Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Prince of Mist"


Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Prince of Mist" (El príncipe de la niebla) - 1993

What a fantastic ghost story, very mystical, very exciting. Initially written as a youth book, this has been rereleased after the author's great successes with "The Shadow of the Wind" and "The Angel's Game".

A family moves from the city to the beach in order to flee from the war. They move into an old house whose previous owner died. As soon as they arrive, strange things start to happen. Then the son meets another boy and his grandfather and the mystery starts to unravel.

Quite a short story, only 202 pages, read them in a day. Wonderful.

Find more books about this great author here.

From the back cover: "1943. As war sweeps across Europe, Max Carver's father moves his family away from the city, to an old wooden house on the coast. But as soon as they arrive, strange things begin to happen: Max discovers a garden filled with eerie statues; his sisters are plagued by unsettling dreams and voices; a box of old films opens a window to the past.

Most unsettling of all are rumours about the previous owners and the mysterious disappearance of their son. As Max delves into the past, he encounters the terrifying story of the Prince of Mist, a sinister shadow who emerges from the night to settle old scores, then disappears with the first mists of dawn . . .

Originally published in Spain as a young adult novel, THE PRINCE OF MIST is a mesmerising tale of mystery, romance and adventure.

Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Angel's Game"


Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Angel's Game" (El juego del ángel) - 2008

If you enjoyed "The Shadow of the Wind", this is the book for you. Another book about books, history, mystery and the fabulous town Barcelona. It has everything, it's a love story and a crime story. This time, a writer brings us back to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and the Sempere & Sons bookshop on another quest for the author of a book.

I just love Carlos Ruiz Zafón's style of writing, the way he gets you to wonder what will happen next, how you try to figure out what is behind the story, you're almost there but never quite reach it. His unravelling of the thread is stunning, extraordinary. Can't wait for his next work. His novels make me want to learn Spanish better so I can read them in the original.

Find more books about this great author here.

From the back cover: "In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man - David Martin - makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books, and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city's underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner. Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love.Then David receives the offer of a lifetime: he is to write a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realises that there is a connection between this haunting book and the shadows that surround his home..."

Monday, 28 March 2011

Oates, Joyce Carol "The Gravedigger's Daughter"

Oates, Joyce Carol "The Gravedigger's Daughter" - 2007

"In 1936 the Schwarts, an immigrant family desperate to escape Nazi Germany, settle in a small town in upstate New York, where the father, a former high school teacher, is demeaned by the only job he can get: gravedigger and cemetery caretaker. After local prejudice and the family's own emotional frailty result in unspeakable tragedy, the gravedigger's daughter, Rebecca, begins her astonishing pilgrimage into America, an odyssey of erotic risk and imaginative daring, ingenious self-invention, and, in the end, a bittersweet-but very 'American'-triumph. 'You are born here, they will not hurt you' - so the gravedigger has predicted for his daughter, which will turn out to be true.

In 'The Gravedigger's Daughter', Oates has created a masterpiece of domestic yet mythic realism, at once emotionally engaging and intellectually provocative: an intimately observed testimony to the resilience of the individual to set beside such predecessors as 'The Falls', 'Blonde', and 'We Were the Mulvaneys'"

Joyce Carol Oates belongs to my favourite authors. She didn't disappoint me with her latest novel, either. A story of new beginnings and good-byes, of violence and murder, a search for identity, "The Gravedigger's Daughter"  is a gripping, very exciting book you just cannot put down.

Find links to all my other Joyce Carol Oates reviews here.

Oates, Joyce Carol "The Falls"

Oates, Joyce Carol "The Falls" - 2004

"A man climbs over the railings and plunges into Niagara Falls. A newlywed, he has left behind his wife, Ariah Erskine, in the honeymoon suite the morning after their wedding."

This is how the story begins. The "Widow Bride" starts a new life but her past catches up with her.

My third Joyce Carol Oates novel. Liked it just as well as the other ones. Her characters are so alive. As she describes every single person, you have sympathy with all of them because you can see everybody's point. I really thought I knew everyone. And, yet, you can never tell what would happen next, everything comes so unexpectedly.

The novel left me devastated. Great read. My wish, award JCO the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Find links to all my other Joyce Carol Oates reviews here.

Oates, Joyce Carol "Middle Age"

Oates, Joyce Carol "Middle Age" - 2001

"Middle Age portrays a uniquely contemporary phenomenon: the propensity of the affluent middle-aged in America to reinvent themselves romantically when the energies of youth have faded or they have become disillusioned."

A man dies and all of a sudden all his skeletons come out of the closet. A very interesting story about life in a small town and how everyone tries to hide everything from each other. Everybody knows everyone and everybody knows everyone's secrets, yet, everyone tries to pretend they don't. Sounds familiar? If not, you have probably lived in a large town all your life.

You find everyone in this novel, the nice one, the evil one, the shallow one, the deep one, the deceptive one, the caring one. As I said, interesting story. Good to read, JCO has a wonderful way of describing her characters and the situations they get into.

Find links to all my other Joyce Carol Oates reviews here.

Oates, Joyce Carol "Dear Husband"

Oates, Joyce Carol "Dear Husband, stories" - 2009

I'm not a fan of short stories. Or crime stories. But I love Joyce Carol Oates and therefore had to read her latest book. Anyway, I enjoyed it. The stories are very different, different outcomes, none of them very nice, though. A lot of mother-son problems. I don't have those kind of problems but - as a mother of two teenage sons - could relate to a lot of them.

Find links to all my other Joyce Carol Oates reviews here.

Oates, Joyce Carol "We Were the Mulvaneys"

Oates, Joyce Carol "We Were the Mulvaneys" - 1996

"You will not read a novel more enthralling, more moving, more unforgettably illumined by profoundly human truth than this story of the rise, the fall, and the ultimate redemption of an American family."

True, the Mulvaneys are a happy family, a special kind of family, they are rich, beautiful, have a fantastic live, a wonderful home, own a huge farm and everybody envies them. Until that event on Valentine's Day after which the whole world changes An interesting story about how one incident can destroy someone but how determination can bring them up again.

This was my first first novel from this author (but her 26th) and I liked it so much that I was looking forward to reading more of her. I don't ever read them quickly one after the other, though, I think it spoils the enjoyment.

Anyway, I really liked this novel. The characters are well described, the story is flowing well. You can imagine being there. Some parts might be a little too American but I can still imagine something like that happening over here, especially in the seventies when this story happened.

I have enjoyed all the other Joyce Carol Oates books and it's hard to pick a favourite but if I really had to, this would be the one. 

Find links to all my other Joyce Carol Oates reviews here.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Bryson, Bill “Down Under”

Bryson, Bill "Down Under/In a Sunburned Country" - 2000

I love Bill Bryson, so I loved this one. My favourite of all is "Notes from a Small Island" though I don't share that feeling with most Brits. I lived on the gorgeous British Isle as a foreigner, same as Bill Bryson and loved this country and its inhabitants, same as Bill Bryson. Therefore, I probably thought it was the best.

I have never been to Australia but having read his book I feel I almost have. Bill Bryson is hilarious, as always. His almost phobic-like fear of all Australian animals just adds to the account of his adventures in the different parts of the country.

If I hadn't had any interest in going to Australia before, I surely did after reading Bryson's account of this "sunburned country", as he calls it in the US edition of his descriptive book.

I love all of Bill Bryson's books. Find a link to my reviews here.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Bush, Catherine “Claire's Head”

Bush, Catherine “Claire's Head” - 2004

I was given this book by a Canadian friend who knows how often I get a migraine. If you have never experienced one, this book will tell you all about it, even though it is a novel. And if you suffer from them, you will find that somebody finally was able to describe the kind of pain you get and that you are never able to describe yourself to someone who doesn't know what you are going through.

Claire is the youngest of three sisters. Two of them suffer from migraine, it's in their family, same as in mine. They remember their childhood in dark bedrooms and with a lot of restrictions in life. When her older sister gets reported missing, Claire goes on a journey not only to find her sister but also to understand her headaches better.

I really like this book. If you have any interest or know someone with migraines, you should read this book.

From the back cover: "On a quiet June morning, Toronto cartographer Claire Barber receives a phone call telling her that her sister Rachel, a freelance medical journalist living in New York, seems to have vanished. Last heard from while on assignment in Montreal, Rachel cancelled a trip to visit her six-year-old daughter, who lives with Claire’s middle sister, in Toronto. Among the many fears that haunt Claire as she begins to track Rachel’s whereabouts is that Rachel’s worsening migraines have pushed her beyond her limits.

As Claire disrupts her orderly life to follow news of Rachel to Montreal, to Amsterdam, to Italy, and, ultimately, to Las Vegas and Mexico in the company of Rachel’s ex-lover, Brad, she enters a world of neurologists and New Age healers. Struggling with her own headaches, Claire embarks on what becomes an emotional journey, one that brings to the fore her parents’ sudden death eight years earlier. It also reveals the heightening tensions in her relationship with her partner, Stefan, portraying along the way long-held secrets from the past as well as the uniquely complex and irreplaceable bond between sisters. What Claire comes to discover will set her life on a new course.

Taking place over one summer, but delving back into the past, Claire’s Head provides both a layered, engrossing story and a meditation on how we live with pain and what we will give up to be free of it, written with all the insight, intelligence, and storytelling artistry for which Catherine Bush’s fiction has come to be known. With this, her third novel, she has once again proved herself to be one of Canadian fiction’s most striking and original voices.

See also my list of "Migraine Books"

Ilibagiza, Immaculée "Left to Tell"

Ilibagiza, Immaculée with Erwin, Steve "Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust" - 2006

After having read "Shake Hands with the Devil" where General Roméo Dallaire gives a most horrendous account of the genocide in Rwanda, I didn't say no when a friend offered to lend me this book of a young girl who survived the holocaust.

This was an even more earth-shattering tale as Immaculée Ilibagiza doesn't just tell how she survived (cramped with seven other women into a tiny bathroom for 91 days with hardly any food and having to be absolutely quiet the whole time, how they learned to communicate without speaking), she also tells about losing all her family and friends, hardly anyone she knew survived, most of them were killed most brutally. The most miraculous part of her story is her triumphal survival and her faith that never left her.

An amazing story of a remarkable young woman.

Immaculée Ilibagiza has her own homepage, "Left to Tell". I also read another book of hers "Our Lady of Kibeho".

See the book featured in my "Photo ABC". 

From the back cover:

"Immaculee Ilibagiza grew up in a country she loved, surrounded by a family she cherished. But in 1994 her idyllic world was ripped apart as Rwanda descended into a bloody genocide. Immaculee’s family was brutally murdered during a killing spree that lasted three months and claimed the lives of nearly a million Rwandans.

Incredibly, Immaculee survived the slaughter. For 91 days, she and seven other women huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor while hundreds of machete-wielding killers hunted for them.

It was during those endless hours of unspeakable terror that Immaculee discovered the power of prayer, eventually shedding her fear of death and forging a profound and lasting relationship with God. She emerged from her bathroom hideout having discovered the meaning of truly unconditional love - a love so strong she was able seek out and forgive her family’s killers.

The triumphant story of this remarkable young woman’s journey through the darkness of genocide will inspire anyone whose life has been touched by fear, suffering, and loss.

Dallaire, Roméo "Shake Hands with the Devil"

Dallaire, Roméo "Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda" - 2003

Tough read. But worthwile. General Dallaire was the UN commander in Rwanda during the genocide in 1994 (the year my son was born). It is incredible what happened. Roméo Dallaire describes everything in detail. Certainly not easy to remember all the abbreviations. Thank God for the glossary in the back.

Highly recommendable if you are interested in the problems going on in this world. The book made a big impression to everyone, it felt very important.

First of all, the author is not a novelist. He is a general, a military man who tries to describe the events in 1994 when his task was to bring peace to Rwanda. The book is an account of what was happening, a chronological list, if you will, of his experiences. His accounts are filled with abbreviations, acronyms, names. Granted, there is an impressively huge list of all those in the back, one with all the pages every single person in the book, the other one with the description of all those abbreviations, a short explanation as to the people etc. But, you can't go back to those lists all the time, otherwise you lose track of the events. So, it's hard to follow and it's not a book you would read in a couple of days, especially considering its 592 pages (even without the appendix).

However, it is still worth reading!! The war this poor guy had to fight - not with the Rwandans but with bureaucracy - the people who sent him there to prevent a war. And then he had to stand by watching two peoples killing each other, well, mainly one killing the other, one of the largest genocides in history, without being able to do what he considered necessary to prevent this. It must have been heart-wrenching. Well, it was. This war didn't just destroy the lives of probably a million Tutsis and Hutus, it also destroyed General Dallaire's and his family's life since he was unable to live with it. I can see how you are never able to return to your former life after any kind of war or even 'conflict' but having to stand by and just watch … well, read the book. It's worth it!

We all achieved great respect for the man, what he went through, it takes a particular kind of person. We were very impressed with him, what is he made of, how did he persevere and survive? We found him very sympathetic, very heroic. Someone said, if  she was to be a soldier she would like to be under a command of a person like him. He never expected anything from anyone what he wouldn't go through himself.

We had a talk about genocide/holocaust and how difficult it must have been not to take part. According to a study, 10% will refuse to take part in it. 80% will take part, 10-15% become harmed in the process, they become killers. People often cave under social pressure.

In any case, we must make sure it will never happen again.

We discussed this in our book club in August 2009

From the back cover: "On the tenth anniversary of the date that UN peacekeepers landed in Rwanda, Random House Canada is proud to publish the unforgettable first-hand account of the genocide by the man who led the UN mission. Digging deep into shattering memories, General Dallaire has written a powerful story of betrayal, naïveté, racism and international politics. His message is simple and undeniable: 'Never again.'

When Lt-Gen. Roméo Dallaire received the call to serve as force commander of the UN intervention in Rwanda in 1993, he thought he was heading off on a modest and straightforward peacekeeping mission. Thirteen months later he flew home from Africa, broken, disillusioned and suicidal, having witnessed the slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans in only a hundred days. In
Shake Hands with the Devil, he takes the reader with him on a return voyage into the hell of Rwanda, vividly recreating the events the international community turned its back on. This book is an unsparing eyewitness account of the failure by humanity to stop the genocide, despite timely warnings.

Woven through the story of this disastrous mission is Dallaire’s own journey from confident Cold Warrior, to devastated UN commander, to retired general engaged in a painful struggle to find a measure of peace, reconciliation and hope. This book is General Dallaire’s personal account of his conversion from a man certain of his worth and secure in his assumptions to a man conscious of his own weaknesses and failures and critical of the institutions he’d relied on. It might not sit easily with standard ideas of military leadership, but understanding what happened to General Dallaire and his mission to Rwanda is crucial to understanding the moral minefields our peacekeepers are forced to negotiate when we ask them to step into the world’s dirty wars.

Excerpt from
Shake Hands with the Devil
'My story is not a strictly military account nor a clinical, academic study of the breakdown of Rwanda. It is not a simplistic indictment of the many failures of the UN as a force for peace in the world. It is not a story of heroes and villains, although such a work could easily be written. This book is a cri de coeur for the slaughtered thousands, a tribute to the souls hacked apart by machetes because of their supposed difference from those who sought to hang on to power. . . . This book is the account of a few humans who were entrusted with the role of helping others taste the fruits of peace. Instead, we watched as the devil took control of paradise on earth and fed on the blood of the people we were supposed to protect.'"

Read also the story of a surviving girl:
Ilibagiza, Immaculée with Erwin, Steve "Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust" - 2006
Roméo Dallaire has also written a second book "They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children" where he "provides an emotionally daring and intellectually enlightening introduction to the child soldier phenomenon, as well as concrete solutions for its total eradication." I have read it in the meantime and thought it was also brilliant.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Mary Scott

Mary Scott writes about New Zealand

I'm sure every one of us has a book or a series of books they loved and adored when they were young. Mine led me to New Zealand, to the outbacks in the first half of the last century. The characters were mainly farmers with no money who struggled to build a life in the middle of nowhere. Mary Scott knew what she was writing about, the characters were modelled on herself and her family and friends. She got through all the hardships of a life like that with the help of her loving husband and some wonderful friends she met out there. Who wouldn't want to meet the people and the country they live in?

Her books were translated into German (therefore I could read them all at the time) and seem to have been most popular in Germany, even more than in her own country. Anybody I met or talked to from New Zealand doesn't' seem to have ever heard about these lovely little books.
Susan and Larry Series:
"Breakfast at Six" (Frühstück um Sechs. Ich und Paul und Tausend Schafe) - 1953
"Dinner Doesn’t Matter" (Mitttagessen Nebensache) - 1957
"Tea and Biscuits" (Tee und Toast) - 1961
"A Change From Mutton" (Und abends etwas Liebe) - 1964

"Turkey at Twelve" (Truthahn um Zwölf) - 1968
"Shepherd's Pie" (Geliebtes Landleben) - 1972
"Strangers for Tea" (Fremde Gäste) - 1975
"Board, but no Breakfast" (Übernachtung - Frühstück ausgeschlossen) - 1978

"Families are Fun" (Fröhliche Ferien am Meer) - 1957
"No Sad Songs" (Kopf hoch, Freddie!) - 1960
"Freddie" (Wann heiraten wir, Freddie?) - 1965
"Yours to Oblige" (Na endlich, Liebling) - 1954
"Pippa in Paradise" (Es tut sich was im Paradies) - 1955
"One of the Family" (Onkel ist der Beste) - 1958
"The White Elephant" (Zum Weißen Elefanten) - 1959
"The Long Honeymoon" (Flitterwochen) - 1963
"It's Perfectly Easy" (Es ist ja so einfach) - 1963
"What Does It Matter" (Macht nichts, Darling) - 1966
"Yes, Darling" (Ja, Liebling) - 1967
"Strictly Speaking" (Das Teehaus im Grünen) - 1969
"Haven't We Met Before?" (Hilfe, ich bin berühmt!) - 1970

"If I Don't, Who Will?" (Oh, diese Verwandtschaft!) - 1971
"First Things First" (Verlieb dich nie in einen Tierarzt) - 1973
"It Was Meant" (Zärtliche Wildnis) - 1974
"Away From It All" (Das Jahr auf dem Lande) - 1977
"Days That Have Been" (Das waren schöne Zeiten) - 1966
Books I didn't get to read:
"The Unwritten Book" 1957
Crime Novels written with Joyce West:
"Fatal Lady" (Tod auf der Koppel) - 1960
"Such Nice People" (Lauter reizende Menschen) - 1962
"The Mangrove Murder" (Das Geheimnis der Mangrovenbucht) - 1964
"No Red Herrings" (Das Rätsel der Hibiskus-Brosche) - 1964

"Who Put It There?" (Der Tote im Kofferraum) - 1965 

Some information on Mary Scott, her life and her books.
The New Zealand Novel

A list of all my reviews.

Moore, Christopher "Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff"

Moore, Christopher "Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal" - 2002

A friend of one of our members had recommended this book, she is an art gallerist and we told our member not to forget to thank her for this.

We quite liked the book. We would have preferred to have someone there who didn't like the book (that's always so much better for a discussion) but everyone present agreed. However, I did have a comment from a former member who said she doesn't often get upset with books (which is true) but found this one very sacrilegious and rude. Obviously, she didn't care much for it at all.

As for the rest of us, we found it quite amusing, entertaining, relaxed, enjoyed it but were afraid some very devout people might not like it. We got into the spirit of it, laughed hysterically. We  liked the book, it was funny, well written, interesting, timeless. It was showing the human side, described a touching friendship. We liked the sarcasm, it's cheeky, very humorous, an original combination of religion and fantasy.

I usually don't like to read "sequels" written by other authors. There have been a lot of attempts on this one but I don't think any of them has gone into it in such a way. We found the author respected Jesus. Great was the idea of friendship, loyalty, sacrifice, treat others the way you want to be treated. It was also nice to hear more about different other religions, the way the author brought in all the other, older religions, and also tried to put in events of Jesus' life that we have found out (or tried to find out) through artefacts, events, etc.

If you've been to Israel, you enjoy in particular the accuracy of details. He inserted forgiveness, kindness, comparison, humility and moderation. The book encourages you to be more like Christ. We also agreed that it was a little OTT sometimes and that this book should not be taken seriously. One remark of one of the members was, if this challenges your faith, you have some more praying to do.

One of my favourite quotes ever: "There's no such thing as a conservative hero".

We discussed this in our book club in February 2010.

From the back cover: "The birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his teachings, acts, and divine sacrifice after his 30th birthday. But no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years - except Biff, the Messiah's best bud, who has been resurrected to tell the story in this hilarious, yet heartfelt work."

White, Colin & Boucke, Laurie "The UnDutchables"

White, Colin & Boucke, Laurie "The UnDutchables: an observation of the Netherlands, its culture and its inhabitants" - 1989

Two Americans who had lived in the Netherlands for 22 years together published the first edition of this book in 1989, it has been updated every other year since then and is a huge bestseller both in the Netherlands and many other countries.

The book was meant to be a humourous view about living in the Netherlands, mainly the Holland part. The authors don't just laugh with the Dutch about anything that's different here but also give some useful tips for expatriates living in the country. I wish somebody would have given this to me before I moved here. And I wasn't the only one, our book club members (all expatriates at the time) couldn't agree more.

There is an interesting website about the book with a message board and further links; The UnDutchables
They also published a second book: Dear Henry - Letters from the Lowlands

We discussed this in our book club in November 2005.

From the back cover: "A hilarious yet profound and revealing look at the Dutch, their customs and their mentality. This exquisite satire explores the most diverse aspects of daily Dutch life, from coffee to child rearing, from train travel to the toilet.
Learn why the Dutch believe, 'It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it,' and why it's so hard to learn the Dutch language: 'The more you try to learn Dutch, the more the Dutch refuse to speak Dutch to you and the more they complain that you haven't learned it.'
Other topics include Dutch moralizing & criticizing, cozy Dutch homes, flowers & plants, money & thriftiness, work ethics, welfare, commercial cunning, telephone habits, the national passion, rules for shopping, driving, Dutch customs, bikes, language, gay community, food, sex, drugs, phobias, the Dutch abroad and the 1995 flood disaster.This book is a must for anyone with Dutch connections and who enjoys wit and humor. A perennial bestseller in Europe, and an increasingly popular book in North America.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Letts, Billie "Where the Heart is"

Letts, Billie "Where the Heart is" - 1995

One of our first book club reads. A seventeen year old girl ends up pregnant with no support at all and has her baby in a Wal-Mart in Oklahoma. She gets taken in by some well-meaning people and starts a real life with her baby.

A nice easy book you might want to read if you want something light. If I remember it well, everyone quite liked it. Not necessarily a huge message but it provoked a good discussion.

We discussed this in our book club in October 2001.

From the back cover: "Talk about unlucky sevens. An hour ago, seventeen-year-old, seven months pregnant Novalee Nation was heading for California with her boyfriend. Now she finds herself stranded at a Wal-Mart in Sequoyah, Oklahoma, with just $7.77 in change. But Novalee is about to discover hidden treasures in this small Southwest town - a group of down-to-earth, deeply caring people willing to help a homeless, jobless girl living secretly in a Wal-Mart. From Bible-thumping blue-haired Sister Thelma Husband to eccentric librarian Forney Hull who loves Novalee more than she loves herself, they are about to take her - and you, too - on a moving, funny, and unforgettable journey to . . . Where the Heart Is."

Aitmatov, Chinghiz "Jamila"

Aitmatov, Chinghiz "Jamila" (Russian: Джамиля - Jamilia) - 1958

This is a very interesting story by a writer from a country we don't know that well, he is from Kyrgyzstan but writes in Russian, as far as I know. I read the translation ;-)

The novel describes village life in Central Asia and the disappearance of Central Asian cultural traditions in the USSR. The main character is a painter who had painted a picture at the time that his sister-in-law, Jamila, and Daniyar, a village outsider, had fallen in love and left the village. He remembers and describes the summer of 1943, when he lost both his friends.

This is one of the best love stories I ever read. It's not a very long one and I read it quite a while ago, yet, I still recall the feeling the story invokes. Great novel!

From the back cover: "Jamilia's husband is off fighting at the front. She spends her days hauling sacks of grain from the threshing floor to the train station in their small village, accompanied by Seit, her young brother-in-law, and Daniyar, a sullen newcomer to the village who has been wounded on the battlefield.

Seit observes the beautiful, spirited Jamilia spurn men's advances, and wince at the dispassionate letters she receives from her husband. Meanwhile, undeterred by Jamilia's teasing, Daniyar sings as they return each evening from the fields. Soon Jamilia is in love, and she and Daniyar elope just as her husband returns.

Translated by James Riordan."

Smith, Ali “The Accidental”

Smith, Ali "The Accidental" - 2004

This book was shortlisted for the Booker prize. Everybody praised it. I think, the first one probably didn't want to admit that he/she didn't understand the novel and therefore praised it and then it went on and on like that ... I didn't like the book at all. It was boring, weird, nothing that really tempted me to ever touch a novel by this author again.

Ali Smith was shortlisted for "The Accidental" in 2005. 

From the back cover: "Arresting and wonderful, 'The Accidental' pans in on the Norfolk holiday home of the Smart family one hot summer. There, a beguiling stranger called Amber appears at the door bearing all sorts of unexpected gifts, trampling over family boundaries and sending each of the Smarts scurrying from the dark into the light. A novel about the ways that seemingly chance encounters irrevocably transform our understanding of ourselves, 'The Accidental' explores the nature of truth, the role of fate, and the power of storytelling. This book will change you."

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Dutch and French Books

From time to time, I read a French or a Dutch book. I prefer to read a book in its original language because with a translation there is always a third person in the conversation, the translator. Unfortunately, I don't speak all the languages I would like to and therefore have to rely on translations from time to time. These are the books I managed to enjoy (or not) just like that.

Word cloud made with WordItOut

Abdolah, Kader "Het huis van de moskee" (The House of the Mosque) - 2005
- "Spijkerschrift" (My Father’s Notebook) - 2000
Brijs, Stefan "De engelenmaker" (The Angel Maker) - 2005
de Loo, Tessa "De Tweeling" (The Twins) - 1993
de Man, Herman "Het wassende water" [The Growing Water - not translated] - 1925
de Winter, Leon "De Hemel van Hollywood" (The Hollywood Sign) - 1997
- "Zionoco" (dto.) - 1995
Dorrestein, Renate "Een hart van steen" (A Heart of Stone)- 1998
Durlacher, Jessica "Het Geweten" (The Conscience) - 1998
Eggels, Elle "Het Huis van de Zeven Zusters" (The House of the Seven Sisters) - 1998
Frank, Anne "Het Achterhuis" (The Diary of a Young Girl) - 1942-44
Hirsi Ali, Ayaan "Mijn Vrijheid" (Infidel: My Life) - 2006
Koch, Herman "Het Diner" (The Dinner) - 2009
Linthout, Dik "Onbekende buren" [Unknown Neighbours - not translated] - 2002
Mak, Geert "De goede stad" [The Good Town - not translated] - 2007
- "Hoe God verdween uit Jorwerd. Een Nederlands Dorp In De Twintigste Eeuw" (Jorwerd: The Death of the Village in late 20th Century)- 1996
- "In Europa: Reizen door de twintigste eeuw" (In Europe. Travels through the twentieth century) - 2004
Mulisch, Harry "De Ontdekking van de hemel" (The Discovery of Heaven)- 1992
Multatuli (Eduard Douwes Dekker) "Max Havelaar of de koffiveilingen der Nederlandsche Handelmaatschappy" (Max Havelaar, or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company) - 1859
Münstermann, Hans "Het gelukkige jaar 1940" [The Happy Year 1940 - not translated] - 2000
Poortvliet, Rien "De tresoor van Jacob Jansz. Over het vermoedelijke leven van een gewone man voor de 80-jarige oorlog in 1566" (Daily Life in Holland in 1566) - 1991
't Hart, Maarten "De zonnewijzer" (The Sundial) - 2002
Verhoef, Esther "Erken mij" [Acknowledge me - not translated] - 2009
Westerman, Frank “De graanrepubliek” [The Grain Republic - not translated] - 1999

Bâ, Mariama "Une si longue lettre" (So Long a Letter) - 1979
Betancourt, Íngrid "Même le silence a une fin" (Even Silence has an End: My Six Years in the Jungle) - 2010
Camus, Albert "L'étranger" (The Stranger/The Outsider) - 1942
- "La Peste" (The Plague) - 1947
- "Le premier homme" (The First Man/Der erste Mensch) - 1994
Cinquin, Marie-Madeleine = Sœur Emmanuelle avec Duquesne, Jacques; Cayrol, Annabelle "J'ai 100 ans et je voudrais vous dire … Sa dernière confession" [I'm 100 years old and I wanted to say ... Her last confession - not translated] - 2008
Dai, Sijie "Balzac et la Petite Tailleuse Chinoise" (Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress) - 2002
- "Par une nuit où la lune ne s’est pas levée" (Once on a Moonless Night) - 2007
Deforges, Regine "La Bicyclette Bleue" (The Blue Bicycle) - 1981
Delacourt, Grégoire "La liste de mes envies" (The list of my desires/My Wish List) - 2012
Denuzière, Maurice "Louisiane. Trilogie" (Louisiana. Trilogy) - 1977
Dugain, Marc "La Chambre des officiers" (The Officer's Ward) - 1999
Ferri, Jean-Yves; Didier Conrad, Didier "Le Papyrus de César" (Asterix and the Missing Scroll) - 2015
Hugo, Victor "Les Misérables" (Les Misérables) - 1862 
Gavalda, Anna "35 kilos d’espoir" (95 pounds of hope) - 2002
- "Je voudrais quelqu'un m'attende quelque part" (I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere) - 1999
- "Ensemble c'est tout" (Hunting and Gathering) - 2006
Hessel, Stéphane "Indignez-vous!" (Time for Outrage!) - 2011
Ionesco, Eugène "Rhinocéros" (Rhinoceros) - 1957
Le Clézio, Jean-Marie Gustave "L'Africain" (The African) - 2004
Lafayette, Madame de (Marie-Madeleine) "La Princesse de Clèves" (The Princess of Cleves) - 1678 
Levy, Marc "Mes amis mes amours" (London Mon Amour) - 2006
Maalouf, Amin "Samarcande" (Samarkand) - 1988
Modiano, Patrick "La Place de l'Étoile" (Place de l'Étoile) - 1968
Navarre, Marguerite de "Heptaméron" (Heptameron) - 1578
NDiaye, Marie "Rosie Carpe" - 2001
Némirovsky, Irène "Suite Française" (Suite Française) - 2004
Saint-Exupéry, Antoine "Le Petit Prince" (The Little Prince)  - 1943
Satrapi, Marjane "Persepolis. Vol 1" (Persepolis. The Story of a Childhood) - 2000
Satrapi, Marjane "Persepolis. Vol. 2" (Persepolis. The Story of a Return) - 2000
Schmitt, Éric-Emmanuel "Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran" (Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran) - 1999
- "Oscar et la dame rose" (Oscar and the Lady in Pink) - 2002
Sthers, Amanda "Chicken Street" (Chicken Street) - 2006
Wiazemsky, Anne "Sept Garçons" (Seven Boys) -  2002
Wiesel, Elie "La Nuit" (Night) - 1958

Stewart, Sheila “Lifting the Latch”

Stewart, Sheila "Lifting the Latch" - 1987

"For eighty years Mont Abbott lived and worked on the land in Oxfordshire. In this record by Sheila Stewart, Mont 'lifts the latch' and takes us into a forgotten world of roly-poly puddings and street fairs, describing his lost skills of carting and shepherding to the joys of singing in the church choir, and the loyalty of a rural community."

I met Sheila Stewart on a talk she gave at our local W.I. when she talked about her other book "Ramlin Rose". I read it and loved it, so had to get this one, as well.

I grew up in a rural area myself but quite a bit later than Mont Abbott. Sheila Stewart doesn't just describe the life of this remarkable man but also draws a great picture of how life was about a century ago. People led a hard life, lots of work, very simple, but people cared for each other. With Mont we see the arrival of the first cars, the introduction of technology and hence change of farming life, we learn about the organization of farms, the hierarchy of life, traditions and ceremonies that were kept. Mont also survived two world wars. What a life!

Sheila Stewart managed to draw a picture of all that with lots and lots of information again with a great sense of humour and sensitivity toward a man who told her the story of his life.

What can I say, I loved this book.

From the back cover: "In this extraordinary piece of social history, Sheila Stewart takes us into the life of Mont Abbott, who for nearly eighty years has lived and worked on the land near the parish of Enstone in Oxfordshire. Constructed from a series of taped conversations, Lifting the Latch is a record of the joys of a country life that no longer exists and of the memorable cast of characters who took part in it, as well as a document that paints a grimmer picture of personal tragedy and rural hardship before the existence of the welfare state."

Stewart, Sheila "Ramlin Rose"

Stewart, Sheila "Ramlin Rose" - 1993

"Drawing on extensive interviews with boatwomen born and bred on the Oxford canal, this book is a story of courage and resilience, capturing a vanished way of life. From the turn of the century to the late 1950s, horse-drawn narrow boats were a familiar sight on Britain's canals."

When I lived in England, I was a member of the local W.I. (Women's Institute). We had talks about different topics every month. For me, one of the most exciting was when author Sheila Stewart came to see us. She talked about her life as an author, how she had started writing. She was a very interesting person and her then pretty new book sounded interesting, so I bought and read it.

This book tells the story of women whose story is never told, women who were born and raised on the narrowboats on the English canals and who then also had children and raised them there. Most of them had seen a school only from the outside, none of them could read or had a link to the outside world. Sheila Stewart had written another book "Lifting the Latch" about rural life in general and the life or a farm worker in particular. The man she interviewed mentioned the women and families living on the narrowboats and so Sheila started her investigation. She interviewed several boatwomen and then put them together in one character.

What an interesting account of an unusal account we hardly ever hear about. Her writing style is both informative and exciting. It was so realistic, I felt I really knew the characters. And, even though those women led a hard life, the story contained quite a bit of humour, as well. I loved this book same as "Lifting the Latch" which I read later.

From the back cover: "From the turn of the century to the late 1950s, horse-drawn narrow boats were a familiar sight on Britain's canals. Carrying a wide variety of cargoes to such destinations as the Potteries, the textile mills of Lancashire, the papermills of London, the colleges of Oxford, they struggled on against increasing competition from rail and road traffic to maintain their place in the country's economy. Yet, little has been recorded about the lives of the canal families, and in particular, the women."

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Newsham, Brad "Take me with you"

Newsham, Brad "Take me with you" - 2000

A travel book with a twist. An American travels around the world, 100 days backpacking. The twist? He invites one of the people he meets to visit him in America. Someone who could never travel anywhere.

Interesting and very informative description of several countries, he stays in the Philippines, in India, then Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and finally South Africa. With every person you try to guess whether he will take this one back home.

I love travel books, that way I can travel the world without spending more than about 10 Euros for the book. What I love about this one is, that the author doesn't just visit the most famous places, he also takes the time to really get to know the people. Whether his decision is the "correct one", I don't know. I probably would have invited someone else but I believe they all would have deserved it.

From the back cover: "'Someday, when I am rich, I am going to invite someone from my travels to visit me in America.'

Brad Newsham was a twenty-two-year-old travelling through Afghanistan when he wrote this in his journal. Fourteen years later, he's a Yellow Taxi driver working in San Francisco. He's not rich, but he has never forgotten his vow.

Take Me With You is the compelling account of his journey through the Philippines, India, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa as he searches for the right person - someone who couldn't afford to leave their own country, let alone holiday in the West. Newsham's story will change the way you think about your life and the lives of those you meet when you travel.

Who does he invite home? Read
Take Me With You and find out..."

Mercier, Pascal "Night Train to Lisbon"

 Mercier, Pascal "Night Train to Lisbon" (German: Nachtzug nach Lissabon) - 2004 

A Swiss Professor of ancient languages happens to meet a Portuguese woman and finds a book in Portuguese, so he gives up his whole life and goes to Lisbon to find the author. He is going on a quest, tracking down the origin of the book and the life of the author. But in the author he also finds himself.

This is a philosophical book, someone tries to find himself. It's also almost like an epistolary Victorian novel. But it is also historical, informed us about the resistance during the dictatorship in Portugal (1933-74). A book about finding yourself. These two men are leading a parallel life: friends, family, failed marriages, everything seems to mirror the other one's life. Also a lovely description of language, how you can be a different person in another language and culture..

Some of our readers found the language difficult, we thought that might have been the translation. However, quite a few liked it also in the English translation. Quite a few of the readers said they will probably read it more times (I've read it twice so far.). It brought up so many questions. Somebody said the book makes a difference in her life.

The author paints some very visual imagines for us. This is a full, active book, it requires you to be an active reader. The story is very deep and intriguing.

One of our overseas members said it seemed very European, a person trapped in their role in life, in order to step out they had to change completely.

A Czech proverb says: Learn a new language and get a new soul. (I love that proverb, very true.)
People who travel find another world.

I love history, I love languages - and I love books. So this was the perfect recipe for a book. And most of us could find a lot of resemblances to our lives. After all, the protagonist leaves his country and goes somewhere else.

We discussed this in our book club in March 2010.

From the back cover: "A huge international best seller, this ambitious novel plumbs the depths of our shared humanity to offer up a breathtaking insight into life, love, and literature itself. A major hit in Germany that went on to become one of Europe’s biggest literary blockbusters in the last five years, Night Train to Lisbon is an astonishing novel, a compelling exploration of consciousness, The possibility of truly understanding another person, and the ability of language to define our very selves. Raimund Gregorius is a Latin teacher at a Swiss college who one day - after a chance encounter with a mysterious Portuguese woman - abandons his old life to start a new one. He takes the night train to Lisbon and carries with him a book by Amadeu de Prado, a (fictional) Portuguese doctor and essayist whose writings explore the ideas of loneliness, mortality, death, friendship, love, and loyalty. Gregorius becomes obsessed by what he reads and restlessly struggles to comprehend the life of the author. His investigations lead him all over the city of Lisbon, as he speaks to those who were entangled in Prado’s life. Gradually, the picture of an extraordinary man emerges - a doctor and poet who rebelled against Salazar's dictatorship."

Friday, 11 March 2011

Wiesel, Elie "Night"

Wiesel, Elie (Eliezer Vizl) "Night" (French: La Nuit/Yiddish: Un di Velt Hot Geshvign)  - 1958

Elie Wiesel wrote this novel as a report about his life in the concentration camps Buchenwald and Auschwitz/Oswiecim.

Seldom did we agree more on a book than this time. We thought it was shocking and unbelievable. The enormity, the plans, everything was so calculated. Horryfying to see what people are able to do. We could understand that people wouldn't believe it at the time because it is hard to believe even now.

There was a lot of denial going on but also misinformation. The concentration camp Terezín (Theresienstadt) in the Czech Republic was a showcase where they were demonstrating that they only got the Jews together.

We were not sure what to think about these people's beliefs. Some of them praying to the bitter end, others, like the author, believing God is dead.

We noticed that people who are degraded to animals loose their human touch. The thing they could do to your mind, how people can accept cruelty as a fact and accept this.

We also agreed that we have to keep reading this so we can believe it. This is especially important now, we have to keep the story going because a lot of the witnesses keep dying.

Another subject: elections. If the ordinary voter doesn't take up his right, the extreme parties will gain more percentage. We cannot let this happen. We blame the media for bad information, but other than in the thirties of the last century, we can get the information, but we often choose not to.

We didn't agree, though, that twelve year olds should read it in school. That might be a little too early both to understand the whole background and to get to terms with the impact such a book has on someone.

We also talked about the fact that religion is often used as an excuse for conflicts that usually have quite another reason, often money and power.

Does Elie Wiesel still believe in God? Only he can answer that question and we couldn't find that he did that anywhere. He said in his speech that we are all orphans. Is that because God is dead?

I have read quite a few accounts of survivors of the Nazi time and some of them of victims from the concentration camps. I think he really deserves the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded in 1986 since he tries to remind people about what happened without just throwing the other stone. He doesn't excuse his tormentors (why should he?) but he doesn't blame it all on everybody either. (If you don't have good nerves, you probably shouldn't read this as every account of any Jew from WWII has to be horrible.

Some of the concentration camps were also used for "medical research". You cannot understand how you can put people on different levels, treat them like they were even less than animals. Someone mentioned a "study" done in Tuskegee, Alabama. You can read more about that here.
In this connection, a famous sentence was brought up:
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others" from the novel "Animal Farm" by George Orwell.
But this was not the first time this existed. Any kind of slavery does this, you can only treat a human being as your possession if you don't treat them like a human being. I had just found an interesting site about 200 years of slavery, looks like a series that was broadcast in the States, but the website is rather interesting, too.
There seems to be a series on PBS, looks very interesting, maybe they'll show it here, one day, or not …
The Terrible Transformation 1450-1750
Revolution 1750-1805
Brotherly Love 179-1831 
Judgment Day 1831-1865

Then there is the "famous" (infamous) Lebensborn (fount of life) which officially encouraged SS officers to have more children. But they also had camps where "Aryan" women had children with "Aryan" soldiers, so it was a real breeding programme. Read more about it here.

If you haven't got enough of reading about the topic of the Nazis, everyone of us seemed to know at least one other book worth reading, so here is a list of that literature.
Corrie Ten Boom "The Hiding Place"
(You can also get a short version in Easy English, maybe for your children: The Secret Room) (De schuilplaats), 1971
On Wikipedia and amazon.
Lois Lowry "Number the Stars" (youth book, 10-14 yrs) - 1990
Set in Nazi-occupied Denmark in 1943, this 1990 Newbery winner tells of a 10-year-old girl who undertakes a dangerous mission to save her best friend.
Jurek Becker "Jacob the Liar" (Jacob der Lügner), 1969
Websites: Wikipedia, amazon
Imre Kertész "Fatelessness" (older translation: Fateless) (Sorstalanság), 1975
Wikipedia, amazon  
Tessa de Loo "The Twins" (De Tweeling) - 2000
Todd Strasser (pen name: Morton Rhue) "The Wave" - 1988
Wikipedia, amazon
J.N. Stroyar "The Children's War" - 2001 - ONE OF MY FAVOURITE BOOKS EVER
What would have happened had the Nazis won the war. How would we live now? Quite shocking!!!
Elizabeth Rosner "The Speed of Life" - 2001 - Another one of my absolute favourites.
How do Holocaust survivors and their children come to terms with their memories.

We also talked about several movies covering our theme. The first one was about an orchestra that saved Jews who played in it. The only thing I could find was the girl orchestra from Auschwitz/Oswiecim. Read about it here: 
Schindler's List
based on the book by Thomas Keneally "Schindler's Ark"
Zwartboek - (The Black Book)
Band of Brothers
The Twins - movie made after the book by Tessa de Loo (which we read in this book club):

Then we mentioned other movies we thought worth seeing, these two on the life of the Germans in East Germany (the movie received the Oscar this year for best foreign picture): "The Life of Others" (Das Leben der anderen)
And "Goodbye Lenin", a funny, yet thought-provoking movie about a son who has to recreate GDR for his mother who was in a coma while the wall came down and now can't face any changes.

We discussed this in our book club in March 2007.

From the back cover: "In Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel's memoir Night, a scholarly, Orthodox teenager is wracked with guilt at having survived the horror of the Holocaust & the genocidal campaign that consumed his family. His memories of the nightmare worlds of Auschwitz-Birkenau & Buchenwald present him with an intolerable question: how can the god he once so fervently believed in have allowed these monstrous events to occur? There are no easy answers in this harrowing book, which probes life's essential riddles with the lucid anguish only great literature achieves. It marks the crucial first step in Wiesel's lifelong project to bear witness for those who died.
Original Yiddish title: Un di Velt Hot Geshvign/And the World Remained Silent"

Elie Wiesel received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1986 as he "has emerged as one of the most important spiritual leaders and guides in an age when violence, repression and racism continue to characterise the world".

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

Niffenegger, Audrey "The Time Traveler's Wife"

Niffenegger, Audrey "The Time Traveler's Wife" - 2003

As a start I have to say, I really don't like science fiction. My husband and boys don't watch any sci-fi movies with me any more because I always come up with logical explanations why something doesn't work, mostly the author isn't constant in their plot and then it all get's really illogical.

Anyway, I thought the story itself was well written, I liked the characters.

But the whole time-travelling thing really was too much. Everything was so weird, whatever seemed to be said in one part was contradicted in the next, there are many plots that really don't make sense, even if this chronological disorder would exist, which is - of course - rubbish.

Someone suggested to take the whole book apart and write it again in the time traveler's chronological order. And this is where it starts. Of course, you would have to be able to do this in "normal life" but here it doesn't work because he doesn't have a chronological order.

I certainly wouldn't have read this book if it wasn't a book club read but I have picked up others that way and really enjoyed them. Not this one, though. One of the worst books ever.

We discussed this in our book club in March 2006.

From the back cover: "A dazzling novel in the most untraditional fashion, this is the remarkable story of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare's passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger's cinematic storytelling that makes the novel's unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant.

An enchanting debut and a spellbinding tale of fate and belief in the bonds of love,
The Time Traveler's Wife is destined to captivate readers for years to come."

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Wolfe, Thomas "Look Homeward, Angel"

Wolfe, Thomas "Look Homeward, Angel. A Story of the Buried Life." - 1929

This novel was mentioned several times in "The Lacuna" by Barbara Kingsolver which I really loved. So, I just had to read this one, as well.

I didn't expect it to be like Barbara Kingsolver's writing, however, I thought this might be another great American author. Thomas Wolfe has only written this one novel and I doubt I would have touched another one if he had.

The idea of the book was great, the writing style wasn't bad, either, but I think the novel would have gained so much if it had been written on 300 instead of 500 pages, a lot of unnecessary descriptions and thoughts that neither add to the story or are necessary for it nor was it so beautifully written that you read it just because it's almost poetry. Did I say I usually love long stories, prefer books to be longer than 500 pages over those that are around 200 only?

Not bad but definitely not one of my favourites, the title was a lot more promising.

From the back cover: "A legendary author on par with William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Wolfe published Look Homeward, Angel, his first novel, about a young man's burning desire to leave his small town and tumultuous family in search of a better life, in 1929. It gave the world proof of his genius and launched a powerful legacy.The novel follows the trajectory of Eugene Gant, a brilliant and restless young man whose wanderlust and passion shape his adolescent years in rural North Carolina. Wolfe said that Look Homeward, Angel is "a book made out of my life," and his largely autobiographical story about the quest for a greater intellectual life has resonated with and influenced generations of readers, including some of today's most important novelists. Rich with lyrical prose and vivid characterizations, this twentieth-century American classic will capture the hearts and imaginations of every reader."

Glover, Douglas "Elle"

Glover, Douglas "Elle" - 2003

Douglas Glover usually writes short stories. And received a lot of prizes for them. Also for this novel. Before we read it in the book club, one of our members gave it to me because she wanted to hear my thoughts about it. The author had just received the very prodigious Canadian Governor General's Award for Fiction for this book.

Both of us couldn't really identify with the novel but someone suggested it for the book club and it was chosen, not despite but probably because our warnings, people became interested.

Apparently, the novel is based  on a true story or legend. Well, "according to the legend, in 1542 the Sieur de Roberval exiled his niece Marguerite de la Roche for her lusty behaviour on board his ship, along with her nurse and her lover. The trio found themselves on what was then called the Ile des Demons, on the Labrador coast. Amazingly, she survived three summers and two winters, and the deaths of her nurse, her lover and her baby, before she was rescued and returned to France to tell her story."

So far the introduction. Granted, there are some interesting parts in the novel, the description of the island, for instance, but the rest was more a very complicated weird vision, partly like a fairy tale or fantasy, not very real at all. Apparently he tried to "mangle and distort the facts as best as he could". Mission accomplished, Mr. Glover. The critics praise his “wild imagination”. Yes, indeed.

Our readers were not very impressed either. One of them said she thinks the author is a sexual pervert, another one, a little more modest, "'Elle' was not my favourite." Neither was it mine.

We discussed this in our book club in March 2005.

From the back cover: "Imagine a 16th-century society belle turned Robinson Crusoe, a female Don Quixote with an Inuit Sancho Panza, and you'll have an inkling of what's in store in Douglas Glover's outrageously Rabelaisian new novel -- his first in ten years. Elle is a lusty, subversive riff on the discovery of the New World, the moment of first contact. Based on a true story, Elle chronicles the ordeals and adventures of a young French woman marooned on the desolate Isle of Demons during Jacques Cartier's ill-fated third and last attempt to colonize Canada. Of course, the plot is only the beginning. The bare outline is a true story: the Sieur de Roberval did abandon his unruly young niece, her lover, and her nurse on the Isle of Demons; her companions and her newborn baby did die; and she was indeed rescued and taken home to France. Beyond that, Glover's Rabelaisian imagination takes over. What with real bears, spirit bears, and perhaps hallucinated bears, with mystified and mystifying Natives, with the residue of a somewhat lurid religious faith, and with a world of self-preserving belligerence, the voluble heroine of Elle does more than survive. Elle brilliantly reinvents the beginnings of this country's history: what Canada meant to the early European adventurers, what these Europeans meant to Canada's original inhabitants, and the terrible failure of the two worlds to recognize each other as human. In a carnal whirlwind of myth and story, of death, lust and love, of beauty and hilarity, Glover brings the past violently and unexpectedly into the present. In Elle, Glover's well-known scatological realism, exuberant violence, and dark, unsettling humour give history a thoroughly modern chill."

Monday, 7 March 2011

German Books - Deutsche Bücher

Here is a separate list of the German books I read, some of them are not available in English. I indicate the English title in brackets, normal font, if available, in italics if not.

Adorf, Mario "Der Dieb von Trastevere. Geschichten aus Italien" [The Thief from Trastevere] - 1994
- "Der Fotograf von San Marco" [The Photographer of San Marco] - 2003
- "Der Mäusetöter" [The Micekiller]- 1992
Aicher-Scholl, Inge "Die weiße Rose" [The White Rose] - 1952
Arntz, Jochen; Schmale, Holger "Die Kanzler und ihre Familien: Wie das Privatleben die deutsche Politik prägt" [The Chancellors and their Families] - 2017 

B., Fatma (Sonja Fatma Bläser) "Henna Mond - Mein Leben zwischen zwei Welten" [Henna Moon - My life between two worlds] - 1999
Bánk, Zsuzsa "Die hellen Tage" [The Light Days] - 2011
Becker, Artur "Die Zeit der Stinte" [Time of the Smelt(fish)] - 2006 
Becker, Jurek "Jakob der Lügner" (Jacob the Liar) - 1969
Belinga Belinga, Jean-Félix "Ngono Mefane, das Mädchen der Wälder: Ein Märchen aus dem Regenwald" [The Forest Girl] - 1990 
Berg-Ehlers, Luise "Mit Miss Marple aufs Land: Englische Krimischriftstellerinnen zwischen Tearoom und Tatort" [Visiting the Countryside with Miss Marple] - 2013 
Biskupek, Matthias "Der Quotensachse. Vom unaufhaltsamen Aufstieg eines Staatsbürgers sächsischer Nationalität: [The Quote Saxon] - 1996
Böhme, Irene "Die Buchhändlerin" [The Bookseller] - 1999
Boning, Wigald "In Rio steht ein Hofbräuhaus. Reisen auf fast alle Kontinente" [There is a Bavarian brewery in Rio. Travels through most continents] - 2010
Borchert, Wolfgang, "Das Gesamtwerk" (complete works, I'm pretty sure some of them have been translated  - 1945/47
-"Schischyphusch oder Der Kellner meines Onkels" [Shishyphush or my uncle's waiter] - 1947/2016 
Bosetsky, Horst "Brennholz für Kartoffelschalen" [Firewood for Potato Skins] - 1995
Brecht, Bertolt "Das Leben des Galilei" (Life of Galileo) - 1938
- "Der kaukasische Kreidekreis" (The Caucasian Chalk Circle) - 1944/45
Broerken, Hella "Paris-Spaziergänge: Die schönsten Streifzüge durch die französische Metropole" [Walks through Paris] - 2013
Bruckner, Karl "Sadako will leben" (The Day of the Bomb) - 1961
Büchner, Georg "Woyzeck" (Woyzeck) - 1879
Busch, Wilhelm "Max und Moritz" (Max and Moritz) - 1865

Damm, Sigrid "Christiane und Goethe. Eine Recherche." (Christiane and Goethe. A Research) - 1998
Degen, Michael "Nicht alle waren Mörder - Eine Kindheit in Berlin" [Not everyone was a killer - A childhood in Berlin] - 1999 
Droste-Hülshoff, Annette von "Die Judenbuche" (The Jew's Beech) - 1842
Dumbach, Annette E.; Newborn, Jud; Gierlichs, Annerose "Die Geschichte der weißen Rose" [probably: Sophie Scholl and the White Rose] - 2002
Dürrenmatt, Friedrich "Der Besuch der Alten Dame" (The Visit) - 1956
- "Der Richter und sein Henker" (The Judge and his Hangman) - 1950

Ekert-Rotholz, Alice M. "Strafende Sonne, Lockender Mond" [Punishing sun, alluring moon] - 1959
Emcke, Carolin "Von den Kriegen. Briefe an Freunde" (Echoes of Violence: Letters from a War Reporter) - 2004
Ende, Michael "Die unendliche Geschichte" (The Never Ending Story) - 1979 

Feyl, Renate "Die profanen Stunden des Glücks" [The mundane hours of happiness]- 1996
Fleischhauer, Wolfram "Das Buch in dem die Welt verschwand" [The book the world disappeared in] - 2003
- "Schule der Lügen" (aka "Die Inderin") (translation of title: School of Lies)  - 2014
Fleischmann, Lea "Dies ist nicht mein Land. Eine Jüdin verlässt die Bundesrepublik" [This is not my country. A Jewish woman leaves the Federal Republic [of Germany]] – 1980

- "Ich bin Israelin. Erfahrungen in einem orientalischen Land" [I am Israeli. Experience in a Middle Eastern country] - 1982
Fleischmann, Lea/Noll, Chaim "Meine Sprache wohnt woanders. Gedanken zu Deutschland und Israel" [My Language Lives Elsewhere. Thoughts to Germany and Israel] - 2006  
Fontane, Theodor "Effi Briest"  (Effi Briest) - 1894
- "Frau Jenny Treibel oder 'Wo sich Herz zum Herzen find't'" (Frau Jenny Treibel) - 1892
Friedrichs, Julia "Gestatten: Elite – Auf den Spuren der Mächtigen von morgen" [Introducing Elite - In the Footsteps of the Mighty of Tomorrow] – 2008
Frisch, Max "Biedermann und die Brandstifter" (The Arsonists) - 1958
- "Homo Faber" (Homo Faber) - 1957
Fröhlich, Alexandra "Meine russische Schwiegermutter und andere Katastrophen" [My Russian Mother-n-Law and Other Catastrophies] - 2012
Funke, Cornelia "Tintenherz" (Inkheart) - 2003

Gauck, Johannes "Winter im Sommer – Frühling im Herbst: Erinnerungen" [Winter in Summer, Spring in Autum: Memories] - 2009
Gercke, Stefanie "Ich kehre zurück nach Afrika" [I return to Africa] - 1998
Giordano, Ralph "Deutschlandreise. Aufzeichnungen aus einer schwierigen Heimat" [Germany trip. Records from a difficult home] - 1998
- "Die Bertinis" [The Bertinis] - 1982
- "Mein irisches Tagebuch" [My Irish Diary] - 1996
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von "Iphigenie auf Tauris"  (Iphigenia in Tauris) - 1787
- "Die Leiden des jungen Werther"  (The Sorrows of Young Werther) - 1774
Goldmann, Klaus; Wermusch, Günter "Vineta. Die Wiederentdeckung einer versunkenen Stadt" [Vineta. The Rediscovery of a Lost City] - 1999
Gotthelf, Jeremias "Die schwarze Spinne" (The Black Spider) - 1842
Grass, Günter "Beim Häuten der Zwiebel" (Peeling the Onion) - 2006
- "Die Box. Dunkelkammergeschichten" (The Box: Tales from the Darkroom) - 2008
- "Im Krebsgang" (Crabwalk) – 2002
- "Fünf Jahrzehnte" [Five Decades] – 1999
- "Mein Jahrhundert" (My Century) - 1999
Grimm, Hans Herbert aka Emil Schulz "Schlump. Geschichten und Abenteuer des unbekannten Musketiers Emil Schulz, genannt 'Schlump', von ihm selbst erzählt" (Schlump. The Story of an unknown soldier) - 1928
Grimm, Jacob und Wilhelm "Jorinde und Joringel. Acht Märchen der Brüder Grimm" [Jorinda and Joringel. Eight Fairy Tales] - 1812
Grjasnowa, Olga "Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt" (All Russians Love Birch Trees) - 2012  

Hagena, Katharina "Der Geschmack von Apfelkernen" (The Taste of Apple Seeds) - 2008
Hahn, Ulla "Das verborgene Wort" [The Hidden Word] - 2001
- "Aufbruch" [Departure] – 2009 
Hansen, Dörte "Altes Land" (This House is Mine) - 2015 
Hauff, Wilhelm "Das kalte Herz" (The Cold Heart or the Marble Heart) - 1837
Haushofer, Marlen "DIe Wand"  (The Wall) - 1962
Hausmann, Manfred "Lampioon (küßt Mädchen und kleine Birken). Erlebnisse eines Wanderers" [Lampioon. Kisses girls and small birch trees. Experiences of a traveler] - 1928
Heidenreich, Elke "Also… - Kolumnen aus der Brigitte" [Thus ... Columns from Brigitte] - 1988
- "Darf's ein bisschen mehr sein?" [Can it be a little more?] - 1984
- "Geschnitten oder am Stück?" [Sliced or whole] - 1985
- "Mit oder ohne Knochen?" [With or without bones] - 1986
- "Nero Corleone" [dto.] - 1995
Hermann, Judith "Sommerhaus, später" (Summerhouse, Later) - 1998
Hesse, Hermann "SIddhartha"  (Siddhartha) - 1922
- "Der Steppenwolf" (Steppenwolf) - 1927
Hilliges, Ilona Maria "Die weiße Hexe" [The White Witch] - 2000
Hoffmann, Heinrich "Der Struwwelpeter" (Struwwelpeter or Shockheaded/Slovenly Peter) - 1845

Jelinek, Elfriede "Die Klavierspielerin"  (The Piano Teacher) - 1988
Jonuleit, Anja "Herbstvergessene" – 2010 

Kaminer, Wladimir "Russendisko" (Russian Disco) - 2000
Kehlmann, Daniel "Die Vermessung der Welt"  (Measuring the World) - 2005
Kerkeling, Hape "Ich bin dann mal weg. Meine Reise auf dem Jakobsweg" (I'm off then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago) - 2006
Kishon, Ephraim "Beinahe die Wahrheit" [Almost the truth] - 1985
Kleist, Heinrich von "DIe Marquise von O..."  (The Marquise of O)" - 1808
- "Prinz Friedrich von Homburg oder die Schlacht bei Fehrbellin" (The Prince of Homburg) - 1809/1810
Kornbichler, Sabine "Klaras Haus" [Klara's House] - 2000
Korschunow, Irina "Ebbe und Flut" [Low and High Tide] - 1995
- "Das Spiegelbild" [The Mirror Image] - 1992 
- "Von Juni zu Juni" [From June to June] - 1999
Krone-Schmalz, Gabriele "Russland verstehen. Der Kampf um die Ukraine und die Arroganz des Westens" [Understanding Russia. The battle for the Ukraine and the arrogance of the West] - 2015
Kwalanda, Miriam "Die Farbe meines Gesichts. Lebensreise einer kenianischen Frau" [Life Journey of a Kenian woman] - 2000

Lenz, Siegfried  "Deutschstunde" (The German Lesson) - 1968
- "Landesbühne" [Province Stage] - 2009
- "Zaungast" (Edition Welttag) [Spectator over the Hedge] - 2002 
Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim "Nathan der Weise"  (Nathan the Wise) - 1779
Lippe, Jürgen von der "Der König der Tiere. Geschichten und Glossen" - 2017
Littger, Peter "The devil lies in the detail: Lustiges und Lehrreiches über unsere Lieblingsfremdsprache" [Funny and informative things about our favourite foreign language] - 2015

Magnani, Franca "Mein Italien" [My Italy] – 1997 
Mann, Thomas "Buddenbrooks"  (Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family) - 1901
- "Der Zauberberg" (The Magic Mountain) - 1924  
- "Der Tod in Venedig" (Death in Venice) - 1912
Marschner, Rosemarie "Das Bücherzimmer" [The Book Room] - 2004
- "Das Mädchen am Klavier" [The Girl at the Piano] - 2013
May, Karl "Durch die Wüste" (aka Durch Wüste und Harem) (Through the Desert) - 1892  Mehden, Heilwig von der "Nehmt die Männer wie sie sind. Es gibt keine anderen" [Take the men as they are, there are no others] - 1993 
Mercier, Pascal "Lea" (Lea) - 2007
- "Nachtzug nach Lissabon" (Night Train to Lisbon) - 2004
- "Perlmanns Schweigen" (Perlmann's Silence) - 1995
Modick, Klaus "Die Schatten der Ideen" [The Shadow of the Ideas] - 2008
- "Konzert ohne Dichter" [Concert without poets] - 2015
Moor, Dieter "Was wir nicht haben, brauchen Sie nicht" [Whatever we don't have, you don't need] – 2009 
Mora, Terézia "Das Ungeheuer" [The Monster] - 2007
Mosebach, Martin "Die Türkin" [The Turkish Woman] - 2002
Müller, Herta "Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet"  (The Appointment) - 1997
- "Der Köng verneigt sich und tötet" (The King Bows and Kills) - 2003
Münnix, Gabriele "Anderwelten: Eine fabelhafte Einführung ins Philosophieren" [Otherworlds: A fantastic Introduction to Philosophy] - 2009 

Nadolny, Sten "Die Entdeckung der Langsamkeit" (The Discovery of Slowness) - 1983
Neumann, Eva-Maria "Sie nahmen mir nicht nur die Freiheit" [They didn't just take my freedom] - 2007
Nietzsche, Friedrich "Also sprach Zarathustra. Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen" (Thus spoke Zarathustra. A Book for All and None) - 1883-85
Nöstlinger, Christine "Best of Mama" [Best of Mum] - 2001

Oelker, Petra "Zwei Schwestern. Eine Geschichte aus unruhiger Zeit" [Two Sisters] - 2017

Ortheil, Hanns-Josef "Im Licht der Lagune" [In the Light of the Lagoon] - 1999

Paluch, Andrea; Habeck, Robert "Der Schrei der Hyänen" [The Cry of the Hyenas] - 2004 Pausewang, Gudrun "Die letzten Kinder von Schewenborn oder ... sieht so unsere Zukunft aus?" (The Last Children) - 1983 
Peters, Veronika "Was in zwei Koffer passt" [Whatever fits into two suitcases] - 2007
Petrowskaja, Katja "Vielleicht Esther" [Maybe Esther] - 2014
Petz, Ingo "Kuckucksuhren in Baku. Reise in ein Land, das es wirklich gibt" [Cuckoo Clocks in Baku. A trip to a country that really exists] - 2006
Plenzdorf, Ulrich "Die neuen Leiden des jungen W."  (The new Sufferings of Young W.) - 1972
Pleschinski, Hans "Königsallee" - 2013
Precht, Georg Jonathan & Richard David "Die Instrumente des Herrn Jørgensen" oder "Das Schiff im Noor" [Mr. Jørgensen's Instruments or The Boat in the Noor]- 1999
Precht, Richard David "Die Kunst, kein Egoist zu sein" [The Art of not being selfish] - 2010
- "Lenin kam nur bis Lüdenscheid. Meine kleine deutsche Revolution." [Lenin only reached Lüdenscheid. My Small German Revolution] - 2007
- "Wer bin ich und wenn ja, wie viele? Eine philosophische Reise" (Who Am I and If So How Many?: A Journey Through Your Mind) - 2007

Raddatz, Fritz J. "Dann wird aus Zwein: Wir beide. Kurt Tucholsky & Mary Gerold" [Then two will make the two of us] -  2015
Regener, Sven "Herr Lehmann" (Berlin Blues) - 2001
- "Neue Vahr Süd" [Neue Vahr South]- 2004
Rosendorfer, Herbert "Briefe in die chinesische Vergangenheit" (Letters Back to Ancient China) - 1983
Roth, Charlotte "Als der Himmel uns gehörte" [When heaven belonged to us] - 2015
- "Als wir unsterblich waren" [When we were immortal] - 2014  

Schami, Rafik "Das Geheimnis des Kalligraphen"  (The Calligrapher’s Secret) – 2008
- "Eine deutsche Leidenschafts names Nudelsalat: und andere seltsame Geschichten" – 2011 
- "Eine Hand voller Sterne" (A Hand Full of Stars) - 1987
Scheib, Asta "Eine Zierde in ihrem Hause" [An Ornament in her House] - 2002
Schiller, Friedrich "Kabale und Liebe" (Intrigue and Love) - 1784
Schlink, Bernhard "Der Vorleser"  (The Reader) - 1994
Schneider, Wolf "Deutsch fürs Leben. Was die Schule zu lehren vergaß" [German for Life. What the school forgot to teach] - 1994
Schrobsdorff, Angelika "Du bist nicht so wie andre Mütter" (You Are Not Like Other Mothers) - 1992
Schulte-Loh, Christian "Zum Lachen auf die Insel" [Onto the island to laugh] - 2017
Schulze, Ingo "Simple Storys: Ein Roman aus der ostdeutschen Provinz" [Simple Stories: A Novel from the East-German Province] - 1998 
Schwarzer, Alice "Lebenslauf" [My life] - 2011
Sedano, Nina "Die Ländersammlerin" [The collector of Countries] - 2014
Sendker, Jan-Philipp "Drachenspiele" [Dragon Games] - 2009
- "Das Flüstern der Schatten" (Whispering Shadows) - 2007 -
- "Das Herzenhören" (The Art of Hearing Heartbeats) - 2002
- "Risse in der großen Mauer" [Cracks in the Great Wall) - 2000
Shakib, Siba "Nach Afghanistan kommt Gott nur noch zum Weinen"  (Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes to Weep) - 2002
- "Samira und Samir"  (Samira and Samir) - 2004
Spyri, Johanna "Heidis Lehr- und Wanderjahre" und "Heidi kann brauchen, was es gelernt hat"  (Heidi) - 1880-1881 
Stelter, Bernd "Wer abnimmt, hat mehr Platz im Leben" [Whoever slims down has more space in his life] – 2011 
Storm, Theodor "Pole Poppenspäler" (Paul the Puppeteer) - 1874

Tellkamp, Uwe "Der Turm. Geschichte aus einem versunkenen Land"  [The Tower] - 2008
Trojanow, Ilija "Nomade auf vier Kontinenten. Auf den Spuren von Sir Richard Francis Burton" [Nomad on four continents. In the footsteps of Sir Richard Francis Burton] - 2006
- "Der Weltensammler"  (The Collector of Worlds) - 2006
Tucholsky, Kurt "Rheinsberg - ein Bilderbuch für Verliebte" (Rheinsberg - a Picture Book for Lovers) - 1912 
- "Schloss Gripsholm" - 1931

Venske, Henning "Briefe aus dem Regierungslager" [Fictional letters from Politicans] - 1999   
Vermes, Timur "Er ist wieder da" (Look who's back) - 2012
Vilar, Esther "Der dressierte Mann"  (The Manipulated Man) – 1971 

Weiler, Jan "Antonio im Wunderland" [Antonio in Wonderland] - 2005
- "Drachensaat" [Dragon Seed] – 2008
- "Maria, ihm schmeckt's nicht!" [Maria, he doesn't like it!] - 2003
Weizsäcker, Richard von "Drei Mal Stunde Null? 1949-1969-1989" - 2001
Wickert, Ulrich "Alles über Paris" [Everything about Paris] - 2004
Witzel, Frank "Die Erfindung der Roten Armee Fraktion durch einen manisch-depressiven Teenager im Sommer 1969" [The Invention of the Red Army Faction by a Manic Depressive Teenager in the Summer of 1969] - 2015
Zeh, Juli "Unterleuten" [Name of Town] - 2016

Zöller, Elisabeth "Anton oder Die Zeit des unwerten Lebens" (Anton or the Time of the worthless Life) - 2004
Zweig, Stefanie "Das Haus in ther Rothschildallee" [The House in Rothschild Lane] - 2007
- "Die Kinder der Rothschildallee" [The Children of Rothschild Avenue] - 2009 
- "Heimkehr in die Rothschildallee" [Homecoming to Rothschild Avenue] - 2010
- "Neubeginn in die Rothschildallee" [A New Beginning on Rothschild Avenue] -2010
- "Ein Mundvoll Erde" [A mouth full of soil] - 1980
- "Es begann damals in Afrika" [It started back in Africa] - 2004
- "Nirgendwo in Afrika"  (Nowhere in Africa) - 1995 
- "Irgendwo in Deutschland"  (Somewhere in Germany) – 1996
- "Owuors Heimkehr" [Owuor's Return Home] -2003
- "Der Traum vom Paradies" [The Dream of Paradise] - 1999
- "Wiedersehen mit Afrika" [Reunion in Africa] - 2002