Saturday, 26 September 2015

The Stuff You Wish You'd Been Taught at School

This funny, humorous book by Caroline Taggart is a must if you are interested in  A Classical Education. Here you get the most important information on the classical world, described in an easy way and with a lot of humour. I really loved it. We get a look at the classical Gods, the emperors, the philosophers, writers, architectural features, the sciences and much more. Here you find the background to a lot of features in our present world, be it language, characterisations, architecture, mythology and so on.

It is divided into chapters covering Languages, Religion and Mythology, Crete (this is a detour!), Ancient Greek History, Roman History, Classical Literature, Architecture and Art, Maths, Science and Inventions, Philosophy and the 'Liberal Arts' and the Games.

Here a few teasers. I start with Hercules.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

The History of Pendennis by William Makepeace Thackeray

Ever since I read Vanity Fair by Thackeray, I am one of his fans. So, when the Brontë Reading Group in Brussels had his The History of Pendennis on the list, I was happy. Until I realised that it is a book of over 900 pages and I only had four days to read it! A slight misjudgment on my part, you could say! I read the e-book that is.

Since the discussions in the Reading group are always very lively and interesting, I don’t like to go there if I have not read the book. A big effort and an eight hour read the same day as the meeting was the cure. I managed to finish it in time to take a shower and get dressed!

As usual Jones had prepared us with questions to consider while reading the book. Here are just a few of them with my comments.

Does Pendennis qualify as one of the "loose baggy monsters'' that Henry James criticised among nineteenth-century novels?

I like this question, and I understand exactly what Henry James meant. There are so many thick books from this time. Of course we have to remember that normally a book at that time came out in three instalments, so they had to fill it out (think of Dickens!). Henry James was the total opposite with his rather thin books. But, what books! As an answer to the question; I would not include this book in  “loose baggy monsters”.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Scottish Writer's Series presents: Lucy Ribchester

An invitation from the Scottish Government EU Office in Brussels came my way. I was very excited when I realised that they host a 'Scottish Writer's Series'. What can be better than to actually meet the writer? So, I ventured into the city from the suburbs, and it has to be something very good for me to go downtown during the day. And it was!

Lucy, signing and Lynsey Rogers from the
Scottish Book Trust
The Scottish Book Trust, represented by Lynsey Rogers, supports young and upcoming Scottish writers, with scholarships, get aways, promotion assistance and other supporting schemes. Lucy Ribchester received the New Writers Award in 2012/2013 which helped her finish her first novel The Hourglass Factory, which was presented today. From the back cover of the book I read:

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Which five books would you take with you to a deserted island?

There has not been to much action here lately. It is all due to a very busy schedule this week. Lots of things going on, so even reading is slow. But I have read some books, so more reviews will follow. In the meantime, I get inspired by your reading, by a book I read, which gives me inclinations to read either the same author again, another book from the same time and so on. I also reflected a little bit on which books are my all time favourites, so that is why I was thinking of which five books I should take to a deserted island. Of course, if you end up on a deserted island, you probably just end up there, and there will not be any time to pack some books. But, we are living in the world of the books, so we can make it happen. So here is my list, in no special order.

The Content Reader

  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (a favourite book and don't we just love to dislike Scarlet?)
  • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (a wonderful piece on a disappearing world order)
  • The Garden of Evening Mist by Tan Twang Eng (a beautifully written book on terrible times, but where love, in spite of everything, grows)
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (my favourite Brontë book, although dark and violent, Heathcliff's and Catherine's love knows no borders)
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (just love this love story crossing over present and past)
The Content Reader

The Content Reader

Three of the books are written many years ago. Time will tell whether a book is good or not. For the two new books, we still don't know, but these two books at least kept me occupied and they stayed with me afterwards.

Which are the five books that you would take with you to your deserted island?

Friday, 11 September 2015

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Having read the biography about Zelda (Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald - An American Woman's Life by Linda Wagner-Martin) the best thing would have been to read her own book Save Me the Waltz, but it is not yet on my shelves. The second best would be to read something by Scott Fitzgerald, and The Great Gatsby conveniently was sitting on my TBR shelves. It was actually my son who had to read it in school, and he handed over the copy to me.

I actually think I have read it before. In any case, I have seen two versions of the movie, with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow and lately with Leonardo Di Caprio and Carey Mulligan. Here is my confession: I never really understood this book/movie. That might be ok for the movies, since you can only show certain things, but also the book. However, having read the story of Zelda's and Scott's life and the times they were living in, I finally got an understanding of the story.

The Content ReaderAll in all, I find it rather sad. Gatsby with his longing for Daisy, and one goal in his life, to win her over with wealth and care. Daisy, remembering her early love for Gatsby, but now married to Tom, in a marriage that does not seem lucky or healthy on the surface, but, in the end, turns out to be firmer than one can imagine. The story is told by a narrator, Nick Carraway. He happens to rent the house next to Gatsby's palace and they become friends. Nick is also an old friend of Daisy's and thus becomes involved in their story. Their story evolves into an unexpected tragedy which changes their lives forever.
I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…
It is a story about Fitzgeralds' own lives. Money, parties, champagne and glorious people. However, underneath the surface lingers an unhappiness that drags the people down. Most of the time, without them seeing it. In this, one of his greatest books, he tries to capture the mood of the age; the 1920s, money and class, east and west and race and gender. The leisurely life-stile, including a lot of alcohol, gives the story a dreamlike appearance, like we, the readers, are part of the intoxication. The only 'sober' person seems to be Nick Carraway who is able to watch the people from the side-line. In the end he is the only person 'getting away' from it all. The others are forever entangled in their own lives.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

A couple of more books...!

Just before I left Sweden I bought four more pocket books. There is this offer of 'Buy 4, Pay for 3'. Fair enough. Three of them are Swedish and one is American.

The Content Reader

Nässlorna blomma by Harry Martinsson
A Swedish classic. Martinsson was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1974.
Blekingegatan 32 by Lena Einhorn
A book about Greta Garbo. The title is the address where she lived. Lena Einhorn wrote a very good biography about Siri von Essen, one of the wives of August Strindberg.

Alkemistens dotter by Carl-Michael Edenborgh
A new writer for me. It is about alchemists in the 18th century. Sounds interesting to me.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

Also a new acquaintance to me. A successful New York lawyer, happily married with two children, just leaves without an explanation. Four years later, his wife finds an old love letter that was never posted, addressed to an unknown woman with an address in Burma. His daughter Julia hopes this means he is still alive and sets of to look for the woman in the letter. Sounds absolutely thrilling to me, and the Swedish reviews are ravishing.
Well, these an the other ten books I bought has been added to my TBR list, which turned a little bit longer again.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Long Day's Journey Into Night

This is not about Eugene O'Neill's famous play, it is about my own trip back from Sweden. Yes, it dragged on and on into, at least, the early night. There was so much traffic through Germany, and 'Stau', that is traffic jams, about every half hour. I can't really remember having had that many jams before. On top of that, the sky opened its gates from time to time. Not even the wipers had a chance. I made it home safely, which is the main thing.

The Content Reader

One good thing, when you are on the road for a long time, is that you can listen to an audio book. I think I started this book last September, when I was on my way from Sweden to Belgium. Hmm, one year later I finished it. It is a Swedish book 'Hästen från Porten' by Carina Burman (The Horse from the Gate, however, Porten in this title refer to the Ottoman Empire). It is a historical novel (which I love) and the author is reading herself. I have read one book by her before. I think it was one of her first books of fiction which was highly praised, and I remember liking it. She is also a literature critic and has written a lot of non-fiction literature. This is the third book about Euthanasia Bondeson, although it seems they can all be read separately. Euthanasia is a lady traveller during the 19th century. She is also a little bit of a private detective and here she runs into an old friend from London, also a detective and spy. What starts out as a theft of a beautiful arab horse in the desert ends in international politics in Konstantinopel (Istanbul).

I don't really know what to think about the book. From time to time I found it slightly boring, but from time to time quite exciting and interesting. Mostly, I know if I like a book or not, but this is one of the books that puzzles me. But, since I have been thinking of it since yesterday, and today when I was out driving I missed it, it might mean that I rather liked it after all.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that it is an audio book. I am very divided when it comes to audio books. I am not totally comfortable with them, preferring to read rather than listen. It is perfect though when you are driving a long way, cleaning, running, walking or whatever you are doing which prevent you from having a book in your hands. Yes, I must say that for a longer car journey it is perfect.

This is only my second audio book, so must give it a few more chances. What do you think about audio books? A lot of you seem to listen regularly.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

New purchases!

I am in Sweden and it has been a very busy time, that is why it has been rather quiet on the blog. My son starts his studies in another city this year, so a lot of things to do to help him settle. I managed to visit some flee markets and bought some interesting books. Eleven books for eleven euros! Not bad.

The Content Reader

Here is a list of the books (one is already finished) in no special order.

The Binding Chair by Kathryn Harrison
Under jorden i Villette by Ingrid Hedström
In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
The Spy Wore Read by Aline, Countess of Romanones
"K" is for Killer by Sue Grafton
Notorious by Janet Dailey
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
The Point of Murder by Margaret Yorke (read)
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Last Girls by Lee Smith
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

The Content Reader

I am quite pleased with the variety. Some thrillers which I normally don't read that much. I don't know why, because I really like them. Have you read any of the books? Which one should I start with now?