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The Western Wind - Samantha Harvey

I have now completed teacher training (hurrah! ready to start my new career here in Sussex) and the first thing I did was to buy a load of new books for my own reading - nothing to do with pedagogy or any other theory. These new reads include Du Maurier's Jamaica Inn, Ackroyd's Hawsmoor,The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey, and a thriller by Tana French (and a couple of others). I'm almost at the end of The Western Wind and my god it's good. It was also shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize. Harvey's writing is incredible in that she finds exactly the right word each and every time - it's both writerly (full of craft and skill that makes you regularly linger) and readerly (it's something of a page turner). I feel (I know, I'm mixing my pronouns!) immersed in the 15th century - Somerset to be precise. The novel starts with the death of Thomas Newman (an aptronym; he is a new man - embodying the Renaissance a good century early) a small village's ric…

Spring has sprung

It’s been a very long time - 7 months - since my last post. The duration between posts seems to get longer each time. Such is my life. Since September last year I have been studying for a PGCE at Brighton University. When I attended the interview, the tutor reiterated the intensity of the course, which includes two school based training programmes of several months each. And intense it has proved. I am currently half way through my second school placement - a coastal academy about five miles away. I’m teaching Animal Farm and Macbeth and Romeo & Juliet so have been busy reading, re-reading, planning lessons, trying to stay on top of uni course work - and maintaining a home life on top - did I mention tutoring in the evenings on top? I’m tired. But I’ve never been so glad to welcome spring. The good thing about having a dog is that it forces you out - and round here we are surrounded by sea and the South Downs. The seasons hit you in the face. And over the past couple of weeks the…

BBC World Service The Forum

I am waiting for this flight to Paphos to take off whilst writing. Off for a much needed holiday to hopefully do a bit of twitching (bird-watching - who’d have thought it!?), swimming in the sea with Husby (I promised him), and general lolling around reading and hopefully doing a bit of writing.
A couple of weeks ago I contributed to the BBC World Service’s radio programme the Forum on the subject of Friedrich Engels. It’s available on The Forum’s webpage on the BBC website. Apart from myself, the illustrious Terrell Carver, Jonathan Sperber, and Christian Kell also gave their learned insights. It felt great to be invited and reminded me of my PhD and how I must do more with it!
I am pretty much all set to embark on secondary teacher training this year. What’s a year compared to the seven years previously undertaken? And it will enable me to embark on a new career in Sussex. Teaching hours are long and lesson planning will also require many extra hours on top, but I’m sure it will pro…

Mary Burns

Hi there. To find out a bit more about Mary Burns, click here. If you wish to read the creative work inspired and including Mary Burns, please email belwebb at hotmail dot com

Twitter: @belindawebb

To return to the main blog simply type into your URL. I haven't updated in ages, but intend to rectify that fairly soon.

Jekyll & Hyde Rose Theatre, Kingston

Off to the Rose Theatre earlier in the week, in Kingston, with Husby, teenage stepdaughter and the teenage son of an old friend of Husby to see Jekyll & Hyde. Stepdaughter is studying it as the nineteenth century novel (even though it’s a novella!) element of the GCSE in English Literature. A throng of similarly aged sat on cushions in front of the stage, overlooked by a full house across three tiers. Phil Daniels played Jekyll/Hyde in what I think was an Edinburghian accent for Jekyll and a Glaswegian accent for Hyde. Daniels excelled in the both roles, and created a physical transformation  of body and face when in Hyde mode. Rosie Abraham, who played the maid, also delivered a brilliant performance with a Dorset accent and plenty of attitude. In fact we all mentioned her as we discussed it afterwards. My only complaint is that it was too traditional; Jekyll & Hyde is one of those stories that can be played with; a few more risks could have been taken.

The Open House - The Print Room at The Coronet, Notting Hill

Whenever I tell people about The Print Room at The Coronet, they always say 'ah, the old cinema'. The building has been a landmark on Notting Hill for donkeys years. I remember watching a film there a good few years ago, and then went with Husby to see a play there for the first time a couple of years ago. We were taken with it as a theatre 'space' (everything is a 'space' nowadays!). It's very 'boho' or 'shabby chic'. I was there on Monday to see The Open House by Will Eno, directed by the former creative director of the RSC, Michael Boyd. 
The Open House is billed as a 'subversive family drama', all families are dysfunctional etc... that popular category of everything, and which is apparently Eno's speciality, if you can call it that given that Eno is 'only' young and probably doesn't want to be pigeon-holed so soon into his writing career. 
The play is a five hander, each of whom play two roles to great effect. Th…

Anything is Possible - Elizabeth Strout

Two days ago I bought the hardback of Strout's latest, Anything is Possible. I finished it yesterday evening. This is a 'novel of inter-connected stories', which features the fictional writer Lucy Barton, of My Name is Lucy Barton (blogged about already). We learn more about Lucy's brother, still in the dusty old town of Amgash, Illinois - the setting that is the main character. The Guardian claims it to be a 'shimmering masterpiece', and I agree.

Strout's work is often described as 'quietly written', and she is said to have 'a touch of Updike and Tyler'. Quietly written is one of those descriptions that means the 'sparse' writing provides the atmosphere into which the reader gladly sinks to enjoy a story of flawed and pained characters without being distracted by a 'writerly' approach. I have never sunk into Updike or Tyler, but her writing reminds me more of Richard Yates. But why liken her to anyone at all? It seems to be …