Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Quiet American

This curious review of Graham Greene's brilliant novel The Quiet American appeared today in the Irish Sunday Independent
I wonder - did the reviewer actually read the book, or did he copy his review from a set of study notes? For, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the story of The Quiet American a story of passionate sexual jealousy? Set in 1952 Vietnam, an older man is in love with beautiful girl but cannot marry her because his Catholic wife refuses to divorce him. A young American also loves the girl and offers her marriage and security. The older man is so jealous he arranges for his friend to be callously murdered. The older man and the beautiful girl live happily ever after.
And if you're not much of a reader, the DVD with Michael Caine as the older man, and Brendan Fraser as the quiet American is not only a brilliant movie, but a faithful adaptation of the novel.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Time Keeping

When I was growing up I was told it was rude to be on time. Always be ten minutes late I was told, it's the Irish way of doing things.
This morning I was invited to a 'Come and Meet the Mums in Year 3A' coffee morning - the invitation said 0830. Year 3A has children of all nationalities, with different cultural norms, but even so I didn't arrive until ten minutes after the appointed hour.
As I drove up I was joined by a French mum and two English mums - they'd also been trained from birth to be ten minutes late to a party.
Except the party was being hosted by an American mum and from the strained expression on her face when we all barged in ten minutes late I have come to conclusion that in America, one must be on time. Or one will never be invited again.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I rescued Maud from certain death on the back of a half mad horse. At home Nick and Rex were throwing a basketball. Nick throws the ball at Maud. "Catch that," he said.
And in the catching she bent back her finger so badly it's broken.


You'd think having four children would dilute their preciousness, wouldn't you? Well, it's not the case this house - I'm such an over protective Mummy I've been banned from Rex's rugby matches - banned by Rex, I might add - he's afraid I'll run onto the pitch and scold anyone who tackles him.
Tonight Maud had a riding lesson. Now, even I can see, through my rose tinted lenses that Maud rides well for a little girl of ten - she has an excellent seat and beautiful hands. But just because she's a good rider is no reason to throw her up on a half mad, just out of the desert, huge horse of muscle and fire - the instructor had been lungeing it before we arrived and it still wouldn't walk forward nicely. It was a horse even I would hesitate to mount and I, in general, will ride anything.
"She's not riding that!" I said. "Where are the ponies? Where are the school horses?"
All being ridden by lesser riders.
And that's a good enough reason to give my precious daughter a fecking mad horse?
Please excuse the casual swearing but I was so incensed I was apoplectic. The only thing that happens when you ride a bad horse is you get frightened. It does not make you a better rider, I know, I was that soldier.
The lesson did not go ahead. As I told the instructor when we were leaving, "I may consider allowing Maud to have a lesson on this horse after I've watched your ten year old daughter riding him."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Spoonful of Sugar...

Oh, golly my editor at Little Black Dress is a princess! She has sent me her list of line edits for The Revenge of Lady Muck - and in addition to the changes she wants, she has highlighted the things she especially likes - eg
Page 74: I love this first paragraph
Page 112: I love the way this chapter ends
It's so pleasant to get the odd thumbs up in the middle of all the question marks!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Jumping In Puddles

Claire Allan
It’s not so very long ago that I was a single mum. Nick was working in England and I was in South Derry, in a farmhouse with no running drinking water, and four children under the age of four. It was a most depressing time in our marriage, especially during the dark winter evenings when the children were pinned down and sleeping. My own father often offered to babysit, so I could get out of the house, to go to the gym or to visit my sisters. But I was too worn out to do normal things and to face ‘normal people’. My world revolved round the needs of four children, and the relentless, endless grind of mothering them.
What I needed was a support group - people who understood how lonely it is to be alone, in the middle of the night, when a child is calling and there’s only you to answer. Who understood how desperate you feel when a child is sick and there’s only you to do the nursing. Who understood how stressful it is to have to explain over and over, that Daddy isn’t going to be home for the birthday party, the school play, the swimming gala…
Jumping in Puddles by Claire Allan is the story of such a support group which brings together four lone parents in a small rural village in County Donegal.
There’s rich widow Niamh whose perfect life has come crashing down round her ears. Her perfect husband has got himself killed in a road traffic accident and since his death her perfect friend Caitlin is no longer returning her calls. Niamh’s grief has turned in on itself – she’s furious, angry, out of control...
There’s downtrodden, kind hearted Ruth. She was married to James until he ran off with a younger woman, leaving her penniless with three children, and the teenager daughter is poisonous. Ruth is ready for a new lease of life for James was a control freak and she’s better off without him.
Liam is the cuckolded husband whose wife has run off with James. Of course he didn’t want to join a Looney Lone Parent’s support group – he’s a builder, he’s a man, he doesn’t talk about his feelings – but his mother has bullied him into it.
And finally there’s a teenage mum, Ciara. Ciara is finding it difficult to reveal the name of her baby’s father because the boy in question has made it clear he’s not going to accept responsibility for his actions and has instead been spreading unkind and untrue rumours that Ciara sleeps around.
These four have very little in common and their first few meetings are stiff. Until they go on a charmingly described Halloween excursion to Derry city, to see the fireworks together. Everyone dresses up, the festival atmosphere fizzes off the page. By the end of trip the ice is broken and they begin to make friends. And to offer genuine support when Niamh discovers her perfect friend was having an affair with her perfect husband. And to provide practical assistance when Ruth’s ex-husband returns to intimidate her and to hit her again.
Claire Allan is from Derry. She works as a journalist, is a mother of two, and writes novels when she gets time in the evenings. Claire has a real talent for successfully tackling difficult, challenging subjects such as domestic abuse with warmth and gentle humour.
VERDICT: I really loved the Lone Looney Parents. I wanted to invite them over to my house for tea and buns and a chat.

Friday, October 23, 2009


This sweet little email came floating through at half past eight last night:
Hello Anne,
I’ve now read and hugely enjoyed THE REVENGE OF LADY MUCK. I had hoped to get my notes to you today and I’d nearly finished them, but I’ve just heard that, very frustratingly, they’re closing down our computer network for the weekend in about 5 minutes (!) so I’m afraid it’s going to be Monday morning now.
I am sorry about that, but I’m pretty positive you’ll have them at the beginning of next week. Have a lovely weekend, etc
Yes, indeed I will have a lovely weekend, now I know the editor has passed my novel.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Revenge of Lady Muck

So today I'm a bag of nerves because my editor at Little Black Dress is marking my novel. It's worse than waiting for exam results. I'm wondering how long it will take her to read 77,500 frivilous light hearted words, composed into sentences and chapters - a great deal less time than it took to write them! Will she like sensible Sarah the sexually repressed school mistress? Will she fancy Lord Rupert Glass, the presenter of Good Evening Ireland? (I fancied the pants off him, but that's not the point - the reader must also fancy him.)
And most important of all - will she believe they can be together?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I spoke too soon. After yesterday's pilates I claimed to feel no pain. Well, I woke up this morning aching all over, there was pain in my back, my front and my sides. There was even pain in my bat wings! In fact the only part of my body which is not currently paining is my abdomen. Navel to spine feels just fine. Could I possibly have been doing the pilates all wrong?

Monday, October 19, 2009


I went to Pilates this morning, the first time in maybe five years. In Ireland the class was in the Parish Hall, it was run by the Rector's wife and a wood burning stove was lit to take the frostbite out of the air.
Today I stretched my stuff at World Beat Fitness Centre, with some very grand ladies of leisure. The carpark was full of clean Range Rovers so I parked outside on the road. The instructor was a fabulous advertisement for Pilates - slim, tight, elegant and supple. I felt like a lump beside her - the wall to wall mirroring didn't help!
But once we started to stretch it all came back in a rush - what the Rector's wife had taught me about breathing, and concentration; the zen like calm of the graceful movements. I never broke sweat and I felt no pain, but now I'm utterly exhausted.

Friday, October 16, 2009


What's that quotation - something about a prophet never being welcome in her own country? In one of today's Irish newspapers, in the book review section, I came across this line-
the current vogue in Irish fiction for (either) gormless chick-lit from semi- literate half-wits.
Is this Irish newspaper really slagging off the commercial success of its countrywomen? Irish writers Marian Keyes, Cecilia Ahern, Cathy Kelly, Patricia Scanlan, Sarah Webb and Shiela O'Flanagan have sold hundreds of thousands of novels each. They are published all over the world, and translated into countless languages. They are rich and respected beyond my wildest dreams. They are the elite of a cut throat business.
What is half- witted about that?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I got this email last night from my publishers:
Hi, Anne,
Would you be interested in contributing to the Question of the Week for HQ Magazine, the Herald's Thursday lifestyle magazine?
The question is; "Do you believe in heaven, and can you describe it?"
Answers can be 20 words maximum, and as always the deadline is ASAP - she will need your answer by tomorrow morning - Irish time.
Heaven is just like earth only better. It's kinder and cleaner; no-one is sick. People say 'good morning' and mean it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I cannot do it. I cannot think creatively while home schooling four children. Today I'm trying to juggle a project on Blackbeard the pirate, an Amazonian Rainforest diary, a poster of the ancient Egyptians, the two times tables, Key Stage Two spellings, and a rewrite of Chapter 3.
This morning I actually said, "Stop breathing children, you're breathing too loud."
They're having a little break now - hopefully not breaking each other - while I'm quickly chopping up vegetables to make cauliflower soup for lunch, and a chicken korma for tea.
In the afternoon I will take them to the pool, and in a relay each child will do fifteen minutes reading with me while the other children are swimming. I will then try to snatch five minutes when they're changing to read the end of Claire Allan's book Jumping in Puddles, which I'm reviewing for the Belfast Telegraph.
Through the ringing in my ears I can hear a small voice of reason. It says -
Why don't you leave your reading and writing until they go to bed? Why can't you devote your day to your off-spring?
Because I'm so tired at the end of a day of undiluted parenting, I go to bed too.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Family Life

Paul Charles
I’d like to begin this book review with a scene from Gone With The Wind. Katie Scarlett’s upset because Ashley is going to marry Miss Melly. In an attempt to cheer her up her Irish father tells her he’s going to leave her Tara, his big cotton plantation in Georgia. Scarlett is only a slip of girl; she’s not impressed or grateful. She says, “Plantations don’t mean anything to me.”
And Gerald O’Hara says, “Land is the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, because it’s the only thing that lasts.”
“Oh Pa, you speak like an Irishman!”
Cue a panoramic sunset, and a crescendo of emotive music.
Family Life by Paul Charles is set in rural Ireland. The story opens at a birthday dinner for Liam Sweeney, a prosperous farmer. His grown-up children have travelled with their families to Donegal to join in the celebrations. They are gathered in the farmhouse dining room, impatiently waiting for Joe, the youngest son, who still lives at home.
Inspector Starrett the local policeman arrives with very bad news. Joe’s body has been found near the docks in Ramelton and he has been murdered.
Joe is a good and decent man; he has no known enemies and has never been in trouble so Starrett is forced to focus his investigation on Joe’s family. He finds it hard to believe Joe’s parents could ever have killed him so this leaves only his siblings. And they seem to have plenty of motivation, for on the death of their father it was Joe who was going to inherit the farm. And the land is worth a pure fortune. It’s in a development zone and Joe’s sister-in-law Mona knows a developer desperate to buy it; he’s offering 12 million euro. Mona, a clever solicitor, has been stirring trouble within the family; there have been heated discussions and rows as to why the farm cannot be broken up into four pieces and each sibling get a share. Mona has pride of place at the top of the prime suspect’s list until Liam Sweeney, the grieving father, makes a shocking and spontaneous confession – he says he killed Joe. Incontrovertible evidence is found at the scene which appears to incriminate Liam. But the Inspector is not convinced of his guilt. He has known Liam all his life and cannot believe he could kill his own son. He digs deeper in his efforts to discover the identity of the real murderer...
The success of a detective story often hinges on the winsomeness of the detective. My personal favourite is Lord Peter Wimsey, the eccentric, aristocratic amateur, but I think Inspector Starrett deserves a generous mention. He’s a gentle, ruminative soul. As a young man he tried for the priesthood and failed; he likes tea and buns; he struggles to give up smoking. He’s not a show-off and he does not have issues with strong drink, hard women or fast food. I imagine him very charming and softly spoken and his Donegal accent would be music to my ears...
Paul Charles is from Magherafelt and writing novels is not his only career. For the past thirty years he’s been an agent and music promoter for a wide range of brilliant singers, among them Christy Moore and Tanita Tikaram. This would probably be enough for most people but Paul Charles is also a prolific writer: Family Life is his eleventh novel, his second featuring Inspector Starrett. Before that he wrote nine Inspector Christie Kennedy mysteries, set in Camden Town, London, and several books about music.
VERDICT: A well paced story with a thoroughly convincing character line-up and a very believable plot. And I would know - I’m from the country!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

News Flash!

Enchanting Alice is at Number 12 on the Irish bestseller list! Fingers crossed it goes higher next week. I'd love it to get in to the Top Ten.

Cheap Plug

Just to say Enchanting Alice has gone on sale in paperback. It's in bookshops only in Ireland, you can also buy it on Amazon.
Farming, babies, sex, eccentricity: Jane was seventeen when Michael whisked her away to the wetlands of rural Ireland to share a farmhouse and their marriage with his mother who sleepwalks, his father who snores and an unmarried sister who hates her. It was never going to work. Jane pulls on her wellies and keeps walking till she reaches street lighting, pavements and independence. She moves into Stove Pipe Town. Michael stays and continues to farm his cows will always come first. Their children are born and Jane stops missing him. Then she goes to a rock concert. Dressed to kill in her black halter-neck frock, Jane catches the eye of the lead singer who smoulders from every poster on every lamppost in Ireland. He invites her up on the stage to dance ...

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Bet you can't guess what these two blokes have in common - apart from aristocratic good looks. First I fancied both of them rotten when I was young and innocent. And second...

I've just watched Gone With the Wind - the first time in 20 years. And I'm sorry but Ashley Wilkes played Scarlett for a fool. Instead of doing the decent thing and telling her plainly he loved his wife Melanie, he allowed her to think she was in with a chance.

And as for Denys Finch Hatton - even more gorgeous and aristocratic and even harder to catch and pin down. He didn't have a devoted wife, just a series of lovers, the most famous of whom was Baroness Blixen - he offered her nothing but a bit of excitement and she was thrilled everytime he flew by her farm...

I've started to show my age badly, that I can't fancy a man anymore, unless he's a safe bet.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Thought For The Day

When I am an old woman,
I shall wear purple - -
With a red hat which doesn't go,
and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension
on brandy and summer gloves and satin sandles,
And say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
and gobble up samples in shops
and press alarm bells
and run with my stick along public railings,
and make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
and pick flowers in other people's gardens
and learn to spit!
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
and eat three pounds of sausages at ago,
or only bread and pickles for a week,
and hoard pens and pencils
and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
and pay our rent
and not swear in the street,
and set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner
and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me
are not too shocked and surprised
when suddenly I am old,
And start to wear purple!
--Jenny Joseph

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Un Jardin Sur Le Nil

I was killing time this morning in an air conditioned perfume shop, picking up and setting down pretty bottles, but not even bothering to sniff, for I'm not a perfume person and floral fragrances make me sneeze.
My eye was caught by this bottle of Un Jardin Sur Le Nil and I squirted some on to my arm, out of curiosity. The top notes made my eyes water - they were vicious, like poison gas. However, five minutes later, I was wearing the most elegant scent - sexy, subtle, unforgettable. I couldn't stop sniffing my arm.
I've always heard it said you can't judge a book by its cover - I would like to add you most certainly can't judge a perfume by its topnotes.