Friday, 22 September 2017

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsey

For Full House Reading Challenge hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, I had to read a book by an Australian/New Zealand author. Having just read a blog post from Brona's Books  about Top Ten Tuesday Aussie writers I found a reference to Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. This is a typical story that attracts me. A mystery never solved. Although, in a perfect world, there wold be an answer in the end.

The backdrop story is a group of young, female pupils, that made an excursion on Valentine's day in 1900 to Hanging Rock. Four of them and a teacher ventured up the rock. One of them did not follow the others and came screaming back without remembering very much. The others three and the teacher went missing. A week later one of the girls is found. She neither remembers anything of  what had happened to her.

From this tale Joan Lindsay has written an account of what might have happened. Were they snatched by aliens? Did they fall into a time zone? Was it a case of female hysteria? Or did they just fall down into a crevice? Even after all these years nobody knows.

The novel is a fascinating read and difficult to put down. Lindsay manages to balance her story without taking part for anyone solution over the other. It is well written, the mystery is hanging all over the novel, including a nasty school mistress. I went on to watch the film by Peter Wier, just after having finished the book.

Looking into the story a little bit more it seems that Lindsay's novel is a work of fiction, based on actual events. Although she includes newspaper articles in the end of the novel, the events she describes are not all part of real events.  This was a little bit of a setback for me, since I though she had researched the matter very well. For all we know, she might have, but still choose to make it a novel of fiction. Whatever is the case, it is a great read.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Careless People by Sarah Churchwell

Careless People tells the true story behind what inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write The Great Gatsby. Churchwell has written a fantastic story of the Jazz Age and the people who were the forerunners. In the middle of the circle is Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, their lives, friends and work.

Parallell to Fitzgerald's lives, Churchwell has read newspapers and books of the time and highlights what was going on in America in the 20s. One big thing is the Hall-Mills murder mystery which was never solved. We follow the development of New York, people moving out to Long Island, constructions, inventions, dramas, prohibition and much more. It is a lively, charming tale of a time when people seemed not to have any bigger troubles. But, there is always a snake in paradise.

Churchwell shows us how many things that was happening in America at the time, in their lives and with their friends, entered into The Great Gatsby. There are numerous references to similarities in the book and happenings at the time. Fitzgerald was set to write a classic and according to himself The Great Gatsby was it. It did not sell very well during his own lifetime, and it was only after his death that it was more highly appreciated, not to talk about almost 100 years later.

It is a charming tale, and Churchwell also manages to describe the life the two Fitzgeralds lived, their time in France and the inevitable fall from the peak years. The times are very well described, the details sometimes a little bit too much, but it gives the reader an insight into what made the Jazz Age such a charming time. Maybe a belief that you were living on the edge and life was a party. For some but not for everyone.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Bookbeginnings on Friday and The Friday 56

Rose City Reader, is hosting Book beginnings on Friday. She says:

Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

Freda’s voice is hosting Friday 56 and the rules are:

*Grab a book, any book.

*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
 *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post below in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.

My book this week is "Careless People" by Sarah Churchwell


"At 10 a.m. on 3 May 1924, armed with seventeen pieces of luggage and a full set of Encyclopedia Britannica, F. Scott Fitzgerald, his wife Zelda and their two-year-old daughter Scottie departed from Pier 58 on the North River in New York for Cherbourg, France, on board the SS Minnewaska."

Friday 56

" Knowing where their money comes from tells a great deal more about their character than knowing where their families come from. The American east-coast aristocracy saw itself as fitting into the mould of European aristocracy. But what it took the Europeans centuries to accrue, families like the Morgans and the Harrimans did in a generation, sufficient time in America's rapidly cycling class system. The difference between old and new money is, after all, purely relative: it just depends on when you start counting."

Monday, 11 September 2017

Back to the Classics

If  you have had a look at my reading recently, you might notice that there are some plays that have entered into the general reading of novels. I have started a correspondence  university course in literature on-line, with a university in Sweden. I really felt that it was time for me to know more about literature, how to analyse and review. And how fantastic is it not, to be able to study something which you are really interested in. Just for your own sake.

The very first task was to read A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen and King Oedipus by Sofokles. That is, to see how a tragedy and drama are built up. As the saying goes; "It goes back to the Greeks", Aristotle in this case. His Poetics set the scene what a play should contain and how it should be performed.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr

This is the second book by Philip Kerr that I read, and the second book about chief inspector Bernie Gunther. Checking through his books it seems Kerr does not write in a chronological order. The Quiet Flame, which I read several years ago, obviously before I started blogging in 2012, since I cannot find it among my reads. Remember liking it a lot though. The series of books is quite different, following a detective working during the Nazi time. The Quiet Flame is set in 1950 when he emigrates to Argentina. Prague Fatale takes place in 1941-42 in Berlin and Prague.

While trying to solve a crime in Berlin, where it seems, not everyone is interested in a thorough investigation, Gunther is called to Prague to work as a body guard to his old boss, Reinhard Heydrich. Unwillingly, he ventures on this mission with his mistress Arianne, which he met during his latest investigation in Berlin.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Bookbeginnings on Friday and Friday 56

Rose City Reader, is hosting Book beginnings on Friday. She says:

Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

Freda’s voice is hosting Friday 56 and the rules are: 

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
 *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post below in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.

My book this week is "Prague Fatale" by Philip Kerr

Book beginnings on Friday
"September 1941
The thought of suicide is a real comfort to me: sometimes it's the only way I can get through a sleepless night."

Friday 56
"A science graduate from the University in The Hague, Vranken had been quickly eliminated from Lüdtke's inquiry when his alibi checked out; but, hardly wanting to rely on this alone - after all, his alibi relied on other foreign workers - he had been at pains to adduce evidence of his good character, and to this end he had offered the name of a German whom he'd met before the war, in The Hague."

Review of the book will follow.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Six Degrees of Separation

Another month and another chain. I am joining Books Are My Favourite And Best for another six degrees. This month the chain starts with Wild Swans by Jung Chang. I read it many years ago, and loved it. It is a family saga that spans three female generations in China.

I love family sagas so I go from here to The Empress of South America by Nigel Cawthorne. It is the story of a middle class Irish girl who went to Paris and ended up the wife of the emperor of Paraguay. It is a true story of how two, evil people made a whole country their private family business. Quite intriguing and chocking.

From royalty to royalty I go to Mrs Jordan's Profession, by Claire Tomalin. It is a biography about the Anglo-Irish actress, courtesan and mistress of the future King William IV of UK. They had ten illegitimate children together. Fascinating story about a fascinating woman far ahead of her time.

My 20 Books of Summer

Cathy at Cathy 746 Books hosted her annual challenge of 20 Books of Summer. It was up to
participants to choose 10, 15 or 20 books from our TBR shelves to read between 1 June and 3 September 2017. A great challenge to lower the number of books on your shelves.

I did not write a list but just choose what I was feeling like at the time. When I make a list I tend to read everything except the titles on the list! Yes, that's me. I opted for 10 books since I also tend to over estimate my capacity, it was summer and this year a lot of holidays for me.

I am therefor rather pleased that I managed to read 13 books from my shelves. The books cover different genres and are rather easy reads, which is totally suitable for the warmer months of the year. Here is the list and links when there is a review.

  1. Chopra, Deepak - Self Power - Spiritual Solutions to Life's Greatest Challenges
  2. Indridason, Arnaldur - Den som glömmer (Kamp Knox)
  3. The Spy - Paulo Coelho
  4. Bryson, Bill - Notes from a Small Island
  5. Muir, Kate - left Bank
  6. Shreve, Anita - Eden Close
  7. Shreve, Anita - Sea Glass
  8. Isherwood, Christopher - Goodbye to Berlin
  9. Munro Alice - Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You 
  10. Jónasson, Ragnar - Rupture
  11. Simenon, Georges - Maigret Mystified
  12. Johnson, Robert G. & Westin, Janey - The Last Kings of Norse America
  13. Kerr, Philip - Prague Fatale

Great challenge and I hope to return for next year!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

The Last Kings of Norse America by Janey Westin and Robert Glen Johnson

I found this book in the museum of Njal's Saga in Iceland. An interesting account on the Vikings presence in North America. The sub-title is "Runestone Keys to a Lost Empire" and it makes for exciting reading. The authors explore a possible 14th century visit to North America on behalf of the Norwegian king Magnus. He sent his son Haakon VI as leader of the expedition and Johnson and Westin investigate available manuscripts and rune stones to follow in their foot steps as far as possible.

It is a fantastically, exciting journey they take us on. They start with an historical background on the situation in Scandinavia, Iceland and Greenland. As everywhere there were political turmoil and fight for power. The Norwegian had early ties with North America and the fur trade, but due to circumstances the trade had ceased. Now was the time to try to establish this lucrative business again.

The authors base their book on earlier research but have made a lot of new research, including new translations of the rune stones. There are two stones that they analyse; The Kensington stone and the Spirit Pond stone.

The Spirit Pond stone was discovered in 1971 by Walter Elliott who were out looking for arrowheads. Instead he found a strange, flat stone with markings on it. Elliott was excited about his find and tried to get it acknowledged. It is still controversial and there are people on both sides of the coin; is it a hoax or is it real. It does not look like a traditional rune stone and this might be the reason why it is controversial.

The Kensington stone was found on a forty-foot-high hill in 1898 when farmer Olof Ohman and his son were out clearing land in Kensington, Minnesota. It also had markings on it. Although the discovery was documented in detail at the time, the finding of the stone has led to a bitter 100-year-long controversy.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Maigret Mystified by Georges Simenon

I have lately read som reviews of Maigret books. I remember the TV-series from when I was very young and I really liked them. The books never came my way though, and when I found one in a second hand shop, I quickly grabbed it.

This mystery was first published in 1932. Although the writing is old, it does not feel old fashioned. I quite enjoyed the story and the way he was solving the crime.

An industrialist, Raymond Couchet is shot dead in his office one evening. The office is situated in an apartment building, so more or less all of the people in the building are suspects. They are a bunch of extraordinary individuals, so it takes a sharp brain to disentangle the web.

At the murder scene he meets Couchet's mistress Nine who came to look for him when he did not turn up for their dinner. In the building lives Couchet's first wife and her new husband. Next to the room in the hotel where Nine stays, Couchet's son Roger (with his ex-wife) is lodging with his mistress. The second wife is waiting for the inheritance. And then there are those mad women peaking about the corridors. Not to talk about the ever present concierge who knows everything that is happening in the building.

Much to consider, but Maigret approaches the crime in his calm, collective manner and with a few questions here and there, follow up of leads he manages to solve the crime.

It is an easily read, rather thin book. In all its simplicity the culprit still eluded me to the very end. That always makes for a good read.