Connectedness by Sandra Danby #BookReview

Connectedness by Sandra Danby (002)

Justine Tree is a successful artist, about to be accepted into the Royal Academy.  But we meet her in her childhood home on the East Yorkshire coast, remembering her childhood, as she clears her mother’s home after her funeral. She remembers the encouragement of her parents and her early interest in the life of Picasso.  But she also realises that she is acting a part, concealing secrets from her past.

Justine’s home in London is shared with Darya, a much older woman who understands her art and has been a substitute mother for 27 years.  As Darya sinks into dementia, Justine decides to make more effort to find the baby she gave up all those years ago, a secret which fuels the pain in her art.  She seeks help from journalist, Rose Haldane, who has previously investigated her own adoption.  As we follow the story we also discover cracks in Rose’s “happy” life.

The story moves back to the early 1980s when Justine was a penniless student in Picasso’s birthplace of Malaga.  Bullied by her tutor, and struggling with the language, she meets Frederico, an architecture student who teaches her to embrace Spanish food, language and the way of life.  The sensual description of the succulent Spanish food shared with Frederico, defines their building passion and is vividly remembered by Justine.

There are many layers in this sensitive story.  The nurturing Justine received from her mother is only appreciated in retrospect,

“In the last year, Darya had aged like a film on fast forward.

I wasn’t there for Mum. I will not abandon Darya.”

Will Justine’s daughter forgive her?  Will they be reconciled and what of Frederico, the love of her life?

This is the second book of the “Identity Detective” series, all centred on Rose Haldane who wishes to reunite those who lost members of their family due to adoption.  I have not yet read the first book but will be seeking it out soon.  Sandra Danby is a thought provoking author whose sense of place enhances a fascinating mystery.

Connectedness is on sale at Amazon UK and Amazon US

 

The Identity Detective Series

Rose Haldane, journalist and identity detective, reunites the people lost through
adoption. The stories you don’t see on television shows. The difficult cases. The people who cannot be found, who are thought lost forever. And each new challenge makes Rose re-live her own adoption story, each birth mother and father, adopted child, and adoptive parent she talks to, reminds her of her own birth mother Kate. Each book in the ‘Identity Detective’ series considers the viewpoint of one person trapped in this horrible dilemma. In the first book of the series, Ignoring Gravity, it is Rose’s experience we follow as an adult discovering she was adopted as a baby. Connectedness is the story of a birth mother, her hopes and anxieties, her guilt and fear, and her longing to see her baby again. Sweet Joy, the third novel, will tell the story of a baby abandoned during The Blitz, and how the now elderly woman is desperate to know her story before it is too late.           Sandra Danby

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Rituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery by Jennifer S Alderson #NewRelease

Adventures of Zelda Richardson Book 3

Rituals

Zelda Richardson is an adventurous heroine who loves to solve mysteries.  She needs to succeed in her placement as an intern at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam but the work involves Asmat Bis poles from Papua New Guinea, totems made for the spirits of the dead, whose evil looking faces seem to be leading her into danger.

 

Seven crates have been discovered unopened for 50 years in the archive depot of Rotterdam’s Wereldmuseum.  As Zelda and the more important staff from the museums observe, the crates are unpacked, revealing not just Bis poles, but also human remains of the head-hunting Asmat culture of what was then Dutch New Guinea.  But the most intriguing discovery is the leather-bound journal of Nicholas Mayfield, a wealthy American anthropologist who went missing in 1962.

 

Interspersed with Zelda’s transcription of the journal and her investigations, are passages from 1962, where we discover the frustrations and difficulties Nicholas had experienced while trading in Dutch New Guinea, hindered rather than helped by experienced Dutch anthropologist, Albert Schenk.  Albert is now Director of the Wereldmuseum and he seems to be a thoroughly unpleasant, arrogant individual.

 

Soon, Zelda is alarmed when two people close to her are murdered.  She continues with her task of transcribing the journal and researching the background of the Bis poles for an imminent exhibition, but she keeps information close to her chest and, at times, is unwise in those she chooses to trust.

 

This exciting story is also an education about a culture of which I knew very little.  The actions of colonial powers, the church and collectors of artifacts is called into questions but there is also our moral dilemma of whether to exhibit treasures from the past or return them to their source.  But don’t let this put you off; you will be on the edge of your seat wondering if Zelda will take one risk too many as well as wishing to discover what actually happened to Nicholas Mayfield.  A thoroughly good read.

An amazing picture of a Bis pole

Rituals of the Dead on Amazon UK and Amazon US

My review of Zelda’s first adventure Down and Out in Kathmandu

The Lover’s Portrait by Jennifer S. Alderson #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

Lover's Portrait

American Art History student Zelda Richardson loves her life in Amsterdam, but entrance into the Master’s course in Museum Studies depends on her performance as an intern at the Amsterdam Historical Museum. She is asked to work on an online project to restore 1500 paintings stolen by the Nazis during World War Two to their rightful owners or descendants but she is not welcomed onto the project by the stiff, unfriendly Huub Konijn, senior curator at the Jewish Historical Museum, who designed the website.

But not content with her editing role, Zelda uses her previous web design experience to brighten up the front page, with her own choice of paintings, in an animation. Despite Huub’s criticism, one of these paintings, Irises, triggers a claimant almost instantly. Rita Brouwer, a large, jolly American woman claims it was painted for her elderly sister, but as Zelda begins to warm to this lady, another claimant turns up. Karen O’Neil is an unpleasant socialite, accompanied by her German lawyer, Konrad Heider. She has paperwork listing the painting in the Gallery of her grandfather, Arjan van Heemsvliet.

In parallel with events in 2015, we read about how many valuable paintings belonging to Dutch Jews were hidden in 1942 by Arjan and his friend, picture framer, Philip Verbeet who was Rita’s father. But both men disappeared and the location of the paintings is still unknown. We know more than Zelda about whom she should trust but part of the mystery is concealed until the end and Zelda’s impetuous, proactive investigation leads her into danger and thrilling action.

The novel gives a detailed account of the large quantity of art that was stolen and how rightful ownership is carefully researched, which of necessity slows down the first part of the story, but there is also a compelling mystery which makes the rest of book a real page turner. Zelda is a determined young woman who stumbles into predicaments because of her desire to reveal the truth and the other characters also have convincing motives and characteristics. A great read.

I have since discovered that this is the second book about Zelda, so I am now looking forward to reading Down and Out in Kathmandu: A Backpacker Mystery, Book one in the series.

The Lover’s Portrait can be purchased at Amazon UK or Amazon US

Rosie's Book Review team 1

#AtoZChallenge Letter Z

ivy-capital-letter-zis for Zuleika Dobson

 

Zuleika

I read Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm about 40 years ago.  It is an ironic satire on the life of undergraduates at Oxford University in 1911.  Into their lives comes the stunningly beautiful Zuleika.  All the young men fall in love with this femme fatale, but she resists all their charms, even when she falls in love herself.  At the end of the book after the young men have proved they were prepared to die for her, Zuleika sets out for Cambridge, where perhaps the students might have been less melodramatic.  This was Beerbohm’s only novel but it was very successful and established him as a wit whom George Bernard Shaw called,  “the Incomparable Max.”  Max was also admired for his caricatures of famous figures.  Here he shows the pre-Raphaelites William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones in their rooms in Red Lion Square.

Morris21042016

One last chance to view the choices of the other  AtoZChallngers

#AtoZChallenge Letter X

For this letter I have to cheat by using EX

One person you can count on to be depressing is Thomas Hardy.  Here is one of his later poems.

EXPECTATION and EXPERIENCE

“I had a holiday once,” said the woman-

Her name I did not know-

“And I thought that where I’d like to go,

Of all the places for being jolly,

And getting rid of melancholy, Would be to a good big fair;

And I went.  And it rained in torrents, drenching

Every horse, and sheep, and yeoman,

And my shoulders, face and hair;

And I found that I was the single woman,

In the field- and looked quite odd there!

Everything was spirit-quenching:

I crept and stood in the lew of a wall

To think, and could not tell at all

What on earth made me plod there!”

Thomas Hardy

Vincent_Willem_van_Gogh,_Dutch_-_Rain_-_Google_Art_Project

Rain by Vincent Van Gogh

#AtoZChallenge Letter W

W  is for Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse was an artist who painted in the Pre-Raphaelite style, many years after the original  Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood had ceased to exist.  Today I am going to concentrate on his portrayal of The Lady of Shalott.

half-sick_of_shadows,

I Am Half Sick of Shadows

Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote the ballad set at the time of King Arthur, based on the medieval story of Elaine of Astolat.

Unable to look directly on Camelot because of a curse, she must content herself with the reflection in a mirror.

Looking_at_Lancelot

The Lady of Shalott Looking at Lancelot

 

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;
On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow’d
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
       As he rode down from Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash’d into the crystal mirror,
‘Tirra lirra, tirra lirra:’
       Sang Sir Lancelot.
She left the web, she left the loom
She made three paces thro’ the room
She saw the water-flower bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
       She look’d down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried
       The Lady of Shalott.
John_William_Waterhouse_The_Lady_of_Shalott
By the water stood the queenly
       Lady of Shalott.
With a steady stony glance—
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Beholding all his own mischance,
Mute, with a glassy countenance—
       She look’d down to Camelot.
It was the closing of the day:
She loos’d the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
       The Lady of Shalott.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

#AtoZChallenge Letter V

V is for Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch painter of domestic interior scenes of everyday seventeenth century life.  Vermeer worked slowly and with great care, and frequently used very expensive pigments. He is noted for his skillful portrayal of light.  He was a reasonably successful painter in his lifetime, but he left his wife and children in debt at his death.  Nowadays Vermeer is most famous for his painting Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Vermeer

This simple picture of a woman with a milk jug inspired this poem:-

Vermeer

As long as the woman from Rijksmuseum

in painted silence and concentration

day after day pours milk

from the jug to the bowl,

the World does not deserve

the end of the world.

Wislawa Szymborska

You can find a list of all the other A to Z Challengers