The Little Drummer Girl


The Little Drummer Girl by John Le Carré

(This review contains spoilers!)

I first watched this on an overnight flight from Hong Kong. I planned to sleep, but had the box-set on in the background. It was fascinating, but there was lots which I didn’t understand, so I think I drifted off to sleep for chunks of it. When I got home, I ordered the book on my Kindle, and tried to untangle the confusion. It really is, an excellent book, with a complicated plot.

The story basically charts the training of a spy. She is a young actress, and therefore unknown in the spying world. She is seduced by Zionists, and persuaded that spying is simply acting, with the real world as your stage. The idea is a good one, and probably close to the truth—I guess to spy you are pretending to be someone else.

A cover story is created, which the actress has to ‘live’, so that if she is ever questioned, she will be relying on real memories in her answers. She falls in love with her trainer (so did I, a little, he is the absolute tall dark stranger, a silent strong type).

However, the real interest for me was the exploration of the whole Zionist issue. While the actress is being prepared for her role, she needs to absorb the teachings and propaganda of the Palestinians. Gradually, they change from being simply terrorists willing to kill and maim innocent bystanders, and become real people with a cause. The reader is gradually shown that neither side in the debate is without blame, and that the issue is much more complicated than it first appears.

For example, there is some discussion about the Jews, who were made a faceless non-human by the Nazis, and therefore able to be exterminated. When they then went to Israel, after the war, their view of the Palestinians was not so different. They also considered them as lesser humans, people who had no right to live in the land promised to the Jews. In their minds, they exterminated them. In reality, they took their homes and land, places they had been settled in for generations. The book also talked of the unprovoked violence that peaceful Palestinians encountered, and how it had forced them to become an army, so the rest of the world listened to them.

Now, this is a work of fiction, and therefore one assumes that both the characters and the situations have been romanticised. But it does also ask some real questions, and encourages the reader to look at the issues in the Middle East from both sides. When the actress finally joins the Palestinians, she bonds with them, loves some of them, watches children being killed by the Zionist army. We, the reader, wonder whether she will turn, and instead of spying for the Zionists, will join the Palestinians, and there is a moment of tension when you are unsure which way she will turn (as are her handlers).

I loved this book, even though sometimes I got a little lost and found it difficult to keep each character clear in my head. The issues explored are fascinating, the idea that neither side is perfect, that there is real hurt and despair inflicted on both peoples, and there are no easy answers. Of course, because this is a John Le Carré book, there are also beautiful descriptions, and moments of real humour, and the characters are so real you start to look for them in the street. It is the timeless sort of book that you can read and enjoy more than once.

Thank you for reading. Use your time wisely today.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

 

Anne E Thompson has written several novels and writes a regular blog each week. You can follow her blog at:
anneethompson.com

Have you read my latest novel: Ploughing Through Rainbows? It’s a great holiday read. Available from an Amazon near you as both a Kindle book and a paperback.

A hilarious family saga set on a farm. Being a parent has no end-date, as Susan discovers when her adult sons begin to make unexpected choices in life.
A warm-hearted, feel good novel that will make you smile.

German Amazon link here

UK link here

U.S. link here

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition


Have you visited the Summer Exhibition this year? There are worse things you could do. The annual exhibition at The Royal Academy of Art is always an eclectic mix, as it has an open submission, so the great and famous are displayed next to Aunty Mabel—assuming Aunty Mabel has caught the eye of whoever is this year’s coordinator. This year, Grayson Perry was in charge (he’s the man who resembles a pantomime dame) and, like his dress sense, the exhibition is flamboyant and unexpected. With over a thousand works of art on show, it’s impossible to even notice them individually, never mind trying to assess each one. They range from the completely brilliant, to the absolute rubbish (in my opinion). But overall, the impression is one of colour and fun and strong political statement. This year’s show feels very contemporary, and I for one enjoyed it.

Much of the art, I really do not understand. When I got home, I tried to find online reviews of individual pieces, or at least explanations, but there weren’t any. Perhaps there are too many for the critics to cope with. I will therefore share with you my own highlights and lowlights of the exhibition. I am not an artist, so I expect I missed the point on some of them. However, as art is subjective, I will go ahead and give you my brutally honest review.

 When you first arrive, you’re greeted by this stupendous piece of haberdashery. It is huge, and for anyone who has ever sewn anything and agonised over straight seams, it epitomises skill. It is knitted and sewn and embroidered. I have absolutely no idea what it is meant to signify, or what will happen to it after the exhibition (it will be a nightmare to dust) but I loved it.

 

 

 

 

 

 The next gallery is painted bright yellow. This made the room very exciting, even if you didn’t like the art. In fact, I would say that this year, all the galleries could be viewed as a whole—you walked in, and thought “brilliant” or “terrible”, without needing to examine the individual works. Some were displayed so high that you couldn’t see them anyway (unless you happen to have a stepladder in your handbag).

This particular photograph made me laugh. I assume the model is the artist’s mother. No one else would be prepared to dress up as a compost heap. She doesn’t look especially pleased. Hopefully she’s proud of him now.

 

 This gallery also had a picture by Banksy, with the ‘Vote Leave’ slogan changed by a heart shaped balloon to ‘Vote Love’. It was for sale at the price of £350 million (bit sarcy).

There was also a large portrait of Nigel Farage. Above it was a portrait of a man being sick. Which I’m sure was a coincidence.

The picture on the left was simply a nice picture—one of the few on display that you might actually choose to hang in your own house. It was wonderfully chocolate-box, and little children could write whole stories about it.

 

 Talking of stories, this should definitely be used for the cover of a book.It had some wonderfully clever imagery, with people of different heights, and all sorts of political messages.

 

 

 

 

 

 Here’s one for my Aunty Margaret. Not sure she’s ever knitted/crocheted anything quite like this. Something to aspire to perhaps. Or perhaps not. It wasn’t something you really wanted to look at for long.

 

 

 

 

 This one was by Harry Hill, who apparently used to be a medic. I didn’t like it. But I guess someone did. It reminded me of the game: ‘Operation’ which we used to play when I was a child. (I didn’t like that much, either.)

 

 

 

 

 

 I have no idea why anyone thought this head was worth displaying. If it had been in a primary school art room, it might have been considered good. But not here. And not at that price. 

 

 

 

 This was brilliant. Completely brilliant. It is made from broken egg shells. Wow. Glad I wasn’t responsible for transporting it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The carpet bear was another favourite. Though again, I imagine the artist’s mother was somewhat cross when she came home and saw what he’d done to her best rug.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 On the topic of broken things and mothers, next time you break a tea-cup, here’s what you should do with it. A brilliant way to avert anger. It wasn’t until I spotted the handle that I realised it had once been a cup.

 

 

 

 

 This was a great picture that was spoilt by the terrible lighting in the gallery. I’m not sure why we needed lights on anyway, as the sun was bright enough. Several works were very hard to see. Maybe the exhibition is best visited after dark. Or on cloudy days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 This one would be impossible to spoil. It was an upturned television and a block of concrete. Why? No idea. My best guess is that it was put out for the bin men and someone took it to the academy by mistake. It said nothing to me, and was ugly. (Sorry if it was your child who created it.)

 

 

 

 

 This was a display of carved soap. There wasn’t a scent (it just smelt of the pine display rack). Very clever. The soap is prison soap. We had trouble stopping the man next to us from touching it, but I did know what he meant. There was something about it that made you want to touch it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 This was a chair, with the seat the wrong way up. All I can think is that someone ordered something from IKEA, lost the assembly instructions, and then was too embarrassed to admit they’d messed it up, so entered it to the academy instead. Not something I needed to see.

 

 

 

 

 I don’t even know what to write about this one. It was sort of hidden behind a display cabinet. Were the workmen having a laugh? Really?

 

 

 

 

 

 This was my favourite. Unicorns, galloping through a forest, all made from twisted wires. It was beautiful, a whole story.

 

 

 

 

 

 You have to see this one in real life really, as the details are too small. It was very contemporary, with lots of references to politicians and modern life. There was so much to see, it was very skilful, very intelligent, a visual feast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 As an author, I had to include this one. A finely balanced work of art, which said that we need books to be balanced (at least, that’s what it said to me!) Excellent.

 

 

Thank you for looking at the art with me. Try to find time to pop to London to see the exhibition for yourself. It’s there until the end of August.

 

Have a good week, and don’t melt.

Love,
Anne x

Thank you for reading anneethompson.com

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Was St. Paul a Psychopath?


When I was researching JOANNA, I discovered what it meant to be a psychopath. Born with an under-developed frontal lobe in the brain, a psychopath was destined to live their lives unable to experience emotional empathy, unable to feel guilt, unable to love. I listened for many hours to psychopaths talking, I read copious studies by neuroscientists, and I even managed to find two mothers of psychopaths who were prepared to talk to me. By the time I came to write JOANNA, I knew how a psychopath would think and behave, and I could imagine what it would be like to live with one.

However, the whole time I was writing JOANNA, striving to make an interesting story that would also show the reader everything I had learnt, I had a nagging doubt. If someone was born a psychopath, were they doomed? What did the disorder mean from a spiritual point of view? Psychopathy is a mental disorder, not an illness. It cannot be cured. It is a genetic condition, it cannot be prevented. Whilst the vast majority of psychopaths are not killers, and are never convicted of any crime, they will still be difficult people to live with. They will still be ‘bad’ people. So, what does that mean in terms of Christianity? Could a psychopath be a Christian?

Now, I believe that whilst God can, and does, sometimes heal people of physical disabilities, in the vast majority of cases, he does not. So a blind person who becomes a Christian will be a blind Christian. A Downs Syndrome person who becomes a Christian will be a Christian who has Downs Syndrome. God can use those situations, but he rarely changes them. As psychopathy is a physical condition, I think it unlikely that God would necessarily heal a psychopath. So what would a psychopathic Christian look like?

I began to read the Bible with this in mind. I knew that a psychopath would be unaffected by physical cruelty towards others. They would be ambitious for their own advancement, and possibly a leader within either the established religion or start their own. They would have no obvious emotional ties, and be quite capable of rejecting anyone who they felt was holding them back, even if that person had made huge sacrifices in order to follow them. They would have no fear, and be able to walk into dangerous situations, even if they knew it was risky. In fact, as thrill-seekers, psychopaths will often do things which they know hold high risk. Psychopaths are often eloquent, and their lack of fear makes them excellent public speakers. There is something mesmerising about them, people cannot help but listen to them (look on YouTube for clips of Charles Manson or Ted Bundy speaking – you will not be bored).

But what about God? Could a psychopath follow God? Well, a psychopath’s main motivation is to look after themselves. So, if they had an experience which proved to them beyond all doubt that God existed, they would definitely decide to follow him. They would do whatever was necessary to ensure they were on the ‘winning side’. They would not risk their soul, not if they knew, absolutely, that God was real.

Now, when we read the accounts about Paul, he shows many of these traits. Was he a psychopath? We do not have enough information to make that statement, and certainly some of his writings suggest that he was not. But I think it’s possible. I wanted to try and explore this further, so I wrote CLARA. As I wrote, I used the knowledge I had gleaned about psychopaths, and I very much had the character of St Paul in mind as I wove the story. The character of Clara is not St. Paul – but I think you will notice some similarities.

CLARA – A Good Psychopath?
ISBN 978-0-9954632-5-7
The Cobweb Press

I hope it is also a book you will enjoy, though at times it makes for uncomfortable reading. It is exciting, but there are funny moments. It shows how someone who is very bad, can achieve something that is very good. Are you prepared to be challenged? This is not a cosy portrayal of Christianity, and some people will find the ideas disturbing.

Would you like to buy a copy? It costs £11.95 from Amazon and in bookshops (they can order it if it’s not in stock). But until the 31st March, it is available at a 33% discount, for £7.95 including free UK postage. Just send a message via the contact form below, with your postal address (this is sent directly to me, it isn’t public). Payment instructions will be sent with the book – you can pay by cheque or direct bank transfer. Why not buy a copy today?

 

 

 

If you prefer to buy from Amazon – it is available as a Kindle book in most countries – the UK link is below:

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anneethompson.com

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Lexus LC 500


We went to look at sports cars. You can do this sort of thing when you get to a certain age and are bored. When you’re younger, the sales person asks lots of awkward questions about why you want to change your car, and what your job is, so they can check you aren’t just messing about. But at our age, they simply ask what you currently drive (to check, I assume, a certain income level) and then they are happy to let you play, accepting that one of you must be having a mid-life crisis.

We had been out for brunch at Marcos in Sevenoaks (best place locally for brunch) and drove down to the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells, where there is a whole road of car dealerships, so you can walk along comparing cars. We started in the Lexus garage, looking at the LC 500.

It’s a very pretty car. It has nice rounded corners, and lights which are shaped like slitty eyes, assessing the road. It’s very low profile, and hugs the ground (so would probably make it to the end of our driveway before it was stuck in a pothole, but we’ll brush over that detail). It’s a hybrid, which Husband likes.

Inside, the seats were leather, with suede trim. They were very comfy to sit in, though a long way down, so I might need old-person grab handles in a few years to get out of it (if I ever gave my mother a lift, she would need to be hauled out of the seat when we parked). Very pretty, but I wasn’t sure it would be very practical with a dog. In fact, I was a bit unsure about the dog altogether. I checked the boot.

Checking the boot took longer than expected, as we couldn’t work out how to open it. There was no handle or obvious catch, so Husband checked inside the car. No clever levers or buttons there either. Eventually, I found a tiny round button next to the left rear light, which opened the boot. The cover slid elegantly back – and we both laughed! The boot was tiny. Really tiny. There was no way we could squash a German shepherd dog into it, or even a suitcase actually. Husband assured me this wouldn’t be a problem, as when we go away for the weekend, we could pack our clothes straight into the boot. I had visions of sneaking through hotel reception with pockets stuffed with socks and underwear.
 The boot did, to be fair, comfortably fit my handbag.

We were now on a mission – where could the dog travel? There was no room in the passenger footwell, as the dashboard curved over it. Perhaps the back seat would be the best place (if one didn’t think about muddy damp dogs ruining suede). We moved the front passenger seat forwards, with the rather swish mechanism that raised the seat and then slid it forwards while we watched. We stared at the back seat. It didn’t have much (any) in the way of leg room, but dogs don’t exactly put their feet on the floor when they travel, so that wasn’t a problem. However, the height from seat to aerodynamically designed roof seemed quite small. I slid into the back seat (not as smoothly as the mechanics had slid the front seat forwards) and tried to sit upright. I couldn’t, not without bumping my head on the ceiling. An adult would have to travel on the back seat with their neck bent. This is the sort of thing my children make an unreasonable fuss about, so we wouldn’t be giving them a lift anywhere. I wasn’t quite sure of dog’s height when sitting, but I had images of lolling tongue very near the back of my head while we drove.

We gave up on the LC 500 as a viable car, unless we left the dog at home. If you have lots of money to spare and either very small children or a very small dog who never gets dirty, this is the car for you.

We had a quick look at the Lexus RC, which is smaller and cheaper, and has a bigger boot. Then we wandered down the road. We looked at the Nissan sports car, but couldn’t sit in it as the showroom model had been bought. It wasn’t as pretty as the Lexus LC, cost about the same, and had no more boot room. We popped in to Toyota and Mazda too. But to be honest, I’d lost enthusiasm by this point, and all the cars were beginning to merge into one, so we went home.

Thank you for reading. Have a good week.

Take care,
Love,
Anne x

xxxx
Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book.
You can follow her blog at:
anneethompson.com

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Guardians of the Galaxy (No spoilers!) and Life in General


It was Bank Holiday Monday, raining (of course) so we decided to go to the cinema. They were showing Guardians of the Galaxy 2, what could be better?

The cinema was full, but we got there in plenty of time and found our pre-booked seats. I knew it was going to be a good film right from the beginning, when a cute little tree man dances through the opening credits while a war rages around him. The film was visually pleasing, with lots of colour and pretty scenes (makers of Star Wars should take note). Lots of attractive women who were strangely coloured. It made you want to go home and paint yourself green.

After about 10 minutes, we were distracted by two elderly women entering the cinema. They carried huge boxes of popcorn and had trouble walking in the dark. They made their way down the aisle, peering along each row, stood for several minutes in the centre, then wandered out again. Perhaps they had wandered into the wrong cinema. Or maybe the cinema is haunted and they were the ghosts from a previous audience.

We then got back to the film. Really, the overwhelming impression was pretty, funny, with lots of music. I enjoyed it. Even the spaceships looked like massive sewing machines (not that I enjoy sewing, but it made a change from the normal flying saucer). There was lots of killing, but somehow it’s okay when accompanied by 50’s music.

There were a few weird storylines, which felt like they were copied from other sources, and not really developed. But to be honest, the story didn’t matter. It was a jolly sort of film, perfect for watching on a rainy bank holiday Monday.

Of course, the day after Bank Holiday was warm and sunny. I tried to brush the dog, who’s moulting like crazy. She hates it, and will stand still for about 2 seconds before running off. All the cats come to watch – I’m sure they’re laughing at me.

I also decided to plant some seeds. I like planting seeds, and am quite good at watering them and watching the seedlings grow. Then I tend to lose interest, so they don’t always make it into the garden. I’ve planted a few pots and trays and put them on the patio – well defended against the cats, who’d enjoy digging them up.

 

Now, here’s a secret, so don’t tell anyone. Next to our house is a field, which is sometimes used for crops and sometimes has animals. The farmer has recently plowed it, added lots of lime, and drilled it (which I think means he has planted seeds). Last year he grew sweetcorn. I had some seeds of my own – some sunflower seeds – so, when I was walking the dog, I planted three of them in the corner of the field. Not sure if this is allowed.

But if they grow, they will look really good, three sunflowers smiling at everyone in the lane as they drive past. Hopefully they will grow taller than the crop, so everyone will see them. I will let you know.

The ducklings have grown as big as their mother. They still have some fluff, but are growing straggly feathers now. When the feathers have grown enough for them to be able to fly, I’ll let them back on the pond. There are another couple of nests around the pond. No idea if the eggs are alive, or if the ducklings will survive should they hatch. Probably depends on whether I manage to catch them or not.

Have a good week.

Anne x

xxx

I’ve just been sent a copy of the local paper, which features JOANNA again. The journalists in town have been very kind, my books have been mentioned several times now. I still hate seeing my photo in the newspaper, but I think it’s one of the downsides to being an author. In this one, I am desperately trying to stop the poster behind me from falling down!

Joanna


Joanna

cover-sample

Joanna sits on the bus and begins to plan. When Joanna plans, this usually means trouble for those around her. But this particular plan brings more than trouble, it results in fear and death and guilt. But not her own guilt. Joanna is a psychopath, guilt isn’t within the range of emotions she is able to feel.

Written in the first person, we learn Joanna’s story, from the initial spark of her plan, to the horrible aftermath of wrecked lives. You will view the world through Joanna’s eyes – be careful though, she might lie to you.

This is not just her story. We also watch the impact of her actions on those close to her – the woman who raised her, and Joanna’s own daughter. How does it feel to be related to a serial killer? For how long do you carry the burden of their actions? And when it comes down to it, is anyone really innocent?

Joanna

Published by The Cobweb Press
ISBN : 978-0-9954632-2-6

Why not order a copy today?

xxxxx

Available from book shops (if it’s not in stock, they can order it for you).

US Link:

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Thank you

dsc00120

xxx

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them


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So, have you watched ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’? As part of the whole, ‘family at home for Christmas so we ought to do something’ time, we went to the cinema. Afterwards we had dinner at Pizza Hut (even though I promised myself about ten years ago, that I would never have to eat in a Pizza Hut again.) It was actually a really fun evening. I’ll tell you about it (with a warning if you haven’t seen the film, this does contain spoilers.)

For those of you who don’t know (mainly you, Mum) ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is another film in the Harry Potter series – you know, the ones about the boy who is a wizard, who makes friends with the ginger-haired boy, and the girl who all the teenagers now fancy? Well, this film is supposed to be before all that took place, in the 1920’s, and is set in New York. I came away with very mixed feelings about it.

Firstly, it is excellent entertainment. I usually get bored in films aimed at a younger audience (the Harry Potter books and films didn’t quite do it for me if I’m honest.) This film however, I watched throughout without ever wondering how much longer before it ended. The plot was good enough, but the acting was excellent (perhaps J.K. Rowling decided experienced adult actors would make a better film and so wrote a book with only grown-ups in it. Or perhaps I am too cynical.) The special effects and scenery were all convincing, making for something of a visual treat. If you like a bit of make-believe, I expect you will love this film.

However, and this is quite a big however, there was something that left me feeling uneasy. It didn’t feel the same as the Harry Potter films, which I felt never really strayed from storybook witches and wizards. Now, I was not one of those Christians who refused to read her children ‘Hansel and Gretel’ or ‘Sleeping Beauty’ because they contained witches. I do believe there are spiritual forces that are evil, I do believe we shouldn’t mess with that stuff, and occult practices and ‘real’ witchcraft is dangerous. I just do not happen to put the witch in Sleeping Beauty into this category. It is a story, unrelated to real life, and the witches in it are not representations of people involved in the occult. I wasn’t so comfortable with this story. With Harry Potter, I felt the message of ‘good defeating evil’ was very clear. There were witches and magic, but it was all storybook stuff, and the baddies were easy to spot, and it was all far removed from reality.

In Fantastic Beasts we were presented with the New Salem Philanthropic Society. These were humans who were against witchcraft. It all felt a bit too much like things that happened in real life. Even the name is not exactly made up. And yes, I realise that people claiming to be Christian have done some pretty terrible things (in the past and present) and I know the ‘witch hunts’ in Salem were very bad. But why bring reality, even a touch of it, into a fantasy film? What is the point being made?

There was also an execution scene. It was, I felt, not really in keeping with a children’s film. Although what actually happened wasn’t gory or gruesome, the thought of someone walking towards a death sentence is not one I would want my 12 year old thinking about.

Not that I was with 12 year olds of course. I was with my family, who enjoyed the film. Their only comment was that when the characters gave instructions to their wands, it always worked, and when they do the same with their phone: “Hello Google, what is the time?” the phone always gets it wrong: “Certainly. Phoning Grandma.”

After the film, we went next door to Pizza Hut. We used to go to Pizza Hut a lot as students. We had no money, and it was a cheap place for a ‘special meal’ when we wanted to go out. I have moved on from those times. Husband hasn’t. He went excitedly to the salad bar, to show his sons how to extend the perimeter of the salad bowl with slices of cucumber, thus enabling extra salad to be heaped into the bowl. Sons were unimpressed and pointed out that unlike in the ‘olden days’, you could visit the salad bar as many times as you wanted. I actually, was unkeen on eating any salad at all, as on our way in we had passed a small child who appeared to be massaging the lettuce.

Actually, it wasn’t too bad. If you ignored the sticky menu (a variation on a ‘taster menu’) and the sticky seat and the sticky table, everything was fine. The waitress was friendly, the pizzas were nice, and the wine went down very well. The males in the family then made a comparison table of stats showing how the price per size of pizza compared to pizza express – but I don’t think this is an obligatory activity if you choose to go with different people.

Take care,
Anne x

Counting Stars is available from Amazon to read on a tablet or Kindle. A great read, at £1.99, with 5*reviews! Go on, why not treat yourself?…..

 

xxxxxx

Thank you for reading.

xxxxx

anneethompson.com

xxx