Saturday, 8 September 2012

The Colour by Rose Tremain

"She was a woman who longed for the unfamiliar and strange. As a child, she'd seen it waiting for her, in dreams or in the colossal darkness of the sky: some wild world which lay outside the realm of everything she knew."

Recently, I signed up to a summer reading challenge being organised through my local library service.

To tie in with the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, the challenge is to read 6 books from different continents with the aim of expanding our reading experiences and broadening our horizons.

I must say, that I am almost at the end of this reading journey and I have found it thoroughly fascinating. Some of the books chosen, I have loved and some not so much, but that is the beauty of exercises such as this. They push you out of your comfort zone.

As part of the challenge, I chose to read The Colour by Rose Tremain, published in 2003.

 Joseph and Harriet Blackstone emigrate to New Zealand in the 1860's, along with Joseph's mother Lilian.
Joseph and Harriet have not been married long and it becomes clear very early on in the book that theirs is a marriage of convenience. Both have made the decision to marry and move half way across the world to escape things from their lives back in England.

On their arrival in New Zealand, Joseph leaves the women in Christchurch and heads to a place near the Okuku river to build them a house.
When he has finished, the women join him and experience the full force of a winter in New Zealand. Cracks begin to appear in the marriage and these are worsened when Joseph discovers a small amount of gold- 'the colour'-in the river.

From this point on, the mood of the story begins to change as Joseph, Harriet and Lilian are affected in different ways by this unexpected discovery.

"He had lost count of the hours he'd toiled , the slabs he'd fixed, the load after load after load of dirt washed in his cradle."

I chose to read this book because I was intrigued by the subject of gold prospecting in New Zealand as I had previously linked it to the United States. I was also keen to have a look at one of Ms Tremain's books as she has been on my TBR list for some time.

Ms Tremain's style of writing is very readable and her characters interesting, complex and thought provoking. I particularly loved Harriet as I found her to be gutsy and determined and always looking for adventure. In contrast, I disliked Joseph intensely, with his tendency towards secrecy and his total lack of understanding of the needs of his wife.

The story took a little while to get going but once it did I became totally immersed in it and was rooting for Harriet all the way.There were one or two surprising twists to the story, none of which I had anticipated.
The Colour is a thoroughly enjoyable read and although I wouldn't add it to my top 50 books of all time, I would definitely recommend it.

I give this a rating of 8/10

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Normal Service May (At Some Point In The Future) Be Resumed!

"The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair."(Mary Heaton Vorse)

I was going to begin by apologising for the length of time that has elapsed since I last posted. Then I was going to give a whole list of reasons why this had been the case before promising that I would try to do better etc etc etc. However, in truth, I can't use the excuse that I have been too busy although I certainly have been finding  lots of things to do-studying, cleaning (which, incidentally I loathe with a passion), ironing, cooking- in fact anything that I 'should' be doing.

 All of this 'busyness' has meant that I have totally neglected my blog and whilst I have felt very guilty for doing so, this has not spurred me on to do anything about it. Until now.
This morning, I woke with a determination to explore the reasons for my procrastination and to find out what I could do to alleviate this annoying habit that I have got into.

I decided to Google the terms writing and procrastination to see if this was normal behaviour for an aspiring wordsmith such as myself and I found that reassuringly all professionals have experienced this at some point in their writing journey

 Amongst the plethora of useful (and not so useful) information out there, I came across some amusing but highly appropriate gems like this cartoon by American author and artist Richard Krzemien

And my particular favourite from Calvin and Hobbes,

I also stumbled across some wise and in some cases amusing quotes by authors who had obviously experienced the same issues as I have but who thankfully got through them and gone on to create some amazing pieces of literature.

“If it weren't for the last minute, nothing would get done.” 
 Rita Mae Brown

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” 
 Mark Twain

 "He who awaits much can expect little."
-Gabriel García Márquez

Amongst the more serious and useful pieces I stumbled across is this very useful handout from the UNC College of Arts and Sciences in North Carolina which says we procrastinate for a number of reasons including fear and perfectionism. 
Fear of failure: If you are scared that a particular piece of writing isn’t going to turn out well, then you may avoid working on it in order to avoid feeling the fear.
Procrastination and perfectionism often go hand in hand. Perfectionists tend to procrastinate because they expect so much of themselves, and they are scared about whether or not they can meet those high standards.
The part about perfectionism particularly rings true for me as I have always felt that whatever I do in life,it is not good enough,especially when it refers to projects that are really important to me. 

The whole handout is very useful and I have saved it to my "to be read pile "- I am not procrastinating, honest, I just need to finish this post before getting involved in anything else!

As I was writing this,I suddenly remembered that I had a book about this very subject lurking somewhere on my overcrowded bookshelves. So I went hunting and found it -

I vaguely remember buying this a few years ago in an earlier attempt to stop procrastinating and guess what?- I never read it because I was too busy doing other things.
Flicking through it now, I can see that it is full of very useful tips and strategies to help overcome this most irksome of tendencies, like this one on page 9. Ms Lively writes

Challenge the "shoulds", those insidious guilt trips that drain your psychic energy. Don't let other people's expectations govern your life. Examine your own heart and mind to decide what you want to do, find necessary to do or will no longer worry about.

Wise words and ones which I am going to try very hard to take on board in my battle with procrastination.

Writing this post today has been a very useful personal development exercise. The main thing that I have learnt is this-I am proud of my blog and I get a great deal of pleasure out of the whole blogging experience. I am making a promise to myself that I will stop procrastinating by always finding other things that I "should" be doing and just write. if I don't, I will never know what I can achieve.

 As the brilliant Dr Wayne Dyer says "Don't die with your music still in you." 
I don't intend to. How about you?