Monday 27 February 2012


This year's festival will take place from Thursday 21 June to Sunday 24th of June. No idea who will be playing or whether Bab Marrakesh will be used as a venue but at least we have the dates and John and I have booked flights and hotels.

Not sure either if we'll get press badges but since it was the Festival office that gave as the dates, we are hopeful that this will be so.

Still can't believe that gnaoua music hasn't infiltrated mainstream music. Oh well, at least enough of us know how brilliant it is and are prepared to travel the ridiculously long way to Essaouira to revel in the wonder and glory of gnaoua.

Quite surprised/dismayed to find that our balcony room had already been booked but luckily the one on the next floor up was available. Perhaps someone reading our reports thought that hiring one of the balcony rooms would be a good idea. Huh! Me and my big mouth!

Monday 20 February 2012


I loved this novel. Absolutely adored it. Loved reading every page, every paragraph, every word. Rose Tremain is, in my opinion, an absolutely wonderful writer. Characters, setting, storyline and language all so superb that I am in awe.

Set in Southern France it tells the story of two families, both dysfunctional in different ways:

Veronica Verey is an English woman, living in France and earning a living as a garden designer. She is sensible, practical and devoted to her brother, Anthony, who is an antiques dealer in London. Having been, for a long time, highly successful and revered, his business is now in decline and he gets no pleasure from it or any of his young male lovers. So, when he comes to stay with Veronica, it is a last ditch attempt to find some happiness in his later years. And to this end, he decides that he will buy a property nearby. He loves beautiful buildings and beautiful artefacts, which he calls his 'beloveds.' And when he comes across an impressive old building, Mas Lunel, he falls in love with it.

At this stage in the novel, living in France appears to be idyllic: the beautiful landscape, the richness of the gardens and countryside, the drinking of red wine on the terrace as the sun sets. Who wouldn't want to live like that?

But the Mas Lunel is owned by the alcoholic, totally repugnant Aramon Lunel who is desperate in his own way to find some happiness after living an over indulgent life which has included the abuse of his sister, Audrun.

Audrun lives in a miserable little bungalow facing the house. She, too, has had an unfulfilling life and is disgusted by her brother's appearance and behaviour and his neglect of the house that was once her home. She has no intention of letting Aramon sell the house and has devised her own plan to reclaim and restore her old home.

Thus we have the seeds of conflict, compounded by the fact that Veronica's female companion, Kitty, hates Anthony, resentful that her lover is so attached to her brother.

Kitty feels liberated by Veronica from her insignificant past and has no intention of losing this new-found delight in life.

So, since this is a murder mystery novel, the question is which brother will be bumped off and by whom or will the victim be someone completely different.

Tremain also weaves into the story the hostility of some of the French towards rich foreigners who are buying up old houses and restoring them, thus making much of the property too expensive for the locals to buy. This is not done in a heavy-handed or preaching way but it did make me think about the morality of having second homes at the expense of local people.

I found all the characters, even the minor ones, well drawn and rounded. Some I liked, some I didn't but they all seemed very real and very human and very understandable. Tremain has a really good understanding of people and sometimes I felt that she was actually writing about me.

But the thing I like most about the novel was the language, so beautifully descriptive and evocative and enhancing the characters, the setting and the plot. At times it was like reading poetry. Thus, for me, a pure delight.

In the fairness of balance, John didn't enjoy the book. He was fascinated by the plot but skim-read most of it. Just goes to show that tastes in literature can vary so greatly.

Sunday 5 February 2012


Lisa Marklund is, apparently, a highly successful Scandinavian crime writer so I had high hopes for this CD set. However, I was sadly mistaken. It was so tediously slow and annoying that I only managed to listen to 4 of the 12 CDs before I gave up in disgust.

Set in Sweden, a young woman has been found murdered. So far, so good. The story is presented from the perspective of a young female trainee reporter called Annika. We know pretty quickly who the murdered woman was and that she was, surprise surprise, some sort of prostitute. We know who her boyfriend/pimp is, her best friend, where she came from, who is the lead police investigator, and that the first person to find the body allowed her pesky little dog to chew one of the hands. We also get a description of the dog's turd. Thank you very much, I really needed that. For some reason we do not know, this person does not report the body. And we also get some information about a Swedish Minister who is most probably involved. And that's about it, taking 4 boring CDs to divulge this.

Much is made of how hot it is and this is repeated over and over and over again in a variety of unnecessary ways. Marklund also takes pains to describe the street names which reminded me so much of Stig Larsson, except his portrayal of Stockholm is infinitely more evocative.

But what really, really annoyed me was that instead of using verbs such as inquired or asked, the verb wondered was repeatedly used and it was just totally inappropriate and totally irritating. This could have been a problem with translation but it just spoilt any kind of atmosphere or engagement.

So, there you are. A very disgruntled Maggie who is now at odds with Marklund's millions of devoted fans. If you have read any of Marklund's novels and enjoyed them please leave a message on this blog telling me exactly what I'm missing.

Saturday 4 February 2012


I'm really not having much success at the moment in choosing audio books from the library!

According to Sunday Times: "As thriller writers go, they don't get much better than Harlan Coben." If that's the case, then I'm not in tune with modern crime writing because I could only stomach 4 CDs out of the 10. This morning I joyfully decided to take the whole set back to the library and take out something more enjoyable.

As I recalled the plot so far to my husband over supper last night, his head noticeably sank with each new detail, and that's exactly how I felt listening to the darn thing.

If you enjoy a crime novel that is full of violence, despair, a psychopath or two, dysfunctional drug addicts, prostitutes and pimps, and broken parents, then I won't spoil it for you by giving away too much of the plot in case you want to read/listen to it. So I'll stick to the bare minimum.

Set in an affluent New Jersey suburb, Will Klein, is coping not only with the death of his mother but also the mystery surrounding the brutal rape and murder, some years ago, of an ex-girlfriend. His brother, Ken, was the prime suspect and shortly after the murder, disappeared into thin air. And now, Will's girlfriend, Carol, has also disappeared and in order to find her, he searches the prostitute area of town with his good friend, Squares, a reformed racist.

Carol is found murdered in New Mexico, having first been tortured, and as far as the police are concerned, Will is the main suspect. And that's about as far as I got. Life is way too short for me to subject myself to this kind of nastiness.

Quite frankly I felt so removed from all the characters that I really didn't care what had happened and who had done it. But if you like to have your nose rubbed into the seedier side of life, then read the book or get the audio book but if you don't like it, all I can say is: "You have been warned."

I have been choosing crime novels to listen to because I am writing my own crime novel and so wanted to get a flavour of what is popular but I have come to the conclusion that I shall continue to write what I want to read, which will be light years away from 'Gone For Good'.

And hopefully, by the time I've finished writing the novel, readers will be so sick of ultra- violent crime fiction that they'll be desperate to read something in a lighter vein and I'll have publishers knocking at my door to fill the gap!

In actuality, my own library, Winchester discovery Centre, has a very limited supply of audio CDs and most of them are by writers I've never heard of. And it would seem, according to one librarian I spoke to, audio CDs are now out of vogue because so many novels can be downloaded. Guess I'll have to do that too.

P.S. I've just taken out a Beryl Bainbridge ('Winter Garden') so at some stage I'll be reviewing that.

P.P.S. Could only manage the first CD of 'Winter Garden' – too boring for words. I am now going to buy my audio CDs from Amazon – the selection in my library is just not good enough.