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Monday, 25 May 2015

The Banana Tree - a poem

The second of the poems I found from my exchange trip to Kenya, aka a 14 yo's experimentation with metaphor:

The banana tree, standing there in its splendour

Its leaves green,
Its trunk tall,
Its bananas, ripening ready for the picking.

But not many people see the wilting
When its leaves go brown

They don't realise the tree's subjects aren't truly living
As they should do

They don't realise the tree's subjects are wilting

The Market - A Poem

While clearing out some old paperwork I came across two poems that I wrote while on a Student Exchange trip to Kenya in 2004. The first, called 'The Market', was inspired by a drive we had in either Kisumu or Nairobi (it's been 11 years). Anyway, I think my fourteen-year old self was on to something ;)

Into the market they're there
Children, tapping on the sheet of glass separating you from them.

A riot of noise, people starting to sing and dance
Making a pathway for us
Making us feel like celebrities
People waving and shaking our hands,
All because of our skin
Being burned by a sweltering yellow star.

There's no room for what they consider to be lessers
Being shunned aside as if they're contagious
Trying to touch our skin to see if we are what we look like.

We see the fish hut
Rotten smells and tiny scavengers with wings catch our noses and eyes.
"That is our dinner," we say.

We emerge from the cool and brave the sweltering heat,
Climb back into the machine that will carry us out
Of the town.

Out of the market they're there,
Children, still tapping on the sheet of glass

Separating us from them.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Review: The Distant Echo, Val McDermid

What would you say if someone told you that the next time you went out on the lash, a series of unfortunate events would brand you as a murder suspect?

That's what happened to Alex, Mondo, Weird and Ziggy. Four friends studying at St Andrews university, taking some well-deserved time out at Christmas, happen upon the body of a young woman in a cemetery on a freezing December night. They recognise her as Rosie Duff, a barmaid in a pub they often frequent. They run for help... and end up being treated as suspects, not mere witnesses.

The book is split into two parts. Part 1 is the discovery of the murder and the initial investigation and the reopening of the case twenty five years later. During the first half of the book, though you know the main four characters are innocent, you find yourself questioning whether it was actually one of them because it is impossible to think about who else could have been responsible. Since they live in a small town, the four characters quickly become notorious and victims of abuse, particularly from Rosie Duff's brothers. They take any opportunity they can to deliver their personal brand of justice to those whom they believe to have taken their sister's life without caring about the consequences.

Part 2 is the reopening of the case for a "cold case review" and here we meet Graham McFadyen. He is Rosie's long-lost son who had been adopted since Rosie got pregnant with him as a teenager. He sets off on his own personal mission to avenge his mother.

The story was, overall, well-paced and interesting, although it felt a little dragging in places. This could have been simply because it was reflecting the tedium of every day life and the frustrating nature of police work. It picked up much more quickly during the last third of the book, and it becomes one of those cases where you are skimming to the point of skipping in your desperation to get to the "whodunnit". McDermid does a really good job of making you think who it is, who it must be, up until the last moment coming. I didn't see it coming a mile off, though now I wonder how I could have ever thought otherwise.

Overall, a really good, engaging read with well-rounded characters. The slow boil to the climax point and aftermath is well pitched. McDermid crafts a great story with plenty of suspense and insight into the motivation of a potential killer.