Friday, 27 February 2015

Book Quotes of the Week


"Reading is pleasure and happiness to be alive or sadness to be alive and above all it's knowledge and questions." Roberto Bolaño

"One of the pleasures of reading old letters is the knowledge that they need no answer." Lord Byron


"The books we read answer questions we didn't even know existed. They make us wiser. They make us better." Axel Marazzi


"Novels aren’t just happy escapes; they are slivers of people’s souls, nailed to the pages, dripping ink from veins of wood pulp. Reading the right one at the right time can make all the difference." Brandon Sanderson


"Seeing someone reading a book you love is seeing a book recommending a person." 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, 26 February 2015

Austen, Jane "Sense & Sensibility"


Austen, Jane "Sense & Sensibility" - 1811
The Motherhood and Jane Austen Book Club

This was the sixth book I read with this blog and the challenge to read and discuss Jane Austen's novels with a view of the mothers in the stories.

You can see my reviews of "Pride & Prejudice", "Mansfield Park", "Persuasion", "Emma" and "Northanger Abbey" here.

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

There are a lot more mothers in this novel than in the last one, the whole book is full of mothers who all contribute a lot to the story. There is a lot of action in this novel, life is not without any challenges for our heroines, the Dashwood sisters and the location is changed several times, from their father's estate Norland Park in Sussex to Barton Cottage in Devonshire and then to London and back to Devon via Cleveland, the estate of the Parkers.

But let's have a look at all the mothers in "Sense & Sensibility".

Mothers:
Mrs. Dashwood, Fanny Dashwood (née Ferrars), Mrs. Ferrars, Mrs. Jennings, Lady Middleton (née Jennings), Charlotte Palmer (née Jennings)
Non-mothers:
Mrs. Smith, aunt to John Willoughby

Mrs. Dashwood
Mrs. Dashwood is the second wife of Mr. Henry Dashwood. His house is entailed so passed on to his son from his first marriage which leaves Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters in the position Mrs. Bennett from Pride & Prejudice is always dreading. However, same as Mrs. Bennett, despite being a totally helpless person herself, she seems to have been able to rise a completely sensible daughter, Elinor, who takes over all the worries and cares for the family.

She does want what's best for her daughters, or at least what she thinks is best for her daughters. She encourages Marianne in her pursuit of John Willoughby rather than following Elinor's advice to be careful.

But she probably was raised just the same, the kind of daughter who is supposed to marry well and then sit back and have others raise her children. That was the only option for women at the time, at least of a certain class.

Fanny Dashwood (née Ferrars)
Oh dear, can anybody be more selfish, manipulative, snobbish? She married John Dashwood only for the money, I am sure. And that's the main reason why she doesn't want a sister of her husband for her brother, because the sisters are penniless. And so, her brothers have to marry for money, as well. It's what people used to do in their circles.

I don't think she is very happy with her husband and I dare say she is not a good mother, either. She will say she loves her kids with all their heart but I am sure she would do just the same to them as her mother did to Edward in case they turn up with a non-desirable partner.

Mrs. Ferrars
Is there any "villain" in any of the Austen novels that is worse than Mrs. Ferrars? Disinherits her own son because he doesn't want to marry someone she chose for him. What kind of a mother is that? Well, nowadays that would be unheard of, at the time, for people with money, it was probably not as unusual but I still can't believe anybody doing that. In the end, she just opens his way to marry someone he really wants. Serves her right.

Mrs. Jennings
I know she is quite a chatterbox and gossips about everyone but you just have to like her, she means well, she loves her daughters, she even loves the Dashwood girls who have nothing to do with her. She takes them under her wings with the design to find them a good husband.

Of course, Marianne dislikes her but she really has a kind heart and is very helpful and supportive.

Lady Middleton (née Jennings)
Her husband, Sir John Middleton, is the Dashwood's relative who gives them Barton Cottage. He seems a very generous and caring person whereas his wife, Mrs. Jenning's daughter, seems to be more the fashion type of wife, the one who just presents her nice clothes to everyone, leaves the education of her children to the nurse and doesn't care at all about others. Again, probably something ladies were raised to do at the time. Still, there are others who show their heart more, including her own mother.

Charlotte Palmer (née Jennings)
Mrs. Jennings' other daughter who seems more talkative than her sister, a little more simple but a lot more kind-hearted. She might not be the smartest of the ladies in this novel but she is more like her mother than her sister, cares more for the Dashwood sisters than her sister, as well, and is one of the few who really wants to know how they are doing. She also cares a lot about her child, more than most of the other ladies in the novel. She seems to be a very good mother, especially if you look at the time and what was expected of people of certain standing.

Mrs. Smith
Mrs. Smith doesn't really appear in the novel but she is talked about quite often and has a huge influence on the whole story. She is Willoughby's aunt, the one he visits when he is in Devon and whose house and wealth he is supposed to inherit. Had she not heard of his mistakes (or had he not made them), he would still be her heir and could have married Marianne. But as it is, she does hear of it and disinherits him. And bravo for that. She stands up for her principles and shows the young man that he can't just do whatever he likes without feeling the consequences. Well, Marianne feels the consequences even more but we all know that that is going to have a happy ending, as well.

From the back cover:
"Compelled to leave Norland in Sussex for Barton Cottage in Devonshire, the two sisters are soon accepted into their new society. Marianne, whose sweet radiance and open nature charm the roguish John Willoughby, is soon deeply in love. Elinor, whose disposition is more cautious and considered, who carefully conceals her emotions, is suffering the loss of Edward Ferrars whom she has left behind.
Despite their very different personalities, both sisters experience great sorrows in their affairs of the heart: Marianne demonstrably wretched and Elinor allowing no one to see her private heartache. It is, however, the qualities common to them both - discernment, constancy and integrity in the face of the fecklessness of others - that allow them entry into a new life of peace and contentment."

Find a link to all my Jane Austen reviews here.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Hunter, Stephen "Night of Thunder"

Hunter, Stephen "Night of Thunder: a Bob Lee Swagger novel" - 2008

A friend of mine said some people had mentioned he was like Bob Swagger in this novel and would like mind reading it. I told him I am glad he is my friend and not my enemy. But I did understand why his friends saw him in this and they might be right. I haven't known this friend for very long, but I can see the resemblance.

Bob Swagger is a former soldier/FBI agent, whatever, something like the American James Bond, only married. You don't play with him and certainly not with his family. Because that means war.

I am not a big fan of thrillers because to me they are all the same and there is nothing much to talk about. So, I will just say that it was a nice novel, well written, suspension caused mainly by switching from one side of the story to the other. If you like thrillers, give Stephen Hunter a try.

From the back cover: "Talk about a ride!
Woe unto he who crosses Bob Lee Swagger, especially when his daughter's life is at stake. Forced off the road and into a crash that leaves her in a coma, clinging to life, reporter Nikki Swagger had begun to peel back the onion of a Southernfried conspiracy bubbling with all the angst, resentment, and dysfunction that Dixie gangsters can muster. An ancient, violent crime clan, a possibly corrupt law enforcement structure, gunmen of all stripes and shapes, and deranged evangelicals rear their ugly heads and will live to rue the day they targeted the wrong man's daughter. It's what you call your big-time bad career move. All of it is set against the backdrop of excitement and insanity that only a weeklong NASCAR event can bring to the backwoods of a town as seemingly sleepy as Bristol, Tennessee.
A master at the top of his game, Hunter provides a host of thrilling new reasons to read as fast as we can. When Swagger picks up peeling where his daughter left off, and his swift sword of justice is let loose, we find a true American hero in his most stunning action to date. And -- in the form of Brother Richard, a self-decreed "Sinnerman" out of the old fire-and-brimstone tradition -- Hunter offers up his most diabolical, engaging villain yet. A triumph of story, character, and style, Night of Thunder is Stephen Hunter at his very best.
"

Monday, 23 February 2015

Baxter, Charles "The Soul Thief"

Baxter, Charles "The Soul Thief" - 2008

I saw this novel in the library and thought it sounded interesting. Well, the title caught my eye.

The book has an interesting narrative but is slightly weird nonetheless. There is a lot of psychology in it. Nathaniel Mason is a student who is more or less stalked by a guy called Jerome Coolberg. You get a strange feeling reading about his story. All the time, you are waiting for it all to come together but it remains strange until the end.

Charles Baxter is supposed to be a great writer but I'm not sure I will read any more of his novels anytime soon.

From the back cover: "During Nathaniel Mason’s first few months as a graduate student in upstate New York, he is drawn into a tangle of relationships with people who seem to hover just beyond his grasp. There’s Theresa, alluring but elusive, and Jamie, who is fickle if not wholly unavailable. But Jerome Coolberg is the most mysterious and compelling. Not only cryptic about himself, he seems to have appropriated parts of Nathaniel’s past that Nathaniel cannot remember having told him about. It is Jerome who seems to trigger the events that precipitate Nathaniel’s total breakdown, and Jerome who shows up 30 years later--Nathaniel having finally reconstituted his life--to suggest, with the most staggering consequences, that Nathaniel’s identity may in fact not be his own.

In The Soul Thief, Charles Baxter has given us one of his most beautifully wrought and unexpected works of fiction: at once lyrical and eerie, acutely observant in its sensual and emotional detail and audaciously metaphysical in its underpinnings. It is a brilliant novel--one that is certain to expand both his already-stellar reputation and his readership."

Friday, 20 February 2015

Book Quotes of the Week

"Reading to small children is a speciality." Clifton Fadiman

"With my eyes closed, I would touch a familiar book and draw its fragrance deep inside me. This was enough to make me happy." Haruki Murakami


"Books do furnish a room." Anthony Powell


"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde


"Sorrows that she's but read of in a book weigh on her mind as if they had been her own." W.B. Yeats. 


Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Scott, Mary "Strangers for Tea"

 Scott, Mary "Strangers for Tea" - 1975

Another visit to Susan and Larry's farms in New Zealand. In this novel, Susan brings home a hitch hiker and so does Larry. Some new faces in the small community and a lot of young people that make the life in the backblocks more versatile. But one day, people miss money and everyone is afraid that one of their new friends might be a thief. An almost detective story this time but the two friends Susan and Larry solve this problem as well as they have solved any other obstacles thrown their way so far.

As always, a fun and easy read, sometimes very easy but the stories remind me of my youth and I love them.

This is the seventh book in the series by Mary Scott. And this is the list of all of them:
"Breakfast at Six" - 1953
"Dinner Doesn’t Matter" - 1957
"Tea and Biscuits"  - 1961
"A Change From Mutton" - 1964
"Turkey at Twelve" - 1968
"Shepherd’s Pie" - 1972
"Strangers for Tea" - 1975
"Board, but no Breakfast" - 1978

Unfortunately, they are out of print and only available second hand. I have heard in the meantime that you can buy some of them as ebooks.

From the back cover (translated): "Te Rimu in the highlands of New Zealand is a peaceful area. Here three comrades have settled as farmers together with their wives: Paul with Susan, Sam with Larry, Tim with Anne. They lead a busy, sociable, yet quiet life. Until one day ...
Until one day, Susan brings a hitchhiker home, a young man with shoulder-length blond hair: David, who is looking for a job. And that's just life, a couple of days later Larry also picks up hitchhiker: Tom, a robust young man who is also looking for work.
The two strangers bring variety to the farmers' leisurely life. They gather other young people and found a youth club, the "gang". Suddenly, money is stolen everywhere, and when it is discovered that Tom has been in prison for car theft, suspicion falls on him. Cheerfulness and good humor have disappeared from the village ..."

Find all my reviews to novels by Mary Scott here.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Pamuk, Orhan "My Father's Suitcase"


Pamuk, Orhan "My Father's Suitcase" (Turkish: Babamın Bavulu) - 2007

The title of this collection refers to the first story in the book, the lecture Orhan Pamuk gave in Stockholm when he accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature. I read the German translation ("Der Koffer meines Vaters. Aus dem Leben eines Schriftstellers") that does not only have the addition to the title "From the life of an author" but also has 344 pages as opposed to the English one with only 28 pages. There are a lot more stories in the German one. He has put them together in subcategories titled "Life", "Istanbul", "America", "Reading and Books", "My Books are My Life", "Pictures and Texts", "Politics and Citizenship" and "Paris Review" where he publishes his interview for Paris Review.

The parts of this book are more like articles rather than short stories. I learned a lot about one of my favourite writers. I had the feeling I got closer to Orhan Pamuk, the writer, but also to Orhan Pamuk the private man. He talks to us about Turkey, its history and its contemporary politics, Istanbul, as always, where Orhan Pamuk is, Istanbul is not far. But we can also learn what he thinks about writing and how to be a writer.

A great book, I am happy that it was translated into German. Even if they will never translate all of it into English, try to read at least "My Father's Suitcase", it is a wonderful story.

From the author's website: "'Two years before his death, my father gave me a small suitcase full of his writings, hand writings and notebooks.'
Orhan Pamuk gave a speech called 'My Father’s Suitcase' when he received the Nobel Prize in Literature in December 2006. This emotional speech which sincerely conveys the spirit of Pamuk’s thirty two years of writing effort, had a deep, worldwide impact. This book combines 'My Father’s Suitcase' which is a basic text about writing and living with Pamuk’s two other speeches in which the same subjects and problems are discussed from other perspectives. 'The Implied Author', the speech that Pamuk gave when he received the Puterbaugh Prize given by World Literature magazine, in April 2006 is about the psychology of writing and the urge and adventure of being a writer. Pamuk’s other speech, 'In Kars and in Frankfurt' that was given when he received the Peace Prize given by the German Publishers Associations in October 2005 is investigating the power of the writer to put himself in another’s place and the political consequences of this very natural human talent. My Father’s Suitcase consists of three speeches that are seen as a whole by their writer.
It’s a unique, personal book on what writing is, how to become a writer, life and writing, the writer’s patience and the secrets of the art of novel (from the author's website)"

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

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

You can read more about the books I read by one of my favourite authors 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.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Book Quotes of the Week


"Beyond the highest mountain, past the farthest star, the stories found in a book are what makes us who we are." Jeff Liss 

"Reading takes us away from home, it finds homes for us everywhere." Hazel Rochman 

"No furniture is so charming as books." Sydney Smit 

"I love bookshelves, and stacks of books, spines, typography, and the feel of pages between my fingertips. I love bookmarks, and old bindings, and stars in margins next to beautiful passages. I love exuberant underlinings that recall to me a swoon of language-love from a long-ago reading, something I hoped to remember. I love book plates, and inscriptions in gifts from loved ones, I love author signatures, and I love books sitting around reminding me of them, being present in my life, being. I love books." Laini Taylor 

"Buying books is immensely comforting. Maybe I won’t read them immediately, but they make me feel so much better whenever I’m sad and blue. Just their presence, it’s like having more to look forward to." 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, 12 February 2015

Berry, Wendell "Hannah Coulter"



Berry, Wendell "Hannah Coulter" - 2004

A friend recommended this book to me. I might not have read it first if I'd found it in a bookshop because it's the umpteenth novel in a series of stories about the inhabitants of Port William. But I doubt that it matters because I can imagine that they all start at the life of a certain person and go on until today, so they will probably intermingle.

Hannah Coulter, for example, is the mother of Nathan Coulter whose story was written quite a while before that of his mother.

Anyway, Hannah Coulter led a long life in rural Kentucky, she had several children, lived through World War II, the Great Depression, and everything that that encounters. She talks about her life in a diary form but not necessarily in a chronological one.

I came to like Hannah and her loved ones. The way they work together, very old form, maybe still possible in some rural areas but certainly not everywhere.

The writing style is pleasing, just as if your grandma was telling you about your life. I liked that.

From the back cover: "In the latest installment in Wendell Berry's long story about the citizens of Port William, Hannah Coulter remembers. Her first husband, Virgil, was declared 'missing in action' shortly after the Battle of the Bulge, and after she married Nathan Coulter about all he could tell Hannah about the Battle of Okinawa was 'Ignorant boys, killing each other. 'The community was stunned and diminished by the war, with some of its sons lost forever and others returning home determined to carry on. Now, in her late seventies, twice-widowed and alone, Hannah sorts through her memories: of her childhood, of young love and loss, of raising children and the changing seasons. She turns her plain gaze to a community facing its long deterioration, where, she says, 'We feel the old fabric torn, pulling apart, and we know how much we have loved each other.' Hannah offers her summation: her stories and her gratitude, for the membership in Port William, and for her whole life, a part of the great continuum of love and memory, grief and strength."

Here is a list I put together from various sites of all the novels that talk about Port William:
Nathan Coulter - 1960
A Place on Earth - 1966
The Memory of Old Jack - 1974
The Wild Birds: Six Stories - 1986
Remembering - 1988
Fidelity - 1992
Watch with me - 1994
A World Lost - 1996
Jayber Crow - 2000
That Distant Land - 2002
Hannah Coulter - 2004
Andy Catlett - 2006
Whitefoot - 2009
A Place in Time - 2012

I intend to read a few more.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Hislop, Victoria "The Last Dance and Other Stories"

Hislop, Victoria "The Last Dance and Other Stories" - 2012

I have read all of Victoria Hislop's three novels and thoroughly enjoyed all of them. Therefore, I bought this one in the hope that it would be just as great.

However, this is not a novel like her other books, it's a collection of short stories and I'm not a big fan of short stories. And, she mentions this herself in the afterword, her Greek readers have criticized her before for seeing their country through rose-tinted lenses, and she is trying to adjust that in her stories.

So, quite a change to her previous books one would say.

Nonetheless, I loved this book. Even though her previous stories also tell about historic problems, these here talk about the life in Greece today, about the life of modern Greeks in an ever changing world.
I loved these stories, whether they were about an abandoned kafenion, fighting brothers, a love lost or political protests. And I am looking forward to this author's next story.

From the back cover: "In ten powerful stories, Victoria Hislop takes us through the streets of Athens and into the tree-lined squares of Greek villages. As she evokes their distinct atmosphere, she brings vividly to life a host of unforgettable characters, from a lonesome priest to battling brothers, and from an unwanted stranger to a groom troubled by music and memory.
These bittersweet tales of love and loyalty, of separation and reconciliation, captured in Victoria Hislop's unique voice, will stay with you long after you reach the end."

Find the other Victoria Hislop books I read here

Monday, 9 February 2015

Faulkner, William "Light in August"

Faulkner, William "Light in August" - 1932

What a book. This could be a follow-up of "Gone With the Wind" seventy years later. A book about the Deep South, about country life, families, hard work, racism, crime, religion, morale, everything a story about this region and time should have.

Faulkner has a brilliant way of writing, I like his style, even though he jumps around from time to time, he still follows his path and you can follow it well without any confusion. There are a few major stories with several subplots but William Faulkner manages to tell them all in a way that it's not difficult to follow. An accessible story with both likeable and non-likeable characters.

I'm not surprised he received the Pulitzer Prize for two of his works, "A Fable" and "The Reivers", both of which have gone on my wishlist.

From the back cover: "One of William Faulkner’s most admired and accessible novels, Light in August reveals the great American author at the height of his powers. Lena Grove’s resolute search for the father of her unborn child begets a rich, poignant, and ultimately hopeful story of perseverance in the face of mortality. It also acquaints us with several of Faulkner’s most unforgettable characters, including the Reverend Gail Hightower, plagued by visions of Confederate horsemen, and Joe Christmas, a ragged, itinerant soul obsessed with his mixed-race ancestry. Powerfully entwining these characters’ stories, Light in August brings to life Faulkner’s imaginary South, one of literature’s great invented landscapes, in all of its unerringly fascinating glory."

Friday, 6 February 2015

Book Quotes of the Week


"What a blessing it is to love books. Everybody must love something, and I know of no objects of love that give such substantial & unfailing returns as books & a garden." Elizabeth von Arnim

"I read like a flame reads the wood." Alfred Döblin

"Books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die." Franklin D. Roosevelt

"You are the books you read, the films you watch, the music you listen to, the people you meet, the dreams you have, the conversations you engage in. You are what you take from these. You are the sound of the ocean, the breath of fresh air, the brightest light and the darkest corner. You are a collective of every experience you have had in your life. You are every single second of every single day. So drown yourself in a sea of knowledge and existence. Let the words run through your veins and let the colours fill your mind." Jac Vanek

"Those books you know you'll love forever even before you start them. And after reading it for the x-th time, you smile to yourself about how right you were." N.N.


Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Austen, Jane "Northanger Abbey"

Austen, Jane "Northanger Abbey" - 1818
The Motherhood and Jane Austen Book Club


This was the fifth book I read with this group and the challenge to read and discuss Jane Austen's novels with a view of the mothers in the stories.

The first four novels we discussed were "Pride & Prejudice", "Mansfield Park", "Persuasion" and "Emma" which I have already reviewed earlier here.

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

The heroine of this novel is Catherine Morland, a young girl who loves reading gothic novels. We accompany her on her first outing to Bath where she is taken by her neighbours, Mr. and Mrs. Allen.

Same as in "Emma", there are not many mother figures in this novel but I think they are more prominent here even though they might be less visible. They might not be mentioned as much but you can see their influence nonetheless.

Non-Mothers with influence on our heroine: Mrs. Allen
Mothers: Mrs. Morland, Mrs. Thorpe,
Mothers not present: Mrs. Tilney

Mrs. Allen
Mrs. Allen has no children of her own and therefore serves as chaperone, takes our heroine Catherine Morland to Bath and tries to introduce her into the society there. This leads to the Thorpe's assumption that Catherine will inherit their wealth. She does not seem to be very organized, though, and small problems of any sort are a major hurdle for her. She means well, though, and really likes Catherine for herself.

Mrs. Morland
Mrs. Morland, Catherine's real mother, certainly is a good and loving woman who wishes her children all the best but in the end is not much better than Mrs. Allen. After all, she lets her daughter go with the latter to a place she does not really know herself. She is quite kind and more practical, though, and probably believes it is for the better to send her daughter away.

Mrs. Thorpe
Mrs. Thorpe, the third mother who has quite an influence on Catherine Morland's life, though not necessarily the way she would like to. She is also not the kind of person you would like to raise your children, seems to be more occupied with herself and her clothes rather than her own children. She is not very successful with their upbringing, either, although she does want what every parent wants: the best for her children.

Mrs. Tilney
We don't really meet Mrs. Tilney as she has been dead for almost a decade before our story even starts. However, she is important to the story and the life of her children and also our heroine Catherine Morland.

I have always thought that "Northanger Abbey" is not comparable to Jane Austen's other novels, it has always been my least favourite. However, in rereading it, the story definitely grew on me and I came to like Catherine Morland who seemed to become a good kind of person despite all the mother figures (or shall we say non-mother figures) in her life. I do prefer her own mother over all the others but that is not necessarily a praise.

From the back cover: "Catherine Morland is an Austen heroine unlike any other--youthful and naive, with a lively imagination fed by the popular Gothic novels she so loves to read. But when Catherine meets the wealthy and charming Henry Tilney during a vacation in Bath, and visits his family's sinister and mysterious estate, she begins to suspect that some of the dark doings she's read about just might be true... One of Austen's earliest works, Northanger Abbey offers fascinating insights into her perspective as a writer and a reader. The world's greatest works of literature are now available in these beautiful keepsake volumes. Bound in real cloth, and featuring gilt edges and ribbon markers, these beautifully produced books are a wonderful way to build a handsome library of classic literature. These are the essential novels that belong in every home. They'll transport readers to imaginary worlds and provide excitement, entertainment, and enlightenment for years to come. All of these novels feature attractive illustrations and have an unequalled period feel that will grace the library, the bedside table or bureau."

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

Find a link to all my Jane Austen reviews here.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Harris, Joanne "Blackberry Wine"

Harris, Joanne "Blackberry Wine" - 2000

I have read several books by Joanne Harris. My first one was "Chocolat" in which I was a little disappointed but probably due to the hype around it at the time, I just expected it to be more. Her reads are nice, that's probably about the best I can say about them, they tell a little about French life, usually with a foreigner thrown in, contain recipes, are a little on the chick lit side but not entirely because they rarely are about love.

So far, I have also read "Five Quarters of the Orange" and "Coastliners", and the latter has been my favourite.

Until I read this one. "Blackberry Wine" is an interesting story about some old wine, an old farm, everything old, really. It reminded me a little of Isabel Allende and her magic realism stories.

Easy but good read.

From the back cover: "Jay Mackintosh is a 37-year-old has-been writer from London. Fourteen years have passed since his first novel, Jackapple Joe, won the Prix Goncourt. His only happiness comes from dreaming about the golden summers of his boyhood that he spent in the company of an eccentric vintner who was the inspiration of Jay's debut novel, but who one day mysteriously vanished. Under the strange effects of a bottle of Joe's '75 Special, Jay decides to purchase a derelict yet promising château in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. There, a ghost from his past waits to confront him, and his new neighbour, the reclusive Marise - haunted, lovely and dangerous - hides a terrible secret behind her closed shutters. Between them, there seems to be a mysterious chemistry. Or could it be magic?"

Monday, 2 February 2015

Shields, Carol "The Stone Diaries"

Shields, Carol "The Stone Diaries" - 1993

An interesting book about an interesting life.  So far, I had only read Carol Shield's book about Jane Austen but somehow, this fiction book of hers has escaped me.

I like books with a map or a family tree in the back. This is one. I love being able to go back and forth and see who is connected to whom, where they come from, what is going to come next, even though sometimes I am annoyed that it spoils part of the book for me because I already know that someone is going to die soon or getting married etc.

Having said that, "The Stone Diaries" would be comprehensible even without that family tree. Daisy Stone Goodwill goes through many hardships in her life, being born an orphan under weird circumstances, she manages her life quite well. She is a smart woman and gets an education at a time where that is far from the norm for any woman let alone one in her circumstances.

While reading this, I often wondered how much of Carol Shields is in this fictional autobiography of Daisy Goodfellow. There is everything about life in this book, birth and death, marriage and divorce, education and work, problems with parents and children, just anything a normal life encounters.

A good read.

From the back cover: "The Stone Diaries is one ordinary woman's story of her journey through life. Born in 1905, Daisy Stone Goodwill drifts through the roles of child, wife, widow, and mother, and finally into her old age. Bewildered by her inability to understand her place in her own life, Daisy attempts to find a way to tell her story within a novel that is itself about the limitations of autobiography. Her life is vivid with incident, and yet she feels a sense of powerlessness. She listens, she observes, and through sheer force of imagination she becomes a witness of her own life: her birth, her death, and the troubling misconnections she discovers between. Daisy's struggle to find a place for herself in her own life is a paradigm of the unsettled decades of our era. A witty and compassionate anatomist of the human heart, Carol Shields has made distinctively her own that place where the domestic collides with the elemental. With irony and humor she weaves the strands of The Stone Diaries together in this, her richest and most poignant novel to date."

Carol Shields received the Pulitzer Prize for "The Stone Diaries" in 1995.

This is also a book about reading, a lot of books are mentioned in the novel:

Books Clarentine read:
Libby, Laura Jean "Struggle for a Heart"
Alexander, Mrs. "What Gold Cannot Buy"
Warden, Florence "At the World's Mercy"
Brontë, Charlotte "Jane Eyre"
Other books mentioned: (see below in alphabetical order, at least those that I could find)
Black Beauty, Anne of Green Gables, Freckles, Twice Told Tales, Beautiful Joe, Mill on the Floss, Pocahontas, Elizabeth and Her German Garden, Jane Eyre, The Unification of Italy, Beowulf, the Romantic Poets, In His Steps, Wild Geese, Gone With the Wind, Claudia, The First Six Years, The The Grapes of Wrath, Forever Amber, The Egg and I, Cheaper by the Dozen, Lust for Life, the Web and the Rock, The Skutari Babies, Our Mutual Friend, Nellie's Memories, Helen's Saga, A Brief History of the Orkney Isles, Chekhov's Daughter, The Edible Woman, The Good Earth, Murder in the Meantime.

Alphabetical list:
Arnim, Elizabeth von "Elizabeth and Her German Garden"
Atwood, Margaret "The Edible Woman"
Brontë, Charlotte "Jane Eyre"
Buck, Pearl S. "The Good Earth"
Carey, Rosa Nouchette "Nellie's Memories"
Dickens, Charles "Our Mutual Friend"
Donnell, Susan "Pocahontas"
Eliot, George "The Mill on the Floss"
Franken, Rose "The Claudia Novels"
Gilbreth, Frank + Gilbreth Carey, Elizabeth "Cheaper by the Dozen"
Hawthorne, Nathaniel "Twice Told Tales"
MacDonald, Betty "The Egg and I"
Mitchell, Margaret "Gone With the Wind"
Montgomeray, Lucy Maud "Anne of Green Gables"
Saunders, Margaret Marshall "Beautiful Joe"
Sewell, Anna "Black Beauty"
Sheldon, Charles "In His Steps"
Steinbeck, John "The Grapes of Wrath"
Stone, Irving "Lust for Life"
Stratton-Porter, Gene "Freckles"
Winsor, Kathleen "Forever Amber"
Woolfe, Thomas "The Web and the Rock"