Lanny by Max Porter.

Lanny by Max Porter.

A review by Kate O’Brien.

Published by Faber & Faber in 2019, Porter’s Lanny tells an incredibly magnetic story about an artistic boy in a small town. This is a story about many things. It is about art, it is about being connected with nature, it is about small town life, and it is about how fickle human beings can be. Throw in some village lore for good measure, and we’ve got a wonderfully mysterious text that pulls you in deeper with every turn of the page.

Porter’s book caught me by surprise, because I will admit that when I first saw this book when I opened my blind date with a book package, the first thing I said was that I don’t think I would have chosen this book for myself. The cover didn’t do anything for me, it still doesn’t do anything for me, further proof that you should never judge a book by its cover after all. The plain white cover showcases snippets of reviews, all praising the work, while the title Lanny is displayed crookedly on a leave. The cover does not spark curiosity, however the text itself is another story.

Porter is a poetic writer and Lanny is a text that is filled with vivid imagery.

Porter appears to have a knack for describing things that should be mundane in a way that makes them unforgettable. I found that this book was full of quotes that I will remember for a very long time. “His body is a suit of bark-armour with the initials of long-dead teenage lovers carved in the surface.” (Porter, p.4). I read this line, and knew then that I was going to be incredibly moved by this book. Porter had me invested already, and this was only page four.

The style of writing in this book is interesting, as Porter jumps around from different points of view. We see what Lanny’s mum is thinking, and her inner thoughts are introduced with the heading “Lanny’s Mum”. I would say that this text reads as though it is one stream of thought and the inner monologues of each character gives readers a great insight into who these people are. Lanny’s dad is a commuter. He prefers London to the small village that they live in. He is okay at his job, but he is a rather absent father, and while he claims to love his son, it is clear that he does not understand him. Lanny’s mum is a writer, and while she is a much warmer parent who loves her son as he is, it is clear that he is often a mystery to her as well.

Porter also introduces readers to Dead Papa Toothworth, a mysterious entity who lives in the woods and has lived there for years, and years, and years. Dead Papa Toothworth lives off of snippets of other people’s conversations. He goes to the village and listens. He loves to listen to Lanny especially, because Lanny is a much more intuitive child. Dead Papa Toothworth is village lore, and he has become a story that parents use to scare their children. “Be good, or Papa Toothworth will get you.” Little did they know that threats of the bogeyman might one day come true. Papa Toothworth’s sections are wonderfully artistic, as the snippets of the conversations that he listens to swirl around the page, making our eyes dance in order to read every word. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is something that I enjoyed immensely.

Lanny is the book’s heart. He is curious and sensitive, intuitive, and artistic. Lanny seems to be connected to the earth in a way that is unexplainable. He asks questions that seem impossible to answer. He is almost fae like, as he is an all-knowing child. At times, Lanny seems to be an unrealistic child, but this is due to Porter mixing lore with reality. Lanny exists somewhere in the middle.

My favourite character is “Mad” Pete. He is a reclusive, gruff, and talented artist who is friends with Lanny’s mother. In an effort to be less gruff, he agrees to give Lanny art lessons, and he finds that Lanny’s natural artistic abilities, along with the boy’s curiosity leads him to enjoy being an art teacher more than he ever thought he would.

The book is divided into sections. The first section is neat and tidy, and everyone’s point of view is clearly labelled. We know what is happening, and we know who is speaking, and aside from Lanny’s curious questions, the first section is rather uneventful. Lanny goes to art class, Pete enjoys teaching, Lanny’s mum is writing, and she struggles with writing what is a very violent thriller, Lanny’s dad is working. Dead Papa Toothworth is listening. The village gossips, as all small villages tend to do. That is it. It is intriguing, but it is not terribly riveting. However Porter creates a real sense that something is off. Something is going to go wrong, we just don’t know what and we don’t know when.

Spoilers ahead.

The latter sections of the book descend into chaos. We no longer know who exactly is speaking, as all the thoughts merge into one, and we get snippets of the village reactions when Lanny goes missing. The book really paints an accurate picture of what happens in tragic cases like this. Everyone has an opinion, everyone is a detective, reporters descend and camp outside, and no one escapes scrutiny. Pete is turned against, as no one believes that an old man could give a boy art lessons just to be nice, Lanny’s mum is scrutinised because of the violent content in her book, both parents are under fire when the papers find out that Lanny often wandered, because he was a curious child, and stories entitled “Latchkey Lanny” are splashed over every front page. Lanny himself does not escape scrutiny as everyone says he was “odd all along.” There is public outcry, for how could this happen in a quiet, sleepy village? Are our children safe anywhere? Do we take safety for granted? It is a tense read, and yet I could not put the book down.

The book ends rather neatly, thankfully Lanny is found alive and well, and he becomes another cautionary tale. The lore of the woods lives on, for the woods will always be there, always as people come and go, as people die and as people are born, the woods have always been there, and they always will be.

I enjoyed this book. It was magnetic, and very engaging, and the more I read, the more I wanted to know. I read the entire book in one afternoon. I am curious to read more of Porter’s work, particularly Grief Is The Thing With Feathers as I knew of this work before reading Lanny but I have not read it yet.

Lanny is a mysterious, artistic text, that weaves lore with small village life. Each sleepy day builds up to an intense search party, and with every turn of the page readers will want to know what happened to Lanny. I’d highly recommend this book if you have not read it already, and I’d highly recommend grabbing one of those blind date with a book packages if you see them in a bookshop near you, as you may discover a great book that you would not have chosen otherwise, just like I did.

Exciting Times Ahead!

There is a lot to look forward to on Katelovesliterature.com over the next two weeks.

I am so excited because there is another #theatretrip coming up very soon. I’m sure some readers may be able to guess what I am going to see next. I cannot wait. The show that I am going to see soon is very special to me, but all will be revealed in my next Theatre Trip discussion. Keep an eye out on my Instagram – @katelovesliterature.

After a trip to the theatre, I am very happy to say that I am going on a trip to a #literarycity.

I can’t wait. I did not expect to travel this side of Christmas, and I am so grateful to have been surprised with this trip.

I’m going somewhere that I’ve never been before, and I am counting down the days because this city is filled with so much literary history, this city has a particularly rich music history and I am looking forward to exploring and taking lots of pictures and just soaking in the beauty and the history of the place, as well as really enjoying the festive season.

Most of my trips are inspired by literature in some way, not on purpose, but I am very drawn to exploring places that have a rich literary background. There is something really fascinating about seeing the place where a piece of art was created.

I have not yet shared where I am going, and I think I will keep it a secret for just a little while longer, but do stay tuned because all shall be revealed very soon.

Kate xo.

Glorious Goddesses Of Ancient Ireland.

Glorious Goddesses Of Ancient Ireland written by Karen Ward and illustrated by Paula McGloin. 

A literary review by Kate O’Brien. 

Published by Beehive Books, Glorious Goddesses Of Ancient Ireland introduces readers to legendary figures from Irish mythology. This book is filled with fascinating tales. 

This book is a delightful read, and Ward’s stories are brought to life by McGloin’s striking artwork. 

This book introduces readers to nine Goddesses. Danu, Gráinne, The Cailleach, Brigid, Áine, Aisling, Boann, The Morrigan, and Ériu. Each of these mythical Goddesses are unique and powerful in their own way. Each and every one of these figures is a force of nature. 

Danu, The Mother Goddess, is the first of all the Irish deities. Danu is the symbol of nature and fertility. Gráinne, The Maiden Goddess, is a determined girl who knows her own mind. The Cailleach, The Crone Goddess, is a protective and powerful force. The Crone Goddess brings the winter, but she also protects those in her care. Brigid, Goddess Of Spring, is the patron saint of Ireland. Brigid is the bringer of spring. Áine, Sun Goddess Of Love is celebrated at the summer solstice. She is a force that brings the harvest, and her sunlight ensures ripe crops. 

Aisling, Goddess Of Vision, she inspires all who see her. Aisling’s presence is a sign of hope, and it was believed that if she appeared before you, it was to bring an important message. 

Boann is the River Goddess who wouldn’t be refused wisdom, instead her power grew and grew. The Morrigan is the Goddess Of Death and Prophecy. The Morrigan is a seer of death, she predicts the future, and she encourages heroics. Last but not least is Ériu, the Sovereignty Goddess Of Ireland. She symbolises Ireland as a land of abundance. 

This book brings these Goddesses to life, and celebrates a variety of abilities and strengths. 

This book talks about life and death, about nature and the seasons, about love and revenge, and about the different stages of a woman’s life. The book also contains a lovely introduction, one that welcomes readers into the rich history of Ireland. Ancient Ireland was a place filled with magic and I must say that Ward and McGloin captured this sense of wonder on every page. 

Also included in this book is a glossary that younger readers may find helpful if they’re coming across some new words, (Older readers may find this helpful too. We are never too old to learn something new!), and there’s a beautiful map of ancient Ireland too, making this text truly something to treasure. 

Ward flawlessly writes about Ireland’s history as well as capturing the fiery, passionate, intelligent, powerful spirits of these figures and McGloin’s artwork is striking. The colours are rich and vivid, and her illustrations have brought the vastness of these figures to the forefront of every page. The illustrations capture the person, and their strength, as well as incorporating beautiful aspects of Ireland’s nature. I read this book from cover to cover several times over, but I also spent ages just flicking through the pages, looking at all of the pictures. There’s one or two that I would love to have framed on my wall! The stories are fascinating, and the artwork is eye-catching. That’s a brilliant combination if you ask me. 

If you’re a fan of Irish mythology then this book belongs in your collection, and if you’re looking for an introduction to Irish mythology and wonder, look no further! 

I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book, and I think it would make a beautiful present, remember Christmas is right around the corner. 

Glorious Goddesses Of Ancient Ireland is a richly magical read and a stunningly visual treat. 

I would recommend this book for anyone ages 8+. 

I would like to thank the Beehive Books team for sending me a copy of this book to review. 

Important Note – This is not an ad.

This is not sponsored.

This is not a paid review. 

All thoughts and opinions shared are entirely my own.

You can order your very own copy of Glorious Goddesses Of Ancient Ireland written by Karen Ward and illustrated by Paula McGloin on www.beehivebooks.ie

Social Links: @katelovesliterature @beehivebooks.ie  @drkarenwardtherapist @paulamcgloin 

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing another book published by Beehive Books,  The Song of Brigid’s Cloak, written by Catherine Ann Cullen and illustrated by Katya Swan. 

You can read my review by clicking this link https://katelovesliterature.com/  

Enjoy! 

More Social Links: @catherineanncullen @katya_swan_illustrations

Book Review Coming Soon!

I was delighted to receive this gorgeous copy of Glorious Goddesses Of Ancient Ireland this morning from beehivebooks.ie.

This book is a striking addition to my bookshelf already. Just look at that cover! It is beautiful. It is so eye-catching, the cover alone calls to me. I can’t wait to dive in and give this book a read. A full literary review will be coming very soon on Katelovesliterature.com.

Currently Reading …

Katelovesliterature’s 2022 Literature Lover Inspired Gift Guide.

Let’s get festive! Do you have a literature lover in your life? A reader? A music lover? Do you dread coming up with Christmas gift ideas? Are you on the hunt for some inspiration? Look no further. I absolutely love the run up to Christmas and picking presents is part of the fun. I firmly believe that a nice present does not have to be awfully expensive. The best kind of present is one that shows how well you know someone.

So let’s dive in. This is my 2022 Literature Lover Inspired Gift Guide.

Books.

This may seem like a really obvious suggestion, but if you have an avid reader in your life then books make for a fantastic gift. Getting someone a book can be more creative than it sounds. For starters, there are so many different kinds of books. Hardcovers, paperbacks, clothbound editions, illustrated editions, signed copies, etc.

Personally I love a clothbound book. They look absolutely beautiful on my bookshelf and I am so delighted with my growing collection. If you know that someone has a book that they love, and you see a clothbound edition, I think this is a great gift because it shows that you know them well. You know their favourite book, and now they have a special edition of it, one that you picked out. It makes for a lovely collector’s item.

You can also get personalised books. Personalised books are a great gift idea if you ask me, for children and for adults. A personalised book is created specifically for the person you are gifting it to. You can create a personal story. When I was young, I received a personalised version of Beauty and the Beast. I was absolutely enchanted because as I was reading, I realised that the girl in the story shared my name, and not only that, but she looked like me too! My Mam still talks about how excited I was. I think this is a really sweet idea, especially if you are thinking of getting a book for a younger reader.

Speaking of childhood memories, nothing is quite like a little touch of nostalgia. So why not purchase someone’s favourite childhood book? I absolutely loved A Little Princess by Frances Hodges Burnett when I was younger and one of my favourite presents I received when I got older was a hardback edition of a story that I loved so much.

Similarly, last Christmas I received stunning, Victorian inspired covered editions of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. These two books look wonderful on my shelf. The books we read in childhood can have such a lasting impression on us. Some stories stay with us forever. I think that opening a present and finding a unique edition of a book you’ve always loved is a lovely moment. So I’d highly recommend this idea if you’re buying a book for a book lover, especially for a book lover who appears to have every book already!

Before I move on, I will say that I think that if you’re really stuck for a gift idea, a book voucher can be a great option. Giving a book lover a voucher for a book shop means that they can go in and browse (and we all know that a day spent in a book shop is a book lover’s dream) and buy what they want.

I know that some people dislike giving vouchers as it can seem impersonal. I understand that. I too only turn to vouchers as a last resort, however I have never been unhappy when I received a voucher myself as it allowed me to go and pick something for myself. So a voucher or perhaps even a kindle gift card could be an idea that works for you.

Movie Inspired Gifts

I know we live in an age of streaming services, but I am an avid movie lover and I love getting a boxset.

I know many people who still enjoy collecting DVD’s. I still collect DVD’s and I have many boxsets that I love and watch very often. Streaming services are great, but owning a copy of a show or a movie that you love is still special in my opinion. Some people are natural collector’s and DVD’s can have special extras such as behind-the-scenes features or director’s commentaries. Sometimes DVD’s contain deleted scenes too. So in my opinion, there are still plenty of reasons to grab a boxset. One day we will watch DVD’s and call it “having a vintage movie night.”

Another movie inspired idea is taking someone to a movie. Sometimes cinemas show screenings of classic movies.

Recently I went to see Breakfast at Tiffany’s in the Light House cinema in Dublin. I love that movie. It was a brilliant night out. We went for dinner and then had drinks afterwards. So if you want to give someone an experience, keep an eye out for screenings. If you see a movie that they love is being shown, grab a ticket and make a night of it. It can be great fun.

Another idea that is similar to this is looking into cinema cards. Some cinemas have memberships, and depending on how expensive it is, you could sign someone up so if they are an avid movie watcher, they can go to see as many movies as they like.

Movie prints and posters make for great gifts. Again, this is a gift idea that shows someone that you know them well. If you know their favourite movie, why not look around and see if there are any posters or prints that you think would look fantastic framed?

This is something that I did myself recently. I bought a print of the cover of one of the first movies that my boyfriend and I watched together, a movie that we both love, and I bought a frame for it and it looks great if I do say so myself.

It does not have to be a movie cover, you could look around and find a print of a certain scene or a famous quote. If you know someone’s favourite quote, then I’d suggest looking it up as you can very often find prints of quotes, especially if the quote is popular.

Following this idea, I’m a big fan of mugs. I am a big tea and coffee drinker, as are most people that I know. I own quite a few Disney mugs, as well as personalised ones. I’ve also given people personalised mugs before and they have always been well received. You can order a mug with a movie quote or even a book quote.

I think a really nice idea is putting together a few things that you know someone else will use.

For example, one of my friends is an avid reader, and she also loves herbal teas. So I ordered a personalised mug, it had a quote on it from a book that she absolutely loved. I got her a personalised bookmark to go along with it, and I picked up a box of her favourite herbal teas. I put them all together and she was delighted. It is an idea that does not have to cost too much, and it does not take too long to put together, but it is a thoughtful present.

Stationary & Accessories.

Another literature inspired gift idea that won’t drain your bank account is to get someone some stationary.

If you know someone who loves to write, or journal, then perhaps a nice idea would be to get them a new notebook and some lovely pens. Some notebooks can be quite expensive. You can get leather-bound notebooks. I’ve received one before, and it is absolutely beautiful. I use it all the time, but you don’t have to go with such an expensive option. You can find perfectly lovely notebooks that don’t cost too much. Pens can be lovely too, especially if someone enjoys handwriting. I believe that handwriting can almost be called an art form now as these days nearly everything is typed.

There are so many different kinds of pens. You can get pen sets, pens can be engraved etc.

A lovely idea could be to get someone a notebook and a set of pens, and maybe even a box of writing prompts.

Moving on to accessories, bookmarks make great stocking stuffers. Avid readers can never have too many bookmarks.

I have stainless steel bookmarks, I have resin bookmarks, I have Alice in Wonderland inspired bookmarks. I have personalised bookmarks. I have so many, and I use all of them. You don’t have to use them for just books, you can keep tabs on notes and journals too. So if you’re getting book inspired gifts and want to grab something for the stocking, grab a bookmark.

Accessories don’t have to be for just books. You can get all kinds of accessories. You could look into getting someone a keyboard for their desk, a phone case, a desk organiser. There are many options.

Phone cases can be a great idea. Many people get new phones for Christmas and every phone needs a case. You can get so many different kinds of cases from so many different places. You can even get movie or book inspired phone cases. So this could be another idea for a stocking stuffer.

Another idea, although this could be a more expensive idea, is to look into getting someone a bookcase.

If you know a book lover, then you’ll know how easily a room can become cluttered with books, books, books everywhere. A bookshelf or even a book trolley could make for a great gift, especially if you are trying to organise your living space.

My last literature accessory suggestion is to get the book lover in your life their very own book embosser.

A book embosser is a tool used to put an emblem on a book without damaging it. It is a great way for a book collector to identify their books as theirs. It adds a personal touch to one’s collection.

Music Inspired Gifts.

It is hard to find someone who does not like music at all. I don’t talk enough about how much I love music. I studied music in school. I attended singing lessons for years. I was always a member of the choir and I’ve participated in many amateur productions. Music is something that I love, it is something that I am passionate about, and there are so many music inspired gifts that could be perfect for the music lover in your life.

Vinyls can be pricey, but I know so many people who collect vinyls. Getting someone a vinyl or two, particularly if you know that they are a collector, could be an idea to consider.

Over the years I’ve received different scores and songbooks and I’ve always been delighted by them.

If you know a singer or someone who enjoys musical theatre, then I’d suggest getting them a score from their favourite show. Again, this is personal, it shows how well you know them and it also shows that you support their interests.

I mentioned prints already, but prints don’t just have to be from books and movies. You can get lovely prints that are inspired by music. You can find great prints of sound waves, different prints of scores or of lyrics, if you look around you might find prints of famous album covers or of different artists.

Another idea that could be perfect for a music lover, depending on how much you can spend, is a pair of headphones.

There are so many tech gifts that could be perfect for a music lover, amps, speakers, mics, but these are items that would definitely be more expensive. If money is no object, then instruments or instrument accessories are great gift ideas to think about.

I mentioned earlier that taking someone to a movie could be a great idea, concert tickets are another great idea, but again, concert tickets can be very expensive. Sometimes theatres will show movies and an orchestra will play the movie’s score. This is a great idea for a movie lover and for a music lover. I saw a screening of Blade Runner in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre and it was amazing to watch the movie while the score was played by incredible musicians. It was a perfect night out. If you see that there is going to be an event like this going on in a theatre near you, getting tickets for someone if you can would be a great gift to give.

Speaking of tickets, I love getting theatre tickets. My birthday is in spring and I’ve already been told that I will be receiving tickets to see Blood Brothers when it returns to the Bord Gáis in 2023. I cannot wait. Last Christmas, I bought my Mam tickets to see Beauty and the Beast in the Bord Gáis. She was delighted. We cannot wait to see the show.

Stay tuned, as there will be another #theatretrip discussion about this show coming soon on Katelovesliterature.com.

Theatre tickets can be expensive, so this is not always an option, but prices do vary depending on what seats you choose so it never hurts to look and see if this is an option for you. A musical theatre fan would be delighted to get tickets to go and see a show that they love. The same can be said for drama lovers, play tickets can be less expensive than musical theatre tickets as straight plays are often performed in smaller venues.

A night out at the Christmas panto can be great fun. I firmly believe in leaning into the magic and fun of the evening. A trip to the panto can be a great present for kids. So keep an eye out for tickets, because sometimes the price can be just right and tickets are always a great gift.

Theatre Inspired Gifts.

I am a theatre lover through and through.

I love speech and drama.

If you know someone who enjoys drama or studies drama, a great gift idea could be to get them a copy of a script.

There are some beautiful editions of scripts. Sometimes you can find collections of plays in the one book.

I’ve found some great scripts in places like Eason.

Similar to cinema memberships, some theatres have memberships. Membership packages can be expensive, but if you attend the theatre often or you are shopping for someone who does, looking into memberships could be a good idea.

There are also much more affordable theatre inspired gifts ideas that you can look into, like getting a theatre lover a binder for their programmes.

You could also look online and see if you can find a collector’s item playbill or programme.

I have a programme from the Gaiety Theatre that is from the 19th century. It is amazing to have a piece of literary history in my house. It is a moment in time, captured forever.

You can also get theatre inspired t-shirts and bags, mugs and notebooks. There are plenty of things that you can find for the thespian in your life.

Household Items Inspired by Literature.

You would be amazed at how many things you can get that are in some way inspired by literature.

I love presents that can encourage new interests. Something that I enjoy is learning how to make different cocktails, and last year a friend got me a recipe book of cocktails from movies. It is a really cool gift and it is so much fun to say I’m making a James Bond inspired martini. When I was in London in May, I went to Shakespeare’s Globe and while I was there I found a fantastic book of Shakespeare inspired cocktail recipes.

If you know that someone enjoys cooking or baking, or making drinks, then have a look around and see if you can find a movie inspired recipe book. It is a great gift to give a movie lover, and it also gives someone who enjoys making things a whole new set of recipes to explore.

Coffee table books are another great idea. You can find some beautiful display books that can add the finishing touch to someone’s front room. There are some fantastic books about the art of film, about different classic films, about different authors and their lives, about art etc. These books are usually big and sturdy, and as well as being very informative about a certain topic, they are also great visual pieces for the home.

Would you believe that you can also find candles inspired by books? There are some great candles and I find that Etsy is a great place to browse. A candle that smells like pages of a new book is a candle that I would have burning everyday.

Speaking of scents, perfume can be a wonderful present, and there are scents inspired by that gorgeous scent that is the smell of a brand new book. There are so many different scents, some are musky like a leather-bound books, some scents are warm and cozy and they evoke feelings of sitting by a warm fire with a good book. So I’d say that perfume can be a great gift, as it is also a very personal present. A perfume can make you think of a certain moment or a certain person and perfume can be a way to bottle a memory so I always think it is a lovely present.

You can always add a personal touch to nearly every gift. For example, a piece of jewellery can be engraved with a saying or a quote, which adds a literary touch to a piece that is going to be worn all the time.

There are so many ways to add a touch of literature to your Christmas gifts this year. Books, bookmarks, boxsets, personalised items, tickets, and so much more. You can find different gifts all for different prices so no matter what your price range is, you will find something that the gift getter is sure to love!

I hope you’ve found my 2022 Literature Lover Inspired Gift Guide helpful. I hope you’ve found some inspiration. Enjoy the festive season and enjoy gift getting and gift giving. Ho Ho Ho!

November by Elizabeth Stoddard: A Poem for the Season.

November by Elizabeth Stoddard. 

A poetry discussion by Kate O’Brien. 

Over the past few days, I’ve been reading different poems that have all been inspired in some way by the month of November. 

I’ve said before that I find autumn to be a very inspiring and evocative time of year. 

It is a time of year that seems to inspire descriptions so naturally. Colours seem more vivid and there seems to be a heightened awareness about our surroundings as autumn and winter bring so many physical changes. The nights grow longer, leaves turn gold and red before they fall, leaving the trees completely bare. Writers approach autumn in many different ways. 

Some describe it as a melancholy time, some focus on all of the changes that are happening in nature. Some writers reflect on the cycle of the seasons and comment on how we must lose the leaves in autumn so that everything can bloom again in spring. Some writers love autumn and they write about the beauty that can be found in crisp skies and golden leaves. 

A poem that I came across recently is November by Elizabeth Stoddard. 

It is a short poem, only four stanzas long, and the poem seems to capture everything that I’ve mentioned above. In the poem, Stoddard highlights her fondness for the season, she states that “autumn charms my melancholy mind.” (Stoddard, November, Line 4.)

The second stanza references the changes in scenery, the cycle that nature must follow. 

“The year must perish; all the flowers are dead.” (Stoddard, Line 6.) 

The third stanza discusses the excitement in the air that autumn brings because autumn leads us into the festive season, which is why many people like it. She writes “Still, autumn ushers in the Christmas cheer, The holly-berries and the ivy-tree.” (Stoddard, Lines 9-10.)

The final stanza is what stood out to me. It caught my attention because I found it to be very poignant. Stoddard talks about the stillness of autumn, the quietness of it. It can be a reflective time after all, when one is staring out at grey skies. 

Stoddard’s closing line says “The naked, silent trees have taught me this, —

The loss of beauty is not always loss!” (Stoddard, Lines 15-16.) 

This line is what stayed with me. I find that there is something very lovely about it. 

This is a very straightforward poem in my opinion. Stoddard uses everyday, easy language. 

Nothing is overcomplicated or hard to follow. The poem is short, simple, and yet there is something very charming about it. I think Stoddard captures the emptiness that autumn can bring, but this emptiness does not have to be a bad thing. 

I find that there is something beautiful about grey skies. I find looking out at bare trees and grey skies very peaceful. The emptiness is beautiful in its own way. I always look forward to a new year, there is something very exciting about it. I think I feel this way because I like looking at the new year as an opportunity for fresh starts and new chapters, but this feeling cannot exist without autumn. I like taking time to reflect, to appreciate all that I have and all that I have done. 

The leaves falling almost symbolise the end of one chapter, we say goodbye to the old, to the year that has nearly gone by, before embracing the new. 

The naked, silent trees are peaceful. They are beautiful, and soon they will have new leaves again. That is autumn. It is a time of change. It is no wonder that so many writers enjoy focusing on the season in their works. 

If you have not read November by Elizabeth Stoddard, I would recommend it. 

It is short and sweet, but rather poignant as the poem captures something that is hard to explain, although I feel that I have made a very good attempt at explaining it. 

If you’re not really a poetry lover, but you’re trying to read poetry more often, this is a poem that I would recommend because it is so short. It is an easy read, and this kind of poem does not require readers to have an in-depth understanding of poetic, literary devices. It is simply a charming read. 

I read this poem on www.allpoetry.com

“November by Elizabeth Drew Barstow Stoddard.” By Elizabeth Drew Barstow Stoddard – Famous Poems, Famous Poets. – All Poetry, https://allpoetry.com/poem/8591479-November-by-Elizabeth-Drew-Barstow-Stoddard

Have you ever read this poem? Do you have any autumn inspired poems that you love?

The Heart and the Bottle: Grief and Hope in Children’s Literature.

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers. 

A review by Kate O’Brien.

The beginning of November is a time when many of us think about those who we have lost. 

It feels as though I am stating the obvious when I say that grieving can be a very difficult experience. Grief is a very complex feeling as many people grieve differently, and it is almost impossible to know how you will handle grief until something happens that makes you grieve.

Grief is a prominent theme in many, many works of literature as grief can be expressed in many different ways. When looking at children’s literature, the question of how does one approach the subject of grief with children is a difficult one. 

Unfortunately, children are not immune to bad experiences and loss, so to pretend that children are not impacted by grief would be unfair and unrealistic, however, grief is a complex feeling and so it is a complex topic to talk about in children’s fiction. 

I think it is important that children do see grief in stories, especially because children who are grieving themselves can see something that they relate to, and a story can have the power to be comforting. I also think that it is important that the topic is handled carefully, because while it is important to acknowledge that children do suffer loss and they do grieve too, it is also important that the information is given to children in a sensitive and age appropriate way, so that the story does provide comfort rather than cause more upset. 

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers is a really beautiful story about grief. 

I love this book. I cried the first time I read it because I feel that it depicts grief in a very realistic way, without being too gloomy. The story does not diminish the impact of grief, it does show how much grief can impact one’s life, but there is hope and I think having that hope is very important. 

The story is about a little girl who is filled with wonder and curiosity. Her father fuels this curiosity by reading her lots of stories and answering all of her questions and encouraging her to explore the world and all of its wonders. The girl and her father are very close, so you can imagine how upset the girl was when one day she came downstairs only to find her father’s chair empty. 

That empty chair says everything. 

The little girl’s heart is heavy with grief, and she never wants anything to hurt her heart ever again so she puts it in a glass bottle to keep it safe. This works for a while, the girl feels nothing, but as she gets older, she learns that wrapping away your heart means that while you block out the grief, you’re also blocking out joys. When the girl decides it is time to take her heart back, she finds that it is not so easy to take it back out of the bottle. 

I love this story. I love how true it is. When you build a wall around your heart, it is extremely hard to knock it down again. It is hard to be vulnerable, it is hard to put yourself out there. It is hard to risk another heartbreak, but putting ourselves out there, caring about things, caring about others, loving others, that is where we find joy, but allowing our hearts to love and find joy, means that we risk grief. The risk is worth it though. 

When the little girl locked her heart away, she locked away all of her questions, her curiosity, her wonder, and she no longer took any notice of anything. Instead of locking away her grief, she became consumed by it because locking away your heart means that you are closing yourself off from life. The girl grows up and when she is a grown woman, she sees another little girl who is full of wonder, and this girl reminds the woman of all she has lost, prompting her to want to take her heart back. 

Despite the story highlighting how what started off as a coping mechanism slowly became something that was hurting the girl even more, demonstrating how much grief can consume a person, overall I found it to be a very hopeful tale. One that is about finding happiness again after a loss, and how even though it is difficult, it is worth it. 

Happiness can be found again, it does not mean that we are forgetting about those whom we miss. The little girl’s father always encouraged her wonder, and he would not want her to go through life without experiencing any joys. He would not want her to lose her curiosity. 

The first time I read this story, it made me very emotional and it still does. I still tear up a little when the girl takes her heart back. 

Taking your heart back does not mean that grief ends automatically, and it does not mean that you no longer think about those you miss, but taking your heart back means that you are allowing yourself to live fully again. You’re allowing yourself to experience joy and wonder again, and that is a very hopeful thing. 

If you haven’t read The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers, I would highly recommend it. It is a very poignant read. If you have dealt with grief, I think this book is very relatable and very comforting, and if you have not experienced grief, then this book shines a light on how much grief can impact someone, so it is important to be kind and considerate as you never know how someone can be struggling, even if they pretend that everything is fine. 

Jeffers handles grief in a poignant and beautiful way, and I am very glad that I came across this story.

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.

October isn’t over yet and I’ve decided that Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven is a brilliant poem to read in the lead up to Halloween.

If you’re not a fan of Poe or you are unfamiliar with his work, I would recommend The Raven, because it is one of Poe’s most well-known poems. I would suggest that this poem is Poe’s most famous work, simply because of how often the poem gets parodied.

I recently watched a Halloween episode of The Simpsons. It was one of the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes, season 2, episode 3. The third section of this particular episode is an adaptation of Poe’s The Raven. It was fantastic. If you want to be introduced to this piece in a very fun way, then I would absolutely recommend this episode. The “Treehouse of Horror” episodes of The Simpsons are always great fun. I am a casual watcher, so I had never seen this particular episode before, so I was happily surprised to see that The Raven was featured. Hearing the poem again in this episode reminded me of just how much I enjoy the work of Edgar Allan Poe.

The Raven was published in 1845 and it is made up of eighteen stanzas.

I really love this poem because I think it is a piece that really demonstrates Poe’s writing style. It is no secret that I am a fan of gothic literature. I enjoy the way gothic literature subverts expectations and builds suspense. Gothic stories often take place in very vivid settings. To sum up; I love gothic literature because of how evocative it can be.

It has been said that Edgar Allan Poe is a brilliant example of a gothic writer. I would have to say that I agree with this statement because Poe’s writing often explores themes of death and despair, while also being on the verge of terrifying. Poe also uses repetition to build up a sense of urgency in his pieces, alongside utilizing descriptions to create very vivid pictures with his words.

The Raven is a poem that encapsulates all of the above mentioned characteristics. The poem is about a man who is desperately lonely and heartbroken after the death of the love of his life. On a cold winter night, a raven taps on the window and on the door. He opens the window, letting the bird in, but he slowly becomes driven mad by this raven.

The raven seems to be talking back to the man, although all the bird can croak out is the word “nevermore”. Now one can ask if the bird is actually croaking out that word? One interpretation could be that the man is imagining the bird is responding to him, or one could imagine that perhaps this bird is somehow communicating with this man.

I would say that this poem is about a man who is descending deeper and deeper into sadness and despair after the death of his wife. He thinks about how the bird will soon leave the room, leaving him, just as his loved ones have left him. The man goes on to question if he will someday be reunited with his love Lenore, but all the bird says is “nevermore”.

The man becomes more and more distraught by the raven’s response. His sadness turns to anger as he gets angry at the bird constantly saying “nevermore”. The man is driven mad by the raven, and he decides the raven is a thing of evil.

In all of my readings about The Raven, something that I have come across many times is that apparently Poe himself stated that the raven was a symbol of grief, and he felt that a raven suited the dark theme of the poem.

One could also say that this poem is a gothic romance, as it is about a man who is utterly devastated by the loss of his love, clearly showing that his love for Lenore remained just as strong after she died. He hopes to be reunited with her someday. His grief drives him so mad that he asks a raven questions that the bird cannot possibly answer.

The Raven is a beautiful, musical poem despite being so very sad. This poem is a lovely one to read aloud, and I would say that this is due to Poe’s frequent use of alliteration and repetition.

Theory Time.

Poe has used trochaic octameter in The Raven.

What does this mean?

This means that each poetic meter has eight trochaic feet in each line, and each foot contains a stressed syllable that is followed by an unstressed syllable. This is a meter that is not used often, however I would say that the rhythm it creates, paired with Poe’s alliteration and repetition is why this poem became so famous. It is musical. It flows off the tongue beautifully, and you can’t help but become passionate when you say it aloud, because you become urgent, just like the man does.

I think that the poem is very evocative because there is a lot of onomatopoeia used by Poe.

Onomatopoeia is when a word sounds like what it describes  – “buzz,” “whoosh,” “splat.” These are words that are great examples of onomatopoeia.

I would argue that Poe uses quite straightforward language. The poem is easy to follow, however the repetition of very similar words can leave the reader slightly tongue twisted on the first attempt.  

The Raven is an evocative, gothic poem that makes for a very eerie, moving read. It is an especially brilliant poem to turn to when one is studying poetry as this poem allows readers to analyse several different poetic literary devices such as alliteration, onomatopoeia, repetition, imagery, etc. as mentioned above. It is one thing to talk about literary devices, but it is really helpful when you can see how a writer has used these techniques to create something very beautiful and very musical.

If you’ve never read The Raven then I would highly recommend that you do. It is a brilliant October read.

Do you have a favourite poem? Let me know.

Kate xo.

Irish Book Week: Irish Books & Irish Authors.

It is #IrishBookWeek! 

Ireland not only has a rich, literary history, but Ireland is also home to some extremely talented & creative writers. 

This week is Irish Book Week and if you follow me on instagram @katelovesliterature, then you will already know that everyday this week I have been recommending a book that is written by an Irish author or written in Irish. 

If you don’t follow me Instagram – you should, there’s lots of fun posts happening on my page all the time – but if you don’t follow me there that’s okay because I am going to list my recommendations right here on katelovesliterature.com

#1 

The Dog Who Lost His Bark. 

Written by Eoin Colfer, illustrated by PJ Lynch, & published by Walker Books, this book is a heartwarming tale about a boy & his dog. These two need each other & they get each other through hard times. I would recommend this book for anyone aged 9+. It is important to be aware that there are some mentions of animal mistreatment that more sensitive readers may struggle to read. Overall, this story is warm & up-lifting.

I’d highly recommend it. 

#2

Irish Fairy Tales. 

Written by James Stephens, illustrated by Arthur Rackham, & published by Macmillan & Co., this book is a stunning collection of legendary tales, all set in medieval Ireland. If you’re a fan of Irish mythology, this is a fantastic read. This book is a rich addition to any bookshelf. 

#3 

Beag Bídeach 

Written by Sadhbh Devlin, illustrated by Róisin Hahessy, & published by Futa Fata, this charming story is about a little girl who sometimes wishes she could actually go inside her doll’s house to play with them instead of her little brother. I’m sure this is an idea that many children, and let’s be honest, many adults will be able to relate to. This story is a great way to introduce children to the Irish language & encourage them to read in Irish outside of the classroom. 

#4 

An Slipéar Gloine 

Written by Fearghas Mac Lochlainn, illustrated by Paddy Donnelly, & published by Futa Fata, this story is an Irish language picture book that tells the timeless story of Cinderella through delightful rhymes that are accompanied by magical illustrations. 

This enchanting picture book recently won the Gradam Réics Carló 2022! 

The story of Cinderella has always been my favourite fairytale. It holds a special place in my heart & I’m delighted to have a beautiful Irish version on my bookshelf. I’d highly recommend it. Is breá liom é!

There are so many more Irish authors that I could write about & I hope to keep expanding my collection of books that are written in Irish. One week dedicated to Irish books is just not enough. Sometimes I’m convinced that I could talk about books for eternity. 

I really enjoy recommending books. I also enjoy the challenge of trying to describe a book in just a few words, while attempting to do it justice. All of the books I’ve mentioned above are such charming reads. I will be publishing more recommendations going forward, & I will continue to speak about Irish authors & Irish books even after #IrishBookWeek ends. 

My biggest goal is to continually broaden my horizons & always add to my bookshelf. I want to read books from all writers, from all places, from all backgrounds, so I will not only be talking about Irish authors, but as many authors as possible. 

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Follow me on Instagram & TikTok if you don’t already. It’s lots of fun. My handle is always @katelovesliterature

I love hearing opinions, comments, & feedback so don’t be shy, let me hear your thoughts. 

Let’s talk about literature!

The Tell-Tale Heart.

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. 

Edgar Allan Poe’s short story was originally published in 1843. 

Poe’s short story is written in the first person point of view, and an unnamed narrator takes us through how they decided to kill an old man. The unnamed narrator describes how they committed the murder, and the guilt they felt after the murder, all while they attempt to assure readers of their sanity. 

Poe’s story is unsettling as it is full of contradictions. The narrator has no reason to kill the old man, but does so because they are driven mad by his eye. Poe is purposely very vague. We do not know who the old man is in relation to the narrator, which leaves the story open to many interpretations. 

Is the narrator the old man’s son? Is the narrator related to the old man at all? Is the narrator a man or a woman? Is the narrator a caretaker? A servant? We don’t know. We don’t know anything about the narrator other than the fact that the narrator is driven mad by the old man’s glass eye. The narrator describes the eye as being like a “vulture’s eye” and the narrator is so tormented by this eye that they decide to act on their murderous thoughts. 

I’ve always interpreted this short story to be about how one can be haunted by their conscience. I would suggest that the story’s main theme is the idea of one being driven mad by guilt. 

The narrator kills the old man and disposes of his body by dismembering him and hiding him in the floorboards. The narrator cannot get away with murder because they are haunted by a thumping sound, a beating sound. The narrator is driven mad and prompted to confess by the sound of what they believe to be the old man’s beating heart, just as the narrator was once driven mad by the old man’s eye. 

The narrator is consumed by guilt, consumed by the idea that others can hear the heart too, and so ultimately, the narrator confesses their crime to the police, hence the title the tell-tale heart. 

Poe’s writing style is very intriguing, very gothic. He uses repetition and choppy sentences to pull readers in. The story is an enticing mix of matter of fact yet bizarre. The narrator is many things. The narrator is cold, calculated, and unflinching as they commit murder, but the narrator was driven to commit murder by an obsession with the old man’s glass eye. One must ask, why did the glass eye bother the narrator so much? Why would a glass eye bother someone so intently that they commit murder? One can ask if the eye represented something? Something that us readers are not privy to.

Poe’s short story begins in media res. This means that when the story begins, the plot is already in motion, so readers are immediately taken in by the narrator’s voice. “I loved the old man,” the narrator says, adding, “He had never wronged me.” (Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart, 1843.)

 The narrator is already speaking when the story begins, so immediately readers are tasked with attempting to understand the narrator. 

The story is written in the first person which means that we don’t learn anything about the old man beyond what the narrator tells us. The narrator states that they loved the old man, and that they really had no reason to dislike him or hurt him, but readers have no idea if this is true. The narrator also informs readers that they are sensitive and terribly nervous, and prone to hallucinations, so already we can say that this narrator is an unreliable one. 

If the narrator is of a very nervous disposition, then there is no way to know if one can trust that events happened the way that the narrator says they did. 

Sanity is brought up a lot in this short story. The narrator constantly wants to reassure readers that they are sane, but this talk of sanity is directly clashed against the narrator’s description of a cold and calculated murder. It’s very strange, because the narrator being driven to murder by a glass eye is irrational, but they carry out their plan to murder the old man without wavering. The narrator dismembers the body and hides it without flinching. These are not the actions of an extremely nervous person. 

The narrator’s nervous disposition is obvious again only after the murder has been committed. The body is hidden, and now the narrator is tormented by the sound of the old man’s beating heart. The heart, arguably, represents a guilty conscience. I think it is fair to say that the heart is not actually still beating, but the narrator is feeling so guilty about their actions that they believe they can hear the heartbeat. Seeing as it is October, one could interpret this short story as a ghost story and say that perhaps the heart is still beating and the old man is purposely haunting the narrator so that the narrator will confess. 

One could also examine the idea of power that exists in this story. While we don’t know who the characters are, one can assume that the old man is in a higher position than the narrator. The “vulture’s eye” is always watching, so the narrator wants to close the eye forever. 

The idea that the old man’s glass eye is always watching could lead one to believe that the old man was always critiquing the narrator, always making the narrator anxious about their actions, but we cannot know this for sure because the story begins when the old man is already dead. The fact that the old man’s heartbeat haunts the narrator and forces a confession demonstrates that the old man had power over the narrator even in death – that is of course if we are looking at this like a ghost story. 

If one does not look at this as a ghost story, but rather as a story about how a guilty conscience can be all consuming, it is not the old man who has power over the narrator in death after all. It is the narrator’s guilt that has the power, because that guilt gnawed away at the narrator so much that they believed they could hear the old man’s heart. The narrator’s guilt is their undoing. The narrator confesses to escape the sound of the heartbeat. One could ask if the narrator didn’t confess, would they have gotten away with it? One can imagine that the police cannot hear the heart, but the narrator’s guilt and paranoia makes them believe that they can, proving that the sound of the heartbeat is all in the narrator’s mind. 

One can ask, did the heartbeat drive the narrator mad? Or were they struggling with madness all along? Would a different point of view reveal more details? Of course, but I think the reason this story is so intriguing is because there is so much we don’t know, it is extremely vague, so it forces interest. 

I think that the narrator was driven mad by their own guilt, and had they not confessed, they may have gotten away with murder. I don’t think it is a ghost story, I don’t think that the heart is actually still beating, but I do think it is interesting to imagine it this way.

Have you read The Tell-Tale Heart? How do you interpret this story? 

Kate xo.