close

Mary Burnham's Column

Mary Burnham's Column header

» Connect with Mary on Facebook

Sitting next to me in a local Dun Laoghaire café this afternoon was a lady and a small boy who had come in clutching a large container of coloured pencils. Mum ordered refreshments while her charge organised his things and proceeded to draw. He was still at it when I was leaving. On the way out I complimented him on his work (he barely raised his head such was his concentration) and was informed by mum that he wants to be an artist when he grows up, something I can imagine he’ll definitely achieve. It’s the same with writing. If you want to become a writer get out your pen and paper and be like that admirable young man: practice, practice, practice.

“I started writing my own things when I was twelve, thirteen, and I
know why I did it – mainly because I had finished all the adventure
novels, musketeer novels, and Dumas that I was reading at the time.
Then I found out I could write them myself.”
—Javier Marías (1952–)

Berta Isla by Javier MaríasBerta Isla by Javier Marías is a novel in which two young Spaniards fall in love: Berta continues her studies in Spain, while the love of her life goes to Oxford to complete his education. The tyranny of Franco is over but the Cold War is in full swing. The stage is set for a spy story with a difference that has you holding your breath trying to second-guess the outcome. Marías takes you on a journey in the mind of a woman who is left to cope with the fallout of a bad decision that was made, primarily, to protect her. There are definitely rich rewards for readers of this novel.

The Great Wide Open by Douglas Kennedy is a sweeping novel that takes us from high school in the ’60s where friends and first loves dominate in both good and sometimes devastating ways; on to Dublin in the ’70s that is experiencing the tail end of the Troubles; and on to swinging New York in the ’80s where it’s hip and cool and the only place to be. This is a book that you’ll sit back and enjoy and refuse to put down till you’re done!

And finally here’s a great example of a lady who took the bull by the horns and penned her first novel to great acclaim by readers around the country. When All is Said by Anne Griffin is about a man who looks back on his long life through memories of five particular people who made a deep impression on him. It is wistful, entertaining, and makes the reader think about all the people who have touched them on their journey through life.