Wednesday, 12 December 2018

A modern relationship?

A couple of years ago, I took a correspondence course on "How to write historical fiction". One of my fellow students, Magnus R Lindgren, has now published, not a historical fiction (although he tells me it will come) but two books on poetry. Far longer than I have come myself.

Magnus R Lindgren can call himself writer, poet, copywriter and teacher, and he also has a diploma in creative writing. His poetry debut, "Om det inte hänt hade jag inte blivit" (If nothing had happening I would not have been) is a reflection on the changes in life and the search for oneself.

In "Detta privata" (This private) he continues with the same theme. He uses Lydia Stille as a co-writer, but she is actually his muse (a character from The Secret Game by Hjalmar Söderberg), an inspiration for his writing. Each chapter starts with a poem and thoughts on the difficulty to enter into a new relationship. Especially, when you are divorced and a little bit older and wiser? The story is written in the form of a facebook/messenger conversation between a man and a woman who has just met on-line.

Then, the day comes when they meet in real life. After several weeks of daily contacts on-line, they do feel that they know each other. Even if their meetings turn out pretty well, both of them are afraid to let go. An insecurity of one's own ability to love, the ability of the other to love. To meet in real life turns out to be more difficult than to meet on-line. This is shown in the introductory short story for each chapter, which contains the man's thoughts when they do meet. The real life meetings show the insecurity he feels. The Messenger conversations, on the contrary, are more secure.

It is a book for reflection. Not only over relationships, but also on the modern society in which we live. Do we have two lives? One on-line and one real life? If so, which one do we feel most comfortable in? The book is often spot on. Maybe it is easier today to "meet" and speak on-line. Will the physical meeting be too realistic? While on-line, using text rather than speech, might give us a feeling that we are within the pages of a novel, that is, it is not real. Does a good artificial contact, exclude a good realistic one?

Lindgren has written a modern short story on relationships on-line. It is beautiful and warm, and point towards many of the problems with relationships today. Here are two persons with more or less the same need for closeness and comfort. The obstacles though seem to be overwhelming, especially as concerns the anxiety to get hurt again. Will this relationship last? Is it worth the effort to give in to your feelings? Does one dare to let go and enter a new relationship unconditionally?

It is a thought provoking little book, well worth a read and to reflect over. It opens up for many interpretations, and this is just one of them.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Books on my to read list

It seems that, while I am struggling to read the books on my own book shelves, the list of books I would like to read, gets longer and longer. The books ending up here are books that you have written about and sounds very interesting to me. Or, they can be from a review in a paper or elsewhere. I wanted to share the list with you. Please recommend your favourites and I might start with them. Do I have a dead-line? NO! Whenever. But, and that is the thing. They, like the books on my TBR shelves tend to get older with the years, and sometimes it is just nice to read new books.

I am a member of a "borrow and read" group with my local bookshop. There, at least, I get to read new books. Here is the list, filled up as I have read about the books. Any of them on your to read list?

  • The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh
  • The Country Wife by William Wycherley
  • Time After Time (eBook) by D.P. Mendes-Kelly 
  • The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri Murari
  • A Cornish Affair by Liz Fenwick
  • En dos stryknin by Olle Mattsson (a book about poison in literature))
  • The Dutch Golden Age by Hans Goedkoop and Kees Zandvliet
  • The Seventh Etching by Judith K. White
  • I am Rembrandt's daughter by Lynn Cullen
  • Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain
  • The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
  • The Entity by Eric Frattini
  • The Last Romance by Kathleen Valentine
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  • Stoner by John Williams
  • The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay
  • Hitler's Daughter by Jackie French
  • The Quick by Lauren Owen
  • Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly
  • Painted Horses by Malcolm Brooks      
  • Neverhome by Laird Hunt
  • The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevive Valentine 
  • Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
  • Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
  • The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffmans
  • Scene of the Climb by Kate Dyer-Seely
  • Sisters of Sinai by Janet Soskice
  • Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
  • Sweet Water by Christina Baker Kline
  • The Astrologer's Daughter by Rebecca Lim
  • Paris was ours by Penelope Rowlands
  • Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Melissa Pessl
  • Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod
  • The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell
  • An Unseemly Wife by E.B. Moore
  • A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
  • Portrait of a Woman in White by Susan Winkler
  • The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith
  • Book of Ages by Jill Lepore (about the sister of Benjamin Franklin)
  • Vanessa and her Sister by Priya Parmar 
  • Dark wood by Rosemary Smith
  • Florence Gordon by Brian Morton
  • The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer
  • The Moor: Lives Landscapre Literature by William Atkins
  • The Snow Kimono by Mark Henshaw
  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
  • The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock
  • The Name of Things by John Colman Wood
  • Dancing with Mrs Dalloway by Celia Blue Johnson
  • Brighton Belle by Sara Sheridan
  • The Art of Forgery by Noah Charney
  • A Triple Knot by Emma Campion
  • The Poisoned Crown by Maurice Druon
  • The Paris Key by Juliet Blackwell
  • Silver Lies by Ann Parker
  • Den omöjliga kärlekens hus by Christina Lopes Barrio
  • A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd
  • The Orphan Train by Christina Baker
  • Amy Snow by Tracy Rees
  • The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
  • Lärjungen by Henrik Senestad
  • Boundary Layer by Kem Luther
  • Encounter with an Angry God: Recollections of My Life with John Peabody Harrington by Carobeth Laird
  • We and Me by Saskia de Coster
  • The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunder
  • Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger
  • Katedralen vid havet by Ildefonso Falcones
  • Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase
  • That Summer by Lauren Willig
  • The Glass Room by Simon Mawer
  • Murder-on-Ile-Saint-Louis by Cara Black
  • J R Ward family drama series
  • The Sunne in Splendor by Sharon Penman
  • The Last Painting of Sara de Vis by Dominic Smith
  • Captivity by György Spiro
  • Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George
  • Paris Runaway by Paulita Kincher
  • Detective series by Sulari Gentil
  • Wolfskin by Juliet Marillier
  • The Journal of Mrs Pepys by Sara George
  • The Chosen Maiden by Eva Stachniak
  • Cleopatra's sister by Penelope Li
  • Walking with Plato by Gary Hayden
  • The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle
  • The Forbidden Garden Ellen Herrick
  • Jayne Coleman series
  • The Body in the Ice by A.J. MacKenzie
  • Inheritance by Victoria Wilcox
  • Lives for sale, Biographers's tale by Mark Bostridge
  • How to stop time by Matt Haig
  • The streets of Paris by Susan Cahill
  • The Passions of Sophia Bryant by Shauna Gilligan
  • Roanoke by Lee Miller
  • Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent
  • Michael J Sullivan fantasy epic adult
  • A Dying Note by Ann Parker
  • Lily of the Nile by Stehanie Dray
  • The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medications, and Murder Most Foul by Eleanor Herman
  • The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O'Melveny
  • The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine
  • The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick
  • Nine Perfect Strangers by LIane Moriarty
  • The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay
  • The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen
  • The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
  • The Black Count:Glory, Revolution, Betrayal,
and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss
If I calculated correctly, this is 106 books. About a year's reading for me. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Six Degrees of Separation

Six Degrees of Separation is hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. This month it starts with the classic Christmas story by Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol.

I have not read very many books by Dickens (and I have given up to be honest), but I have read A Christmas Carol and I liked it very much. It is a perfect story for the season. Mr Scrooge is evil and that leads me to Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Here Emily created a character who is the embodiment of evil and eternal love.

Just finished a Swedish thriller called Solitairen (the Solitaire) by Anna Lihammer & Ted Hesselbom, which also features a very evil man, who controls all the people around him.

Evil lingers on the American plains in Alma Katsu's The Hunger. Stephen King says: "Deeply, deeply disturbing, hard to put down, not recommended reading after dark."  He is right, there is something disturbing out there in the wilderness. The novel tells the story of the Donner party, a group of American pioneers who travelled west to California in a wagon train in May 1846. This is a true story and the party was delayed due to mistakes in planning, bad organisation and choosing the wrong route. They were stuck in the Sierra Nevada over the winter. Of the 87 members of the train, only 48 survived. It is said that they resorted to cannibalism to survive. A very tragic story.

The heroes and heroines of Allison Brennan's excellent books are always surrounded by evil. Wether it is in the Lucy Kincaid series, Make Them Pay, or the series about Max Revere, Poisonous

That leads me to Pere Goriot by Honoré de Balzac, which also contains evil and selfish people, who is trying to get as much money as possible by any means.

The last evil thread will go to the old, Greek Gods, and Mythos by Stephen Fry. He, himself, narrates his own book and here is a fight for survival on all grounds. Power to control the world can make people, and even gods, really nasty.

Well, that was a little bit of an evil chain today. I don't know how that came up, at a time, when we want to be kind to everybody. Alas, it is not always the case. Hopefully, the Christmas atmosphere will make the world a better place to be.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë

These ladies are two of my favourite authors. I have now read everything (except the Juvenilia) they have written. It really was a fight at the end. The two novels left to read were Mansfield Park and Shirley. Have I struggled? Indeed I have. It was a heavy road uphills. They are classics, I like the authors so I really wanted to read them. In the end I had to use my method of reading a chapter a day to be able to finish them.

Both novels are "much ado about nothing" as Shakespeare put it. The stories are boring, the characters are boring, ok, they are little better in Shirley than in Mansfield Park. The first book contains 572 pages and the second 330 pages. Rather long and thick in other words. They could both have been written in 100 pages if the authors had restrained themselves a little bit. There are so many stories about nothing interesting, nothing that takes the story further, descriptions of nature and for Shirley thoughts about circumstances that is probably more of an interest to Charlotte Brontë than to the characters in the book. I know that it was the way they published novels in those days; often a series of three. Although I kind of like Charlotte's heroines Caroline and Shirley, I have no mercy with Jane's heroine Fanny Price. She has not much to recommend her and is afraid of her own shadow. How this timid, anxious grey mouse can attract all the feelings she does, is a mystery to me.

Well, there was some harsh words to come from me. I usually don't dislike books this much, and if I do, I just don't finish them. But, as I said earlier, they were written by Austen and Brontë and therefor I felt I had to read them. Charlotte Brontë has a wonderful prose and this comes through in Shirley as well. She builds up her characters and they become vivid and realistic in her hands. Charlotte sometimes uses the technique to turn to speak to the reader. I can accept it in the end of Jane Eyre, when she says: "Reader, I married him", but I don't particularly like this feature in a novel. It somehow takes away the illusion you have to be part of the story. What do you think? Do you mind?

Shirley is set against the Luddite uprisings in Yorkshire during 1811-12. An interesting fact I found on Wikipedia, is that Shirley became a popular woman's name. Before the publication it was distinctly a male name. Today we would only consider it a female name.

Mansfield Park is written in Austen's style and is therefor also quite readable. However, I think she lingers too long on the dining here and there, walking in the park with endless descriptions of uninteresting features in nature. Not to talk of the setting up of a theatre play, with the endless planning, which in the end leads to nothing.  Mansfield Park as such is a portrait of the countryside gentry and their lives.

Charlotte Brontë's novels are more critical on how society works. This is not so clear in Jane Austens novels. However, especially Mansfield Park, has been used to analyse colonialism and slavery in England at the time. Edward Said, for example, has written an interesting analyse on  "Jane Austen and Empire". So much more can be read into this novel, but this is not anything I venture into with this rather negative overall impression. I leave the stories behind as well.

Have you read any of the books. Please let me know what you think.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Book Beginnings on Fridays and the Friday 56

It is Friday and time for some interesting book beginnings and to see what we can find on page 56. It is Rose City Reader and Freda's Voice who are hosting these challenges. This week I have just started to read the book for the Classic spin #19. It is, from a favourite author, Henry James and his Washington Square. He is famous for his long sentences, and his beginning here does not disappoint. Isn't it just wonderful how much information he manages to put into the first sentence.

Book beginnings on Friday hosted by Rose City Reader
"During a portion of the first half of the present century, and more particularly during the latter part of it, there flourished and practised in the city of New York a physician who enjoyed perhaps an exceptional share of the consideration which, in the United States, has always been bestowed upon distinguished members of the medical profession." 
The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice
""My allusions are as kind as yours, Elizabeth," said the Doctor frankly. "How many suitors has Catherine had, with all her expectations -- how much attention has she ever received? Catherine is not unmarriageable, but she is absolutely unattractive.""

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

My lucky spin number is...

The number for the #19 Classic club spin is 1. Since I just filled up my list, all of them are not chunksters, and my number 1 is the contrary. Rather thin. It is Henry James' Washington Square. I think I have actually read it, but since I can not remember it, it will be a re-read. No problem, since James is a favourite author. Maybe I will add Kristin Lavransdottir, which I failed to read last time. That is a chunkster at least.

Looking forward to see what you all will read! Good luck with your reads, especially if it is a chunkster.

Thank you for your reviews on this novel; Becky and Nish

Monday, 26 November 2018

Archeological discoveries in Sweden

I always like to have a non-fiction, bigger format book, to read when I eat breakfast. They are easier to lay on the table in front of you, and they keep open. The latest breakfast literature is this book about archeological discoveries in Sweden, Arkeologiska upptäckter i Sverige by Anna Lihammar.

I have lived abroad for 35 years, travelled extensively and read up on the local history where I was living or visiting. Sometimes you tend to forget your own country. You just take it for granted. Maybe not for those of you who live in huge countries, where history and archeology might be totally different. Although Sweden is not a huge country, it is rather long, and nature are quite different from the north to the south.

It was very interested to read this book, which in an understandable way tells of important discoveries from the stone age up until modern times. It covers how our ancestors treated their dead; treasures, rituals and religions, memorial stands and how people lived and worked. Then, of course, we have the fascinating ruins of citadels, castles and the never ending feature of history; war. It is amazing to see, that from very early on Sweden, or the area at the time, had vivid connections to people far away. You would think people were quite isolated here, but that is not the case. Numerous treasures of among others roman coins shows that people travelled and traded with people far away.

Ales' Stones

I made notes on interesting places in the south where I am living, and hope to visit some time in the near future. Are there interesting places and archeological sites close to where you live? Not so far away from where I live, there is a  megalithic monument built around 1,400 years ago, called Ales' Stones. It is situated by the sea and is Sweden's best preserved ship tumulus, made up of 50 standing stones.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

The Classic Club - Spin #19

Time for another spin challenge from the Classic Club. The rules are simple:

  • Go to your blog.
  • Pick twenty CHUNKSTER books that you've got left to read from your Classics Club List.
  • Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog before Tuesday 27th November.
  • We'll announce a number from 1-20. 
  • Read that book by 31st January 2019.
I am pleased to notice that I only have 27 books to go on my 50 classics to read. After having read the 20 on my shortlist, there are only 7 to go. There are of course hundreds waiting in the line to be put on the list. One step at the time though. Here is my updated list (published and updated under Memes).

1. Washington Square by Henry James
2. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Carter
3. Daisy Miller by Henry James
4. Karin Lavransdotter by Sigrid Undset
5. Shirley by Charlotte Brontë (reading)
6. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
7. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence
8. Child Harold by Lord Byron
9. House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
10. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
11. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
12. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
13. The Taming of a Screw by William Shakespeare
14. Jaget och det undermedvetna (Die Beziehungen zwischen dem Ich und dem Unbewußten
by C.G. Jung
15. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
16. Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
17. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
18. The Divine Comedy by Dante (reading)
19. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
20. A Writer's Notebook by Somerset Maugham

The extended dead-line gives us time to read until end of January. No excuses then! What do you have on your lists?

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder

This is a book that I have had since the mid-90s. It was much talked of when it was published and I don't really know why it has ended up so long on my shelves. It was due to the Classic Club's invitation to DARE reading a book that frightens you, one way or the other, that I grabbed this book. The sub title of the book is An adventure in philosophy, and I was thinking that it would somehow be 'over my head'. It is not...or is it? From the cover a short summary.
"One day Sophie comes home from school to find two questions in her mailbox: Who are you? and Where does the world come from?
This is the start of Sophie's adventure in philosophy - from the Greeks to Descartes, from Spinoza to Hegel, Mars and Freud - with a mysterious mento who will not reveal his identity. But this is not the only mystery in Sophie's world. Why does she keep receiving postcards addressed to someone called Hilde? Why do Hilde's possessions turn up among her own? Who is Hilde - and who, for that matter, is Sophie herself? To solve the riddle, Sophie uses her new knowledge of philosophy, but the truth is far stranger than she could have imagined."

A philosophy teacher is the one who has approached Sophie. He wants her to learn about philosophy and question the world around her. Almost each chapter is dedicated to a philosopher from the old Greeks to the modern day thinkers. Jostein Gaarder is a philosophy teacher, and one just would like to attend his lessons. He manages to make you understand the various philosophies by putting forward simple explanations and examples. The book can actually be used as an encyclopaedia over philosophy and how it has developed from the old days.

It is all very well, until we come midway though the book. So far we followed Sophie and her adventures with the philosophy teacher. Now Hilde comes into the equation, and the idea I had, that I do understand this after all, is all gone. While reading you do wonder how it will all end. There certainly must be a catch with the different people, things and stories that evolves around Sophie. I don't want to spoil anything for a potential reader, so I leave the story here.

Jostein Gaarder creates the wonderful world of Sophie and we follow her quest to know the deeper meaning of the universe and life. The story is not as simple as I thought, having gone a little bit into hybris when I thought I understood it all. With the two stories of Sophie and Hilde, Gaarder takes us straight into the philosophical world and our beings. What is real and what is a dream? How does our sub-conscience work? And, all the other questions concerning our existence. Excellently written, and a wonderful way to approach philosophy.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Short reviews of latest reading

I am a little bit behind with reviews, so here is a post with short reviews of books I have read lately.

The Katharina Code by Jørn Lier Horst

A famous Norwegian thriller writer, but this is the first time I read a book by him. It is the first in a series of cold cases with detective William Wisting. Twenty-four years ago Katharina Haugen disappeared from her home, never to be seen again. She left behind a small note with cryptical figures. Every year, of the day of her disappearance, Wisting is visiting her husband, Martin. With the years a special friendship has developed between the two. When visiting this year, Wisting finds the house dark and quiet and no sign of Martin.

This is the starting point of this fascinating story. It is not a book of action, it rather slowly follows new leads and new interpretations. It is all very exciting and I really enjoyed the cleverness of the story, the background and the build up to finding the solution to the case. The characters are well outlined and Wisting's daughter, who is a journalist, is also part of the solving of the case. Looking forward to the next in the cold case series.  There are several earlier books with William Wisting.

Lises Lettering (The Art of Drawing Letters) by Lise Hellström 

My handwriting is terrible, and I always admire people who can write decent letters. In order to improve, and being able to use it in my journaling, I bought this book for inspiration. It is a pep-talk book about daring to venture into something you don't know, and think you cannot achieve. She says, that if she can write beautiful letters, anyone can! I hope so. I thought there would be more sample writing but it is more of a "you can do it" book. For samples to practice on, I bought, Nib+Ink, The New Art of Modern Calligraphy by Chiara Perano, which seems to do the trick. I am just at the very beginning.

Frostnätter (Hypothermia) by Arnaldur Indridason

Indridason never disappoints. In this novel his detective Erlendur Sveinsson takes on a mysterious death. A cold, autumn evening a woman is found hanging in her summer house, by an isolated lake. All the evidence shows that the woman committed suicide, still Erlendur is not able to let it go quite yet. At the same time he engages himself in a few old cases where people disappeared without a trace.

Erlendur, like so many other middle aged, divorced and slightly depressed detectives, has to face ghosts in his own life. The reason he feels with the relatives whose nearest has disappeared, is that his own brother disappeared when he was a kid. He was lost in bad weather in the mountains. Erlendur has never really come to term with the fact the he was saved, and not his brother.

A master story teller, Indridason takes us on another, or several mysteries. Like with Lier Holst book above, this is also a slow action story, but never boring, always on the trail of new evidence. At the same time creates such interesting characters, so you are really there where it happens. The ending binds everything together in a most interesting way.