Reading My Way Around the World

Thursday 31 December 2020

 Well!   That was a year!  Phewww!!   

For me it has been interesting, frustrating, frightening educational  and restful all at the same time.   The pace has slowed, travelling has been much closer to home than in previous years, but the benefits have been great - a garden starting to take shape, time for art and books and movies, and a huge learning curve getting to grips with Zoom.   

Housework, never my superpower, has been toed well down the line and half an hour watching the birds and squirrels and the passing seasons has become much more important and enjoyable.  

A curlew flew by yesterday when we were walking on the beach and the sunrise has been fabulous - normally I don't notice it at this time of year.  

Thank you all for your lovely comments on my last post.  No promises to  write more regularly in the coming months but I have chosen a word for 2021 - ENERGY - so let's see what that brings.  

So farewell to the 21st year of the 21st century (thanks to Stephen Fry for noting that one).  Going to see the year out with a glass of something sparkling and  Jools Holland's Hootenanny on the tele - always a great party - it'll be interesting to see how they manage it this year. 

And to wish you all well, if you have time check out Singmarra, my community choir some of whom have managed to stay singing with me online through out the year, here singing Blessed Be

Lots of love, take care and stay safe and I look forward to reading your posts in the coming year.   

Fil xx

Sunrise on Carlingford Lough 29th December 2020 with a dusting of snow on The Cooley Mountains

Monday 23 November 2020

Catching up

Hello folks

Thank you for the lovely comments on my last post - it's lovely to hear from you all.   I've been following along, occasionally dropping in and reading your blogs but I just haven't had the energy to write.   

We've had such a couple of months ... first my mother wasn't well through September and ended up in hospital for 2 weeks - she's fine now thankfully.  A week later Tom went in for a routine day procedure and 6 days later collapsed with a massive internal bleed.  To top it off, while he was in the hospital there was an outbreak of coronavirus on the ward and he was sent home early to recuperate and both of us on a 14 day self isolation ... a week later back in hospital he tested positive and once again we had a further 14 day isolation.   That finally ends tomorrow and I'm seriously going spare not getting out.   But all's starting to improve, although he's not fully well yet and thankfully the covid symptoms were negligible and I showed no symptoms at all - at least now he's immune for a couple of months at least.   

So apart from keeping the choir going online and doing a few classes I've been learning how to be a housewife lol. I kid you not - the hardest job I think I've ever done is getting meals ready on time - not our usual way of working (usually we wait until one of us is hungry and then there's a mad scramble to find something to eat)... but it's been good having something to focus on.  I have huge respect for all of you that have held down jobs, houses and brought up children - you are heroes.  

So now I"ve a couple of book blogs to write, and it's about time to get down to a bit of songwriting too.  

We're still enjoying the company of the squirrels (one of whom insists on getting inside the food box!).. 

and I took the greatest of pleasure in building a log pile on my own while Tom was in bed :) 

I hope you're all well.


Monday 9 November 2020

Bottom of the Garden

 On a lovely day in August we socially distanced at the bottom of the garden with my friends Csilla Toldy and Tommy Sands to make a tv programme based on our show The Emigrant Woman's Tale.   

On the other side of the hedge is the sea - the border - and this series that Tommy is making looks at all the various projects that have been helped by the EU Peace and Reconciliation Fund - groups from both sides of our divided community coming together and reaching out to forge links across borders.  We were delighted to be the first programme in the series which was broadcast on YouTube on Saturday night.   

Here's the link to the YouTube video if you'd like to hear some songs, listen to some poetry and hear tales of our border crossings soft and hard - Csilla crossing the green borders of the Iron Curtain, me skipping across a sheugh as a child. 

Monday 3 August 2020

John Hume Rest in Peace

Such a sad day here in Northern Ireland saying goodbye to a true giant of a leader who was the instrument of peace here and a tireless campaigner for civil rights.   The peace process in Northern Ireland and the subsequent Good Friday Agreement would not have happened without him and for that I am forever grateful.

"Difference is an accident of birth" was something he often said.  "Our quarrel is not about religion even though that is was it is often described as .... it is about identity."   This was and still is the truth of our situation here and he was the first person who really was able to speak about it openly and fairly.    This speech he gave to the Nobel Committee is well worth a listen if you're interested.

I had the privilege of meeting John once and he was a lovely gentle man and today he has been honoured by political leaders all over the world as well as on both sides of our community here and has been described as our Martin Luther King.

John Hume - Rest in Peace. We will not see your like again.

Friday 26 June 2020

June 2020 Photo Scavenger Hunt

I love this monthly photo challenge run by Kate from I Live I Love I Craft
These are the prompts for June

My garden 

At the start of lockdown I was very enthusiastic about getting on top of our garden and giving it some TLC but after I sprained my ankle things slowed down - and now (7 weeks later) it's turned out that the ankle is fractured : - So I'm hobbling around with a boot and crutches and there'll be even less done.   How. Ever.   I got down on the lawn  which we've let go wild cos it's been so dry and there's no grass growing anyway and it's now a mass of wild grasses and flowers - it will be cut shortly but I wanted a few pics before that.


Another from the lawn - I'm sure I'll get this one wrong but I think this is Birdsfoot Trefoil.


Still at ground level today - much better perspective down here -  so I spent 5 minutes chasing a ladybug around to get a photo and kept snapping as it climbed up my dress ... this one is over lit but hopefully in focus and I thought it was a very happy accident 😎


I love the effect of the sun on the water in the evenings.  

Something wild!Your own choice - sorry - you're getting 3 pics here ... 

We've had great fun watching the squirrels - this young one, and another one which I haven't managed to catch yet, hasn't figured out the box and keeps trying to raid the birds' nuts- puts a new meaning on pole dancing lol  And if you have the patience to watch to the end of the little video, the mother (it looks like a female) couldn't get enough so climbed right in!

Well that's it from me for June, gosh how the year is starting to fly now - at the start of lockdown everything was moving very slowly but now it's racing.  Hopefully by next month I'll be back on my feet and we'll be moving around a bit more safely.  Stay well all ... Heading over now to the Link Up page to see what everyone else has put up for these words.  

Thursday 25 June 2020

More Books Around the World Reviews

So ... I've now done 34 countries on my Round the World Reading Challenge - hooray for lockdown :)   Only another 160+ to go ... and I confess I am dipping into my normal repertoire of UK/Irish/American books and well.  You can check the link above to see how I'm going, but here's the rest of the recent ones.

A Girl Made of Dust by Nathalie Abi Ezri *****

Another 5 star book for me ... beautifully written.

Based on the writer's own experiences of growing up in a village on the outskirts of Beirut during the 1980s war.
It is told through the voice of 8 year old Ruba and the descriptions are absolutely gorgeous - it brought me right back to my own childhood, seeing flowers and trees and people in different ways.  And a child's view of the awfulness of war.   Can't recommend it highly enough.  

North China

The Teagirl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See *****

I loved this book - so brilliantly researched and beautifully written.  It tells the story of a young girl from an ethnic minority tribe who live in the tea producing mountains of north China and how the modern outside world encroaches on them.   Lisa See, the author is of Chinese/American ancestry and this is also explored in the story.  

The Man Who Spoke Snakish by Andrus Kivirahk ****

It was a review on the cover of this book that drew me to it ... It said "Imagine it is the end of the world, and Tolkien, Beckett, Mark Twain, and Miyazaki (with Icelandic sagas and Asterix comic books stuffed under their arms) are getting together in a cabin to drink and tell stories around last bonfire the world will ever see."  Now wouldn't that make you want to at least open the book! lol 

While it is a strange book by any standards - sort of a fairytale, but not quite, again it is a tale of modern versus old ways.   And while it didn't send off any bells and whistles for me, it still kept me engaged right to the end.

The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana John ****1/2

Another historically well researched book, again about mixed race and the difficulties there in.   This is set in Japan after World War 2 and after the end of the American occupation there.  Very interesting and beautifully written.  A young Japanese woman falls in love with an American sailor which casts her into a world of not belonging.  

Another Country by Anjali Joseph ***1/2

I don't normally enjoy coming of age books - getting too old I suppose - but this one held me to the end - as one reviewer said Joseph has an extraordinary ability to describe emotions and to describe what's unsaid - moods, feelings etc ... I could remember a lot of those feelings. 
Leela is a young Indian woman who has studied in Cambridge and is working in Paris trying to find herself.  

Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder ****
I'm entering this for two countries as the are both the subject of this book and truthfully I couldn't face reading more about this awful period in history.

This Pulitzer Prize winning book is an amazing story of hope and triumph and belief in human goodness.

It is the memoir of Deogratias 'Deo' Niyizonkiza who escaped the genocide in his native Burundi by first of all travelling to Rwanda, then back to Burundi and eventually to America where, with no English and only $200, he managed to survive, eventually studying at Columbia University, and travelling back home to set up a medical clinic near where he was born.
Burundi is one of the 3 poorest countries in the world and in the bottom 5 of GDP and as a teenager Deo tried to build a clinic in his village.  

My star system is really just a comparison thing for myself.   And I can't figure out how to put in a 1/2 star!!!

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Books Around the World Update

And yet more titles from my reading challenge ticked off this year so far.

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo ***

I picked this book up from looking at Reese Witherspoon's Book Club list and frankly it wasn't entirely my taste... however, it was a good enough story that kept me engaged until the end, even though it felt more like young adult fiction.

Set in Malaya in the 1930s,  Ren is an eleven year old houseboy who has a secret mission to find his dead master's severed finger and reunite it with its body.   He has 49 days to do this or else his master's soul will roam the earth for ever. 

Meanwhile Ji Lin, a dressmaker's apprentice, finds the finger while moonlighting as a dancehall hostess to help pay her mother's debts.   Their paths cross and we get a good insight into the tradions of both the colonial British in Malaya at the time and of the local beliefs, myths and traditions.

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton ***

Again, another from Reese's book club and again a bit chic lit for my tastes ..

However, this was a good look at the lives of both the wealthy who fled Cuba when Castro took power as well as the lives of those who stayed behind.   It explained very well the life under Batista and the revolution that brought Castro and Che Guevara into the spotlight and the reality of what happened once they took power.  It also brought some much needed sunshine into the grey winter months.

As a border liver I understand the conflict of duality of those people who left the Cuba for America - the feelings of not knowing who or what they really are - are they American now or will they always be Cuban - that identity, and their wealth,  is tinged with the feelings of loss and guilt at what they left behind.

Even though I didn't like the writing in this book, it fulfilled its place in my challenge to teach me about another culture however it left me with the feeling that I never want to visit Cuba as it is now, something that would have been on my wish list of places to see.  Musicians have always been special in Cuba, but it was made clear in the story that they, the artist class, were treated in a way that the average Joe isn't.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian ****
Another book set in Syria but really the story is about Turkey and Armenia.  

A very good, if harrowing story, set during the Armenian genocide in 1913-15 in Syria and Turkey.  This was a part of history that I had never heard of and the book was written to coincide with the centenary.

Elizabeth Endicott is a wealthy young American who arrives in Aleppo, Syria with her father on an aid mission to help deliver food and meidcal aid to refugees of the Genocide.  There she meets and falls in love with a young Armenian engineer who has lost his wife and infant daughter.

I've read a few books about the animosity between Turks and Armenians but didn't know any of the reasons.  This was a very good read. 


The Expats by Chris Pavone ***

Not much to say about his one ... it's a bit of a romp spy story ... easy enough reading.
We visit Luxembourg quite often and play there most years so it was quite interesting for me visiting some of the landscape I know, but other than being set in the city there, it didn't add a lot to my knowledge of Luxembourg - might need to read something in French to get further into it.

I think that's enough for now .... on to my next batch.

What have you been reading recently?  Any suggestions to fit my journey, preferably lighter themes?   A lot of stories that make it to best of lists are set in conflict zones and I find it hard to constantly read heavy stories even though it is interesting to learn about history and geography through fiction.  Still there's times that a jolly good laugh or detective or a love story will do just as well.  

As always a huge thanks to Ash at Tale Away where I get lots of inspiration of new countries to visit and new writers from those countries.

Tuesday 16 June 2020


Life is starting to slowly picking up speed again around here, with lots of the sessions moving online and our local craft shop opening up for a few days this week.  Like everywhere else, the parks and beaches are packed on the good days so we're choosing to stay closer to home. 

The first of the online festivals takes place today to mark Bloomsday and Tom and I have a short video in it of the famous "Loves Old Sweet Song" (Just A Song At Twilight) which features in the book - - that'll be around 6pm Irish Time.  I'll also be compering part of the event from 10am.

For those of you who are not familiar with it, Bloomsday celebrates the James Joyce book Ulysses, once voted the greatest book of all time (- to my mind it falls into the category of the most tiresome of all time!  Call me a Philistine but I've never managed to get beyond one page of the blinking thing, even in spite of studying Joyce as part of my English course at Uni).  

Anyway that aside, Ulysses takes place on one day in the life of Leopold Bloom - June 16th, 1904 (Joyce chose that date as the day he met his future wife Nora Barnacle) .  It takes place in Dublin, but reference is made to here “He hoped Miss Douce had nice weather in Rostrevor.’-  one of the few places mentioned outside of the city.   So naturally, some eagle eyed enthusiast here, in this case theatre designer Alistair Livingstone,  spotted the connection and not content with having a connection from the area to C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and the Queen no less, they have raised Joyce to the level of the others and there will be a one day festival online on the 16th, connecting in with festivals in Dublin, New York, Budapest, Australia and the Irish Cultural Centre in London. 

More info from the Press Release

Presented by The Light Theatre Company who have filmed, ‘Sirens at the Bar’, Based on the ‘Sirens Episode’ in ‘Ulysses’ by writer Csilla Toldy. Performed by Vivien Botos Cole (Miss Douce), Jennifer McGovern (Miss Kennedy) Neil Cole (Simon Dedalus), Jason Benson (Lenehan) Directed by Alistair Livingstone following strict social distancing rules, specially for this year’s event.   

They have also filmed a Bloomsday breakfast which will start the day off.

Apart from musical representations of Joyce’s poems and songs of the era, Poetic Action Rostrevor (PAR) will present ‘Joyce over Rostrevor’, a series of inspiring quotes from Joyce pictured at iconic locations.

A series of filmed readings will include episodes from the novel, poems by Joyce performed by actors  who have sent us their recordings from Belfast, Dublin, Scotland, England and even New York, children's short stories from The Dubliners and new pieces especially written for the festival.

Tune in today (or in the coming days as it will stay online) on Facebook: and on YouTube.   

Thursday 4 June 2020

YouTube link

Hi all,
I promised to put up our YouTube link a bit quicker this time from our concert online on Monday night.  
It's such a strange way to do a gig, but once we started to see some messages coming in it felt as if people were there in the room with us, or rather that we were in the room with them.  
Here's the YouTube link .

Live from our studio

So now back to enjoying crafting, gardening, and re booking dates that have been cancelled for the rest of this year - I can't believe it, but I actually booked a gig for May 2022 today - crazy - it feels like something out of Star Trek!  2022! 

Book Review: Books from the Middle East

Some more titles ticked off from my round the world reading challenge.

These are two more titles from the charity book club  ShelterBox which I wrote more about in my last book review post.  

 The Pact We Made by Layla Alammar  ****

Beautifully written debut novel about a wealthy young Kuwaiti woman struggling with a burgeoning anxiety disorder, who is being put under pressure from her mother to marry before she turns 30 but who only wants to escape her seemingly perfect life and live life on her own terms.   However she can't even leave the country without her father's permission. 

This is a really interesting insight into a way of life where traiditon and modern living are clashing. Very enjoyable read.


Celestial Bodies by  Jokha Alharthi ****

Set in Oman, this is the story of three sisters and their journey to get married - another story of traditional values in a modern world.  Beautifully written, it won the International Booker Prize in 2019.

When I was in my twenties I lived for a short while in Dubai and had the privilege once of being invited to a local wedding where I sat with the women as the bride was being painted wiht henna.  She was to be the fourth wife of a local sheikh which I found shocking - not sure if that's still a practice.   The older women were very curious about my freckles and wanted to examine my skin, while I was equally curious about being able to meet them without their face coverings and the traditions around the wedding but I was very young and didn't have the language to ask many questions.   

This book answers some of those questions - it is a behind the scenes look at an Arabic way of life and the  expectations on young women in that world. 

Monday 1 June 2020

Join us online tonight

Hello everyone,

Just a quick note to let you know that Tom and I will be doing a short online set at 8pm Irish time this evening, representing our local folk club.  The concert will be available on You Tube later tonight.   It'd be lovely to see you there. 


Fil xx

Friday 29 May 2020

May 2020 Photo Scavenger Hunt

Hello everyone,

How are you all coping with the continuing lockdown?  I'm finding that it's taking me even longer to get anything done and after 10 weeks I'm really relaxing into this pace of life. 

A few weeks back I fell and sprained my ankle and have been going slow ever since - but on Sunday we got out for a short walk for the first time in ages ... so much for my dreams of getting fit over this time.  Anyway ....

Today I'm joining in with Kate's monthly Photo Scavenger Hunt and most of the photos have come from that walk to Greencastle, a few miles from here, which is on the shores of Carlingford Lough at the mouth of the lough out onto the Irish Sea.   On the opposite shore is Greenore in Co. Louth. 


Well I thought it looked like a triangle anyway - and I love the shape of it .... a marker for the feighters coming in to Warrenpoint Harbour further up the lough. 


Oh how I love the dandelion clocks at this time of the year - it brings me right back to learning how to tell the time on them when we were children. 


I'm not going to show you too much of the Splat! here though you can see some of it at the bottom of the pic - we were slightly too late when we spootted the starling going to the corner of the roof - Tom went to close the hole but realised too late that there were already chicks - so we've had to stick with them - apart from the mess, they're sooooo noisy.   Thankfully they take only 3 weeks to fledge so they'll be going shortly - the little darlings:)  But they are fascinating to watch.   Another year swallows got in to the front porch - thankfully we've avoided that one!  I love nature :) 


I love the (almost) square windows in the Castle at Greencastle - it's a small castle here and dates back to Norman times - one of a series of lookouts right up the lough.   There are a lot of remnants of both Viking and Norman invasions around this part of the coast. 


A few years ago I was having a real photography phase and managed to get some half decent night time photos - I was really proud of this one.

Your own choice

The ferry moored up at Greencastle until times improve.   This crosses the border from here to Greenore and is a handy route for people working at the port across the way.  It's only been open for a few years so I hope this lay off doesn't impact their business in any way.   It's really handy for a day out to Carlingford or a quick route down to Dublin from the Mournes for tourists.

So that's it from me for another month - off now to join the other Scavengers from around the world to see what they've been up to this month. 

Friday 1 May 2020

April 2020 in Photos

I've been trying to take the time this month to get some much needed rest and blogging has fallen by the wayside again .... so I thought I'd at least try to jump in and join the Photo Scavenger Hunt that Kate at I Live I Love I Craft has kept going for several years now.   This month the words, or suggestions, have been put forward by Purple Threads and they're an interesting variation to suit this new situation we all find ourselves in.  I feel like I want to answer the questions more than put up photos so bear with me....

Happiness is ....

Having  more than one weekend at home and getting to grips with the garden while watching Nature slowly unfold in front of us.

Normally at this time of the year we are off travelling somewhere.   Right now we should be driving home from a trip around Scotland and the north of England after visiting several folk clubs, enjoying lovely gigs, and catching up with friends we've not seen for a few years.

So it's been a lovely surprise to actually be here at the right time for pruning hedges, planting seeds, weeding and tidying. The poor garden doesn't know what's hit it!  This is a very boring photo of a bit of waste ground that it has taken us 17 years to dig over!!  so a few herbs and peas already in and more seedlings getting ready

Makes me smile ...

There have been so many funny videos doing the rounds since the start of the lockdown - some are chuckle worthy and others really laugh out louds and we've had our one constant smileworthy Red the squirrel.   But these sweet flowers make me smile everytime I see them - closing up at night and opening up to the sunshine.  Not even sure what they're called but were part of a bag of mixed bulbs I planted in the Autumn

Relaxing with ... 

Finally at Easter we got some time to relax - so out came movies, books and knitting and of course the obligatory glass of wine (hic)... And I've also been dabbling with art journalling - enjoying creating with no end result which has been a huge joy.   I'm not artistic in the slightest, so to play with paint and paper with no expectation is bringing me back to childhood and is wonderfully relaxing.

I set myself a few projects to do during this time using up left over scraps of wool and took this basic pattern from Beate at Hedgehog Fibres for a blanket.  It is still growing and keeping me warm on these cooler evenings and my piles of unused wool are starting to shrink.

Busy with ... 

Learning new technology ... groan ... sorry, but this is a long comment ....
Coming up to St Patrick's Day and the week before the official lockdown we were hoping to finish up our run of The Emigrant's Woman Tale and managed to get to the last two shows before everything collapsed.  There was an instant panic as we spent the following 2-3 days cancelling the following several months work.Too much stress.

Then began the task of moving some of it online and that meant learning new tecnhology - to teach a class, to run the choir and to do a concert.  It took 3 weeks, but we managed to get all of them going by using Zoom and Facebook Live.  However it totally exhausted me and I've ended up taking an earlier than normal holiday to get time to recover (and apologies for not putting up the link after our concert).

The concert was a huge success - much better than we could have expected - you can still see it on YouTube.  Once we starsted seeing comments coming in from around the world, friends and family letting us know they were there, it became very emotional and really really enjoyable.   We're considering doing a second one if our energy returns before the lockdown ends, and we'll time it to suit the American clock this time.  And I will be a bit quicker about letting you have the YouTube link afterwards

However, the choir online was not as successful.   Because of the delay in sound we cannot sing together from different places - we can use it for a check in and for all the members to say hello, tell a story etc and if I switch off everyone's microphones each person can sing along with the tracks I've recorded.  It's not as sastisfying as making music together, but at least it is keeping the group together.

And the last bit - teaching a one to one class on line - that was a great success - almost better than in real life as I can watch the student better.  It just depends on students having good enough technology at their end. 

Positive about ... 
So as a result of the last one I am positive about learning new ways of being.

A gorgeous walk around the bay on Sunday evening

But more importantly I'm positive about the future.  I've worked weekends all my life and never knew how to switch off.  It never occured to me to take days off in lieu, and as I've got older couldn't quite figure out why I always felt ill and exhausted.

Now I'm learning to rest, relax, chill out and just be.   Wheee .....

My Own Choice
Friends doing shopping for us, ... and arriving with a gorgeous bunch of flowers at Easter.   And as I've watched the tulips fade in the vase, the shapes of their elegance have been fascinating.  I've spent ages each day photographing them, learning about the light, and watching their shapes change.

Heading over now to Kate's linky page to see what everyone else has been up to. 
#staysafe everyone - this too shall pass.  

Thursday 30 April 2020

Letters With WIngs

Taken from the Letters With Wings Page 
And so, her name at the top left-hand side of the envelope; under it, the address of her prison” - Joseph Andras
For Poetry Day Ireland, in a difficult moment where people all over the world are locked up at home because of the pandemic, we want to bond with artists and activists who are kept in prisons for their art or for practicing freedom of speech, or because they are fighting for human rights.
Nûdem Durak
I'm not a poet so my best effort at supporting this is by sharing information,  and reading down the list of artists on the Letters With Wings Facebook Page, this young woman stood out to me.   

Nûdem Durak is a Kurdish folk singer who is in prison in Turkey for singing in her own language.   Originally she was imprisoned for one year and then the sentence was extended by another 19 years!  She was charged under "the vague notion of propagandising for singing in her own language" which was banned until the early 90s.  
I have a particular resonance with her.   Back in the 90s Tom and I were doing a gig onboard a ferry between Larne and Stranraer.   It was mid summer and the lounge was packed.   Some tourists travelling from England asked for an Irish song (which I was studiously avoiding beccaues there were a lot of football supporters in the bar).   So I opted to sing The Mountains of Mourne, written by the wonderful Percy French, thinking at least it's a Northern Irish based topic.   
At the end of the gig, waiting for disembarkation in Larne, while Tom was off the boat getting our car to load up, the aforementioned football supporters cornered me and called me a string of names and really frightened the life out of me telling me I was an IRA blah blah blah and that my father should rot in prison.   I was so shaken that I reported the incident to the bar staff.  To my shock they said I was singing songs to incite violence! And we lost the gig - I wouldn't have gone back anyway.  

Reading Nudem's story last night this incident has been really fresh in my mind - However, in spite of the nastiness and partisanship here, I wasn't locked up.   Can you imagine what that must be like.   

If you are into poetry please check out the Facebook page - my friend Csilla is one of the people behind this project - and leave a message for an artist who isn't allowed to speak out.  

Saturday 25 April 2020

Book Review: The PIanist of Yarmouk

I've been getting through lots of books on my round the world reading challenge since the new year and the lockdown has been helping me get through the pile lying by my bedside.   I've updated the list on the dedicated page to include the new countries I"ve been to and thought I'd do a bit of a deeper review of some of them over the next while.

A while back I joined a charity book club called ShelterBox.   They send a book every 6 weeks or so from a new writer and there have been some very interesting titles in their selections including this one.  The donations to the charity help with their work with refugees around the world, particularly now with the coronavirus epidemic hitting so many places that are already in crisis. 

So my top book for this year so far has to be The Pianist of Yarmouk

Syria/Palestinian Refugee Camp 

 The Pianist of Yarmouk by Aeham Ahmad *****

You may remember seeing a picture in the news a few years back of a pianist playing in the middle of the rubble of one of the refugee camps in Damascus.   Well that was Aeham Ahmad and this book is his memoir - a truly inspiring story of hope in the most awful of places.

He grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, on the outskirts of Damascus, where Aeham's father, himself a musician, does everything in his power to give his very talented son a musical education.  It gives a very intimate account of the actualities of life in these conditions and gives a bitter sweet insight into the life of one of the people we saw walking in those terrible queues of people tyring to get into Europe a few years ago..   Thankfully Aeham survived to tell his story and is playing now in much more salubrious conditions with his family by his side.   I would love to meet him and shake his hand.