Writings From Japan – Lafcadio Hearn – My Review

Writings From Japan - Lafcadio HearnIn Writings From Japan, Lafcadio Hearn shares his impressions of his few months spent here, including memories and impressions of his first day.

In 1853, Commodore Perry negotiated access for American ships to Japanese ports, and the country came out of its self-imposed isolation to open up to the West. Hearn arrived shortly afterwards in 1890, to a land still mysterious and mythical in all aspects of life.

Hearn’s writing reflects his wonder and his growing love and appreciation of Japan, her people and her culture. His lyrical style befits his mood, as if his days pass in a dream:

….the white fire of the Japanese sun is taking that pale amber tone which tells that the heat of the day is over. There is not a cloud in the blue – not even one of those beautiful white filamentary things, like ghosts of silken floss, which usually swim in this most ethereal of earthly skies even in the driest weather.


Hearn spent these first months travelling around Japan (largely by rickshaw, it would seem) not only marvelling at the country, but immersing himself in the culture. This is reflected in the chapter headings: At the Market of the Dead, In a Japanese Garden, Insect Musicians, The Chief City of the Province of the Gods. Much of what he writes may seem like a world now vanished, but it still exists in hidden parts of the country, often in full view.

Indeed, Hearn became so enamoured of the country he never left (he died in Tokyo in 1904), and his writings brought him international recognition. He is seen as one of the first Western writers to bring Japan to life for the Occidental reader, and his works are still taught in Japan. In 1936 a museum was built in Matsue next to the house where he once lived.

For me, Writings From Japan proved a timeless work about a fascinating country. It was a book I left by my bedside and dipped into between other readings; it was a work inspiring me to return to this amazing country, where the past and the present at times meld together, at time sit side by side, and others float in those seperate bubbles of wibbly-wobbly time-wimy bits

Always a reason to return (book in hand).


Death By Books


I live surrounded by books. The photo above is of my bedside table, just to give an idea of what I’m currently reading – plus I also have a ridiculous number on my ipad. Quite often I have books piled on the bed-head as well. One morning my kids will come in and find me buried by the books, only my feet visible. There are worse ways to go.

On rebuilding last year most of our things were stored in the little house. Now we’re planning to demolish it and build a granny flat for my Mum. So, in we go and clear the place out. The little house is comprised of two rooms, a hallway and a bathroom, all of which are full. We literary have to take a box out before we can take a step forward, take out what we can reach, a few more steps forward… it’s been a great chance to declutter. The skip we’ve hired is rapidly filling (which is a tad embarrassing, considering we decluttered when we built last year. Apparently.) As we pull out the flotsam and jetsam of our lives we bring out some books. Boxes and boxes of them. Like an archeological dig, the deeper we go, the more interesting the discoveries. Books we’d forgotten about. Books we remember but haven’t seen in so long. Old friends greeting each other after too much time apart.

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Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty

A medieval scholar
Writing writing writing

I stumbled into reading this book. My first introduction to Moriarty was hearing my husband laugh as he read Big Little Lies. When our kids were younger he had been head of the local school’s P&C. A school very much like the one Moriarty describes. With much the same parents.
Truly Madly Guilty has moved from the school grounds to tree-lined suburbia. Essentially the story revolves around three married couples. Everyday, ordinary couples – and as always with the everyday, they carry their secrets and failings, believing no one else can see them. As the opening epitaph states: Music is the silence between the notes (Debussy). The novel revolves around what is said, and not said – and when the little things aren’t spoken about, they grow to assume profound significance.
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From A Paris Balcony by Ernest Dimnet – A Review

writing pictures0003From A Paris Balcony


How could I resist such a title? I’m not sure where I bought this book; wherever I go I frequent second hand bookshops, stalls at markets, op-shops; anywhere that offers something interesting to browse. The unadorned cover called to me, and I paid all of $1.00.

From A Paris Balcony – what a delightful phrase. How could I not be intrigued?

True to his word, Ernest Dimnet did indeed observe Paris from a balcony. The balcony in question was at the Hôtel Belgiojoso. This can still be seen in the Montparnasse area of Paris, and Dimnet describes the place as “graceful and yet robust, classical but imaginative, mellow in its comparative youth”.

Who could not be enchanted by such a place or writing style: “When September comes, and the early Parisian autumn begins to strew the shrubbery with the ivory balls of the symphorine…”

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What did you say?
I said: Fantômas.
And what does that mean?
Nothing… Everything!
But what is it?
Nobody…. And yet, yes, it is somebody!
And what does the somebody do?
Spreads terror!


So opens the classic French crime novel, Fantômas.

Reading Fantômas, I often forgot the novel was written in 1911 (and translated from the French in 1915). Fantômas is not a gothic villain but a modern serial killer, who shows neither remorse nor mercy for his victims (not even for his son). Violent in his methods, Fantômas is adept at psychological manipulation, and takes delight in his crimes. He is a sadistic sociopath easily recognised in the modern world of crime writing.

Yet as the New York Times then wrote, One episode simply melts away as the next takes over.Juve cleverly pursues him in speeding trains, down dark alleys, through glittering Parisian salons, obsessed with bringing the demon mastermind to justice”. James Joyce described the series simply as “Enfantômastic!” Continue Reading →

The Day Of The Triffids – John Wyndham

writing pictures0003When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere. I felt that from the moment I woke… The way I came to miss the end of the world-well, the end of the world I had known for close on thirty years-was sheer accident: like a lot of survival, when you come to think of it.

From the opening sentence the reader knows they have entered a world which has quite literally changed overnight. Like other great dystopian novels such as 1984, this is not an alien world but our own, so familiar yet different, and it is this contrast which is so important to the effectiveness of the The Day Of The Triffids.

John Wyndham (John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris) published The Day Of The Triffids in 1951 to critical acclaim. A post-apocalyptic novel, it follows the rapid disintegration of society following a world-wide meteor shower which blinded all who saw it. With most of mankind now sightless, the world falls rapidly into decay, hastened by a subsequent unknown plague which rapidly kills those who are infected. All the while there is the ever lurking presence of the triffids, carnivorous plants with the ability to move, to kill – and to learn. Continue Reading →