Diana’s Summer Book Reviews (3) The Dandelion Years by Erica James

Why did I choose this book?

I think it chose me. I picked it up from the ‘for sale’ books at Cowdenbeath Library on my way to the dentist. I flipped it over and read the blurb within which it said,

“Sakia ….. a book restorer, devotes her days tending to broken and battered books, dreaming of the people who turned their pages.”

Instantly I knew it was my kind of book.

Did you feel empathy for any particular character?

Sakia has suffered great loss in her life, losing her mother and both grandmothers in a car crash and she was helped through her formative years to heal by her father and two grandfathers, who in an act of self sacrifice came to live together. For me it was my husband, sister and the local community (that phrase again as so important in my life) here in Kinghorn who have been so supportive. Nevertheless, for Sakia was being cocooned in a caring home making it difficult for her to build relationships and love as she grows up? Could she face losing the world which has protected her?

Is there a lasting thought or memory of the book which remains with you?

Yes indeed; the synchronicity of life. I did not know when I picked up the book that it would include a love story set in Bletchley Park as well as one in real time; the former a place in history I’m very familiar with following research into my own novel MURDER, Now and Then. Also, I am so aware of numerous coincidences occurring in my life as an author. Some may think author using this phenomenon  makes  the story contrived, but in my experience happenings like this are ones I treasure and they make a jolly good yarn with friends!

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Islands of Inspiration (2) ~ Tinos 2022

Two ferries from Sifnos, via Mykanos, and we arrived on Tinos; our second island in the Cyclades, chosen because it didn’t have an airport. Yet again we had no idea what to expect. We were self catering this time and our host suggested we pause our taxi to stock up in Tinos town; valuable advice because the next day was Sunday.

There was another good reason, which dawned on us as we zig-zagged from Isternia down to Ormos Bay and our delightful accommodation.

The nearest shop now, was a mile away, winding back up the cliff!

We were relieved that our fridge was now full and our host reassured us that there were three tavernas and also a sandy beach in the bay.

How the island helped me in mind, body and spirit

With no car this could have been a frustrating location, but we soon relaxed, with the certainty that we were meant to be here, to unwind, to heal from the trauma of the last two years and learn ‘to be’ once more.

Ormos Bay

Most days we wandered down to the beach, had a swim, sat and absorbed the view, enjoyed a light lunch before an afternoon siesta in the shade of the veranda. This gave us time to read, to talk and think of life. What a relief it was to be on holiday in the sunshine.

Most evenings we enjoyed supper at one of the three tavernas, where we were welcomed and treated to mouth watering Greek cuisine.

It was a press the pause button on life; refreshing, calming and just wonderful!

How was I inspired by our visit to Tinos?

Ormos Bay

We only had two trips out ~ one to be dropped off at the top of the hill to enjoy the breathtaking views, an ice-cream and to wander down the winding path back to the bay The path was an amazing feat of engineering from between the world wars. Although I am sometimes scared of heights (why do I live in Scotland you may ask?), the path was wide enough so that I could breath easily. The men who built it were truly inspiring and I’m sure there are stories to tell of those times.

The second trip out was to visit the lovely village of Pyrgos, where carving in marble, a treasure still mined on Tinos, could be observed in awe.

I spoke to one of the craftsman and asked him how much one of the small seahorses on the wall cost. 45 euros was his reply and then he showed me a block of rock he would carve another from, the template and one partially carved. ‘Do you know how many hours one of these takes to make?’ he asked.

I had no idea.

About 80 hours,’ he said.

Wow, I thought and then I compared it to my craft of writing a novel.

  • Loosely planning ideas, beginning, middle and end
  • Several months to write the first draft
  • A couple of months for edits, beta readers and revisions.
  • Working with an editor until the manuscript is ready for publication.

Typically that’s at least six months.

Does the reader appreciate this hard graft?

Would I have appreciated the carver if I hadn’t watched him at work? If I had bought that seahorse in a gift shop?

By a craftsman in Pyrgos, Tinos

I gained much inspiration from Tinos; a beautiful island. I relaxed and felt ready to face the world again, but the greatest lesson I learnt was to value the work I do and to feel proud of it, as the master carver I met certainly does.

How much do you value your writing?

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Diana’s summer book reviews (2)Travels with Epicurus by Daniel Klein

Why did I choose this book?

I didn’t choose it for myself, but as a small Christmas present for my husband to get him in the mood for travelling to Greece and also to think about life. He didn’t read it. It sat beside his bed for ages and so I decided to take it with us and read it myself.

The premise of the memoir is the author’s search for the meaning of life and the pleasures to be pursued in old age. He did this by revisiting the Greek island of Hydra, where he spent some memorable months when he was a young man. He also reflects on life by reading the works of various philosophers over the centuries, including Epicurus who he quotes frequently, as he tries to glean hidden truths as well as the obvious ones.

Did you feel empathy for any particular character?

To be honest, and I’m being sexist here I know, a man would probably identify with Daniel in his search more then I did and greatly enjoy his travel writing and reflection on life. I also tried to read it through my husband’s eyes. Having said that it set the scene for me, in that there we were on a small Greek Island enjoying the freedom after lock down but also thinking ‘what next?’ ~ when we were not just ‘being’!

Is there a lasting thought or memory of the book which remains with you?

The value of companionship “Of all the things that wisdom provides to help one live ones entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is the possession of friendship” ~ Epicurus.

I actually bought the book in Waterstones, Princess Street, Edinburgh, since I try to support my local bookshops.

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