Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Wroblewski, David "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle"


Wroblewski, David "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" - 2008

When I first started reading this book, I thought it was all about a boy who was born without a voice and/or about dogs. Because that's the feeling you first get. But the longer I read on, the more the story seemed familiar. Had I looked at the names a little closer, I might have guessed right away that this is a modern retelling of Hamlet.

An interesting story, just as exciting as the original. I'm not a huge animal lover, I don't have anything against them but I don't get all excited when I see one, so this story could have been told without all the dogs in it.

Anyway, I prefer Jane Smiley's modern "King Lear" (A Thousand Acres) to this one but all in all, it's not a bad book.

From the back cover:
"Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose remarkable gift for companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar's lifelong friend and ally. Edgar seems poised to carry on his family's traditions, but when catastrophe strikes, he finds his once-peaceful home engulfed in turmoil.

Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the Sawtelle farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who accompany him, until the day he is forced to choose between leaving forever or returning home to confront the mysteries he has left unsolved.

Filled with breathtaking scenes - the elemental north woods, the sweep of seasons, an iconic American barn, a fateful vision rendered in the falling rain - The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a meditation on the limits of language and what lies beyond, a brilliantly inventive retelling of an ancient story, and an epic tale of devotion, betrayal, and courage in the American heartland."

Thursday, 14 September 2017

James, P.D. "The Children of Men"


James, P.D. "The Children of Men" - 1992


I love dystopian novels and am surprised that I never came across this one before. What a read!

We are in the year 2020 and all men are infertile. I believe every generation has their own fears of what might happen in future and this book was written in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Something like this seemed (and still seems) very possible.

What are we really going to do if there is no future? Are we going to take advantage of each other, try to get as much of the cake as we can before we are all dead and gone? We don't know? I suppose like with all situations, there will be people who still will help each other and others who exploit the situation.

Reading this novel makes you think about all the possibilities. I don't read crime novels as such but I am tempted to try one written by P.D. James. She seems like a very interesting and smart person who could write about anything.

From the back cover:
"The year is 2021, and the human race is - quite literally - coming to an end. Since 1995 no babies have been born, because in that year all males unexpectedly became infertile. Great Britain is ruled by a dictator, and the population is inexorably growing older. Theodore Faron, Oxford historian and, incidentally, cousin of the all-powerful Warden of England, watches in growing despair as society gradually crumbles around him, giving way to strange faiths and cruelties: prison camps, mass organized euthanasia, roving bands of thugs. Then, suddenly, Faron is drawn into the plans of an unlikely group of revolutionaries. His passivity is shattered, and the action begins.

The Children of Men will surprise - and enthrall - P. D. James fans. Written with the same rich blend of keen characterization, narrative drive and suspense as her great detective stories, it engages powerfully with new themes: conflicts of loyalty and duty, the corruption of power, redemption through love. Ingenious, original, irresistibly readable, it confirms once again P. D. James's standing as a major novelist."

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Scott, Mary "Away From It All"


Scott, Mary "Away From It All" - 1977


My last novel written by Mary Scott (see my list here). I have one more, an autobiography, but that is it.

Adrian Medway is an author who is very sensitive about critics. When he inherits some money, he packs up his family and buys a small farm in the middle of nowhere. Here, he finds some hidden talents, as do his son and daughter.

As always in Mary Scott's stories, there are problems arising that you might only have in the environment she used to live in but you can also see the beauty of it, people who help each other out, no matter what.

A funny novel, a typical one by Mary Scott.

Unfortunately, Mary Scott's books are out of print and only available second hand. I have heard in the meantime, that you can buy some of them as eBooks.

Description (translated):
"An inheritance enables the Medway family to spend a year  on a farm. Far away from the hustle and bustle of the city, everyone soon discovers forgotten skills and talents in the new environment."

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Şafak, Elif "Three Daughters of Eve"



Şafak, Elif "Three Daughters of Eve" (Turkish: Havva'nın Üç Kızı) - 2016


My third book by this Turkish author whom I really like. This one talks about a Turkish woman who went to Oxford to study and then went back home to get married. The main topic in this book is the rights of Muslim women next to God and Turkish politics.

We learn about the differences in the cultures and the changes during her lifetime. We learn about friendship and what it means. A wonderful book. I love Elif Şafak's writing. It's amazing. I like her more with every book I read.

The author is one of the people who are able to build a bridge between the divided nations, help us understand each other. She knows about the problems, probably because of her own upbringing, and gives instigations to understand the other world better. I wish everyone would read at least one of her books.

From the back cover: "Peri, a wealthy Turkish housewife, is on her way to a dinner party at a seaside mansion in Istanbul when a beggar snatches her handbag. As she wrestles to get it back, a photograph falls to the ground - an old polaroid of three young women and their university professor. A relic from a past - and a love - Peri had tried desperately to forget.

The photograph takes Peri back to Oxford University, as an eighteen year old sent abroad for the first time. To her dazzling, rebellious Professor and his life-changing course on God. To her home with her two best friends, Shirin and Mona, and their arguments about Islam and femininity. And finally, to the scandal that tore them all apart."

Friday, 1 September 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



"There comes a time when you have to choose between turning the page and closing the book." Josh Jameson

"Borrowers of books - those mutilators of collections, spoilers of the symmetry of shelves, and creators of odd volumes." Charles Lamb, Essays of Elia, "The Two Races of Men," 1822

"No such thing as a kid who doesn't like reading. There are kids who love reading, and kids who are reading the wrong books." James Patterson

"Every book is judged by its cover until it is read." Agatha Swanburne, founder of Swanburne Academy

"Whoever said Diamonds are a Girl's best Friend forgot about BOOKS." N.N.
[If anyone can tell me the originator of this quote, I'd be very thankful and would happily include the name.]

Find more book quotes here.

Happy September!

Happy September to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch


"In the Riperian Forest" 
"Im Auenwald"


September brings us back to the old names of the months, this being the seventh month of the year before they added the "Caesarean" ones. 
It also brings us the autumnal equinox (or the vernal one if you live in the Southern hemisphere). 

September is my favourite month. Not only does it bring my birthday but 
- even more important - my favourite season: 
Autumn! have a good one! 

Enjoy this month with the beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch. 
He loves painting cranes and this is from their more secretive life 
after their mating dance and before starting their nesting.

You can find a lot more wonderful pictures on their website here.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Solzhenitsyn, Alexander "His Great Stories"



Solschenizyn, Alexander (Александр Исаевич Солженицын/Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn) "Große Erzählungen: Iwan Denissowitsch; Zum Nutzen der Sache; Matrjonas Hof; Zwischenfall auf dem Bahnhof Kretschetowka" (His Great Stories: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - 1962; For the Good of the Cause - 1963; Matryona's House - 1963; An Incident at Krechetovka Station - 1963) (Russian: Оди́н день Ива́на Дени́совича Odin den' Ivana Denisovicha; Для пользы дела/ lja pol'zy dela; Матрёнин двор/Matrjonin dvor; Случай на станции Кречетовка/Sluchaj na stancii Krechetovka) - 1962/63

I am not a huge fan of short stories but I always wanted to read something by Solzhenitsyn. So, when I found this book that started with one of his greatest tales, "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich", I thought I'd give it a go.

Since there isn't an English collection of the same stories available, I will just talk about every single part of the book individually, don't worry, there are only four stories.

"One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" (Russian: Оди́н день Ива́на Дени́совича Odin den' Ivana Denisovicha) - 1962

We always hear about the Gulag, the prisoners who sent to Siberia and have to work there etc. But we never really know what is going on there, what the work is like, how the prisoners are kept.

Unless we read about the one day in the life of Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, starting the instant he opens his eyes in the morning until he closes them again in the evening.

And once we read it, we understand why this writer was awared the Nobel Prize for Literature. If he hadn't written anything else, he still would have been one of the greatest authors on earth. While reading this, you are standing next to Ivan, you suffer with him, you follow him. And he seems to be a born survivor, one who can deal with a lot of things, can get that extra ration of terrible soup they all yearn for.

This is a very moving novel by someone who experienced the Gulag. He spent eight years there and then was exiled for life to Kazakhstan.

Brilliant story, brilliant writing.

Description:
"First published in the Soviet journal Novy Mir in 1962, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich stands as a classic of contemporary literature. The story of labor-camp inmate Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, it graphically describes his struggle to maintain his dignity in the face of communist oppression. An unforgettable portrait of the entire world of Stalin's forced work camps, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is one of the most extraordinary literary documents to have emerged from the Soviet Union and confirms Solzhenitsyn's stature as "a literary genius whose talent matches that of Dosotevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy" - Harrison Salisbury"


"For the Good of the Cause" (Russian: Для пользы дела/Dlja pol'zy dela) - 1963

Another great story about the downsides of the Soviet Union. A story of bureaucrats who are overdoing it. Who don't look for the benefit of the people, just for their own benefit.

This is only a short novella with less than a hundred pages and I do n't want to give too much away but the language is just as brilliant as in "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" and the people are described just as well.

Description:
"In For the Good of the Cause, Solzhenitsyn presents a remarkable cross-section of Soviet life. He runs the whole gamut, from ordinary students, workers, and teachers to the omnipotent officials in Moscow, terrifying in their faceless, Kafkaesque anonymity.
Like his world famous novels One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The First Circle and Cancer Ward, For the Good of the Cause, set in a new provincial school, is a scathing indictment of the victimisation of ordinary, decent people by Soviet careerist bureaucrats. Solzhenitsyn presents the conflicts between right and wrong, between the freedom of the individual and the harshness of the system with absolute sincerity and conviction."

"Matryona's House" (Russian: Матрёнин двор/Matrjonin dvor) - 1963

Another great story where we get to know the "little man" or in this case the "little woman" who had to make do with what they were given or allowed to have. This story is based on Solzhenitsyn's own experiences while teaching after leaving the Gulag.

Description:
"In 1956, after leaving behind his ordeal in the gulag, Alexander Solzhenitsyn wanted to get lost in a quiet corner of the USSR, and applied for employment as a mathematics teacher. While looking for accommodations in the town that was sent, saw the hut of Matrona, an elderly widow who lived with a lame cat and a goat for company and decided to stay there.
'Matryona's House' is the tale of an old peasant woman, whose tenacious struggle against cold, hunger, and greedy relatives is described by a young man who only understands her after her death."


"An Incident at Krechetovka Station" aka "We Never Make Mistakes" (Russian: Случай на станции Кречетовка/Sluchaj na stancii Krechetovka) - 1963

Apparently, this story is also based on real life events, an accident that happened during World War II. I can only repeat myself by saying that the author is a great storyteller.

Description:
"In 'An Incident at Krechetovka Station' a Red Army lieutenant is confronted by a disturbing straggler soldier and must decide what to do with him."

I will certainly read more by this fantastic author.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970
"for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature".

Friday, 25 August 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." Cicero

"Self-pity gets you nowhere. One must have the adventurous daring to accept oneself as a bundle of possibilities and undertake the most interesting game in the world: making the most of one’s best." Harry Emerson Fosdick

"There are bits and pieces of yourself scattered in every book you read." Janaya Jessalyn

"Books, for me, are a home. Books don’t make a home – they are one, in the sense that just as you do with a door, you open a book, and you go inside. Inside there is a different kind of time and a different kind of space." Jeanette Winterson

"Books can make your imagination go beyond limits." N.N. 

[If anyone can tell me the originator of this quote, I'd be very thankful and would happily include the name.]

Find more book quotes here.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Bivald, Katarina "The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend"


Bivald, Katarina "The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend" (Swedish: Läsarna i Broken Wheel rekommenderar) - 2013

I wouldn't call this one of my favourite books because the plotline is pretty "chick-litty". Sara is Swedish and works in a Bookshop. Amy is American and lives in a remote village. They swap books and ideas about books.

And that's what caught me. Many Scandinavian authors are mentioned. Therefore, I made a list of all the books and authors they talked about. There are a lot of interesting books here though some of them are tending towards chick literature to me and I'm not a huge fan of crime stories, so a few of them would not be on my reading list.

Alcott, L.M. "An Old Fashioned Girl"; "Little Women"
Austen, Jane "Pride & Prejudice" (second review); Sanditon
Auster, Paul
Bondeson, Euthanasia - crime stories
Brontë sisters 
Brontë, Charlotte "Jane Eyre"; "Villette"
Brown, Dan (The Da Vinci Code)
Bulgakov, Mikhail
Child, Lee - Jack Reacher series
Christie, Agatha - crime fiction
Connelly, Michael - crime fiction
Coupland, Douglas "All Families are Narcotic"
DeMille, Nelson "The General's Daughter"; "Word of Honor"
Dickens, Charles 
Dostoevsky, Fyodor (Crime and Punishment; The Gambler; The Adolescent)
Evans, Nicholas "The Horse Whisperer
Fielding, Helen - Bridget Jones Series; "Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination"
Fitzgerald, F. Scott "Tender Is the Night
Flagg, Fannie "Fried Green Tomatoes";"A Redbird Christmas"
García Márquez, Gabriel (One Hundred Years of Solitude; Love in the time of Colera; The General in his Labyrinth)
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von "The Sorrows of Young Werther"
Grisham, John "A Time to Kill"; "The Rainmaker"
Guillou, Jan - Carl Hamilton series
Guareschi, Giovannino - Don Camillo Series
Hanff, Helene "84 Charing Cross Road"; "The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street"
Heller, Joseph "Catch-22"
Hemingway, Ernest (The Old Man and the Sea; For Whom the Bell Tolls)
Highsmith, Patricia "The Price of Salt
Joyce, James "Ulysses"
Keyes, Marian (Rachel's Holiday)
Kinsella, Sophie - Shopaholic Series
Läckberg, Camilla
Larsson, Stieg - Millenium Trilogy
Lee, Harper "To Kill a Mockingbird"
Lindquist, Ulla Carin "Rowing Without Oars: A Memoir of Living and Dying" (Ro utan åror: En bok om livet och döden)
Marklund, Liza - crime stories
Malraux, Phil
Martinson, Moa
Montgomery, L. M. "Anne of Green Gables"
Morgan, Jude "The Taste of Sorrow" (about the Brontë sisters)
Morrison, Toni "Beloved"
Murdoch, Iris "The Sea, The Sea"
Oates, Joyce Carol (the characters and I guess in this case the author agrees with me that she should have received the Nobel Prize for Literature a long long time ago)
Paolini, Christopher - Eragon series
Pratchett, Terry
Proulx, Annie "The Shipping News"
Proust, Marcel "In Search of Lost Time" aka "Remembrance of Things Past (À la recherche du temps perdu)
Roth, Philip (Zuckerman Unbound; The Ghost Writer)
Rowling, J.K. - Harry Potter Series 
Shaffer, Mary Ann & Barrows, Annie "The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society"
Shakespeare, William (Hamlet; Macbeth; Romeo and Juliet)
Sparks, Nicholas "A Walk to Remember"
Steinbeck, John "Grapes of Wrath"; "Of Mice and Men"
Stein, Gertrude "Geography and Plays"
Stockett, Kathryn "The Help"
Stowe, Harriet Beecher "Uncle Tom’s Cabin"
Thomas, Dylan
Thoreau, Henry David "Walden"
Twain, Mark "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"; "Pudd'nhead Wilson. Those extraordinary twins"
Waller, Robert James "The Bridges of Madison County"
Wilde, Oscar 
Witter, Bret; Myron, Vicki  "Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World"
Young, Elizabeth "Asking for Trouble"
The Bible

They also mention a list that seems to be interesting:
Mr. Rothberg's Best American Authors List

From the back cover:
"Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen...

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy's funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist - even if they don't understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that's almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend's memory.

All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love."

Friday, 18 August 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



"Far more seemly were it for thee to have thy study full of books, than thy purse full of money." John Lyly

"We should be wary therefore what persecution we raise against the living labours of public men, how we spill that seasoned life of man, preserved and stored up in books; since we see a kind of homicide may be thus committed, sometimes a martyrdom, and if it extend to the whole impression, a kind of massacre; whereof the execution ends not in the slaying of an elemental life, but strikes at that ethereal and fifth essence, the breath of reason itself, slays an immortality rather than a life." John Milton

"Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books." Mary Ann Shaffer

"The best book is not one that informs merely, but one that stirs the reader up to inform himself." A.W. Tozer, Man The Dwelling Place Of God

"By eating we overcome hunger; and by study ignorance." Chinese Proverb

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi "Americanah"


Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi "Americanah"  - 2013

I read "Half of a Yellow Sun" earlier this year and really liked it. This is another novel about Nigeria even though a very different one. It takes place about thirty years after the events in the first book (Biafra war). The author tells the story about a young woman from Nigeria who emigrates to the United States and comes back years later.

This was an interesting book for me not only because of all the information you can get about Nigeria but also because it resembles my life. I didn't flee from a war-torn region but I have lived abroad for almost half of my life and I always hear comments by others who haven't who have a completely different idea about that, both people from my home country as well as those from my host country. So, for me this is not just a book about Nigeria but about immigrants and their torn-apart worlds. It is not as much a love story but a story about what you do if you end up somewhere where you are not wanted. It might as well have been a story of my life, without the love story gone wrong. Same as Ifemelu, I will go back to my own country one day and I am sure it won't be the same as it was when I left.

Someone mentions in the book that "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe was a great book but didn't help them to understand Africa but "A Bend in the River" by V.S. Naipaul did. I have not read the first book but it's on my wishlist whereas I really can recommend the second one.

In any case, I did enjoy reading this book even though it touched a completely different side of Nigeria than "Half of a Yellow Sun" . I am looking forward to reading the author's third book, "Purple Hibiscus".

From the back cover:
"As teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America. There she suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.

Thirteen years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a blogger. But after so long apart and so many changes, will they find the courage to meet again, face to face?"

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Sitch, Rob: Cilauro, Santo: Tom Gleisner, Tom "Molvanîa. A Land Untouched By Modern Dentistry"


Sitch, Rob: Cilauro, Santo: Tom Gleisner, Tom "Molvanîa. A Land Untouched By Modern Dentistry" - 2003

Molvanîa is a small country somewhere in the Central Europe with funny people, strange customs, an even stranger language. One of my favourite quotes: "Molvanîan is a difficult language to speak, let alone master. There are four genders: male, female, neutral, and the collective noun for cheeses, which occupies a nominative sub-section of its very own."

Their capital city is called Lutenblag, the country is divided into four provinces: The Great Central Valley, the Molvanîan Alps, Eastern Steppes and the Western Plateau.  Apparently, it borders Germany, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Slovenia. It is known for being "the world's number one producer of beetroot and the birthplace of whooping cough".

Don't worry if you've never heard of Molvanîa - it is totally invented.

Although, in this case, any similarity with fictitious events, characters or places are probably not purely coincidental.

I still can't decide whether this "mock" travel book is just mocking the people who live in the area of where Molvanîa is situated but since I've heard they find it funny, as well, I might have been a tad oversensitive at times. I think we all can imagine where the ideas for the people and the customs in this weird country come from. However, it is quite funny at times, the only travel guide I ever read back to front, and I do have quite a few of them and use them regularly.

So, if you'd like to visit Molvanîa, you want to consider Aeromolv, the only flight line that offers a 10% discount per engine not in service per flight.

From the back cover:
"When sophisticated travelers get together to discuss ever more exotic destinations, the name "Molvanîa" often comes up. Not even John McPhee or Jan Morris can claim to have visited this small, remote Eastern European nation, the birthplace of the polka and whooping cough. How would they even get there? Fortunately, this definitive Jetlag Travel Guide offers everything a curious tourist will need to prepare for encounters with the Molvanîans. With winning insincerity, the authors describe the fascinating complexities of the native language: "Molvanîan is a difficult language to speak, let alone master. There are four genders: male, female, neutral, and the collective noun for cheeses, which occupies a nominative subsection all its very own."

Friday, 4 August 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



"I can study my books at any time, for they are always disengaged." (Mihi omne tempus est ad meus libros vacuum, numquam enim sunt illi occupati.) Cicero "De re publica"

"There are different rules for reading, for thinking, and for talking. Writing blends all three of them." Mason Cooley

"When a farmer dies who knows the land and the story of the people working it, when a wise man dies, who knows how to read the moon and the sun, the wind and the flight of the birds, ... not just one man dies. It's a whole library that dies." Dario Fo

"The primary purpose of a liberal education is to make one's mind a pleasant place in which to spend one's leisure." Sydney Harris

"You have to remember that it is impossible to commit a crime while reading a book." John Waters

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Wolf, Naomi "The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are used against Women"


Wolf, Naomi "The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are used against Women" - 1990

The next book introduced into the Emma Watson Book Club - Our Shared Shelf.

I didn't think I would like this book as much as I did. I didn't think it would be as contemporary as it was. After all, this book was written in 1990 about the way women "obey" the "God of Beauty". As I can tell when I look around, nothing has changed since then, even though almost three decades have passed.

What can be done? First of all, I think this book should be read by everyone, not only women. There aer so many ideas and thoughts that should make every woman be happy with the body they have and not try to run after a fantasy image.

We should all be aware that the image of a "beautiful woman" is imposed on us, that hardly anyone really judges us the way we think they do and that, if we all stick together, women shouldn't be regarded in the workforce the same way as men are.

I remember the many articles I read about Angela Merkel, our current chancellor, and her clothes. Articles that would never have been written about her male colleagues. And I always wondered what that has to do with her ability to run a country. Nothing. She dresses decently and that's enough for me. And that should be enough for any woman who works no matter where.

I never had big issues with the way I look. I wouldn't call myself pretty and I certainly don't have a good figure anymore after giving birth to two children but I've always told myself whoever doesn't like me this way can just stay away. But I know how many women do have issues, they go from one diet to the next and suffer even more afterwards. If only they would all read this book!

However, there are a few things I have learned from this book. For example, I now know why I don't like women's magazines.

If I had a daughter, I would give her this book right now. But I think my sons should read it, as well in order to help their partners in future.

From the back cover:
"In the struggle for women's equality, there is one hurdle that has yet to be fully cleared - the myth of female beauty. It challenges every woman, every day, by seeking to undermine psychology and covertly the material freedoms that feminism has achieved for women. And, fueled by new technology in media and medicine, its ravages are reaching epidemic proportions.
The Beautify Myth cuts to the root of the 'beauty backlash,' exposing the relentless cult of female beauty - antierotic, averse to love, and increasingly savage - as a political weapon against women's recent advances, placing women in more danger today than ever before.
Naomi Wolf tracks the tyranny of the beauty myth throughout its history and reveals its newly sophisticated function today - in the home and at work; in literature and the media; in relationships, between men and women and between women and women. With an arsenal of sometimes shocking examples, Wolf confronts the beauty industry and its influence and uncovers the ominous, hidden agenda that drives this destructive obsession.
In a searing, timely analyses, The Beauty Myth indicts the new forces coercing women into participating in their own torture - starving themselves and even submitting their bodies to the knife. A direct descendant of The Female Mystique and The Female Eunuch, this book is a cultural hand grenade for the 1990s."

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Happy August!

Happy August to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch


 "Boats in the Harbour of Gager" 
"Boote im Hafen von Gager"


August used to be Sextilis in Latin, the sixth month of the year, but the Romans added two months and named this one after Emperor Augustus. 
We don't have a holiday in Germany or the Netherlands in this month, but the Belgians celebrate Mary's Assumption on 15 August.

 Enjoy this month with the beautiful watercolour painting 
by Frank Koebsch. 
I think it is inviting us to spend a day at the seaside.
 
You can find a lot more wonderful pictures on their website here.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Mercier, Pascal "Lea"


Mercier, Pascal "Lea" (German: Lea) - 2007

This is my third book by Pascal Mercier. He is just such an excellent writer, I need to read his fourth book (Der Klavierstimmer, not translated yet), as well, and then he urgently has to write more.

Pascal Mercier's writing style is almost like poetry, even though he stays very close with his topic. You can tell he is a philosopher in his "first life", he brings a lot of expertise into the story.

In this story, we hear from a father whose daugher learns to play the violin and who is a great talent. This talent destroys everyone's life around her, including her own. Her passion is described in a way that it is easy to follow but hard to understand. You want to get inside her brain, what is she thinking, what is everyone else thinking.

The author creates a great story with fantastic figures. The storyteller is a third person, a brilliant idea to get a little distance to the main characters.

A perfect story, a perfect read.

From the back cover:
"Pascal Mercier's Night Train to Lisbon mesmerized readers around the world, and went on to become an international bestseller, establishing Mercier as a breakthrough European literary talent. Now, in Lea, he returns with a tender, impassioned, and unforgettable story of a father's love and a daughter's ambition in the wake of devastating tragedy.

It all starts with the death of Martijn van Vliet's wife. His grief-stricken young daughter, Lea, cuts herself off from the world, lost in the darkness of grief. Then she hears the unfamiliar sound of a violin playing in the hall of a train station, and she is brought back to life. Transfixed by a busker playing Bach, Lea emerges from her mourning, vowing to learn the instrument. And her father, witnessing this delicate spark, promises to do everything and anything in his power to keep her happy.

Lea grows into an extraordinary musical talent--her all-consuming passion leads her to become one of the finest players in the country--but as her fame blossoms, her relationship with her father withers. Unable to keep her close, he inadvertently pushes Lea deeper and deeper into this newfound independence and, desperate to hold on to his daughter, Martin is driven to commit an act that threatens to destroy them both.

A revelatory portrait of genius and madness, Lea delves into the demands of artistic excellence as well as the damaging power of jealousy and sacrifice. Mercier has crafted a novel of intense clarity, illuminating the poignant ways we strive to understand ourselves and our families."

I also read:
Mercier, Pascal "Perlmann's Silence" (German: Perlmanns Schweigen) - 1995
Mercier, Pascal "Night Train to Lisbon" (German: Nachtzug nach Lissabon) - 2004

Monday, 24 July 2017

Ali, Monica "In the Kitchen"


Ali, Monica "In the Kitchen" - 2009 

I read another book by the author a couple of years ago, "Brick Lane", about Bengalis in London, this one tells us about people of different cultures who work in a hotel kitchen.

I was a little disappointed at the beginning since I had hoped for this to be another one with a Bengali background but then I thought, okay, it's fine, she'll be just as good a writer about another subject and this takes place in a multinational kitchen.

Unfortunately, it didn't get much better. I always thought something more interesting would happen but in the end, this is just a crime novel that takes place in the kitchen of a hotel. I preferred her other book.

From the back cover:
"Gabriel Lightfoot, executive chef at the once-splendid Imperial Hotel, aims to run a tight kitchen. Though under constant challenge from the competing demands of an exuberantly multinational staff, a gimlet-eyed hotel management, and business partners with whom he is secretly planning a move to a restaurant of his own, all Gabriel's hard work looks set to pay off. Until, that is, a worker turns up dead in the kitchen's basement.

Enter Lena, an eerily attractive young woman with mysterious ties to the dead man. Under her spell, Gabe makes a decision, with consequences that strip him naked and change the course of the life he knows - and the future he thought he wanted.

In The Kitchen is Monica Ali's stunning follow up to Brick Lane. It is both the portrait of a man pushed to the edge, and a wry and telling look into the melting pot which is our contemporary existence. It confirms Monica Ali not only as a great modern storyteller but also an acute observer of the dramas of modern life."

Friday, 21 July 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



"I consider as lovers of books not those who keep their books hidden in their store-chests and never handle them, but those who, by nightly as well as daily use thumb them, batter them, wear them out, who fill out all the margins with annotations of many kinds, and who prefer the marks of a fault they have erased to a neat copy full of faults." Desiderius Erasmus

"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen." Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

"As you grow ready for it, somewhere or other, you will find what is needful for you in a book." George Macdonald

"Reading is the difficulty to populate a country of strange fantasies with your own thoughts." Kurt Tucholsky

"I am too fond of reading books to care to write them." Oscar Wilde

Find more book quotes here.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Toptaş, Hasan Ali "The Shadowless"



Toptaş, Hasan Ali "The Shadowless" (Turkish: Gölgesizler) - 1995 

This author was recommended to me by a Turkish friend of mine with whom I love discussing our latest "finds". He certainly is an interesting author. On the back of my book he is described as an oriental Kafka enriched with Islamic mystic. I don't remember liking Kafka much when I had to read him in school but I do agree with the description and like the author anyway.

I would describe this novel as a mixture between fantasy and the historical description of life in Turkey. It certainly is difficult to describe the topic of the book. Or the story. There is a village in Anatolia and people disappear from there. Others go looking for them. But reality doesn't go much further, there seem to exist several times, even several worlds next to each other who interfere which each other in a very surreal world. You almost feel like in a painting by René Magritte or one of his fellow surrealists.

A partly amusing partly fantastic story. A different kind of Turkish author but you can still see his oriental influence. I certainly recommend it.

From the back cover:
"In an Anatolian village forgotten by both God and the government, the muhtar has been elected leader for the sixteenth successive year. When he drunkenly staggers to bed that night, the village is prospering. But when he awakes to discover that Nuri, the barber, has disappeared in the dead of night, the community begins to fracture. In a nameless town far, far away, Nuri walks into a barbershop, not knowing how he has arrived. Blurring the lines of reality to terrific effect, this novel is both a compelling mystery and an enduring evocation of displacement."

I read the German translation of this novel "Die Schattenlosen".

Monday, 17 July 2017

Taylor, Andrew "Books That Changed the World"



Taylor, Andrew "Books That Changed the World" - 2008

What an interesting list of books! A list of important books that made a major impact on our present view of the world. I haven't read all of them but I am sure most people have heard the titles and the authors at some point in their life.

Whether Andrew Taylor mentions the Bible or the Qur'an, Marx's Communist Manifesto or Mao's Little Red Book, you can be sure that millions of people have read and followed those writings.
Then there are the scientific books like Darwin's "On the Origin of Species", the writings by Galileo, Newton, Einstein and many others without them we would not have the understanding of our world what it is today.

But also novels feature in the list, i.a. one of my most favourite authors, Jane Austen, who could omit her?

In any case, a most interesting list of books that are worth looking at. The author himself mentions that whenever you make a list of any books, there will be people who disagree. I can only second that but it is interesting anyway.

From the back cover:
"Books That Changed the World tells the fascinating stories behind 50 books that, in ways great and small, have changed the course of human history. Andrew Taylor sets each text in its historical context and explores its wider influence and legacy. Whether he's discussing the incandescent effect of The Qu'ran, the enduring influence of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, of the way in which Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe galavanized the anti-slavery movement, Taylor has written a stirring and informative testament to human ingenuity and endeavour. Ranging from The Iliad to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the Kama Sutra to Lady Chatterley's Lover, this is the ultimate, thought-provoking read for book-lovers everywhere."

Introduction.
"The Iliad, Homer; The Histories, Herodotus; The Analects, Confucius; The Republic, Plato; The Bible; Odes, Horace; Geographia, Ptolemy; Kama Sutra, Mallanaga Vatsyayana; The Qur'an; Canon of Medicine, Avicenna; The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer; The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli; Atlas, Gerard Mercator; Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes; First Folio, William Shakespeare; The Motion of the Heart and Blood, William Harvey; Two Chief World Systems, Galileo Galilei; Principia mathematica, Isaac Newton; Dictionary, Samuel Johnson; The Sorrows of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith; Common Sense, Thomas Paine; Lyrical Ballads, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge; Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen; A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens; The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx; Moby-Dick, Herman Melville; Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe; Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert; On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin; On Liberty, John Stuart Mill; War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy; The Telephone Directory; The Thousand and One Nights, Sir Richard Burton; A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle; The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud; The Protocols of the Elders of Zion; Poems, Wilfred Owen; Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, Albert Einstein; Ulysses, James Joyce; Lady Chatterley's Lover, D.H. Lawrence; The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, John Maynard Keynes; If This is a Man, Primo Levi; Nineteen Eighty-four, George Orwell; The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir; The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger; Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe; Silent Spring, Rachel Carson; Quotations from Chairman Mao, Mao Zedong; Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling."

So far, I have only read 11 of these. I wouldn't agree that they have all changed my world but a lot of them certainly had an impact.

The Bible" - 2nd century BC "2nd century AD
Cervantes, Miguel de "Don Quixote" - 1605-15
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von "The Sorrows of Young Werther" - 1774
Austen, Jane "Pride and Prejudice" - 1813
Dickens, Charles "A Christmas Carol" - 1843
Beecher Stowe, Harriet "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" - 1852
Tolstoy, Leo "War and Peace" - 1869
Joyce, James "Ulysses" - 1922
Orwell, George "Nineteen Eighty-four" - 1949
Salinger, J.D. "The Catcher In The Rye" - 1951
Rowling, J.K. "Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone" - 1997

Friday, 14 July 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



"Books are absent teachers." Mortimer J. Adler

"What I say is, a town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it's got a bookstore it knows it's not fooling a soul." Neil Gaiman 


"If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that." Stephen King 

"Be awesome! Be a book nut!" Dr. Seuss

"I think books are like people, in the sense that they'll turn up in your life when you most need them." Emma Thompson

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Emcke, Carolin "Echoes of Violence"

 

Emcke, Carolin "Echoes of Violence: Letters from a War Reporter" (German: Von den Kriegen. Briefe an Freunde) - 2004

I learned about Carolin Emcke when she was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade and I wanted to read one of her books every since. Now I found one and am happy to say, it was worth the wait.

The author is a journalist, covering mainly war areas and she has written e-mails to her friend every time she returned from one of her journeys. Here, she published them. She visited Afghanistan, Columbia, Iraq, Kosovo, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Romania and the USA (before and after September 11th), and reports about her meetings with affected people. A brilliant account of what war can do to a people. If we didn't know it before, we should certainly learn it from this book. War is stupid! War is terrible! War should not be allowed! For any reason. Put the leaders in one room and let them fight about their problems themselves.

I have to include one quote from the book:
"History is the object of a construction whose place is formed not in homogenous and empty time, but in that which is fulfilled by the here-and-now." Walter Benjamin

From the back cover: "Echoes of Violence is an award-winning collection of personal letters to friends from a foreign correspondent who is trying to understand what she witnessed during the iconic human disasters of our time--in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and New York City on September 11th, among many other places. Originally addressing only a small group of friends, Carolin Emcke started the first letter after returning from Kosovo, where she saw the aftermath of ethnic cleansing in 1999. She began writing to overcome her speechlessness about the horrors of war and her own sense of failure as a reporter. Eventually, writing a letter became a ritual Emcke performed following her return from each nightmare she experienced. First published in 2004 to great acclaim, Echoes of Violence in 2005 was named German political book of the year and was a finalist for the international Lettre-Ulysses award for the art of reportage.

Combining narrative with philosophic reflection, Emcke describes wars and human rights abuses around the world--the suffering of civilians caught between warring factions in Colombia, the heartbreaking plight of homeless orphans in Romania, and the near-slavery of garment workers in Nicaragua. Freed in the letters from journalistic conventions that would obscure her presence as a witness, Emcke probes the abyss of violence and explores the scars it leaves on landscapes external and internal."

Carolin Emcke received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 2016.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Dickens, Charles "Bleak House"


Dickens, Charles "Bleak House" - 1852/53

My seventh Dickens after "A Christmas Carol", "Great Expectations", "A Tale of Two Cities", "The Pickwick Papers", "Little Dorrit" and "Hard Times" but certainly not my last one. I hope I will get through all of his works one day.

A thousand pages of a well-written novel, Apparently, this is supposedly an early work of detective fiction and is one of his later titles. But apart from that, it certainly is a Dickens novel. The characters' names might not be as weird as in some of his books. Maybe he had no more ideas or he grew tired of finding those kind of names, I don't know. I missed it, of course.

This book is a page turner. Having worked in the legal system myself (even though in a different country), I could relate a lot to all the difficulties in the law suit. It's the same everywhere. That bit might be a little tedious for some readers but I promise, it's worth it.

What I love about Dickens, even though he grew up under  poor circumstances, he can describe any character, rich or poor, clever or not so clever, he manages to put them all into his novels and makes them appear alive. He was a master of the pen.

From the back cover:
"As the interminable case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce grinds its way through the Court of Chancery, it draws together a disparate group of people: Ada Clare and Richard Carstone, whose inheritance is gradually being devoured by legal costs; Esther Summerston, a ward of court, whose parentage is a source of deepening mystery; the menacing lawyer Tulkinghorn; the determined sleuth Inspector Bucket; and even Jo, a destitute crossing-sweeper. A savage, but often comic indictment of a society that is rotten to the core, Bleak House is one of Dickens' most ambitious novels, with a range that extends from the drawing-rooms of the aristocracy to the London slums."

Monday, 10 July 2017

Hemingway, Ernest "For Whom the Bell Tolls"


Hemingway, Ernest "For Whom the Bell Tolls" - 1940

After reading this book, I don't understand why I didn't read it earlier. This is one of the "must read" classics, a book that tells us so much about a terrible time, not just a particular terrible time about the guerillas in the Spanish Civil War, but about war in general. War isn't jsut a number of how many people died or how many fights were won or lost. War is horrible. War is brutal. War is everything nobody wants. And yet, we still have wars.

You can tell that a lot of experience flowed into this piece. Ernest Hemingway faught himself in the Spanish Civil War. He must have lived through lot of the actions described here.

This novel is a brilliant account of the partisans, their fight, their effort, their dreams. A strong story about a fight that we all know was lost and cost many Spaniards dearly in the following years.

I never watched the movie with Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, two actors I really loved. I probably should. They received nine Oscar nominations for it.

From the back cover:
"High in the pine forests of the Spanish Sierra, a band of anti-fascist guerrilla prepares to blow up a strategically vital bridge. Robert Jordan, a young American volunteer, has been sent to handle the dynamiting. There, in the mountains, he finds the dangers and the intense comradeship of war. And there he discovers Maria, a young woman who has escaped from Franco's rebels."

Ernest Hemingway received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954 "for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in 'The Old Man and the Sea' and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style" and the Pulitzer Prize for "The Old Man and the Sea" in 1953.

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

Friday, 7 July 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



"Never write anything that does not give you great pleasure. Emotion is easily transferred from the writer to the reader." Joseph Joubert

"Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." Rainer Maria Rilke

"Boredom is why God invented books." Julie Schumacher

"Talking over the things which you have read with your companions fixes them on the mind." Isaac Watts

"To you it might be a cheap notebook, but to me, it’s my best friend, which listens to me and reminds me when I need it the most." N.N.

[If anyone can tell me the originator of this quote, I'd be very thankful and would happily include the name.]

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Mahfouz, Naguib "Sugar Street"



Mahfouz, Naguib "Sugar Street" (Arabic: السكرية/Al-Sukkariyya) - 1957 (Cairo Trilogy 3) 

Seldom was I so sad than when finishing this novel. Not because of its contents although they were not all happy events but because this is the end of the story about the family Abd al-Jawad. I would have loved to carry on following their lives and that of their descendants even into the present day.

After reading "Palace Walk" and "Palace of Desire", the first two novels in this trilogy about the author's home town Cairo, I couldn't wait to read the next one.

Same as in the two previous books, we don't just meet the family but also learn about the Egyptian history. This book takes us through the years 1935 to 1944. We can tell the difference in society between the beginning of the saga in 1917 and the (almost) end of WWII. There is quite a difference between how women are treated, what they are allowed to do, even though there are still some people who live in the previous century. Same as today, I guess.

I would love to read more about Egypt later on. There is another Egyptian author that I really like, Ahdaf Soueif, I have read her novel "The Map of Love" and a collection of short stories "Aisha", and I am sure I will find other good Egyptian authors that will continue this story. If anyone has a suggestion, I am always happy to receive recommendations.

From the back cover:
"Sugar Street is the final novel in Nobel Prize-winner Naguib Mahfouz’s magnificent Cairo Trilogy, an epic family saga of colonial Egypt that is considered his masterwork.

The novels of the Cairo Trilogy trace three generations of the family of tyrannical patriarch al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, who rules his household with a strict hand while living a secret life of self-indulgence. Sugar Street brings Mahfouz’s vivid tapestry of an evolving Egypt to a dramatic climax as the aging patriarch sees one grandson become a Communist, one a Muslim fundamentalist, and one the lover of a powerful politician. Filled with compelling drama, earthy humor, and remarkable insight, Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy is the achievement of a master storyteller."

Naguib Mahfouz "who, through works rich in nuance - now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous - has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988.

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

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Ruiz, Don Miguel Ángel "The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom"


Ruiz, Don Miguel Ángel "The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom" - 1997

I bought this book years ago. I don't remember what drew me to it but the fact that I didn't start reading it earlier probably says it all.

I'm not the kind of person who will feel better if you tell me that I will feel better if only I start to love myself. On the contrary, if you tell me a problem will be solved if only I looked at it differently, I will feel even worse because you tell me that I am the problem.

In general, I agree, if you are nice to people, they will be nice to you. Most of the time. But that is not a wisdom I need to read, I've learned that all by myself. And with some people, it just doesn't help. And if someone wants to be mean to me, there is no way this book is going to change that.

Anyway, I did not enjoy reading this book. It had less than 200 pages, so I carried on, hoping the big enlightenment would come at the end. Well, it didn't.

From the back cover:
"In The Four Agreements, bestselling author don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love."

Monday, 3 July 2017

Bonnett, Alastair "Off the Map"



Bonnett, Alastair "Off the Map" - 2014

Cartophilia is the love of maps. I certainly have that. It combines well with topophilia, the love of place. I think I suffer from both of them and this is a great book for those of us who are addicted to cards.

Alastair Bonnett, a professor of Social Geography from Newcastle, lists a lot of interesting, weird, forgotten, lost, invisible places in this book and describes them very accurately. There are places we don't want to visit (like Pripyat near Chernobyl), places we can't visit (like Mount Athos, well, at least not the female part of this world), places that don't exist anymore (or have been renamed), places that would be fun just to visit because of their weird identity (Baarle-Nassau in the Netherlands is an interesting example and definitely on our list) and lots of curious, weird, quirky places that it's just fun to read about.

So, if like me, you love geography and/or maps, this is the book for you. Get your atlas out and read it.

From the back cover:
"In a world of Google Earth, it is easy to believe that every discovery has been made and every adventure had, Off the Map is a stunning testament to how mysterious our planet still is. It takes us into unchartered territory, to places found on few maps and sometimes on none.

From forgotten enclaves to floating islands, from hidden villages to New York gutter spaces, Off the Map charts the hidden corners of our planet. And while these are not necessarily places you would choose to visit on holiday - Hobyo, the pirate capital of Somalia, or Zheleznogorsk, a secret military town in Russia - they each carry a story about the strangeness of place and our need for a geography that understands our hunger for the fantastic and the unexpected. But it also shows us that topophilia, the love of place, is a fundamental part of what it is to be human. Whether you are an urban explorer or an armchair traveller, Off the Map will inspire and enchant. You'll never look at a map in quite the same way again."

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Happy July!


Happy July to all my friends and readers 

New Calendar picture with this beautiful watercolour painting
 by Hanka Koebsch "Pool Party"

 "Poolparty"



July used to be Quintilis (or September), the seventh month of the year, but the Romans added two months and named this one after Julius Cæsar. It's supposedly the warmest month of the year (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), so I hope it will be over soon.

Enjoy this month with the beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch.

You can find a lot more wonderful pictures on their website here.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Aaronovitch, Ben "Broken Homes"


Aaronovitch, Ben "Broken Homes" (Rivers of London 4) - 2013

Number 4 in the "Rivers of London" series, a crime story with wizards. Not my usual genre but I enjoy reading about London and the story is not too bad. But, as is the case with most crime stories, there is not much to talk about without giving away too much.

However, if you do want to read this, please start with the first novel in the series, "Rivers of London".

From the back cover:
 "A mutilated body in Crawley. Another killer on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil; an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man? Or just a common or garden serial killer?
Before PC Peter Grant can get his head round the case a town planner going under a tube train and a stolen grimoire are adding to his case-load.
So far so London.
But then Peter gets word of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on a housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans and inhabited by the truly desperate.
Is there a connection?
And if there is, why oh why did it have to be South of the River?"

The whole series:
"Rivers of London" - 2011
"Moon over Soho" - 2011
"Whispers Under Ground" - 2012
"Broken Homes" - 2013
"Foxglove Summer" - 2014
"The Hanging Tree" - 2016

I found a good site about this series: The Follypedia.

Book Quotes of the Week



"Reading makes a full man, writing a precise man." Francis Bacon

"A good reading strengthens the soul." Toba Beta

"I knew a gentleman who was so good a manager of his time that he would not even lose that small portion of it which the calls of nature obliged him to pass in the necessary-house; but gradually went through all the Latin poets in those moments." Lord Chesterfield

"The art of reading is in great part that of acquiring a better understanding of life from one’s encounter with it in a book." André Maurois

"I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in." Robert Louis Stevenson

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Herbert, Xavier "Capricornia"


Herbert, Xavier "Capricornia"  - 1938

This book was suggested to me by my Australian friends as a classic from their country. It was a tough read of sorts but not disappointing. In this novel, the author tells us of life in Australia's north at the beginning of the 20th century. The life of the white settlers as well as the Aborigines who had lived on this continent for whoever knows how long, the new life created by the two, the "half-breeds" called "yeller fellers", the "quadroons" and the problems that arise by them mixing together. I have never understood how you can believe one race to be better than another but to divide those that have both races in them into different kind of people again ... if you have an Asian parent in between your "white" and "black" ones, you are better than those that have more "black" but still worse than those with more "white" etc. Seems unbelievable and I don't even want to understand it.

A great view of a continent that I don't even know today, even less so a hundred years ago. I have a few friends in Australia and my son just spent six months there, but that doesn't teach me much about their history. However, this did. An informative story, a captivating story, a touching story.

It must have been quite a shocking book when it was published in 1938, so close still to the events, I guess a lot of people still thought that way. The author was even declared "Protect of Aborigines", I think that says it all.

A lot of the books I read about Australia covered more the convicts that were forced to immigrate to Australia, this is later and therefore tells the continuation of that tale.

Oh, and I also loved the names of the characters, almost like Charles Dickens, a lot of them are named after their occupation or some flaw in their character. The undertaker is called Joe Crowe, Mr. Bigtit is an important lawyer, O'Crimnell and O'Theef are police troopers etc. Quite funny. Which shows that the novel is also full of humour.

Good read. If you are interested in Australia, you should definitely try it. Apparently, it inspired Baz Luhrman to make his film "Australia" which I also highly recommend, although the background to the story is completely different. And placed a little later in history.

From the back cover:
"A saga of life in the Northern Territories and the clash of white and Aborigine cultures – one of Australia’s all-time best-selling novels and an inspiration for Baz Luhrmann’s lavish film 'AUSTRALIA'.
Capricornia has been described as one of Australia's 'great novels', a sharply observed chronicle about life in the Northern Territory of Australia and the inhumane treatment suffered by Aborigines at the hands of white men. The story is immense and rambling, laced with humour that is often as bitter and as harsh as the terrain in which it is set, and follows with irony the fortunes (and otherwise) of a range of Outback characters over a span of generations. Through their story is reflected the story of Australia, the clash of personalities and cultures that provide the substance on which today's society is founded. Above all, however, this is a novel of protest and of compassion - for the Aborigines and half-bloods of Australia's 'last frontier'.
Sprawling, explosive, thronged with characters, plots and sub-plots, Capricornia is without doubt one of the best known and widely read Australian novels of the last 70 years. When it was first published it was acclaimed as 'a turning point', an 'outstanding work of social protest'. Its message is as penetrating today as it was in the 1930s when Herbert himself was official 'Protector of Aborigines' at Darwin."