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A Murder of Quality by John le Carré: A review

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  One of my reading goals for this year was to reread all of  John le Carré's George Smiley books. I read the first one, Call for the Dead , back in January, and now here it is October and I'm finally getting around to the second one. Yes, I did get a bit distracted along the way. This second one references boarding schools which, in a foreword, the author states that he was sent to from age five to sixteen. He hated them and something of that sentiment comes through in the book which finds Smiley being prevailed upon to help investigate what turns out to be a murder of the wife of an instructor at such a school, a sort of posh prep school. He becomes involved when he receives a request from a former wartime colleague. The woman, Ailsa Brimley, is now the editor of a publication called the "Christian Voice" and she has received a note from one of her long-time and valued subscribers who tells her that she is afraid her husband is going to kill her. Unwilling to go to

Matrix by Lauren Groff: A review

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  This is the fourth Lauren Groff book I've read and I've loved them all. I love the subtlety of her writing, the way that she builds her characters, and the feminist vibe of the writing. In her acclaimed Fates and Furies , she gave us a dissection of a modern marriage as seen from the two points of view of those in the marriage. In this new book, she delineates the life of a 12th-century poet named Marie de France about whose actual life very little is known. This leaves the writer free to imagine it without worrying about historical accuracy. The result makes for fascinating reading. The Marie that she gives us is, in 1158, a member of the court of Queen Eleanor, history's Eleanor of Aquitaine who in her life was the queen of both France and then England. Marie was an awkward and unwelcome member of the court. She was extremely tall and had a giant bony body. She was too unattractive to ever be considered for a marriage, so what to do with her? She was educated and had ha

Poetry Sunday: Autumn Rain by D.H. Lawrence

I had never actually realized that D.H. Lawrence wrote poetry. I think of him as a novelist and short-story writer. But in fact, he did write quite a bit of poetry. I read that he was a fan of Walt Whitman and his poetry was influenced by him. His favorite form seems to have been free verse. I learned about Lawrence, the poet, as I was looking for poetry about autumn during the past week and I happened upon this one. It seems to speak with intensity and vigor of the poet's understanding of and empathy for the natural world. The poem was published in 1917 near the end of World War I and one feels that he must have been influenced by that conflagration. Perhaps that is what he refers to when he writes of "sheaves of pain" and "sheaves of dead men that are slain." Autumn Rain by D.H. Lawrence The plane leaves fall black and wet on the lawn; the cloud sheaves in heaven’s fields set droop and are drawn in falling seeds of rain; the seed of heaven on my face falling —

This week in birds - #472

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  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : What kind of bird is this, you ask? I thought I would give you something completely different this week in honor of the season. This is my friend who lives just outside my office window these days. She is a golden garden spider, Argiope aurantia . Golden garden spiders, in fact most spiders, are our friends and allies. They have a voracious appetite for insects and are very efficient predators. They are able to subdue and eat prey twice their size. These spiders are sometimes called the "writing spiders" because of the squiggles they put in their webs. It was such a spider that was the inspiration for E.B. White's Charlotte's Web . If you are lucky enough to have one around your yard - and they are most often seen in the fall - please be kind and don't disturb her. She's doing important work. My friend's name is Charlotte, of course. *~*~*~* The United Nations biodiversity conference, meetin

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - October 2021

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Welcome to my October garden. I do actually have a few blooms to show you this month, although if you have visited my garden before, you've probably seen them in the past. I haven't really added anything new this fall yet, but I hope to soon. Here in zone 9a near Houston, as in many parts of the country and world, we have endured an unusual year of weather. It has not been kind to the garden and my plants show that. So please understand if a number of my plants do not appear at their best. My tithonia plants are in a part of the garden that is not easy to water and they show that they have been deprived of moisture. Still, they bloom on, undaunted. The cosmos bloomed in the summer and reseeded itself and now it blooms in autumn.   These crinums still put out a few blooms from time to time. Do you ever forget that you've planted something? That happened to me with these yellow lycoris plants. I had completely forgotten that I had them until a few popped up to remind me. This

Bewilderment by Richard Powers: A review

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  I loved Robin Byrne, the child at the center of Richard Powers' new book, his first since the highly acclaimed The Overstory . When we meet Robin, he is eight years old and about to turn nine and already he is in serious trouble with the world. Two years earlier, his adored mother, Alys, an environmental activist died in a car crash. Robin and his father Theo who is the narrator of the book are still in mourning.  One day at school Robin's best (and only) friend tells him that when his mother swerved to avoid hitting an animal in the road and hit a tree instead that she actually committed suicide. Angry and distraught, Robin hits him with his thermos and breaks his cheekbone. He avoids expulsion but the school insists that his father get help for him. Already he has been evaluated by several doctors because of his inability to control his rages. They've come back with a variety of potential diagnoses: Asperger's, OCD, or ADHD. One doctor tells his father that Robin is

The Heron's Cry by Ann Cleeves: A review

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  I wonder if Ann Cleeves is planning to name all of her books in the new series featuring detective Matthew Venn with a reference to birds. The first book was The Long Call , a reference to the call of the Herring Gull, and now we have The Heron's Cry . It must be admitted, however, that the herons who feature in the story are all standing like statues in typical heron pose waiting for a fish to come within reach of their bill. Herons do, of course, have a voice, more of a croak than a cry, and usually given just as they are taking flight. But I digress. Detective Sergeant Jen Rafferty enjoys a party and she attends one given by a friend at which she meets retired physician Nigel Yeo. Dr. Yeo is now the director of a local patient advocacy group called North Devon Patients Together. In that capacity, he is currently looking into the suicide death of a young man. The patient suffered from paranoia and his family believes that he was negligently released from a psychiatric facility.