30 Before 30: My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

Annabel Pitcher

As a teenager the majority of books classified as Young Adult (YA) passed me by. Other than reading a few Point Horror books and the necessary ‘coming-of-age’ Judy Blume novel when I was a pre-teen, I recall making a relatively swift transition from Nancy Drew to Jane Eyre (with a few Mills and Boon pit-stops along the way, courtesy of my uncle’s girlfriend!). Once I had entered the vast realm of adult fiction, I saw no reason to go back, and consequently, I have since realised, probably missed out on some amazing pieces of literature for young people.

Since working with teenagers I’ve made a distinct effort to return to the world of YA fiction and have, on the whole, been pretty impressed with it. So when a secondary school teacher I know recommended Annabel Pitcher’s My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece I decided to give it a try. Entirely different to the sensationalist fiction of Darren Shan or Stephenie Meyer (which is good in its own right), I was completely blown away by how candid and poignant it was.

Exploring the effects of loss on a 10 year old boy and his family in the years after his sister is blown up by terrorists, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece tackles a difficult subject in a sensitive yet not overly saccharine way. From the opening paragraph, it is apparent that the death of Rose, Jamie’s older sister, has cast an irrevocable shadow over the family, yet Jamie, the narrator throughout, remains detached from the grief that consumes his mother, father, and Rose’s twin sister, Jasmine. Although his dad cannot bear to spread his daughter’s ashes, instead keeping them in an urn on the mantelpiece, Jamie fails to even remember his older sister. Whilst his family disintegrates under the weight of grief, poor Jamie struggles to make sense of a loss that he can never fully understand. .

Delving into a multitude of issues relevant to life in modern Britain- from racism to alcoholism and single parent families- Pitcher’s debut novel reflects just how devastating an impact death can have not only on family life, but also on a child’s mental and emotional wellbeing. Uprooted and not properly cared for, Jamie has to contend with issues of bullying and loneliness in silence as the rest of his family become increasingly absorbed in their misery. Anyone who has ever worked with children will have met a ‘Jamie’ before- a child who arrives at school in the same dirty clothes every day; someone who is never included, no matter how hard he tries; a person who tells elaborate tales or simply remains silent as a means of hiding the reality of his home life. The sad fact is, Pitcher’s fictional story is a brutally honest account of what happens when grief takes over.

Beyond the sadness, there are moments of light relief that will keep younger readers entertained, particularly the parts involving tricks played on Jamie’s new teacher- a seemingly uncaring woman who is almost as horrible to him as his classmates are. The heart-warming friendship that blossoms between Jamie and fellow outcast Sunya, a kind Muslim girl, is also cause for cheer, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

What most struck me about My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece was the way that, despite being labelled Young Adult fiction, it is just as relevant to an adult as to a teenager. The universal nature of death means that we all have to suffer the consequences of grief at some point, yet being an adult does not always prepare you for it any better than a child. Besides being infused with warmth and a welcome sense of reality, the book reminds us that there is no specific formula for grief- we all deal with things differently, we all make mistakes, and, ultimately, we are all just human.

This novel had me in tears at various stages, which, let’s face it, isn’t hard (as regular readers have probably noticed, this has become a frequent occurrence through this challenge!). I’m pretty certain that I’m not the only person to ever cry at My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece though- in fact, I’d defy anyone NOT to get a little glassy-eyed at it! If you’re an animal lover be prepared for some serious sobbing however- a box of tissues might well be necessary. You have been warned!

ginger cat

 

 

 

30 Before 30: The Shadow of the Wind

1232The Shadow of the Wind

Reading like a prose ode to literature, Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind is a book lover’s dream. It’s been a few weeks since I read it, but one of the most potent passages from the first chapter is still very much embedded in my mind:

‘This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it…Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend’.

Discovering a place called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books would be akin to finding heaven on earth for me. If such a secret library actually existed, I might never leave. Except to venture out to the odd party. And to buy an eternal supply of tea and crisps.

For Daniel, the main character of the book, the discovery of this repository of obscure literature in the bowels of Barcelona and his subsequent ‘adoption’ of a long forgotten novel, The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax, not only eases the pain of his mother’s death, but begins an obsession that will characterise his transition from boy to young man. When he discovers that a mysterious figure named Lain Coubert (which he later find out is the name of the devil in Carax’s books) has managed to destroy every copy of the novel apart from his own, Daniel starts to investigate the author, Julian Carax, and to piece together the enigmatic story of his life.

Though his detective work often lands him and his trusty sidekick, former Spanish Civil War torture victim Fermin Romero de Torres, in hot water, Daniel continues to attempt to unravel the mystery of Carax’s life- which, he soon discovers, is one that encompasses family tragedy, a doomed love affair, and layers of lies. Like a typical teenager, Daniel ignores the threats of Lain Coubert and a corrupt police officer in order to fulfil this self-imposed mission, ultimately facilitating his own journey to manhood.

Despite the convoluted plotline (which I’ve only really given a bare outline of), the basic idea that a book has the power to catalyse change and transform lives is one that all bookish types cannot fail to appreciate and understand. Other than this, what I really loved about the novel was the sense of community within it- how neighbours rallied round to support each other and stand up for those who were being persecuted in the years after the Civil War- and the use of some classic gothic tropes, such as the archetypal gothic building. Blending the gothic tradition with historical fiction, comedy, and a touch of romance, Zafon’s novel has a bit of everything to keep people enthralled until the end.

The fact that it is also beautifully written means that it is very hard to criticise the novel. If your concentration span is limited, you may find it difficult to follow in parts, but this is quite a minor flaw in my (very biased!) eyes. Ultimately, it made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me think. But, more than all that, it filled me with a sense of belonging; with a sense that I had found a writer who truly understood my reverence for the written word and the hallowed status that books have always had in my life.

There is no question about it: I will definitely be reading The Shadow of The Wind again. And, quite possibly, every other Zafon book I can find.

Read it if you can; it’s a literary gem.

The Liebster Award

liebster-award-300x3001

When I first started blogging, I wasn’t aware that there were such things as blogging awards, but apparently there are- and I’m chuffed to have been nominated for one thanks to the lovely and very interesting Yasmine over at http://ymulholland.wordpress.com.

For those of you who don’t know, blogging awards are a really great way of gaining exposure for relatively new bloggers, enabling them to reach new audiences of like-minded individuals. If you get nominated for the Liebster Award, all you have to do is follow the rules below:

·       Thank the blogger that nominated you and share a link back to their blog.

·       Display the award on your blog.

·       List 11 facts about yourself.

·       Answer 11 questions chosen by the blogger that nominated you.

·      Think of 11 new questions to ask your nominees.

·       Nominate 5-11 blogs that you think deserve the award and who have less than 1,000  followers. You can nominate blogs that have already received the award, but you can’t renominate the blog that nominated you.

·        Inform nominees of the award

11 Facts About Myself

  1. Growing up in a family of Huddersfield Town supporters meant that I used to have a season ticket when I was a child. I haven’t been for about 10 years, but I do still enjoy watching the odd football match- it’s the only sport I actually like!
  2.  I love animals and get really attached to pets. Although I was brought up to be a carnivore, I was also taught that all living things deserve to be treated with love and respect. When my 19 year old goldfish died I cried like a baby.
  3. I’ve always been really intrigued by magic and the supernatural. When I was a teenager, me and my best friend used to do spells, and my mum, brother, and I like to talk about anything relating to the supernatural.
  4.  I tried to be a vegetarian once, but failed- I just felt ill all the time! So now I eat chicken and fish. My dairy intake is also quite limited as I have a mild lactose intolerance.
  5. I’m a really emotional person and cry at everything- books, films (even Disney!), music, adverts…
  6.  I LOVE dancing, as I’m sure anyone who’s seen me on a night out will testify.    After reading it’s my favourite thing to do.
  7. I barely wear any make-up anyway, but I try to only buy cosmetics that are BUAV approved (not tested on animals). This can be quite difficult!
  8.  People always mention what a happy, positive person I am, but I can be really moody and stroppy when I want to be…generally when people don’t understand my need to be alone!
  9.  I’m not at all motivated by money- and I don’t have a lot of respect for people who are.
  10. Some of my favourite words are ‘rapture’, ‘melancholy’, ‘effervescent’, and ‘mellifluous’.
  11. I used to be obsessed with Emily Bronte and went through a phase of thinking I was her in a past life!  

11    Questions From http://ymulholland.wordpress.com :

  1. What was your favourite book as a child/teen?

My favourite books were The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and Little Women, both of which I used to read on an annual basis. The magical elements of Narnia captivated my imagination and I really wanted an Aslan of my own. I loved Little Women so much because I identified with Jo March. Like me, she loved books and writing and didn’t really care what anyone thought about her. Both books still have the power to reduce me to tears!

  1. Who is/are your favourite author/s?

There are so many brilliant authors out there, but I generally sway towards those who have quite a poetic or exuberant writing style, like Ben Okri and Angela Carter, or those who write about the fragility and complexity of relationships, like Amy Tan, Kate Atkinson, Maggie O’Farrell, or Joanne Harris. I’m definitely not a style over substance person, but a writer’s prose style can make or break a book for me.

  1. Which book, or books, has had the most influence or impact on you?

Many books have had a big impact on me, but, in recent years, I’d say Kate Atkinson’s Behind The Scenes At The Museum really resonated with me in a way that I’d never experienced before. Besides being funny, poignant and intensely readable, it made me reflect on my own maternal family history, and made me think about writing my own family members into history so that they don’t become ‘lost in time’.

  1. What is your favourite literary era/time period?

I really enjoy gothic fiction, so the whole period of Victorian literature is wonderful. The idea that there was so much passion, superstition, and fear of social change lingering underneath/behind the stiff corsets and upper lips of the 1800s fascinates me!

  1. How would you describe yourself as a reader?

Involved. I find it difficult to extricate myself from what is going on and think of characters as friends (I also have real friends…honestly!). I often feel quite drained from all the emotion that I invest in books.

  1. What is the worst book you have ever read?

I really can’t think of one. By now, I think I’m quite a discerning reader- if I don’t like the look of it, I don’t read it! I’m sure they’re very enjoyable to some people, but I could never read the type of books that perpetuate the myth that women are only interested in clothes, makeup, and men. Books generally have to have some substance- some social, political, or literary value- for me to read them.

  1. Why did you start blogging about books?

I needed a creative outlet, so I decided to start blogging about all the things that I love or am interested in- though it seems to have become pretty literature-concentrated! Writing about literature at MA level was fab, but you have to remain fairly neutral; feelings and opinions aren’t relevant unless they contribute to an academic theory/debate. I wanted to write about books in a way that everyone who loves literature could relate to.

  1. What is the most rewarding or challenging aspect of blogging?

It’s always great when someone says that you’ve inspired them to read something, but, if I’m honest, I just enjoy the writing process- it’s so cathartic.

  1. Can you pinpoint the exact moment where you discovered your love of/interest in books?

I think I was born to love stories and reading! Apparently as a baby I used to pick up the newspaper and babble away to myself as if I was reading it. It’s quite strange actually; nobody else in my family likes books- I’m the anomaly!

  1. How often do you read, and for how long?

I try to read a little bit every day, even if it’s only a poem or two on the bus, but it’s very difficult to do when you have a job, active social life, and lots of other interests! Once I’ve started a book I tend to plough through it quite quickly. I can read a book in a few hours if I put my mind to it.

  1. Do you watch TV/movie adaptations of books, if so what is your favourite adaptation and why?

Although I always endeavour to read the book first, I do love a good adaptation! It’s great to be able to see the visual representation of someone else’s imagination, even when it isn’t always consistent with the book. As a period drama lover, the film version of Sense and Sensibility starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet is a particular favourite of mine, but I’ll happily watch any.

 My 11 Questions For Nominees

  1. If you could be any literary character, which one would you be and why?
  2. What’s your favourite opening line to a book?
  3. Which fictional character would you marry and why?
  4. What’s the most emotionally draining book you’ve ever read?
  5. If you could have written any book, which would it be and why?
  6. Which book would you adapt for the big screen and which actors would you choose to star in it?
  7. Who is your literary idol?
  8. If you could have a dinner party with five writers, dead or alive, who would you choose?
  9. Which fictional world would you like to live in?
  10. What do you enjoy most about reading?
  11. What three books would you take on a desert island?

Nominees

If you enjoy reading about all things book-related, check out these blogs:

The Literary Bunny http://christinarosendahl.wordpress.com

Too Fond  http://toofond.wordpress.com

What Amy Read Next http://raininglilies.wordpress.com

Blunts Book Blog  http://bluntsbookblog.wordpress.com

The Literary Sisters http://theliterarysisters.wordpress.com

 

30 Before 30: The Famished Road

Famished Road1991 Ben Okri The Famished Road

Ben Okri is the literary love of my life, but The Famished Road can definitely be likened to a literary version of Marmite.

Fusing the domestic with the political through an amalgamation of African myth and a postcolonial world of poverty, Okri has never failed to mesmerise me with his intensely poetic and visionary writing style. In his 1991 Booker Prize winning postmodern novel The Famished Road I felt like Okri had cast an enchantment from the very first page, drawing me into the chaotic world of the African spirit-child Azaro with the lush opulence of his words. Some people may find the arcane density of his writing difficult to follow, but, as this passage hopefully illustrates, the style he employs has the quality of myth, and seems to be used as a means of highlighting the western reader’s entrance into a culture where oral tales form the basis of everyday existence:

‘ In the beginning there was a river. The river became a road and the road branched out to the whole world. And because the road was once a river, it was always hungry.

In that land of beginnings spirits mingled with the unborn…There was much feasting playing, and sorrowing. We feasted much because of the beautiful terrors of eternity. We played much because we were always free. And we sorrowed much because there were always those amongst us who had just returned from the world of the Living…’

The Famished Road explores the many elements of life in an African (probably Nigerian) ghetto- poverty, love, injustice, violence, and hunger- through the eyes of a boy who has abandoned his spirit companions to remain in the world of the living. Despite their endeavours to lure him back to their world, Azaro roots himself in a life of suffering, enduring the eternal threats of famine and death to remain with the people he loves.

The novel has been criticised for being repetitive and I must confess that it is. Azaro’s father, a character whose courage I admire but whose temper I don’t, seems to fly into a rage in virtually every chapter, yet his anger always abates before anything too serious occurs. Whilst these violent outbursts can get quite boring, they are, in my opinion, intended to be an accurate reflection of the monotony and futility of life in an African compound, where people are faced with the same struggles and injustices day after day after day.

Far from being predictable, however, there are instances in the book where you’re not quite sure what is happening. Okri blends the spirit world with the world of the living so well that you are often unsure who is alive and who is dead, or what is real and what is fantasy. Although this can be confusing, it allows you to see Okri’s world from the perspective of an African child and contributes to the sense of political and social chaos that permeates the entire novel.

Ben-Okri

At five hundred and seventy four pages long, I can understand why some people put it down long before the end; at times, it really did feel like a labour of love. What propelled me to continue reading it, besides my complete adoration of his prose style, was the fact that this book, a winner of a prestigious Western literary award, was not written by a European, but by a black Nigerian man- someone who is more qualified than most to give a distinctly black African perspective of and insight into the black African condition.

If I’m being honest, this is the sort of book that many people will detest. If you’re not very literary/philosophical and have no patience, I can almost guarantee that you will hate it. But if, like me, you enjoy the challenge of a highly literary read that will continue to provoke thought (and probably confuse you!) long after you’ve read it, The Famished Road will provide you with all the mental and spiritual nourishment you need.

And then some.

Places For Book Lovers

Maintaining my blog has been a challenge in itself lately; there seem to have been so many things going on in my life recently, from juggling two jobs to going on various weekends away! There will always be time for books, however, so I’m continuing to plough through my 30 Before 30 Challenge. It’s progressing more slowly than I originally envisaged due to so many other commitments, but that’s just life unfortunately!

As it’s World Book Day on Thursday and I’m only halfway through my current book, I thought I’d take a break from discussing actual books to share some of the best places I think that a book lover can visit, both physically and virtually. Here’s my top five:

            Sites of Literary Interest

Wherever you live, there’s bound to be a place of literary interest within a reasonably commutable distance (unless you live in the middle of the Amazon rainforest!). In the UK there are hoardes of amazing places that have a literary connection. As a Yorkshire girl, my favourite literary pilgrimage destination has always been Haworth, the home of the Brontes. Non-drivers might find it a bit difficult to get to as it doesn’t have a train station (though there is a steam train that runs through it in the summer months), but I’m sure any true pilgrim would be more than willing to sit for hours on trains and buses to get there!

HaworthHaworth Parsonage

Besides infusing me with literary awe, my annual trip to the picturesque village of Haworth is lovely simply because it’s a gorgeous place to visit- a typically quaint English town of cobbled streets, cute tearooms, and quirky little shops situated in the midst of a dramatic rural landscape. I would definitely recommend it to any book lover, but if Haworth is a bit far for you to travel to, find a more local site of literary interest.

            Online Literary Gift Companies

Despite my constant assertion that I’m a technophobe and wish that I lived in the pre-digital age, I have to admit that, like most people, I rely on my computer for everything. One thing that I particularly love about the Internet is how you can spend hours researching things that you’re interested in and stumble across so many things you would never have found without it! Recently discovered websites that any book lover will adore include www.literarygiftcompany.com , www.bookishengland.co.uk and www.bookishly.co.uk. All contain wonderful literature-related gifts, such as jewellery, cards and prints that will make you think you’re in book heaven!

One day I intend to adorn my walls with book related prints, but as I currently have no wall space to decorate, I’ll have to do it virtually instead, using a print from Bookishly:

We are such stuff...

            Independent/Secondhand Bookshops

In a world of Amazon and Kindles, independent and secondhand bookshops are a dying breed. For me personally, part of the pleasure of the reading process lies in visiting quirky bookshops, hunting out musty old books, and revelling in the ‘bookish’ atmosphere. I appreciate that not all book lovers feel like this, and that some of my friends think I’m a bit odd when I start talking about the feel and smell of old books, but I do think it’s important to support independent second hand bookshops as much as we can, many of which provide an interesting alternative experience to the homogeneity of chain and online stores.

Of all the bookshops in all the towns in all the world (to misquote Casablanca), the most amazing one I’ve ever visited is Shakespeare and Company in Paris. I’m not going to lie- this is partly because of the name and the fact that it’s situated in Paris, my favourite city. Besides this, however, the shop has a piano, a typewriter, and a gorgeous quote on the wall, and apparently gives free lodging to aspiring writers in exchange for them working in the shop! If only I was more proficient in French…

Shakespeare & CoShakespeare & Co3

            Your Local Library

Like independent bookshops, libraries are also becoming increasingly redundant in the face of growing online book sales/downloads, yet they provide so much more than just books. As the venue for many adult workshops/educational activities for kids, libraries are a valuable part of the community- a place where anyone can go, regardless of class, age, ethnic origin, or employment status. By supporting your local library, you not only get to borrow books for free, but also show that you recognise the service that libraries offer as an important contribution to the local community.

            Theatre

We’ve all seen film adaptations of books, but how many people have actually seen a theatrical adaptation? Visiting the theatre to see a play/stage version of a piece of literature is one of my favourite things to do, and, despite what people might think, it isn’t solely the pursuit of the middle classes. Anyone can go to the theatre and enjoy it; you just need enthusiasm and an open mind! Whether you agree with someone’s artistic interpretation or not, seeing someone else’s imagination brought to life on stage is really interesting and often gives you a deeper insight into the book.

At the moment, I’m a massive fan of dance adaptations, particularly those by Northern Ballet, a UK based contemporary ballet company. If you enjoy dance/creative expression, I’m sure you’ll agree that their versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Great Gatsby are utterly spectacular!

Thanks for reading, and have a bookishly good World Book Day!

30 Before 30: Jamaica Inn

Jam Inn Jamaica_Inn_novel

When I first heard Tori Amos sing of pirates, trust, and cliffs of rock in her song ‘Jamaica Inn’ from The Beekeeper album, I was instantly filled with a desire to read Daphne Du Maurier’s book of the same name. Though I knew very little about the book, other than that it was based on the history of a centuries old inn on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, I’d heard many glowing reviews of it. Imagining a dark tale of gothic romance, I was pleased to discover (about eight years later!) that my theory was correct. From the first page I was completely enthralled, swept into the bleak and desolate nineteenth century landscape of the Cornish moors and the literary territory of the gothic novel through Du Maurier’s use of compelling imagery.  Descriptions of the ‘granite sky and a mizzling rain’ and a coach ‘rocking between the high wheels like a drunken man’ propelled me into a story of darkly dramatic proportions, immediately creating the tone of gothic intrigue that permeates the entire novel.

tamos

To summarise, Jamaica Inn is the story of a young woman, Mary Yellan, who obediently complies with her dying mother’s wish that she goes to live with her Aunt Patience and her husband, the landlord of Jamaica Inn, after her death. Arriving to find that her once happy Aunt Patience has become a nervous and almost childlike woman, scared of her violent husband, and that Jamaica Inn is a place feared by the locals, Mary begins to suspect that something is amiss. Unable to depend on her feeble aunt, Mary determines to discover the secrets of Jamaica Inn and her uncle, Joss Merlyn, but soon finds that it is impossible to bear the terrible burden alone. Finding herself drawn to two very different men, Joss’ brother Jem, a magnetic but roguish horse thief, and Francis Davey, a strange and distant vicar, Mary must decide who to trust as events begin to unfold outside of her control.

Besides some beautifully atmospheric descriptions that make the novel immensely readable, what I loved most about Jamaica Inn was Du Maurier’s characterisation of its central protagonist, Mary Yellan. Spirited and courageous, Mary is an extremely likeable character- in fact, I’d even go as far as saying that she is my new favourite fictional heroine (though I still love Elizabeth Bennett)! As someone who has been raised on a working farm, she is hardy and practical, preferring the idea of independently running a farm to the notion of marriage. Moreover, she seems to understand, beyond the conventions of the age in which she lives, the restrictions that are imposed on most married women, recognising her Aunt Patience as an embodiment of the married woman’s metamorphosis from autonomous individual to voiceless shadow of her former self. That is not to say that she is strictly anti-men, however. Despite her revulsion for her uncle’s treatment of her Aunt Patience, Mary understands and experiences desire and the complications that arise from it. Although she enjoys solitary wanderings and relishes the idea of returning to her former home to live a life of independence, Mary’s ambivalent feelings towards the mysterious Jem Merlyn mark her out as a character of complexity. The reader is never quite sure what she will do next, yet there is no doubt that Mary Yellan will continue to remain true to herself, executing her plans with good judgement, resolve and integrity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mary Yellan is not the only complex character in the book, however. In Joss Merlyn, Du Maurier carves out an extremely flawed character- who is both detestable and fascinating at the same time. Finding myself sympathising with Joss on more than one occasion, I viewed him as an alternative Heathcliff. Whereas Emily Bronte’s Heathcliff denies his roots to climb the social ladder, ultimately becoming a self-made man, Joss seems to use his as a justification for his depraved behaviour, blaming his father and grandfather’s genetic influence for his own misdemeanours on his path to self-destruction. Though he is guilty of heinous crimes, Joss’ humanity emerges through drunken revelations and the dreams that haunt him, reminding the reader that, despite his seemingly evil personality, he is, after all, merely human. I don’t think anyone could describe Joss Merlyn as a likeable character, yet I found that there is something quite pitiful about this ‘great husk of a man’  which almost helps to mitigate the severity of his crimes.

To say that Du Maurier’s novel isn’t predictable would be untrue; I was able to guess some of the outcomes halfway through the book. This never diminished the enjoyment of Jamaica Inn for me, however, as I was far more interested in the psychology of the characters than the actual plot. Whilst many readers have drawn comparisons with Du Maurier’s most famous work, Rebecca, suggesting that Jamaica Inn is a much weaker novel, I personally found Jamaica Inn to be a much more enthralling read. With all the elements of a traditional Gothic novel, including a suitably dreary landscape and the archetypal Gothic building, Du Maurier’s story never failed to excite me. In fact, if I didn’t still have another 24 books to read, I’d start reading it again!

Now that I at least partly understand Tori Amos’ song, I think it may be time to plan a literary pilgrimage to the real Jamaica Inn so that I can truly understand its significance in Cornish and cultural history. Hopefully there’ll be no bands of criminals to contend with, but, like Mary Yellan, I’d be more than happy to stumble upon a real-life Jem Merlyn!

jamaicainn