Monday, 24 July 2017

Paris in July, 2017 - A trip to Normandie, part 3

After having spent a couple of days in Guernsey and Jersey it was time to head back home. We
choose the inland route and drove through a beautiful, sometimes hilly, scenery, stopped for a coffee or cider in small villages along the way. This is the cider area, and it is really good.

We did take off slightly to visit the village of Camembert. One would think that this is a big place full of tourists trying out this wonderful cheese. Not at all. It is a tiny village with about 8 houses of which one is the hotel de ville and the other is the tourist information. Which was on lunch break when we arrived! Luckily, they opened ten minutes later and we had a degustation de Camembert with the local cider to it. Very good, so we could not refrain from buying a few cheeses, some cider and Calvados which is also famous in this area.

Degustation de Camemberts

Paris in July 2017 - A trip to Normandie, part 2

Heading south to the main attraction I wanted to see during this trip. Mont St Michel. An island just off the coast. When it is ebb you can walk out there on the sand, when it is flood you can use the bridge leading just up to the walled city and cathedral. It is an impressive place. Be prepared for steep streets and going up and down. Although we were there before the main tourist season the streets were so crowded when we arrived in the late afternoon, we could hardly get through.

Me, in front of Mont Saint Michel

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Paris in July - a trip to Normandie, part 1

My reading this year for the Paris in July, hosted by Tamara at Thyme for Tea, is really suffering. I have only managed Kate Muir's book left Bank so far. I have not had time to do anything else on Paris. However, we went on a lovely trip to Normandie during Easter and I would like to share some of our memorable moments.

We spent most of the time on the Cotentin peninsula, where we started our trip, staying at the Chataeu Du Rozel. It is a castle from the 17th century and wonderfully picturesque. We stayed in a tower in one of the corner sof the garden with a wonderful view of the premises.

On the way to our flat

Part of the park

Enjoying a champagne rosé in the sun

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood

A famous novel, that to a new audience is probably more known as the musical Cabaret. This book was a very positive surprise for me. All I knew was that Cabaret is based on the novel, but it is so much more. It is a semi-autobiographical account of Isherwood's time in Berlin during the 1930s. It describes the pre-Nazi Germany during the Weimar Republic.

The novel is really six short stories that are connected. They are titled: "A Berlin Diary" (Autumn 1930), "Sally Bowles" (Cabaret), "On Ruegen Island (Summer 1931), "The Nowaks", "The Landauers" and "A Berlin Diary" (Winter 1932-33). Isherwood is the narrator and the stories describes the situation in the country and the wild array of people he meets. They are all fascinated, outsider kind of characters and give the novel its base.

Sally Bowles is an Englishwoman who sings in a local cabaret and she goes through life with her court of admirers. A total free spirit, or is it her way of coping with an uncertain world? Frl. Schröder, the landlady, another kind of free spirit, living in her own world of how it should be, and who is who. The other tenants of the house, as well as the poor, working class Nowak family, with his friend Otto and the rich and successful Jewish family Landauer.

It is all set against the turbulent times of Germany and it is very well described in a low key. Slowly, slowly we see how life changes for the people we have gotten to know. The first adaptation of the book was called "I am a camera" and this is in a way a very good title. Isherwood is the camera. Through the lens he sees what is happening around him, but, although he cares about the people he meets, he is able to leave whenever he wants.

I read the book in a day, and I must say it was difficult to put it down. Isherwood transfers you to the times which seems unreal in a way. Maybe this is how it is in a society which is about to change and where people do not really know what the outcome will be. Trying to do the best they can to survive. Very well written account of the times. It takes you away to the streets of Berlin and its inhabitants.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

2 x Anita Shreve

For quite some time I have had two books by Anita Shreve on my shelves. Many years ago I read The Pilot's Wife and got fascinated by Shreve's way of writing and her personal stories. It seemed like a good idea to read some more and I have now finished both of them.

Eden Close and Sea Glass are stories about everyday people who are facing a drama or events in life that change their lives. In Eden Close Andrew returns home after many years to attend his mothers funeral. While preparing their old house for sale, his memories of the fatal events that struck his neighbour Eden comes back to him. Going down memory lane and his old feelings for her, he finally digests what happened that night many years ago. Like in The Pilot's Wife, everything is not what it seems to be, and the event that so effected many people finally gets its solution.

In Sea Glass we meet at set of people in north east England just before the Wall Street crash in 1929. Honora and Sexton, a young couple just getting married. He is a salesman of typewriters and copying machines, she is a bank clerk, McDermott, working in the mill and mostly deaf due to the noises in the factory, Vivian, a bored society lady who does not know what to do with her life and Alphonse, a twelve year old boy working in the mill.

All these people do not seem to have anything to do with each other. But as the events of the big crash occurs their lives intermingle in unexpected ways. This is the time of strikes, workers fight for a decent work hours and pay and the situation slowly builds up until the day it is time to go into a strike.

As usual Anita Shreve slowly builds up her stories, we get to know the characters and their positive sides and their failings. Then all of a sudden events happens fast and it is difficult to put the book down, until the end of the story is revealed. I really like her stories, maybe because they are about you and me, ordinary people who find themselves in situations we all face in life. Well, maybe not all of the situations in her books, but we are still able to sympathise with them.

I was quite fascinated by Honora's collecting of sea glass. The description sounds lovely. While finding the covers for this post, I did find pictures of sea glass. They are absolutely beautiful. I don't know if they are available on European beaches. Anybody who knows? Anybody who also collects sea glass? Here is an image I found. Aren't they beautiful?

 All in all, two books perfect for a summer day read.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

A little book inventory!

I have been doing an inventory of my book cases. That is, going through books I have read and books from the TBR shelves. Space is always a problem, and I must admit, that these days I look at the book after finishing it and decide whether to keep it or not. Influenced by KonMari? Maybe. I had a big problem in the beginning doing it,  but I am getting better at it. It also helps that we will move next year and the idea of moving a lot of books I will never read again is helping. Book boxes tend to be very heavy. And there is not much space where they are going.

Here they are!
So, one sunny day I went through my books and managed to sort out 65 of them! Yes, I was rather amazed myself. In Belgium there is a FB group called Swedes in Brussels and I posted a short message and bawang! The books were given to someone eager to read them. I am quite happy since I don't really like to throw books away.

About the same time (this happens when you clean up dark corners) I found two bags of used books. Quite forgotten they were there. Yes, this happens too. One bag was from my friend Helen who also sorted out her book shelves. I choose the following books from her pile: The Past by Tessa Hadley, Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, Emily's Journal by Sarah Fermi and Brontë in Love by Sarah Freeman. Toibin is a favourite of course, it is always interesting to read about the Brontës and Tessa Hadley is a new acquaintance.

The other bag must have come from Sweden and a second hand bookshop, plus two new purchases. Two of them are old favourite authors, Anya Seton and Barbara Erskine and the third has the interesting title The Time Travelling Guide to Medieval England. The New purchases are an historical account of the southern provinces of Sweden and a new guide to Linné's Skåne travels. This is the area where I will settle down in the future so good to read up on the history.

I am quite happy about the inventory and there are now spaces on the shelves. Means I can fill them up with new ones!

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Mixed reading

Lately, I have been reluctant to write reviews of the books I have read. Sometimes I make notes during my reading, sometimes not. I always think I will remember what I was thinking at a certain point, but, alas, this is just wishful thinking. I have been slow with reading and for once did not have the energy or will to open a book. It comes and goes, but this time it has lasted longer than ever. I hope I am over it now, so looking forward to more reading during the summer. For now, I will share my thoughts on three books.

The Temporary Gentleman by Sebastian Barry

Sebastian Barry is a favourite author and I loved his The Secret Scripture and A Long, Long Way. Here we meet Jack McNulty in Ghana in 1957. He is a former UN observer whose mission is over. He is dreading going back to Ireland and the life he used to lead. He reflects on his life and failed marriage and his failings as a father. His present life acts as an opposite to his past life. While he has had problems engaging in his own family, he does engage himself in his servant's life and is trying to save his troublesome marriage.

As usual Barry gives us so many layers of what life is about. How do we act towards ourself, our family and friends, and people around us. McNulty starts to write a diary and this is when he really starts reflecting on his life and how to act in the future. Excellent writing, as usual, from Barry.

Blood & Guts - A Short History of Medicine by Roy Porter

I purchased this book while visiting Stratford-upon-Avon. It is an account on how humankind has fought disease over the ages, and the often gruesome ways in which doctors and surgeons learned how the inside of the body looked and worked.
"With an extraordinary cast of barber surgeons, quacks, apothecaries, witch-doctors and anatomists, this is an eye-opening, humorous and often terrifying look at our ongoing quest for immortality." 
Often while reading, I am really happy to live in the 21st century. Entertaining reading though and it gives you an overview of medical history. It is humorously written and understandable even for non-medical persons.

Self Power by Deepak Chopra

I think we all have our part of ups and downs in our lives. We all seek different ways to handle them. One of them is spiritualism. I am not a very spiritual person myself, but do embrace some of the wisdom. This book by Deepak Chopra is very good read. It gives good advice without being to overwhelmingly spiritual, and keeping it on realistic grounds. In the first part of the book he gives advice for how to act as life imposes itself on you. In the second part he answers questions from readers. Both parts are very useful and insightful.
"How you deal with the unknown determines how well you make choices. Bad decisions are the result of applying the past to the present, trying to repeat something that once worked. The worst decisions are made by applying the past so rigidly that you are blind to anything else. We can break down bad decisions into specifics. What we see is that each factor is rooted in contracted awareness. By its very nature, contracted awareness is rigid, defensive, limited in scope, and dependent on the past. The past is known, and when people aren't able to cope with the unknown, they have little choice but to remember the past, using old decisions and habits as their guide - a very fallible guide, as it turns out."
I really felt that his advise on how to approach things in life is practical and easy to adapt into you own life. Which decisions do you make, how can you change your life when you are unhappy. How can you open up to new ways and directions in your life. Useful reading for anyone.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Book beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

Rose City Reader, is hosting Book beginnings on Friday. She says:

Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

Freda’s voice is hosting Friday 56 and the rules are:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
 *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post below in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.

My book this week is The Temporary Gentleman by Sebastian Barry


'It's a beautiful night and no mistake. You would never think there was a war somewhere.'  

Page 56 (57 since 56 is an empty page):

When my brother Tom was still a teenager he got a job as the organist at the Picture House in Sligo. It is not given to every man to see his brother in such a guise. 

left Bank by Kate Muir - Paris in July 2017

My first book about Paris and France for the Paris in July meme, hosted by Tamara at Thyme for Tea, left Bank by Kate Muir. It is an easy enough read about a fashionable couple, Madison and Olivier, living on the left bank in Paris. They are both successful people, she an actress and he a philosopher. Very busy with their own careers they have hardly time for their daughter Sabine. Into their lives enters nanny Anna.

It starts  with a family visit to Disneyland, Paris and a dramatic event. The story leaves us there to take us back in time to introduce us to the characters, their lives and loves. It is a typically French story, and it takes us to wonderful places around Paris that you just long to visit yourself. It turns out that the happy, fashionable couple is not that happy after all. The title of this book could as well has been "keeping up appearances" because that is what their lives are about.

Both Madison and Olivier are now in their mid-forties and the popularity of their younger selves more difficult to keep up. Then something happens (this is where we catch up events from the Prologue) that makes, at least Madison realise, that there might be more important thing in life than keeping your body and face in perfect condition. In a way Olivier also realises, but it is more difficult for him to adjust, at least for a longer time. What is life without the exiting lunch meeting with your lover in a small hotel?

On the front cover it says that it is "Intoxicating, witty and delicious, like Paris itself..." and that is true. It is a charming story, very Parisian, but with dark undertones on how it is to grow older and having to realise what is important in life and the necessity to adjust your life style accordingly. Which does not necessarily leads to a lesser life. I liked the book and it is perfect as an easy summer read.

One great thing is the cover. It looks different depending if you keep the paper cover on it or take it off. Charming.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Mount TBR Mountaineering Checkpoint #2

I can't believe we are already half way through this year. The checkpoints for various challenges do take you back on track. Checking my reading for this challenge gives me a poor result. Far too few books read this year, so far. Ok, let's face the facts and have a look on how far up I have come.

One of my favourite challenges is Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017, hosted by Bev at My Reader's Block.
As of April 1, I had read 15 books and made it 1.202 m or 3.943 ft up the Mont Blanc. As of July 1, I have read 23 books, which is 4.607 m (15.088 ft) up to the top. One more book and I am there.

As usual Bev has given us a few challenges on top of the reading. Choose two titles from the books you've read that have a common link. I will choose Romeo and Juliet and Sweet Bird of Youth which are both plays. I seldom read plays so this is something out of the extra ordinary.

Tell us about a book on the list that was new to you in some way - new author, about a place you've never geen, a genre you don't usually read etc. Here I will go for Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann. My first, but not last, encounter with this wonderful author.

Which book (read so far) has been on your TBR mountain the longest? Was it worth the wait? Or is it possible you should have tackled it back when you first put it on the pile? I can't really remember which one has been there the longest. However, Buddenbrooks has been there for some time. It was definitely worth the wait, but I feel I should have read it earlier. It was just the sheer size that made me postpone it. What a mistake!

Use titles from your list to complete as many of the following sentences below as you can.

My Life According to Books

1. My Ex was The Temporary Gentleman (by Sebastian Barry)
2. My best friend is Effie (by Suzanne Fagence Cooper
3. Lately, at work [I've had to deal with ] The Medieval Murders
4. If I won the lottery, [I'd go searching for] The Last Girls (by Lee Smith)
5. My fashion sense [is] Self Power (by Deepak Chopra)
6. My next ride [will be] To the Lighthouse (by Virginia Woolf
7. The one I love is The Go-Between (by J.P. Hartley)
8. If I ruled the world, I would be The Dream of Scipio (by Iain Pears)
9. When I look out my window, I [see] Charlotte Brontë's Secret Love (by Jolien Janzing)
10. The best things in life are A Circle of Sisters (by Judith Flanders)

Well, that is it for this time. Hopefully, I will achieve a good part up the Mt Vancouver at the next checkpoint. Happy reading!

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Paris in July

Paris in July, my favourite blogging event, hit me this year out of the blue. Normally, I think about it well in advance, planning what to do. Lately, I hardly had time to read all the blogs I am following and therefor I just realised yesterday that it has already started. It is once again hosted by Tamara at Thyme for TeaThank you for hosting Tamara. I know you are very busy for the time being.

So what will I do this year? Less ambitious than earlier years, due to my present schedule. I would like to write a few posts on our recent trip to Normandie. It was lovely and we travelled along the coast all the way down to St Malo. I would like to finish Nana by Emile Zola. I already started it last year, but never got around to finish it.

I actually bought a book a while ago, which I thought would be a good read for 'Paris in July'. It is a book called left Bank by Kate Muir. It is fictional but I am not able to figure out from the describing text at what time it takes place.

Listen to some French music, maybe finding out what is the most popular songs in France this year. Another option is watching a French film or TV-series. Maybe even fix a French dinner. Let's see what 'Paris in July' will bring.

Looking forward following your French goals for July.