The Maiden Dinosaur

by Janet McNeill – 1964

If it is difficult to accept middle age, is it harder for those who are no longer beautiful and passionate or, especially harder, for those who have never known love?

Sarah Vincent is fifty and, like her group of friends she is resigned to the absurdities of middle age but over the course of a summer Sarah discovers that life can shatter the past, deeply held faiths are destroyed and she discovers that new beginnings, and new love, have always existed for her.

This one was one I had to think on after finishing. One that kinda stays with you for a while, becomes a better read as you ponder it. Sarah is a plain unattractive single woman. Of all her friends from childhood she is the smart one. She lives in her childhood home which has been divided into apartments, rented out to her childhood friends and their children. Sarah seems to be the stabilizing force in everyone’s lives. They don’t see the demons she deals with. Sarah seems to be accepting of her lot in life as the unloved, unlovely one and focus’ on her teaching, students and poetry for which she has somewhat of acclaim for. It’s a time of change, sexual mores are changing. Sarah and her friends meet once a month for tea and discuss life and the changes in the social fabric. We see the differences through one of her tenants, a young married daughter of one of her childhood friends, and one of her students.

There seems to be a balancing act going on in Sarah’s life, trying to maintain between her starvation for love and acceptance of how it is. She seems to be an important part of her friends lives and yet on the edges at the same time. But there are a couple things that happen near the end that shifts this balance and  Sarah’s life changes. In the end I found I really did enjoy this read. Janet McNeill never disappoints!

The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually

by Helen Cullen

IMG_8128On an island off the west coast of Ireland the Moone family gathers, only to be shattered by tragedy. Murtagh Moone is a potter and devoted husband to Maeve, an actor struggling with her most challenging role yet – mother to their four children. Now Murtagh must hold his family close as we bear witness to their story before that night.

We return to the day Maeve and Murtagh meet, outside Trinity College in Dublin, and watch how one love story gives rise to another. As the Moone children learn who their parents truly are, we journey onwards with them to a future that none of the moons could have predicted.

Except perhaps Maeve herself.

I had such high hopes for this book. I really expected to love it. I tried. I just didn’t care for it. Maeve deals with mental illness. They really never clarify a ‘diagnosis’. Severe depression for sure. I would say maybe bi-polar. Being married to someone bi-polar I could definitely identify with Murtagh and the kids. Life with someone with mental illness isn’t easy. I would imagine it is different having a mom with it than a dad.  I don’t care what our ‘woke’ world says, mom is the hub that holds the wheel together. We get different things from her than we do from dad. We need them both.

I think, for the amount of pages, the author missed an opportunity to dig into the relationships and the dynamics the mental illness brought to them, a bit more than she did.  It seemed shallow. Definitely not the level of say a Janet McNeill book. I wanted to like Maeve. But the author just didn’t bring it to the level I could feel for her. I see my husband struggle and ache for him, but I never got there with Maeve.

I did like Murtagh though. I liked his deep love for Maeve, his total commitment to her and his family. Maybe because I can identify with him better. I don’t know. I loved the pottery and the island. But 250ish pages into this book on mental illness’ effect on a family, the book took a sudden turn in a whole different direction. Another cultural hot-button. Out of the blue, no warning. I literally threw the book down on the floor and said NO WAY! Did you have to go there and take away from this important topic.  I did not even finish the last 50ish pages. I felt deceived. I’m sorry I paid good money for this book.

I think I need to just stick to my old books, to Agatha Christie, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Ruth Moore, Elisabeth Ogilvie. I am a grumpy old dinosaur who will not go willingly into the ‘woke’ future. Hate me if you must. So I’ve dug out an old copy of a 1936 John Dickson Carr mystery and got me a cup of tea and I’ll just enjoy the past.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

One more post for Reading Ireland! I have not read this book, yet, but I have seen the movie and it is one of my top five favorites. I never knew until yesterday that the book the movie is based on was written by an Irishwoman! R.A. Dick is the pseudonym for Irish writer Josephine Aimee Campbell Leslie. She was born in Wexford in 1898 and died in 1979 and not much else is known about her. All I can find is three books by her, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Devil and Mrs. Devine and Light and Shade.

1945 hardback

I ordered a copy of the book, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir! A new paperback. I would have loved to have this first edition hardback but it cost $1,000.00! Yikes!

book description: Burdened by debt after her husband’s death, Lucy Muir insists on moving into the very cheap Gull Cottage in the quaint seaside village of Whitecliff, despite multiple warnings that the house is haunted. Upon discovering the rumors to be true, the young widow ends up forming a special companionship with the ghost of handsome former sea captain Daniel Gregg. Through the struggles of supporting her children, seeking out romance from the wrong places, and working to publish the captain’s story as a book, Blood and Swash, Lucy finds in her secret relationship with Captain Gregg a comfort and blossoming love she never could have predicted.

This was made into a 1947 movie and in 1968 a television sitcom!

Have you ever seen the movie? It’s a real delight. I found it free on Internet Archive! You can watch online or ghost-and-mrs_-muirdownload it free. Check it out and let me know what you think. A good gothic romance is a breath of fresh air once in a while. Get yourself a cup of tea or coffee and go curl up and watch HERE! Lots of good movies and old books on Internet Archive!



The Devil and Mrs. Devine: The stor611998y begins in 1807 with the 12-year-old Danielle Bellaires. Abandoned by her father after her mother’s death in child birth, she is unhappily in the care of her father’s sister-in-law. Rebelling, she finds sanctuary in two marriages, each happy in their own way, but each ending with her widowhood. Along the way, the devil causes her to be always 30, as long as she wants to live, although she never actually agrees to his bargain.

Light and Shade: Selina Victoria Verney was eighty, but this was her first chance to fulfil her ambition and travel. So she set off for Central Africa to visit her youngest son, taking her eighteen-year-old granddaughter Jane with her.

The Heat of the Day

195987In The Heat of the Day, Elizabeth Bowen brilliantly re-creates the tense and dangerous atmosphere of London during the bombing raids of World War II.

Many people have fled the city, and those who have stayed behind find themselves thrown together in an odd intimacy born of crisis. Stella Rodney is one of those who has chosen to stay. But for her, the sense of impending catastrophe becomes acutely personal when she discovers that her lover, Robert, is suspected of selling secrets to the enemy, and that the man who is following him wants Stella herself as the price of his silence. Caught between these two men, not sure whom to believe, Stella finds her world crumbling as she learns how little we can truly know of those around us.

This was my fifth book for this year’s Reading Ireland. Cathy hosts this every March over at 746 Books. If you’d like to check out all the links to reviews of Irish literature posted this year head on over HERE.

The Heat of the Day is an excellent book! The writing is very evocative, heavy with meaning in every little movement and word. Ms. Bowen does a great job of pulling you into WWII London, the sense of death every minute, the destruction and despair, how it changes you. Great tension between the characters too! If you like books set in WWII you will really like this one!

I’m not a really eloquent reviewer, but I know someone who is and you can read her review of this novel at Heavenali!

The Death of a Joyce Scholar

IMG_7877by Bartholomew Gill

Who stabbed Irish author/professor/philanderer Kevin Coyle to death on Bloomsday – Dublin’s annual citywide celebration honoring its most beloved literary figure? Who brought the promising career of the brilliant scholar to an abrupt and bloody end on Joyce’s own “Murderers’ Ground?” The list of suspects seems endless – from deceived wives to cuckolded husbands to spike-haired street punks. And Chief Superintendent Peter McGarr is about to discover that the motive for homicide can hide as easily in the pages of a classic book as in the twisted passions of a human heart.

My third read for Read Ireland Month over at Cathy’s 746 Books. The second one I didn’t really like and didn’t finish. It started off good. I liked the description of Peter McGarr, liked him I thought. But as the story went on it got a little ridiculous. The murder victims wife and her sisters got a phone call telling them where her husband was and they got a little garden cart and carried his dead body home and propped him up in bed for three days before calling McGarr. One of his nine children met McGarr at the door and said “Mistar, mistar, are ya a doctor? Me da has taken ill, he has.”. It just got weirder from there. No one seemed to care who murdered Kevin, not even Inspector McGarr. I finally decided I didn’t care either and closed the book. McGarr did not in the end endear himself to me. Not sure I’ll even give the other two books on the shelf a go.

Have any of you read a Bartholomew Gill Inspector McGarr book and should I give another one a go? Is this one just a one off? I’m having a terrible reading month here! Maybe its me and not the books.

John B. Keane

…I often laugh quietly to myself when I hear people say that all the great characters are gone from the world. The characters are still there waiting to be discovered…

IMG_7823John B. Keane introduces us to ‘Corner Boys’, ‘Window Peepers’, ‘Human Gooseberries’, ‘Fortune-Tellers’, ‘Funeral Lovers’, ‘Female Corpses’, ‘The girls who came with the Band’ and many more fascinating characters in Love Bites and Other Stories.

Keane is one of Ireland’s most humorous authors and is recognized as a major Irish playwright. He has written many bestsellers including Letters of a Successful TD, Letters of an Irish Parish Priest, Letters of an Irish Publican, Letters of a Matchmaker, Letters of a Love-Hungry Farmer, The Gentle Art of Matchmaking, Irish Short Stories, More Irish Short Stories, The Bodhràn Makers and Man of the Triple Name. His plays include The Field, The Year of the Hiker, Big Maggie, Sive, Sharon’s Grave, Many Young Men of Twenty, The Man from Clare, Moll, The Change in Mame Fadden, Values, The Crazy Wall and The Buds of Ballybunion.

A wonderful little book full of characters that make you laugh and cry. Each little story is only about 2 1/2 pages long. Perfect to pick up for a quick story when you have a few minutes, need a laugh, or like at my house on the ‘john’, no pun intended! One of them, ‘Hatching’, was a tale of a chicken appointed to sit on a clutch of eggs that weren’t hers. Problem was she wouldn’t cooperate and sit on them! Every chance she got she made for the door and would have to be recaptured and sat back on it only to run again. The family was exhausted…

‘There’s only one cure for the hoor,’ announced an old woman who chanced to call one evening for the loan of a cup of sugar.

‘What’s that?’ we all asked.

‘The bottle,’ said she. We waited for elaboration but none came. We asked again.

‘What bottle,’ said she, ‘but the hot stuff.’

Of course we all knew what the hot stuff was. Weren’t the man of the house and his cronies greatly addicted to it without any great harm!

‘It will rest the creature,’ said the old woman, ‘and it will keep her off her feet.’

So the hot stuff was brought out and the said chicken was presented with a saucer of it and they kept her drunk so she would sleep and sit on the eggs so the hatching process could progress!

After a fortnight the eggs were hatched and there emerged twelve of the handsomest chicks you ever saw.

The hatcher died soon afterwards of liver disease but she had nobly served her purpose and if some may crib about forcing her into alcoholism I say to these to come and have a gander at the lovely chicks she hatched. They grew up into outstanding specimens of their breed, seven hens and five cocks. One hen who wandered too far from the fowl-run was carried off by a fox but the other eleven survived and I know for a gospel fact that not a solitary one of that fine clutch ever put a taste of booze to their beaks to the day they departed for that heavenly henhouse in the sky. So we see some more of the good uses to which whiskey may be put as if there weren’t enough already.

I think you’d enjoy this little gem!

John B. Keane was born in Listowel Ireland in 1928. He and his wife Mary lived over their pub, referred to as John B.’s. He wrote in a small room there. He died in 2002 of prostate cancer. His eldest son operates it now. It’s a wonderful place and Billy Keane is a wonderful storyteller! We got to visit it on our tour in 2019. We had scones and drink and Billy told us stories of growing up with his da and local stories. He had us all laughing so! One of the highlights for me of the trip.  You can watch a nice interview with Keane done for his 70th birthday HERE.

Sive (pronounced like hive) was Keane’s first play. It dealt with arranged marriages and was a tragic tale. You can listen to an audio recording of the play HERE. There is a mural painted behind the bar of a scene from the play. I got a good shot of it!

Listowel is a lovely town and I wish we could have spent more time there! If you ever get a chance to go DO!

#Read Ireland Month #Beggoraton21 @Cathy’s 746 Books!