Throwback Thursday: The Hour of Daydreams by Renee Macalino Rutledge

Screenshot_2020-11-24-15-33-13_kindlephoto-236712199This week I was kindly reminded by WordPress  that it’s four years since WhatCathyReadNext was launched into the blogosphere. I thought I’d mark the occasion by revisiting the first book review I ever published on my blog, updated to reflect the current format of my reviews.

The Hour of DaydreamsAbout the Book

Manolo Lualhati, a respected doctor in the Philippine countryside, believes his wife hides a secret. Prior to their marriage, he spied her wearing wings and flying to the stars with her sisters each evening. As Tala tries to keep her dangerous past from her new husband, Manolo begins questioning the gaps in her stories – and his suspicions push him even further from the truth.

The Hour of Daydreams, a contemporary reimagining of a Filipino folktale, weaves in the perspectives of Tala’s siblings, her new in-laws, and the all-seeing housekeeper while exploring trust, identity, and how myths can take root from the seeds of our most difficult truths.

Format: ebook (232 pages)                  Publisher: Forest Avenue Press
Publication date: 14th March 2017  Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy

Find The Hour of Daydreams on Goodreads

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My Review

The author weaves fantasy and fable into the story of Tala and Manolo’s meeting and marriage.  The writing has a lyrical, fairytale quality which at times is mesmerising – “He began walking along the lip of the water, where it saturated the sand with kisses” – and the author has some imaginative metaphors/similes – “They talked rapidly and their conversation was like a dance; as one took the lead, the others were eager to follow. It was a meandering dance, circling from place to place…“.

However, at other times, the language was surprisingly ‘clunky’. “Cigarette in hand, he assessed the scene in front of him with some degree of calm” or “Your mother’s anguish invoked you from sleep, and we combined our efforts to pacify your discomfort.

There are well-observed descriptions of everyday life, at the market or on the quayside, but I found some of the author’s extended metaphors, as in pretty much the whole of Chapter 6, baffling. The supporting characters are well-drawn and the importance of food and sharing communal meals is lovingly described.  I enjoyed the story of the main characters but, for me, the fantasy element confused rather than enhanced the narrative.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Forest Avenue Press via NetGalley.

In three words: Lyrical, imaginative, fantasy

Renee M RutledgeAbout the Author

Renee Macalino Rutledge is the author of The Hour of Daydreams, a literary fiction novel that has been dubbed “essential reading” by Literary Mama, “one of 24 books to get excited for in 2017” by The Oregonian, and a “captivating story of love and loss unlike any other” by Foreword Reviews.

Renee’s work has also been published in The Margins, ColorLines, Mutha Magazine, Ford City Anthology, Oakland Magazine, Literary Hub, Red Earth Review, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Necessary Fiction, Women Writers Women’s Books, The Tishman Review, and others. She lives and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she works as a nonfiction book editor and regularly explores the tidepools and redwoods with her family. (Photo/bio credit: Goodreads author profile)

Connect with Renee
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Book Review: The Courts of the Morning by John Buchan #ReadJB2019

buchan of the month 2019 poster

The Courts of the MorningAbout the Book

South America is the setting for this adventure from the author of The Thirty-Nine Steps. When Archie and Janet Roylance decide to travel to the Gran Seco to see its copper mines they find themselves caught up in dreadful danger; rebels have seized the city. Janet is taken hostage in the middle of the night and it is up to the dashing Don Luis de Marzaniga to aid her rescue.

Format: Hardcover (484 pp.)     Publisher: Nelson
Publication date:   [1929]          Genre: Adventure

Find The Courts of the Morning on Goodreads

My Review

The Courts of the Morning is the eighth book in my Buchan of the Month reading project. (Yes, that’s right it was my Buchan of the Month for August and it’s now September. Oops!) You can find out more about the project and my reading list for 2019 here and read my (spoiler-free) introduction to The Courts of the Morning here.

The Courts of the Morning sees the return of several characters from earlier books, including Sandy Arbuthnot (now Lord Clanroyden), John S Blenkiron, Archie Roylance and Geordie Hamilton. Richard Hannay (now Sir Richard) appears briefly to introduce the story which is set mainly in the fictional South American country of Olifa.

Olifa is an apparently prosperous and peaceful country whose capital, Olifa City, seems to offer the perfect location for the honeymoon of Sir Archie Roylance and wife Janet. But not everything is as it seems. As one character comments, “Olifa is a mask. You have not seen her face”. Behind the scenes, sinister forces are at work in the province of Gran Seco, a copper-mining district in the north of the country. The lucrative mining concern is the personal fiefdom of Gran Seco’s governor, Castor, who has surrounded himself with a bodyguard of nefarious individuals, ruthlessly exploited the indigenous Indian population and found a way to control the will of the so-called Conquistadors in order that they are prepared to do his bidding. “He [Castor] rules the Gran Seco and its officials are altogether his creation. And since he rules the Gran Seco, he rules Olifa.”

Castor represents an example of the classic Buchan villain: charming, intelligent but utterly without morals. He also embodies dangers Buchan foresaw that now seem remarkably prescient. As Sandy observes, “…the world today is stuffed with megalomania. Megalomania in politics, megalomania in business, megalomania in art – there are many kinds. You have the man who wants to be a dictator in his own country, you have the man who wants to corner a dozen great businesses and control the finance of half the world, you have the man who wants to break down the historic rules of art and be a law to himself. The motive is the same in every case – rootlessness, an unbalanced consciousness of ability, and an overweening pride.”

The main part of the book involves Sandy adopting his customary range of disguises and aliases in order to foil Castor’s plans by leading a popular revolt. Aided by Archie, Janet and local revolutionary leader, Luis de Marzaniga, Castor is kidnapped and taken to the rebels’ mountain base, the Courts of the Morning of the title. At times, there is a little too much detail about the mechanics of the revolt however there are also sections of page-turning suspense as characters make daring escapes from seemingly certain death.

Buchan never visited South America so the descriptions of the landscape of Olifa probably draw on his memories of South Africa. At times, the countryside he depicts also resembles the glens and mountains of Scotland that he knew so well.

The Courts of the Morning displays many of the storytelling skills for which Buchan is renowned but, for me, the book gets a little too bogged down in detail at times. The remarkable transformation in one character (or as Sandy describes it ‘a try at saving your soul’) that occurs in the final part of the book some may find hopeful but others may find unrealistic.

September’s Buchan of the Month is his historical novel, The Blanket of the Dark. Look out for my introduction to the book shortly and (I hope) my review later this month.

John BuchanAbout the Author

John Buchan (1875 – 1940) was an author, poet, lawyer, publisher, journalist, war correspondent, Member of Parliament, University Chancellor, keen angler and family man.  He was ennobled and, as Lord Tweedsmuir, became Governor-General of Canada.  In this role, he signed Canada’s entry into the Second World War.   Nowadays he is probably best known – maybe only known – as the author of The Thirty-Nine Steps.  However, in his lifetime he published over 100 books: fiction, poetry, short stories, biographies, memoirs and history.

You can find out more about John Buchan, his life and literary output by visiting The John Buchan Society website.

buchan of the month 2019