Wednesday 31 May 2023

Taha, Karosh "In the Belly of the Queen"


Taha, Karosh "In the Belly of the Queen" (German: Im Bauch der Königin) - 2020

An interesting book, not easy to digest, but worth reading. The author is a German-born Kurd and she tells us about life as a foreigner in Germany but also as a Kurd in the international community.

The unique thing about this book is that you can read it from two sides, no, you have to read it from two sides.
Somewhere it is described as a "Wenderoman" which should be translated as a "changing/turning novel" but is really the German description for novels
dealing with the political turning point after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

I decided to start at the top as the bookseller hands me the volumes and so I started with the part of Raffiq. We don't find out what part of Kurdistan he is from or if he is from Kurdistan at all but I
assumed so. First and foremost, he talks about his friends Younes and Amal, teenagers like him who are about to graduate from school and are thinking about what they want to do afterwards. Raffiq also tells about their childhood and their everyday life, where Youne's mother Shahira plays a big role. She does not follow the general rules of the Kurds, and the young people's parents are not exactly enthusiastic about her.

The other half of the book is narrated by Amal. Her family comes from Iraq, her father left his wife many years ago and started a new family in his home country. Amal takes Shahira as an example and does not put up with everything that is not easy in her environment. Everyone finds it very shocking that she cuts her hair short.

You can see the book entirely as a story about growing up, the problems with parents who are larger because the parents grew up in a completely different culture.
I hope my sons don't feel that way, our culture was more similar to that of our host countries.

A lot of the problems that the young people have are certainly exactly the same as those of other German and Western Europeans, and so some may learn from this that people are the same everywhere.

The way the story is told gives us two perspectives that make it seem like two totally different novels.
That's what I found most fascinating.

From the back cover:

"Amal shocks the whole neighbourhood by beating up her classmate Younes. Her father defends her behaviour and encourages her to assert herself. From then on everyone avoids Amal - and then her father leaves. Searching in vain for an explanation, Amal finds unexpected refuge with Younes and his mother Shahira, both outsiders like her. Years later, when the situation comes to a head and the conflict with Raffiq’s gang escalates, Amal flees to Kurdistan to look for her father."

I found this through Karen @ kaggsysbookishramblings who in turn found it on Ali's page @ HEAVENALI.

Tuesday 30 May 2023

Ibrahimi, Anilda "Red Like a Bride"


Ibrahimi, Anilda "Red Like a Bride" (Italian: Rosso come una sposa) - 2008

This Italian book has not been translated into English but because it is available in other languages (Finnish, French, German, Serbian), some of us read it in our international online book club. I read the German translation: Rot wie eine Braut.

For a long time, we hardly heard anything about Albania. You knew the country was secluded, no one came in, even fewer less came out.

In this book we are told about life behind the curtain. We get to know four generations of women, starting with Saba, who was married to her sister's widower at the age of 15 and had nine children by him, five girls and four boys.

The war changes the position of women, they get an education and become more independent, also in the countryside. We live through the different generations up to Dora who is telling the story.

The title alludes to the tradition that in Albania a bride would be dressed all in red.

An interesting story about life in a country we still don't know much about. Well written, easy to read. I liked it very much.

This was discussed in our international online book club in May 2023.

The group had a really good discussion about it, it was very well liked among everyone, both from the interesting perspective of Albanian history and culture, and the different stories moving along the book along the lives of the women the story told about towards modern times, how life goes on and is connected. The group thought it was a high quality read, and warmly would recommend it and gave it 5 out of 5 points.

Book description (translated):

"Four generations of women, a chest full of memories, the start of a new life Young Dora left her native Albania to start a better life in Italy. In the distance, the memories of her family, who have lived a simple life in the small mountain village of Kaltra for generations, determined by archaic traditions, suddenly seem like they are from another time. But whenever she opens the chest that was left to her by Saba, the grandmother, takes Saba's red wedding veil in her hands and smells the familiar smell of quince, the past comes to life before her eyes..."

Saturday 27 May 2023

Martinson, Harry "Aniara"

Martinson, Harry "Aniara - A Review of Man in Time and Space" (Swedish: Aniara: en revy om människan i tid och rum) - 1956

I have not read this book as I'm really not into poetry or sci-fi (of which we have read too much lately). The book was available online but I'm not into reading anything from the computer, so it was a double (or even triple) no-no.

So, this post is about the discussion in our book club. The comments are by other members but I thought they might be interesting for some of my blog readers.

The story really surprised me. It had many layers, about human psychology, power-dynamics and coping mechanisms in dystopias, very current themes about the passengers thinking back on how they got to where they are, the devastation of nature and thoughts about the life and death of humanity, while trying to somehow keep from sinking into despair.

The story was meant to portray far into the future, with the main character saying "those to blame for the destruction of humanity are long gone", which made me think that those are us, we who live now.

It was especially surprising in its verses and few different types of poetry rhymes and patterns, really beautiful at parts.

I had expected it to be a lot of action and rushing around in space, but it was the opposite, quiet contemplation, more about the mentality of the last people.

And Martinson had this great sensitive way of not saying much out loud, so we had to read between the lines, for example there must have been a few dozen ways how he described someone dying without actually saying it, or quite beautiful descriptions of how the last of humanity was floating away into space in the sarcophagus named Aniara.

Some normal quotes about it: "it is great, despite it being science fiction" or "the only science fiction worth reading".

Though it definitely took a lot more thinking to follow the story and what was really said, and that it definitely was out of my comfort zone and at moments I was not quite sure if this epic poem was genius or just weird, I would recommend it, it was a reading experience that again widened my reading world.

This was discussed in our international online book club in April 2023.

From the back cover:

"The great Swedish writer Harry Martinson published his masterpiece, Aniara, during the height of the Cold War - right after the Soviet Union announced that it had exploded the hydrogen bomb. Aniara is the story of a luxurious space ship, loaded with 8,000 evacuees, fleeing an Earth made uninhabitable by Man's technological arrogance. A malfunction knocks the craft off course, taking these would-be Mars colonists on an irreversible journey into deep space. Aniara is a book of prophecy, a panoramic view of humanity's possible fate. It has been translated into seven languages and adapted into a popular avant-garde opera."

Harry Martinson received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1974 "for writings that catch the dewdrop and reflect the cosmos".

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

Thursday 25 May 2023

#ThrowbackThursday. Jamila

Aitmatov, Chinghiz "Jamila" (Russian: Джамиля - Jamilia) - 1958

This is a very interesting story by a writer from a country we don't know that well, Kyrgyzstan.

The novel describes village life in Central Asia and the disappearance of Central Asian cultural traditions in the USSR. It is one of the best love stories I ever read.

Read my original review here.

Wednesday 24 May 2023

Kurkov, Andrey "Grey Bees"

Kurkov, Andrey "Grey Bees" (Russian: Серые пчелы/Seryye Pchely) - 2019

This is not a book about the current war in Ukraine, it's about the one in 2014. Russian paramilitary forces had violently seized control of some city governments, and self-proclaimed "people's republics".

The region around Donetsk and Luhansk became a gray area. And that's where our protagonist, Sergey Sergeyich, lives. Only one other man lives in his village, Pashka Chmelenko, all the others have fled. Sergey raises bees. In the first part we get to know life in the gray area, you hear shots and detonations, but you are not attacked yourself. All the houses are still standing except for the church. However, they have neither electricity nor are they supplied with food in any way, so they have to walk to the next inhabited village.

Then it's time to let the bees fly. Since Sergey is afraid that they won't be able to do their usual work because of all the noise, he takes his beehives to Ukraine, where we get to know life in the other part of the country. The network still works to some extent there. But he is not welcome, so he gets away a second time and goes to Crimea, where he knows another beekeeper. There we get to know life in the part occupied by Russia.

In addition, we have an insight into the life and work of a beekeeper.

All very interesting.
An unusual novel that says a lot about the current situation. There's a real feeling about how it would be.

I read on Wikipedia that his books are full of black humour, post-Soviet reality and elements of surrealism and I couldn't agree more.

From the back cover:

"49-year-old safety inspector-turned-beekeeper Sergey Sergeyich, wants little more than to help his bees collect their pollen in peace.

But Sergey lives in Ukraine, where a lukewarm war of sporadic violence and constant propaganda has been dragging on for years.

His simple mission on behalf of his bees leads him through some the hottest spots of the ongoing conflict, putting him in contact with combatants and civilians on both sides of the battle lines: loyalists, separatists, Russian occupiers, and Crimean Tatars.

Grey Bees is as timely as the author's Ukraine Diaries were in 2014, but treats the unfolding crisis in a more imaginative way, with a pinch of Kurkov's signature humour. Who better than Ukraine's most famous novelist - who writes in Russian - to illuminate and present a balanced portrait of this most bewildering of modern conflicts?"

Monday 22 May 2023

Kazantzakis, Nikos "The Last Temptation of Christ"

Kazantzakis, Nikos "The Last Temptation of Christ" (Greek: Ο τελευταίος πειρασμός/O telefteos pirasmos) - 1951

I have read a few books that describe the life of Jesus or his disciples or other contemporaries (most recently "Barabbas"). It's always quite interesting to see how much authors add to the stories and one can imagine that this also happened with the "original".

That doesn't usually bother me either, I think we can all learn from it. But this book didn't grab me at all. There's too much jumping back and forth. That doesn't bother me otherwise either, so it must be the writer (or the translator) who failed to pique my interest.

Boock Description:

"The internationally renowned novel about the life and death of Jesus Christ.

Hailed as a masterpiece by critics worldwide,
The Last Temptation of Christ is a monumental reinterpretation of the Gospels that brilliantly fleshes out Christ’s Passion. This literary rendering of the life of Jesus Christ has courted controversy since its publication by depicting a Christ far more human than the one seen in the Bible. He is a figure who is gloriously divine but earthy and human, a man like any other - subject to fear, doubt, and pain.

In elegant, thoughtful prose Nikos Kazantzakis, one of the greats of modern literature, follows this Jesus as he struggles to live out God’s will for him, powerfully suggesting that it was Christ’s ultimate triumph over his flawed humanity, when he gave up the temptation to run from the cross and willingly laid down his life for mankind, that truly made him the venerable redeemer of men

Thursday 18 May 2023

#ThrowbackThursday. Sheila Stewart


Stewart, Sheila "Lifting the Latch" - 1987

I met Sheila Stewart on a talk she gave at our local W.I. She was very interesting and really friendly and I read both her books and they are both great. She had done research on the life of people in Oxfordshire and interviewed some of the last survivors or a life long gone.

This book doesn't just describe the life of a remarkable man who lived and worked about a century ago in Oxfordshire but also draws a great picture of how life was about a century ago.

Read my original review here.

Stewart, Sheila "Ramlin Rose" - 1993

This book tells the story of women whose story is never told, women who were born and raised on the narrowboats on the English canals and who then also had children and raised them there. Most of them had seen a school only from the outside, none of them could read or had a link to the outside world.

I found it especially interesting that the women had almost no concept of time because they couldn't read. We'll never know what we would be without books.

Two highly interesting accounts of unusal lives we hardly ever hear about.

Read my original review here.

Wednesday 17 May 2023

Dangarembga, Tsitsi "Nervous Conditions"

Dangarembga, Tsitsi "Nervous Conditions" - 1988

The first line "I was not sorry when my brother died" should be included in the best first lines list.

This story gives us a glimpse into the life of 13-year-old Tambudzei, a girl from Zimbabwe, then called Rhodesia, in the 1960s. One rarely reads books by African women. The author was born in 1945 and can report on the traditional structures in which only men count. The novel is semi-autobiographical. The protagonist is clever and wishes to use her intelligence elsewhere than in the kitchen and in the nursery. Her cousin, who spent part of her childhood in England, further contributes to Tambu's hunger for education.

A fantastic book that describes the situation of women in almost every society. Yes, here too, unfortunately, there is still a difference whether you are born a man or a woman and in a rich or poor household.

I definitely want to read the other two books in this trilogy: The Book of Not and This Mournable Body.

From the back cover:

"Two decades before Zimbabwe would win independence and ended white minority rule, thirteen-year-old Tambudzai Sigauke embarks on her education. On her shoulders rest the economic hopes of her parents, siblings, and extended family, and within her burns the desire for independence. A timeless coming-of-age tale, and a powerful exploration of cultural imperialism, Nervous Conditions charts Tambu's journey to personhood in a nation that is also emerging."

"the story I have told here is my own story, the story of four women I have loved and the story of our husbands; it is the story of how it all began." Tsitsi Dangarembga

"This novel is an excellent portrayal and interpretation of an African society whose younger generation of women is struggling, with varying degrees of success (to the point of near defeat), to free society from being dominated by patriarchy and colonialism. There has never been a convincing account of anorexia in African literature." Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Literatur aus Afrika, Asien und Lateinamerika e.V. (Society for the Promotion of Literature from Africa, Asia and Latin America e.V.)

The German translation is by Ilja Trojanow, a really good author, so it should be a good one.

"Nervous Conditions" was named one of the 100 best books that shaped the world by the BBC in 2021.

The book received the 1989 Commonwealth Writers Prize for best first work for the African region.

Tsitsi Dangarembga received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 2021.
The jury's explanation read: "In her trilogy of novels, Tsitsi Dangarembga uses the example of an adolescent woman to describe the struggle for the right to a decent life and female self-determination in Zimbabwe. In doing so, she shows social and moral conflicts that go far beyond the regional context go out and open up resonance spaces for global questions of justice. In her films, she addresses problems that arise from the clash of tradition and modernity. Her messages are successfully aimed at a broad audience both in Zimbabwe and in neighboring countries."

Another African writer whose books I read and can happily recommend is:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
"Half of a Yellow Sun" - Die Hälfte der Sonne - 2006
"Americanah" - Americanah - 2013
"We Should All Be Feminists" (Mehr Feminismus! Ein Manifest und vier Stories) - 2014

Monday 15 May 2023

Şafak, Elif "The Island of Missing Trees"

Şafak, Elif "The Island of Missing Trees" - 2021

I have read several books by Elif Şafak. They all seem to be different but they are all fantastic.

In this one, we learn about Cyprus, about the people on this divided island. As an example we have Greek Kostas and Turkish Defne. They fall in love but - as usual in such cases - their love is forbidden.

But we don't just learn about the people and the circumstances that they have to live in, we also get told by a tree, a fig tree, how trees work, how they grow, how they communicate. They have a lot to tell. Fascinating. This part of the story reminded me a little of Elif Şafak's compatriot and my favourite book by Orhan Pamuk who is one of my favourite authors: My Name is Red. He also lets non-humans tell part of the story.

In any case, this is a fantastic story, very original, beautiful and heartbreaking. In the end we know that the island is not only missing its trees.

From the back cover:

"In 1974 , two teenagers, from opposite sides of a divided Cyprus, meet at a tavern in the city they both call home, Nicosia. The tavern is the only place that Kostas, who is Greek, and Defne, who is Turkish, can meet in secret, hidden beneath the leaves of a fig-tree growing through the roof of the tavern. This tree will witness their hushed, happy meetings, and will be there when the war breaks out and the teenagers vanish.

Decades later in north London, sixteen-year-old Ada has never visited the island where her parents were born. She seeks to untangle years of her family’s silence, but the only connection she has to the land of her ancestors is a fig tree growing in the back garden of their home…

Friday 12 May 2023

Book Quotes


"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song." Maya Angelou

That's a nice thought.

"I'm not interested in creating a book that is read once and then placed on the shelf and forgotten. I am very happy when people have worn out my books, or that they're held together by Scotch tape." Richard Scarry

Our books by Richard Scarry have been read over and over again by the boys. We all loved them. And he is so right, we should read books as much as possible. A well-loved book is one of the best friends you can have.

"If the world teaches me how to cry, reading teaches me how to shine" N.N.

Books have given me so much in life. I cannot thank them enough.

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday 11 May 2023

#ThrowbackThursday. Take me with you

Newsham, Brad "Take me with you" - 2000

A travel book with a twist. An American travels around the world, 100 days backpacking. The twist? He invites one of the people he meets to visit him in America. Someone who could never travel anywhere.

The author doesn't just visit the most famous places, he also takes the time to really get to know the people.

Read my original review here.

Tuesday 9 May 2023

Hajaj, Claire "Ishmael's Oranges"

Hajaj, Claire "Ishmael's Oranges" - 2014

I had just finished another book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa) when this was suggested as the next one for our book club.

There is not much to be found about the author (she doesn't even have an entry on Wikipedia) except this on Goodreads:

"Claire Hajaj has spent her life building bridges between two worlds, sharing both Palestinian and Jewish heritage. She has lived on four continents and worked for the United Nations in war zones from Burma to Baghdad. A former contributor to the BBC World Service, Claire's writing has also appeared in Time Out and Literary Review. She lives in Beirut, Lebanon."

And this on the German site Lovelybooks:
"Claire Hajaj was born in London in 1973 and feels part of two cultures, Jewish and Palestinian, which she tries to reconcile..."

I would have liked to know how much this book is based on her own life or that of her parents. It always helps to understand a book if you know about the author's background.

I visited Israel in 1986 and remember a lovely time in Jaffa. So, reading about the Palestinian family who had lived there for generations and was expelled, made me incredibly sad. I don't think we can possibly imagine how that must have felt.

Like so many other books about the people of Palestine, the Jews that came to occupy their country, the British that helped them, it can only touch the surface of what is going on. Therefore, we need to read as many books about this as possible and pass them on. This is certainly not the best book I have read about the subject but it was interesting nevertheless. And is probably easier to read for people who don't want to get too many details. If you are interested, check out more of the books I read about this subject under my link Israel/Palestine.

In her acknowledgements, she mentions Adam LeBor and "the wonderful Jaffa, City of Oranges" which I also love.

We read this in our German Book Club in April 2023.

From the back cover:

"It's April 1948, and war hangs over Jaffa. One minute seven-year-old Salim is dreaming of taking his first harvest from the family’s orange tree; the next he is swept away into a life of exile and rage.

Seeking a new beginning in swinging-Sixties London, Salim finds an unexpected love with Jude, a troubled Jewish girl struggling with her own devastating family legacy. The bond between them flourishes in the freedom of the age, bringing the promise of thrilling new worlds. But before long, childhood conflicts and prejudices reawaken to infringe upon their life together, pulling them and their children inexorably back towards the Middle East and its battlegrounds.

From Russia's pogroms, to the Summer of Love and the Middle East’s restless cities,
'Ishmael’s Oranges' follows the journeys of men and women cast adrift by war - to tell the story of two families spanning the crossroad events of modern times, and of the legacy of hatred their children inherit."

Saturday 6 May 2023

Six Degrees of Separation ~ From Hydra to Heidi

#6Degrees of Separation:
from Hydra to Heidi

#6Degrees is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. I love the idea. Thank you, Kate. See more about this challenge, its history, further books and how I found this here.

This month's prompt starts with Hydra by Adriane Howell (Goodreads).

As so often, I have not read the starter book, so I had to see how I enter the challenge.

First, I looked up the meaning of the word Hydra. The name comes from a serpentine water monster in Greek and Roman mythology. Hmmm, maybe I go with a water theme there.

Then, I checked the description of the book:

"Anja is a young, ambitious antiquarian, passionate for the clean and balanced lines of mid-century furniture. She is intent on classifying objects based on emotional response and when her career goes awry, Anja finds herself adrift. Like a close friend, she confesses her intimacies and rage to us with candour, tenderness, and humour.

Cast out from the world of antiques, she stumbles upon a beachside cottage that the neighbouring naval base is offering for a 100-year lease. The property is derelict, isolated, and surrounded by scrub. Despite of, or because of, its wildness and solitude, Anja uses the last of the inheritance from her mother to lease the property. Yet a presence - human, ghost, other - seemingly inhabits the grounds.

Hydra is a novel of dark suspense and mental disquiet, struck through with black humour. Adriane Howell beguilingly explores notions of moral culpability, revenge, memory, and narrative - all through the female lens of freedom and constraint. She holds us captive to the last page."

The description of this story reminded me of a book I read last year.
Myers, Benjamin "The Offing" - 2019
Sixteen year old Robert is supposed to become a coal miner but first he wants to see something of the world. He hits the sea in Yorkshire and finds elderly Dulcie and her cottage. This changes his whole life.

This book was chosen "Favourite Book of the Independents" of the year 2019 by the German Indepent Bookshops. It reminds me of another young girl who was left all alone and whose story has a lot to do with water. It had been the favourite in the year before, 2018:
Owens, Delia "Where the Crawdads Sing" - 2018

They both fall under the category Bildungsroman, which is now the theme of my chain.

Lawson, Mary "A Town Called Solace" - 2021
Three people tell their stories. At the beginning, they don't seem to have much in common. Seven year old Clara is Elizabeth's neighbour and looks after her cat while the elderly woman is in hospital. Liam knew Elizabeth when he was little, or rather the other way around because he doesn't seem to remember much about that time.

Dickens, Charles "David Copperfield" - 1850

We can follow our hero from his childhood into maturity, get to meet everyone who is important in his life. Even though the book is more than 150 years old, we can still retrace the steps, feel for the protagonist and his sidekicks.

Lamb, Wally "She's Come Undone" - 1997
My first book by this author whom I've come to really adore ever since. Mother-daughter relationship, religion, death and coming to terms with it, obesity, self-delusion, women-men relationships, change in our culture, this book has it all. A lot of familiarity with the characters, sometimes you have to laugh about that, sometimes you feel "touché".

Spyri, Johanna "Heidi" (GE: Heidis Lehr- und Wanderjahre + Heidi kann brauchen, was es gelernt hat) - 1880/81
The very first book I owned. I still have the copy today and it looks pretty well read.
Heidi was everything I wasn't. She lived in the mountains, I lived in Northern Germany where the highest elevation was probably just a little over 100 meters. She loved the outdoors, I loved sitting inside reading my books. She was an orphan, I had my parents and three brothers and hundreds of cousins (well, "only" fifty, but who's counting).


Is there a connection between the first and the last. Well, of course. First of all, they are all about young people, "Bildungsromane", the first and the last both being about a girl who has to adjust to a new environment. And the titles of the books are almost identical: Hydra - Heidi.

Friday 5 May 2023

Spell the Month in Books ~ May


Reviews from the Stacks

I found this on one of the blogs I follow, Books are the New Black who found it at One Book More. It was originally created by Reviews from the Stacks, and the idea is to spell the month using the first letter of book titles.

May: Animals (May 1 is Save the Rhinos Day)
It was extremely difficult to find books that start with an animal in those letters, so I went with the name of the animal in the title. I hope you still enjoy the composition.

I would have even had a book with the word Rhinoceros in its title ("Rhinoceros" by Eugène Ionesco) but - unfortunately - there is no R in May.  😉


Lee, Harper "To Kill a Mockingbird" - 1960

Orwell, George "
Animal Farm" - 1945

This was the first month where I had to cheat and present a book I haven't read or even seen myself. But it looks like a cute book for children and I hope to find it one day.

Fraser, Lu "The Littlest
Yak" - 2020 (Goodreads)

Happy Reading!
📚 📚 📚

Thursday 4 May 2023

#ThrowbackThursday. Night Train to Lisbon


Mercier, Pascal "Night Train to Lisbon" (German: Nachtzug nach Lissabon) - 2004 

A philosopical book about a Swiss Professor of ancient languages who happens to meet a Portuguese woman and finds a book in Portuguese, so he gives up his whole life and goes to Lisbon to find the author. Almost like an epistolary Victorian novel but also historical with information about the resistance during the dictatorship in Portugal (1933-74). A book about finding yourself.

A Czech proverb says: Learn a new language and get a new soul. (I love that proverb, very true.)

Definitely a great book by a great author.

Read my original review here.

Tuesday 2 May 2023

Rutherfurd, Edward "New York"

Rutherfurd, Edward "New York" - 2009

I am sad. Because this is the last book I got to read by Edward Rutherfurd. At least for the time being. I hope he will write more. And hope there is. On his official website (here) he has a category with interesting facts about the towns and countries he has written about so far and there are a few facts about Egypt. So maybe he is working on a new one about Egypt. Would be a nice theme. If you don't have any other ideas, Mr. Rutherfurd, there are a few subjects that would certainly go down well: Vikings, Romans, Ottomans, Germany/Prussia/Goths, South America, Japan, Arabia, Palestine/Israel … I could read books by you on any of the subjects. Or any subject of your choosing. Just write another book. Thank you!

New York is the melting pot of the world. People come from everywhere but at the beginning mainly from the Netherlands and England, then other nations follow, Italians, Germans, slaves from Africa, refugees from all areas, so that in the end you can't even guess that a completely different people lived here before the Europeans made it their second home. But also the Native Americans appear.

In 1664, the city is still called New Amsterdam and we get to know some of the first European inhabitants, the van Dyck family from the Netherlands, quickly joined by the Masters from England. And it is these two families that the book takes as examples for the New Yorkers. Other characters follow slowly, the slave Quash, the O'Donnells and the Kellers, the Whites and the Carusos, the Adlers and the Cohens and all their descendants. There is a family for every ethnic background of the Big Apple. We follow history through these characters but also get to meet the famous people of the centuries, starting with George Washington. From the beginnings of the city, when it was still a small settlement that belonged to the colonial province New Netherland, and hence to the Dutch Republic, through the years of an English colony, the War of Independence and all the other subsequent wars that had an impact on the city, their raise to an important trade center as well as their various crashes. And we see the devastation on September 11th as well as the aftermath.

Nobody can put history better into very readable novels as Edward Rutherfurd. But should you know of other great books like this, please let me know.

And here's a great quote that could be in any book:
"He who destroys a good book, kills reason itself."

From the back cover:

"New York: a city where dreams are born.

And now, the story of the world's most vibrant and exciting city is chronicled in a novel as unforgettable as the city itself, as international bestseller Edward Rutherfurd tells the epic story of the Master family.From the city's birth over three hundred years ago to the tragedy and the heroism of 9/11, Rutherfurd's gripping story takes us on a journey encompassing the War of Independence and the Civil War, the gangs of
New York and the Ellis Island immigrants. From the glittering wealth of Fifth Avenue society, to the devastation of the Wall Street Crash and the ghettos of the Lower East Side, it is a story as ambitious and dramatic as the city which inspired it.

NEW YORK is not just the story of a city. It's also the very human story of a family - their lives and loves, their triumphs and their failures - and so a spellbinding and moving story of the modern world."

And another one:

"New York is a sweeping, four-century tale set in the most exciting city on earth. Magnificently researched with the help of leading New York historians, this novel follows the fortunes of the Van Dyck and Master families, and the descendants of Quash the African slave, from the early days of Manhattan's Indian settlements and Dutch New Amsterdam, through the English takeover, the War of Independence, when New York was the British headquarters, and the nineteenth century, when New Yorkers created the canals and railroads that opened up the American West.

Along the way we meet the Kellers, German shopkeepers who produce a famous photographer, and the O'Donnell family, who emerge from the gangs of
New York, rise through Tammany Hall and marry into the English aristocracy. We discover how the city almost left the Union at the start of the Civil War, and experienced the terrible Draft Riots 1863 and the Great Blizzard of 1888. At the start of the twentieth century, the Carusos immigrate through Ellis Island, witness the great Crash of 1929, and help construct the Empire State Building. The Adlers of Brooklyn experience anti-semitism between the two World Wars, and the Masters, as bankers and lawyers, seek their fortunes through the greed of the eighties and nineties, and come through a life-changing crisis in the tragedy of 9/11.

Larger-than-life historical characters fill the background: Stuyvesant, the Dutchman, Lord Cornbury the transvestite English Governor, George Washington, Ben Franklin who tried to keep America British, Lincoln who made one of his greatest speeches in the city, the titanic JP Morgan, Tammany Hall's Fernando Wood and Boss Tweed, legendary socialites like Mrs. Astor, and memorable modern city figures like La Guardia, Robert Moses, and Mayor Koch.

Find a link to all my reviews on his other novels here.

Monday 1 May 2023

Happy May!

   Happy May to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch

"Raps- und Obstblüte an der Ostsee"
"Rape and fruit blossom at the Baltic Sea"

Hanka and Frank say to this picture:
When it comes to colour highlights, I can only recommend a trip to the Baltic Sea in spring. The beginning of May is the time of the rapeseed blossom for us.

(Wenn es um farbliche Highlights geht, dann kann ich im Frühling immer wieder nur eine Reise an die Ostsee empfehlen. Anfang Mai ist bei uns die Zeit der Rapsblüte.)

Read more here.

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Pictures like this always bring a smile to my face. I love rape season. And we also have a lot of fields that are full of this beautiful yellow.

I live in Lower Saxony and many Northern Germans think we are not part of Northern Germany anymore. But if they see our area, they recognize that we don't just politically belong to the North of Germany but also in every other respect. Our landscape looks very much the same, we speak Low German, we are the same kind of people. And if you're honest, Germany is not separated into a Northern and Southern part in Bremen.

* * *
Today is Labour Day. So, I want to thank all nurses and doctors, police and firefighters, petrol station workers, railway and bus employees and everyone else who work while others have some time off to meet famila and friends.

* * *
April was a lot better than March. Remember, we had Covid in March, so things could only get better. We were lucky enough to visit three bigger cities, Brussels (and with that our son, of course), Bremen and Münster which are only about an hour away.

Here you can see a little of our excursions:

You see on the top left the Berlaymont building on the Robert Schuman roundabout in Brussels, on the bottom left some historic buildings on the Prinzipalmarkt in Münster, and on the right the Pundsacksche Haus on the Market Square in Bremen.

 Have a great month with this beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch.

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.