Friday, 31 July 2015

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

A while ago I read Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, which I like very much. So it was with great anticipation, I grabbed another of her books The Fearful Symmetry. Some years ago I read an interview with her, where she was talking about the story of this book. It seemed fascinating, so at a time, I bought it. So, as you see, these two books have graced my TBR shelves for some time, but not anymore!

The Fearful Symmetry is a very ‘illusive’ story that lingers on the border between life and death. Julia and Valentina Poole are twins and, as usual with twins, they are doing everything together. One day they receive a letter from an English lawyer stating that their aunt Elspeth Noblin has left them her flat, overlooking Highgate cemetery. There is only one condition of the inheritance; their mother is not allowed to cross the threshold. At this point they did not even know they had an aunt. Their mother is reluctant to speak about her and for the twins it is quite a mystery, but a way out of a dead-lock, since they don't know what to do after their studies.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

French music for 'Paris in July'

One of the aims for this month's Paris in July, hosted by Tamara at Thyme for Tea, was to listen to some French music. I love French music, but listen to it far too seldom. I remember loving this song by Gilbert Becaud when I was younger, Natalie.

La Place Rouge etait vide
Devant moi marchait Nathalie
Elle avait un joli nom, mon guide

La Place Rouge etait blanche
La neige faisait un tapis
Et je suivait par ce froid dimanche

Elle parlait en phrases sobres
De la Revolution d'Octobre
Je pensais deja
Qu'apres le tombeau de Lenine
On irait au Cafe Pouchkine
Boire un chocolat

La Place Rouge etait vide
Je lui pris son bras, elle a souri
Il avait des cheveux blonds, mon guide
Nathalie, Nathalie

Dans sa chambre, a l'universite
Une bande d'etudiants
L'attendait impatiemment
On a ri, on a beaucoup parle
Ils voulaient tout savoir
Nathalie traduisait

Moscou, les plaines d'Ukraine
Et les Champs-Elysees
On a tout melange et on a chante
Et puis, ils ont debouche
En riant a l'avance
Du champagne de France
Et on a danse

Et quand la chambre fut vide
Tous les amis etaient partis
Je suis reste seul avec mon guide

Plus question de phrases sobres
Ni de Revolution d'Octobre
On n'en etait plus la
Fini le tombeau de Lenine
Le chocolat de chez Pouchkine
C'est, c'etait loin deja

Que ma vie me semble vide
Mais je sais qu'un jour a Paris
C'est moi qui lui servirai de guide

In the end of the song the tune goes over into wonderful Russian tunes with Kalinka. It is interesting to compare the videos of today with the videos of yesterday!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Mysteries of Paris: The Quest for Morton Fullerton by Marion Mainwaring

For the Paris in July month, hosted by Tamara at Thyme for Tea, I read The Age of Desire by Jennie Field (my review here). It is a historical fiction about Edith Wharton during some years of her life. It was known that she had an unknown ‘love of her life’, but it was presumed to be Walter Berry, to whom she was engaged in her youth, and who became a life long friend. In later years it has been discovered that it was not him at all, but a man she had a love affair with during her early years in Paris, William Morton Fullerton.

Of course, this tickled my sense of real life mystery and I had to look him up on the net. Maybe there was something to read about him, especially since he seemed to me a very illusive character in the book. Marion Mainwaring, has lived in Paris and London for many years and also completed Edith Wharton’s novel The Buccaneers, as well as writing a couple of novels on her own. When she learned that Fullerton was the love of Wharton’s life, she set out on a quest to find out more about him.

Monday, 27 July 2015

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

'You are all a lost generation.'
Gertrude Stein in conversation

'One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever...The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place where he arose...The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits...All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.'

Ever since I read Hemingway, The Paris Years by Michael Reynolds (review here) last year for the Paris in July, 2014, I wanted to read The Sun Also Rises.  Finally, for Paris in July, 2015, I have read it. It was one of his first books, and the one that made him a name. From reading the historical fiction book about Hemingway’s first wife Hadley Richardson (The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, review here), I remember she was upset when she read the book. It was the time when things were not going so well between them, and they divorced some time later. She read a real life crises into Jack's love for Brett.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Sunday bliss!

After yesterday's grey and rainy day, when I spent most of the day on the coach reading and sleeping, I was happy to see some sunshine and lighter clouds this morning. Nice day for a biking tour. Packed my rucksack and went through the forrest over to the Red Monastery (Roode Kloister). A beautiful area with ponds, greens and benches to sit on. I rested on one and read for a while. Very nice indeed.

One the way home I took a curve too fast and ops, fell over. Now I can hardly move my right arm. So much for thinking I am a biking pro these days!

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Marie Antoinette - The Journey by Antonia Fraser

I think we all have our ideas of Marie Antoinette and her life. She is, after all, one of the most famous women in history. After reading this book, I am willing to confess that my idea of her was totally wrong. She was very disliked in her life time, mainly due to the gossip of ill-willed people. Unfortunately, this picture of her has gone down through history in quite an unbelievable way. So, it is time to review this woman and see her as she was.

Antonia Fraser’s book about her life is definitively able to make us change our mind. I have had the book on my TBR shelves for some time, but not so long as some other books! I thought it would be suitable for the Paris in July month hosted by Tamara at Thyme for Tea. Once I started the book, it was difficult to put it down.

‘Her Majesty has been very happily delivered of a small, but completely healthy Archduchess.’
Count Khevenhüller, Court Chamberlain, 1755

Marie Antoinette was born on 2 November 1755 as the fifteenth child to Maria Teresa, Queen of Hungary by inheritance and Empress of the Holy Roman Empire by marriage. Her childhood was rather happy and not as strict as one could imagine in such a household. She was spoiled by her governess and not pushed enough to do her studies, which was to be one of her problems in later life. “One of the real betrayal in Marie Antoinette’s education was that she was never encouraged to concentrate. This ability, comparatively easy to inculcate in childhood, was generally held to be lacking in Marie Antoinette the adult, …her conversation tended to be disjointed ‘like a grasshopper’…”

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Yummies in Brussels

It is a little bit of slow motion on this blog for the moment. That is because I have visitors, so I have been out sightseeing. I just wanted to share a few goodies from Brussels.

I have read a couple of books that will be reviewed soon; The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway, Marie Antoinette - The Journey by Antonia Fraser. These will be reviewed for Paris in July. I am now reading, almost finished Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger.

In the meantime - here some photos!

I start with the very symbol of Brussels - Manneken Pis. To honour the Belgium national day he is dressed in a uniform from the revolution in 1830.

Here is how the maccarons and the chocolate are shown! Hard to resist I would say.


Thursday, 16 July 2015

'The Sage of Waterloo' almost became my Waterloo!

Leona Francombe is a fellow member of the Brussels Brontë Group. She has written a book! Is it not fantastic! She is a classical pianist and now also a novelist. The book is called The Sage of Waterloo. Here is how it is described.

On June 17, 1815, the Duke of Wellington amassed his troops at Hougoumont, an anciet farmstead not far from Waterloo. The next day, the French attacked - the first shots of the Battle of Waterlo - sparking a brutal, day-long skirmish that left six thousand men either dead or wounded.
William is a white rabbit living at Hougoumont today. Under the tutelage of his mysterious and wise grandmother Old Lavender, William attunes himself to the echoes and ghosts of the battle, and through a series of adventures he comes to recognise how deeply what happened at Waterloo two hundred years before continues to reverberate. "Nature," as Old Lavender says, "never truly recovers from human cataclysm."
The Sage of Waterloo is a playful retelling of a key turning point in human history, full of vivid insights about Napoleon, Wellington, and the battle itself - and a slyly profound reflection on our place in the world.

Monday, 13 July 2015

the book of salt by Monique Truong

I got, or grabbed, this book at the “Bookswapping Club” event last month. It is about a Vietnamese cook working for Gertrud Stein and Alice B. Toklas and takes place in the end of 1920s, beginning of 1930s. Seemed like a perfect book to read for the Paris in July activity. Here is what it says on the back cover:

Paris, 1934, Binh has accompanied his employers to the station for their departure to America. His own destination is unclear: will he go with his ‘Mesdames’, stay in France, or return to his native Vietnam? Binh fled his homeland in disgrace, leaving behind his malevolent charlatan of a father and his self-sacrificing mother. For five years, he has been the personal cook at the famous apartment on the rue de Fleurus. Binh is a lost soul, an exile and an alien, a man of musings, memories and possibly lies…Tastes, oceans, sweat, tears - The Book of Salt is an inspired novel about food and exile, love and betrayal. 

Saturday, 11 July 2015

The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt

Some years ago I read Berendt’s book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and I absolutely loved it. Wonderfully written, wonderful out of the ordinary people. When I saw that he followed up this book with a book about Venice, The City of Fallen Angels, I bought it and it has decorated by TBR shelves ever since.

Finally, I grabbed it and started reading. As with his other book you are drawn in to the history of the city. He manages to find all these interesting people that he contacts to get their story. As with the Midnight book, the main story is a legal one. The opera house in Venice burnt down while it was renovated. Now they are searching for the people responsible, either by arson or by accident. This leads us into the thorny area of Italian law, where for a foreigner, once your inside, there seems to be no way out!

Friday, 10 July 2015

My French Dinner

Last Saturday we invited some friends to share our French dinner. I am not entirely sure that the dinner was very French, but at least the wines were! Due to the heat wave that hit Brussels last weekend with temperature up towards 40C, it did not feel right to make a 'Coq au vine', one of my favourite French dishes. Neither was it the time to do another favourite 'Beef Bourguignon'! To hot for the soaring temperature. I settled for scallops for the  starter, salmon for the main course and a white chocolate brulée for dessert. Here is the menu.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Six in Six for 2015

With Paris in July you always find a lot of new, nice blogs (thank you Tamara for making it easy to follow them all!). Through them, in this case Guiltless Reading I also find links to other interesting blogs. This is one Challenge I could not resist from Jo at The Book Jotter. Jo explains: "the idea being that as the end of June approaches and we are then halfway through 2015,  let us share the books we have read in those first 6 months. In fact let’s share 6 books in 6 categories, or simply just 6 books. Whatever you want to and the same book can obviously feature in more than one category. "

I borrowed some of her suggestions for categories, but you can obviously make up your own. Here are my choices, and I think you can easily see which of the books are my favourites, since they keep popping up. Or, it is only because there was not enough variety in my reading this year? Hmm, I don't know.  

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields

The Content Reader

My first book read for Paris in July 2015, is Jennie Fields' historical fiction about Edith Wharton, The Age of Desire. It is a fascinating read. I don't know much about her life and have only read The Age of Innocence a long time ago.  This book is a good incitement to read more about Edith Wharton and more of her books. When I read historical fiction, I also want to read a biography of the person in question. Last year I read, The Paris Wife (review here) by Paula McLain, about Hadley Richardson, Hemingway's first wife. I continued with Michael Reynolds' biography Hemingway, The Paris Years, (review here) reading it for Paris in July 2014. The biography confirmed that the historical fiction was very well done.

The Content ReaderThe book follows Edith Wharton through the years 1906-1910 with an epilogue in 1916. At this time Edith Wharton spent the winters in Paris with her husband and governess Anna, now her secretary, and the summers in "The Mount", the house she built and decorated in Lenox, Massachusetts. The marriage goes from bad to worse, partly due to the manic depression that Edward Wharton suffered from and partly because Edith never really loved him and is eager to pursue her own interests, in which he has no interest. Edith enjoyed her time in Paris with people sharing her interests in literature and art. She enjoyed visiting the saloons, made friends with people like Anna de Noailles, a Greek-Romanian princess and poet, living a free life in comparison to Edith Wharton. She was fascinated by her life style, from dressing to living.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Book Blogger Hop

Following Elizabeth's blog over at  Silver's Reviews I found a reference to the Book Blogger Hop on "Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer". Each week a question about books is asked for you to answer and link back to the page. This weeks question is:

"Do you lend your books out to friends and family?"

My answer is YES! I am bad at keeping track so I rely on the lender to give it back to me. Or, I might say, you can keep it or give it to somebody else. I like to share my favourite books with other people. They might not always like it as I do, but there will always be a little bit of discussion around it.

What about you?

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Paris in July - in Brussels!

Paris in July, hosted by Tamara at Thyme for Tea, has started. My first "French" activity was done yesterday by visiting a travelling French exhibition "Histoire en Brique" in Waterloo. It shows iconic symbols of French cultural heritage.

Show cased are some famous French buildings like Arc de Triomphe, Malmaison and Dome des Invalides, as well as furniture and paintings. Included was also Napoleon's last HQ at Waterloo, parts of the battlefield and the Butte du Lion. And... it is all built up with Lego parts! Around 1 million lego parts in 48 different colours were used. Quite amazing and what a fantastic craftsmanship!

Dome des Invalides, Malmaison
and Arc de Triomphe
Empress Josephine's harp
built with lego bricks
Lego portraits of Napoleon, Duke of Wellington
and General Blücher

A desk built with lego bricks.
Maybe something for a handy person?

Battle of Waterloo and
the Butte du Lion

The Wellington Museum in Waterloo
On Saturday we have invited friends for a French dinner. Now I just have to find a menu.  Coq au vine was suggested by my husband, and I really like that. will be around 37C on Saturday, so it might not be that suitable to serve. Maybe fish? I am not that fond of Bouillabaisse, but maybe something else with fish or sea food? Any suggestions?

I will also start one of my books, The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields. A historical fiction about Edith Wharton's time in Paris.