Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Williams, Tennessee "A Streetcar named Desire"

Williams, Tennessee "A Streetcar named Desire" - 1947

I normally don't like reading plays. Having said that, this is a great story and it didn't even read as a play, the writing is so lively, you don't need the actors to make it come real. You can visualize the characters, the places, the action. A tragic story that makes us feel for the people, all of them.

A brilliant book.

From the back cover:

"Fading southern belle Blanche Dubois depends on the kindness of strangers and is adrift in the modern world. When she arrives to stay with her sister Stella in a crowded, boisterous corner of New Orleans, her delusions of grandeur bring her into conflict with Stella's crude, brutish husband Stanley. Eventually their violent collision course causes Blanche's fragile sense of identity to crumble, threatening to destroy her sanity and her one chance of happiness."

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Ishiguro, Kazuo "The Remains of the Day"

Ishiguro, Kazuo "The Remains of the Day" - 1989

Years ago, I read "When We Were Orphans" with my book club. I didn't like it much and thought I might not read another book by this author. But since he received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017, I decided I should give him another chance.

"The Remains of the Day" was better, granted. However, not as great as some people told me it would be. I found the writing very lengthy and drawn-out, the sentences dwindling toward an end that has nothing to do with the beginning anymore. The story itself could he been told within five to ten pages at the most, the rest is a musing and meandering of a man who realizes that he is growing older and what could have been.

I might have been able to follow those thoughts and even sympathized with the butler but I found I couldn't. The protagonist doesn't appear to be an unlikeable character but the way he is described doesn't provoke any interest, the whole story just flows along like a small brook with no windings or curves. The book reads more like the minutes of a meeting than a novel.

Sorry, Mr. Ishiguro, I love reading the books by Nobel Prize winners (see below) but you don't belong to my favourites there.

Lessons learned. If I don't like the first book I read by an author, I am more than likely not going to like the other one, no matter how much my friends tell me that that is his or her worst novel or whether the author is highly regarded or not.

From the back cover:

"A contemporary classic, The Remains of the Day is Kazuo Ishiguro's beautiful and haunting evocation of life between the wars in a Great English House.

In the summer of 1956, Stevens, the ageing butler of Darlington Hall, embarks on a leisurely holiday that will take him deep into the countryside and into his past."

Kazuo Ishiguro "who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017.

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Numeroff, Laura "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie"

Numeroff, Laura "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" - 1985

This is one of the many books that you read to your children, that they then read to themselves even though it is "only" a picture book and that you thoroughly enjoy because it reminds you so much of your own life. The mouse is like the little child that wants this and that and then something else. It teaches them about consequences.

Hilarious. Beautiful illustrations.

A happy book that I'm glad I found for my kids when they were little. A timeless classic.

From the back cover:
"If a hungry little traveler shows up at your house, you might want to give him a cookie. If you give him a cookie, he's going to ask for a glass of milk. He'll want to look in a mirror to make sure he doesn't have a milk mustache, and then he'll ask for a pair of scissors to give himself a trim....

The consequences of giving a cookie to this energetic mouse run the young host ragged, but young readers will come away smiling at the antics that tumble like dominoes through the pages of this delightful picture book."

Friday, 11 May 2018

Book Quotes of the Week

"When you read a great book, you don’t escape from life, you plunge deeper into it." Julian Barnes

"Who needs to go somewhere when you can read about it." Pseudonymous Bosch in "The name of this book is secret"

"The library is an arena of possibility, opening both a window into the soul and a door onto the world." Rita Dove

"I would never want to live anywhere but Baltimore. You can look far and wide, but you'll never discover a stranger city with such extreme style. It's as if every eccentric in the South decided to move north, ran out of gas in Baltimore, and decided to stay." John Waters, Shock Value: A Tasteful Book About Bad Taste

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

McGowan, John and McGowan, Frankie "Actually, it’s Love"

McGowan, John; McGowan, Frankie "Actually, it’s Love" - 2004

This is a book about love. Written by all sorts of well or lesser known UK celebrities, this is a charity edition, proceeds are going to ROC (Research into Ovarian Cancer). Reading a book and adding something to a good cause, what could be better?

Some of the stories are lovely, others funny, interesting, unexpected. But they're all about love. The love to a person, to your children, your animals, a place, a hobby, or an occupation. All of them written from the heart. The funniest one, in my opinion was by Gary Lineker. For those of you who are not European, he is a very famous former professional footballer (soccer to North Americans) and now a well-known sports broadcaster. He wrote a nice poem about his love for a sport. You carry on reading believing it must be football he's writing about and then you discover it's - cricket

From the back cover:

"It comes in all forms, all shapes and sizes, from the unconditional love of a parent to a child, to the passionate, all-embracing love felt for a partner, to the unspoken love that man sometimes shows to fellow man through a thoughtful, selfless act of kindness.

The rich, the famous and the funny have joined together to create this treasury of tales about the things they have done for love. 

Whether it is writing Shakespearean sonnets, hitch-hiking down the M1, or nearly drowning on a motorbike in the rain, these hilarious and heart-warming stories of your favourite celebrities will have you laughing and crying and even cringing - but definitely dying to read the next one!

This is an uplifting and extraordinary testament to the most glorious of human emotions."

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Ackroyd, Peter "Tudors"

Ackroyd, Peter "The History of England, Vol. 2 Tudors" - 2012

After having read the first part of Peter Ackroyd's History of England, "Foundation", this was the second one in the series. He is planning to write six but I am sure this is my favourite since I find the Tudors the most fascinating part of British history.

Last year, I read "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" by Alison Weir, followed by her book about "Katherine of Aragon".  I am looking forward to reading more about the other five wives but …

Peter Ackroyd is a great writer, he just knows all the little details and can put them together so that you get the feeling, you have been there. All the problems the Tudor's encountered, how the Anglican church started, what the problems were etc. I grew up in a country that is half Catholic and half Protestant and there wasn't always much love lost between the two, so it was interesting to see how it all came to pass in England. I have always observed in Anglican services that they were a lot like Catholic ones and this book explains it all. Henry VIII really wanted to remain Catholic, just have nothing to do with the Pope and rule the church himself. That is just a very short explanation, so you better read the book if you want to know more.

In any case, whilst the author focuses a lot on the reformation in this edition, there is also a lot about Henry VIII's successors and how the island carried on after his death. Totally interesting.

From the back cover:

"Peter Ackroyd, one of Britain's most acclaimed writers, brings the age of the Tudors to vivid life in this monumental book in his The History of England series, charting the course of English history from Henry VIII's cataclysmic break with Rome to the epic rule of Elizabeth I.

Rich in detail and atmosphere, Tudors is the story of Henry VIII's relentless pursuit of both the perfect wife and the perfect heir; of how the brief royal reign of the teenage king, Edward VI, gave way to the violent reimposition of Catholicism and the stench of bonfires under "Bloody Mary." It tells, too, of the long reign of Elizabeth I, which, though marked by civil strife, plots against her, and even an invasion force, finally brought stability.

Above all, it is the story of the English Reformation and the making of the Anglican Church. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, England was still largely feudal and looked to Rome for direction; at its end, it was a country where good governance was the duty of the state, not the church, and where men and women began to look to themselves for answers rather than to those who ruled them."

I also read "Thames. Sacred River" by the same author.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Smith, Betty "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"

Smith, Betty "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" - 1943

Many of my friends have told me about this book and it has been on my wishlist for ages. I finally made it. And I am glad I did. A young girl growing up in poverty loves reading. That might have been my story though we were never as poor as the Nolan family. Probably because my father didn't drink and brought the money home he earned through his regular job. But I can totally relate to Francie. How she came to love books and how they became her only friends sometimes. Books are always there for you.

I could also understand Francie's mother Katie, how she tried to save some pennies in order to get food onto the table. It must have been so hard for her.

Francie lived a hundred years ago but her message lives on and is still as valid now as it was back then. With an education, we can get out of the deepest holes.

This book is well written, from the point of view of a girl growing up but with a very adult understanding. It makes you think about life and its meaning.

In any case, I could relate to Francie so well that I just had to love this book. I would have loved to read this when I was young.

From the back cover:

"A profoundly moving novel, and an honest and true one. It cuts right to the heart of life ... If you miss A Tree Grows in Brooklyn you will deny yourself a rich experience...  It is a poignant and deeply understanding story of childhood and family relationships. The Nolans lived in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn from 1902 until 1919... Their daughter Francie and their son Neely knew more than their fair share of the privations and sufferings that are the lot of a great city's poor. Primarily this is Francie's book. She is a superb feat of characterization, an imaginative, alert, resourceful child. And Francie's growing up and beginnings of wisdom are the substance of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn."