Monday, 20 November 2017

Jones, Edward P. "The Known World"

Jones, Edward P. "The Known World" - 2004

The story about a black farmer and slave owner at the time of the civil war.

One of the few Pulitzer Prize winning books that I didn't enjoy very much. Not because I dislike the subject in general, on the contrary, I believe we need to know about it as much as possible. I have read many books about slaves and slave owners etc. and most of them were highly interesting. But this book is not a novel but it also isn't non-fiction, it is blobs of non-fiction - and nothing new really - thrown together in order to look like a novel.

It reads more like a history book where you have to learn a lot of dates that are not related to each other.

I wold certainly not recommend it to anyone who wants an "easy read".

Honestly, I have no idea why this book received the Pulitzer Prize. Maybe a black author was "due" again and so they chose this one. If you want a good and unique book about slavery, read last year's Pulitzer Prize winner, Colson Whitehead. "Underground Railroad" is certainly better. A lot better.

From the back cover:
"In one of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory, Edward P. Jones, two-time National Book Award finalist, tells the story of Henry Townsend, a black farmer and former slave who falls under the tutelage of William Robbins, the most powerful man in Manchester County, Virginia. Making certain he never circumvents the law, Townsend runs his affairs with unusual discipline. But when death takes him unexpectedly, his widow, Caldonia, can't uphold the estate's order and chaos ensues. In a daring and ambitious novel, Jones has woven a footnote of history into an epic that takes an unflinching look at slavery in all of its moral complexities."

Edward P. Jones received the Pulitzer Prize for "The Known World" in 2004.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Koch, Herman "The Dinner"

Koch, Herman "The Dinner" (Dutch: Het Diner) - 2009

Our latest book club read, a story about two couples going for dinner but everything seems to go wrong.

While this is a good book to discuss, I didn't actually enjoy it a lot. I didn't like any of the characters, well, I felt a little sorry for the wives but no, I really didn't like any of them. They were not just shallow, they were calculating, only out for their own gain. Another member said she got so angry but we did agree that it was a good book to talk about.

I enjoyed the description of the waiter, of the whole "star restaurant". I have been to a few restaurants like that myself where you seem to pay for the whole plate and therefore don't get much on it ... but everything is somehow "special". I rather go to a nice little restaurant that still cooks everything from fresh ingredients but also makes sure their customers don't leave their place with a hollow stomach.

I found the characters racist or fascist or whatever you might call people who just dislike someone for having less money than they do, Just the type of people I would not want to call my friends. Whatever happens, I don't want to spoil it for anyone like this, I would not do "anything" for my children out of love, I would like to keep them out of trouble before something happens.

The question is, do we want to live in a society determined by these kind of people?

The book has been made into a movie. I'm not sure whether I want to watch it.

We discussed this in our book club in November 2017.

From the back cover:
"A summer's evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant. Between mouthfuls of food and over the delicate scraping of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of politeness - the banality of work, the triviality of holidays.

But the empty words hide a terrible conflict and, with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened... Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. Together, the boys have committed a horrifying act, caught on camera, and their grainy images have been beamed into living rooms across the nation; despite a police manhunt, the boys remain unidentified - by everyone except their parents.

As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children and, as civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love."

Friday, 10 November 2017

Book Quotes of the Week

"What I like about black-and-white photographs is that they're more like reading the book than seeing the movie." Robert Heinecken

"It is both relaxing and invigorating to occasionally set aside the worries of life, seek the company of a friendly book … from the reading of 'good books' there comes a richness of life that can be obtained in no other way." Gordon B. Hinckley

"There's nothing wrong with reading a book you love over and over. When you do, the words get inside you, become a part of you, in a way that words in a book you’ve read only once can’t." Gail Carson Levine

"Books are like friends to me. Words come alive on the page." Beverly Lewis

"Books give me an escape from reality even if it’s only for a few minutes.” 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, 9 November 2017

Scott, Mary "Days that have been"

Scott, Mary "Days that have been" - 1966

A reread of Mary Scott's auto-biography. She has written many funny stories about her life in New Zealand on a remote farm about a hundred years ago.

I have loved all her stories and red every single one that I could get my hands on but this is probably my favourite. Not as funny as the other ones but you can see where she gets her humour. A lovely account of a woman who had to endure many hardships, who lived a life long forgotten, at least in our part of the world. Born in 1888, she was a little older than my grandmothers but I know from their stories (and those of my parents) that times were about the same, no electricity, no technology, no cars etc. And since none of them has written a book, this is also a sort of getting together with those from my family who have been gone for a long time now. One of my favourite books by one of my favourite authors.

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.

I have not read any of her crime stories or her early and later books "Barbara Bakes", "The Prisoner Escaped" and "The Unwritten Book" and would be grateful if anyone could let me know how I could obtain a copy.

From the back cover: (translated)
"Mary Scott, the farmer's wife and best-selling author from New Zealand, has retold her own life in this book - from her childhood, from her school and university days, from her honeymoon 'on horseback' to living on a farm in the New Zealand bush, isolated and far away from culture and civilization.
As Mary Scott, an almost perfect countrywoman and mother of four children, begins to write between cooking, sewing and milking (for chronic money shortage, by the way) and comes to world fame with her optimistic novels - that itself reads like a cheery novel. Only this time he is not invented by Mary Scott, but experienced."

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Guo, Xiaolu (郭小橹) "Language"

Guo, Xiaolu (郭小橹) "Language" - 2017

The story of a Chinese girl who moves to England.

I found this little book at the till when paying for another book (or two or three ...) and it sounded interesting. It really is only an extract from another book, "A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers" which certainly must be interesting, as well. Anyway, our Chinese girl has learned some English but she really doesn't know much when she first comes to England. It must be quite daunting living in another country and not knowing the language, especially if you are from a completely different culture. I have lived in several countries in my life but always knew the language and the cultures between some Western European countries are not all that different.

The book is written like a diary of the young girl who comes to England and at first, her English is rather limited. But you can tell by the time you get to the end that she gets better all the time. I quite liked that.

Anyway, I have learned more about the Chinese customs in this book than about the English language and that is exactly what I like. Nice short read.

From the back cover:
"Have you ever tried to learn another language? When Zhuang first comes to London from China she feels like she is among an alien species. The city is disorientating, the people unfriendly, the language a muddle of dominant personal pronouns and moody verbs. But with increasing fluency in English surviving turns to living. And they say that the best way to learn a language is to fall in love with a native speaker…
Selected from the book A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo"

Friday, 3 November 2017

Book Quotes of the Week

How to Read More:
1. Throw your phone in the ocean (or keep it in airplane mode).
2. Carry a book at all times.
3. Have another book ready before you finish the one you're reading) make a stack of books to-read or load up your e-reader).
4. If you aren't enjoying a book, stop reading it immediately (flinging it across the room helps provide closure).
5. Schedule one hour a day for reading on your calendar like you would an important meeting (try commutes, lunch breaks, or getting into bed an hour early).
6. Keep a reading log and share it (people will send you even more good books to read).
Austin Kleon
Most of them work for me, especially #s 2, 3 and 6.
"The books that help you the most are those which make you think the most." Theodore Parker

"There’s no book that absolutely everyone loves." Carolyn Parkhurst

"It is when we are faced with death that we turn most bookish." Jules Renard

"Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all." Henry David Thoreau

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Fforde, Jasper "Shades of Grey. The Road to High Saffron"

Fforde, Jasper "Shades of Grey. The Road to High Saffron" - 2009

A dystopian novel about a future where colour perception rules the world. I like colours, I like Jasper Fforde's style I read a few of his "Thursday Next" books (The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book), so I couldn't resist when I saw this book even though the title surprised me a little. When my son saw it on my reading pile, he looked at it curiously and I said "It's not 50 Shades of Grey", and he laughed and said "I wouldn't think you'd step that low". Oh, my kids know me so well. ;)

Anyway, I think dystopian novels (or "disturbian" as my husband likes to call them) are great. They show our society in a different way. What kind of fears are there, how do we imagine the world would look like if some of them came true. Or something else happened that made us give up the ways we live now.

In this case, Something (always capitalized) happens and the world changes, the people change. Everyone is only able to see certain kinds of colour and even there is a difference in how well they perceive "their" colour. Families even have their last names showing what colour they can see, like our hero Eddie Russett, who - obviously - belongs to the Reds. Then there are the deMauves, the Ochres, the Magnetas, Mr. Yewberry, Mrs. Lapis-Lazuli, etc. The Greys don't see any colours and are therefore just given a number.

But here's the thing, people manage to get racism even into this, you are not judged by the colour of your skin but by the colour you can see. The ultra-violets are the highest, the Reds come second last, just above the Greys.

What I liked about this novel is not just the author's style, he does write interestingly and his novels always contain a lot of humour, but the way it makes you think about how we really perceive this world. That is my favourite part not just about this novel but of any dystopian one.

From the back cover:
"Hundreds of years in the future, after the Something that Happened, the world is an alarmingly different place. Life is lived according to The Rulebook and social hierarchy is determined by your perception of colour.
Eddie Russett is an above average Red who dreams of moving up the ladder by marriage to Constance Oxblood. Until he is sent to the Outer Fringes where he meets Jane - a lowly Grey with an uncontrollable temper and a desire to see him killed.
For Eddie, it's love at first sight. But his infatuation will lead him to discover that all is not as it seems in a world where everything that looks black and white is really shades of grey . . .
If George Orwell had tripped over a paint pot or Douglas Adams favoured colour swatches instead of towels . . . neither of them would have come up with anything as eccentrically brilliant as Shades of Grey."

According to Wikipedia: "Fforde's books contain a profusion of literary allusions and wordplay, tightly scripted plots, and playfulness with the conventions of traditional genres. His works usually contain elements of metafiction, parody, and fantasy."

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Happy November!

Happy November to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch


November is the "ninth" month in the old calendar, the last of the four months with 30 days and the days are getting shorter and greyer. I have always liked November, definitely no more hot days but usually not too cold, either, at least in our area. In the Christian religion, we remember the dead mostly. I guess this is because we see the year running out as our lives do. And we celebrate the end of WWI. Enjoy this month with the beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch. Isn't the little squirrel just too cute?

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

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Morgan, Ann "Reading the World"

Morgan, Ann "Reading the World. Confessions of a Literary Explorer" (aka "The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe") - 2015

Last year, I wrote my blogpost "Travel the World with Books".

I must admit, I have not progressed much, I do try to read about different kinds of countries all the time but a lot of them come just from the "usual suspects". It is in my thoughts all the time and I do choose new books accordingly.

However, here is a lady who managed to read a book from every independent country - 196 of them - in one year. It was so interesting to follow her quest for literature from around the world, on how she wrote to people in small countries and begged them to translate books into English for her. Fantastic! It means she leaves a list for all of us that we can follow and hopefully get there ourselves one day. Look here: A Year of Reading the World.

It doesn't mean I will read exactly the same books as Ann Morgan did, I have read quite a few from different countries already and I might choose some others from other countries where there are more available translations into German, for example.

But the book wasn't just interesting because of my original quest. The author tells us a lot about the world of literature and how we are more or less forced to read from what is made available to us in the language(s) we speak. For example, she mentions a list compiled by French scholar Raymond Querneau who put together an "ideal library". He asked several writers to choose their 100 favourite titles from a list of 3,500 works and in the end he had 60 French books, 9 British/American ones, 6 Germans, 3 Spanish, 1 each Hebrew and Arabic ... I wasn't too surprised. Since I have been a member of an international book club for most of this century (Ha, doesn't that sound like a long time?) and one of our conditions for any book we read is that it must be available in English, I have discovered that more translations are made into German than into English and not just translations from English into German but from many other languages, as well. A fact that the author also talks about when she mentions that non-German fiction makes up more than 50 per cent of Germany's bestsellers. She doesn't even mention a percentage of translated books published in the English language, only that it is a very tiny number. I loved, of course, that she calls my home country "a nation of book lovers".

The author doesn't write reviews about the books in this work but that is not necessary, you can check it out in her blog. But she gives us more, she gives us a background about literature around the world and how we can find our way through it.

So, whether you want to conquer the world by reading it or just would like to enlarge your spectrum of literature, this is a great book to read. It gives you the instigation to read more books that are not in your comfort zone and thereby getting to know the world better, even your own place in it.

One quote I liked and totally agree with
"As readers, we don’t travel. In fact for many of us that’s precisely the point: we open books to experience ideas and places that we don’t have the budget, time or stomach to go through in real life."

Needless to say, I am following her blog in the meantime and am anxious to read her next book, "Beside Myself".

From the back cover:
"In 2012, the world arrived in London for the Olympics .. .and Ann Morgan went out to meet it. She read her way around all the globe’s 196 independent countries (plus one extra), sampling one book from every nation. It wasn't easy. Many languages have next to nothing translated into English; there are tiny, tucked-away places where very little is written down at all; some governments don't like to let works of art leak out to corrupt Westerners.

Her literary adventures shed light on the issues that affect us all: personal, political, national and global. Using her quest as a starting point, this book explores questions such as: What is cultural heritage? How do we define national identity? Is it possible to overcome censorship and propaganda? And how can we celebrate, challenge and change our remarkable world?"

You can find the list here. And these are the books I read.

Afghanistan Khaled Hosseini The Kite Runner; A Thousand Splendid Suns /
Australia Markus Zusak The Book Thief /
Bangladesh Tahmima Anam The Good Muslim /
Belarus Svetlana Alexievich Voices from Chernobyl /
Belgium Hergé The Adventures of Tintin / Stefan Brijs The Angel Maker /
Bosnia and Herzegovina Zlata Filipovic Zlata’s Diary / Ivo Andric The Bridge on the Drina /
Brazil Paulo Coelho (The Almchemist; Brida) /
Canada Alice Munro (Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Love, Marriage; Runaway) / Carol Shields (Jane Austen; The Stone Diaries) / Michael Ondaatje / Timothy Findley /
Chile Isabel Allende The House of the Spirits /
China Cao Xuequin Dream of the Red Chamber /
Colombia Gabriel García Márquez (Love in the Time of Cholera, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The General in His Labyrinth) /
Denmark Peter Høeg Smilla’s Sense of Snow /
Egypt Ahdaf Soueif The Map of Love / Naguib Mahfouz / Alaa Al Aswany The Yacoubian Building /
Finland Mika Waltari The Egyptian /
France Marie NDiaye Rosie Carpe /
Germany Günter Grass / Heinrich Böll / Jurek Becker Jacob the Liar / Herman Hesse Siddhartha / Thomas Mann /
Hungary Imre Kertész Fatelessness /
India Rohinton Mistry Family Matters; A Fine Balance / Amitav Ghosh River of Smoke / Vikram Seth A Suitable Boy /
Ireland James Joyce Ulysses /
Israel David Grossman To the End of the Land / Amos Oz A Tale of Love and Darkness /
Italy Primo Levi /
Japan Haruki Murakami Kafka on the Shore /
Kyrgyzstan Chinghiz Aitmatov Jamilia /
Lebanon Amin Maalouf Samarkand / Khalil Gibran The Prophet /
Netherlands Harry Mulisch The Discovery of Heaven / Tessa de Loo / Kader Abdolah The House of the Mosque /
Norway Per Petterson Out Stealing Horses / Knut Hamsun /
Peru Mario Vargas Llosa Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter; The Storyteller /
Portugal José Saramago /
Romania Herta Müller / Mircea Eliade
Russia Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich / Leo Tolstoy Anna Karenina /
Senegal Mariama Bâ So Long a Letter /
South Africa Nelson Mandela The Long Walk to Freedom / Alan Paton Cry, the Beloved Country /
Spain Miguel de Cervantes Don Quixote / Carlos Ruiz Zafón The Shadow of the Wind /
Sweden Henning Mankell / Jonas Jonasson The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared /
Switzerland Friedrich Dürrenmatt / Gottfried Keller
Syria Rafik Schami
Trinidad and Tobago VS Naipaul A House for Mr Biswas /
Turkey Orhan Pamuk Snow / Latife Tekin / Elif Safak The Forty Rules of Love / Sabahattin Ali / Yaşar Kemal / Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar The Time Regulation Institute /
United Kingdom Virginia Woolf / Kazuo Ishiguro / JK Rowling /
United States of America Norton Juster The Phantom Tollbooth / Barbara Kingsolver The Poisonwood Bible / Cormac Mccarthy / Eliot Weinberger / Jhumpa Lahiri / Amy Tan /

Friday, 27 October 2017

Book Quotes of the Week

"Books are a travelling machine! They take you to the past or the future or somewhere in between. They take you to places no passport can take you to, and areas no one knows about." Olivia S. Bassily

"There are certain emotions in your body that not even your best friend can sympathize with, but you will find the right film or the right book, and it will understand you." Björk

"The greatest university of all is a collection of books." Thomas Carlyle

"There is something wonderful about a book. We can pick it up. We can heft it. We can read it. We can set it down. We can think of what we have read. It does something for us. We can share great minds, great actions, and great undertakings in the pages of a book." Gordon B. Hinckley

"We love books because they are the greatest escape. That is because our own minds eye is the purest form of virtual reality." M.R. Mathias

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Ephron, Nora "Heartburn" - 1983

Ephron, Nora "Heartburn" - 1983

Most of my friends know what a big fan I am of Nora Ephron. I love her movies and I love everything I have read that she has written. Luckily for me, I haven't read everything, yet. One of those still wanted to be read was this novel. I story she made out of her own divorce from her second husband. Only Nora Ephron manages to make a funny story out of that disaster. A husband who leaves his wife for another (married) woman when she is seven months pregnant?!?! What a ... okay, I can't write any of the words I would like to call him on the internet but I think most people will agree and therefore I leave it to your imagination.

But only Nora Ephron would be able to make a comedy out of a tragedy. I had to laugh so much when reading this book even though I still would have loved to kick that husband of hers. The writing makes it extremely life-like, it almost seems like having been written by a woman at the end of her pregnancy without any support at all. But still smart and witty, just like the author.

The novel starts with an introduction where Nora Ephron tells us that her husband was mad at her for having written about it but - as she says - she had written about her life, his life, their life together before, what did he think? That she was all of a sudden taking a vow of silence?

I love Nora Ephron and her stories. I also love Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. Why I've never seen this movie? I have no idea but I'm sure it's great and I'm going to look for it.

From the back cover:
"Seven months into her pregnancy, Rachel discovers that her husband is in love with another woman. The fact that this woman has a 'neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb' is no consolation. Food sometimes is, though, since Rachel is a cookery writer, and between trying to win Mark back and wishing him dead, she offers us some of her favourite recipes. HEARTBURN is a roller coaster of love, betrayal, loss and - most satisfyingly - revenge. This is Nora Ephron's (screenwriter of WHEN HARRY MET SALLY and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE) roman a clef: 'I always thought during the pain of the marriage that one day it would make a funny book,' she once said - And it is!"

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Dylan, Bob "Chronicles. Volume One"

Dylan, Bob "Chronicles. Volume One" - 2004

Last year's recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. I don't need his book to know he totally deserved it but he talks about his life and that is quite interesting.

As I wrote in my post "Prize for Literature 2016", I look forward to the day where the newest winner of the Prize for Literature is announced and - together with the rest of the world - I was very astonished about last year's announcement. Totally unexpected but well deserved, Bob Dylan received the honour in 2016.

Bob Dylan, the hero of my youth, has written so many brilliant songs with wonderful texts and I could probably go on and write about every single one of his songs whose lyrcis I know by heart. But - as this is my book blog, I read his biography instead. The 75-year-old rock legend writes about his life. Or is he? I have read many comments that this is not written by him but that it is mainly a collection of what other people wrote about him.

However, I did enjoy learning about his life. I am not a reader of gossip magazines so I hardly ever know whether my favourite singers or actors are single, married, divorced, gay, have children ... Sometimes I find it out via Wikipedia but that is usually just in combination with a search for one of their films or songs.

Again, I love Bob Dylan's work. His lyrics are as important today as they were sixty years ago. The times were ready to be a-changing back then and it is time they are a-changing again. Let's all listen to his songs and make this a better world.

From the back cover:
"This is the first spellbinding volume of the three-volume memoir of one of the greatest musical legends of all time. In CHRONICLES Volume I, Bob Dylan takes us back to the early 1960s when he arrived in New York to launch his phenomenal career. This is Dylan's story in his own words - a personal view of his motivations, frustrations and remarkable creativity. Publication of CHRONICLES Volume I is a publishing and cultural event of the highest magnitude."

Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016 "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".

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

Monday, 23 October 2017

Chevalier, Tracy "The Lady and the Unicorn"

Chevalier, Tracy "The Lady and the Unicorn" - 2003

I've read quite a few of Tracy Chevalier's books. This is my fifth and it is all about a painting we hardly know anything about.

My fifth book by this remarkable author. Tracy Chevalier manages to weave history into her novels like nobody else. Even if her characters did not exist, it makes you feel like they did.
In this case, she tells the story of the Unicorn tapestries that were woven sometime in the 16th century . Little is known about them but you can almost imagine that the way Tracy Chevalier tells us is how it all actually happened.

This is the story of real tapestries called "The Lady and the Unicorn", six tapestries, each of them representing one of our five senses, sight (La Vue), sound (L'Ouïe), smell (L'Odorat), touch (Le Toucher), taste (Le Goût)  and a sixth called Mon Seul Désir (My only desire)

But even if you're not interested in history or art at all, this is a nice story about life in the Middle Ages. Or, if you are interested, you can go and see the tapestries in the Musée national du Moyen Âge (former Musée de Cluny) in Paris,

For me, the part that happened in Brussels was the most interesting. I used to live in Brussels and we still visit as often as possible. It is one of the loveliest towns around and you can still see all the guild houses and most of the other parts they are talking about nowadays.

From the back cover:
"It was the commission of a lifetime. Jean Le Viste, a fifteenth-century nobleman close to the King, hires an artist to design six tapestries celebrating his rising status at Court. Nicolas des Innocents overcomes his surprise at being offered this commission when he catches sight of his patron's daughter, Claude. His pursuit of her pulls him into the web of fragile relationships between husband and wife, parents and children, lovers and servants.
It was a revolutionary design.
In Brussels, renowned weaver Georges de la Chapelle takes on the biggest challenge of his career. Never before has he attempted a work that puts so much at stake. Sucked into a world of temptation and seduction, he and his family are consumed by the project and by their dealings with the rogue painter from Paris. The results changed all their lives."

Friday, 20 October 2017

Camus, Albert "The First Man"

Camus, Albert "The First Man" (French: Le premier homme) - 1994

Albert Camus is probably my favourite French author and this being an autobiography, I just couldn't reject it. However, this is an unfinished manuscript that was found when the author died in a car crash, hasn't been edited or altered, we get just the raw draft. I am sure this book would have been a lot more enjoyable had the author had the chance to work on it a little longer.

But it is what it is and I am happy this document was found and finally published because it does give us quite an insight into the author's life, especially his youth and also his quest for his father. We get a good idea about the man himself, how his philosophy came to fruition, how his mind works.

On the other hand, his daughter mentions in the introduction that her father might have changed a lot of his thoughts in the book, it might not have been as personal, if he had had the chance to work on it. I would have loved for the author to live a lot longer and write many more stories but at least we get this glimpse of

This was my third book by Camus and it won't be my last, that's for sure.

I read this book in the original French language.

From the back cover:
"The unfinished manuscript of The First Man was discovered in the wreckage of car accident in which Camus died in 1960. Although it was not published for over thirty years, it was an instant bestseller when it finally appeared in 1994. The 'first man' is Jacques Cormery, whose poverty-stricken childhood in Algiers is made bearable by his love for his silent and illiterate mother, and by the teacher who transforms his view of the world. The most autobiographical of Camus's novels, it gives profound insights into his life and the powerful themes underlying his work."

Albert Camus received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 "for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times".

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, 13 October 2017

Book Quotes of the Week

"You can’t enjoy art or books in a hurry." E.A. Bucchianeri

"Reading a great work of literature can truly be likened to having a conversation with a great mind." Jennie Chancey

"Old books, you know well, are books of the world’s youth, and new books are the fruits of its age." Oliver Wendell Holmes

"The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don't tell you what to see." Alexandra K. Trenfor

"If you believe everything you read, you better not read." Japanese proverb

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Bunyan, John "The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come"

Bunyan, John "The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come" - 1678

A classic I wanted to read for a while. I generally love classics and usually enjoy them very much. However, I did struggle with this one, it reads more like a play than a novel and I am not the biggest fan of reading plays. At times, I found I had set out the same way as our Pilgrim on a voyage through this book and I wondered whether I'd ever reach salvation, i.e. the end.

I did manage and even though I am happy to have finished it, I think this is a classic that is better left in its time, I'm sure it was a lot more appreciated back then but seems to be a tad outdated now. And I speak from the perspective of a Christian who has read and knows her Bible.

From the back cover:
"In John Bunyan's classic allegory, Christian abandons his family and the City of Destruction and sets off to find salvation. His path is straight but not easy, and he is beset by trials, including the terrible violence of the destructive Apollyon and the Giant Despair, as he pursues his pilgrimage through the Slough of Despond, the Delectable Mountains and Vanity Fair towards the Celestial City. In the second part of the narrative his wife, Christiana, is escorted by Great-Heart through the same difficult terrain. Written with the urgency of persecuted faith and a fiery imagination, The Pilgrim's Progress is a spiritual as well as a literary classic. In his introduction, Roger Pooley discusses Bunyan's life and theology, as well as the text's biblical and historical backdrop, its success and critical history. This edition also includes accompanying seventeenth-century illustrations, a chronology, suggested further reading, notes and an index."

Friday, 6 October 2017

Book Quotes of the Week

"If I could always read I should never feel the want of company." Lord Byron

"What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us." Thomas Carlyle

"Reading one book is like eating one potato chip." Diane Duane 

"Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them." John Milton

"If you think reading is boring, you're doing it wrong." 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.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Rice, Ronald "My Bookstore" - 2012

Rice, Ronald (Ed.) "My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop" - 2012

A book about bookshops. What could be more heaven? I started writing down some of the books mentioned but there were just far too many. There is a list in the back of all the bookshops mentioned (all of them in North America).

I loved following all those authors - some of them known to me, others not, - into their favourite bookstores and compared with the ones I love. Not such a big difference there. We all love shops where the staff knows us, really knows us, and can recommend the latest books they think we will love. And even if I will never be able to visit any of the shops mentioned in the book, I loved looking at them through the eyes of the storytellers.

I also found one of the most beautiful book quotes:
"There are many reasons I love books: for the worlds they show me, for the things they teach me, for the way they feel in my hands or in my satchel, for the way they look decorating my house, for the questions they arouse from my children, for their mystery, for their cold or warm truths, for their lies, for their promise. But mostly I just love being transported to some place outside of my everyday life." Peter Geye

From the back cover:
"In this enthusiastic, heartfelt, and sometimes humorous ode to bookshops and booksellers, 84 known authors pay tribute to the brick-and-mortar stores they love and often call their second homes. In 'My Bookstore' our greatest authors write about the pleasure, guidance, and support that their favorite bookstores and booksellers have given them over the years. The relationship between a writer and his or her local store and staff can last for years or even decades. Often it's the author's local store that supported him during the early days of his career, that continues to introduce and hand-sell her work to new readers, and that serves as the anchor for the community in which he lives and works.'My Bookstore' collects the essays, stories, odes and words of gratitude and praise for stores across the country in 84 pieces written by our most beloved authors. It's a joyful, industry-wide celebration of our bricks-and-mortar stores and a clarion call to readers everywhere at a time when the value and importance of these stores should be shouted from the rooftops.Perfectly charming line drawings by Leif Parsons illustrate each storefront and other distinguishing features of the shops.
Contributing authors and bookstores include:
Fannie Flagg--Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL
Rick Bragg--Alabama Booksmith, Homewood, AL
John Grisham--That Bookstore in Blytheville, Blytheville, AR
Ron Carlson--Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, AZ
Ann Packer--Capitola Book Cafe, Capitola, CA
Isabel Allende--Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
Mahbod Seraji--Kepler's Books, Menlo Park, CA
Lisa See--Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, CA
Meg Waite Clayton--Books Inc., San Francisco, CA
Daniel Handler and Lisa Brown--The Booksmith, San Francisco, CA
Dave Eggers--Green Apple Books, San Francisco, CA
Pico Iyer--Chaucer's Books, Santa Barbara, CA
Laurie R. King--Bookshop, Santa Cruz, CA
Scott Lasser--Explore Booksellers, Aspen, CO
Stephen White--Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO
Kate Niles--Maria's Bookshop, Durango, CO
Ann Haywood Leal--Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT
Florence and Wendell Minor--The Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington Depot, CT
Rick Atkinson--Politics and Prose Bookstore, Washington, DC
Les Standiford--Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL
Robert Macomber--The Muse Book Shop, Deland, FL
David Fulmer--Eagle Eye Book Shop, Decatur, GA
Abraham Verghese--Prairie Lights, Iowa City, IA
Charlie Brandt--Chapter One Bookstore, Ketchum, ID
Luis Alberto Urrea--Anderson's Bookshops, Naperville, IL
Mike Leonard--The Book Stall Chestnut Court, Winnetka, IL
Albert Goldbarth--Watermark Books, Wichita, KS
Wendell Berry--Carmichael's Bookstore, Louisville, KY
Tom Piazza--Octavia Books, New Orleans, LA
Edith Pearlman--Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA
Mameve Medwed--Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.--Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, MA
Simon Winchester--The Bookloft, Great Barrington, MA
Nancy Thayer--Mitchell's Book Corner, Nantucket, MA
Elin Hilderbrand--Nantucket Bookworks, Nantucket, MA
Jeanne Birdsall--Broadside Bookshop, Northampton, MA
Martha Ackmann--Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA
Ward Just--Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, Vineyard Haven, MA
Ron Currie, Jr.--Longfellow Books, Portland, ME
ancy Shaw--Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, MI
Katrina Kittle--Saturn Booksellers, Gaylord, MI
Ann Patchett--Mclean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, MI
Louise Erdrich--Magers & Quinn Booksellers, Minneapolis, MN
Peter Geye--Micawber's Books, St. Paul, MN
Kathleen Finneran--Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO
Barry Moser--Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS
Jack Pendarvis--Square Books, Oxford, MS
Jill McCorkle--Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC
Carrie Ryan--Park Road Books, Charlotte, NC
Laurent Dubois--The Regulator Bookshop, Durham, NC
Lee Smith--Purple Crow Books, Hillsborough, NC
Angela Davis-Gardner--Quail Ridge Books & Music, Raleigh, NC
Ron Rash--City Lights Bookstore, Sylva, NC
Ian Frazier--Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, NJ
Audrey Vernick--Booktowne, Manasquan, NJ
Joan Wickersham--The Toadstool Bookshop, Peterborough, NH
Carmela Ciuraru--Community Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY
Matt Weiland--Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY
Kate Christensen--WORD, Brooklyn, NY
Mick Cochrane--Talking Leaves Books, Buffalo, NY
Caroline Leavitt--McNally Jackson Books, New York, NY
Arthur Nersesian--St. Mark's Bookshop, New York, NY
Francine Prose & Pete Hamill--Strand Bookstore, New York, NY
Jeff Smith--Book Loft German Village, Columbus, OH
Chuck Palahniuk--Powell's Books, Portland, OR
Larry Kane--Chester County Book & Music Company, West Chester, PA
Ann Hood--Island Books, Middletown, RI
Mindy Friddle--Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC
Adam Ross--Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN
Douglas Brinkley--Book People, Austin, TX
Terry Tempest Williams--The King's English Book Shop, Salt Lake City, UT
Howard Frank Mosher--Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, VT
Jon Clinch--Northshire Bookstore, Manchester, VT
Jonathan Evison--Eagle Harbor Book Co., Bainbridge Island, WA
Tom Robbins--Village Books, Bellingham, WA
Timothy Egan--Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA
Stephanie Kallos--Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA
Ivan Doig--University Book Store, Seattle, WA
Lesley Kagen--Next Chapter Bookshop, Mequon, WI
Liam Callanan--Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI"

Happy October!

Happy October to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch

"Chestnut Alley" 
"Kastanien Allee"

October, the "tenth month" according to the old calendar is probably the nicest of the autumn months. Germany celebrates their day of unity, the Catholic church has their harvest festival, the Canadians get Thanksgiving, lots of nice events to celebrate. Enjoy this month with the beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch. One of my favourite pictures of the year, I have always loved chestnuts and when they are ripe I am reminded of the nice time I had collecting them with my boys when they were little.

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

Friday, 29 September 2017

Book Quotes of the Week

"Learn as much by writing as by reading." Lord Acton

"Of all the things which man can do or make here below, by far the most momentous, wonderful, and worthy are the things we call books." Thomas Carlyle

"Finishing a good book is like leaving a good friend." William Feather

"Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading!" Rainer Maria Rilke

"Reading makes me feel like I’ve lived a thousand lives in addition to my own." Arlaina Tibensky

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Atwood, Margaret "The Blind Assassin"

Atwood, Margaret "The Blind Assassin" - 2000

A book within a book within a book. Three stories for the price of one. Sounded good. Plus, it is written by Margaret Atwood. I wanted to read more of her writings ever since I discovered "The Handmaid's Tale". It was worth the wait but I know I won't wait that long to read her next novel.

This novel is a love story. No, it's a science fiction book. Or is it a murder mystery? It's a mystery for sure. We get snippets of the narrator's life through newspaper articles, she is telling us her life as it is today and what it was when she was young. But then there is also the book by her sister in which two lovers meet and tell a third story, this one is definitely science fiction. Anyway, you have the feeling they belong together and it didn't take me that long to find out who was who but it still was terribly exciting.

It is hard to describe the book without giving too much away, so I will just say this:

Margaret Atwood has a certain style where she makes everything mysterious, she can linger on a story in order to build suspense as well as using the most wonderful words and notions in order to make her work beautiful.

Need I say more? I loved the book.

From the back cover:
"The novel opens with these simple, resonant words: 'Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off the bridge.' They are spoken by Iris Chase Griffen, sole surviving descendant of a once rich and influential Ontario family, whose terse account of her sister's death in 1945 is followed by an inquest report proclaiming the death accidental. But just as the reader expects to settle into Laura's story, Atwood introduces a novel-within-a-novel. Entitled The Blind Assassin, it is a science fiction story told by two unnamed lovers who meet in dingy backstreet rooms. When we return to Iris, it is through a 1947 newspaper article announcing the discovery of a sailboat carrying the dead body of her husband, a distinguished industrialist.
What makes this novel Margaret Atwood's strongest and most profoundly entertaining is the way in which the three wonderfully rich stories weave together, gradually revealing through their interplay the secrets surrounding the entire Chase family - and most particularly the fascinating and tangled lives of the two sisters. The Blind Assassin is a brilliant and enthralling book by a writer at the top of their form."

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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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."