June's Literary Blog
 

A LITERARY BLOG ABOUT BOOKS
How they affect us.
How they shape our lives.

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Friday, July 12, 2019

The Nun’s Dragon

There is a special summer display at our local library featuring local authors. The five display shelves crammed with titles run the gamut of genres and writing styles… a veritable moveable feast of reading pleasures. All written by people, including myself, who live in this area!

There is one local author, whom I have yet to meet, whose book – a small burnt umber tome – especially caught my eye…

The Nun's Dragon by Christine Emmert is a fascinating somewhat dark read; comprised of a novella set in medieval times and a short story worthy of Margaret Atwood, one of my favorite authors. Unlike Atwood, however, Emmert’s writing rises above being chilling as it lifts hope out of her stories like the mythological Phoenix reborn and rising from its own ashes.

Set in a convent during Medieval times, The Nun’s Dragon is a thoughtfully written philosophical tale that explores the difference between faith and structured religion. Between what is real, perceived, imagined, or believed. Agnes Dei was a young nun who wakes a sleeping dragon. She names it Wyvern after a species with two heads and forearms fused to its wings. Although, as Emmert described him, he is really a dragon with wings, four legs, and one head. The two fall inexplicably and most improbably in love… And then… Agnes Dei’s body is found crushed under the convent’s waterwheel…

Which is only the beginning. The consequences resulting from Agnes Dei’s death and the presence of a dragon rend the community asunder, pitting the strict “by-the-rule” Sister Clare against the free-spirited Sister Catherine who befriends a young monk and converses with a small brown bird. As the story of Agnes Dei and Wyvern unfolds, the secrets of the convent couched in the heart and soul of medieval religious culture are revealed… What can and cannot be believed within the strictures and confines of the Church? What can and cannot be believed based upon one’s own faith and spiritual tendencies?

In Lilith, a doctoral candidate named Evelyn is writing a thesis about Adam’s first wife. According to mythology, Lilith rejected Adam’s advances and chose to side with Lucifer. Her penchant not for men, but for devouring newborns. Of any species. In this fabulist tale she sets her sights upon Evelyn’s baby boy, stalking her prey disguised as a barn owl. Evelyn is consumed with discovering Lilith’s essence while trying to protect her son against the demoness’ evil advances… Perceived or not? Sometimes, a barn owl is not just simply a barn owl… Nor are one’s own fears born of the actions of others…

Both The Nun’s Dragon and Lilith are fascinating reads… Not only for Emmert’s fluid and often erudite writing style, but for the uniqueness of the stories themselves… Her choice of themes and subject matter are startling and refreshing. While they are tinged with horror, they end with promising splashes of hope and redemption.

The author, like myself, is a self-proclaimed semi-recluse; much like J.D. Salinger was. So, I was unable to garner anything more about her except she is not only an author, but a playwright active in the theatre community… And lives locally. But like any work of literary merit -- as this book is – its words and stories they convey bespeak of the author’s essential nature.

Emmert is a writer with wisdom, insight, compassion, and, most of all, a deep and broad understanding of what it means to be uniquely human.

Enjoy the read!

3:02 pm edt          Comments

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Peacock Summer

I love sitting on the stone bench across the street from my house. It is under a medium-sized oak tree that bathes one half of the bench in shade; the other is bathed in sunlight. On late summer afternoons, with FrankieBernard snoozing in the grass at my feet, I catch some rays while engrossed in a perfect summer novel …

And, for the last few afternoons, The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell, has been my perfect summer bench read…

The intriguing, almost puzzling beginning of Richell’s third novel (just released today in paperback by HarperCollins) instantly casts its reader into the lives of Lillian Oberon, the mistress of Cloudesley, and that of her granddaughter, Maggie, now living in Australia. Cloudesley is an ancient opulent mansion just outside the small English village of Cloud Green which has, as does both Lillian and Maggie, many secrets. Including a locked room in the west wing to which Lillian is regularly drawn in the middle of the night… And to which, in the course of the novel, Maggie, too, is drawn…

Richell tells Lillian and Maggie’s stories in parallel, with alternating chapters that flash back to 1955 when young Lillian is the wife of handsome Charles Oberon, the ambitious, wealthy, often arrogant and cruel, master of Cloudesley. She soon realizes that her husband considers her, like the objects in the mansion, his possession. To do with her whatever he likes. Whenever he likes... She longs for escape but is bound by family obligations. When Charles hires a prominent – also charming – artist to paint murals on the nursery, she is compelled to make a momentous decision.

In the present, when Lillian falls ill, Maggie is summoned from Australia where she is trying to forget a hastily broken engagement to take care of her. When she returns home, Maggie is dismayed to find the once pristine mansion, with its treasure throve of objects d’art and expensive furnishings, neglected and slowly crumbling into decay. She is disheartened to also discover that there is very little, if anything, left in the family coffers to pay for even the smallest repair, let alone pay the salaries of a maid and part-time groundskeeper. While tending to Lillian’s needs, Maggie seeks a way to save Cloudesley realizing that, in doing so, she must confront the consequences of decisions made in her messy, muddled past. As she does, the mystery of Cloudesley, Lillian’s past secrets, and that of her own complicated life begin to unfold.

As she has in her previous internationally acclaimed best sellers (The House of Tides and The Shadow Years), Richell, infuses this novel with true-to-life characters, richly defined settings and descriptions. A British-born author who has worked in both the book publishing and film industries, she, once again, uses her finely-tuned talents and experiences to craft a complex, yet easy to read, story with dynamically engrossing plot lines that builds and crescendos to a most satisfying dénouement. And a surprise, totally unexpected ending.

I loved this novel not only because of Richell’s elegant writing style, but also for her astute insights into the mind and heart of each character. And while it is not a mystery, per se, the author does beguilingly craft a… well, a mystery couched with the scintillating overtones of a psychological thriller. It is, as a fellow literary critic commented, beautifully written. Indeed, a handsome, perfect novel for this Summer!

Whether you are at the beach or on a bench.

Enjoy the read!

3:25 pm edt          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:
 
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
Forty-Thirty 
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

Bethlehem

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,
and 
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA
.

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