Friday Fictioneers – “Lakeside fine dining chez Louis”

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

PHOTO PROMPT © DALE ROGERSON

“Lakeside fine dining chez Louis”

Louis was proud of his newly-opened restaurant. True, the view was better than the wine, and the wine was better than the food, but nine out of ten of his customers wanted steak anyway. What could possibly go wrong? More covers were served every week.

Louis bought himself a celebratory cigar.

Then the rain started.

Nothing dramatic, just steady rain.

For days. Weeks. 

Customer numbers dropped as the lake rose. When the deluge finally stopped, the decking, so recently occupied by happy diners, was submerged. Everything was covered in mud.

Louis sighed, got out his broom and started cleaning.

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Friday Fictioneers – Reaching for the Stars

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

PHOTO PROMPT © DAVID STEWART

Reaching for the stars

It’s a long way to the stars. Even the nearest is more than 23,000,000,000,000 miles away. Out of reach?

They fired the rocket towards the sun, tracking it meticulously. It gained speed like a slingshot as gravity swung it round the blazing orb.

In Mission Control, student John Batchelor and the other scientists heard the AI announce, “Satellites deployed”. They cheered when the monitor showed an armada of craft, their sails stealing momentum from the sun’s light, each bound starwards.

Many years later, silver-haired Professor Batchelor watched enrapt as the craft beamed back their first image from an alien sun.

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Book Review – The Cleaner of Chartres

Book Review – The Cleaner of Chartres

Title – The Cleaner of Chartres

Genre – Literary Fiction

Author – Salley Vickers

Published – 2012

Rating 6/10

*       *       *

I enjoyed this novel. It kept me turning the pages. The central character, Agnes Morel, caught my sympathy to the extent that I wanted to know how her story developed. The plot was intriguing, with a twist that took me by surprise.

The novel depicts human nature convincingly. There are good characters and bad characters, weak characters and strong characters, and they play out their roles in a satisfying manner. Skilful writing shows different facets of their personalities, and gives insights into how they became the people they are. Salley Vickers has a humane view of people, and this glows through the way she depicts her cast.

So, why only 6/10?

The problem I have with this book is that it constantly feels like an excellent novel trying to escape from the strait-jacket of one that is run-of-the-mill. It has flaws that reduced my pleasure as a reader.

For example, language. The very first line of the novel is, “The old town of Chartres, around which the modern town unaesthetically sprawls…”. Unaesthetically? Really? I nearly closed the book then and there.

Then the characters. I realised quite soon that I was struggling to remember who was who, so, when I had finished the novel, I counted how many significant characters there were. There were at least eighteen. When reading, I had to make a special effort to identify the characters as they appeared.

Having so many characters brings other problems too, one of which is the characters’ voices. Professor Jones’ voice caught something of the Welsh lilt, but I felt that the voices of most of the characters were inauthentic, or just plain dull.

The central character, Agnes Morel, is attractive. She’s also believable; but only just. Her wardrobe is a strange mix of shabby and glamorous, just as her intellect is a mixture of limited and unusually insightful. More than once she is referred to as a savant, which is fair enough. Her character requires a willing suspension of disbelief, and the writing is strong enough to maintain that.

The novel is written in a mix of contemporary and flash-back, and uses the third person universal point of view. The action takes place in four places, Chartres, Evreux, Le Mans and Rouen. Every chapter is headed with the location so we know where and when the action of the chapter is set. I occasionally found this confusing.

In summary, a good novel, one I could imagine reading again, one which had me thinking about what it is to be human, but a novel with irritating flaws. Definitely worth reading.

Friday Fictioneers – The Wall

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

PHOTO PROMPT © Anne Higa

The Wall

Ralph coughed and spat brown phlegm. How the hell was he supposed to climb a brick wall? His vision swam as he looked around. What the hell was a bucket doing here anyway?

One foot in the bucket and…

It swivelled from under his feet.

He fell, awkwardly. Hell, that hurt.

Something to take away the pain. Quickly. He swigged. Belched. Acid reflux filled his mouth.

Safe behind the armoured glass of an adjacent window, bargain-hunting shoppers barged through tinselled aisles.

Ralph beat on the glass, then slid to the ground.

The shoppers neither saw him nor heard him.

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Book Review – Hallucinating Foucault

Book Review – Hallucinating Foucault

Title – Hallucinating Foucault

Genre – Literary Fiction

Author – Patricia Duncker

Published 1996

Rating 10/10

*       *       *

Wow! Just – wow!

I first read this novel about twenty years ago. I was impressed, yes, and some images stayed with me, but I remember feeling uncomfortable and slightly bemused.

In retrospect, I can see why that was; for all sorts of reasons I lacked the emotional generosity to respond authentically to a challenging love story – for, at its heart, ‘Hallucinating Foucault’ is a love story.

It’s a simple, linear narrative, the quest of a young scholar to find and free Paul Michel, the writer whose works have enthralled him.

Or is it?

The quest story lies nestled in a story of old passions; the passion of a man for his first love; the passion of an artist for his art; the passionate need of a writer for his ideal reader. By the time we reach the last page we can see a monumental structure, solid as concrete, against which the hapless scholar has been mercilessly broken. We can make out seductive whispers, just below the threshold of audibility, blaming Fate and denying human responsibility, even as they admit human agency.

We never learn the name of the scholar. It is as though he exists only in relation to Paul Michel. And yet, we care. I cared passionately for him. I shuddered with trepidation as the inevitable denouement approached. I wept at his destruction.

Few books have moved me like this one. Few books have given me such delight by the sheer quality of their writing.

Read this novel for its superlative writing. Read this novel for its insights into human love and life. But, above all, read this novel for pleasure; it’s a delight.

Friday Fictioneers – Hunted!

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

PHOTO PROMPT © Brenda Cox

Hunted

Murumatsu knew they were hunting him.

From the corner of his eye he caught the flash of a lantern reflected from a knife blade, and ran. If he could only reach Midori’s bar…

He barged between cursing men. Rain-drenched awnings clung to him like the tentacles of an octopus. Murumatsu winced as he grasped a hot grill to lever himself round a corner.

He side-stepped into Midori’s bar.

“Whatever’s the matter, Murumatsu?” she asked with concern.

Two men appeared at the door to the bar, blocking Murumatsu’s escape.

“Midori, can you please make sure your brother takes his medication?”

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Friday Fictioneers – The Healing Tree

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

PHOTO PROMPT © LIZ YOUNG

The Healing Tree

That night the pain was worse. I silenced my cowardly groans, biting hard on a willow twig.

Our shaman nodded at me next morning.

“You are sick,” he said. “You must go to the Tree of Healing.”

“What do I do there?” I asked.

“It is your presence that heals, not what you do. Go!”

I walked. On the second day there was blood in my mouth. I kept walking.

On the third day, I saw the tree; I saw a light, brighter than the sun; I heard chanting voices.

The light faded and I fell.

The pain was gone!

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Normal People – a review

Normal People – a review

Author – Sally Rooney

Genre – Literary fiction

Rating – 9/10

This is an outstanding novel that explores the redemptive power of human love.

Marianne and Connell live in a provincial town in Ireland, and have known each other since childhood. Connell is popular; captain of the school football team, and with good social skills. Marianne is unpopular, derided for her looks, her dress sense and her refusal to conform to the social norms of her peers. Connell is poor; Marianne is well off. Both are extremely intelligent.

In their last year at school, they feel a powerful sexual attraction to each other, and make love. The experience reaches a level of intimacy that startles them both – but they conceal this. As far as the world knows they are casual friends.

Although by the time they go to university they have ‘split up’, the attraction is as strong as it ever was. They struggle against it, forming sexual relationships with other partners, but there is always that spark when they meet.  

Gradually we are led to understand how each of them is damaged. Can their relationship survive this? Can it, indeed, save them? For salvation is what they need; the stakes couldn’t be higher. If they get this wrong, they can never fulfil their potential; they will shrivel and die as individuals.

I found the novel gripping. Having read it once, I admired it so much that I read it again intending to learn from it. Lo and behold, I was about three pages in and the story took control again, and I just read it for pleasure. It really is that good!

Friday Fictioneers – Dangerous Liaison

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

PHOTO PROMPT © C E Ayr

Dangerous liaison

Alone on the beach, I stand silent. The winter sun dapples land and sea, confusing the eye.

I need to plan. What can I do? Where can I go?

I finish my cigarette with three long drags, but the nicotine hit brings no inspiration.

It was my own stupid fault.

Poor Dolores. Beautiful. Seductive. I couldn’t resist her. Giovanni had beaten the truth out of her, then killed her.

Perhaps if I go to London? By train, of course.

I turn towards the steps. It’s my only hope.

There’s a flash from the sand dunes. The sun on binoculars? or…

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Friday Fictioneers – To an unknown hero

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

PHOTO PROMPT © ROGER BULTOT

To an unknown hero

The rock band was deafening, and I hardly heard the first gunshots. People started to scream. I laughed with excitement, and, as the light show dazzled, I turned to Michael, clapping my hands.

“We’ve got to get out,” he yelled, and pointed.

A hooded gunman was pumping round after round into the dancers.

Michael pushed me towards the nearest emergency exit. Shots ripped splinters from the door frame. Michael stumbled, blood pouring from his leg.

People barged past. “Please?” I begged them. “Please help!”

Eventually somebody stopped, and between us we manhandled Michael to safety.

Thank you, whoever you are!  

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