A Film For April: Our Little Sister

our little sisterSachi (Haruka Ayase), Yoshino (Masami Nagasawa) and Chika (Kaho) are sisters in their twenties, living together in their family home in the sea side town of Kamakura. Left by their father fifteen years earlier and by their mother a year later, the girls’ are a tight knit, happy group who, although they had a grandmother, have ostensibly bought themselves up.

When they hear about the death of their father they agree to go to his funeral and meet for the first time their fourteen year old half sister Suzu (Suzu Hirose). They easily form a bond and since she is now orphaned they ask her to come and live with them. Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, this is a beautifully delicate look at the lives of the four young women. Continue reading “A Film For April: Our Little Sister”

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman

lonely postman
What an odd book this is!

Bilodo is a 27 year old postman in Montreal. He delivers the mail, eats at a local restaurant, practices calligraphy and plays computer games everyday. But he has a secret. Before delivering personal letters he takes them home, steams them open, reads, photocopies and files before resealing the original and delivering. To him all these lives he vicariously lives through ‘form a kind of soap opera with multiple plots’, much more exciting than his own dull life. And this is how he comes across the correspondence between Ségolène, a teacher in Guadeloupe and Gaston Grandpré, a Montreal local. Bilodo is completely smitten, Ségolène’s letters contain one page on which is written in delicate penmanship a single poem. He even gets to see (and photocopy) a photograph of her.  Which could seem quite creepy really, except that it isn’t.

Maybe that’s because it’s about loneliness and identity and poetry and snail mail? Anyway, Bilodo loves the simple beauty of the words and style of the poems but doesn’t know what they are until he notices an article in a newspaper one day ‘The Saturday Haiku’ – and with that knowledge he begins to practice

On the clothes line in the yard
the washing freezes
and sparrows shiver

and the haiku, calligraphy and research in the library take over his life.   But this is not just a book of romantic whimsy, Bilodo is teased relentlessly by his work mates for his writing and for being an outsider and I found his determination and self belief really inspiring. 

As events begin to unfold so Bilodo’s life starts to detach from reality.  He finds himself in a position to rent Gaston’s apartment and (to add to his crimes) impersonate him. This means he can write to Ségolène directly and does so with aplomb – their haiku exchange quickly becomes furious and passionate (now they’re using express mail) until the unthinkable happens and she suggests they meet. . .

It’s around this point that Enso, the Zen circle of enlightenment is introduced and theDenis Theriault novel (which is only 100 or so pages) takes a turn that I really didn’t see coming. I like stories where everyone has both feet planted firmly on the ground, so I’m afraid I began to lose a bit of interest here and found the ending a bit disappointing which is a shame because I was enjoying the slightly crazy nature of this book while learning a lot about the art of haiku.

However, the sequel is called The Postman’s Fiancée, I can’t think how the story is going to get there but I’m looking forward to reading it and catching up with these characters.


The Heart’s Invisible Furies

hearts furiesI love the idea of taking part in the challenges that crop up but never seem to get my timing right. I read this for the Reading Ireland challenge in March but as usual find myself a few weeks behind, still, it got me to pick this up from the pile on the box at the end of my bed and I’m glad I did because it was really good!

In 1945 16 year old Catherine Goggin is thrown out of her village in West Cork one Sunday morning during mass while her family watch from the second pew. She takes the late afternoon bus to Dublin, and meets Seán MacIntyre and Jack Smoot. The three share a dingy flat together while Catherine makes plans for her future. She entrusts the baby to ‘a little hunchbacked Redemptorist nun’ to find a family with whom he’ll have a better life, and so begins Cyril’s story as he tries to negotiate life and find out who he is. Continue reading “The Heart’s Invisible Furies”

A Month in the Country


a month in the country
Now an old man, Tom Birkin, looks back at the idyllic summer of 1920 when he was hired to uncover a medieval mural on a wall in the village church of Oxgodby in Yorkshire, England.  Arriving in the pouring rain, ‘nerves shot to pieces, wife gone, dead broke’ he admires the ancient church that’s to be his home but when the rain clears and the blackbirds begin to sing he relishes the tranquility of the countryside around him ‘letting summer soak into me – the smell of summer and summer sounds.’ and determines to live simply and be happy.

From the top of his ladder in the bell-tower he can see Charles Moon an archaeologist, living in a bell tent in the meadow, digging for a medieval grave. The two become friends and Tom is soon accepted by the locals including the Ellerbeck family and their Chapel community, the troubled vicar in whose church he’s working and his beautiful wife Alice. It’s a time of rabbit-and-potato pie for dinner and seed cake, greengage pie and ‘scalding tea in a can’ at 4 o’clock. The slow sultriness of a hot summer day pervades every page, emotions are heightened and time seems to stand still:

‘The butterfly flew into the air once more. For a moment it seemed that it might settle on the rose in her hat, but it veered off and away into the meadow. The sound of bees foraging from flower to flower seemed to deepen the stillness.’ Continue reading “A Month in the Country”