Some Reviews of published work by Irene Black
DIVINE PALACES OF SOUTH INDIA: VOLUME 1 A Guide to understanding the Hindu Temple
I had a look at your book on the Indian temples; most impressive ... I have not enough space amongst my neurones to take on board such a complex subject!! To be serious I suspect you were at tad short-changed by the University as this would surely be worth a PhD. Pre-publication email from Dr Michael Hinton
IF ONLY I COULD HAVE NEWS FROM YOU
Eighty years on the issues in the book are as burning as ever. Dena Ryness, presenter, Salford City Radio
'Now what can I say. It was mind boggling and absolutely faultless.
The author has used the lovely weird, wonderful and most imaginative characters to illustrate so clearly the fragmentation of society from the start of time. She has intertwined the sun, moon, wind and all the elements so beautifully into the tale. Each story starts and then stops with another part immediately after it. Not once did I feel confused or that I could not follow who was who as each character is so distinct and special that they stay embedded in your memory forever.
The creatures, birds and animals have been made to appear so real in their descriptions that you can visualise them in front of you like they really do exist.
Each [chapter] ending is so real and brings a shiver down your spine and the reader readily accepts them as that is what happens. It made me feel like reading on and on to find out what happens nex
I could not put it down. It was fantastic.' Anjali Mittal, Children's Author
'The opening set the scene and conveyed the atmosphere very well. I was intrigued and wanted to read on. The writing was descriptive with a good command of language. The two main characters are well drawn and their relationship described with sympathy and humour.'
Adjudicator: First Three Pages of a Novel Competition, Winchester Annual Writers’ Conference
'The story begins when the Conquerors, the brutal occupiers of Shoogmunimera, formerly and latterly known as Ambamar, leave the country, having plundered its riches and reduced it to a barren land.Originally united in adversity, the various tribes whose home it is soon begin to split apart, each trying to get the best of what remains.Within these tribes, brave individuals struggle to reunite the warring factions.This story runs concurrently with tales which describe how each of the tribes had originally found their way to Ambamar.
Irene Black is skilled in the art of description, and in her two earlier novels, she uses this to great effect to capture the character of the Indian subcontinent, which is featured in both previous books.I am not normally a reader of fantasy books, but I read Noontide Owls, having read these other two books, and I was not disappointed.
In fact, this genre has allowed Irene Black to give full rein to her imagination, without the restriction of a factual background.As such, a fantasy world has been created with ordinary and extraordinary mythical creatures inhabiting it.The book is enhanced by a number of black and white drawings illustrating some of the chapters.
With appealing main characters, Maara and the brave Trumpeters, Arolan and Elin, Noontide Owls is an intelligent and beautifully written allegory for adults and a fantastic adventure for young readers.I strongly recommend it.' Jacquelynn Luben, author and publisher
‘I enjoyed reading Noontide Owls, and I would read it again.It was really fantastical and adventurous.My favourite characters were the two trumpeters because they were such fun to read about. As far as the ending was concerned, I liked the way it was resolved.’
It was the perfect age for me, but I do read books for people older than my age.’ Eve, aged 10
Darshan – a journey
'An involving story, beautifully told.' Maggie Hartford, Oxford Times
'This is the work of an experienced writer, who handles the interplay of narrative and dialogue with skill. We commend your lively, easy, confident and engaging style…the viewpoint character and supporting characters are spot on and realistically introduced.' Critique from Piatkus Books at the Winchester Writers Conference 2006.
'This morning I reached the end of Darshan. I like your writing very much, as much as to keep me reading till 2am when I normally go to bed at 10:30, every time thinking "one more chapter and I go to bed" but ..... You maintain the emotion and suspense throughout...' Cecilia Chavez, Diplomat
'In Irene Black's new novel, we are taken on a journey with Saraswathi, the half Indian half Welsh heroine, who goes on a quest to find out about herself and her own spiritual needs. Her journey takes her to an Oxford college, a Welsh village and briefly to America. But to find the answers she must return to India, where she finally comes to understand the meaning of darshan. As always with Irene Black's prose, the atmosphere and colour of Indian life is brilliantly evoked and captured on the page, as are her descriptions of the other communities. Similarly the characters and the contrasting communities are vividly portrayed.
But the novel does not provide neat and tidy answers. As Saraswathi faces one disappointment after another, you are left wondering if she can ever find a place she fits in or someone who fulfils her needs entirely.Irene Black's fascinating novel keeps you guessing right until the very end.'
Mini Jax (author and publisher)
The Moon’s Complexion
'Acclaimed journalist Hannah Peterson has taken flight to India after a series of sinister events surrounding the release of her controversial new book in the UK.
However, among the ancient tombs, lush jungles and chaotic cities of South India, someone is waiting for her. Meanwhile, young doctor Ashok Rao leaves his stellar career as a consultant in London to return to his family in Bangalore to choose a bride...
In this eclectic combination of thriller, romance, adventure, and narrative of cultural crossings, Hannah and Ashoks' paths become inextricably intertwined.
...I challenge anyone to put this book down... The Moon's Complexion's combination of cliff-hangers and carefully-observed descriptions of Indian traditions, food, temples and landscapes becomes utterly irresistible. The whole novel pulsates with Black's love of India; the author has recently completed an MA on South Indian temple architecture, and her academic interests work their way quietly into the novel, providing a well-studied backdrop to the action.
A thoroughly unusual novel that will appeal to anyone who's interested in India or just enjoys a skilfully constructed page-turner.'
Review in the London Student Newspaper by Sophia Furber: February 2006
'The Moon's Complexion by Irene Black is a wonderfully written love story set in Southern India. The author's knowledge of the intricacies of the culture is clear and this comes across in the beautiful prose. A captivating read.'
Ottakar's Bookshop Guildford, shelf review
Cracking good psychological thriller
'The plot and characterisation in this psychological thriller kept me turning each page as fast as I could without losing the subtleties within the story. It is rather more than a 'thriller' in the conventional sense. It is a multi-layered novel with various sub-plots that have striated texture and depth. It is about love (fulfilled and unfulfilled), moral and sexual betrayal, hatred and redemption. It is also a paen to southern India with all that region's live-giving exotica, colour, warmth and imperfections (in this respect, there are some truly evocative descriptions: "this pungent chutney of a city"; "a gaggle of little autorickshaws...gathered like flies on a cowpat"... obviously Irene Black knows India well!). Against this backdrop the author makes the the hero and heroine 'real' as people: despite their strengths, they have to deal with their own weaknesses and flaws arising from previous personal traumas; their own history begins to haunt them and becomes life-threatening in the shape of a mysterious, ghost-like, stalking killer. It is a highly involving, tense and exciting novel with a true appreciation of character and culture'.
Phil Mead "Cross-culture champion" (Netherlands) - 30 Mar 2007
A masterpiece of superb writing. What a superb book this is! Some of it is work of great power, and it was very memorable. It worked in every way. I’m not going to say much more because it will make you big headed. A privilege to read...lovely ending and very moving.
Thank you for letting me read it.
Gregory Norris-award-winning writer.( www.gregnorris.freeserve.co.uk)
'I [am] loving it… such a rich perspective You appear to me to write with assurance and authority.'
Email from Jeff Thomson, BBC Radio presenter (prior to his 'chat show' interview with the author at the book's launch at the Nehru Centre of the Indian High Commission, London)
'A love story...but also a tightly-plotted thriller.'
'[The] fictional characters come over so believably. Very, very good writing. And what an ingenious twist. It's something that I'm sure no reader will guess yet it is perfect. The beauty of it is that it's not overdone and therefore all the more powerful. Added to that is the fact that the settings are mainly exotic and the details incorporated are clearly authentic.'
Jenny Hewitt, editor and reviewer, Jacqui Bennett Writers Bureau
'From the very start, this book grips you and doesn't let go. The hero and heroine are faced with a terrible threat from the past of both of them, which might well cost them their lives and indeed their growing relationship. The Indian and Sri Lankan locations are a vivid and exciting backdrop to the drama of the tale, and the ending is one of the most poignant and most fitting that I have ever read. This book comes highly recommended - a very enjoyable and moving read.'
Anne Brooke, novelist, author of 'The Hit List', 'A Dangerous Man' and 'Pink Champagne and Apple Juice'..
'Have never read better.'
September Black (no relation), Hawaii, author of 'Black Coach Waiting'
'Fantastic read: I actually read this book whilst on holiday. I read it within a day. Couldn't put it down. Fantastic atmosphere. Good knowledge of cultures from writer without it being pushed down our throats. We get so close to the characters. Loved it!'
Gill James, writer and publisher
Reviews of other work
Prey, a pantoum. Runner-up in Writing Magazine Competition. Published in Writing Magazine April-May 2001
The most striking aspect of this poem is the suspense it builds up in just sixteen lines. Although the opening lines are idyllic, an atmosphere of menace looms from the third line and pervades the rest of the poem. This atmosphere remains with the reader long after the poem has been put aside. Prey is an excellent example of a pantoum, and as artistically successful as it is technically accomplished.
(Alison Chisholm - Adjudicator: report in Writing Magazine April-May 2001)
Street Talk NAWG Best Short Story First Prize winner. Published in Smooth Pebbles Pretty Shells (The Best Creative Writing of 2003)
No laughs here:just moving emotion truth that brought tears to the eyes of this hardened old hack. Lynne Patrick, Adjudicator, NAWG Best Short Story Competition
The Truth of the Matter, (broadcast over Delta Radio and County Sound in March 2000)
‘The Truth of the Matter is a superbly-controlled story of mounting tension: why do delays always happen when we need to be on time? The bus, the airport express, the taxi; the impertinent questioning by the driver... and why is this young person slinking along in the shadows, determined to get to the airport? Why incognito? What is in this tiny rucksack she is carrying?’
(Press release for the ‘Farnham Herald’}
Madurai in Winter (published in ‘Coloured Thinking’ , the third volume in the Benchmark series)
‘Irene Black’s evocative poem Madurai in Winter contains the wonderful lines:
flap like night-time bats on the mud-slimed pavement
This sensitive mixture of simile, assonance, internal rhyme and onomatopoeia make it a joy to read aloud.’
(Lynda Strudwick, Director of Open Studies, University of Surrey - press release in ‘The Keep’)