Wednesday, 30 July 2014

TV-series and the books they are based on


I just read about a new TV-series which will be aired on 8 August, called Outlander. And saw the trailer. It looks very good and something I would like to see. Reading more thoroughly I realise that it is based on a series of very popular books by Diana Gabaldon. Reading further, I am a little bit shocked that I have never heard of it, as the first book came already in 1991. There seems to be 7 books so far. I don't know how I could have missed this, because it seems to be a story that I love. It starts with a time travel (of this I am not overfond, but so far it is ok in this book) and Claire, the heroine, is transferred from 1945 Scotland to 18th century Scotland. The second world war had just finished, but now she is transferred into even more violent times. Being a fan of historical fiction, I find it fascinating. I was brave to download all the books! The price was good. Yes, I know, it is a little bit of a game, not knowing if I would like it or not. Not all of these books are very well written. However, this book is. I have soon finished the first book, since I wanted to read it before watching the series. Have to check if the series is based on the first book only (I think so) or have to read the others before watching.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Sanctuary by William Faulkner

This book popped up in Janet Flanner's articles of Paris as a book that was translated into French. It made me curious so I thought: "Hey, I have this on my TBR shelves"! So I grabbed it and finished it in a couple of days. I have never read anything by Faulkner, but seem to know that he is one of the great American writers. I must say I did not understand too much of this book. There were a lot of characters, mostly dialogue so no explanation who these people were. And new persons tended to pop up here and there. Ok, after a while you got a little bit more information on them flashbacks, but still...

Short summary: Someone dates an innocent school girl, gets drunk and brings her to a bootlegger's camp for whom he is working from time to time. There are a few, criminal character's around
and a woman with a child. The men drink, moving around the girl Temple Drake, and at the end of a couple of days one man is dead and she is raped. Popeye (the man who raped her), takes her away an puts her in a whore house that belongs to a friend of his. In the meantime the bootlegger (also the father of the child) is accused of murder. A friend lawyer comes in to defend him. The story then goes between the accused and the lawyer and Popeye and the girl plus a few more people entering the story (not always clear to me why!).

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Importance of Covers

A while ago I read a post somewhere, about how important covers are. How important are they really? Do you choose a book due to the cover, or do you go for title/author? Personally, I think a good cover attracts your attention to a book, but I would not buy it unless it was a book that interested me.

The Twilight series and their covers, which I think fits perfectly for these kind of books, has also changed the covers in other books. It seems, like in other areas, to be a trend. One popular book will be followed by covers similar to this book. The other interesting thing with the Twilight series is the interest it has given Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, being the favourite book of Bella. She is identifying herself with Cathy and sees Edward as her Heathcliff. There are several references in the series to Emily's book.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Paris in July - Paris was Yesterday 1938-39

My last post on Janet Flanner's articles on Paris in the 20s and 30s for Paris in July. We have reached the last two years and are also getting closer to the World War II. There are several articles on the situation and uncertainty at the time. They are rather long and difficult to just make a small extraction, so I leave them out.

The articles posted here are just a few of what the book contains. If you are interested in Paris during these years you should read the book. Flanner has a sharp eye and ear for things and it is interesting to read. So, here we go...!


Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

"With the death of Maurice Ravel, France has lost its greatest petit maitre of modern music. He was still a prodigy pupil at the Conservatoire when he composed two of the three works for which he was most famous - the 'Pavane pour une Infante Défunte' and 'Jeux d'Eaux,' regarded as the most perfectly pianistic piece since Liszt. The hypnotic Iberian quality of 'Boléro' is partially explained by his having been born at Ciboure, near the Spanish border. "

Susanne Lenglen (1899-1938)

"For fifteen years Suzanne Lenglen, the champion tennis player, was one of the few female public figures of France. She was respectfully admired as being typically French - hard-working, frugal-living, obstinate, given to making occasional scenes, authoritative, capricious, expert at her job. Her premature death was regarded here as a national loss, as if she had been a general, or an homme d'état, or a big man in science. ..."

Wonder what today's women
players would say playing
in these clothes!

Friday, 25 July 2014

A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine

Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell
I love Ruth Rendell's books. Some year's ago I discovered Barbara Vine and it was with great satisfaction I saw that this is a pseudonym for Ruth Rendell. She took up this pen name in 1986. The author explained to the National Post that "the two distinct bylines offered the opportunity to hone two distinct voices. The works published under her real name feature more 'excitement' and 'sensation' while the works published under the pseudonym 'don't have any sort of mystery in them, they don't have any revelations, really. They're just really about people.' She also said she used Vine to explore specific topics, like the evolution of morality."

Dark adaptation: a condition of vision brought about progressively by remaining in complete darkness for a considerable period, and characterised by progressive increase in retinal sensitivity. A dark-adapted eye is an eye in which dark adaptation has taken place. 
James Drever, A Dictionary of Psychology

Paris in July - Paris was Yesterday 1936-37

Paris in July

The ever active Janet Flanner continues her articles. We have reached the years 1936-37. Only two to go!


Stein - Human Nature

"If French books have evaded the political question recently, one book written in France is going to go The Relation of Human Nature to Human Life; or the Geographical History of the United States. The new volume, Miss Stein says, will be pretty long - about two hundred pages - and will be something in the style of her little-known essay, 'Composition as Explanation,' or very clear. She explains the new book's material as follows. 'It is a discussion of the fact that huma nature isn't very interesting and that that's why politics are what they are, since they deal with human nature. The book also deals with masterpieces; what they are and why they are so few.' ..."
into it. This will be Miss Gertrude Stein's new volume, entitled

Considering how we see politicians an leaders today, and expect them to be nothing but good and have no flaws or negative aspects whatsoever, that is; a perfect person! As we all know, they do not exist. Therefore it is quite enjoying to hear about Léon Blum, incoming Premier, in 1936.

Léon Blum

"Léon Blum, France's incoming Premier, is an odd man. He is now chief of the Socialist party, and was formerly legal adviser to the Hispano-Suiza motor firm. As a brilliant youth, he took his first degree in philosophy, his second in law. He became a popular Parisian theatre and literary critic; was author of a objets d'art, with all three of which his beautiful apartment in a beautiful eighteenth-century mansion on the Quai Bourbon is always full. He has an odd gait, since he turns his toes far out; he wears spats and thick spectacles, is myopic and absent-minded. He is Deputy for the Narbonne vineyard district, and just misses being a teetotaler. His family were well-to-do Alsatians, his grandmother was an enthusiastic Communard, his brother René is art director fo the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet, other relatives run the family fine-lace shop on the Rue de 4 Septembre. Blum, who has been married twice, is a strong Judaist but not liturgically orthodox. His political god is the martyred Jaurès. His mind is subtle and dialectic; his speeches are lucid, fluid, and delivered in a flute-like tone. For years he has ranked as Parliament's master maneuverer; till now, he has even been ablt to maneuver his party out of taking responsible power - no small feat. His most important pre-Premiership speech was that he made to the American Club here. The speech's tolerance pleased Blum's Moderate European enemies and angered his French Communist friends. His reference to the harm done by France's not having paid her war debt was supposed to please Americans. The last time Blum had referred to the French debt was when Premier Herriot wanted to pay it. Blum's lack of support was what caused Herriot's parliamentary fall. That was in 1932. This is 1936.
book on Goethe, and another on Stendhal, which infuriated Beyleists; can recite Victor Hugo's verses by heart, also good kitchen recipes; loves Ravel's music; buys modern paintings; and adores cats, flowers, and fine


French Films

Jean Gabin, one of the biggest
stars in French film
French films used to be films which the French rarely went to see, American movies being their favourite. Celluloid has been changing lately. The movie that French fans are now queueing up for is the Ciné Marivaux's Un Carnet de Bla, which is not only one of the major films the French have ever made but also one of the grandest films Hollywood never made. ...

...A second surprisingly fine French films is La Grande Illusion, starring Jean Gabin (who starred in Pépe le Moko, which is a third French surprise for those who didn't see it in London, where it was last spring's foreign hit). ..."

Edith Wharton (1862-1937)

"The aristocratic Mrs. Edith Wharton was born Jones in a fashionable quarter of New York, arriving appropriately during the quarrel between masters about servants known as the Civil War. The parents of the novelist were without talent, being mere people of the world. From them into her veins ran Rhinelanders, Stevenses, early Howes, and Schermerhorns intact. Her corpuscles were Holland burghers, colonial colonels, and provincial gentry who with the passage of time had become Avenue patricians - patrons of Protestant church and Catholic grand opera as the two highest forms of public worship - a strict clan making intercellular marriages, attending winter balls, dominating certain smart spots on the Eastern seaboard, and unaware of any signs of life farther west. In blood they were old, Dutch and British, the only form of being American that they knew. As a child among them, little Miss Jones started living in what Mrs. Wharton later entitled their Age of Innocence - a hard hierarchy of male money, of female modesty and morals. ...

...Though she spent another forty years writing about human relations, it was in her friendship with Henry James that she really attained her literary height. Their Platonic amity lacked none of their style, and contained all the warmth of which she never wrote. As if preparing herself for her own future expatriation, she first fell under his distant tutelage, then under the personal spell of her country's greatest prose exile. He selected her, at the expense of Mrs. Humphry Ward, as his choicest female pupil. ...

Edith Wharton's Paris home
...Mrs. Wharton's real excellencies were never marketed. Even those who loved her most came by accident upon her golden qualities. She was regarded as cold. Yet a chord of Bach once recalled to her a moment passed half a century ago with a woman who was ever after to be her fondest companion. And to the same woman she wrote, after clipping her garden's roses in the summer dawn, that the ripe sweetness of the flowers personified and brought their amity endearingly to mind. Mrs. Wharton had the tender and reserved sentiments of the truly literate. From many she earned the title of Dearest Edith, and for herself, long before her death, she had gained what she hoped would be her final epitaph - 'She was a friend of Henry James.'"

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Challenges - half year update

End of July and I am going through my challenges for the year to see where I am. I not only promised to read at least 12 books from my TBR list, but I also promised to read around 27 books (some of the are also on my TBR list) during the summer months! Well, here I am for the moment.


As for Fiction I have so far read the titles in read. It is seven for seven months so there I am up to date.
Five more to read before the end of the year.

Den Inbjudna (L'invitée) by Simone Beauvoir (1943) 
Röde Orm - Sjöfarare i västerled by Frans G. Bengtsson (1941) 
Röde Orm - Hemma och i österled by Frans G. Bengtsson (1945) 
Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad (1900) 
Simon och ekarna by Marianne Fredriksson (1985) 
Ensam drottning (Lonely Queen) - Sofia Magdalena by Gerd Ribbing (1959) 
A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine (1986) 

Travels With My Aunt by Graham Greene (1969) 
The Angel Avengers by Isak Dinesen (1946)
Lisbeth by Ragnhild Hallén (1948)
Äcklet (La Nausé) by Jean-Paul Sartre (1938)
It's Not What I Meant by Deborah Tannen (1986)

The Non-Fiction part goes very slowly. Probably because most of the books are very thick indeed. Only read one from the list and still on The Sleepwalkers which I think I haven't read in since March or something. Four more to go...!

The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë by Daphne du Maurier (1960)
Civilization - The West and the Rest by Nial Ferguson (2011)
The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark (2013)
Freud - A Life of Our Time by Peter Gay (1988)
Tolkien - Min vän Ronald och hans värld by Arne Zettersten (2008)

However, I have read some books outside the list, of which the first one is Non-Fiction.

Levande 1600-tal (Living 17th century) by Gunnar Wetterberg (2003)
John Dollar by Marianne Wiggins (1989)
The Kreutzer Sonata and other short stories by Leo Tolstoj
Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway
Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

Robert Grave's library in Deia
Then we have my summer reading challenge which also tries to take into account the Challenges. Here are 21 books that I would like to read this summer. The first one about Hemingway I will save until September and a Swedish challenge. I have only read 4 of them, and are reading two of them. If you don't already know I am always on several books at the same time. Take the one the goes with my mood for the moment.
  • Ernest Hemingway by Carol Baker
  • The Sun Also Rise by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Empty Family by Colm Toibin
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley
  • The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell
  • Curry, A Global History by Colleen Taylor Sea - Read
  • The Time Travellers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  • The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco
  • The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey - Read
  • The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  • Requiem in Vienna by J. Sydney Jones Read
  • The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna
  • Tiger by Tash Aw
  • The Gift of Rain by Tan Twang Eng
  • Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller
  • Sacred Hearts (reading) 
  • Young Werther by Johan Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Pope Joan by Woolfork Cross
  • A Writer's Notebook by Somerset Maugham (reading)
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton! Read!

For August, and the Austen Challenge hosted by Lost Generation Reader I have decided to read Emma. I didn't like her last time I tried to read the book. Maybe I am more flexible now? Who knows? Let's see!

Some of the books above will also fit into the History challenge, A Century of Books, Book Beginnings on Friday, Motif Challenge (for links go to my Challenge page. 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Paris in July - Paris was Yesterday - 1935

This is for Paris in July and we have got to year 1935 in Janet Flanner's articles on what is happening in Paris and France.

Shakespeare and Company

"Miss Sylvia Beach, who is Shakespeare and Company, the most famous American bookshop and young author' fireside in Europe, is shortly to sell in manuscript important modern writings which she, along with the world's other booksellers, has been selling only in print. As first publisher of James Joyce's complete Ulysses, Miss Beach has unique Joyceiana, comprising collector's items that no one else on earth has, not even Mr. Joyce. To bibliophiles, the sale's finest item will be her first edition of Ulysses, 1922, blue-morocco binding, printed on white Dutch paper, the second volume off the press in the rare edition of two hundred, and containing a poem Joyce wrote her, his inscription, and, bound in the back, his original plan of the book. ..."

There is a private not of Flanner here which I will relate in short. Sylvia Beach at this time had to sell some of her treasures since she was out of money. Since she was hoping that some Americans might be interested, Janet Flanner announced the sale in her Paris Letter in The New Yorker. Unfortunately, it did not seem to help. Flanner was given a numbered, uncut first edition of Ulysses, which had an original page of the manuscript, which Joyce had overwritten with his typical extra entangling sentences, dealing with the so-called Circe incident. In 1950 Flanner decided to sell the treasure and offered it to a friend who was going to give it to the Morgan Library. Flanner said she would sell it for the market price which would be around 500 dollars. To her surprise the market price was only one hundred dollar, which seemed to little for a book that cause so much stir in 1922. Sylvia Beach accepted the sum and was delighted that is should belong to such a glorious Library. The fellows of the library wrote in their announcement of the purchase:

"This volume is a presentation copy from the publisher, Miss Sylvia Beach, and is in mint condition in its original printed wrappers. Accompanying it is an early draft of the manuscript, a portion of the controversial Circe episode."

"The card catalogue on the acquisition further noted that it was accompanied by Miss Beach's engraved calling card, pasted on the book's from lining, and bearing her autographed inscription, 'For Janet Flanner with Sylvia Beach's love and gratitude.' She always gave more than she received, Publishing Ulysses was her greatest act of generosity. J.F."

Sylvia Beach seemed to have been a real lover of books. The books being more important that her survival instinct!

André Citroën (1878-1935

The recent bankruptcy and death of André Citroën, France's greatest automobile manufacturer, ends a curiously un-French career. Before the war, he was a salesman in a motor house, which promptly failed; during the war, he was the organiser of the arsenal at Roannes; after the war, he was the father of the little five-horse-power car that gave him international fame and over a billion franc annually. He sent great photographic expeditions into both Asia and Africa, as publicity wrote his name in electricity on the top of the Tour Eiffel, built beautiful model factories with playgrounds and nurseries, gambled a million francs a throw at gamin tables, believed in mass production in the American manner, and so died without a franc. ...

... When he crossed the Spanish border on a motor trip, he was topped by a customs officer, who asked, 'Name?' 'Citroën,' he replied. 'I didn't ask the car's name but yours,' said the officer. 'Oh, ' sid the manufactuer, 'I'm Citroën, but it's Hispano.' It was. He was a likeable, sly little man with charm and the ability to wrap people and banks around his finger. His errors lay in  believing that Paris was Detroit and in stating with satisfaction on his deathbed, 'After I'm gone, the House of Citroën will fall.' It had fallen long before. It was, indeed, doomed to fall from its inception. For France is not the USA.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Lonely Queen (Ensam drottning) by Gerd Ribbing

A lovely, paper copy version of the old style!
Sophia Magdalena, Danish princess, was betrothed to the Swedish king/crown prince when she was five years old. They actually married in 1766 by proxy when she was 20, and she was crowned queen in 1772. This was a marriage of convenience, as often in those days, and its main reason was to keep a good relationship between Sweden and Denmark. The book tells her story between the years 1783 - 1813. I don't really know why it starts at this date, and why the earlier years are not included. Maybe it would have been too long? The book was written in 1959, so written in a different style than is done today. It is full of extracts from memoirs, letters and other writings at the time, which give you a good idea of the different characters and the times.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Paris in July - Paris was Yesterday 1933-34

Paris in July - We have arrived at 1933-34 with Janet Flannery.


"The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

A Paris-written book of extreme interest to both sides of the Atlantic, and, indeed, to one side of the Pacific, since both the ladies hail from California, will shortly be published in New York under the sly inscription The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. As some young foreign painters like Picasso, Juan Gris, and Matisse, and later some struggling expatriate writers, like Joyce and Hemingway, discovered years ago, Miss Alice B. Toklas is the friend who lives on the Rue de Fleurus with Gertrude Stein. And certainly any autobiography of the one must necessarily be a biography of, it not even by, the other, plus a complete memoir of that exciting period when Cubism was being invented in paint and a new manner of writing being patented in words, an epoch when not everyone had too much to eat but everyone had lots to say, when everything we now breathe was already in the air and only a few had the nose for news to smell it - and with most of the odours of discovery right under the nose for news to smell it - and with most of the odours of discovery right under the Toklas-Stein roof.
Considerable mystery and some secrecy still surround the book here - but not much, really. Among the few privileged to see it in MS., it has already provoked quarrels as to its merit, the quarrels being about which of its hundred of merits is the most meritorious: the Picasso part, or the analyses of Hemingway, the long, marvellous description of the cranky old picture merchant Vollard, the piece about William James in Harvard, or about Johns Hopkins..."

Being into the Paris years of the 1920, this should be an interesting read.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Greatest Books of All Time, as Voted by 125 Famous Authors

I love lists of all kinds. The problem is only, that I make a list, and then I never use or go back to it. It is just a pleasure to make the list in the first place. Maybe it gives me a sense of being in control of things? When it comes to my book lists, which I share on my blog, I tend to be more careful and go back from time to time to update.

In Pinterest I found this picture which made me a little bit curious. When I clicked on it I came to Brain Pickings where I found the article behind it. 125 writers have chosen their top ten books according to certain criteria. The writers are British and American including among others Norman Mailer, Ann Patchett, Jonathan Franzen, Claire Messud, and Joyce Carol Oates. They have been asked  “to provide a list, ranked, in order, of what [they] consider the ten greatest works of fiction of all time– novels, story collections, plays, or poems.” 544 separate titles were selected and the writers should choose according to some given definitions. A short list of these definitions could look like:

"1. ‘Great’ means ‘books that have been greatest for me.’
2. ‘Great’ means ‘books that would be considered great by the most people over time.’
3. ‘Great’ has nothing to do with you or me — or people at all. It involves transcendental concepts like God or the Sublime.
4. ‘Great’? I like Tom Clancy.
From David Foster Wallace (#1: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis) toStephen King (#1: The Golden Argosy, a 1955 anthology of the best short stories in the English language), the collection offers a rare glimpse of the building blocks of great creators’ combinatorial creativity — because, as Austin Kleon put it, “you are a mashup of what you let into your life.”


1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
4. Ulysses by James Joyce
5. Dubliners by James Joyce
6. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
7. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
8. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
9. The complete stories of Flannery O’Connor
10. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov


1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
5. The stories of Anton Chekhov
6. Middlemarch by George Eliot
7. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
8. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
9. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
10. Emma by Jane Austen


1. William Shakespeare — 11
2. William Faulkner — 6
3. Henry James — 6
4. Jane Austen — 5
5. Charles Dickens — 5
6. Fyodor Dostoevsky — 5
7. Ernest Hemingway — 5
8. Franz Kafka — 5
9. (tie) James Joyce, Thomas Mann, Vladimir Nabokov, Mark           Twain, Virginia Woolf — 4


1. Leo Tolstoy — 327
2. William Shakespeare — 293
3. James Joyce — 194
4. Vladimir Nabokov — 190
5. Fyodor Dostoevsky — 177
6. William Faulkner — 173
7. Charles Dickens — 168
8. Anton Chekhov — 165
9. Gustave Flaubert — 163
10. Jane Austen — 161

From the books I have only read:
Madame Bovary and Crime and Punishment. From the authors Henry James is a favourite as well as Jane Austen (the only woman among all the men!). I have also read Hemingway, Kafka, and Dickens.

What do you think? Any ideas?

Friday, 18 July 2014

Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway and Woman Without Men by Lisbeth Ekelof

Here I am, inspired by the Global History of the Curry and thinking I will surprise my boys with a curry! Great. Starting it all and getting an sms from my husband that he has a reception and will be late! I am sure the he knew about it before and just forgot! OK, my son is still home. Since he has been one week in Kos in Greece with his class mates to celebrate the BAC I am happy he is home again. It will be nice eating with him and talk about everything. Well, yes...would have been nice. However, he is going off with friends to watch a tennis tournament match from one of them and then on to the cinema.

What can I say?  Here I am with a wonderful curry, and all alone! See for yourself.

Looks good doesn't it? I have to confess one thing though. The recipe is not from the book that I read (I promise I will try all these recipes once) but it is from JAMIE OLIVER! With him it can't really go wrong...and it didn't. It was a lovely curry that I ate with some basmati rice, a nice glass of wine, an Austrian Grüner Weltliner, a glass of water and Men Without Women!

I was sitting outside since it was a lovely evening. Finally the heat has hit Belgium as well. I finished the book which was only due to a Woman Without Men!

That was yesterday. The good thing? Tonight, all three of us ate the leftovers, sitting outside in the lovely evening. Not so bad really!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Simon och ekarna (Simon and the Oaks) by Marianne Fredriksson

Simon is speaking with the oaks. The Oaks are speaking with him. Secrets coming down from forgotten lands, difficult for him to understand. He can't grasp the words they are saying. Until one day when he listens to a symphony of Berlioz. Then it all becomes clear. He sees what the music is telling. It is the story from the Oaks. He sees the old priest, the ancient buildings, the tragedies and the love coming down to him from centuries back.

Like all - or many, I have not read them all - books by Marianne Fredriksson, not everything is what it seems to be. She manages to vow a strange net of long forgotten worlds, and worlds that only one person sees. It is so skilfully mixed into our real world that it all becomes magic, and ... true and realistic!

This is a book that tells the story of two jewish boys, growing up in Sweden, just before the start of World War II. They are about 14-15 years old at this time. One came to live with his well off father who left Germany before the war and now has started a new life in Sweden; the other one is adopted - although he does not know it, and only later finds out that he is jewish as well - and lives with his poor, working class parents. The boys, outcasts in school find each other. Their two families becomes like a big family thanks to the friendship between the two boys Simon and Isak. As often can be, the sons disappoint their fathers, but in this case it is all helped because Simon takes to Isak's father and Isak to Simon's father.  The families merges into one. We follow them during the war and up to the 1950s. Their studies, military service, finding a job, finding a girl, parents seeing the boys growing up.

The book is so much more than the outline of the story above. Both boys are hunted by inner demons, although different, they have the same anxieties that tears them to pieces or tears them down. It is also about fighting these demons and they have to fight them in different ways. The centre of the book is Simon's mother Karin who holds everything together with her kind and loving way.

It is an absolutely lovely book and it was difficult to put it down. Even after I have finished, it has stayed with me. The stories of both boys engage. I think that maybe times are not so different today and this story could have taken place any time, any place.

The book was made into a film in 2011. Yet to see this one.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Paris in July - Paris and Curry?

This is a post for Paris in July.

Paris and Curry? Surely a marriage made in heaven?

I have just posted a blog about my latest, tasty (yes) book; Curry - A Global History by Colleen Taylor Sen (you can read the review here).

The book tells about the relationship between curry and different regions and countries in the world. As we all know it is really a big dish in Britain, but it has conquered quite a lot of other places as well. In fact, the whole world. It is the most famous dish in the world. So, the big question is; what about Paris? Did she take the dish to her heart? Let's see what Taylor Sen has to say about it:

It seems the French were less accepting of the food from their colonies as was the British and the Dutch. One reason could be that France's own cuisine has a long, and strong position. Today it is difficult to find any traces in French food of their long association with India, which lasted until 1954. The first Indian restaurant was not opened until 1975, and then by a member of an Indian government delegation. He was upset about the lack of Indian restaurants in the city. Indian restaurants are outnumbered by restaurants serving North African and Vietnamese food.

The first publish curry recipe came in 1814 by famous restaurateur Antoine Beauvilliers in his cook L'Art de cuisiner. The University of Paris Exhibition of 1889 established a decree what a curry powder should contain: "34 grams of tamarind, 44 grams of onion, 20 grams of coriander, 5 grams of chilli, 3 grams each of turmeric and fenugreek, 3 grams of cumin and 1 gram of mustard seed." The recipe is typical of a south Indian curry powder. In the famous Larousse gastronimique you can find an almost surrealistic (we are in France after all!) mixture of French, British and Indian cuisine. "The onions are sautéed with ham, apples, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom and powdered mace. Curry powder is then simmered with tomatoes and almond or coconut milk and the dish is finished with a dollop of heavy cream."

So this is a mission for you who live in Paris. What about Indian restaurants today? Are they more common? Popular? Easy to find?

Curry - A Global History by Colleen Taylor Sen

I am a curry fan so this was really a book for me. I found it in a museum in connection with an
exhibition about India. The only problem when you read books like this is that you tend to get very hungry!

It is a lovely little book on the history of curry. But, what is curry really? It means a lot of different things for different people. In the book they define it in the following way: "a curry is a spiced meat, fish or vegetable stew served with rice, bread, cornmeal or another starch. The spices may be freshly prepared as a powder or a spice paste or purchased as a ready-made mixture.

A secondary definition of curry is any dish, wet or dry, flavoured with curry powder - a ready-made mixture that generally includes turmeric, cumin seed, coriander seed, chillies and fenugreek (and may or may not include curry leaf, Murraya koenigji, a fragrant leaf widely used in southern Indian cooking). This category encompasses such diverse, hybrid dished as German currywurst, Singapore noodles, Dutch fries with curry ketchup and American curried chicken salad."

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Paris in July - Paris was Yesterday - 1931-32

Paris in July - thank you for an interesting month with this theme. Many interesting blog posts showing Paris from all sides. I continue here with what was 'hot news' by Janet Flanner in 1931 and 1932.


Chanel in Hollywood

Coco Chanel
"As a further ripple in the wave of bon marché that is sweeping through Paris, it was authoritatively announced by Mlle. Chanel that she is going to Hollywood to work for Mr. Goldwyn. This is the first time a couturière of such importance, or indeed any, has left the native heath. Considering what universal style-setting means to Paris for the maintenance of its financial and artistic pulse, the departure of Chanel for California must be more important than that of Van Dyck for the English Court of Charles I. But in a hundred years, the results will probably photograph less well."

Georges Simenon

"The Nouvelle Revue Francaise, which ordinarily expends its strength publishing rhymes by Paul Valéry, essays by André Gide, and similar intellectual fare, has taken an option on crime. The popular detective story, originally nurtured here by Gaboriau, Gaston Leroux, and Maurice Leblanc, has suddenly developed a new local vogue and a new writer: M. Georges Sim, who at the age of twenty-eight has already written two hundred and eighty yarns. He is of Breton Dutch stock, is handsome, can write an excellent book in four days (one was started in a glass cage, for publicity's sake), lives on a yacht in canals, and has used sixteen pseudonyms, of which Simenon (the signature of the latest dozen of his books) will probably become permanent. ...

Georges Simenon
Simenon's detective is stout and named Maigret; the crimes he solves are published monthly, are talk of the town, and sell for six francs. The stories are distinguished by a talent for suspense, begin better than they end, and contain in each case a crime curiously suitable to the geographic setting: Antwerp for Le Pendu de Saint-Pholien, and the Brittany town and inhabitants of Concarneau for Le Chien Jaune, so realistically undisguised that Simenon will probably be sued. And after his Crime en Hollande, it is unlikely that he can ever steam back to the Netherlands again.

However, according to his admirers, he never goes any place twice anyway. He always travels (always on his boat, and always on canals), hates heat and wants to go to Tahiti, and spends half a million francs of his royalties a year doing what this year's characters do: hiring a liveried chauffeur because his villain does, losing two hundred thousand francs at Monte Carlo because his hero must. For he says, 'I have no imagination; I take everything from life' (and from the exploits of certain of his acquaintances, who apparently include some of the liveliest crooks in France). 'I get up at half-past five; go on deck, start typing at six, with either a bottle of brandy or white wine at my side; and write a chapter an hour until noon, when I go on land and lie down in the grass, exhausted. My ambition is to arrive little by little in the class of a Jack London, or - who knows? - even of a Conrad.' Monsieur Simenon is mistaken; he is already in a class by himself."

Well, indeed something to think about when we next time read one of his books!


Ravel (Music by)

"For years it has been known that, out in the fastness of his country cottage in Montfort-l'Amaury, Ravel was writing a pair of piano concertos. One, being only for the left hand, was definitely associated with the one-armed Austrian pianist, Wittgenstein. The other, Ravel said as late as three years ago, was 'completely terminated - all except the themes' and would be associated with Mlle. Marguerite Long, an obedient and powerful French pianist popular in ministerial circles; a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor; and the like. The themes, Mlle. Long, and Ravel, as conductor, were all finally brought together for the first time at the recent Ravel gala at the Pleyel. Every seat in the house was taken, a tribute the French rarely pay except to German sopranos, and the concerto was wroth waiting all these years to hear. Professedly written, as its author states, in the brilliant manner proper to a divertimento, its allegro, adagio, and presto presented rhythmic, melodious modern music as personally pure as it will be publicly popular. Its timely appearance as a Durand-published, silver-backed score was the signal for more noisy page-turning than was necessary at a concert already fashionably fussy.

Maurice Ravel
Since so much has lately been said, principally by Ravel, as to the correct tempo for his too famous 'Boléro,' considerable interest attended his directing of that piece as a final act of a long evening. May we state that those who thought a bolero was a short, bright jacket worn for fancy dress had better make other plans? According to Ravel, a bolero is apparently a long, black crepe cape with a train the length of a hall carpet, worn exclusively when walking to funerals. "

Monday, 14 July 2014

Paris in July - Hemingway, The Paris Years by Michael Reynolds

This post is for Paris in July challenge.

Recently, I read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, which is told from the point of view of Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife. As always when I read historical fiction on real-life people, I want to read a biography to try to find out how much is true and how the true events took place. I have bought several books on Hemingway’s life and this is the first one that I read.

It is an excellent book, written in beautiful prose, and like so many of the good writers of biographies, it is more exciting and interesting as any fiction. One can of course say, that Hemingway’s life was more exciting the most, but still. Reynolds has written five books about Hemingway; The Young Hemingway, The Paris Years, The Homecoming, The 1930s, and The Final Years. This is the second part of his life. Maybe also the most important part, since these are the years that he learned the handicraft and formed his later writings. Paris at the time was full of writers, journalists and artists, many of them expats like himself; Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, Sylvia Beach and her famous book shop Shakespeare and Company, and many others.

A young Hemingway
We follow Hemingway from when he first arrives in Paris in 1922, with Hadley. The book covers four years up to 1925. That is just before Hemingway makes it as a writer with his first successful novel The Sun Also Rises. There was not always easy times, since they were short of money. They lived on an heritage fond of Hadley's and Hemingway earned extra money as a journalist. These were the days of the peace negotiations after the First World War, trying to find a new economic base for life in Europe. It was interesting times and Hemingway was there. He learned a lot from fellow, experienced journalist, travelled all over Europe and to Turkey to cover events there.

The Hemingway family
He and Hadley lived in a community of expats and cultural people, maybe even bohemian people. It was quite a different life from the one they had at  home. Hemingway had problems with his parents and tried to get away from their life style. He and Hadley lived happily the first years, and their son John Hadley Nicanor "Jack" Hemingway, called Bumpy at the time was born in 1923 in Canada, where they went for his birth. Soon afterwords they were back in Paris where Hemingway had more time to concentrate on his own writing.

This was the time when he discovered his interest in bull fighting and fishing. He went several years to Pamplona for the bull run which fascinated him. He was a very good observer and could later in detail tell on the terrible bull fights and how it looked when the bull died. Their last visit in 1925, was more or less the beginning to the end to Hemingway's marriage and also to friendships with their friends. He put a lot of them, not Hadley, into his new novel that was to become his first success; The Sun Also Rises.

Hadley, "I wished I had died
before I ever loved anyone
but her."
Said by Hemingway in
the end of his life
This is where the books end, just before his first novel. Just before the end of his marriage to Hadley, and just before he broke up to go with his mistress Pauline Pfeiffer. They eventually married.

The book is very well written and describes Paris life and makes it real. He also manages to describe
the relationship with Hadley and his other friends in Paris. These are the years where Hemingway fine tuned his writing, where he sent in short stories that came back. Often because they were to free in describing relationships. However, it paid out, and his future writing could be said to rest on the lessons he learned here.

An excellent read and necessary if you like Hemingway!

Secret of Paintings - part IV

The last painting for now, is one by Rafael, called, The School of Athens. This was painted at the same time that Michelangelo painted the ceiling in the Sixteenth Chapel. Rafael had also been appointed to do a painting in the Vatican Palace, namely the "stanza della Segnatura" which was the library of the Pope. Rafael filled it with old philosophers and called it The School of Athens.

It took him three years to make the painting or fresco, which measure  5 x 7,7 meters. The motif is philosophers in classical Athens. In the middle stands Platon and Aristotle, and around them the rest of the learned men of Greece, and the great thinkers, who have left their mark on our society up until our days. The painting says something about each philosopher and their personal character through their poses and gestures. The painting is a "philosophical course for dummies".

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory

This is also a post for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

It is sometimes difficult to come back to real life from a good book that you have read. Recently, I have been in 15th century England and a little bit in France, and I am quite surprised when I look up and see my garden outside the window and it is 2014! Isn't it wonderful when books can capture you so. It started with the search for grave of Richard III, and the historical bits of his life as well as the exciting search for his grave 500 years later.  Then I went to pre-time Richard with Anne O'Brien's The Forbidden Queen, ending with her children and heirs that took over after Richard.

Now I have just returned from The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory. I think a lot of you are familiar with her books about the women during the turbulent times of the War of the Roses. This time she tells the story of Anne Neville, who was the youngest daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, also called 'The Kingmaker', having helped several of the York family to come to the throne. He was one of the most powerful and richest men in England. However, when Edward IV secretly married Elizabeth Woodwill, a commoner and from an unimportant family, and her influence over the king became very strong, he was not in favour anymore. Being a very ambitious man, and wanting to see one of his own daughters as the Queen of England, he went into a liaison with Margaret of Anjou, queen to Henry VI, exiled in France, together with her son Edward. Her husband and ex-king Henry VI was at this time 'living' in the Tower, since he had inherited a bout of madness from his mother's side (Catherine of Valois, see 'The Forbidden Queen'). Anne was married to her son, Edward. Together with the Earl of Warwick they went to England to try to take over the throne from Edward IV. With them were also George, Earl of Clarence, brother to king Edward IV and married to Anne's sister Isabel.

Paris in July: Paris was Yesterday - 1930

Paris in July - Janet Flanner's news for 1930...

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)

D.H. Lawrence
The death of D.H. Lawrence cuts short the actively influential position he was beginning to assume in the estimation of France’s leading literary lights. Exiled by his malady from the fogs of hi native land, he spent the better part of his maturity in Continental towns. He was one of the first of what later became a large colony of Britons in Toarmina. He lived for a time in Florence, where his Aaron’s Rod was considered a portrait gallery of his local friends, Norman Douglas and Reginal Turner among others. He was a brilliant talker but, despite his years of living among foreigners, no exceptional linguist. Ill most of his life, he by degrees developed the erratic psychology of the brilliant invalid to whom, living among natives in out-of-the-way corners, anything was permitted. He had, among other eccentricities, a fancy for removing his clothes and climbing mulberry trees.

At the last he also suffered actively from persecution mania; he thought Jung had stolen his theories of psychoanalysis from a reading of the earlier Lawrence works; he thought his writer friends stole his Lady Chatterley’s Lover had, just before his death, been brought out by him in Paris for the express purpose, so his preface stated, of justifiably allowing him to reap some meagre royalties and, less justifiably, of permitting the book, because of its low price, to be within easy reach of every young boy and girl. The last work of Lawrence to be translated into French consisted of excerpts from his Mexican novel, its title, unfortunately, being construed as Serpent Dépouillé. Thus as The Plucked Serpent, The Plumed Serpent enters, with the author’s death, into the lexicon of French letters.
ideas. Owing to the peculiar quality of his later novels, he was constantly accusing printers everywhere, usually with justice, of stealing and pirating his works. A cheap edition of his much discussed


The reception accorded Sido, Colette’s new book, has been exceptional even for a writer to whom exceptional receptions have become a commonplace. Once again and at greater length than usual she has been hailed for her genius, humanities, and perfect prose by those literary journals which years ago (when hailing any one of these three would have encouraged a young provincial writer) lifted nothing at all in her direction except the finger of scorn.

French literature is peculiarly devoid of nature – indeed, there is hardly a tree in the whole lot of it; and to the French, despite their instinct to appreciate him, Hardy reads rather like pages from a seed catalogue. In their fine letters Colette is the first dendrophile they have possessed, the first writer to give them news of nature; she has the strangeness of a traveller who tells of an unknown land.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

The Forbidden Queen by Anne O'Brien

This is a review also for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Recently I read The King's Concubine by the same author. Being a fan of historical fiction and loving reading such fiction about real persons, this was a very good book. It was also about Alice Perrers, of whom I did not know, and even the king, Edward III, to which she was the mistress, and the queen, Philippa of Hainault, I didn't know that much. But after such a book, it is easier to grasp history as well.

It was with great happiness that I downloaded The Forbidden Queen by the same author. She does not make you disappointed. It seems as always, well researched, and she is able to make the persons come alive. This book is about Catherine of Valois that were wed to Henry V in 1420. She was a young, naive girl, having grown up in a monastery. She fell in love with her husband. The times were turbulent so most of the time he was off fighting in the war with France. She bore a son in December 1421, the future Henry VI, which the father never saw. He died of dysentery in France in 1422.