Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Jazz in Marciac (1) Esperanza Spalding and Wayne Shorter



Jazz in Marciac

For the 36th year running, the tiny village of Marciac in the Gers department of France opens its shutters to some of the jazz greats. It's amazing to see the village square turned into a huge stage and musicians playing in every café and corner.

Restaurants pop up everywhere and visiters can sample some of the specialties of this region of France, notably foie gras and Saint Mont wine. Duck and Armagnac are on the menu too.

The huge square in the centre of the village hosts the 'off' festival. My daughter, a student at the local collège, will perform here. The collège specialises in jazz and students spend five hours a week working those improvisations.

I love the juxtaposition of crisp white sails and colombage buildings, plastic chairs and ancient stone.

And of course the real stars who perform in the two big venues every evening--the chapiteau and l'Astrada. So far we've seen Marcus Miller, Esperanza Spalding, Wayne Shorter, and looking forward to many more over the next couple of weeks.

Hard to take good photos in the chapiteau, but here's Esperanza Spalding, a cool lady on the double base with an amazing voice...

... and Wayne Shorter, celebrating his 80th birthday this year, and a legend on the sax.








Friday, 26 July 2013

Gone Girl: Review

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

The story begins on Amy and Nick's fifth wedding anniversary. Nick returns home to find his house has been ransacked and Amy is missing. The police suspect him immediately especially as there seems to be an unexplained gaping hole in his alibi.

We are then taken back in time to when Nick and Amy first met, told through Amy's diary. Amy is an spoilt rich girl who analyses the world through personality quizes. She has a Sex and the City vibe about her and I liked her quirky personality. Nick seemed an ordinary kind of guy and I hoped he hadn't killed Amy, but guessed he probably had.

As the story unfolds through Nick's voice in the present, with the cops and his in-laws and the media turning against him, and through Amy's diary in the past as she dissects their marriage through the years, we begin to feel sorry for Amy. She had a childhood unlike any other, which included the wonderful folly of 'Amazing Amy', her parents' books based on a perfect child, so work and marriage just couldn't live up to expectations.

Gillian Flynn's writing seems flimsy and light, yet we realise, as the characters are slowly revealed, that the writing is actually strong and deliberate. We never know which characters we dislike more yet are drawn to reading on to know what happens. By the end I disliked them and felt sorry for them in equal measures. I was amazed at how my opinion of each character changed as the author brought me through each twist and turn.

I chose to buy this as an audio book and think it was probably enhanced by the narration. Even in my head I wouldn't have been able to sustain that New York spoilt-girl voice of Amy. Great narration by Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne.

Dark Places and Sharp Objects are Gillian Flynn's two other novels which I'm looking forward to reading sometime soon.

Friday, 12 July 2013

The Herbalist: Review

The Herbalist by Niamh Boyce

This debut novel by Niamh Boyce is set in a market town in Ireland in the 30s. It's also the town where I grew up, so the book holds a special fascination for me.

An exotic stranger sets up in the market and calls himself a herbalist. The women of the town flock to buy his potions, tinctures and creams. But he also brings trouble. The story is told through the eyes of Emily, Sarah, Carmel and Aggie, who all come from different backgrounds. As their stories unfold, we realise the importance of wealth and standing and how few choices women had in those days.

Lured into the tale by stories of love and lust and loss, we don't realise until half way through that this story has a dark underbelly. The lives of the characters are interesting, the manner in which they unfold, captivating. But what lingers long after I've put the book down is the dark reality of life for those women. The herbalist plays only one part in the unspoken horrors of the times.

I've followed Niamh's journey to publication from the Novel Fair at the Irish Writers' Centre, through updates on her blog  and finally to getting my hands on a signed copy. I feel incredibly proud and I don't even know her.

Overall an enjoyable and powerful read. I'm already looking forward to Niamh's next offering.