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Archive for the ‘Books I’ve been reading lately’ Category

Corner View – A Good Read

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha


Since becoming a Mum 8 and a half years ago I haven’t had as much time for reading novels as I used to have. When I do read it has often been non-fiction rather than fiction – all very interesting, but not as easy to totally lose yourself in as a really good novel. But when I’m on holiday its a different story (sorry – no pun intended!).

I recently spent two weeks in a holiday house up in Golden Bay – at the northern most tip of the South Island of New Zealand. And in this holiday house was a small bookcase jammed full to bursting with books.  A lot of them I wasn’t all that interested in,  but this one – Memoirs of a Geisha – caught my eye. I remember hearing about it when it was first released in 1997 but for some reason I never got around to reading it. Well – on this holiday I did and I once I picked it up I have to admit I found it difficult to put it down!

It’s written as if it  was a memoir dictated by a geisha to an American historian – indeed I thought it actually was until a good way through the book. I won’t give away anything about the story – apart from to say that it’s main focus is on the relationships between the main protagonist – Sayuri (a young girl taken from her village and sold to a geisha house in Kyoto) and her fellow geisha.  It’s  beautifully written, very insightful about human nature in all its facets,  and it gives the reader a rare glimpse into a secret world full of ritual and grace, competition and revenge, friendship and enmity, tragedy and redemption – a world quite different from what I imagined.

Read it if you get a chance. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

My heart wanders

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

I just finished reading a beautiful book by Pia Jane Bijerk called My heart wanders. It is the story of Pia’s decision to leave her home-town of Sydney, Australia and follow her wandering heart to Paris.  She expresses so well the heartache of leaving home, the sense of ‘not-belongingness’ you feel when you first arrive in a strange place, the length of time it takes to feel ok  – no matter how much you fantasised about how right this place would be for you before you got there.  She also describes the excitement of change and the incredible ability of human beings to make a home wherever they are.

Part-way through her Paris adventure Pia was offered the opportunity to work in Amsterdam and she and her new love Romain decided to go for it. After inevitable settling in pains they ended up feeling truly at home there – living, loving and working together in a houseboat on one of Amsterdam’s many canals. But in the Epilogue Pia told her readers that she and Romain were on the move again – they knew not where – because the owner of their houseboat had decided to sell.

I read this lovely book in one sitting – enchanted by the author’s honesty and by her gorgeous photography and the beautiful design of her book. I’ve tried to give some idea of the loveliness of this book in the photos below though sadly they don’t do it justice. I heartily recommend this book to all wandering hearts, and to all whose hearts have found a home as well.  And I recommend Pia’s blog too – Enhance the everyday – where I found out that she and Romain are now living, loving and working together in Sydney.  And even lovelier – they are now proud parents of a beautiful baby girl called Laly.



Books I’ve been reading – The Great Orlando

Monday, April 16th, 2012

The Great Orlando is the latest book illustrated by my very clever sister Helen Taylor. Helen has been illustrating books for years now and has a large number of titles to her credit. Most of them she has done in partnership with writer Ben Brown but a couple have been done with other authors and two books she has both written and illustrated. I am so proud of her!

One of Helen and Ben’s books – A Booming in the Night (about a love-struck Takahe) won the Picture-book of the Year in New Zealand’s premiere children’s book awards a few years ago.  As well as illustrating books Helen is an artist with paintings in a number of private collections and her work is currently being exhibited at The Little River Art Gallery.

The Great Orlando is quite different from anything Helen and Ben have ever done before – most of their previous books have been about New Zealand birds – and I think it’s one of their best. It’s quite a dark little story – dealing with themes of loneliness, loss and neglect – but it’s beautifully written and, of course, gorgeously illustrated. It’s about a young boy called Sunday Jones whose mother has recently died and whose father is a nasty piece of work. Then one day a talent show is announced at his school and Sunday decides to transform himself into a magician called The Great Orlando and from that point on the reader is taken on a strange and slightly surreal journey where nothing is quite what it seems and nothing turns out quite as you would expect.





An Artist’s Date

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

Last Thursday I took myself on an Artist’s Date . . . an outing just for me. An outing to feed what Julia Cameron, author of  The Artist’s Way, calls ‘the artist within’. An outing to fill my ‘creative well’. I visited a beautiful clothes shop called Annah Stretton where I ran my hands through all the sumptuous fabrics and dreamed of being able to wear such gorgeous clothes.  I went to a little giftshop where I bought myself some red slipper-boots I had been coveting. Finally I had the chai latte pictured above at a small coffee shop and watched the world go by.

The reason I did this is because I have been working my way – for the second time – through Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. The book is essentially a 12-step programme to help people re-discover (or discover) their creativity.  Like the reviewer in the link above I was initially pretty sceptical about this book – it seemed a bit ‘new-agey’ to me – but, like that reviewer, I ended up finding lot of the exercises really useful in helping me unpack why I have spent so many years denying my creativity and refusing to give it any oxygen.

The first time I worked my way through this book (in 2010) I started creating photocollage cards (much to my surprise) – which eventually led me to create my Etsy shop, which I called ‘Eliza’s Dream’, and this blog. This year a photographer friend and I are working through the book together – she for the first time, me for the second. It’s one of those programmes that you’ll always get something from no matter how many times you’ve done it before.

This time round I’m discovering that I still find it very hard to give priority to my creative urges. I tend to see them – and the bursts of creativity they give rise to – as not very important. I’m still struggling to give them enough air. As a child I was always dancing, writing, drawing and singing. As I moved through my teenage years I gradually put all those things away. By the time I was 21 I had stopped doing all of them. Slowly, oh so slowly I have dragged at least some of them back into my life. I started writing again when I was about 26 (though sadly only in stuttering bursts), I started taking singing lessons in my early 30s and I have kept that up. I don’t draw – yet –  but I do take photographs and make photocollages so that’s getting there.

Anyway . . . along with the exercises the two main planks of Cameron’s ‘artist recovery programme’ are  ‘morning pages’ (3 pages of long-hand writing – about anything EVERY MORNING) and ‘artist dates’ – which I described above. I try very hard to do the morning pages (though often they end up being done in the afternoon or evening – particularly since I discovered hot yoga!) but the Artist Dates I find practically impossible. How self-indulgent my ‘rational’ self screams. What a waste of time! I could be doing A, B or C – why should I do something that is just purely for enjoyment. The first time I did the programme I think I managed 4 artist dates out of the 12 weeks. This time I am three weeks in already and my Thursday artist’s date was the first I have been on. Definitely very resistant . . . interesting.

A musical discovery – Noel Mewton-Wood

Monday, November 7th, 2011

I have just finished reading a wonderful novel  – The Virtuoso – inspired by the life of the prodigiously gifted Australian pianist Noel Mewton-Wood who, at the peak of his fame and aged only 31 years, tragically took his own life. The author, Sonia Orchard (a pianist herself), writes with a deep understanding of music and musicians and sometimes when I was reading this book I could almost hear the music she was describing.

As soon as I finished the book I googled Noel Mewton Wood and found, on YouTube, some amazing recordings. Being a huge Beethoven fan I, of course, went straight to his recording of Beethoven\’s Fourth Piano Concerto.

Beautiful, just completely beautiful. What an incredible pianist. I can’t believe I have never heard of him. He was, apparently, very famous during his life time, but he seems to have sunk, almost without a trace, since his death. Thank you Sonia Orchard – your beautiful book has brought him to light for a whole new generation to discover.

Velvet Pears

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

A friend of mine lent me a beautiful book the other day and I thought I would share it. It is called Velvet Pears (Gardening by the seasons at Foxglove Spires) and it is, in the author’s own words “a story about a free-spirited, freckle-faced girl, who made her dream a reality. A story of love and devotion, of determination and triumph. A story of the making of a garden – a garden of memories”.

Susan Southam started her ‘garden of memories’ in 1984 – on a hectare of virtually bare land in the Tilba Valley on the south-eastern coast of Australia. This book lovingly chronicles that process, drawing on entries from the author’s gardening journals which contained not only ideas for her next gardening project but also “a world of emotions”. It’s a gorgeous jewel of a book, crammed with sumptuous pictures of Southam’s beautiful house and her incredible garden. These pictures are often juxtaposed with panels of vintage fabric or wallpaper and at various points certain pieces of text are presented as a book within a book – as in the first of the photos I’ve posted below.  Velvet Pears is beautifully written and incredibly evocative of a life lived in harmony with nature’s rhythms.  It makes me want to get my gardening gloves on!!