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.

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 …

The Idea of Home in Children’s Literature & The Importance of Reading in Childhood.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 2022 Children’s Books Ireland International Conference that took place in the Light House Cinema. Before I go any further I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who played a part in making the conference happen and run smoothly. Needless to say events like this are often filled with lots of planning, work, and stress behind-the-scenes, but everyone’s hard work paid off because it was a brilliant event. Thank you again to everyone involved. 

The theme of this year’s conference was the idea of home. The conference was titled All The Way Home, so over the entire weekend, conference goers like myself had the opportunity to listen to authors, poets, and illustrators talk about this idea of home and what the word home means. Home can mean different things to different people. Home can be where we are from. Home can be the house we grew up in. Home can be our family. Home can be our friends. Home can be found and created with another person. Home can be a place that we create. During the heights of the pandemic, home may have been a place we wanted to get away from because suddenly when you cannot leave a place, that place does not seem so comforting anymore. Home can be places that are lost in an instant.We can have more than one home. It may seem dull to some, but the idea of home is an idea that can be explored in many, many different ways. 

There is a reason why so many children’s stories focus on this idea of home. It is a place (or several places) that evokes many feelings in readers and so it is interesting to think about why the idea of home is often promoted in children’s stories. Many children’s stories feature a protagonist who must leave home and go on an adventure. On this adventure, the protagonist will face challenges and make new friends along the way, but the story usually always ends with the protagonist returning home, and bringing their newfound skills and knowledge with them. The journey home in children’s literature aligns quite closely with the quest narrative as in order for a story to be a quest, there must be a goal to be achieved and a journey to make in order to achieve that goal although adult quests can be more complex and perhaps darker, whereas child protagonists will often face age appropriate fears. Having a child protagonist face and overcome a certain fear allows child readers to experience fear in a safe and controlled way, and then when the book protagonist overcomes their fear, this shows the child reader that fears can be overcome so it is quite an empowering moment in the children’s story and this moment usually happens towards the end. 

I recently watched Disney’s The Haunted Mansion (2003), and a great example of what I am talking about can be found in this movie. The movie follows the Evers family as they must learn how to escape the curse of Gracey Manor. Michael Evers is the youngest member of the Evers family and we learn in the beginning of the movie that he is deathly afraid of spiders. When Michael sees a spider, he is so afraid that he is unable to move. The cursed haunted mansion is a place where fears can be exploited and just before we move into the final act of the movie, Michael must face his fear and open a door that is covered in spiders to save his dad and his sister who are trapped behind the door. Michael does face his fear, he opens the door, and he learns that he can do things even though he may sometimes be scared of doing them. 

There are so many movies that focus on this idea of getting home and wanting to get home above all else. Another iconic example is The Wizard of Oz. 

This past weekend lead me to think about several examples, and I started thinking about all of the books that I loved when I was a child and I started to really examine what home means to me. 

There were so many incredibly talented authors, poets, and illustrators at this event. I was pinching myself and I will be for quite a while to come, but Hannah Lee, the wonderful author of My Hair said something during her talk that really stuck with me. Hannah spoke about how she loved the story The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm when she was a little girl, and she spoke about how even though there have been many books that she read as an adult and loved, nothing stuck with her quite like how The Twelve Dancing Princesses did. 

This point really resonated with me because I think that the entire reason I do what I do has stemmed from my love of reading as a child. I was a bookworm. I was a movie lover. I still am a movie lover. I’ve written before about how I love returning to books with adult eyes, because sometimes the book can mean so much more now that I am an adult. Sometimes I like to return to a childhood book because I want that wonderful wave of nostalgia to hit me. 

Home can also be found in stories. Stories can make us feel safe and understood. Stories can speak to us in a way that no-one else can because stories, while they are meant to be shared, can also be a very personal thing. I love Charles Dickens. I love Oscar Wilde. I love Shakespeare. I love Emily Dickinson. I love all of the canonical classical authors that we are told we must learn about, but whenever I think about my favourite stories, I almost always think of fairy tales. 

I think of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. I think about Matilda and The Wind in the Willows.

I think about Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. I think about the works of Lemony Snicket. 

These are the stories that I was enamoured by when I was little. These are the stories that I still love now. Some may be imperfect, some may be outdated, but I love them all the same. I still think they are extremely important. I think about the person that I am today, and without sounding too dramatic, I really do owe a lot to the books I read as a child. Today I consider myself a huge advocate for fairy tales, an advocate for encouraging a sense of curiosity and wonder in children because being curious and being wonderstruck leads to questions. Questioning leads to learning more because we want the answers, and a thirst for knowledge means that the world is open. The more you learn, the more you know, and I think that the more you understand different things, the better experiences you have. 

A love of reading can open up so many doors. I loved reading and I loved watching movies so then I went to drama class. In drama class I learned that I love poetry and prose so I decided I wanted to study English Literature and that is what I did. I worked hard because I wanted to get into my course, and now I’m doing my masters in a specialised area of English Literature and getting the opportunities to do things such as review books for Children’s Books Ireland and attend international conferences where I get to listen to Carson Ellis speak. Carson Ellis has done illustrations for Lemony Snicket. I mentioned above that I adored the work of Lemony Snicket. 

Ten year old me would have been over the moon if she knew that someday she’d get to listen to Carson Ellis talk about her journey and her career. 

I’ve been rather self-indulgent, speaking about myself and it won’t be something that I do very often, but it felt important to me that I attempt to explain, as succinctly as possible, why children’s literature means so much to me. Children’s literature has had a huge impact on my life as the love for reading I had as a child lead me down the path to the work I do today, to the career I wish to have. I know so many others who say the exact same thing so it is crucial that we do not dismiss the importance of reading in childhood. It is crucial that we encourage young people to read and to fall in love with reading. Their curiosity should be cheered on and their enthusiasm should never be dampened. It is crucial that all young people are given the opportunity to fall in love with reading because you never know where that childhood passion may take them. Children need to have access to good quality books and the fact that some schools do not have any library services is just unacceptable. When things need to be cut due to financial reasons, the arts are often the first to go because there is still sadly an attitude that the arts are disposable, or not as important as other subjects. This simply is not true. This attitude needs to be forgotten. So many children thrive creatively. So many children find solace in English class or music class or art class and if you tell a child that their passions don’t matter, that their passions are not important anyways, you are ignoring and crushing potential. 

At the conference, the idea of decoding was discussed a lot. This idea that books are something to be “decoded” saddens me because it just feels like the point of literature is being completely missed. Yes you can analyse a text and study it in detail. You can discuss the themes and decide what you think the author is trying to say. You can spend time figuring out what your interpretation of a piece is, but the idea that a text can be “decoded” in a classroom, the idea that it must have one meaning that is the same to everyone misses the point entirely and defeats the purpose of opening up ideas in the classroom. This kind of thinking leads to children and young people having no interest in their English classes because it is becoming another rigid subject. 

The joy of English Literature is that there is no right or wrong. There is no rigid set meaning that one must commit to memory. You should have the freedom to figure out your own interpretation and then use the text to back up your opinion. It should be fun, it should be exciting. Sharing different ideas and having discussions is all part of the fun. The sharing and expressing of different creative ideas is key and if we lose that then we lose the joy of studying English. 

We cannot be afraid to have creativity in our classrooms. We must let children be curious and excited. We must let them express their thoughts and ideas and this all begins with ensuring that they have books. 

I adore the work that Children’s Books Ireland does. I’ve written an article about why I love the work of this organisation so much which you can read by clicking the link below. 

I’m also going to provide a link to the official Children’s Books Ireland website so you can go and explore the work that they do and learn more about this fantastic organisation by clicking the link below. 

https://childrensbooksireland.ie/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIzpiWqKO1-gIVYoBQBh1_fQ5AEAAYASAAEgJCcfD_BwE

I have quite a few book and movie reviews coming soon here on katelovesliterature.com along with some exciting news that I can hopefully share soon so keep an eye out for updates. Remember you can follow me on Instagram @katelovesliterature. I do a lot on my stories. You can now also find me on TikTok so I’d appreciate it if you’d follow me there too. As always my handle is @katelovesliterature

Is there a book that you loved as a child that still sticks with you to this day? What book is it? I’d love to know. I’d also love to hear some different opinions on the idea of home so feel free to comment below. 

I read every comment and every message and I do my best to respond to every single one as they are very much appreciated, and I do love hearing other people’s thoughts. If you’ve engaged with me here or on Instagram by commenting or sending me a message, you know who you are, and thank you so much for your interest and support. 

Always remember that #everychildareader.

Kate xo. 

Reviewing Children’s Literature.

September is fast approaching and before we know it, it will be time to head back to school and back to college. I am getting ready to enter my final year of my masters. I’m going to be very busy writing my thesis, and I am slightly apprehensive about all the work that is to come, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

I’m very lucky because I truly love my course. I’ve gotten to learn from some brilliant people and I’ve made lovely friends. I’ve also gotten to meet lots of fascinating people.

If you are a consistent reader of my articles here on Katelovesliterature.com, then you will remember that a topic that I am very passionate about is the idea of inspiring and celebrating a sense of wonder and curiosity in young readers. Children’s literature is so important because the books we read when we are young can have such a lasting impression on us, and we take those stories with us into adulthood. I believe that developing a love for reading when you are young can open so many doors for you in life. Reading encourages you to use your imagination, and reading expands your vocabulary. Reading also allows you to read about different people, different places, different cultures, and when you read about experiences that are different to your own, you develop a sense of empathy for others, even if those characters are fictional, you can take that skill with you into the real world.

Children’s Books Ireland is a national charity and arts organisation and I have been very fortunate as throughout my course, I have gotten the opportunity to hear members of the Children’s Books Ireland team speak about the wonderful work that they do.

I am going to provide a link to the official website below. I highly encourage anyone who enjoys reading to go to the website and read about the brilliant work that Children’s Books Ireland does. A brief summary is that Children’s Books Ireland is a brilliant organisation that strives to help young people develop a love for reading, and engage with stories.

If you go to the Children’s Books Ireland website, you will see that the organisation’s mission is to inspire a love of reading in children and young adults. Children’s Books Ireland believes that every child has the right to access wonderful books so that they can understand the importance of reading. The vision of Children’s Books Ireland is that every child is a reader, and this is a vision that I personally love.

The more I’ve gotten to learn about Children’s Books Ireland and the work that they do, the more impressed I’ve become. I think that all children have the right to read, and it is so important that the resources are available because the benefits of being a book lover should not be inaccessible. I love seeing children fall in love with books, I love hearing their thoughts and their opinions. I feel that children so often remind rooms full of adults that they are more intelligent and more insightful than they are given credit for. I also love seeing that childhood love of reading develop into a love for literature as an adult, and as we grow, our literary interpretation skills grow alongside our critical thinking skills, so I know that I will forever be an advocate for stressing the importance of reading in childhood.

Children’s Books Ireland is an organisation that does many things, but one of my favourite things about the organisation is their book gifting scheme. All of this work is detailed on the website, you can go online and read all about their various projects, one of them being the book gifting scheme which allows Children’s Books Ireland to gift books to libraries, schools, educational and healthcare settings, and other children’s charities. This scheme alone allows Children’s Books Ireland to help ensure that resources are available and accessible to those who need them, and Children’s Books Ireland also strives to share knowledge so that adults can learn about various different books and ideas so they can then go on to influence and teach children in the best way possible.

I’m very excited to share that I have also gotten involved. I am now a reviewer for Children’s Books Ireland. I’ve been lucky enough to receive some lovely books that I’ve had the pleasure of reading and reviewing. It has been a joy to receive lovely new stories and being a reviewer has allowed me to read stories that I may not have ever chosen myself. It is a new experience that I am thoroughly enjoying. I hope to continue to review books as I want to keep learning. I want to continue to expand my knowledge of all kinds of literature from children’s to YA, to picture books etc.

I’m really enjoying this opportunity to engage with new authors and illustrators whose work I maybe haven’t seen before. The books are always different so I am getting to engage with different kinds of stories and different kinds of lessons. It is a joy and I truly feel that it is a pleasure to be involved with this organisation even in the smallest way. I’m very excited to keep learning, and I am very grateful for this opportunity.

Two of my reviews are now available to read on the Children’s Books Ireland website.

I’ll link them here as I am so excited about this. It is surreal to see my name in print on a platform of this calibre. The fact that my reviews are there to be viewed by all is really special. I couldn’t be happier.

If you’re a book lover, if you’re a parent/guardian of a book lover, if you believe in fostering and encouraging a love for reading in children then get yourself over to the Children’s Books Ireland official website and educate yourself about the organisation. Learn about what they do, learn about their events, learn about all of the support they provide, learn about how you can get involved if you’d like to.

Links below:

Click here to visit the Children’s Books Ireland official website https://childrensbooksireland.ie/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw_7KXBhCoARIsA

Click here to read my reviews on the Children’s Books Ireland website

https://childrensbooksireland.ie/our-recommendations/kings-ship

https://childrensbooksireland.ie/our-recommendations/princess-olivia-investigates-wrong-weather

Always remember #everychildareader.

Kate xo.

English Grinds.

Are you sitting your Leaving Certificate in June 2023?

Are you dreading the English paper?

Do you struggle with poetry? Is your set Shakespeare play confusing you?

Let me help.

Starting in September 2022, I am going to be offering English grinds.

You can contact me for details by emailing katelovesliterature@gmail.com.

I got a H1 in English. I went on to study English Literature in college after doing my Leaving Cert.

I graduated with a BA in English Literature. I got a distinction and I ranked 3rd in my college course. I am currently studying English Literature at Masters level, specialising in children’s literature. I’m very calm, very patient, and I believe that I can help you form a better understanding of whatever it is you are finding difficult, whether its poetry, prose, or grammar.

I like to take things step by step. I believe in explaining things in the most straightforward way possible. It doesn’t matter if you ask me to explain the same thing ten times, the goal is to help you feel the most confident you can about sitting your English paper.

I know that many people dread the English paper. It can be intimidating as there is a lot of ground to cover and people can feel stressed about running out of time, so if I’m giving you grinds, not only will we go through your material, but we can also talk about time management in the exam.

The Leaving Cert is a stressful time. English is a daunting subject for some. If you’re struggling then please contact me because I’d love to help.

For any information about my English grinds, such as times, session plans, and session rates, please contact me via email – katelovesliterature@gmail.com.

Kate xo.

Dante’s Inferno: Dante’s Impact.

It has been a while since I have written about poetry. I’m exploring lots of different things at the moment. I am working on a few different projects that I will be able to mention soon so I have not been watching or reading certain things as frequently as I used to. 

I’m thinking about following a less structured approach and writing about what I gravitate towards rather than feeling like I have to watch something or read something specific. 

I will still discuss movies, books, plays, poems, and short stories, but I also want to discuss writers, writing styles, picturebooks, music and so much more so I feel like I’m going to choose my topics more spontaneously for a while. 

I have been to London and I am just home from Italy, as you will know if you keep up to date on my Instagram page @katelovesliterature

In London I went to Shakespeare’s Globe and I bought some beautiful books, so lately I’ve been reading lots of Shakespeare and I would love to discuss his works in more detail. Stay tuned for that. 

In Italy, we went to Florence and we visited the House of Dante. If you have not read my piece all about the trip then you should and you can if you click the link below. 

https://katelovesliterature.com/

That link will take you to my piece entitled Italy 2022 –  Four Cities, Six Days. 

In that piece, I spoke about our entire trip to Italy, including the day we spent in Florence. 

My boyfriend and I both love Dante. We’ve both studied his work at different times in our lives so going to visit the House of Dante was a stop that we were both really looking forward to. 

I would highly recommend it. I believe the entry fee was €8 each. It was beautiful. We really enjoyed walking around the house and seeing all of the history being displayed. Dante’s life and his contribution to literature was being celebrated. 

Dante was one of the most influential poets. His work The Divine Comedy is an epic poem and it is considered to be one of the greatest and most important pieces in the Italian language. 

Dante’s work was influential in many ways. Dante’s depictions of Heaven and Hell in The Divine Comedy have had a huge impact on how society today pictures Heaven and Hell because his work heavily influenced Western art. Dante’s work has been interpreted countless times. 

It truly is amazing when you think about how Dante wrote this poem in the 14th century and yet the poem’s themes will always be relevant. The work asks questions such as what is evil? 

I think about this question often in 2022. What is evil? One could look at the news and come up with a hundred different answers or more. People have clashing opinions about what is and is not evil. 

I take this question, a question that Dante put forward in the 14th century, and I bring it into context in 2022, and I think about what literature does with that question today. I feel that this question has been expanded. Now, we don’t just ask what is evil? We ask how does something or someone become evil? We ask, is evil born or is it made? We think about concepts like nature vs nurture. 

The questions and themes that exist in Dante’s work may have changed and evolved over time but the questions still stand. Dante could easily be studied alongside a contemporary work as I think it would be really interesting to examine how works from extremely different times tackle very similar questions. 

Dante is also highly influential because he insisted on writing his works in Italian rather than in Latin. While The Divine Comedy is indeed an epic poem that tackles complex questions and portrays a man’s physical and emotional journey to Hell before he finds divine love, the poem is written in an easy-to-understand style. When Dante was writing this work, Italian was the language of the people. At this time, most poetry was written in Latin, however only the most educated readers would be able to read Latin and Dante wanted his work to be more accessible so he wrote in Italian and by doing so, he established using vernacular and colloquialisms. He even uses cheeky, dirty humour in his poems. 

I think this is brilliant because even today, the arts being accessible to all is still a relevant topic. Tickets can be very expensive, academic journals can require a subscription, sometimes things are written in a style that is just too complex which means that not everyone can follow. Places are not always accessible to everyone. Being able to afford experiences and being able to attend these experiences is really important. 

It is so important to acknowledge history. There was a time when only the rich could read. 

Thankfully, over time, things continue to evolve. I have written about how I really loved the fact that theatre was live streamed during the pandemic so that theatre could be enjoyed from home and while I am delighted to be able to attend shows again, it is important to remember that not everyone can and we should not abandon other options just because we can be in an audience again. The arts being accessible is really important and shows were just one example of this. 

I think it is pretty cool that we see things written in easy, straightforward, everyday language, we can nod to Dante because he felt that was important all the way back in the 14th century and it just demonstrates the impact that someone can have. 

In the House of Dante, I bought a beautiful illustrated edition of Inferno. 

I think my plan is to read it and then write about it in sections as it is a big work. 

I look forward to writing more about it. 

Have you read any of Dante’s works? Let me know. 

Kate xo.

Italy 2022 – Four Cities, Six Days.

When I started planning my trip to Italy, I did not envision visiting four cities in six days; however that is exactly what happened. It was one of the best holidays, I did so much, and I fell in love with Italy.

I’m going to talk about each place we visited. I am going to share snaps so keep an eye on my Instagram grid @katelovesliterature.

Italy is a beautiful place and the cities that we visited are filled with so much history, art, and literature so it was a pleasure to explore.

I already know that I want to visit Italy again and perhaps even go on a longer trip because there are places that I’d love to return to and there are places that we did not get to see this time that I would love to see in the future.

Overall, I feel very lucky that I was able to go on such a lovely holiday. It has been a stressful few weeks, filled with changes, and I have a really busy year ahead however I know that I am doing exactly what I should be doing because putting all the stress to one side, I love what I do so I am very excited to see what this next year brings.

Let’s dive into Italy, 2022.

Naples.

I have to be honest. When we first decided to go to Naples, I was happy with the decision, but as time went on and as more people gave me their two cents, I grew a little bit anxious about this choice as I had heard mixed reviews about the city.

I have anxiety, I don’t discuss it on Katelovesliterature.com because it is unrelated to literature, but I do have anxiety and this trip was going to be my longest trip away from home after two years. I was not travelling with family this time, so I was already a little apprehensive as I really wanted the trip to go well.

I was never happier to be wrong. All of the nerves that I had were quickly put to rest when we arrived. I loved Naples, and I would 100% go back to Naples as we only had two days there which in the end just was not enough time.

It does not matter where you go, every city has some great and some not so great. You have to be careful and you have to have a head on your shoulders no matter where you go. Naples is a bustling city. It is called the city of chaos and it is easy to see why it has such a title. It is busy, it is loud, it is hot, and yes there is a lot of graffiti however, I could say the same about Dublin, aside from maybe the hot part because we all know that Irish weather is temperamental.

Naples is full of life. It was unbelievable how one street could seem busy and unremarkable, but then you would turn a corner and be faced with a sight of beauty. The buildings were beautiful, some of the architecture, and some of the statues were just incredible. The artwork that you would just stumble upon was something else and we had the best time just exploring.

We stayed in the historical district and I absolutely would stay there again. My favourite part of our brief stay in Naples was when we found a lovely little restaurant directly across from the university. It was a perfect night. It was hot, we were relaxed. We sat outside and drank wine and ate the most delicious pizza – We’ve decided that Naples did have the best pizza although I liked how crispy the pizzas are in Rome.

The university was lit up at night, the waiters were so kind, the atmosphere was incredibly relaxed. Everyone was happy to just eat, drink and relax. We sat in that square until the restaurant closed at midnight and then we stopped at a bar for a final drink before we went back to our room. The city was busy, even at night, so I did not feel in any way unsafe while we were walking back so late. I was and still am pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed being in Naples.

It was a lesson for me – do not let others get in your head about where you are going. Their experience is not your experience and you have to be careful no matter where you go.

If you’re considering going to Naples and like me, you have heard many mixed opinions, I would say that you should go and see for yourself what you think.

Naples is filled with a bustling charm, it’s busy and it is indeed chaotic, but it is definitely a city that I will be visiting again and for longer next time.

Pompeii.

I am a history lover so I could not be only a short train ride away from Pompeii and not visit the ruins. From Napoli station, we got a train to the city of Pompeii and it was incredible.

It was hot, so hot that I went and bought a big straw hat because I am very fair and when you’re exploring the ruins there is very little coverage from the sun so if you’re going to explore then it is vital to have a hat, sunglasses, sun cream, and make sure to carry a bottle of water or two with you.

We landed in Naples on Sunday and the very next day we went to Pompeii for the day so we were still adapting to the heat and the fact that we were on our holidays. I had my first little cup of gelato in Pompeii. It was delicious. I opted for strawberry so it was more like a sorbet but I still really enjoyed it and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the shade and cooling off for a bit.

Walking around the ruins of Pompeii was something I’ll never forget. It was beautiful, but it was hard at times because it was so hot and the terrain is not exactly smooth. We did come close to twisting our ankles a few times so if you’re going to the ruins be sure to wear comfortable shoes. I had runners on with my little sundress and I was increasingly happy with that decision as I could not imagine doing that walk in sandals.

We opted to explore ourselves rather than go on a tour, this is a choice we made at several places throughout our trip. We chose to explore by ourselves simply because we like to move at our own pace and we had specific places saved that we wanted to see and so we searched for those and doing that allowed us to skip over places that we didn’t mind missing or if there was a place that we explored but then wanted to move on to something else, being by ourselves meant that we could just move on when we were ready to as opposed to having to wait for a guide to move us on. That being said, we did see some tours taking place and we overheard some guides speaking to their groups and everything they said sounded really interesting so if you enjoy tours or you want a more structured experience then there are some great tour options however exploring ourselves is what suits us best.

The ruins are huge. I think we definitely underestimated how big they are and how long we would spend exploring them. We were there for hours and I still don’t think we saw everything but we did see one of the most incredible views.

I found myself overwhelmed quite a few times on this trip. Being in the city of Pompeii was one of those times. There was something so surreal about exploring the ruins and walking around and seeing what was left of a place. There was a still feeling in the air that is very hard to explain. I think that feeling comes from standing in a place that is so steeped in history and the ruins are quite literally moments in time. It is so strange to think about how those ruins were once filled with life. It is almost hard to believe that a place has been there for so long. I would highly recommend exploring Pompeii.

Florence.

From Naples we took the train to Rome, but then we went and spent the day in Florence and because we only had one day in Florence and then a few days in Rome, I’m going to talk about Florence first.

Florence is a charming city. I keep thinking about the entire trip and I go over all the places we visited and while I enjoyed each city, and while I would return to each city, I keep going back and forth between whether my favourite city was Florence or Rome.

I think one of the most stunning sights is the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. It is breath-taking. The gothic architecture is stunning. The level of detail and craftsmanship and art that went into these buildings is unbelievable. It seems as though I am repeating myself. I say stunning, unbelievable, beautiful, a lot but this is because it is true. I found myself lost for words so many times while I was in Italy. I found myself moved to tears more than once because I was just stunned by what I was seeing and at times I was almost in awe of where I was.

The highlight of my day in Florence was visiting the House of Dante. The house is on the sight of Dante’s birthplace and in the house, his work is displayed. For those who may not know, Dante was an Italian poet. He was also a philosopher. Dante is considered the greatest Italian poet. I would argue that his most iconic and most well-known work is his epic poem entitled The Divine Comedy. The poem is considered one of the most important pieces of literary work, and it is considered the greatest work in Italian.

I love Dante. I loved studying his work and so being in the House of Dante was a very special moment. There is a certain verse that always brings tears to my eyes whenever I read it and seeing it displayed in his birthplace brought tears to my eyes again. I never tire of his work. It does not matter how many times I read it. Being there was incredible. Seeing literature respected and remembered and celebrated was incredible. The world was and is filled with talented people and seeing where one of the most influential and important poets was from was really amazing.

Rome.

Rome was a dream. Walking through Rome was like walking through a painting. I loved Florence but I think Rome has to be my favourite. I found myself in awe so often in Rome. I found myself in very thoughtful and reflective moods. I found myself at peace and also incredibly happy.

From the Trevi Fountain to the Pantheon, from the Castel Sant’Angelo to the Vatican, Rome was a sight to behold.

The night we arrived, we got all dressed up and we had dinner outside, sitting directly across from the Colosseum. It is hard to find a better view than that. We sat there as the sun went down and the Colosseum became lit up. We just sat enjoying our drinks and the incredible surroundings. The food was amazing. I had a delicious ravioli and some really lovely cocktails and then we got a pizza to share. The pizza in Rome is very different to the pizza in Naples. In Naples, it is rich and doughier and the cheese is just falling off the pizza because it is so hot. In Rome, the pizza is thinner and the crust is crispier. Personally, I love a crispy crust so I really enjoyed this; however overall we decided that Naples did have the best pizza.

In Rome, I went on a tiramisu tour. I tried it in nearly every restaurant. It quickly became my favourite dessert. I had never had it before I went to Italy and it was one of the things that I was most looking forward to tasting. I loved it. Nothing beats starry nights, fairy lights, a lovely glass of wine and a plate of tiramisu. It was perfection.

One of my favourite nights was the night we went to the opera in Rome. We saw the three tenors at Saint Paul’s Within The Walls and it was utterly brilliant. The church was the most amazing backdrop. It was stunning. The high ceilings meant that the sound travelled in the most amazing way. The singers did not even need microphones. They just projected into the church. The pianist was fantastic, the other musicians played beautifully. The three tenors themselves had incredible, strong, beautiful voices and they were accompanied by the most lovely and graceful ballerina.

The songs were all in Italian naturally, but that didn’t matter because it was just so beautiful. I love a night filled with beautiful music and it was actually just incredible to hear these arias sung and performed in Italian. I had the best night.

One of my favourite finds was a lovely rooftop bar that was about a ten minute walk from where we stayed. It was beautiful. There is nothing better than looking out over a beautiful city that is all lit up and taking in the views with a cocktail in hand. I was overwhelmed when I was in the city on that terrace that was filled with candles, flowers, lamps and fairy lights. We had a perfect seat, right at the edge of the railings so we were overlooking the entire Piazza Navona. I had a cosmopolitan in hand and I was just admiring the views and I got utterly lost in thought and being there on that rooftop was one of my favourite moments. I was so happy and I was aware of how happy I was and I think that feeling is why I have to say that Rome was my favourite. I loved each moment of the trip and I had a brilliant time in each place we visited, but Rome gave me this incredible feeling that I don’t think I’ll forget for a long time. It was very special so that is why Rome, the eternal city, is absolutely my favourite.

That was my trip. Naples, Pompeii, Florence, and Rome. Four cities, six days, and memories that I will keep forever.

Kate xo.

Singing In The Rain.

Singing In The Rain is a show that is not to be missed. It was one of the most fun, upbeat nights I’ve had in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. 

I’m a big fan of the movie, it was one of my grandmother’s favourites so I watched it a lot when I was younger and seeing it on the stage was fantastic. 

The plot is focused on the transition from silent film to talking pictures so the musical is filled with the spectacle, glitz, and glamour of old Hollywood. Don Lockwood, a famous silent movie actor must face the fact that he will have to do more than just mime if he wants to keep making movies in this new age. The switch from silence to speaking is not an issue for the talented and charming Mr. Lockwood, however his co-star, Lina Lamont, who is not as talented or as charming, struggles with the new requirements. While Don is exploring new career prospects, he is also exploring his growing feelings for the lovely and talented, but still unknown Kathy Seldon. The pair work together with Don’s best friend Cosmo to save Don’s latest film from being a disaster, but they have to be careful because a jealous Lina is doing anything and everything to get her way. 

The score is joyful. It is so upbeat, so fun, it makes you want to get up and dance. There is also a lovely, old Hollywood charm to the score in my opinion. I don’t think you hear too many songs like Would You? Musicals are changing and they are evolving and so the kind of song you hear in musicals now is very different, and that’s okay. It’s amazing actually. Times change, styles change, and I think it’s great that musicals are always evolving, but I think there is something really lovely about this score. 

My favourite song is You Are My Lucky Star. I think it’s beautiful. It’s light and airy, and there is a simplicity to it that I think is just gorgeous. It is a song that contains lovely long, extended notes that the actress gets to sustain, and there are moments where the voice can bounce. It is so charming, and so graceful, and so lovely. I think it is such a lovely sentiment. You are my lucky star, it is such a lovely compliment. It is a beautiful song, and I was very happy to hear it sung live.

The musical is a tap lover’s dream. I thoroughly enjoyed the dancing that was showcased on the stage. Every single member of the cast did a fantastic job. I love big, fun, loud, dance numbers. I love when members of the ensemble get to show off their skills. I love long dance breaks. I really enjoyed this old school style of show. The title number, Singing In The Rain is just amazing. The song is lively, and the joy is contagious. The number is iconic actually, I think everyone knows about that shot of Gene Kelly swinging around that lamp post. I hate to give anything away, but seeing it absolutely lash rain on the Bord Gáis stage was brilliant. I would see the show again tonight if I could. 

I never have a bad time at the theatre, but Singing In The Rain was an exceptionally good time. 

Have you seen this show? Have you seen the movie? 

Let me know. 

Kate xo. 

*The following pictures were taken by myself, on my own phone, and they may not be shared without my permission.*

My programme.

A shot of the stage before act one started.

Let’s Talk About Literature.

Hello everyone. It’s been a while. I had planned to take a week off and I ended up taking a bit of an extended break. I’m studying, I’m working, and it got to that time of year when assignment deadlines are approaching one after the other so I just had to set aside all of my personal projects and focus on my essays. It has been a very busy time and I’ve really missed posting my literature discussions.

Summer is fast approaching and I have some exciting news coming up. Stay tuned!

In the meantime I have lots coming up as I have a lot to catch up on.

February’s Book Of The Month was Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. I have written my discussion but now that we are halfway through the month of March, I have decided that March’s Book Of The Month will be Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass and I will post a longer discussion talking about both works.

This Thursday I will be back with my #theorythursday series and I have been inspired by my reading of Lewis Carroll so stay tuned for that.

I have finished season one of Twin Peaks and I will be talking about it this Friday and then I will be back with Movie Monday discussions after the weekend.

I hope you all are having a lovely weekend. Happy Sunday.

Kate xo.

The Lion King.

Hello everyone. Happy New Year.

If you follow me on Instagram (@katelovesliterature) then you will have seen on my grid that yesterday I had the pleasure of going to see The Lion King at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in Dublin. The show was stunning and I can’t think of a better way to kick of a new year than a day at the theatre.

As I said in my Instagram caption, I feel very lucky and grateful that I was able to attend the show as I know that sadly many people have to miss out due to new restrictions but I was lucky to fall into the first come, first served category. I have to take a moment to show my appreciation for the cast, the crew, and the staff at the Bord Gáis because despite all the new restrictions and all the rearranging that they have had to do, they delivered an incredible performance. The theatre was spotless as always, the staff were so kind and helpful, everything was really well organised, and I can’t say enough good things about the evening.

I am now going to take a moment to talk about the show itself. I have seen The Lion King once before, I went to see it the last time it came to the Bord Gáis in 2013. When I found out it was coming to Dublin again I bought tickets asap. We are all living through really strange times at the moment, things are changing all the time, we are living with restrictions and disruptions, and I know that at times I get anxious about everything that is going on, as I’m sure many people do, so that is why I think there was something really special about getting to see The Lion King on New Year’s Day. It was the first day of 2022 and for two and half hours there were no worries, the outside world melted away, and I was at the theatre, seeing an amazing show. It was emotional at times, it was fun, it was colourful. The show is simply an artistic masterpiece. The sets are incredible, the costumes and the makeup and the puppetry that is used is so unique and it creates the most incredible visuals onstage. I think that The Lion King is a very immersive show because of the way it is staged, the actors use their entire bodies to convey their characters. The dancing is energetic and lively, the entire ensemble looks amazing at all times because they are portraying different animals and aesthetics and at times the ensemble even add to the scenery. I think that this show is an amazing example of how creativity and artistry work to tell a beautiful story.

The cast received a standing ovation and it was well deserved. The cast, the crew, the creative team, the orchestra, everyone who is involved in bringing The Lion King to life onstage deserves every ounce of praise they receive because the show is something special and I don’t think I have seen anything else like it onstage. It had to be a challenge bringing an animated story to life onstage but they mastered the challenge. I would easily go and see this show again tomorrow if I could.

The music in the show is beautiful. Of course there are the classic songs that everyone knows and loves from the animated movie such as “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King.” and “Can You Feel The Love Tonight.” There are also new songs that have been created for the stage version, and they add a new layer of depth to the show. I think one of my favourite moments had to be when Nala sings “Shadowland.” because it is a beautiful, powerful song and it allowed Nala to showcase what a strong character she is.

A stand out moment has to be when “Circle of Life.” is brought to life onstage. This song is so many things, it is uplifting, it is powerful, it is joyous, and it is poignant because in the circle of life, there are highs and lows, gains and losses, happiness and grief, but we are all connected and the song combined with how it is performed onstage by the entire cast is incredibly moving.

I highly recommend going to see The Lion King if you get the chance to do so. It is a magical show, the plot is compelling, it is not “just for kids”, it is bright, colourful, energetic, heartfelt, and very moving and I guarantee that if you went to see it, you’d have an amazing time.

This has been a Theatre Trip post because as you all know, I love talking about the theatre. I am very lucky to live in Dublin as we have so many wonderful theatres here, and I am lucky to be able to go to places such as the Bord Gáis to see so many fantastic shows.

Happy New Year everyone. I wish you all a happy and healthy 2022.

Onwards and upwards we go.

Kate xo.

A snap of my lovely new programme.