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Showing posts from January, 2018

An Arundel Tomb by Philip Larkin

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(image from Wikipedia) Our friend Andrew was over for dinner the other night. Finally, I had someone to discuss literature with for a while! He has been kind enough to send me a poem by Philip Larkin, An Arundel Tomb.  Having just read it, I have to share it here with you. It is a beautiful poem, which you could also use as a guide; how to view the tomb, how it is decorated, how to read. It gives you an idea how to look and interpret heritage monuments. After having read the " Poem Guide by Jeremy Axelrod, 2009 " that he also sent me, I am lost in this poem. I have to read and re-read it many times. What a good start to the day, when you find something like this to think of and enjoy for times to come. I definitely have to look into Philip Larkin's work after this introduction. Thank you, Andrew. Side by side, their faces blurred,    The earl and countess lie in stone,    Their proper habits vaguely shown    As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,    And tha

Book beginnings on Friday and The Friday 56

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This week my book beginning and page come from Candide by Voltaire. I read it for my literature course, and was quite surprised. It is a wonderfully, written and satirical book. The old classics are definitely alive. Book beginnings hosted by Rose City Reader "In the country of Westphalia, in the castle of the most noble Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh, lived a youth whom Nature had endowed with a most sweet disposition. " The Friday 56 (57) hosted by Freda's Voice "You insolent dog!" cried the Baron. "You have the impudence to marry my sister, who bears seventy-two quarterings! Really, I think you are insufferably arrogant to dare so much as to mention such an idea to me.

Love in a Blue Time by Hanif Kureishi

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I have wanted for some time to read something of Kureishi. I think this might not be his best book. I bought it, probably at the Book fair, and did not realise it was short stories. I do not often read short, but it is always good to venture "out in the blue" sometimes. However, this was not my cup of tea. Although well written, and concentrating on the difficult theme of love and life, I could not really get into the stories Maybe because the characters are very far away from myself. However, I am sure that a lot of people recognise themselves in the stories. The characters have come over the first youth and realising that they cannot continue living from day to day for the rest of their lives. Most of the characters are part of the cultural life. I guess artistic people are always living a less secure life and have goals driving them further and further and income is irregular if any. Even so, when you have a settled income, it seems life does not simply settle down

A Room of One's Own - Read a long in February

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Recently, I wrote about the 100 best non-fiction books ever (a list from the Guardian ). There were several books from the list I wanted to read, among them Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own .  My friend Alex at the Sleepless Reader suggested we read it together during February. A good idea, otherwise it will take me a long time before I get around to read it. Are you interested to read along with us? If so, please leave a comment below and I will contact you in the end of January. I like discussion points, which I like to consider during the reading. Voluntarily of course. I found these on  Shmoop .

Book beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

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This week my book beginning and page 56 come from a new author to me, Andrea Camilleri's Hunting Season .  Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader "The steam packet boat that delivered the post from Palermo, the Re d'Italia - which Sicilians stubbornly continued to the the Franceschiello out of a combination of habit, laziness, and homage to the Bourbon king who had instituted the service - moored, dead on time, at two o'clock in the afternoon of 1 January 1880, in the harbour of Vigàta." The Friday 56 (p. 55-56)  hosted by Freda's Voice "'That was me, my friend. I'd bought two rockets to set off on San Calorio's day, but then I couldn't do it because we were in mourning. So I tried them at home.' 'In the middle of the night?' 'Why, is there a specific time of day or night for setting off rockets at home?'" My review of the novel under link above. Quite a different book, bord

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

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I listened to this book on Audible. The historical fiction novel  The Other Einstein is referring to Einstein's first wife Mileva Maríc, born in Serbia. Early on she showed talent and was nurtured by her father, who also helped her to the right schools and in the end to the university in Zürich.  She was only the second woman who finalised her studies there. Among her fellow students was Albert Einstein. They soon started dating and became lovers. They got a daughter out of wedlock, who died a year after. They married and had two sons. In 1914 they divorced. This is how far the book goes. I was not aware of Mileva Maríc or her involvement with Albert Einstein. It is always interesting to read about early female pioneers in typically male fields. The early life of Mileva is well written and her friendship with four other women studying in Zürich. Although, at least two of them, made a pact not to marry but pursue their studies, the both ended up married and thus, out of any

Finding your Element by Ken Robinson

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Maybe your Element is to play the piano? Some years ago I heard a TED-talk with Ken Robinson. It was one of those talks you just love. He is a natural speaker and manages to make his topic so interesting and humorous.  Nowadays, he is a Sir and an internationally recognised leader in the development of creativity. Also an advisor to governments, corporations and others on educational matters. He has written several books on creativity and how to find your place and occupation in life. In connection with hearing the talk I ordered this book, with the sub-title: " How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your life ". It is an interesting book with a lot of examples of people who did find there elements, even meaning they changed their profession some time along the line. He also provides questions, ideas and advice how to try to find your true element. Best is to read a chapter and then linger on his questions and think on what it could mean to you. In a

The Mysteries of Beethoven's Hair by Russell Martin and Lydia Nibley

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I found this book in the Book festival, and it is quite an interesting topic, of which I had never heard before. Since I love a real life mystery, it was a must for me. It seems that when Beethoven died in March 1827, the fifteen-year-old musical protégé Ferdinand Hiller was in Vienna, visiting the composer together with his instructor Johann Nepomuk Hummel. Hiller later wrote: "He lay, weak and miserable, sighing deeply at intervals. Not a word fell from his lips; sweat stood out on his forehead. His handkerchief not being conveniently at hand, Hummel's wife took her fine cambric handkerchief and dried his face again and again. Never shall I forget the grateful glance with which his broken eyes looked upon her." Three days later Beethoven died and a day later they went back to pay their respect. "The two did not remain for long beside the coffin, but before they left, young Hiller asked his teacher if he could cut a lok of the master composer's hair. …

Hunting Season by Andrea Camilleri

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According to information on the cover Camilleri is the author of the Inspector Montalbano series. The name sounds familiar to me, but I have not read any of these books, or seen the popular TV-series based on the books. This book caught my eye because of the cover, which I love. The back cover text intrigued me as well: "'Tomorrow afternoon they're going to open a pharmacy in town,' Mimi said as he was carrying his master, chair and all, from the palazzo to the Circolo. But as he was covering him with the blanket, since it was late February and frosty, the old man made as if to speak. 'No,' he said with such effort that he began to sweat, despite the cold. 'No, Mimi. Tomorrow hunting season opens.' 'What are you saying, sir? It's a pharmacy that's opening, and the pharmacist is that gentleman stranger who greets you every time he passes by.' 'No, Mimi, tomorrow hunting season opens. And I don't want to get shot…'"

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

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This week my book beginning and page 56 come from one of my favourite authors, Colm Tóibín. It is his novel The Empty Family. I have not yet read it, but like the beginning so it is just to grab it and start reading. Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader " The moon hangs low over Texas. The moon is my mother. She is full tonight, and brighter than the brightest neon; there are folds of red in her vast amber. Maybe she is a harvest moon, a Comanche moon. I have never seen a moon so low and so full of her own deep brightness. My mother is six years dead tonight, and Ireland is six hours away and you are asleep. " The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice "She found that the manager of the studio knew the publican, the owner of the bar where they would film. He lived near the bar and was a regular customer. When she asked the manager if he thought she could have one extra day preparing the bar, clearing it of almost everything and then

100 Best Non Fiction Ever

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New year and new lists on best books ever written. This list I found in the Guardian and it lists 100 Best Non Fiction Ever. I am a list person so eagerly went through it to see if I had read any of them. I have only read three. 61. On Liberty by John Stuart Mill (1859)
 This fine, lucid writer captured the mood of the time with this spirited assertion of the English individual’s rights. 63. The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell (1857)
Possibly Gaskell’s finest work – a bold portrait of a brilliant woman worn down by her father’s eccentricities and the death of her siblings. 83. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon (1776-1788) Perhaps the greatest and certainly one of the most influential history books in the English language, in which Gibbon unfolds the narrative from the height of the Roman empire to the fall of Byzantium. On the list there are 16 books that I would like to read: 8. Orientalism by Edward Said (1978)

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

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I am trying to get use to listening to audio books. What is better than trying it out with a favourite author and a favourite narrator. This novel from Graham Greene is narrated, or as it says;  performed  by Colin Firth, and it is just such a pleasure to listen to his voice. I could probably listen to any book he is narrating. I enjoy reading Graham Greene's 'quiet' tales, which stays on a matter of fact way, even when they concern spies and world affairs. This novel is a story about love, obsession and jealousy, very strong feelings, and still, it is given to us through beautiful, quiet prose, that very well show us that a master is at work.  It is about an illicit love affair between the narrator (an author in the novel) Maurice Bendrix and Sarah Miles, the wife of his 'best' friend, civil servant Henry Miles. As the story develops religion tends to dramatise the affair even more. It is a novel asking for answers. "A story has no beginning or end.&q

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

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The Miniaturist comes with a lot of good reviews, and as usual I am afraid that I will expect too much. Not so. This is a wonderfully written magical piece of historical fiction. Nella Oortman is married to a successful merchant trader in Amsterdam in 1686. He is a good catch for her and although she does not know him she has high hopes for the future. Once she arrives in Amsterdam to knock on the door of his house, her life changes for ever. And not in the way she expected it. "On the step of her new husband's house, Nella Oortman lifts and drops the dolphin knocker, embarrassed by the thud. No one comes, though she is expected. The time was prearranged and letters ritten, her mother's paper so thin compared with Brandt's expensive vellum. No, she thinks, this is not the best of greetings, given the blink of a marriage ceremony the month before - no garlands, no betrothal cup, no wedding bed." Johannes lives with his sister Marin in an elegant house, to

The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson

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The title The Devil in the Marshalsea has lately turned up here and there. It seemed to be a book for me; always interested in historical fiction. It was not until I grabbed The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins from my book case that I realised the two were connected. " The Devil …" is the first in a series about Tom Hawkins, a young adventurer in London in the beginning of the 18th century. He is living with his fiancee Kitty Sparks and the two make a great couple. Both independent and going on with their lives as they like. They move as comfortably in high society as in the bourgeoisie and poorer, criminal parts of London. Tom has a tendency to run into trouble. In this book he is in deep trouble as the first sentence of the books reveals. I used this sentence for a Book Beginnings on Friday . " No one thought Tom Hawkins would hang. Not until the last moment ." In a weak moment he is promising the 'king of crime' in London to help the king

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

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This week my book beginning and page 56 come from The Bugatti Queen by Miranda Seymour. I  very much enjoyed her biography of Robert Graves and look forward reading this during 2018. It is about Hélène Delangle who in the life of 1920s Paris, caught the attention of Ettore Bugatti and motor-racing. Sounds intriguing. Book beginnings hosted by Rose City Reader "She had kept the gloves because they reminded her of the way in which one of her most charming lovers, Philippe de Rothschild, had introduced himself to her. " The Friday 56 (57) hosted by Freda's Voice "She had no modesty; when he suggested that her role as a Greek nymph might be more convincing if the took the sequinned bandeau off her breasts, she pulled her skirt off as well and went through the rest of the rehearsal in her knickers. "

Challenges and Memes 2018

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Another year, another challenges. I will continue with some of the challenges that I participated in during last year, and there will be some new, I am sure. Probably join some during the year as they turn up. I hope to be more organised in my reading this year, but a lot depends on my TBR shelves. There just have to be less books there in the end of the year. I also aim to read more new books this year. It seems that most of the books I read have been written a few years back. Looking at the three books I considered the best last year, were written in 1901, 1953 and 2002. The last one has to be counted as rather new, I guess! I have divided challenges and memes under two labels this year. They will be easier accessible this way. My Challenges are: Mount TBR Reading Challenge Full House Reading Challenge European Reading Challenge Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge Where Are You Reading Challenge Cloak & Dagger Challenge 2 x 18 Reading Challenge 52 Books in 52 Wee

Outcome of Challenges 2017

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I joined quite a few challenges in 2017.I only managed to fulfil a few of them and they are: The European Reading Challenge hosted by Rose City Reader. I read five books from different European countries. The Go-Betwen by J.P. Hartley (UK), The Temporary Gentleman by Sebastian Barry (Ireland), Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann (Germany), Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (Italy), Unsolved Mysteries of Amsterdam by Martijn H. Adelmund (the Netherlands). Full House Reading Challenge 2017 hosted by Kathryn at Book Date .   I managed to read the whole card! Read 52 books in 52 weeks hosted by Robin of my Two Blessings .  I missed one week during my holiday, but otherwise I managed. Twenty Books of Summer hosted by Cathy at Cathy 746 Books . I opted for 10 books but read 13, so a bonus there! Then there were some where I did not make it all the way through. Mount the TBR Reading Challenge hosted by Bev at My Reader's Block . I opted for 48 books to climb Mt Ararat,

Statistics for reading year 2017

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Having had no proper internet connection, this will now be my first post of 2018, instead of last for 2017. A new year, new expectations and promises, but more about that later on. Now it is time for a sum up of 2017, where I managed to read 89 books. A little bit less than I hoped for, but I am pleased with the outcome. I have been reading a variety of books. With my literary course I entered into unknown territory, but it opened up a new world for me. I could not imagine that old writings from the antique could still be so vivid and engaging today. I presume that is why they are called classics and good literature! Best books of the year In an earlier post on the best books read for 2017  I mentioned three books that stood out over the others; The Go-Between by J.P Hartley, The Dream of Scipio by Iain Pears and The Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann. None of them exactly new. However, I did enjoy most of the books I read. There was one book I could not finish though and that w