Book Review The Woman with an Owl Tattoo by Anne Walsh Donnelly.

This life-affirming poetry collection reflects on the author’s growth since the ending of her marriage and what it means to unearth one’s true sexual orientation, in mid-life. Anne Walsh Donnelly’s intimate exploration of sexuality and identity is both brave and touching, marking this debut collection as a triumph.

“Anne Walsh Donnelly is by far the most daring poet to emerge in Ireland of late. The starkly honest and overt sexuality which pervades Anne’s poetry make the work of pretty much all her contemporaries appear repressed and backward-looking in comparison. This publication would certainly have been banned in the Ireland of the past. Indeed, she is one of the few poets around whose work has the glorious ability to get moralistic, supposedly liberal eyebrows twitching. Anne’s poems are pretty perfectly formed hand grenades which she tosses about the place with abandon while maintaining a deadpan face. I think this publication is the beginning of something great.” Kevin Higgins, author of Song of Songs 2.0: New & Selected Poems (Salmon Poetry, 2017).

TWWAOT is an astonishing collection of poetry by Anne Walsh Donnelly. The poems talk of the end of a marriage, to a discovery of sexuality and identity. Animals feature in a few of the poems, with the setting being a farm.  I loved the imagery in poems Tawny Owl and Metamorphosis, After Franz Kafka. There are a series of poems in TWWAOT, with a range of different scenarios, titled Coming out to my therapist, myself, my son, my daughter, mother, and father. They have the varying reactions to the narrator coming out as a lesbian. They also have dialogue. I love dialogue in poems.

Lava formed sills on my surface,

flushed my cheeks, just as my plates

were supposed to settle and glide into old age

a woman’s touch smashed my crust

The Woman with an Owl Tattoo by Anne Walsh Donnelly

I like TWWAOT is a voice from an older woman. I think it is important to have visible LGBTQ + voices from people of all ages, to be able to talk about the different challenges we all face, and to appreciate being our true selves is a brave act.

photo credit Kate Lewington

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Well, this was a mess. The Midwife’s Sister: The Story of Call The Midwife’s Jennifer Worth by her sister Christine.

Millions have fallen in love with Jennifer Worth and her experiences in the East End as chronicled in Call the Midwife but little is known about her life outside this period. Now, in this moving and evocative memoir, Jennifer’s sister, Christine, takes us from their early idyllic years to the cruelty and neglect they suffered after their parents divorced, from Jennifer being forced to leave home at fourteen to their training as nurses.

After leaving nursing Jennifer took up a career in music, her first love, and Christine became a sculptor, but through marriages and children, joy and heartbreak, their lives remained intertwined. Absorbing and emotional, The Midwife’s Sister by Christine Lee is testimony to an enduring bond between two extraordinary women.

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Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

oh no, I have another negative book review.

ok. This was a difficult read. A very hard read.

The title is correct, the description of the book misleading.

The two sisters did not get on. Their childhood was fucking tough after the divorce of their parents. This isn’t Jenny’s story. She isn’t portrayed as the saint she was in The Call the Midwife books. God knows, we’re all flawed and given her background. She was thrown out at 15 and was in a secret relationship with an older man. The book lacks warmth. The copy I read needed editing. I didn’t enjoy the writing. It’s a long book. It is revealing. If you like Call the Midwife, this book may spoil it for you. I wondered at times what I was reading and why. I went into reading this not having looked at the blurb or the reviews and certainly didn’t expect what I read. The Midwife’s Sister was interesting.


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https://ko-fi.com/klpoetry

My Thoughts on the autobiography My Name is Why by poet Lemn Sissay.

At the age of 17, after a childhood in an fostered family followed by six years in care homes, Norman Greenwood was given his birth certificate. He learned that his real name was not Norman. It was Lemn Sissay. He was British and Ethiopian. And he learned that his mother had been pleading for his safe return to her since his birth.  

Here Sissay recounts his life story. It is a story of neglect and determination. Misfortune and hope. Cruelty and triumph.  

Sissay reflects on a childhood in care, self-expression and Britishness, and in doing so explores the institutional care system, race, family and the meaning of home. Written with all the lyricism and power you would expect from one of the nation’s best-loved poets, this moving, frank and timely memoir is the result of a life spent asking questions, and a celebration of the redemptive power of creativity.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

It doesn’t feel right to say I enjoyed reading this book, because this is a non-fiction book on Sissay’s childhood in care and

You know I read non-fiction and when I read stories on children that have grown up in the care system, it’s a broke system. We have broke systems throughout this country.

It’s a read, is what I will say. Read it. Then go read the man’s poetry too.


Want to point out, not readable electronically. There are case notes throughout the book and they are hard to read. Buy the book http://Waterstones or you can listen to it for free with an audible trial.

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My Thoughts on Christmas at the Grange by T. E. Kinsey

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

We are going back in time to December 2019. I did read this story then and somehow the review has been in my drafts ever since – even though I could have sworn I posted it?   

Hmmm.

I am now a massive supporter of the Lady Hardcastle mysteries. The characters are beginning to feel like people I know.

Christmas at the Grange felt like a full-length novel, opposed to a short story that takes no more than an hour to read. It is set at The Grange, the home of The Farley-Stroud’s. They are one of my favourite couples in books, so good to learn more about them and their home. While I feel a lot of short stories are a cast-off idea and fall short, Christmas at the Grange did not. It had a great idea, the usual brilliant dialogue between the characters and is a lot of fun.


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Finding Henry Applebee by Celia Reynolds

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Foyles for books

The story of Henry Applebee is primarily narrated by the man himself, although characters Ariel and Travis do take parts in being protagonists. The timeline of the story switches between past and present. I was unsure of this book at first, until I got the gist of which path the story was going to take. Not that it is predictable. There is a huge build up, you have to wait for it though. I liked the setting of the train station in the present and loved being in Blackpool for the past. This is a story of lost love and once you discover how Henry met this woman and lost her because of his insecurities (and mobile phones hadn’t been invented) it did make my eyes mist over.

Unfortunately, the story lost its way in its conclusion. I felt like the author was trying to repeat what happened to Henry with Ariel and Travis, who all meet on the train. I didn’t feel invested in the other characters as much. The ending is not automatically a happy one, which is realistic.

My final thoughts are I loved (ha) the love story in Finding Henry Applebee. The other parts not so much. It is set partly during World War 2, so if you like reading historical fiction books, I’m sure you will like this. I’m probably going to read this book again and love it.


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