would ‘like,’ subscribe, and hit the notification bell; it will help my channel to grow, and you’ll be the first to know when the latest read-a-louds are available. Thank you so much for your support!
To find the written review for The Good Thieves and see the Rimsky Crow bookmark I was inspired to make, please click here.
When I first spied the cover at the library checkout while picking up my stack of holds, it freaked me out and flung me back a couple of decades to the terror that consumed me when watching The Blair Witch Project; thelast horror film I have seen.
As I paused and did a double-take on the Returns bin four steps to my left, an ominous feeling settled in my stomach, signalling me to skip it and bolt.
Emboldened by the rave reviews for the Dublin Murder Squad series and my love of Ireland, I chose courage and decided to give In The Woods a chance. Now, pleased not to have caved to my inner scaredy-cat, I can report there is suspense, there are thrilling angles, and there is even a smattering of Celtic lore, but no horror, phew!
Rob Ryan is our narrator and protagonist, a sad sort, shaken and traumatised by earth-shattering loss in his early years; loss of memory, loss of friends, loss of time. I am no clinician, and this is fiction, but given the numerous trauma responses he elicits throughout the novel, it would seem he suffers chronic PTSD.
He never admits to any diagnosis that I can recall but does acknowledge upfront that he is prone to lying, no matter how much he craves the truth.
Although lying is not necessarily a trait of PTSD, it could help a sufferer avoid their issues as they flounder for control, avoidance being a dominating factor with the affliction.
Deception being an obligatory qualification of his career, he seems to share his propensity to fabricate with occupational pride; in Rob, we have the quintessential unreliable narrator.
At least his desire for truth stands to reason, evidenced by his search to learn more about his disassociated past. But how far will he detour to find out what happened?
As I tore through his story, I enjoyed the element of playing detective and tried to determine which parts of his narrative were truthful, which were the falsehoods, and most importantly, which were the lies that he told to fool himself. The skill of French’s writing ensures all three.
Cassie is a champ. In her new position as Inspector at the Dublin Murder Squad, her bravery is admirable, as she charges ahead, the only woman in a male-dominated landscape.
A role model to any woman, she faces life on her terms and will not let anyone or their conventions control her outcomes, regardless of the challenges posed against her.
This Vespa-driving rebel is a ride-or-die kind of girl with the grit to overcome, and I now have an answer when a blogger asks me which fictional character I would choose to be my bestie, haha!
“I can’t explain the alchemy that transmuted one evening into the equivalent of years held lightly in common. The only way I can put it is that we recognized, too surely even for surprise, that we shared the same currency.”
A loyal, patient, and formidable detective with a psychology background and an affinity for profiling, Cassie is the perfect fit for Rob, both as a professional partner and friend. But does he have the self-awareness to recognise what is best for him even when it’s dangling within his grasp?
“The girls I dream of are the gentle ones, wistful by high windows or singing sweet old songs at a piano, long hair drifting, tender as apple blossom. But a girl who goes into battle beside you and keeps your back is a different thing, a thing to make you shiver. Think of the first time you slept with someone, or the first time you fell in love: that blinding explosion that left you cracking to the fingertips with electricity, initiated and transformed. I tell you that was nothing, nothing at all, beside the power of putting your lives, simply and daily, into each other’s hands.”
The rookie inspectors are on the case of a young teen found murdered on an archaeological dig flanked by an apartment complex where she lived and the encroaching woods. Both of these places are familiar to Rob and his silent past, as the decades apart storylines become enmeshed and the mystery concentrated.
With no choice but to keep his story secret to avoid removal due to conflict of interest, he attempts to gain an understanding of what happened to him and his two friends in those woods so many years ago.
“There was a time when I believed I was the redeemed one, the boy borne safely home on the ebb of whatever freak tide carried Peter and Jamie away. Not any more. In ways too dark and crucial to be called metaphorical, I never left that wood.”
The true beauty of this tale is in its lyrical prose, but I took the most pleasure in the mind-fuck of psychological analysis through expertly drawn character development.
Real people, flawed and reactionary, had me whipping through these pages. Rob’s base instincts coming to the fore, as survival and coping skills present under cover of selfishness and ego, while he sacrifices others for his cause. But don’t worry, he will turn the sword unto himself, as personal-sabotage is never far away.
Rob is a blinding example of how certain traumas can erode a sense of self, how a lad can become convinced they are not worthy of connection and love.
When others are brave enough to attempt to crack the walls around that fortified heart, the traumatic brain will do anything in its power to push those people away, so that vulnerability is not an option. It is self-preservation at its most animal form, and it keeps suffers alone and broken.
After personally spending decades white-knuckling it through my days in this described state, I found the relatable-ness of Rob’s behaviour to be comforting. French offers one of the clearest literary examples of this textbook response to trauma that I have read, and given that I thought I was getting your usual police procedural novel, I was duly surprised by this cerebral bonus.
One of the more jarring police interviews in the novel detailed a teenage group sexual assault, which I feel I should mention here in the interest of warning those hoping to skip such incidents.
That said, it was not overly gratuitous, and gave me a lot to think about. I appreciated how the surfacing of this event years later during this murder case saw the rapist as someone with remorse evident when confronted with his detestable actions. I like to hope that even scumbags would at least feel bad about stealing a piece of someone’s soul.
Humans are resilient, and no matter victim or perpetrator, they can overcome the ills that have threatened to take them down. Doing the work necessary to face the reality of one’s experiences, gives you back your power and leaves you with the control to access those things that happened when and how you see fit, not when they decide to highjack you.
Rob is a tortured soul in multiple ways, not the least of which being survivor’s guilt. With the loss of his best friends and no memory of why he was the only one spared disappearance, his fractured mind is left to make sense of it and finds a way to blame himself for making it out of those woods alive.
“Sometimes I think about the sly, flickering line that separates being spared from being rejected. Sometimes I think of the ancient gods who demanded that their sacrifices be fearless and without blemish, and I wonder whether, whoever or whatever took Peter and Jamie away, it decided I wasn’t good enough.”
The Who-Done-It? aspect of this mystery was sufficiently undetected by me until near the time of its reveal, although I know a couple of other people who were able to figure it out earlier on. If I were to guess, aiming my attention at the psychological study playing out in the background and seeing the mystery as secondary helped me stay unawares in this regard.
This book was published in 2007 so I know I’m severely late to Tana French, aka the First Lady of Irish Crime’s party. As such, I have had occasion to hear other readers say they were disappointed by a lack of closure, and the tonnes of unanswered questions they didn’t know what to do with. To this I say, I am okay with that. This is the first in a long series, and with all of the bread crumbs French so expertly laid for me to follow In The Woods, I willingly, for(a)ge ahead in anticipation.
Here is the Celtic Triquerta Bookmark I was inspired to make, and I am so pleased with how it turned out because it was a little tricky!
Have you read this book or any others from the Dublin Murder Squad? Do you enjoy books that dive deep into human behaviourism and if so, can you recommend any?
Summer 2021 will go down for me as the year of the Imagination Vacation. The pandemic blues have us unable to travel to a cottage up north for two weeks like we’ve done previous years, for the second time now. Instead, I have envisioned the sights, sounds, and stories of the places I’d prefer to be whilst soaking up some rays in the solitude of my backyard garden. In case that came off as whiny and pretentious to you as it did to me when I read it back, I’m not complaining and am grateful to be able to do so.
It started with my post 5 Books I’d Take To The Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This week I find myself pining for Greece; more specifically, the island my husband’s family hails from in the Aegean. Most of his family is there, and sadly, they still have not met our 8-year-old son. A trip overseas would mean so much to many and will be long overdue when we finally go.
I made a book list when we actually travelled to the island back in 2008. I don’t think there was a single Greek author on the thing. I remember Corelli’s Mandolin and some Maeve Binchy Island story, but the rest completely escape me, and were on the lighter side of fluff.
There was so much to do on the island that I barely had a chance to read the entire month we were there! Daily swimming trips, nights at the Platia (the portside square), and visiting all the wonderful homes of the family for delicious meals…always so. many. meals. Other than the plane ride there and back, there just wasn’t enough time to read.
Kalymnos was my first overseas trip, and the scene of my midnight marriage proposal amongst the audience of empty chairs on the moonless Missouri beach. Unable to see a thing, it was in fits of laughter that we had to wrestle our camera’s flash just to look at the ring on my finger, haha! Beautiful memories.
This more developed list I’m sharing has only Greek authors, the books being written in their mother tongue and eventually translated to English; hence, they are notall Greek to me!
You are welcome to humour me in my fantasy holiday, as we enjoy this list of 5 Great Greek Books Translated into English.
Uncle Petros and Goldbach’s Conjecture sits at the top spot because of its gorgeous cover, but the story is captivating too. Tagged as a mystery, Uncle Petros’ nephew narrates as he seeks to understand his relative instead of shame him as others in the family do.
His Uncle’s life-long obsession with trying to decipher one of the oldest unsolved problems in number theory, Goldbach’s Conjecture, becomes a bonding force between the two, but to what end?
This short, highly-acclaimed mathematical tale steeped in philosophy is just the witty entry I need in my life right now, vacation or not. I look forward to reading this one the most of the bunch.
This novella is going to make my skin crawl. I can feel the nerves climbing the back of my neck already. A deep character dive into a middle-aged Greek woman on the Aegean Island of Skiathos in the 1800s, The Murderess is the creepy stuff of legend.
When Hadoula comes to the hard-learned conclusion that there is no worse destiny than being born female, she takes it upon herself to set free the little angels born into her same fate. They can thank her later, I guess.
Petros Markaris is said to be one of Greece’s most successful living authors, and it looks like the Inspector Kostas Haritos Mystery Series has a great deal to do with why.
Although shielding a charitable heart behind his veteran armour, Kostas is crusty, obsessive, bull-headed, and unhappily married. He is the type of raw character that schools a reader in the gritty nature of a position as eventful and corrosive as Inspector of a metropolis, in this case, Athens.
In Deadline In Athens (originally The Late Night-News), we are voyeurs to the elementary case of a brutally murdered Albanian couple that graduates into the interlacing tragedy of child trafficking and media deception.
I have the sense I’m going to want more from this series when I’m done with this book and am currently worried that they may not all be in English translation. 😕
Hopeful that there won’t be too much of this story lost in translation, as some English reviews have mentioned that the tale is better in its original form, The Third Wedding promises to be an enlightening journey through the eyes of two Athenian women in the 1800s.
Costas Taktsis chronicles for us their struggles during the German Occupation of WWII, the Civil War, and possibly a taboo affair between them? I’m only guessing, as there is an LGBT tag on the Goodreads page, so forgive me if I’ve erred.
Z is the heavy read of the bunch, and I mean that literally and for the intensity of its content. Considered a classic of Greek historical Fiction, I hope to use it as a window to the bitter history of a land and people that I’ve come to adore, as it details the assassination of Z, a communist party leader in the 60s.
A fictional yet courageous expose into the real corruption that permeated the political landscape of those years, the lack of truth and loyalty amongst the bureaucrats on blast for our disapproval. Vassili Vassilikos pulls back the curtain on the nefarious and destructive side of politics and people.
Where would you go for your imagination vacation?
Do you like to read when you’re away, and if so, do you spend time choosing books suited to your destination?