Monday 29 April 2019

Burnett, Frances Hodgson "The Secret Garden"

Burnett, Frances Hodgson "The Secret Garden" - 1911

After reading "The Clockmaker's Daughter", I read a review by my faithful blog friend Judy from "Keep the Wisdom" about "The Forgotten Garden" by the same author, Kate Morton.

While discussing that book, I had to reveal that I never read "The Secret Garden" as a child, probably because it was not as popular in Germany as it was in the English-speaking world.

Why that would be the case … I have no idea. It is a sweet book. I know I would have enjoyed it as a child, probably even more than I did now.

It's a story about how important it is for children to love the outdoors, to have access to other children, to be loved. Even if it is just by a little robin.

I totally agree with Martha and Dickon's mother, Susan Sowerby, who says "Two worst things as can happen to a child is never to have his own way - or always to have it". The latter is even worse than the former since there is no reason why you should always give in to a child. They will throw tantrums like a three-year-old even when they're in their nineties. She seems to have her act together anyway. I think I liked her most of all the characters in the novel.

In this story, an arrogant young girl who grew up in India, has to come and live with her uncle and her arrogant young cousin. Only through the discovery of a secret garden, do they manage to grow into lovely young children. Wouldn't it be nice if all children were given this chance?

The only story by Frances Hodgson Burnett that I know is "Little Lord Fauntleroy" because they turned it into a beautiful film and show it on German television every year at Christmas. No need to say that we have it on DVD now so we can watch the non-dubbed, original version.

I also remember seeing an adaptation of "A Little Princess" years and years ago.

Looks like it's time I read both those books, as well.

From the back cover:

"'One of the most delightful and enduring classics of children's literature, The Secret Garden by Victorian author Frances Hodgson Burnett has remained a firm favorite with children the world over ever since it made its first appearance. Initially published as a serial story in 1910 in The American Magazine, it was brought out in novel form in 1911.

The plot centers round Mary Lennox, a young English girl who returns to England from India, having suffered the immense trauma by losing both her parents in a cholera epidemic. However, her memories of her parents are not pleasant, as they were a selfish, neglectful and pleasure-seeking couple. Mary is given to the care of her uncle Archibald Craven, whom she has never met. She travels to his home, Misselthwaite Manor located in the gloomy Yorkshire, a vast change from the sunny and warm climate she was used to. When she arrives, she is a rude, stubborn and given to stormy temper tantrums. However, her nature undergoes a gradual transformation when she learns of the tragedies that have befallen her strict and disciplinarian uncle whom she earlier feared and despised. Once when he's away from home, Mary discovers a charming walled garden which is always kept locked. The mystery deepens when she hears sounds of sobbing from somewhere within her uncle's vast mansion. The kindly servants ignore her queries or pretend they haven't heard, spiking Mary's curiosity.

The Secret Garden appeals to both young and old alike. It has wonderful elements of mystery, spirituality, charming characters and an authentic rendering of childhood emotions and experiences. Commonsense, truth and kindness, compassion and a belief in the essential goodness of human beings lie at the heart of this unforgettable story. It is the best known of Frances Hodgson Burnett's works, though most of us have definitely heard of, if not read, her other novel Little Lord Fauntleroy.

The book has been adapted extensively on stage, film and television and translated into all the world's major languages. In 1991, a Japanese anime version was launched for television in Japan. It remains a popular and beloved story of a child's journey into maturity, and a must-read for every child, parent, teacher and anyone who would enjoy this fascinating glimpse of childhood. One of the most delightful and enduring classics of children's literature, The Secret Garden by Victorian author Frances Hodgson Burnett has remained a firm favorite with children the world over ever since it made its first appearance. Initially published as a serial story in 1910 in The American Magazine, it was brought out in novel form in 1911.'"

Friday 26 April 2019

Book Quotes of the Week

Word cloud made with WordItOut

"The poet can only write the poems; it takes the reader to complete the meaning." Nikki Giovanni

"Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them." Lucy Maud Montgomery

"The good thing about writing books is that you can dream while you are awake." Haruki Murakami

"Comics are a gateway drug to literacy." Art Spiegelman

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 25 April 2019

Bush, George W., Institute "We Are Afghan Women"

Bush, George W., Institute "We Are Afghan Women. Voices of Hope" - 2016

I have read a lot of books about Afghanistan, mostly about women in Afghanistan. And they are all heartbreaking.

In this edition, various women from Afghanistan raise their voices. There are teachers and doctors, girls (and even one guy) that come from the poorest areas in the country but were able to raise up and help their fellow countrywomen. They have a lot in common. Most of them had to flee the country either when the Russians occupied it or when the Taliban took over. Many of them stayed in Pakistan or Iran during a couple of years, some even went to the United States. They all found a job when coming back. Some weave carpets and support their families, others teach other women. They all have the hope that it will get better living in a country where women are regarded as the lowest of the lowest and have nothing to say.

But they have more in common than that. They are all incredibly strong and don't give up. Some had to stop their education three times but followed it up every time they had the chance to continue.

A brilliant account of how women in other parts of the world live. I might never get to a country like that but I will always try to understand what these women are going through and support them in any way I can, even if it's only by writing.

Reading a book like this makes me grateful that I am born and can live in Europe. We might have our own troubles but they are nothing compared to what these people are going through.

I didn't know much about the George W. Bush Institute before I read this book but they are certainly doing a good job in this part of the world.

A very deserving book. A quote that makes you think: "A person has two hands, left and right. In many societies the right is the man and the left hand is the woman. In Afghan society both right and left hand is the man." So true.

From the back cover:

"These are the voices of Afghanistan's women. Hear their inspiring, moving, courageous, and often heartbreaking stories. Discover a compelling portrait of the lives, struggles, and successes of these extraordinarily resilient women.

Afghanistan has been described as 'the worst nation in the world to be a woman'. More than fifty percent of girls who are forced into marriage are sixteen or younger. Too many women live in fear and in many areas, education and employment for women are still condemned. The women featured in We Are Afghan Women are fighting to change all that. From rug weavers to domestic violence counselors to business owners, educators, and activists, these courageous women are charting a new path for themselves, their families, their communities, and their nation. Told in their own voices, their stories vividly capture a country undone by decades of war and now struggling to build a lasting peace.

Meet Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, who ran underground schools for girls until the Taliban fell, and today has established educational centers across Afghanistan to teach women and girls basic literacy. Or Freshta Hazeq, who as a female business owner, has faced death threats, sabotage, and even kidnapping threats against her children. Naheed Farid is the youngest female member of Afghanistan’s parliament. During her campaign, opponents cut Naheed’s face out of campaign posters and her family risked complete ruin, but her husband and father-in-law never wavered, encouraging her to persevere. Here, too are compassionate women such as Masooma Jafari, who started a national midwives association. Her own mother was forced into marriage at age twelve and gave birth to her first child at age thirteen.

With an introduction by former First Lady Laura Bush, We Are Afghan Women chronicles the lives of young and old, daughters and mothers, educated, and those who are still learning. These determined women are defying the odds to lead Afghanistan to a better future. Their stories are a stark reminder that in some corners of the world the struggle continues and that women’s progress in society, business, and politics cannot be taken for granted. Their eloquent words challenge all of us to answer: What does it truly mean to be a woman in the twenty-first century?

Laura Bush is the Chair of the George W. Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative, which strives to empower women through education, healthcare, and economic opportunity. Located in Dallas, Texas, at Southern Methodist University, the Bush Institute at the George W. Bush Presidential Center is a public-policy center dedicated to developing leaders, fostering policy debates and solutions, and taking action. She is a long-time supporter of women’s participation and education in Afghanistan and serves alongside Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani and Secretary Hillary R. Clinton as honorary co-chair of the US Afghan Women’s Council."

Wednesday 24 April 2019

The Classics Club

Through "Words and Peace" I found "The Classics Club".

Their rules are published here:
The Classics Club is a club created to inspire people to read and blog about classic books. There’s no time limit to join and you’re most welcome, as long as you’re willing to sign up to read and write on your blog about 50+ classic books in at most five years.

The club basics (the short version):
* choose 50+ classics

* list them at your blog
* choose a reading completion goal date up to five years in the future and note that date on your classics list of 50+ titles
* e-mail the moderators of this blog ( with your list link and information and it will be posted on the Members Page!
* write about each title on your list as you finish reading it, and link it to your main list
* when you’ve written about every single title, let us know!

Since I love classics, this is just the right club for me to join.

They offer a fantastic list (here) though I think some of the titles are a tad too recent to be called classics. "The Uncommon Reader", by Alan Bennet, for instance, dates from 2007. That's only twelve years ago.

Until now, a classic for me was anything before 1900 though I have adjusted it now. LOL. But I still don't consider anything a classic that is not older than at least fifty years.

So, this is my list. The books are the oldest ones on my TBR list. I hope I will finish them all in the next five years though I am sure I will add more classic books to that list, as well.

1.    Alighieri, Dante "The Divine Comedy" (Divina Commedia) - 1308-20
2.    Staël, Anne-Louise-Germaine de "Corinne: Or Italy" (Corinne ou l'Italie) - 1807
3.    Austen, Jane "Sanditon" - 1817
4.    Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von "Italian Journey aka Letters from Italy" (Italienische Reise) - 1817
5.    Eichendorff, Joseph von "Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts und andere Novellen" (Life of a Good-For-Nothing) - 1826
6.    Stendhal "The Red and the Black" (Le Rouge et le Noir) - 1830 - The Classic Spin 
7.    Gogol, Nikolai (Никола́й Васи́льевич Го́голь, Nikolay Vasilyevich Gogol) "The Overcoat" (Шинель) - 1842
8.    Dumas, Alexandre "The Count of Monte Cristo" (Le comte de Monte-Cristo) - 1844-46
9.    Douglass, Frederick "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave" - 1845
10.    Sand, George "Fadette" (aka Fanchon, the Cricket) (La Petite Fadette) - 1849
11.    Crafts, Hannah "The Bondwoman’s Narrative" - 1855-69
12.    Hawthorne, Nathaniel "The Scarlet Letter" - 1850
13.    Northup, Solomon "Twelve Years a Slave" - 1853 - 240
14.    Keller, Gottfried "Novellen" (Romeo und Julia auf dem Dorfe u.a.) "Novellas" (A Village Romeo and Juliet and others) - 1855/56
15.    Eliot, George "Silas Marner" - 1861
16.    Jacobs, Harriet Ann (Linda Brent) "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" - 1861
17.    Rhoides, Emmanuel (Emmanuel Roidis) "The Curious History of Pope Joan" (Papissa Ioanna) - 1866
18.    Marx, Karl "Das Kapital. Kritik der politischen Ökonomie" (Capital. Critique of Political Economy) - 1867
19.    James, Henry,  "Daisy Miller" - 1879 - The Classic Spin
20.    Twain, Mark "A Tramp Abroad" - 1880
21.    James, Henry "The Europeans" - 1878
22.    Storm, Theodor "The Rider on the White Horse" (Der Schimmelreiter und andere Erzählungen) - 1888
23.    Wells, H. G. "The Time Machine" - 1895
24.    Van Dyke, Henry "The Story of the Other Wise Man" - 1896
25.    Hubbard, Fra Elbert "A Message to Garcia" - 1899 - The Classic Spin
26.    Baum, L. Frank "The Wizard of Oz" - 1900 - The Classic Spin
27.    Gorki, Maxim "The Mother" (Мать/Matj) - 1906/07
28.    Burnett, Frances Hodgson "The Secret Garden" - 1909
29.    Frost, Robert "A Boy’s Will" and "North of Boston" - 1913+1914 - The Classic Spin
30.    Mann, Thomas "A Man and his Dog" (Herr und Hund. Ein Idyll) - 1918
31.    Undset, Sigrid "Kristin Lavransdatter" (Kristin Lavransdattter) - 1920
The Bridal Wreath (Kransen) - 1920
The Mistress of Husaby (aka: The Wife/Husfrue) - 1921
The Cross (Korset) - 1922
32.    Christie, Agatha "Hercule Poirot. The Complete Short Stories" - 1923-61
33.    Martin, Catherine "The Incredible Journey" - 1923
34.    Ford, Ford Maddox "Parade's End" (Tetraology: Some Do Not, No More Parades, A Man Could Stand Up, Last Post) - 1924-28
35.    Mandelstam, Ossip "The Din of Time" (Шум времени/Shum vremeni) - 1925
36.    Bulgakow, Michail "The Master and Margarita" (Мастер и Маргарита) - 1929-39 - The Classic Spin
37.    Cather, Willa "Shadows on the Rock" - 1931
38.    Christie, Agatha "Murder on the Orient Express" (Hercule Poirot #10) - 1934
39.    Elbogen, Ismar; Sterling, Eleonore "Die Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland" [The History of the Jews in Germany] - 1935/66
40.    Rand, Ayn "We the Living" - 1936
41.    Brecht, Bertolt "The Good Person of Szechwan" (Der gute Mensch von Sezuan) - 1938-40
42.    Némirovsky, Irène "La Proie" [The Prey] - 1938
43.    Zweig, Stefan "The World of Yesterday" (Die Welt von Gestern. Erinnerungen eines Europäers) - 1942
44.    Fallada, Hans "Every Man Dies Alone" (Jeder stirbt für sich allein) - 1947
45.    Böll, Heinrich "The Silent Angel" (Der Engel schwieg) - 1949/50
46.    Camus, Albert "The Just Assassins" (Les Justes) - 1949
    Kazantzakis, Nikos "The Last Temptation of Christ" (Ο τελευταίος πειρασμός/O telefteos pirasmos) - 1951
48.    Highsmith, Patricia "The Talented Mr. Ripley" - 1955 - The Classic Spin 
49.    Savage Carlson, Natalie "The Family Under the Bridge" - 1958
50.    Simenon, Georges "Maigret Sets a Trap" (Maigret tend un piège) (Maigret #48) - 1958

The Classic Club tries to instigate us to read those books within five years, so I hope I will have them completed on 31 March 2024.

I read all 50 of those books in May 2023.

And here is a list of all the books I read with the Classics Spin.

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Saramago, José "Blindness"

Saramago, José "Blindness" (Portuguese: O Ensaio sobre a Cegueira) - 1995

This is my second book by this wonderful author. Same as "Cain", this book is totally captivating.

We get no information about the city or even the country where this takes place. However, this is a dystopian novel and they usually could take place anywhere. We never know what will happen if a catastrophe - or in this case an epidemic - strikes us.

In this book, the people go completely mad. Everyone goes blind one after the other and everyone is scared. That doesn't mean they all react in the same way. There are those who stick together and help others and other who live according to the motto "help yourself so God will help you". It wouldn't even be fair to the animals to say they behave like them because animals at least only take what they need.

Both the sentences and the paragraphs in this book are very long, there is hardly a place where you can stop. But that makes it even more compelling, you have the feeling you are stuck in the book just the way the blind people are stuck in their destiny. A good way to emphasize the situation.

None of the characters have a name. They are just called "the first blind man" or "the doctor's wife" and "the girl with the dark glasses". Again, this makes it easier for us to identify with them, I guess. Anyone could be one of the guys or one of the girls.

He definitely makes it easy for us to imagine that this actually could happen. We can try to imagine how it is when you turn blind. And we can feel with the people who not only go blind but lose their life as they knew it until then.

Great novel. Like many dystopian books, a look into humanity or the lack of it.

From the back cover:

"A city is struck by an epidemic of 'white blindness'. The first man to succumb sits in his car, waiting for the light to change. He is taken to an eye doctor, who does not know what to make of the phenomenon - and soon goes blind himself.

The blindness spreads, sparing no one. Authorities confine the blind to a vacant mental hospital secured by armed guards under instructions to shoot anyone trying to escape. Inside, the criminal element among the blind holds the rest captive: food rations are stolen, women are raped. The compound is set ablaze, and the blind escape into what is now a deserted city, strewn with litter and unburied corpses.

The only eyewitness to this nightmare is the doctor's wife, who faked blindness in order to join her husband in the camp. She guides seven strangers through the barren streets. The bonds within this oddly anonymous group - the doctor, the first blind man and his wife, the old man with the black eye patch, the girl with dark glasses, the boy with no mother, and the dog of tears - are as uncanny as the surrounding chaos is harrowing. Told with compassion, humor, and lyricism, Blindness is a stunning exploration of loss and disorientation in the modern world, of man's will to survive against all odds."

We discussed this book in our international online book club in April 2019.

José Saramago "who with parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony continually enables us once again to apprehend an elusory reality" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998.

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 19 April 2019

Book Quotes of the Week

"Do not read good books - life is too short for that - read only the best." Ernest Dimnet

"Reading is an active, imaginative act; it takes work." Khaled Hosseini

"Read more books than status updates. Look into more eyes than screens. Hold more hands than devices. Love more than you judge." Dulce Ruby

"Character, to me, is the life's blood of fiction." Donna Tartt

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 18 April 2019

The Classics Club: The Classics Spin #20

"Words and Peace" is a blog I've been following for a couple of years and I have always found some interesting new books there, especially French ones.

This month, she published a post (The Classics Spin #20) by "The Classics Club" asking us to create a post, before next Monday, Monday 22, and list our choice of any twenty books that remain "to be read" on our Classics Club list.

I didn't have a classics club list so far but that's easy for someone who loves lists, just copy the oldest books from my list and here we are.

1.    Alighieri, Dante "The Divine Comedy" (Divina Commedia) - 1308-20
2.    Staël, Anne-Louise-Germaine de "Corinne: Or Italy" (Corinne ou l'Italie) - 1807
3.    Austen, Jane "Sanditon" - 1817
4.    Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von "Italienische Reise" (Italian Journey aka Letters from Italy) - 1817
5.    Eichendorff, Joseph von "Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts und andere Novellen" (Life of a Good-For-Nothing) - 1826
6.    Stendhal "Le Rouge et le Noir" (The Red and the Black) - 1830 - The Classic Spin #23
7.    Gogol, Nikolai (Никола́й Васи́льевич Го́голь, Nikolay Vasilyevich Gogol) "The Overcoat" (Шинель) - 1842
8.    Dumas, Alexandre "Le comte de Monte-Cristo" (The Count of Monte Cristo) - 1844-46
9.    Douglass, Frederick "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave" - 1845
10.    Sand, George "Fadette" (aka Fanchon, the Cricket) (La Petite Fadette) - 1849
11.    Crafts, Hannah "The Bondwoman’s Narrative" - 1855-69
12.    Hawthorne, Nathaniel "The Scarlet Letter" - 1850
13.    Northup, Solomon "Twelve Years a Slave" - 1853 - 240pp.
14.    Keller, Gottfried "Novellen" (Romeo und Julia auf dem Dorfe u.a.) "Novellas" (A Village Romeo and Juliet and others) - 1855/56
15.    Eliot, George "Silas Marner" (Silas Marner) - 1861
16.    Jacobs, Harriet Ann (Linda Brent) "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" - 1861
17.    Rhoides, Emmanuel (Emmanuel Roidis) "The Curious History of Pope Joan" (Papissa Ioanna) - 1866
18.    Marx, Karl "Das Kapital. Kritik der politischen Ökonomie" (Capital. Critique of Political Economy) - 1867
19.    James, Henry "Daisy Miller" - 1879 - The Classic Spin #20
20.    Twain, Mark "A Tramp Abroad" - 1880

If you want to take up the challenge, here is the post:

"This is your Spin List. You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of the year. Try to challenge yourself. For example, you could list five Classics Club books you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, re-reads, ancients - whatever you choose.)

On Monday 22nd April, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by 31st May, 2019."

I'm not dreading to read any oft hem because I want to read them, so I just put them in chronological order and see which number I will be given.

Needless to say, I am going to join the Classics Club. I love classics. Just will have to put together a reading wish list for my classics.

The number chosen was 19, so I read "Daisy Miller" first. I have added every other book I read afterwards with a link to the spin.

Wednesday 17 April 2019

Jason, David "My Life"

Jason, David "My Life" - 2013

A while ago I found David Jason's book "Only Fools and Stories: From Del Boy to Granville, Pop Larkin to Frost" and learned that he had also written a biography. So, I just had to read it because I'm a huge fan of this wonderful actor.

I was not disappointed. While reading "My Life", you hear David Jason's voice (same as in "Only Fools and Stories"). And what a life it is. He has given us all so much pleasure, he makes you laugh every time, even in his more sinister role as Jack Frost in "A Touch of Frost".

In this biography, he tells us all about his life, from his early years during the war to his beginnings in the school drama club. His life seems as funny as his plays. That doesn't mean, he hasn't had his bad times but he can tell us about them just as lovingly and warm-hearted as about the "lovely jubbly" part. *

If you are a fan of any of his series, you just have to read this. Though I guess, if you are a fan of one of his series, you have seen them all anyway, you can't watch one and not love him. I couldn't even say which one of his series is my favourite, probably "Open All Hours". If you haven't seen one of his shows, start with that one.

No wonder, the queen awarded him a knighthood. Sir David Jason. Totally deserved.

What a nice guy! I hope he will carry on playing for a long long time.

From the back cover:

"Born the son of a Billingsgate market porter at the height of the Second World War, David Jason's early life was spent dodging bombs and bullies, both with impish good timing. Giving up on an unloved career as an electrician, he turned his attention to acting and soon, through a natural talent for making people laugh, found himself working with the leading lights of British comedy in the 60s and 70s: Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Bob Monkhouse and Ronnie Barker.

But it was in 1981, kitted out with a sheepskin jacked and a clapped-out Reliant Regla, that David found the part of the beloved Derek 'Del Boy' Trotter in Only Fools and Horses.

A Touch of Frost ran from 1992 until 2010, winning nine major television awards. The final episode drew in over 8 million viewers.

David's is a touching, funny and warm-hearted story, which charts the course of his incredible six decades at the top of the entertainment business, including an award-winning spell as TV detective Jack Forst and playing a host of film and TV's favourite characters. From shopkeeper to detective inspector, crime-fighter to market trader, who knows where he'll be this time next year.
He ain't finished yet."

* From Wiktionary:
From an advertising slogan for Jubbly, an orange-flavoured soft drink. The actual slogan was Lubbly Jubbly, but became Lovely Jubbly when popularised by the BBC television comedy Only Fools and Horses.

Tuesday 16 April 2019

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Childhood Favourites

"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".

There is no official Top Ten Tuesday anymore and I haven't published any of the lists for ages. But a few of the bloggers still carry on and since I haven't even done half of the topics, I shall also do so from time to time.

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.

Top Ten Childhood Favourites 

Busch, Wilhelm "Max and Moritz" - 1865
Estes, Eleanor "The Hundred Dresses" - 1944
Grimm, Jakob and Wilhelm "Grimm’s Fairy Tales" - 1785-1863
Kästner, Erich "Das doppelte Lottchen" (Lisa and Lottie aka The Parent Trap) - 1949
Lindgren, Astrid "Seacrow Island" - 1964
- "The Six Bullerby Children" - 1947
O'Dell, Scott "Island of the Blue Dolphins" - 1960
Saint-Exupéry, Antoine "The Little Prince" - 1943
Schlinkert, Martha "Winnie im Paradies" - 1966; "Nur Mut, Winnie" - 1966; "Alles dreht sich um Winnie" - 1966 Goodreads
Spyri, Johanna "Heidi" (Heidis Lehr- und Wanderjahre" and "Heidi kann brauchen, was es gelernt hat) - 1880-1881
Twain, Mark "Adventures of Tom Sawyer" - 1876 Goodreads
- "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" - 1885 Goodreads
Webster, Jean "Daddy Longlegs" - 1912

As usual, I didn't stick to my ten but at least it's only eleven authors. 

Monday 15 April 2019

Eschbach, Andreas "One Trillion Dollars"

Eschbach, Andreas "One Trillion Dollars" (German: Eine Billion Dollar) - 2001

This was another book from my TBR pile that had been suggested for our book club ages ago.

The story makes you think about what you could do if you had all the money in the world. What would you do to save the world? It's a tough question and if there is an answer, this book shows how hard it is to find an answer.

While I like the idea of the book and the story as such, I didn't really enjoy the novel very much. There were no likeable characters and the writing itself was not my cup of tea. And I can't even blame a translator because I read it in the original German.

Anyway, not uninteresting but it doesn't entice me to read more books by this author.

From the back cover:

"Yesterday John Fontanelli was just a pizza delivery guy in New York City. One day later he's the richest man in the world. One trillion dollars - one million times one million - $1,000,000,000,000: more money than anyone could imagine. For generations the Vacchis, an old Italian family of lawyers and asset managers, had supervised the fortune as it grew over five hundred years, until one particular date that the benefactor had stipulated in his will. The youngest male descendant would be fated to oversee the fortune for the good of humanity. John relishes his new life of luxury, rubbing elbows with royalty, buying up corporations, fielding a flood of beautiful women - until one day the phone rings, and a mysterious stranger tells the trillionaire that he knows what dirty secrets lie behind the fortune..."

Friday 12 April 2019

Book Quotes of the Week

"No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader." Robert Frost

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." Aldous Huxley 

"I will defend the importance of bedtime stories to my last gasp." J.K. Rowling 

"What isn't said is as important as what is said." Colson Whitehead

Find more book quotes here.

Grass, Günter "Cat and Mouse"

Grass, Günter "Cat and Mouse" (German: Katz und Maus. Danziger Trilogie 2) - 1961

After "The Tin Drum", this is the second book in the Danzig trilogy. Again, we have some young people living in Danzig but the two stories have nothing to do with each other. Plus, the former is a tome, 800+ pages, the second a novella.

However, the writing is as interesting as the first, in the typical Grass style, jumping from one thought to the next, sometimes just fragments, sometimes allusions but always sticking to the story, showing us the looming war, the ever-dominant Hitler and his party that ended and ruined so many lives.

Günter Grass has just a way to make us feel like being there, living through this age of fear and terror, without even describing it, going into the horrible details, they are there, hovering in the background, determining the destiny of everyone involved.

A chilling novel, a gripping book. Günter Grass is certainly one of the greatest German authors.

From the back cover:

"To compensate for his unusually large Adam’s apple - source of both discomfort and distress - fourteen year old Joachim Mahlke turns himself into athlete and ace diver. Soon he is known to his peers and his nation as 'The Great Mahlke'. But to his enemies, he remains a target. He is different and doomed in a country scarred by the war.

Cat and Mouse was first published in 1961, two years after Gunter Grass’ controversial and applauded masterpiece, The Tin Drum. Once again Grass turns his attention on Danzig. With a subtle blend of humour and power, Cat and Mouse ostensibly relates the rise of Mahlke from clown to hero. But Mahlke’s outlandish antics hide the darkness at the heart of a nation torn by Nazi violence, the war, and its aftermath."

Günter Grass "whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.

When visiting Lübeck a couple of years ago, I was happy to be able to visit the house where he lived. You can read about my experience here.

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

Wednesday 10 April 2019

Marshall, Tim "Divided"

Marshall, Tim "Divided: Why We're Living in an Age of Walls" (aka "The Age of Walls. How Barriers Between Nations Are Changing Our World") - 2018

Build bridges - not walls. That is the message of this book.

It combines my main interests, geography, history and politics. I grew up in a country that was divided by a wall and even though I lived on the "free" side of that wall, it had a huge impact on all our lives. Needless to say, I am against all of those walls that are described in this book.

Granted, the author describes many of the problems in this world in about 300 pages.  I doubt that he wants to give the full picture with all the details. But if you have no idea about all the walls being built in this world and think the one in your country is the only one, you can learn a lot from this.

Same as the Berlin Wall, a lot of those borders stem from foreign intervention (interference), sometimes colonies, sometimes other political upheavals. We all know the Chinese Wall, the one in Berlin, the one between the US and Mexico, the one in Israel/Palestine. But how many of us have ever heard about other walls in the Middle East or Africa? Or that there are still walls in Africa? Morocco for instance? Why is Sahrawi not a country? Why are there still walls in Belfast?

Tim Marshall also quotes David Goodhart who in his book "The Road to Somewhere" explains that people today are divided into "Anywheres" and "Somewheres". While the Anywheres usually have left their home town and not only travelled the world but also lived abroad, the Somewheres live within a short distance of their birthplace and are less open to changes. Interesting concept. I suppose, having lived in four different countries, I definitely belong to the former group.

Every chapter is preceded by a quote about freedom and a picture of a wall.

These are my two favourite quotes:
"Choose a leader who will invest in building bridges, not walls. Books, not weapons. Morality, not corruption." Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

"The forces that unite us are intrinsic and greater than the superimposed influences that keep us apart." Kwame Nkrumah

And there are plenty of maps within the chapters to explain where the walls are.

So, this is a great book that helps you understand the divisions in today's world.

From the back cover:

"Tim Marshall, author of the international bestseller Prisoners of Geography, returns to the arena of global affairs, combining keen analysis of current events with world history as he examines the borders, walls, and boundaries that shape our world in book three of his Politics of Place series.

We feel more divided than ever.

This riveting analysis tells you why.

Walls are going up. Nationalism and identity politics are on the rise once more. Thousands of miles of fences and barriers have been erected in the past ten years, and they are redefining our political landscape.

There are many reasons why we erect walls, because we are divided in many ways: wealth, race, religion, politics. In Europe the ruptures of the past decade threaten not only European unity, but in some countries liberal democracy itself. In China, the Party’s need to contain the divisions wrought by capitalism will define the nation’s future. In the USA the rationale for the Mexican border wall taps into the fear that the USA will no longer be a white majority country in the course of this century.

Understanding what has divided us, past and present, is essential to understanding much of what’s going on in the world today. Covering China; the USA; Israel and Palestine; the Middle East; the Indian Subcontinent; Africa; Europe and the UK, bestselling author Tim Marshall presents a gripping and unflinching analysis of the fault lines that will shape our world for years to come."

I definitely want to read his two other books (and any he should write on those subjects in future) of his "Politics of Place" series:

"Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics"

"Worth Dying For: The Power and Politics of Flags"

Monday 8 April 2019

Weir, Alison "Six Tudor Queens: Jane Seymour"

Weir, Alison "Six Tudor Queens: Jane Seymour. The Haunted Queen" - 2018

This was a book about Queen #3 in the series "Six Tudor Queens".

We meet Jane Seymour while Anne Boleyn is still alive, follow her through King Henry's courtship and everything involved, her family wanting her to encourage the King to fall in love with her so they can move higher in society, the other ladies observing what's going on, her own feelings. Alison Weir calls her the "Haunted Queen" and you can understand why this is a good description.

Jane Seymour had initially served Katharine of Aragon whom she loved and always regarded as the "True Queen". When she was forced to leave that household and serve under the new wife of Henry VIII, she did not do that voluntarily. That must have been so hard since those women shared everything.

We know that nobody is certain how those women lived their lives exactly but Alison Weir has a great talent to make us understand how it might have been. We learn so much about the life in their time and we can imagine how it all came to pass.

While reading this, I kept wondering what would have happened, if Jane Seymour had lived, if she hadn't died after giving birth to her first child. Maybe she would have had more male children who would have taken over after Edward died? Maybe Henry VIII would only have had three wives? After all, he is buried beside her.

I also liked how the author explained at the end, why she wrote the book the way she did, why she described Jane Seymour this way and not in a different way.

I'm looking forward to the next book about Henry the VIIIth  fourth wife: Ann of Cleve: "Anna of Kleve, Queen of Secrets"

From the back cover:

"The Woman Haunted By The Fate Of Her Predecessor

Eleven days after the death of Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour is to marry the King.

She has witnessed the danger and deceit that lie behind courtly play, and knows she must bear a son . . . or face ruin. 

Queen Jane must step out of the shadows cast by Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, but, in doing so, can she expose a gentler side to the brutal King?

Jane Seymour
The Third Of Henry's Queens

Her Story

History tells us how she died.

This spellbinding novel explores the life she lived."

Find my reviews of Alison Weir's other books here.

Alison Weir has also written a book about all the wives: "The Six Wives of Henry VIII".

Friday 5 April 2019

Book Quotes of the Week

"Used correctly, a book can transport the reader on an instant mental vacation with no jet lag, TSA, or dysentery!" Todd Kruse 

"Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage." C.S. Lewis

"Read. Everything you can get your hands on. Read until words become your friends. Then when you need to find one, they will jump into your mind, waving their hands for you to pick them. And you can select whichever you like, just like a captain choosing a stickball team." Karen Witemeyer

"Books are like little immortal treats that I get to eat over and over again." 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 4 April 2019

Kidd, Sue Monk "The Invention of Wings"

Kidd, Sue Monk "The Invention of Wings" - 2014

Until now, I only read "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd. That was a book club read and I enjoyed it very much.

Having said that, I enjoyed this book even more. The story is based on the real life of two sisters who, at the beginning of the 19th century, fought not only for the abolition of slavery but also for the equality of women. I had never heard of them but was very impressed with their work.

Growing up in the house of slave owners, growing up with slaves, Sarah and Nina/Angelina Grimké come to despise the way the slaves are treated. They both end up in the North and their story is very powerful. In addition, the author has added the story of Charlotte and Hetty "Handful", a slave woman and her daughter and that way woven all the stories in from the other side. Great combination. Taking turns, Sarah and Handful talk about their lives. It is very different from the life we lead nowadays though we know there are still a lot of women around who don't have the freedom and education we have.

For example, Sarah teaches Handful to read. This also happened in real life. They are both severely punished.

People who still believe that the colour of our skin is the main contributor what defines us, should definitely read this.

I'm not surprised Oprah chose this for her book club. It represents everything she stands for.

Just a brilliant novel.

From the back cover:

"Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world - and it is now the newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection.

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved."

Tuesday 2 April 2019

Cognetti, Paolo "The Eight Mountains"

Cognetti, Paolo "The Eight Mountains" (Italian: Le otto montagne) - 2016

Pietro and Bruno have been friends since childhood. Since Pietro's mother decided it was time to spend the summer in the mountains rather than in Milan and his father took him climbing there, in the Dolomites.

This is a slow-moving book. Not boring, just exactly how you expect time spent in the mountains. A story about the relation between a father and a son and the development of a friendship between two very different boys. Even if the mountains or nature don't interest you, it is a lovely tale of people who want to go back to the ordinary life, a life that is hardly possible nowadays, at least not in the Western world.  A quiet tale by the protagonist who doesn't hide anything.

A beautiful story.

From the back cover:

"The international sensation about the friendship between two young Italian boys from different backgrounds and how their incredibly strong connection evolves, changes, and challenges them throughout their lives.

Pietro is a lonely boy living in Milan. With his parents becoming more distant each day, the only thing the family shares is their love for the Dolomites, the mountains that hug the northeastern border of Italy.

While on vacation at the foot of the mountains, Pietro meets Bruno, an adventurous, spirited local boy. Together they spend many summers exploring the mountain’s meadows and peaks and discover the similarities and differences in their lives, their backgrounds, and their futures. The two boys come to find the true meaning of friendship and camaraderie, even as their divergent paths in life— Bruno’s in the mountains, Pietro’s in cosmopolitan cities across the world—test the strength and meaning of their connection.

A modern Italian masterpiece, The Eight Mountains is a lyrical coming-of-age story about the power of male friendships and the enduring bond between fathers and sons."

Monday 1 April 2019

Happy April

Happy April to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch

"Cherry Blossom Feast"

April showers bring forth May flowers. I think we all know that saying. And we also all know that there usually is quite a bit of rain in April.
So, let's hope we'll have nice flowers in May. 

April used to have just 29 days, so that might have resulted in fewer rainy days. Ha! I doubt it. 

The Saxons used to call it The Anglo-Saxons called April ēastre-monaþ,
ēastre resulting in our word for Easter. 

Daylight Savings Time begins - although, the EU has voted to abolish this.
I hope they put it into effect as planned. 

The flower of the month is the Sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) which stands for departure, probably because winter is gone?
And because it blooms constantly, it stood for lasting pleasure in
Victorian England. 

It's a climbing plant, and my parents used to grow it all along their garden fence. So many beautiful colours and the scent is just delicious. 

Enjoy this month with this beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch.

You can find many more wonderful pictures on their website here.