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Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Library at the Edge of the World

If “home is where the heart is”, how do you know where the heart is if you’re not sure of here home is? Or even how to begin finding it?

This is the dilemma of Hanna Casey who, in Felicity Hayes-McCoy’s debut novel, abandons a posh London lifestyle and returns to her roots in the rural Irish town of Lissberg. After years of what turned out to be a loveless marriage – her barrister husband is a liar and philanderer – and a nearly fruitful career as a researcher, she finds herself managing the small local branch library and driving a bookmobile up and down the Finfarran peninsula from isolated villagers to isolated villagers. What makes matters worse is that she is living with her nagging overbearing mother… Not to mention having to copy with gossiping village residents…

This makes for an interesting premise; almost Dickensian. But The Library at the Edge of the World: A Novel (Finfarran Peninsula) wends its way through several saving graces. One of which is the small delipidated stone house overlooking the sea that Hanna has inherited from her great-aunt. Restoring it is a chance, however slim, of her finding herself a home, a home in her own life. But is it where she will find her heart and its home?

For those of us who miss the great dearly departed Maeve Binchy and her “slices out of real life” novels, Hayes-McCoy’s well-thought out and well-written journey through the complex labyrinth of lives and loves in Lissberg neatly fits the bill. There are touches of intrigue, mystery, and, of course, romance. And for those of us who are armchair travelers whose more adventurous exploits are through the pages of novels, the stunning descriptions of Finfarran peninsula and the idyllic Irish seascape will more than tweak the imagination.

But while the seascape is idyllic and peaceful, the town of Lissberg and its sister peninsula villages are not. As their very bucolic economy and way of life is threatened by greedy developers, the almost reclusive Hanna steps into the fray and, amidst her own tumultuous efforts to restore her inherited home, manages to discover a way to, as the saying goes, “save the day”. How she, with the help of her often quirky but delightful cohorts, do this is the meat and potatoes of a most charming read.

Primarily a non-fiction writer of memoirs, Hayes-McCoy brings to her first fictional effort a stoical, sensible approach to her literary endeavors. While she is matter-of-fact, she is also sensitive to the emotional needs of her characters; a trait, I surmise, that stems from her years as a successful actress on both stage and screen. While driven to tie up all the loose ends of the multi-linear plot and sub-plots, she is cognizant of providing an interesting, thought-provoking story that enlightens, educates, and entertains.

In essence, as Hanna in this author’s capable hands finally finds where home is for herself and her heart, each reader will find a literary heartwarming home.

Enjoy the read!

2:44 pm est          Comments

Monday, December 18, 2017

Middle Earth: From Script to Screen

Sometimes learning what happened behind the scenes is more interesting than the scenes themselves. 

Take, for example, the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, the epic films of the early 2000s, based upon the Ring Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, that won 17 out of 30 total Academy Award nominations and captured the hearts of both adults and children [of all ages] alike, They certainly did mine… 

I became an avid Tolkien fan in the mid-1960s. Primarily because it was assigned “optional” reading in my Advance Placement English literature class. What started out as almost confusing reads ended up emmeshing me into the depths of the world of Middle Earth, with its Hobbits, Gnomes, Dwarves, Elves… and the dreaded Kingdom of Mordor; not to mention the convoluted, but intricate plot lines. Once I got the hang of the author’s writing style, I was hooked and have, over the course of the past fifty years or so, must have read the fantasies more than four or five times… And, of course, when the movies started hitting the silver screen, I just had to see them all. 

And all through the marvelously produced and directed [by Peter Jackson] films, I kept on asking, “How did they do that?” Well, thanks to my buddies at Harper Collins and their collaboration with Warner Bros. Consumer Products, now I know. 

Between the handsomely green-bound pages of Middle-earth from Script to Screen: Building the World of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, I learned that a whole, nearly functioning Hobbit Village was constructed on a large farm in Australia… It was – and still is – so real that most of the actors during filming actually began to believe that they were actually in The Shire. That Sauron’s Black Riders – the Ringwraiths – were not only human actors wearing over thirty meters of carefully crafted fabric and gauntlets but also digitally animated riders. Many children of crew members were featured during several of scenes, including ‘Old’ Gerontius Took’s flashback party in An Unexpected Journey. And, do you know what Mathoms are? Flets? Palantíri? You’ll have to comb the 574 pages of this most wondrously extravagant compendium of Hobbit knowledge – while marveling at the full-color illustrations and drawings – to find out. 

What I particularly like about Middle-earth is not only the stories behind the scenes and stories, but the stories themselves. Carefully and assiduously written by Daniel Falconer – with a forward by Peter Jackson – the complete gestalt of the Ring Trilogy is mapped out. There are marvelous explanations – paraphrased from the pages of the original books – of how Bilbo originally obtained the infamous Gold Ring and how he passed it on to Frodo to destory; the interconnections between Sauron and Saruman the White; the back-stories of Frodo’s friends, who accompany him on his perilous journey… I could go on and one, but I don’t want to spoil the fun for you. Besides, this book – yet another beautiful product of Harper Designs – is not one you read from cover to cover in subsequent sittings, but one you dip into from time to time – absorbing each little tidbit of fascinating information just as you would sip a well-aged mellow whiskey. 

Middle-earth – released just last month -- is a valuable and valued addition to any library. And would, in my mind, be an especially appropriate Holiday gift for the avid movie-goer, film-ologist and/or connoisseur of all things Tolkien.

Enjoy the read!

3:55 pm est          Comments

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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Miss Elmira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast


Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood



Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her sixth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,