Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Soviet Milk




I am an avid reader and my TBR list is ever-long and ever-growing so while a book buying ban is necessary, I can't tear myself away from collecting those published by Peirene Press who publish beautifully designed short books in English translation from Europe. Last year my favourite read of the entire year was 'The Orange Grove' by Larry Tremblay which they published and I reviewed here.

This year the series of 3 short books to be published is called 'Home in Exile' and I was really excited to be sent 'Soviet Milk' by Nora Ikstena to review, the first Latvian author I've ever read and it is translated into English by Margita Gailitis.

The book alternates between a mother and daughter's point of view from growing up and living in Riga and the Latvian countryside under Soviet rule. Everything is shown to have two sides and each needs the other to exist; Life and Death, Mothers and Daughters, God and Science, Freedom and Imprisonment. There is even another side to the life-giving milk a mother should give to her baby, as she feels it has been poisoned by her (and Soviet rule) she deprives her daughter of it.

Latvia's imprisonment and silencing under the Soviet Union is paralleled in the banishment of the Mother to the countryside. She begins to withdraw from reality seeking solace in cigarettes, books and pills and the daughter is then also imprisoned by always being tied to her mother, at first having to grow up with her in the countryside and then when she is older having to return to visit her and trying to pull her back into reality.

Soviet Milk makes us examine how we are all living in multiple cages, from the emotional ones we create for ourselves to those imposed upon us through family, work, society, the government or country ruling over us. While these cages and boundaries may appear to help us to exist and survive as a society, individual freedom is still always hoped for and appears in-between the cracks; through a rebellious teacher, a midnight swim or a friends help, even a hamster seeks it and finally there is no escaping death which will release us all into an infinite freedom.

Despite the dark themes and unanswerable existential questions Soviet Milk throws up, I felt there was always an underlying sense of hope, while darkness will always be inevitable in life so will hope and light. Freedom will always be present on the horizon, in milk or in the earth.

Thanks to Periene Press and make sure you check out all of their other books!



Saturday, 3 February 2018

Burns Night 2018


I love Scotland, from the Highlands to the Cities, the Islands to the Irn Bru (okay maybe not so much) from Flora McDonald to Robert Burns. So I seem to have started a yearly tradition to complete a Robert Burns Illustration for every Burns Night! So here's this years; a linocut with a little portrait of the great man himself on a rose complete with the opening lines of 'O My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose' I wanted to do some green rose leaves & thorns as well, but I ran out of time so I will have to finish it another time. 

Here's my Robert Burns Illustrations from 2017, 2016 , 2015 and 2014

Happy Burns Night!


Monday, 30 October 2017

Chaiyya Chaiyya Linocut & Bollywood Love


I've recently got into watching some Bollywood films (due to finding a favourite 'Kal Ho Na Ho' I saw years ago on Netflix) so of course I've become a huge Shah Rukh Khan fan! Every new film throws up some amazing songs like the incredible 'Chaiyya Chaiyya' from the great film 'Dil Se'  which was all filmed on top of the Ooty train going through the jungles and tunnels its so incredible, watch it here! So I had to create a multi-colour linocut print of it.

Here's some of my favourite SRK films so far:- Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kal Ho Na Ho, Devdas, Kabhi Kushie Kabhie Gham, Dil Se, Veer Zaara and of course Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge! 

and then some other favourite Bollywood songs on repeat:- Indiawaale, Janam Janam, Tujhe Dekha To, Ina Mina Dika, O Jaan-E-Man



Friday, 12 May 2017

Review: The Orange Grove by Larry Tremblay

 

Ever since I first saw a few of these novellas by Periene Press in a bookshop I was drawn under their spell; their beautiful design from the minimalist connecting covers to the inside flaps, paper texture, and the publishers note on why they chose to publish it, everything is so well considered and that's before we get to the fiction contained inside. After loving the first two I read (The Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman & The Looking-Glass Sisters) I decided to collect them and now I've have been sent a copy of their newest 'The Orange Grove' to review. I love reading but have never attempted to write a review before, so here goes...

The story is set in an unknown country which could be nowhere and everywhere in a time that has experienced a war; it could even be all a dream, as you often hope reality is. But Aziz & Ahmed always come back to the Orange Grove; the gathering of fruit in the harvest, the flowers, the canopy's shade, the dirt and rocks the oranges grow out of. These sights and smells of the Orange Grove ground you to a simple domestic oasis of home, nature, the earth, where you came from, your country, your father and mother.

Aziz & Ahmed are twin brothers who live by the Orange Grove next to where their grandparents were recently killed by a bomb which came from the other side of the mountain. The local militants decide that revenge & honour must be sought by their father who has to choose one of his sons to sacrifice.

The bones of the story is given up in the blurb, when you know that one of the brothers has to be sacrificed by wearing a suicide belt and the implications this has on the brother that survives. As you await the inevitable fate of one of the brothers the story unfolds through a quiet, beautiful, poetic tale of truth, lies, duty, brainwashing, honour/dishonour and a mother's undying love for her sons. 

The Orange Grove forces you to view war from this small family perspective, they could easily be you, having to live your life, raise your children through bombs, suicide vests, militants and having to keep your family's honour intact so the future is still bearable. This family living through the horrors of war teaches you about tolerance, compassion, love and circumstances. 

The Orange Grove left me at a stalement, as life and war often does, with no peace in sight, only questions. How does the future recover from the scars of war, how is one person's life worth more than another, why are innocent children always involved? War has always been a part of history and sadly I feel it always will be, but those losses and lives buried under miles of earth sometimes can grow into oranges. 

A heartbreakingly beautiful read that will be with me a long time, teaching me more about tolerance, compassion and love, I highly recommend it.

Thanks to Periene Press and go check out all their books!




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Thursday, 6 April 2017

Sundial & S-Town Podcast


I listened to the S-town podcast in the first couple of days after it was released & loved it, it's not really a crime story, it's really just an exploration of a fascinatingly unique man, John B McLemore.

In homage to him & the podcast I created a little linocut of a sundial with a sad motto, 'Omnes Vulnerant, Ultima Necat' or for all those non-latin speakers out there 'All Hours Wound; the last one kills' (That motto just kills me!)