Friday 28 February 2014

Book Quotes of the Week

"If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask  him what books he reads." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else." Neil Gaiman

"You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me." C.S. Lewis

"A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exist, a life-rat and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. On a cold rainy island, they are the only sheltered public spaces where you are not a consumer, but a citizen instead." Caitlin Moran, "The Book Habit"

"If I'm going to be stranded, I hope it's inside a bookstore." Tere Arigo aka Thresca

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Joyce, James "Ulysses"

Joyce, James "Ulysses" - 1922 

I loved the writing but the story was quite overwhelming despite reading "The Odyssey" first which everyone recommends and I would, too. Having a lot of explanations helped but if you generally don't like classics very much, I wouldn't start with this one.

Still, this is the most difficult book I have ever read. It is hard to follow the stream of consciousness, actually it is hard to follow the stream at all. A lot of books are easier once you get into them, not this one. I had the feeling with every chapter it got more confusing.

As in Odyssey we have three parts: The Telemachiad, The Odyssey and The Nostos (Coming Home). In the Telemachiad, you can still follow the teacher Stephen Dedalus in his classroom and understand what he is trying to teach. Then all, of a sudden, the story changes and you encounter the protagonist of the story, Leopold Bloom. We are supposed to follow him around for the day. And follow we do but we don't always have an idea where this is guiding us. Starting at the breakfast table, we attend a funeral, go to a restaurant and end up in the middle of a play.

The best example why we need punctuation is the last paragraph where Bloom's wife Molly tells us her thoughts about her life in general and her marriage to Leopold in particular. Over forty pages and no punctuation. At all. No comma. No bull stop. No paragraph.  You can't even take a break.

However, the longer I distance myself from this novel, the more it makes sense and the bigger an impact does it have on me. I am glad I read it.

If you still are in doubt, consider this quote by William Faulkner:
"You should approach Joyce's Ulysses as the illiterate Baptist preacher approaches the Old Testament: with faith."

From the back cover:

"For Joyce, literature 'is the eternal affirmation of the spirit of man'. Written between 1914 and 1921, Ulysses has survived bowdlerization, legal action and bitter controversy. An undisputed modernist classic, its ceaseless verbal inventiveness and astonishing wide-ranging allusions confirms its standing as an imperishable monument to the human condition. Declan Kiberd says in his introduction that Ulysses is 'an endlessly open book of utopian epiphanies. It holds a mirror up to the colonial capital that was Dublin on 16 June 1904, but it also offers redemptive glimpses of a future world which might be made over in terms of those utopian moments.'"

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten REWIND! Top Ten Most Memorable Secondary Characters

"Top Ten Tuesday" is an original feature/weekly meme created on the blog "The Broke and the Bookish". This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at "The Broke and the Bookish". Since I am just as fond of them as they are, I jump at the chance to share my lists with them! Have a look at their page, there are lots of other bloggers who share their lists here.

February 25: Top Ten Tuesday REWIND! (Pick from previous topics that you want to do again or may have missed)

As I have only joined this less than half a year ago, there are a lot of subjects I have missed. Therefore, I have chosen the following subject:
August 27: Top Ten Most Memorable Secondary Characters (originally done May 2011)

Alcott, Louisa May "Little Women" - Theodore "Laurie" Laurence
Austen, Jane "Emma" - Harriet Smith
Eliot, George "Middlemarch" - Fred Vincy
Frazier, Charles "Cold Mountain" - Ruby Thewes
Hislop, Victoria "The Return" - Miguel
Kingsolver, Barbara "The Lacuna" - Frida Kahlo
Lee, Harper "To Kill a Mockingbird" - Jem Finch
Steinbeck, John "The Grapes of Wrath" - Rose of Sharon Joad Rivers
Stowe, Harriet Beecher "Uncle Tom's Cabin" - Eliza
Tolstoy, Leonid "War and Peace" - Andrei Nikolayevich Bolkonsky

Monday 24 February 2014

Eggers, Dave "The Circle"

Eggers, Dave "The Circle" - 2013

Ever wonder how 1984 goes on in 1985 up to today. Read this book. We all know about it, we are on Facebook, Google+, read Blogs etc. There are thousands of different kinds of information about us out there.

To start with my review, this is not going to be my favourite dystopian novel, that is still and probably will be for quite a while "The Handmaid’s Tale". "The Circle" does have its points, though, and maybe will be seen differently in the not so far future. It is, however, a reflection of the fears we have in our digital age. "Nineteen Eighty-Four", was worried about too much transparency already, whatever George Orwell feared has happened in a similar if not quite so bad way, we are transparent, even if we don't sign up with Facebook, Google+, Whatsapp or whatever social network we might prefer.

The book is written quite simple and you can read it in no time, maybe the author wanted to reach a wide readership which I don't blame him for but some of the characters could have been a little more three-dimensional, the plot a little more varied, with a little more suspension.

Granted, the slogan "Secrets are Lies. Sharing is Caring. Privacy is Theft." is catching and a lot of the "activities" (like "smiles" and "frowns" sound awfully familiar but I still think we are not there where the author wants us to go. And I doubt we ever will.

Not a bad read, a good idea, certainly an idea we should follow up but I'm not sure whether this is the right approach. I am sure a lot of people will agree with the worries of this book but it's a little more sci-fi than dystopian for my liking. I am sure the author will get a good movie deal for this.

From the back cover:

"The Circle is the exhilarating new novel from Dave Eggers, best-selling author of 'A Hologram for the King', a finalist for the National Book Award.

When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime.
The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America - even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge."

Saturday 22 February 2014

Roth, Philip "Zuckerman Unbound"

Roth, Philip "Zuckerman Unbound" - 1981

I had read the first Zuckerman story "The Ghost Writer" not that long ago and found the story fascinating. Partly autobiographical, partly alternate history, love and war, a perfect combination of all those topics and a very challenging but also entertaining read.

I therefore had to read how it goes on with our friend Zuckerman. I was a little disappointed. Not about the writing, not about the story as such, but that so much time had passed between the first and the second book. Not just many years but a lot of things happened during that time to the protagonist. The author fills us in on the major parts that happens but you still have the feeling that something is missing. As if you meet an old school friend after decades and don't really know who he is anymore.

Still, the story is as interesting and forthcoming as the first one. Nathan Zuckerman has more or less developed into the writer we expected him to become, his private life certainly leaves nothing wanting.

From the back cover: "The sensationalizing sixties are coming to an end, and even writing a novel can make you a star. The writer Nathan Zuckerman publishes his fourth book, an aggressive, abrasive, and comically erotic novel entitled Carnovsky, and all at once he is on the cover of Life, one of the decade's most notorious celebrities.

This is the same Nathan Zuckerman who in Philip Roth's much praised The Ghost Writer was the dedicated young apprentice drawing sustenance from the great books and the integrity of their authors. Now in his mid-thirties, Zuckerman, a would-be recluse despite his fame, ventures out on the streets of Manhattan, and not only is he assumed to be his own fictional satyr, Gilbert Carnovsky ("Hey, you do all that stuff in that book?"), but he also finds himself the target of admirers, admonishers, advisers, and would-be literary critics. The recent murders of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., lead an unsettled Nathan Zuckerman to wonder if "target" may be more than a figure of speech.

Yet, streetcorner recognition and media notoriety are the least disturbing consequences of writing Carnovsky. Against his best interests, the newly renowned novelist retreats from his oldest friends, breaks his marriage to a virtuous woman, and damages, perhaps irreparably, his affectionate connection to his younger brother and his family. Even when finally he lives out the fantasies of his fans and enjoys an exhilarating night with the beautiful and worldly film star Caesara O'Shea (a rather more capable celebrity), he is dismayed the following morning by the caliber of the competition up in the erotic big leagues.

In some of the novel's funniest episodes Zuckerman endures the blandishments of another New Jersey boy who has briefly achieved his own moment of stardom. He is the broken and resentful fan Alvin Pepler, in the fifties a national celebrity on the TV quiz show "Smart Money." Thrust back into obscurity when headlined scandals forced the quiz show off the air, Pepler now attaches himself to Zuckerman and won't let go--an "Angel of Manic Delights" to the amused novelist (who momentarily sees him as his "pop self"), and yet also the likely source of a demonic threat.

But the surprise that fate finally delivers is more devilish than any cooked up by Alvin Pepler, or even by Zuckerman's imagination. In the coronary-care unit of a Miami Hospital, Nathan's father bestows upon his older son not a blessing but what seems to be a curse. And, in an astonishingly bitter final turn, a confrontation with his brother opens the way for the novelist's deep and painful understanding of the deathblow that Carnovsky has dealt to his own past."

Philip Roth received the Man Booker International Prize in 2011.

Friday 21 February 2014

Book Quotes of the Week

"Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood." John Green

"For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die." Anne Lamott 

"I am simply a book drunkard." Lucy Maud Montgomery

"Book lovers will understand me and they will know too that part of the pleasure of a library lies in its very existence." Jan Morris

"Second hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack." Virginia Woolf 

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 20 February 2014

Collins, Suzanne "The Hunger Games"

Collins, Suzanne "The Hunger Games" - 2008 

I don't think I would have ever read this if it hadn't been for my facebook migraine group. I like dystopian novels but I think this had just too much hype.

It was more or less as I expected, a novel more directed at young people who enjoy reading about a different kind of world. Not to compare with "Nineteen Eighty-Four", "Brave New World",  "Fahrenheit 451", "The Handmaid’s Tale". We find in each of these four brilliant dystopian novels the fear of a different generation, explained through their tale. I don't think "The Hunger Games" quite reach that goal, it's probably more written to get a good movie deal and I think the author was successful with that.

From the back cover:

"In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love."

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Austen, Jane "Pride & Prejudice"

Austen, Jane "Pride & Prejudice" - 1813
The Motherhood and Jane Austen Book Club

I had intended to reread all of Jane Austen's books this year. Then I came across this blog and joined the challenge to read and discuss Jane Austen's novels with a view of the mothers in the stories.

The first one was one "Pride & Prejudice" which I have already reviewed here.

If you have not read this novel, I refer you to that more general review because this one will contain spoilers.

Mothers: Mrs. Bennet, Lady Lucas, Mrs. Gardiner, Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Mothers that are not mentioned: Mrs. Darcy, Mrs. Bingley, Mrs. Collins

There are several mothers in this novel, some take a more prominent part than others. And then there are some that are not mentioned at all but who also contributed to the novel in a way.

Mrs. Bennet
Mrs. Bennet is one of the main characters next to the sisters Elizabeth and Jane and their love interests George Bingley and Fitzwilliam Darcy.

She got married young, her husband married her for her beauty more than anything and now all that is left is a silly woman who has only one goal in life: marrying her daughters to a rich husband. The house and all the property of Mr. Bennet is entailed which means it cannot be passed on to any girls in the family. Since the Bennet's have five daughter and no son, the heir to the estate is a Mr. Collins, a second cousin of Mr. Bennet. We see how bad this can be in the end for the girls when we read "Sense & Sensibility" and look at the Dashwood sisters or "Emma" in regard to Miss Bates, we know how hard a life they must lead.

Still, we have to see her in connection with her time. I can see the necessity to get your daughters married to someone who can support them in life. There was no other way at the time, at least not for women with that sort of social standing. But it could and should be done with a little more diplomacy which seems to be an alien word for Mrs. Bennet.

Mrs. Bennet has one favourite, Lydia, the youngest, who is very much like herself, silly, interested only in men and not thinking what her comments and behaviour might to do her reputation and thereby her chances of marrying well. She ruins Jane's chances with Mr. Bingley and contributes to the break with Mr. Collins by trying to push him on Elizabeth. If it wasn't for her, the whole story would be quite different. Without her, Lydia would not have gone to Brighton and would have been safe from Mr. Wickham. She admires Jane for her beauty but that is all, she doesn't seem to care much for the other girls, Elizabeth, Mary or Kitty.

It is very difficult for the girls, especially Jane and Elizabeth, to go out with their mother in public as she embarrasses them everywhere.

But we have to see her in connection with her time.

Lady Lucas
We don't know much about Lady Lucas but a little about her daughters Maria and, even more, Charlotte who is 27 years old. They have more siblings and the girls are supposed to marry well enough. We do not hear this but we can imagine that she is encouraging her daughter Charlotte to accept Mr. Collins' proposal so she will be well looked after. She is probably not as aggressive as Mrs. Bennet, otherwise we'd hear more about her. Charlotte comments that she has no prospects and all she wants is a comfortable home. This she can achieve through her marriage to Mr. Collins and she is happy about that.

Mrs. Gardiner
Mr. Edward Gardiner of Gracechurch Street is Mrs. Bennet's brother. He and his young wife have four children. We can imagine that his wife is close to the age of the Bennet girls than to Mrs. Bennet, therefore she invites the girls around to their house (Jane) and on holidays (Elizabeth). She is a good friend, almost like an older sister, to the Bennet girls. We don't know much about her own children but we can imagine that she is a good mother as she is a better mother to her nieces than their own mother is.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Lady Catherine is a sister to Mr. Darcy's mother and hence his aunt. She has a daughter of her own, Miss Anne de Bourgh who seems to be of a sickly nature. But, having met Lady Catherine, we can also imagine that she is intimidated by her mother who both dotes on her but always is the one who thinks she knows better, she is better than everyone else. Having to grow up with a mother like that cannot be easy, no matter how much money you can expect to inherit. Other than the Bennet estate, the wealth of Lady Catherine is not entailed, so her daughter is her only heiress. Lady Catherine thinks she rules the world and can make her nephew marry her daughter ... and she might have succeeded with a more gullible nephew or someone who would have needed her money more.

Mrs. Darcy
We know of Mr. Darcy's mother that her name was Anne Fitzwilliam before she got married and that she is a sister of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. She dies before her husband who leaves Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and his sister Georgiana after his death. We don't know anything about her as that, according to Lady Catherine, it was her dearest wish, that her son marry her niece Anne.

Mrs. Bingley
Again, we do not know a lot about Mrs. Bingley other than that she had three children, Charles, Louisa (who is married to Mr. Hurst) and Caroline, the youngest. We can only guess that she indulged/spoiled her dauthers as they seem to be so much different from her son but that might have to do with the different roles of men and women at the time.

Mrs. Collins
Another mother of an important character in the novel that we hear nothing about. Mr. Collins must have had a mother but we only hear that he has just lost his father in a letter to Mr. Bennet. Given his talkative nature, we can only conclude that Mr. Collins was not very close to his mother and/or that she must have been as simple as Mrs. Bennet.

All in all, it was a great idea to reread the novel and to discuss it with other mothers and share all our ideas about this wonderful novel.

I read a lot of novels by or about Jane Austen. Find a link to all my reviews here.

Other Jane Austen novels I have read with regard to Motherhood:
"Emma" - 1816
"Mansfield Park" - 1814
"Northanger Abbey" - 1818
"Persuasion" - 1817
"Pride & Prejudice" - 1813
"Sense & Sensibility" - 1811

See more comments on my ThrowbackThursday post in 2022.

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Worlds I'd Never Want To Live In

"Top Ten Tuesday" is an original feature/weekly meme created on the blog "The Broke and the Bookish". This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at "The Broke and the Bookish". Since I am just as fond of them as they are, I jump at the chance to share my lists with them! Have a look at their page, there are lots of other bloggers who share their lists here.

January 28: Top Ten Worlds I'd Never Want To Live In OR (since some of you might not read stuff with different worlds) Top Ten Characters I'd NEVER Want To Trade Places With

I love reading dystopian novels but I certainly would not want to live in any of the places described there. Here are some of my favourite dystopian novels:

Atwood, Margaret "The Handmaid’s Tale" - 1985
Bradbury, Ray "Fahrenheit 451" - 1953
Huxley, Aldous "Brave New World" - 1931
Orwell, George "Nineteen Eighty-Four" - 1949
Pausewang, Gudrun "The Last Children" (Die letzten Kinder von Schewenborn oder … sieht so unsere Zukunft aus?) - 1983
Stroyar, J.N. "The Children's War" and "A Change of Regime

Then there are real life countries, past and presents where I wouldn't want to live:

Any place during the Nazi Regime:
Becker, Jurek "Jacob the Liar" (Jakob der Lügner) - 1969
Kertész, Imre "Fateless" or "Fatelessness" (Sorstalanság) - 1975
Wiesel, Elie "Night" (La Nuit/Un di Velt Hot Geshvign) - 1958

I think, today, one of the countries I would not wish to live in today would be North Korea:
Johnson, Adam "The Orphan Master's Son" - 2012

I posted this originally on January 28 but somehow this blog entry disappeared. I have no idea how, maybe I deleted it by mistake (good thing I keep a copy). I apologize to anyone who was following this particular entry.

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Reasons I Love Being A Blogger/Reader

"Top Ten Tuesday" is an original feature/weekly meme created on the blog "The Broke and the Bookish". This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at "The Broke and the Bookish". Since I am just as fond of them as they are, I jump at the chance to share my lists with them! Have a look at their page, there are lots of other bloggers who share their lists here.

February 18: Top Ten Reasons I Love Being A Blogger/Reader
  1.     I can learn.
  2.     I can travel the world.
  3.     I can time travel.
  4.     I can live other peoples' lives.
  5.     Reading helps with my imagination and creativeness.
  6.     I can forget about personal problems or the book even helps me solving them.
  7.     I can learn other languages better if I read in those languages.
  8.     I can find friends with similar interests, I always have a topic to talk about..
  9.     Reading brings memories.
  10.     I am never bored.
I could go on and on and find a hundred reasons, a thousand reasons. I just love reading.
And yes, I was that kid that was excited when the teacher told us to read silently. Happened far too rarely ...

Monday 17 February 2014

Mankell, Henning "Daniel"

Mankell, Henning "Daniel" (Swedish: Vindens son) - 2000

A non-crime fiction novel by a crime author, well, an almost non-crime novel. But one that doesn't focus on the crime.

This is the story about the South African boy Molo who lives in the late 19th century. When his parents get killed (by white people, of course), a Swedish biologist gives him the name Daniel, takes him back home and tries to "adopt" him which in his case means he takes him to exhibitions and lets other scientists measure him, draw him, use him for their curiosity.

The boy is completely homesick. Nobody really cares for him and he tries to get back home.

Not a bad story but I expected it to be more about Africa than Europe. However, the story captures you, the boy is described in a way that you cannot neglect his wishes. It is easy to understand why he doesn't feel at home in this cold country where everything is forbidden that used to be normal in his old life. A dark story, but seeing how people in 19th century Sweden lived was quite interesting, as well. Let's hope that we all evolved from that.

The various translators didn't seem to agree on the title, as happens very often. While the French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Finnish versions keep the original title (Son of the Wind), the Portuguese call it simply "The Antelopes" and the Germans and Russians choose "The Red Antelope", the English selected the title "Daniel".

From the back cover:

"In 1878, aspiring entomologist Hans Bengler travels to the Kalahari Desert in hopes of making a name for himself by discovering a previously unknown insect or two. There he encounters a boy named Molo, an orphan whose family has been killed by European colonists. Bengler 'civilizes' the boy by rechristening him Daniel, teaching him to pray to the Christian god, and finally bringing him home to Sweden. The boy is bewildered and awed by the new land, cut off from his culture and the spirits of his family, and Bengler finds that raising a child across a great cultural divide is more difficult than he imagined. A psychological drama of one boy’s struggle to find his place in a new land far from home, Daniel is a compelling novel for our modern globalized world."

Friday 14 February 2014

Book Quotes of the Week

"He who loveth a book will never want for a faithful friend, a wholesome counselor, a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter." Isaac Barrow

"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry." Emily Dickinson 

"The love of my life ever since I was old enough to read. There's nothing better than a nice book on a rainy day." Niko Geyer

"Books had shown me, however, that all people everywhere wanted their lives to have purpose and meaning. This longing was universal." Dean Koontz, Innocence

"Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it." C.S. Lewis

"Old books exert a strange fascination in me, their smell, their feel, their history, wondering who might have owned them, how they lived, what they felt." Lauren Willig

Find more book quotes here.

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Trivizas, Eugene "The Three Little Wolves and The Big Bad Pig"

Trivizas, Eugene "The Three Little Wolves and The Big Bad Pig" - 1997

If you have read and enjoyed "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs" by Jon Scieszka with your kids, you definitely should try this book, as well.

As the title already suggests, the wolves are little and the pig is bad, so the whole story is just the opposite from the usual fairy tale. It shows kids how every story can have two sides and how you can understand every story differently.

The start is the same, the wolves want to buy a good house and the pig destroys them. Only, the wolves are clever and build their houses from bricks and concrete but the pig comes with a sledgehammer and dynamite. Only when they build a house form flowers and the pig smells the lovely smell, does he stop pursuing them.

We could also say, this is a "Make Love Not War" story for children, showing them that being nice to each other is better than fighting.

From the back cover:

"When it comes time for the three little wolves to go out into the world and build themselves a house, their mother warns them to beware the big bad pig. But the little wolves' increasingly sturdy dwellings are no match for the persistent porker, who has more up his sleeve than huffing and puffing. It takes a chance encounter with a flamingo pushing a wheelbarrow full of flowers to provide a surprising and satisfying solution to the little wolves' housing crisis. 

Eugene Trivizas's hilarious text and Helen Oxenbury's enchanting watercolors have made this delightfully skewed version of the traditional tale a contemporary classic.

Monday 10 February 2014

Droste-Hülshoff, Annette von "The Jew's Beech"

Droste-Hülshoff, Annette von "The Jew's Beech" (German: Die Judenbuche) - 1842

Annette von Droste-Hülshoff is probably to Germany what Jane Austen is to Great Britain, the most famous female author of the 19th century. She is mostly known for her poetry but has also written a few novellas and short story. She used to be on the 20 DM bill in Germany once, just to show how important she is.

The novel is an easy read, it's short and read by students of the 8th or 9th grade in Germany. It is based on the true story of a murder, actually two murders but both the story before as well as after the act are fictional. An Intriguing account, not just about the crime itself but also about life in Germany or Middle Europe at the time which we can compare to life in other countries at the time as well as life today.

The language is as can be expected by a poet, very poetical. There is symbolism in the tale and a lot of wisdom.

This is a good read for someone interested in classic and international literature.

From the back cover:

"Based on a true story, this haunting tale centers on two brutal murders, the first of a local forester and the second of a Jewish moneylender near a beech tree, and the impact these events have on the life of Friedrich Mergel, a herdsman with a turbulent family history. A prototype of the murder mystery and a thoughtful examination of village society, this intriguing novella contains hints of the Gothic and the uncanny, including ominous thunderstorms, mysterious disappearances, eerie doppelgangers and grizzly discoveries, as well as a famously ambiguous climax."

If you read German and are interested in the author's life, I recommend "Das Spiegelbild" [The Mirror Image] by Irina Korschunow.

Friday 7 February 2014

Book Quotes of the Week

"Hominem unius libri timeo / Beware the man of one book." St. Thomas Aquinas

"We collect books in the belief that we are preserving them when in fact it is the books that preserve their collector." Walter Benjamin

"Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow." Anthony J. D'Angelo

"There are some themes, some subjects too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children's book." Philip Pullman

"In my world there would be as many public libraries as there are Starbucks." Henry Rollins

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 6 February 2014

Pamuk, Orhan "The White Castle"

Pamuk, Orhan "The White Castle" (Turkish: Beyaz Kale) - 1985 

Orhan Pamuk belongs to my favourite authors. I have read quite a few of his books already, my reviews you can find here.

This novel is as intriguing as "My Name is Red" which was the first Pamuk novel I read and which made me fall in love with his writing.

The author transports us back into the Venice and Istanbul/Constantinople of the 17th century. His tale is about two men who are as different and yet as similar as possible to each other who come from the two different parts of the world. We learn about the differences between the Orient and the Occident at the time but also about their common goals, about man's goals through the ages.

This is the story about a Venetian who gets captured and transported to Turkey where he becomes the slave of a man who could be his identical twin.

We discover a lot about the different characters of the two men as well as the different characters of men leading their lives in the two countries. The characters not only change knowledge but also memories and ideas. They fight together for the future.

If you are interested in Turkey and its Ottoman background, this novel is a must. If you like to read entertaining stories, this is also one of the greatest you might come across for quite a while. This novel was written quite a while before "My Name is Red" and there are similarities between the two. So, if you have read this one, carry on with the other.

What I like most about Pamuk's writings is that he doesn't just tell us about his part of the world, he also makes us think about ourselves and what our goals and meaning in life is. Perhaps that is what draws me most to the literature of this master.

From the back cover:

"From a Turkish writer who has been compared with Borges, Nabokov, and DeLillo comes a dazzling novel that is at once a captivating work of historical fiction and a sinuous treatise on the enigma of identity and the relations between East and West. In the 17th century, a young Italian scholar sailing from Venice to Naples is taken prisoner and delivered to Constantinople. There he falls into the custody of a scholar known as Hoja -- "master" -- a man who is his exact double. In the years that follow, the slave instructs his master in Western science and technology, from medicine to pyrotechnics. But Hoja wants to know more: why he and his captive are the persons they are and whether, given knowledge of each other's most intimate secrets, they could actually exchange identities. Set in a world of magnificent scholarship and terrifying savagery, The White Castle is a colorful and intricately patterned triumph of the imagination."

Orhan Pamuk "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006.

Orhan Pamuk received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 2005.

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 3 February 2014

Mathis, Ayana "The Twelve Tribes of Hattie"

Mathis, Ayana "The Twelve Tribes of Hattie" - 2013

Another book I picked up and then found it was also an Oprah selection.

I liked the writing, very interesting stories, the life of the children is described in a compelling way.

However, I would have liked to hear more about the different characters. The whole book is more like a collection of short stories and most of the characters are never heard of again after their chapter ends.

None of the characters were very likeable. But, in their defence, they all had a hard life, were born into one where they had no chance to improve it and knew that, as well. I don't know how we would react if a life like that was given to us. But, even if they were not very likeable, their stories are heartbreaking and I think they might have become nicer, better people, had they been given a chance.

All in all, not my favourite book but a good read.

From the back cover: "Fifteen years old and blazing with the hope of a better life, Hattie Shepherd fled the horror of the American South on a dawn train bound for Philadelphia.
Hattie’s is a tale of strength, of resilience and heartbreak that spans six decades. Her American dream is shattered time and again: a husband who lies and cheats and nine children raised in a cramped little house that was only ever supposed to be temporary.
She keeps the children alive with sheer will and not an ounce of the affection they crave. She knows they don’t think her a kind woman — but how could they understand that all the love she had was used up in feeding them and clothing them.
How do you prepare your children for a world you know is cruel?
The lives of this unforgettable family form a searing portrait of twentieth century America. From the revivalist tents of Alabama to Vietnam, to the black middle-class enclave in the heart of the city, to a filthy bar in the ghetto, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is an extraordinary, distinctive novel about the guilt, sacrifice, responsibility and heartbreak that are an intrinsic part of ferocious love."