This is the first time I have ever been asked to review a book that didn't come in printed form: 100 Years of Ermintrude, by Tom Evans, is a poem in 33 stanzas reflecting on the life of an elderly woman, an e-book which can be downloaded in a Flash version so that it can be listened to and watched as well as read. The story is told backwards, in 4-line stanzas creating "snapshots" from the old lady's life, brief pinpoints of memory that illuminate a lived experience. There is an essential truth to the poem – my own grandmother is nearly as old as Ermintrude, and her memories trickle out, her mind wandering over the almost-century she has lived, with only brief clues for the listener about the density of experience that surrounds each one.
Our response to poetry is highly subjective and, while my own taste runs more to Eliot, and to complexity of rhythm over rhyme, I can appreciate nonetheless the way in which these simple four-line verses strip away superfluous words to produce a series of tiny cameos that build to create an entire life. Each scene encapsulates a moment and encourages the reader to think about the implied events around it. Because the act of remembrance is reflective, Ermintrude offers the reader a different perspective with which to view their own life.
I can think of a number of friends who would love this little book. It has charming and colourful illustrations and, in the Flash version both music and reading (by Louise Howson) offer a pleasantly intimate feel.