Book review – Mr Darwin’s Gardener by Kristina Carlson

Mr Darwin's GardenerWriting the first paragraph of a novel is an artform in itself. At the very least it must intrigue the reader sufficiently to make them hunger for the remainder of the story, while setting the tone for the pages that follow.

Mr Darwin’s Gardener achieves this with unwavering audacity, opening with the sentence: ‘Edwin lopes along the road, picking his nose’, before spilling into the degenerate mockery of the jackdaws surveying the scene.

It’s an unconventional start that makes what follows – a drifting narrative that alights in the minds and thoughts of the residents of the Kent village of Downe – easier than you might expect to absorb and devour. Continue reading

The season of mellow fruitfulness

Azienda Agricola Tenuta degli Angeli mushrooms cr Judy DarleyJohn Keats’ wistful description of this time of year has been utilised so often and by so many that it’s almost slipped into the arena of clichés. Yet what is a cliché but an example of someone who’s said something so succinctly we all borrow and steal their phrase time and again?

Puddle cr Judy Darley

As the first leaves start to turn gold and fall from the tree, a faint dread grips me. While the rising fragrance of the woodland and the crimson encroaching on the greens please me aesthetically, it’s what they lead to that fill me with dread. The long, endlessly long, dark and cold winter.

Last year winter stretched right until May, which was fairly dispiriting even for people who unlike me aren’t mainly solar powered. When it came, summer was truly gorgeous and exceptional, but far too short – I’m not ready to say goodbye!

And yet, Keats was right, this is a season of fruitfulness, for writers no less that farmers.

Change is always a good instigator of creative ideas, and even the change in seasons can be valuable, if only in prompting a change in focus and pace.

As the days get shorter, and the weather less inviting, staying in to write seems more inviting than ever. Snug woollens and a laptop definitely seem like a good match, and if all else fails there are always fingerless gloves to help out.

It’s also a good season for reading – discovering new exciting writers and reacquainting yourself with old favourites. And if the writing gets stale, few things help better than a crisp cold country walk or run enjoying the sight of the changing leaves.

Here are a few others that might help

Reasons to celebrate autumn

Dawn happening late enough for me to glimpse it

Autumn sunsetGolden skies that stretch forever

Country walk cr Judy DarleyFewer people about to disturb thoughtful strolls and runs
Less sun-glare on the laptop screen
oraging for autumn berries

Cherry red cherry tree cr Judy DarleyThe splendour of crimson leaves
The pleasure of cuddling up on the sofa as rain lashes the window
Fewer festivals, fetes, barbecues and other distractions
More dreamtime…

Mid-week writing prompt – seaside contemplation

There’s something about seeing someone absorbed in contemplation that is deeply intriguing. Add to that a gorgeous backdrop of sea and sky, and I’m hooked.

Gyllenvase Beach, Cornwall cr Judy Darley

Not to mention the intrigue of the kayakers in the water beyond. Are these three people linked in some way, or is the man on the shore entirely separate? Is he merely thinking about what he wants to have for tea, putting off going home for some reason, or plotting lord-only-knows what?

If this image prompts you to write something, I’d love to know. Just send an email to Judy(at)socket