Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Dorchester and Thomas Hardy

While in London, I took a daytrip to Dorchester to visit Thomas Hardy country. Having lately fallen in love with Thomas Hardy’s books, it seemed like a good idea to visit the area he comes from. Dorchester is a small, country town in the south of England, where you reach most places by foot. The small cobbled street are lined with old houses and historical places. You also find many of the places and buildings that was an inspiration for Hardy in his writing.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Leicester and Richard III

On the top of my list of visits during my stay in England, was a trip to Leicester. The city has often been in the news during recents years, due to the discovery of the remains of Richard III. It is indeed a great story, and it has been very interesting to follow the developments through books, news and studies (England in the time of Richard III with Future Learn).

So, one sunny morning I took the train from St Pancras to Leicester. About two hours later I reached the city in quite an exciting mood. I had done a little bit of research in advance so I knew more or less where to go. Once you exit the railway station, you don't have to worry. There are signs to the most popular places and it was no problem at all to find the area. I had a nice walk through an almost empty Leicester, at least in comparison to London. Just to be sure, I passed by the tourist office and got some more information.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This is a book, I wanted to read for a long time, so, when finding it for a one week loan in the library in Karlskrona, I grabbed it. Ok, it is translated into Swedish, but still... I was a little bit nervous since it had got such raving reviews from almost everyone, and I was afraid that my expectations were too high. I did not have to worry. This book caught my attention right away, and I had difficulties putting it down and I finished it the same day.

Rachel takes the commuter train from Ashbury to London every day. Having lived herself along the same railway line, she continues to keep an eye on the houses on her old street. She tries to ignore No. 25 since her ex-husband lives there with his new wife and their daughter. She still has not come to terms with the divorce and is harassing the couple with phone calls and e-mails. However, she has discovered a young couple at No. 15, of which she gets somewhat obsessed. She gives them the names Jess and Jason and imagine their happy lives, compared to her own miserable life. We slowly learn that the mixed gin and tonic Rachel drinks on the train on a Friday evening going home, is just the beginning of a trip into oblivion. Her drinking sprees make her wake up with very vague remembrances of what she has been doing.

One day she reads in the paper that Jess (although her name is Megan) is missing. Two things come to her mind; the day she saw Megan kiss a stranger in the garden, which made Rachel quite upset with her at the time; and the vague memory that she was in the neighbourhood when Megan disappeared. She contacts the police to share her information, and gets questioned herself.

It is impossible to tell more of the story without making spoilers, and this is too good to be spoiled. A psychological thriller at its very best. The story is told from the views of Rachel, Megan and Anna (the wife of the ex-husband), and evolves little by little. What you think you know, is not what it turns out to be.

A fantastic, thrilling story which does not reveal the culprit until the very end. It is Paula Hawkins first book, which makes it even more admirable. The female characters, that make up the main part of the story, are very well drawn, and we are there and suffer with them. At least for Rachel, I felt like I wanted her to take a hold on her life and get back to the person she once was. Her problems were very well described, and you felt with her in all her misery.

Dreamwork has bought the film rights and it seems that Tate Taylor will direct. Will be interesting to see who will play the parts of Rachel, Megan and Anna. Something to wait for as well as for another book by Paula Hawkins.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

On the road again...!

On the road again! Now in Vadstena, which is host to one of our few remaining monasteries. It was founded by our one and only saint Birgitta. Just before Vadstena, we passed Alvastra monastery, which is now in ruins. It was a Cistercian monastery, founded in the first half of the 12th century. It was dissolved and appropriated by the Crown at the time of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. I am a person who love ruins, so here a few of all the photos I took.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Homecoming by Bernhard Schlink

Bernhard Schlink is probably most famous for his wonderful book The Reader, which was also made into a film. Homecoming has been on my TBR shelves for some years, and which is often the case, once I have read the book, I wonder why I left it there for so long.

As with The Reader, this book takes us back to events during World War II. Peter Debauer is born at the end of the war and grows up with his mother. His father died during the war. His youth summers are spent with his grand parents in Switzerland. The mother never comes with him to be with her in-laws.

His grand parents extends their pension by editing a series of books entitled “Novels for Your Reading Pleasure and Entertainment”, which Peter reads through the summers. Once the grand parents are gone he finds another book which he starts to read. The problem is that there are pages missing, and since the book somehow hits a string inside him, he searches, through the years for another copy and/or the writer, to find out how the person finally came home.  It turns out to be a life long search.

Stralsund revisited!

I have been on the road for over a week. Therefor not much action here on the blog. We have been on a family visit to Sweden, to visit our son. We started out in beautiful Stralsund, where I managed to take a few more photos (see earlier post here).

Now I am sitting here in rainy Sweden. The positiv thing is that I will stay inside and have time to write more posts. Or... I have to see since we have started a renovation project in my parents hallway!

Friday, 8 May 2015

The Da Vinci Code and the Secrets of the Temple by The Master of the Temple

"Langdon’s Mickey Mouse wristwatch read almost seven-thirty when he emerged from the jaguar limousine onto Inner Temple Lane with Sophie and Teabing. The threesome wound through a maze of buildings to a small courtyard outside the Temple Church. The roughhewn stone shimmered in the rain, and doves cooed in the architecture overhead. 

London’s ancient Temple Church was constructed entirely of Caen stone. A dramatic, circular edifice with a daunting facade, a central turret and a protruding nave off one side, the church looked more lika a military stronghold than a place of worship. Consecrated on the tenth of February in 1185 by Heraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Temple Church survived eight centuries of political turmoil, the Great Fire of London, and the First World War, only to be heavily damaged by Luftwaffe incendiary bombs in 1940. After the war, it was restored to its original, stark grandeur.

The simplicity of the circle, Langdon thought, admiring the building for the first time. The architecture was coarse and simple, more reminiscent of Rome’s rugged Castel Sant’Angelo than the refined Pantheon. The boxy annex jutting out to the right was an unfortunate eyesore, although it did little to shroud the original pagan shape of the primary structure. "

Extract from Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code

Unfortunately, I did not exactly arrive at the Temple Church in the grandness of a Jaguar Limousine, but by foot from the nearest metro station. The sun came out as I walked out of the station. Since my sense of direction is always confused after a metro ride, I took out my map, and with the help of Thames at the back, and directions from a fellow passenger, I took to the right and continued along the river. The whole Temple complex consists of myriad of houses, and from where I were, I could not see anything looking like a church. Through a small green area, I saw an arch and a small, pebbled road leading into a maze of buildings. Asking once again for directions, I was guided up the road and to the right through an archway, where I reached a small courtyard. Going through the courtyard’s green area, admiring the wonderful spring flowers, I stumbled upon another arch and, through a colonnade, came out into a small square, where a magnificent dome on the building in front of me, told me that I had reached the Temple Church.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Kensington Palace - a visit

For those of you who are into royal news, must have recently read that the princess of Cambridge has given birth to her second child, a daughter to be named Charlotte, Elizabeth, Diana. I have never thought about it, but news regarding the royals seems to come from Kensington Palace, the home to many members of the Royal Family since 1689. The reasons that I noticed this, is that I visited Kensington palace for the first time during my recent visit to London.

It is a beautiful, red mansion, situated in a wonderful park in the Kensington area of London. My feet were tired after having spent most of the day at the Tower, but shame to give up. One more visit was necessary, in order to keep up with my rather busy schedule.

Today the palace is divided into one private wing for the royal family and one which contains the historic apartments. There are four different themes to visit; Victoria Revealed, The Queen’s State Apartments, The King’s State Apartments and Modern Royals which displays fashion worn by Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana. Come with me for a short summary of my visit to the palace!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

A critic’s advice

To continue with Ford Madox Ford, from the last post. He was also a critic and is known for remarking: "Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.

Intriguing advice, which I at once sat out to follow. Here are extracts from some of the books on my table. Would you read these on behalf of the first lines of page 99? Naturally, you have to read the whole page, but I limit the text here to first line(s)/paragraph.

Lizzie Siddal by Lucinda Hawksley

The Ruskin vs. Ruskin court case, which came to an end in July 1854, was one of the most exciting scandals to hit London that year, not least because it involved so moral a figure as John Ruskin. 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Lizzie Siddal - The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel by Lucinda Hawksley

Lizzie Siddal was one of the models used by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The group were always looking for "Stunners" as Dante Gabriel Rosetti called them. That meant, someone with a personality that could shine through their paintings. In Lizzie they found one of the most charismatic ones. Unfortunately for her, she had a weak constitution and when falling in love with Rosetti, her life seemed a constant worry to keep him, since he had an eye for beautiful women.

Lucinda Hawksley has written a fascinating and respectful biography of Lizzie Siddal's sad life. Here some of the more breathtaking turns of her life.

It was Walter Howell Deverell who found her in a milliner's shop. At the time, 1849, she was twenty years old and lived with her family. The family had been rich, but lost their fortune and their estate. The father fought his whole life in courts to retrieve the inheritance, but in vain. Lizzie therefore grew up with a notion that they came from a background better than the present living conditions suggested.

So why was Lizzie considered to be a 'stunner'? Why did she stand out of the rest of the young ladies? She stood out because of her red hair, which seems to have been 'stunning'!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Good Soldier - A Tale of Passion by Ford Madox Ford

This book is part of the ‘Connected reading’ with a connection to Ford Madox Brown, one of the Pre-Raphaelites. Ford Madox Ford was his grandson, through his daughter with Emma Hill, Catherine Madox Brown. This is his most famous book of his and is included in most lists of greatest novels of all times.

Apart from a novelist he was also a poet, critic and editor of various journals. He lived in Paris in the 1920s and his friends included James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and Jean Rhys, and he helped to publish them all. Ford is the model for Hemingway’s character Braddocks in The Sun Also Rises, so this will be a natural connection to the next book.

This is the saddest story I have ever heard.” So starts the book and The Saddest Story was intended to be the title of the book. However, the publishers suggested to change the title. The story is about two couples and their leisured life in Europe in the beginning of the 20th century. Two Americans and two British. The story is told from the part of the American husband, John Dowell, who marries a heiress with heart problems. At least that is what she wants him to believe. Her main aim is to stay in Europe where she has a lover. They stay on in Paris for some time and then go around Europe to different spas and other places where the rich and beautiful spend their time.

Friday, 1 May 2015

The Tower of London

I have been several times outside the Tower of London, but never ventured inside. This was the time to do it. I was alone and I could spend as much time as I wanted and needed. I think most people have an idea about the Tower as a terrible place, where kings and queens used to put people that offended them, using torture to get them to say what they wanted their victims to say. We all know about Henry VIII and his use of the Tower for his own wives. It was during his time that the gate where they use to bring the people by boat, was named  'Traitor's Gate'.

However, looking at all the history, most of it has nothing to do with the harsher sides of life. Here people lived and worked, and most of the time it was quite a peaceful place. Just like it is today. This was a wonderful, sunny day, a lot of people, but probably not as many as would normally be there in the peak season. I walked around, with my audio phone around my neck, and a map in the hand, to get a bearing of the place. These two means did not prevent me from walking out of a gate to watch the view. At least that is what I thought I was doing, until I realised that it was another entrance/exit, and at the same time the audio phone started peeping! Quite embarrassing! I had to go back to the office and have it de-activated. It might have been a common problem, because one of the assistants was already on the way to help me out.