Friday 31 July 2020

Book Quotes of the Week

"How much can we ever know about the love and pain in another heart? How much can we hope to understand those who have suffered deeper anguish, greater deprivation, and more crushing disappointments than we ourselves have known?" Orhan Pamuk, Snow
I doubt that we'll ever know everything but if we try, really, really try, we might get close to understanding others.

Theodore Roosevelt read an average of one book per day. Even on days when he was busy being the President.
And then there are so-called presidents who never read anything. ☹

"Sometimes I think heaven must be one continuous unexhausted reading." Virginia Woolf

Not just sometimes ...

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 30 July 2020

Russell, Helen "The Year of Living Danishly"

Russell, Helen "The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country" - 2015

When I started reading the book, I thought, oh, no, not another one of those travel books where some naïve foreigner starts living abroad and gets everything wrong. Because that's what it looked like over the first couple of chapters. But - Helen Russell finds a way out of it and describes in a very humorous way how lovely the little country in Scandinavia really is.

While she settles in her little house in "Sticksville-on-Sea" with "Lego Man" with some outings into "The Big Town", she tries to find out what makes Danish people so happy. Especially looking at the kind of taxes they pay. But the secret might just be that, the Scandinavians have found a way to make people more equal, to give everyone a safe and secure life. They don't have to worry about health insurance, education for their children, retirement, the state and the taxes they pay take care of that. A happy socialism, if you want.

She befriends some neighbours - which can be difficult sometimes and is made more complicated for her because they arrive in January when everyone has gone into hibernation and learns about Danish life through interviews with specialists and the "little man in the street". And she notices, how much calmer life in rural Denmark is as opposed to busy London. Something I could have told her before. LOL

While she tries to not give any big hints about her whereabouts, like not naming the names of towns but referring to them with nicknames, one can easily guess though what she is talking about, especially if you've been to Denmark and included a trip to Legoland. You probably have been there, as well.

I have Scandinavian friends and while a lot of them tend to be a little quieter, like explained by the author, most of them seem very content and happy to me. So, I think there might be something to the hygge feeling described. I did like this book and will try to read more by her. Because, even though she had only planned to stay for a year, she is still there after almost a decade. That speaks for itself.

Oh, and there is one more funny note when she celebrates Christmas with her neighbours:
They are assured that "most Christmas celebrations tend to be restricted to 'jumping off the sofa at midnight, then going outside to look at the fireworks, then watching a black-and-white film of an old lady being brought food by her butler." Apparently, nobody knows about the film but I can explain that. The film is only 18 minutes long and is based on a play written by Lauri Wylie. It's called "Dinner for One". There are only two characters, Miss Sophie and her butler, portrayed by British comedians May Warden and Freddie Frinton. In 1962, German entertainer Peter Frankenfeld watched the sketch in Blackpool and persuaded the two of them to come to Germany and film it there. It has been on German TV every New Year's Eve since then. From there, it made its way into Scandinavia and many other European countries, though not into the United Kingdom. And, as her neighbours pointed out so eagerly: It's tradition!

If you are interested in a funny little story, watch it here:

And if you haven't been to Denmark, put it on your bucket list.

From the back cover:

"Given the opportunity of a new life in rural Jutland, Helen Russell discovered a startling statistic: Denmark, often thought of as a land of long dark winters, cured herring, Lego and pastries, is the happiest place on earth.

What is the secret? Helen decides there is only one way to find out: she will give herself a year, trying to uncover the formula for Danish happiness.

From childcare, education, food and interior design to SAD and taxes, The Year of Living Danishly records a funny, poignant journey, showing us where the Danes get it right, what they get wrong, and how we might all live a little more Danishly ourselves."

Wednesday 29 July 2020

The Classic Meme 2.0 - July 2020

Apparently, when the Classics Club came into being. A monthly meme was devised to bring clubbers together to chat about classics. New questions were posted from 2012 to 2016 and then again in 2018 to give clubbers an opportunity to talk about literature together. You could write a blog post and leave the link or simply put your thoughts in the comments.

Now, they have revived that idea and the first meme for this month is:

Which classic author have you read more than one, but not all, of their books and which of their other books would you want to read in the future?

This is an easy one for me. The author would be Charles Dickens. I really like him but haven’t read enough of his novels, yet.

Dickens, Charles 
- "A Christmas Carol"
- "Bleak House
- "David Copperfield  
- "Great Expectations
- "Hard Times
- "Little Dorrit"
- "Oliver Twist
- "A Tale of Two Cities"
- "The Pickwick Papers

Ideally, I want to read all of his books but these would be on my list for "next":

- "Barnaby Rudge"
- "Dombey and Son"
- "Edwin Drood
- "Martin Chuzzlewit"
- "Nicholas Nickleby"
- "The Old Curiosity Shop" (on my TBR pile)
- "Our Mutual Friend"

Here is a link to the questions that have been asked so far.

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Debut Books

"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".

It is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

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.


This week we have a "freebie week". We have to come up with our topic. So, I've chosen one from the many I have missed in the past and that's:

Top Ten Debut Books

I thought this sounded like an interesting topic. Have authors started to be just brilliant and then carried on or have they gotten better or worse over time? I think every reader has to decide that for themselves. The debut novels are not necessarily my favourite novels by these authors. I have added those in brackets. I also couldn't list all of my favourite authors since I haven't read all their debut novels.

But here are the debut novels by some of my favourite authors:

Austen, Jane "Sense & Sensibility" - 1811
(favourite novel: "Persuasion" - 1817)

Frazier, Charles "Cold Mountain" - 1997
Definitely my most favourite novel by him since it is one of my most favourite ones overall.

Fredriksson, Marianne "The Book of Eve" (Swedish: Evas bok) (Paradisets barn/The Children of Paradise #1) - 1980
(favourite novel: "Hanna’s Daughters" (Swedish: Anna, Hanna og Johanna) - 1994

Hislop, Victoria "The Island" - 2005
(favourite novel: "The Thread" - 2011)

Hosseini, Khaled "The Kite Runner" - 2003
(favourite novel: "And the Mountains Echoed" - 2007)

Kingsolver, Barbara "The Bean Trees" - 1988
(favourite novel: "The Lacuna" - 2009)

Lawson, Mary "Crow Lake" - 2002

Pamuk, Orhan "Cevdet Bey and His Sons" (Turkish: Cevdet Bey ve Oğulları) - 1982
(favourite novel: "My Name is Red" (Turkish: Benim Adim Kirmizi) - 1998)

Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "The Prince of Mist" (Spanish: El príncipe de la niebla) - 1993
(favourite novel: "The Shadow of the Wind" (Spanish: La Sombra del Viento) - 2001)

Turner, Nancy E. "These is my Words, The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901" - 1999
Very hard to choose my favourite of hers, they are all great but this is the first in her trilogy.

Monday 27 July 2020

James, Henry "The Europeans"

James, Henry "The Europeans" - 1878

I think I just expect too much from Henry James. I want him to be the American Charles Dickens. He is not. He is, however, quite good at describing the difference between the United States of America and Europe at the time. Especially that of the higher part of the society.

I did like the conversations and the reflections about the different lives in the two countries.

Like all books by Henry James, too short! That makes it a wonderful start for someone who isn't too keen on classics, though. I still want to read more by this author because he gives us an insight into a world that is long gone. Or is it?

From the back cover:

"This light-hearted masterpiece tells of the influence Eugenia and her brother Felix exert on their Bostonian cousins when they visit the New World.

In the hope of making a wealthy marriage, Eugenia, the Baroness Münster, and her younger brother, the artist Felix, descend on the Wentworths, in Boston. Installed in a nearby house, they become close friends with the younger Wentworths - Gertrude, Charlotte and Clifford.

Eugenia's wit, guile and sophistication, and Felix's debonair vivacity from an uneasy alliance with the Puritan morality and the frugal, domestic virtues of the Americans. A rich and delicately balanced comedy of manners, The Europeans weighs the values of the established order against those of New England society, but makes no simple judgements, only subtle contrasts and beautifully observed comparisons."

Thursday 23 July 2020

Hustvedt, Siri "The Summer without Men"

Hustvedt, Siri "The Summer without Men" - 2011

I don't know when and why I bought this book; I just know that I had a list with books with "summer in the title" and this one came up. Since I hadn't read it, and summer was on the doorstep, I decided this needed to be one of my next reads.

It didn't exactly bring any to storms of enthusiasm from my side. I wouldn't exactly call it a difficult read, just a jumbled up one. At times, she reminded me of Sylvia Plath or Virginia Wolf, and not in a good way. It was philosophical but you often couldn't follow her train of thoughts, she drifted off.

The story is easy enough, Mia is left by her husband, at least for the time-being, and she falls into a deep hole, has to go to a mental hospital for a while and then goes to see her mother for the summer. All her mother's friends seem to have problems, as well. She teaches young girls in literature in a summer course, there are problems, too, of course. Oh, oh, and then there's the neighbour who has problems with her husband. Is there any problem a woman could have that doesn't get dragged into this book? The biggest trouble is, I couldn't really feel it, the characters were not real. It just seemed like one problem written down after another without given it too much depth.

And then there was too much poetry in this novel for my liking.

I know Siri Hustvedt is a renowned author. Maybe this is one of her weaker novels. Or - she's just not my thing. I still have "The Sorrows of an American" on my TBR pile, don't know whether I'll tackle that any time soon.

I did like the cover of the book, though.

From the back cover:

"Out of the blue, your husband of thirty years asks you for a pause in your marriage to indulge his infatuation with a young Frenchwoman. Do you: a) assume it's a passing affair and play along b) angrily declare the marriage over c) crack up d) retreat to a safe haven and regroup? Mia Fredricksen cracks up first, then decamps for the summer to the prairie town of her childhood, where she rages, fumes, and bemoans her sorry fate as abandoned spouse. But little by little, she is drawn into the lives of those around her: her mother and her circle of feisty widows; her young neighbour, with two small children and a loud, angry husband; and the diabolical pubescent girls in her poetry class. By the end of the summer without men, wiser though definitely not sadder, Mia knows what she wants to fight for and on whose terms. Provocative, mordant, and fiercely intelligent, The Summer Without Men is a gloriously vivacious tragi-comedy about women and girls, love and marriage, and the age-old war between the sexes - a novel for our times by one of the most acclaimed American writers."

There is a lot of talks about books in this novel but only one is mentioned: "Persuasion" by Jane Austen which is read by the protaganist's mother and her book club "The Rolling Meadows".

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Book Events/Festivals I’d Love to Go to Someday

"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".

It is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

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.

Book Events/Festivals I’d Love to Go to Someday (Real or Fictional)

There are so many interesting festivals and events around books that I would love to go to. But I have restricted myself to some that I might, just might, be able to visit one day (in alphabetical order by place).

Jane Austen Festival, Bath, England, UK - Website
Frankfurter Buchmesse, Frankfurt, Germany - Website
Hay Festival of Literature & Arts, Haye on Wye, Powys, Wales, UK - Website
Leipziger Buchmesse, Leipzig, Germany - Website

And then there are many, many libraries I'd love to visit or have visited. These are in alphabetical order according to country.

Hendrik Conscience, Antwerpen, Belgium - Website
Reading Room at the British Museum, London, England - Website, Blog
Bodleian Library, Oxford, England, UK - Website

Oberlausitzische Bibliothek der Wissenschaften, Görlitz, Germany - Website
Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart, Germany - Website
Duchess Anna Amalia Library, Weimar, Germany - Website
Herzog (Duke) August Library, Wolfenbüttel, Germany - Website

Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland - Website
see also my post about Dublin

Rijksmuseum Library, Amsterdam, Netherlands - Website
Boekhandel Dominicanen, Maastricht, Netherlands - Website
(not a library but a bookshop very worth visiting)

The City Library, Stockholm, Sweden - Website 

I know, I haven't kept to the ten places/events - again. But sometimes, I just can't help myself.

Monday 20 July 2020

Holzach, Michael "The Forgotten People"

Holzach, Michael "The Forgotten People: A Year Among the Hutterites" (German: Das vergessene Volk. Ein Jahr Bei den deutschen Hutterern In Kanada) - 1980 

A friend of mine found this book on her TBR pile. She told me about it and since I had read a book about the Amish ("Plain and Simple" by Sue Bender) before, I said it sounded interesting.

I don't know whether I can compare the different religious groups through these books since the report about the Hutterites is a little earlier and a lot might have changed even there in the last forty years.

Michael Holzach also tells us about the history of the Hutterites and how they came to live in Canada. But mainly, this is a report about his life among the brethren for a whole year. How they live, what they believe, how they try to adhere to their lifestyle. Their main life is founded on the "community of property based on the model of the original Jerusalem community", i.e. all property and proceeds belong to the community and is shared among everyone. You could call them a Christian communist group. Everyone has the same, everything is shared. "Everyone gives what he can and gets where he's in need."

Same as the Amish, they call the people "outside" the "English". They have their own school but get extra education from a Canadian teacher who comes to the farms. Among themselves, they speak a German dialect which is mainly based on Southern German/Austrian dialects mixed with English words (just like high German) but it is quite easy to understand if speak German.

It was a very interesting book to read. I have always thought it would be nice to live in a society where everyone thinks about everyone else, cares for everyone else, nobody feels better than the others … looks like this is what the Hutterites try to do, as well. I don't think I could live quite as restricted as they do but if you don't know any better, this is almost like paradise on earth.

I think I need to find myself a newer book about the Hutterites. While searching for more literature, I found two websites that give more information:
Hutterian Brethren Book Centre

Unfortunately, 15 years later, the author died from a fatal accident while trying to rescue his dog. I think he might have written some more interesting books in addition to this one and "Deutschland umsonst. Zu Fuß und ohne Geld durch ein Wohlstandsland" (Germany for free. On foot and without money through a prosperous country) (1982).

From the back cover (translated):

"The author spent the year 1978 with the German Hutterites in North America and wrote a book about his experiences.

Inspired by the reading of Erich Fromm, who described the Hutterites as 'radical humanists' in several of his books, Michael Holzach lived for a year in two brotherly communities in the Canadian province of Alberta at the foot of the Rocky Mountains - almost entirely cut off from the modern world. He worked, prayed and sang with them, the women sewed him the black uniform, the men taught him how to make shoes, castrate piglets, cook soap.

The mother tongue of these 'selected' people is German, but they have never seen Germany. 450 years ago, for the sake of their faith, their ancestors moved to Russia in a painful pilgrimage before emigrating to the United States in 1874. Today 25,000 Hutterites live in 250 settlements off the highways on the North American prairie. Their law book is the Bible. They are strict pacifists and reject any type of private property. Michael Holzach discovered a way of life without social injustice, without consumerism and without violence - primitive Christian communism. But how can a person of the 20th century cope with this leap into the 'Middle Ages'? Are there actually islands of the happy in the 'Sea of Sin'? This report provides answers to the questions of civilization that are pressing us today - found among the forgotten Hutterites."

Friday 17 July 2020

Book Quotes of the Week

"One always tends to overpraise a long book because one has got through it." E. M. Forster 

I don't really agree with that, at least not in my case. I love long books because it takes me longer to get through it, so I can spend a longer time with the characters or in that country or wherever the book has taken me.

"It's a good idea to have your own books with you in a strange place." Cornelia Funke, Inkheart 

That is true. You can tolerate everything better with a good book in your hand.

"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education." Martin Luther King, Jr.
That is the best. Mr. King knew a thing or two about this world.

"Books are better than the movie. There is so much going on in the minds of the characters that movies can't show. To really understand the movie characters you love, read the book." Linda
My sentiments exactly. No moviemaker can really understand my thoughts. And those of millions of other people. 

"Do books belong to me or do I belong to books? That is the question. N.N.
A very good question! Do we really need an answer, though?

Find more book quotes here.

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

Thursday 16 July 2020

Brontë, Anne "Agnes Grey"

Brontë, Anne "Agnes Grey" - 1847

Anne Brontë, the youngest and lesser known of the three Brontë sisters. I have no idea why because her stories are just as great as those of her sisters. If not better. They are more down to earth, in my opinion.

There are some parallels to the story of Jane Eyre who works as a governess just as Agnes Grey does. That is probably because it was what the Brontë sisters experienced themselves. Agnes Grey is partly autobiographical, Anne Brontë added a lot of her own life here.

You can tell Anne is the daughter of a pastor, just as Jane Austen was, another parallel to a great author.

We learn about the hard life of a governess. If parents don't really want to be involved, want to discipline their children but also don't want others to discipline them but want those others to teach their children, you are always the piggy in the middle. How is the poor governess to instill the love of learning in children who are not told to follow the teacher? I know that teachers have a similar problem nowadays with parents who think their kids are little angels and little Einsteins at the same time while at the same time … well, let's not go there.

What a shame she died so young. I loved "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" as much as I loved this novel. Would have been great to be able to read more of her writings.

From the back cover:

"When her family becomes impoverished after a disastrous financial speculation, Agnes Grey determines to find work as a governess in order to contribute to their meagre income and assert her independence. But Agnes's enthusiasm is swiftly extinguished as she struggles first with the unmanageable Bloomfield children and then with the painful disdain of the haughty Murray family; the only kindness she receives comes from Mr Weston, the sober young curate. Drawing on her own experience, Anne Brontë's first novel offers a compelling personal perspective on the desperate position of unmarried, educated women for whom becoming a governess was the only respectable career open in Victorian society."

Tuesday 14 July 2020

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Books That Make Me Smile

"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".

It is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

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.

Books That Make Me Smile
Those would mainly be the funny ones and I'm afraid this is a repetition of many of my other TTTs because they contain some of my favourite authors.

Anything by:

Bill Bryson

Nora Ephron

René Goscinny and/or Albert Uderzo

Elke Heidenreich, German author, unfortunately, none of her writings have been transtated into English

Wladimir Kaminer

Hape Kerkeling

Ephraim Kishon

Alexander McCall Smith

Mary Scott

Bernd Stelter, German comedina and author, unfortunately, none of his works have been transtated into English (on Wikipdia and his website)

P.G. Wodehouse

Really, anything containing humour, but not the slapstick kind.

Monday 13 July 2020

Lindgren, Astrid "Samuel August from Sevedstorp and Hanna from Hult aka A Love Story"

Lindgren, Astrid "Samuel August from Sevedstorp and Hanna from Hult aka A Love Story" (Swedish: En kärlekshistoria: Samuel August från Sevedstorp och Hanna i Hult) - 1975

As a child, I loved watching "The Six Bullerby Children" and "Seacrow Island" on television. Later, I read the books because I wanted to hear more about those lovely kids that lived in such a simple and delightful, for them delightful time.

When I saw that Astrid Lindgren had written a biography about her parents, I wanted to read it. It's only a little story but it's still delightful. The love between her parents and what they gave to their children is a pleasure to observe. Astrid Lindgren reminisces about her childhood and philosophizes about writing children's books. That way, we don't just meet her parents but also get to know her better and learn how she found her ideas.

Astrid Lindgren's parents meet in 1888 in a small place called Vimmerby in Småland in Sweden and stay in love until one of them dies. A lifelong love story. Much more romantic than "Romeo and Juliet".

It's almost like going through a diary or private photo album - yes, there are lots of pictures, as well, and remember all those loved ones of a friend.

I read the German translation, "Das entschwundene Land".

From the back cover:

"The tenant farmer Samuel August Ericsson and Hanna Jonsson met in 1888. They married in 1905 and established their new family at the farm Näs outside the small town Vimmerby in the south of Sweden. In 1906 the son Gunnar was born, later Member of Parliament, and in November 1907 Gunnar got a sister, Astrid Anna Emilia, who with time would be one of the worlds most loved authors. Under the following years, the family grew with two more daughters, Stina and Ingegerd.
During all their life, Samuel August and Hanna loved each other dearly. This book is Astrid Lindgren’s personal tribute to them and to love."

Astrid Lindgren received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 1978.  

She also would have deserved the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Friday 10 July 2020

Book Quotes of the Week

"Books are the blessed chloroform of the mind." Robert Chambers
He's got a point. It can take our minds off so many unnecessary things and lead them to something better.

"Literature has no borders. There is one literature, and it uses different languages as its tools." Olga Tokarczuk
And if you are lucky enough to be able to read in various languages, you get a different angle to everything.

"Books have a responsibility to teach". De'Shawn Charles Winslow
But, as in real life, some take their responsibility more seriously than others.

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 9 July 2020

Deary, Terry "Top Ten Shakespeare Stories"

Deary, Terry "Top Ten Shakespeare Stories" - 1998

This book is another of the Scholastics "Top Ten" book series for children. After "Top Ten Classic Stories" and "Top Ten Dickens Stories" by Valery Wilding, this time it's "Top Ten Shakespeare Stories" by Terry Deary, him of "Horrible Histories" fame.

He describes Shakespeare and his stories just as well. The stories are all told in a modern way, a video, a blog, a diary, anything that kids today might use. And it is also quite interesting for adults
With every story comes a chapter that explains either more about what was in the story or the general topic from the story. In any case, in a way that even kids who don't like reading or don't want to hear of former times might be interested in them and maybe … just maybe, read some of them one day.
Whether you agree with the list or not, this certainly is a great way to introduce children to classic reading.
This is his list.

10. A Midsummer Night's Dream
9. King Lear (I read a retold version by Jane Smiley, "A Thousand Acres")
8. Twelfth Night
7. The Tempest (I read a retold version by Margaret Atwood, "Hag-Seed" and watched the wonderful musical "Return to the Forbidden Planet" which is also based on this play)
6. The Merchant of Venice
5. Romeo and Juliet
4. Julius Cesar
3. The Taming of the Shrew
2. Macbeth. He also explains why they call it "The Scottish Play".
1. Hamlet (plus a retold version by David Wroblewski "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle")

I have added links to my reviews of those books I read. As you can see, others have rewritten the stories for the more modern reader, before and I'm sure, they will continue doing so. After all, Shakespear has written at least 39 plays that are all worth retelling.

From the back cover:

"What was top of the pops in Tudor times?
Want to know which Shakespeare story's had the number one slot since the 16th century?

Hamlet - ten dead bodies litter the stage. Horatio is number one suspect … but is it an open and shut case?
A Midsummer Night's Dream - strange things are happening in the woods. Puck mucks things up and Bottom makes an ass of himself. Puck reveals all.
King Lear - eye-gouging, stabbing and poisoning … act out the play yourself - it's a laugh a minute!
With top ten fact sections, including Shakespeare's suffering spectators, the curse of the Scottish play, and top then actors' tales.

Shakespeare stories as you've never seen them before."

Tuesday 7 July 2020

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Authors I’ve Read the Most Books By

"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".

It is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

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.

Authors I’ve Read the Most Books By

I sometimes have a hard time to come up with a list. This one was easy. I "tag" my authors and I keep a separate list of all the books I read. Plus, it's always easy to remember the authors you read most because you proably also like them best.

So, if you're not aware of one of them, just check out one of their books. There are some absolute gems among them.

Funniest Author Ever
Pearl S. Buck
Favourite author of my teenage years 
Charles Dickens
Günter Grass
Joyce Carol Oates
Alexander McCall Smith
about Botswana and Scotland
and retelling classic stories
Orhan Pamuk
Carlos Ruiz Zafón 
gone too soon
Edward Rutherfurd
Mary Scott

Monday 6 July 2020

Northup, Solomon "Twelve Years a Slave"

Northup, Solomon "Twelve Years a Slave. Narrative of Solomon Northup, a citizen of New-York, kidnapped in Washington city in 1841, and rescued in 1853, from a cotton plantation near the Red River in Louisiana" - 1853

On the back cover, it says this is perhaps the best written of all the slave narratives. I have to agree with that. Probably because it was written by a well-educated slave himself. Who could relate all the horrible deeds done to those poor people better than someone who has had to endure it himself?

Solomon Northup was born in the State of New York. He was a free man and as such, could get an education, work, get married, have children, all without having to fear that would be taken away from him one day. But it was. He was kidnapped and sold into slavery. He was free but he also was black, so it was easy to just let him disappear somewhere in the deep south, on one of those plantations that nobody ever goes to. He ended up in Louisiana and had to live a life that is as unhuman as none of us can even imagine. He was treated worse than anybody would treat an animal.

Because of his education, he managed to get some information out and was freed after twelve years of torture, twelve years of hell. How he survived, I don't know. But he describes it all in this book and it is well worth a read, especially with all the shocking, abhorrent, dreadful, repugnant, outrageous, hideous, repulsive news we hear daily. How can people in this day and age still look down on someone? It is beyond my understanding.

A while ago, I published a list with anti-racism books. If you are looking for more books in that category, have a look here.

From the back cover:

"Perhaps the best written of all the slave narratives, Twelve Years a Slave is a harrowing memoir about one of the darkest periods in American history. It recounts how Solomon Northup, born a free man in New York, was lured to Washington, D.C., in 1841 with the promise of fast money, then drugged and beaten and sold into slavery. He spent the next twelve years of his life in captivity on a Louisiana cotton plantation.

After his rescue, Northup published this exceptionally vivid and detailed account of slave life. It became an immediate bestseller and today is recognized for its unusual insight and eloquence as one of the very few portraits of American slavery produced by someone as educated as Solomon Northup, or by someone with the dual perspective of having been both a free man and a slave."

Friday 3 July 2020

Book Quotes of the Week

"'Reader' is our primary occupation." Svetlana Alexievich about Russians
I have the suspicion I'm secretly Russian.

"Let blockheads read what blockheads wrote." Lord Chesterfield
While I do agree to this partly, I think we all need to read what blockheads write in order to prevent them to become too strong.

"When you stand in the darkness, when you have lost all hope, when you can't see any path to walk ahead, read; reading will act as the lantern to show you the path. It might not take you to the destination, but it will keep on guiding you towards a resolution." Neelabh Pratap Singh
This is something that cannot be mentioned often enough. I don't know whether I'd still be here if I hadn't had books.

"Books are the easiest things to pick up and the hardest things to put down." N.N.
I totally agree. Who wouldn't?
[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 2 July 2020

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft "Frankenstein"

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft "Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus" - 1818

I always wanted to read this book, it's one of the classics that doesn't really fit into my usual genre but it is definitely a classic. Apparently, one of the very first science fiction novels. Mary Wollstonecraft spent some time in Switzerland with her later husband Percy B. Shelley and Lord Byron when they decided to have a competition. Who would write the best horror story? I haven't read any of the two other authors but I'm sure Mary won this one.

Like a said, not my usual genre but our book club chose it as a solution to the lockdown procedures which prevented many of us to use our usual library and therefore, we needed something we could find online. Luckily, my son still has part of his books in our house so that I even had the book.

Frankenstein is not the monster, as people often believe. He's the creator. Although, maybe he has the touch of a monster in himself as he doesn't really care what will become of his creation. He is so ugly that he can't socialize and therefore becomes a monster.

This book is not just a horror story, there's a lot of psychology behind the scenes. We can look inside human beings, their dreams and their ambitions.

What I liked about the science fiction part, there are no strange explanations about how the being is created. You see this so often in films that they make something that is absolutely impossible in a way that you know wouldn't work. This way, there is nothing we can say was done incorrectly. We just have to imagine that it happened.

And before I forget, this is great writing. Not just the plot, also the style and technique are wonderful. Beautiful classic.

This was our international online book club novel in June 2020.

From the back cover:

"Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

Frankenstein, an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever."

Wednesday 1 July 2020

Happy July!

Happy July to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch

"Summer Colours"

July looks like most of the last months, only hotter. While some of the Corona restrictions are relaxed, I am worried that for a lot of people this seems to mean "no Corona anymore". That is a dangerous slope. Let's just wear our masks a little longer and definitely keep that distance, don't go to crowded places. Be happy if you can see some of your friends and family again. Just don't overdo it. Be careful. We might have to live with this for quite a while to come but if we want to come out of it on the other side, we better adhere to what the experts tell us.

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This month, Hanka surprised me with one of my favourite flowers. Next to the peony, that would be the hydrangea. And my favourite variety, the blue one. I have often lifted somewhere where the colour turned red after a couple of summers and was positively surprised that my last one that we bought in the autum now turned from red to blue. Looks like we found the right location.

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When talking about flowers, there are usually some flowers of the year that get elected bcause they are endangered species. This one was chosen by the Loki Schmidt Stiftung, a charity founded by the wife of our former chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

It's the menyanthes, a delicate looking yet quite strong flower that grows in fens and bogs. It's common name in English therefore is bogbean or buckbean. The original word "menyein" means "disclosing" in Greek, and "Aathos" means "flower". It's German name is "Fieberklee", English translation: fever clover. This has probablythe same reason as their Chinese names, there they are known as sleeping herbs or "Herbs that calm consciousness".

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Nature seems to recover more. I heard another warning the other day. Since there are fewer flights, the air pollution is smaller and the sun is stronger. So, don't forget that sunscreen.

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Have a happy July with this beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch. Stay safe!

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

You can also have a look under my labels Artist: Frank Koebsch and Artist: Hanka Koebsch where you can find all my posts about them.