Tuesday, 17 September 2019

The Classic Club and Spin # 21

Time for another Classic spin. It is a favourite challenge of mine and guides me towards reading the classics. I have updated my list with a new book, to replace Orlando.  Here is my updated spin list.

1. The Master and Margarita by Michail Bulgakov
2. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Carter
3. Daisy Miller by Henry James
4. The Book Thief by Mark Zusak
5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoj
6. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
7. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence
8. Child Harold by Lord Byron
9. House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
10. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
11. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
12. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
13. A Merchant in Venice by William Shakespeare
14. Jaget och det undermedvetna (Die Beziehungen zwischen dem Ich und dem Unbewußten)
by C.G. Jung
15. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
16. Moments of being by Virginia Woolf
17. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
18. The Divine Comedy by Dante (reading)
19. Orlando by Virginia Woolf replaced by: The Brothers Karamazov by Fjodor Dostojevskij
20. A Writer's Notebook by Somerset Maugham

My 50 classics list, with still 21 books to go. Although I have replaced this list with others along the way. Now I will save this one, and new books will enter a list no 2.  Looking forward seeing which book will come up and what you are given to read. There are a few, really good books I think, but very thick. I will leave it to destiny to choose.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

This week, I have chosen the book Gloved Heart by Charlotte Brentwood. A historical fiction, with an unusual story line. My review under link above.

Book beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader
"Screams echoed in every corner of the room, and in her mind. 
There was agony, humiliation and confusion... Her dress torn, her skin ripped, and a man intent on possessing her, no matter the cost. She had never felt more helpless, worthless, or alone.  
Amy woke with tears pouring down her cheeks, but the incessant cries she could hear were not her own.  
It was the consequence of that hideous night: a baby born of sin. Motherhood had been thrust upon her, her life irrevocably altered."

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda´s Voice
"Henry was inwardly bubbling with anticipation at the idea of spending some time with her as he took her home, completely alone. But first there was a job to be done, and it was more challenging than shifting hay."

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

20 books of summer and beyond

20 Books of Summer
20 Books of Summer was hosted by 746 books, and I daringly joined in the end of May. It was at a time when my reading was at its highest. Even in June I finished 11 books. Looking at the list now, I realise is a little bit on the ambitious side. Some of the books are rather thick and take time to read and consider. Having read only four books from the list is somewhat a failure.

My summer reading was SLOW! I was travelling, camping, had visitors and visited family, so there is a little bit of an excuse. From having read 11 books in June, I went to 1(?) in July and 7 in August. We are already a third into September and I have only read one book. What is happening?

1. Ashdown-Hill, John - Eleanor, the Secret Queen - Read
2. Barry, Sebastian - On Canaan's Side - Read
3. Boyd, William - Ordinary Thunderstorms - Read
6. Freud, Esther - Mr Mac and Me - Read
10. Larkin, Philip - The Whitsun Wedding (poetry) - Started
14. McBain, Laurie - Tears of Gold - Started

The full list is found here.

I will keep the list and see how many I have finished by the end of the year. Considering that they are all on my TBR it would be good to finish some of them. It seems I have read a lot of thrillers this summer, mainly by Swedish writers. You can't avoid them living in Sweden. They seem to 'spam' the market.

Read this year
I have read 62 books so far this year, and I am pleased with that. Every time I read your posts, read a review in the paper, there are so many interesting books. Almost panicking a little bit, that I can't read them all. But that is life.

From my shelves, and for Bev's Mount TBR challenge, I have read 23 books (books purchased before 2019). I have aimed for 48, so a few to go. I better get starting. All in all I have read 33 books from my shelves.

Print only 
As told by Tina's challenge of Print only books, I have read 46. I have the privilege to borrow books at the library now, as well as a, Borrow and Read club at the local book shop.

Calendar of Crime
Another challenge from Bev at My Reader's Block. A crime book a month with certain criteria for every month. April and July are missing otherwise I managed to find the right books. Still looking for September.

The year of Shakespeare
Hosted by Hibernator Library, the aim is to read one History, one Comedy and one Tragedy. I managed the Comedy with The Taming of the Shrew, missed out on King John for history, but might make it before the end of the year. Still to come is Hamlet for tragedy.

What's in a Name
I just recently joined this and have read three titles that fit in to the six mentioned. It is hosted by Andrea @ Carolina Book Nook. Three to go. Full list under Challenges 2019.

The European Reading Challenge
I have finalised this one with five books by authors or books set in five different European countries. Hosted by Rose City Reader means I took a 'Five Star (Deluxe Entourage) tour.

Read 52 books in 52 Weeks
Another great challenge which, due to my lack of reading in summer has big gaps through several weeks. Hosted by Robin. I have missed out weeks; 18, 20 and 28-33.

Moby Dick Read Along
This is the first read along I am participating in. Hosted by Brona's Books, I think I will be able to read this classic. It should be read between August 2019 - February 2020. I am on chapter 18.

A small summary of my summer reading and a re-cap of the challenges I am participating in.  On, on, for the next books.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Gloved Heart by Charlotte Brentwood

Charlotte Brentwood reached out to me in 2014 to ask if I wanted to review her first book The Vagabond Vicar. I accepted with pleasure, being a fan of historical fiction (review under link). She has recently finished her second book, Gloved Heart, and I am happy to have the opportunity to review also her second novel.

From the back cover we learn:

"Amy Miller is struggling to come to terms with her new life as a mother, while being a reluctant guest in a rigid gentry household. A victim of abuse, she is determined to never trust a man again. 
Henry Russell has loved Amy for as long as he can remember, but his family want nothing to do with her. A chance encounter with Amy rekindles a friendship which might save both of them.
The discovery of a secret which holds the key to Amy’s past will change them forever, and jeopardise any chance they have for happiness. Can Henry show Amy that true love will give her everything she could ever need?"
The genre of historical fiction (Regency in this case) often has an element of romance in it. How much of romance differ from author to author. Personally, I like when the story has a streak of 'realistic' life rather than too much romance. Charlotte Brentwood manages this balance perfectly in her novels. Although we usually know which two characters will end up in the end, Charlotte keeps us guessing to the very end.

There are no straight lines in this novel, and the story takes off in unexpected directions. Charlotte has recently become a mother, and that is maybe why a baby has a big part in her latest novel. As historical fiction goes, the beginning is quite unusual and surprising.
"Screams echoed in every corner of the room, and in her mind. 
There was agony, humiliation and confusion... Her dress torn, her skin ripped, and a man intent on possessing her, no matter the cost. She had never felt more helpless, worthless, or alone.  
Amy woke with tears pouring down her cheeks, but the incessant cries she could hear were not her own.  
It was the consequence of that hideous night: a baby born of sin. Motherhood had been thrust upon her, her life irrevocably altered."
The beginning takes you directly, and without further ado, to the heart of the story of Amy and her baby. How will they survive in England in the beginning of the 19th century? A baby born out of wedlock after a rape. It is a different approach to historical fiction and makes for interesting reading. Maybe because Charlotte is herself a mother now, the relationship between Amy and her son is very well characterised in the book. Is it possible for Amy to love her baby? Looking at him, will she forever remember that traumatic night? Can she put her past behind her and find love again?

Charlotte's prose is beautiful and so easy to read, like a river slowly flowing through the landscape. Gloved Heart with its secrets and mysteries, keeps you wondering until the very end.

In Charlotte's thank you note at the end of the novel, she reveals that she is busy on her next book, Barrington Meets His Match. Barrington is the man who imposed himself on Amy. I can't wait to see what Charlotte Brentwood will do with his story. I have learned that one can never be too sure where Charlotte will take her stories, and how they will end. Looking forward to her next story. 

Sunday, 8 September 2019

What's in a Name 2019 - Challenge

In 2019 this challenge is hosted by Andrea @ Carolina Book Nook. It extends from January 1 to December 31, 2019.  You can sign up any time, but only count books that you read between those dates. For more info use link above. The six examples of subjects we want to find in the title are:


I am just signing up now, and have read three out of the six subjects. Hope to finish by the end of the year. 

Monday, 2 September 2019

After the summer

Hello again. Long time no see! It has been quiet on this blog for some time. From mid-July I have been travelling, seen family and have had visitors. A busy time which gave no time neither for blogging, nor for reading. In July I only finished ONE book! Scandalous, but what can you do.

We have been camping among other things. We visited the island of Gotland and Fårö on the SE coast of Sweden. Wonderful place and more about that later. This picture is from the mainland, but it is not so bad to fall asleep and wake up to this view!

Now things are calming down, but I have been reluctant to come back to the computer. I have tried to follow my usual blogs, commenting some, and even following a read-along of Moby Dick. Slowly, slowly, I also have finished a few books. Mostly thrillers which tend to be easily read.

I have had a few thoughts during the summer on where I want to go with my blog. I am still thinking and planning a few changes. They will be revealed soon.

I did manage to read seven books in August, of which there will be one review and a few short ones. I have now enrolled in my book store's annual book group, 'Borrow and Read'. You pay around 40€ and you get to borrow and read 55 books. A good deal if any. You get to keep the last book you borrow as well. I started with a favourite author and a book that has got good reviews among my blogger friends, Kate Morton's The Clockmaker's Daughter. So far so good.

I will also continue with Moby Dick read along hosted by Brona @ Brona's Books. Feel free to join, it will continue until end of February. I find it excellent to read it this way. I notice that some bloggers don't seem to have a problem reading it all at once! Like Deb Nance @ Readerbuzz! Well done, and excellent blog post about it as well. Me, I take it rather easy. Although must admit that the writing is very good, and so far, not so difficult as I expected. Let's see what I think, once I have finished it.

Yes, it is me swimming in the Blue Lagoon on Fårö
Now, I am thinking back of the wonderful holidays camping. Such a simple life and close to nature. A lot of swimming, like on this photo, since it was another nice and warm summer here in Sweden.

Looking forward catching up with you all and be inspired for more interesting reading and blogging in the autumn.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Travels in Austria, Switzerland and Italy

Summer time, travelling time. The holiday is spent in western Austria, which means you are close to several countries in Europe. We already had tickets for the opening of the Bregenzer Festspiele, so there is where we headed first.

We started with a short daily excursion to Ebenalp in Switzerland. Our son visited it some weeks ago, and the pictures were so nice, so we could not resist a visit. It is situated in a beautiful valley. You take the cable car up (unless you want to climb a steep mountain). From the top station there is a short walk to caves, where they have found traces from the Neanderthal period. Quite stunning. You walk through the caves and comes out on the side of the mountain. There is an Hermitage where monks used to live and also a small chapel, where the church room is situated in a cave. Further along the mountain wall, there is a small path. It is really like walking on the wall itself. You come around the corner and there is a guest house with restaurang stuck in the wall. Quite amazing!

The Content Reader
Ebenalp in Switzerland where we had lunch at the guest house
In the evening we visited the music festival. It is quite stunningly situated along the shores of Lake Konstanz. The theatre is a half moon, quite like the old antique amphi theatres, overlooking the water. The scene, or scenes because there are several, are situated on the water. Quite fantastic. The festival is famous for there mechanical works of stages and decor, and it was quite fascinating to see. They gave Rigolette by Guiseppe Verdi. It was all very good, with excellent singers. However, for me, all the mechanical works, and the actions taking place all around, took away the attention of the opera itself. It was the first time I saw Rigoletto, so have nothing to compare with.

The Content Reader
Lake Konstanz in Bregenz by sunset
Now we went for three days of camping. First camp was Morteratsch in the Swiss alp, close to St Moritz. Beautiful place. It is the largest glacier area in the Bernina Range.  We took a hike to the Chamanna Boval Hütte. It was a tiresome walk for me, quite steep with a lot of stones to climb. The hütte is situated on around 2.500 metres. The view from there was quite stunning.

The Content Reader
Chamanna Boval hütte and the road to get there!
After two days we continued towards Italy and stayed one night at Prato allo Stelvio camping. Another lovely camping with a pool, where we could cool down. The next day we visited the castle ruin of Lichtenberg. The castle was built in the 13th century by the Tyrolean Counts as a defence against the Bishops of Coira.

The Content Reader
Castle Lichtenberg and a sunken town in Reschensee
We also visited the walled city of Glurns/Glorienza. It is the smallest town in South Tyrol. It was a medieval trading centre and walking around the town, is like walking in history. Imposing gates and fortified towers, narrow alleyways and beautiful squares. We had a wonderful lunch overlooking the main square.

Heading back to Innsbruck for relaxing days in the sun.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Paris in July - French salons

I mentioned in an earlier post an exhibition about Claude Cahun, and that I bought a book in the art gallery about salons in Paris in the 1920s; Ett magiskt rum (A Magical Room) by Ingrid Svensson. It is an excellent and very interesting book. Unfortunately, I don't think it is translated. It was a nice surprise to read, and tells a lot about Paris at the time and the general atmosphere among the intelligentsia. She also gives and account on the background to all the expats 'overflowing' Paris at the time. "Art, literature and tolerance - not at least sexually - drew artists, writers and intellectuals to Paris."

Since the Middle Ages, the Left Bank has been the centre of the intelligentsia in Paris. This is where the literary circles gathered. People lived poorly, so the cafés became a meeting point. The area was full of small book shops. Montparnasse became the centre of art. Also here the cafés were important as places for people to meet.

The Salon 

According to Wikipedia a salon is:
"a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation. These gatherings often consciously followed Horace's definition of the aims of poetry, "either to please or to educate" (Latin: aut delectare aut prodesse). Salons in the tradition of the French literary and philosophical movements of the 17th and 18th centuries were carried on until as recently as the 1940s in urban settings."
The history  of the salons goes back to the antique, but it is often said to have started in France during the 17th century. One of the most important hostesses (it seems often to be women hosting these events) was Marquise de Rambouillets who dominated the Paris scene between 1610-1650. Here people discussed science and literature. After her came Madeleine de Scudéry. She was a writer herself and quite controversial in her own time. She was satirised by Moliére in his plays Les Précieuses ridicules and Les Femmes savantes. Her salon mostly discussed feelings and love, as a protest to the strict culture of the courts.

The salons in France were often magnificent as well as influential; they were dominated by art and literature, and the most influential guests were encyklopedists, filosofers and writers. The salon was developing as a power base that could influence even the elections to the French academy. It has also been argued that the academy is a mixture och institution and salon.

The Salons in Paris in the 20th century

Who were hosting the salons in Paris in the beginning of the 20th century? Marcel Proust was an eager visitor to the salons and he talks about Countess de La Rochefoucauld and madame Madeleine Lemaire. Both of them appear in his own texts. Another one that he frequented is Princess Edmond de Polignac's salon. These three women were part of presenting newly created art through their salons. Other salons were run by Gertrude Stein and Natalie Barney. Polignac's salon was more directed towards music, Stein towards art and Barney towards literature. It was at Polignac's salon that people could listen to musicians like Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky, Claude Debussy and many others. Durin half a century, from 1890 - 1940, she was the most influential hostess.

Countess Greffulhe, also admired by Proust and entered into his texts, was interested in everything new, but was a great patron for music. She supported, among others, Camille Saint-Saëns, Isadora Duncan, Diaghilev and the Russian Ballet. It was thanks to her that Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss came to Paris to conduct.

Duchess de Clermont-Tonnerre was another hostess and writer. She had advanced ideas and was politically radical. To her salon came many different people from various areas of the society.

These are just a few of all the women hosting salons in Paris in the beginning of the century. They were influential in promoting upcoming writers, composer and artists. There were an estimated forty saloons during this time. Some of them lived on into the 50s, but today there are none in this sense of the word. One important aspect of the salons according to Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska is the importance of servants. To be able to organise such grand evenings, you needed servants to take care of the administration.

Today the salons look different. They are open for bigger groups, from different parts of the society and take place in libraries and book shops. Literary societies arrange meetings with themes; either a single writer or a genre of books that will be discussed. Writer meetings are also quite common today. Personally, I think it is very interesting to meet a writer in person. Having said that, I would have loved to be able to go to a literary salon, either in 17th century Paris or in the 1920s.

Next post will be about the four important hostesses in Paris in the 1920s; Gertrude Stein, Natalie Barney, Adrienne Monnier and Sylvia Beach. 

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Paris in July - My love for French history

When I was young I had a period where I was really obsessed with French history, especially the time of Louis XIV. I read a lot about his time, both non-fiction and fiction. I can't remember how it started, but maybe it was with the books about Angelique. Written by Serge and Anne Golon, which in the English and Swedish translations were merged to Sergeanne Golon. According to Wikipedia it was mainly Anne who wrote the books and her husband Serge who did the historical research.

The books were a big success at the time. I wanted to read them and went to the local library (in a village) to ask for them. I never forget what the librarian said: "We don't keep books like that!" They were obviously not comme-il-faut enough! So what did I do? I bought them. This must have been in the beginning of the 70s, and I still have them on my shelves! From time to time I re-read some of them.

I think I love them because of the historical settings. It is set during the time of Louis XIV, mostly in France, but also in Morocco and, the last books, in the New World. It was a turbulent time, and Angelique is moving in different worlds; from the rich aristocratic world to the poorest part of Paris. Many of the historical events in the books have inspired me to further reading. There is a lot of action as well as romance. A good mix.

It is always interesting to read about kings and queens, and Louis XIV was grander than life itself (not talking about his political deeds, just his way of promoting himself). L'état c'est moi! He built Versailles which was the model for later palaces in different countries. Still today, it might be considered the grandest of them all. He ruled as an absolute monarch for 72 years. Must be a record long reign? Even today, many books on historical fiction are set in this time.

Being obsessed with French history, led to the book Désirée by Annemarie Selinko, which I read about the same time, that is, in my youth. She was the daughter of a merchant in Corsica, and was engaged to Napoleon. That was before he went to Paris and met Josephine. She did not do bad when she married one of Napoleon's Marchals, Jean-Baptist Bernadotte. He became King of Sweden in 1818, and she, Queen Desideria. It seems she was not too happy being queen of this dark and cold country. She probably fared better though,  than if she had been married to Napoleon.

Lately, I read a great biography, Marie Antoinette - The Journey by Antonia Fraser. An Austrian princess married to the doomed Louis XVI. She was not entirely happy at the French court and was rather disliked. There is a little bit of a Swedish connection here. The Swedish Count Axel von Fersen is rumoured to have been her lover. He also staged a rescuing attempt when they were threatened with imprisonment. It failed and you all know what happened.

Axel von Fersen is also an interesting character; "a Swedish count, Marshal of the Realm of Sweden, a General of Horse in the Royal Swedish Army, one of the Lords of the Realm, aide-de-camp to Rochambeau in the American Revolutionary War, diplomat and statesman, and a friend of Queen Marie-Antoinette of France." (from Wikipedia). He met a terrible end in Sweden, but more about that when I have read a recent purchase; Huset von Fersens uppgång och fall (The Rise and Fall of the House of von Fersen, my transl.) by Göran Norrby.

Another book that is waiting to be read about this time, is Bussy-Rabutin's Histoires Amoureuses des Gaules. It is in French so it will take me a long time. Last year, for Paris in July, I wrote about his beautiful castle. Bussy-Rabutin was part of the court of Louis XIV, although he had some troubles.

Château de Bussy-Rabutin is an interesting and very well preserved castle. It was originally built in the 12th century by Renaudin de Bussy, but has been extended and renovated through the centuries. In the 17th century it belonged to Roger de Rabutin, Comte de Bussy (1618-1693). He was a member of the Academy during the reign of Louis XIV, a notorious womaniser, and on top of that, he was bold enough to put his impressions on the life at the Sun king's court into print. The book, Histoires Amoureuses des Gaules, led him directly to the Bastille and later on, in exile at his castle in Bourgogne. Although my French is not that good, I could not help but buy the book. A page a day?

A few French memories from my reading life.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Reading and highlights January - June 2019

I cannot believe it, but we have entered the second half of the year. Time for a round-up of my reading for the first half of 2019. I have read 54 books, of which I am rather proud. Of those, 20 books come from my TBR shelves. I aimed for 48 books, so have to hurry up a little bit.

I really liked most of the books I read, but here are some highlights that stick out.

Two thrilling books by Nele Neuhaus, Snow White Must Die and Big Bad Wolf. Her books are so well written and the story lines so exciting, with twists and turns. They also go deep into the characters, whether it is the police women/men, the culprit or all the people surrounding the story. Thrilling until the very end.

The Third Man by Graham Greene is a classic. I have seen the film many times, but not read the book. Greene wrote it as a script for the film, and it has then been turned into a book. I actually listened to it. It was wonderfully narrated by Martin Jarvis. The very dark and brooding atmosphere that you see in the film, is very well transformed into this narration.

Falls the Shadow by Gemma O'Connor has been on my TBR shelves for a long time. It is a different kind of murder case, going back to the 1940s. A young girl is witness to a murder and 50-60 years later is killed in a hit-and-run accident. Her daughter is questioning the verdict and starts looking into her mother's life, and finds some interesting and surprising aspects.

Saratoga Trunk by Edna Ferber is a classic that has been on my shelves for a long time. I loved the story of Clio Dulaine and Clint Maroon and their struggle to make themselves a better life.

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams. I received this novel as a reading copy via NetGalley. It is about to be published. An interesting historical fiction of the 'beautiful' set in Bahamas during World War II, with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in the forefront. It is a wonderful story of love, deceit, spies and political turmoil. This is my number one favourite so far this year.

Sebastian Barry never disappoints you. On Canaan's Side is another of his real life stories of Irish people immigrating to America. He very well describes the situation in Ireland and how the Irish fare when coming to America. It is narrated by 89-year-old Lily Bere. She looks back on her life and we feel all the sorrows, but also joys, she has gone through. A beautiful tale.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Eleanor, The Secret Queen by John Ashdown-Hill

In 2012 the skeleton of Richard III was found under a parking lot in Leicester. The event started an interest in me to know more about him and the discovery. I read two books connected to Richard III; The Search for Richard III - The King's Grave by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones and Richard III and the Princes in the Tower by A.J. Pollard. It also generated a visit to Leicester and Richard III's tomb,  as well as a reading of Shakespeare's Richard III. There was something missing though.

One question was never answered; why was there not more written about Richard III's claim that he was the legitimate heir, since Edward IV was already married to Eleanore Talbot, when he entered into matrimony with Elizabeth Woodville. There were parliamentary documents which showed that this was the case. But how are they to be interpreted?

As always it is a complicated political matter. Richard III's ascent to the throne was surrounded by chock and a lot of resistant from various parts. The disappearance of the Princes in the Tower was another question, more urgent, as well as the fact that he only ruled for two years, before he died at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, defeated by Henry Tudor. Tudor, who married Edward IV's daughter Elizabeth of York, in order to legitimatise his own power, was not interested in hearing that she was illegitimate.

While visiting the beautiful Richard III museum in Leicester, I found a book about Eleanor Talbot. Eleanor, The Secret Queen. The Woman who put Richard III on the Throne by John Ashdown-Hill. There is not very much known about Eleanor, but Ashdown-Hill has done his research well. It is a very interesting story, especially with all the complications that such a marriage implied, not only for Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, but also for Richard III and Henry VII.
"Eleanor had been born under the sign of Pisces, and either by fate or by chance, she was to grow up with many of the characteristics traditionally ascribed to that star sign, for she was gentle, sensitive, idealistic and perhaps even somewhat passive. A girl who needed her own space, she would also ultimately develop a bent towards contemplation and mysticism."
Since there is not much information on Eleanor herself, Ashdown-Hill has concentrated on her family and how life was lived at the time. Sometimes it reads a little bit too academic, and not always relevant to the story. However, if you are interested in history, it is an interesting analyses of the days. It also shows how little women had to say about their own lives. Ashdown-Hill argues, and shows documents to prove his point, that Eleanor was married to Edward IV.

Like for Richard III (until recently) nobody knows where Eleanor is buried. Ashdown-Hill's detective work has taken him to a possible burial point, but it cannot, today, be determined that the remains found belonged to Eleanor or not. It you, like me, are interested in historical mysteries, it is a fascinating book to read and conclusions well documented where possible. Usually, royal weddings are a public affair. But in the case of Edward the IV, it seems he married on his own accord, not only once, but twice. Without consulting the proper authorities. It is fascinating to consider the consequences, as Ashdown-Hill puts it:
"Why then has Eleanor been so completely neglected? She is, in her own way, a key figure of English history, a veritable 'Cleopatra's nose'. If her marriage to Edward IV had been acknowledged in her lifetime, if she had actually been enthroned and crowned as England's queen-consort, all subsequent history must have been different. The house of York might still have been reigning today, in a separate kingdom, never united to Scotland. The despotic, paranoid Tudors would have remained unheard of outside their native Wales. Enormous consequences would flow from all this. The English Reformation, which sprang from Henry VIII's dynastic and financial crises, and was neither generally desired nor supported by the English populace, have preserved to the present day their unrivalled cultural heritage. No Tudors would mean no Stuarts; no Civil War; no Oliver Cromwell. The story goes on and on. It all turns on Eleanor."
It is a staggering thought of what might, or might not have been. Historians do not agree on whether Eleanor and Edward were actually married or not. How should the text of the document be interpreted? If they were married, why did not her family, or herself, come forward when he married Elizabeth Woodville? We will probably never know the true details, but it is yet another interesting and fascinating historical mystery.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Paris in July 2019 - Claude Cahun exhibition

Paris in July is hosted by Thyme for Tea. One of my favourite memes, to talk and read about everything Parisian and/or French.

I had business in Halmstad (south west coast of Sweden) the other day. I picked up a beautiful painting that I bought. I will show it later. There were a surrealist group of painter in the beginning of the 20th century, living and working in Halmstad. They are called "The Halmstad Group". Starting out in the ordinary way, they very soon entered into surrealism. After having lived in Belgium, there is no getting away from surrealism. Although, I was not such a fan from the beginning, it grew on me, and today, I am rather fond of it. At the Mjellby Art Gallery there is a permanent exhibition with this group. But, what does it have to do with Paris in July you ask? Nothing really. BUT! At the same gallery there is an photo exhibition of a surrealist photographer, Claude Cahun. Never heard about her, or him, earlier, but it was a very interesting acquaintance.

Claude Cahun (1894-1954), or Lucy Renée Mathilde Schwob as she was named, was born in Nantes, into a cultural family. In 1909 she met her lifelong partner Marcel Moore (a pseudonym for Suzanne Malherbe). They formed a duo in the artistic scene of Paris in the 1920s. They interacted with artists, writers and actors, and became a part of the Surrealist set. In the late 1930s they moved to Jersey where they established a resistent movement in opposition to the Nazi occupation. They were captured and sentenced to death. The peace saved them.

Claude Cahun worked closely with Marcel Moore and they staged their photographs. She usually just used one camera, but did not develop the photos herself. Many of their motives were surrealistic, experimenting with identity, gender and different personae. As often is the case, she was never recognised during her life time. It is only in the 1980s that her photos were once again discovered.

The exhibition is very interesting. She is often herself the model, although in different disguises. It is sometimes difficult to see whether it is a man or a woman in the pictures. She was a pioneer in her way of staging her photos. Very talented, she also wrote poetry and books.

You could not be in Paris in the 1920s without encounter Surrealism. This is the time of André Breton's first Surrealist manifesto, and a group of artists came together to adopt the new 'ism'.

"Following the meeting with Breton, Cahun and Moore were drawn closer to the Surrealist group. Often extravagantly dressed in pink and gold, they would arrive at the meetings as a couple, which was not appreciated by any of the Surrealists despite the message Surrealism wished to convey about transcending norms. However, they did develop friendships with many of the Surrealists, including Max Ernst, Benjamin Péret, Yves Tanguy and René Char. Cahun and Moore thus came to be part of a successful, intellectual group in Paris that comprised artists, writers, authors and actors. "
                                                                                             From exhibition brochure

Another interesting couple in Paris in the 1920s. It seems to have been a wonderful time to be there if you were an artist of any kind. I found a book that hopefully will give me a picture of the life there at the time. "Ett magiskt rum - Salonger i 1920-talets Paris (A Magical Room - Salons in Paris in the 1920s) by Ingrid Svensson. Four women are in the forefront of this book, says the author; Gertrude Stein, Natalie Clifford Barney, Adrienne Monnier and Sylvia Beach. I have only heard of the first and last, but am sure it will be an interesting read.

Do you have any views on surrealism? What do you think?

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

The Composer or Wie man ein Genie tötet by Ingvar Hellsing Lundqvist

Hans Rott is an Austrian composer of little fame. He was born in 1858 and died in 1884 in a mental hospital, at the age of 25. His life was a sad one. Music his passion, his legacy?  One Symphony and a few 'Lieders'.

One evening, Ingvar Hellsing Lundqvist, heard Rott's symphony and was hooked. He had to find out more about the composer. The more he found out, the more he realised he had a book to write. It became the historical fiction, Wie man ein Genie tötet (How to Kill a Genius; my translation).

Rott lived a life of poverty. He received a scholarship to study music. His efforts went into his symphony, which he forwarded to a competition. Sure of winning, he was devastated when being ignored by the jury. He blamed his adversary, Brahms, also part of the jury. Rott goes into a depression. He imagines he sees Brahms everywhere, and that he is there to ruin his life. While on a train, he threatens another passenger with a revolver, claiming that Brahms has filled the train with dynamite. That is the beginning of the end, and shortly afterwords he ends up in a mental institution, with the diagnosis of persecutory delusions. He died a few years later.

The story of Rott's life is one of those stories where life exceeds fiction. Lundqvist has written a wonderful novel that captures Rott's sad life. We see the world from Rott's perspective. His inner thoughts, crazy as they are from time to time, give us a glimpse of a man who only wanted to create music, but reality knocks on the door. Rott's delusions and thoughts are so well described. You suffer with him. I found myself wishing for him to succeed, and at the same time, realising how crazy many of his thoughts are, knowing he will not. It almost reads like a thriller sometimes. Lundqvist slowly builds up Rott's life from early teens until his death. You are there with him through the different parts of his life. The dialogues are also well written and adds to the character of Rott.

I was really captured by Rott's story. Still today, I doubt many people have heard about him. I had not. His only symphony, Symphony in E major was finally performed for the first time in 1989(!) by Cincinnati Philharmonia Orchestra. I  have listened to part of it. Mixing beautiful melodious music with powerful parts. Below from Youtube.

Ingvar Hellsing Lundqvist is a Swedish writer and this is his first novel. Unfortunately, it was not accepted for publication in Sweden, but a translation into German, by Jürgen Vater, generated publication in Austria. It is definitely worth a read. A different story, very well told.

I received a copy of the book from the author, for a fair and impartial review.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

In the latest Classic Club spin, the number ended on 19, which directed me to Orlando by Virginia Woolf. I thought I had all the time to read, but alas it was a little bit longer than I expected. I could not read it straight through, so divided it into smaller parts. Anyway, I did finish it on 11 June (instead of end of May), but flexibility is needed sometimes.

It is a very strange book and I don't really know what to think about it. It spans over more around 400 years. Orlando is a nobleman in the times of Elizabeth I and becomes one of her many favourites. He lives a life of leisure and tries to become a poet. At the age of 30 he is changed into a woman, who then lives on for centuries. The story continues up until 1928, which was the year Woolf's book was published.

It is a satire of English life and English literature. The pleasantries of life come and go, but through the ages they fail to be a reason for living. Poetry is the one reason that never fails. Orlando, in both disguises, tries to become a famous poet. It takes centuries before Orlando finally manages to finalise her poem, "The Oak Tree", but then she shuns fame. Sees it for what it really is, a shamble.

Orlando behaves the same whether he/she is a man or a woman. The values are the same and life is the same.
"We may take advantage of this pause in the narrative to make certain statements. Orlando had become a woman - there is no denying it. But in every other respect, Orlando remained precisely as he had been. The change of sex, though it altered their future, did nothing whatever to alter their identity. Their faces remained, as their portraits prove, practically the same. His memory - but in future we must, for convention's sake, say 'her' for 'his,' and 'she' for 'he' - her memory then, went back through all the events of her past life without encountering any obstacle."
Even if Orlando is a woman during a time when women did not enjoy the same freedom as men, Orlando still acts his/her own way. Even sometimes dressing as a man although she is a woman. Orlando does realise though, that society in general is divided by the ambitions of the different sexes. Men want to climb the social ladder in society and make a mark on it. Feelings must be depressed. The women on the other hand can more easily express their feelings, but are bound, or captured, by the limits of society. Orlando acts the same independently on which gender he/she is.

It is a book about our society, how it changes, or not changes(?) through times. Are the rules of society more free at the time Woolf writes the book, or are they the same as they have been for centuries, just in another disguise? The book is inspired by Woolf's relationship with poet and novelist Vita Sackville-West. Her son, Nigel Nicolson, wrote: "The effect of Vita on Virginia is all contained in Orlando, the longest and most charming love letter in literature, in which she explores Vita, weaves her in and out of the centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, plays with her, dresses her in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist around her." (Blair, Kirstie (2004). "Gypsies and Lesbian Desire: Vita Sackville-West, Violet Trefusis, and Virginia Woolf". Twentieth Century Literature).

It is certainly an interesting angle that Woolf chooses to use, when looking at life, desires and how the norms of society impose on our actions. Do we adapt to our society and the norms, or are we, as Woolf suggests, the same regardless of society?

"She turned back to the first page and read the date, 1586, written in her own boyish hand. She had been working at it for close three hundred years now. It was time to make an end. Meanwhile she began turning and dipping and reading and skipping and thinking as she read, how very little she had changed all these years. She had been a gloomy boy, in love with death, as boys are; and then she had been amorous and florid; and the she had been sprightly and satirical; and sometimes she had tried prose and sometimes she had tried drama. Yet through all these changes she had remained, she reflected, fundamentally the same. She had the same brooding meditative temper, the same love of animals and nature, the same passion for the country and the seasons."

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Paris in July 2019

Tamara at Thyme for Tea is hosting another Paris in July event this year. One of my favourite events, so can't really stay out of it.

Paris in July is a French themed blogging experience running from the 1st – 31st July this year.

The aim of the month is to celebrate our French experiences through actual visits, or through reading, watching, listening, observing, cooking and eating all things French!  Here's a link to some of my previous reviews.

There will be no rules or targets in terms of how much you need to do or complete in order to be a part of this experience – just blog about anything French and you can join in! Some ideas might include;

reading a French themed book – fiction or non-fiction,
watching a French movie,
listening to French music,
cooking French food,
experiencing French, art, architecture and travel

I have not really decided what to do yet. Watching a French film and/or TV-series is one option. Listening to some French music should be good. Maybe cooking some French food. Looking at my TBR shelves I have two books of French authors (not read).

That is Histoire amoureuse des Gaules by Bussy-Rabutin. It is in French so not sure I will be able to finish it in one month. It will take me a long time to read. Maybe a few chapters at least.

The other one is Stendahl's The Red and the Black. A huge book, at least in English, but might be too much for one month.

The aim will be to read something from these two books at least. There might turn up a few other French books as well. But, not Zola ...!

The name of Philippe de Commines has popped up two times recently. Never heard of him before, but that is serendipity.

"He was a writer and diplomat in the courts of Burgundy and France. He has been called "the first truly modern writer" (Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve) and "the first critical and philosophical historian since classical times" (Oxford Companion to English Literature). Neither a chronicler nor a historian in the usual sense of the word, his analyses of the contemporary political scene are what made him virtually unique in his own time." (Wikipedia)

He turned up in a TV-series about Maximilian I which I saw recently. Had to look him up, because these kind of historical fiction series do not always stick totally to real events. To my surprise his name also turned up while reading John Ashdown-Hill's non fiction on Eleanor, The Secret Queen (The Woman who put Richard III on the Throne - review will follow). I found his Memoirs on-line on Richard III Society - American Branch. Would certainly be interested to read part of his memoirs.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

This weeks book is the much debated 12 Rules for Life, An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson. A recent purchase, not yet read, just to know what all the fuss is about.

Book beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader
"This book has a short history and a long history. We'll begin with the short history."

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda´s Voice
"The original Man and Woman, existing in unbroken unity with their Creator, did not appear conscious (and certainly not self-conscious). Their eyes were not open. But, in their perfection, they were also less, not more, than their post_fall counterparts. Their goodness was something bestowed, rather than deserved or earned."

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Of Love and Shadows by Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende is a beloved and well-known author. Perhaps mostly known for The House of the Spirits, she has written numerous books. They are mostly based on her own experience and historical events. She also includes and dedicates her books to women and their stories. I have only read Island Beneath the Sea, which is slightly different from her other books, being more based on historical events during the Haitian revolution. I really loved that book. Of Love and Shadows is another book to love. From the back cover:
"Set in a country of arbitrary arrests, sudden disappearances and summary executions, Isabel Allende's magical new novel tells of the passionate affair of two people prepared to risk everything for the sake of justice and truth. Irene Beltrán, a reporter, comes from a wealthy background; Francisco Leal, a young photographer secretly engaged in undermining the military dictatorship, is strongly attracted by her beauty. It does not matter that Irene´s fiancé is an army captain: each time Francisco accompanies her on a magazine assignment, he falls more deeply in love with her."
There is the mysterious case of a young girl, Evangelina Ranquileo, who suffers from mystical fits which are said to give her healing powers. When Irene and Francisco go there to investigate, it turns out that they are at the wrong place at the wrong time. Soldiers arrive to arrest Evangelina and the situations turns sour. They take her with her, and she is never seen again. This is a scenario too well known, but they can't let it go. They set out to try to find out what happened to her and step into a situation that totally change their lives.

Isabel Allende's writing is called magical realism. She describes the happenings in all its frightening aspects. At the same time, her language is poetic and so beautiful, it seems almost impossible to use under the circumstances. Irene is a naive, young woman, a product of her upbringing. Francisco, whose parents fled from Spain during the war, is seeing more clearly what is happening in the country.
"'All you will have is the present. Waste no energy crying over yesterday or dreaming of tomorrow. Nostalgia is fatiguing and destructive. It is the vice of the expatriate. You must put down roots as if they were forever, you must have a sense of permanence,' concluded Professor Leal, and his son remembered that the elderly actress had said the same."
It is a very interesting, as well as a terrible story, but most likely quite common under dictatorship, wherever it is found. At the same time it is an exciting read, where you really don't know how the ending will be. With her characters, Allende takes us down to the nitty-gritty political world, where we engage in the cause, due to her well drawn characters. An important book to read.

Monday, 10 June 2019

A few short reviews

From reading 12 books in March the number has gone done quite a bit. April ended on 5 book, May on 4 and so far in June I have read 4 books. Probably summer and mostly a bit of travelling. The reviews have been even rarer. So here are a few shorter ones on some of the books.

Med Örnen mot polen by Svenska Sällskapet för Antropologi och Geografi (Scientific account of the Andrée expedition 1897)

An old book that stays open when you
put it on the table!
Aahh, the pleasure of an old book. I think I got this from a friend who moved. It is printed in 1930,
the same year as the Andrée expedition was found. It is put together by the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography. As such I did expect a little bit of dry scientific account. Far from it! There are extracts from the diaries of the expedition members, accounts on the various scientific tasks the expedition had, as well as information on equipment, clothes, food and everything daily life. Also a report from one of the journalists covering the find.

It reads like an adventure book and it is so exciting to hear, through the diaries, how life was for them. They tried to reach the pole by an air balloon, but failed to come very far. Most of their efforts turned out to be to find a way home, including carrying all the equipment in the boats they brought with them. Hardships if ever.

One of the things that struck me was the quality, or material, of the clothes they have. When one considers the beautiful materials available today, one gets really scared when you realise they were travelling with wool and cotton materials. Even the scientists evaluating the expedition, mentioned that they had the wrong kind of clothes.

Bea Uusma is a Swedish author, illustrator and doctor. She got so fascinated by this expedition that she studied to become a doctor in order to find out the truth of how they died. I read her book, Expeditionen - Min kärlekshistoria (The Expedition - My Love Story) before this one, but they do compliment each other. When real life is more exciting than any made up story.

Störst av allt (Quicksand) by Malin Persson Giolito

Malin Persson Giolito is a lawyer, turned author. This is her fourth book. They are all free standing and concerns legal aspects of society. Quicksand is about a school shooting in an upper class neighbourhood. The story follows the girl who participated in the shooting and we get the story from her point of view. It goes back and forth to the actual happening and the following trial.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Book beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

Back with a book beginning and a page 56 quote. This month´s book is Of Love and Shadows by Isabel Allende. A wonderful book set in ”... a country of arbitrary arrests, sudden disappearances and summary executions...” Review will follow.

Book beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader
”The first sunny day of spring evaporated the dampness that had accumulated in the soil through the winter months, and warmed the fragile bones of the old people who now could stroll the gentle orthopaedic paths of the garden.”

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda´s Voice
”'Are you on the Blacklist?' she asked candidly, without lowering her voice. 
'Then we can talk. Wait for me outside and when I finish here I'l join you.'"

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

The A - Z on my TBR

Inspired by Brona's Books I took a look at my shelves to remind me of what I have there. To list titles from A-Z seems a good idea. You sometimes forget what is there. I could not fill all the letters, not even O! Letters X, Y and Z are more difficult to find, but obviously also O.

I aimed at only using English titles, but had to add a Spanish and Swedish to make it. I even had to ignore a couple of "The" and "An". Here we go.

A Divided Spy by Charles Cummings
Before we met by Lucy Whitehouse
Cleopatra by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Doctor Copernicus by John Banville
Eleanor, The Secret Queen by John Ashdown Hill
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Gabriele d'Annunzio - Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Howard's End by E.M. Forster
(An) Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears
Jukebox by Åke Edvardsson
Kepler by John Banville
La Regenta by Leopoldo Alas Clarin
Morgon i Jenin by Susan Abulhawa
Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks
O ...
Presumption of Death by Perri O'Shaughnessy
Q ...
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Sugar by Michel Faber
Tamara, Memories of St Petersburg by Tamara Talbot Rice
(The) Untouchable by Gerald Seymour
Vågspel by Ann Rosman
Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence
X ...

Have you read any of them? Where should I start?

Monday, 3 June 2019

Print Only 2019 Reading Challenge

Tina at As Told by Tina is announcing a new challenge, quite suitable to me. I follow several challenges aimed at reducing the number of TBR books. Lately, since I came back to Sweden, I tend to borrow books at the library and thus they are not taken off my shelves. Here I can add these kind of books. The rules are simple (for full rules and sign up go to link above). Tina says:

Print Only is very simple, just read as many physical books as you can. These can be books you’ve purchased, sent, or borrowed! As long as it is a physical book, then it counts. 
Print Only Challenge Details:
  • Print Only challenge begins on January 1st – December 31st and you can sign up at anytime.
  • Every book must be a physical book. Hardback/Paperback/ Soft Board books count.
  • All Genres Count.
  • Re-Reading / Crossovers are totally encouraged.
  • If you are a blogger, I’d love for you to make a sign up posts (you can also include all the other challenges you are in, it doesn’t have to be just for this challenge) to announcing your commitment. 
Use the hash tag #PrintOnlyRC19 to share your progress!
  • I’ll have a link up every last Friday of the month so you can link up your reviews. 
Print Only Levels:
1-10 – Out Of Print
11-20 – 1st Edition
21-30 – 2nd Printing
31- 40 – Signed Edition
41+ – Collector’s Edition 
Although I only sign up today, I will add the printed books I have read as from 1 January. The printed books I have read so far are 31. I will go for Collector's Edition and read 41+ books.

  1. Den stora utställningen (The Great Exhibition) by Marie Hermansson
  2. Trains & Boats & Planes by Kille McNeill
  3. Snövit ska dö (Schneewittchen muss sterben), Snow White must die) by Nele Neuhaus
  4. Linnés skånska resa (Carl von Linné's Scania Travel) by Ove Torgny
  5. The Secret Wife by Gil Paul
  6. The Greek Treasure by Irving Stone
  7. Sängkammartjuven by Cecilia Gyllenhammar
  8. The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes
  9. Falls the Shadow by Gemma O'Connor
  10. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  11. Till minne av en villkorslös kärlek by Jonas Gardell
  12. Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes
  13. The Newton Letter by John Banville
  14. Saratoga Trunk by Edna Ferber
  15. Macbeth by Jo Nesbø
  16. Grejen med verb (The Thing With Verbs, my transl.) by Sara Lövestam
  17. Tangerine by Christine Mangan
  18. Främlingen (L'Étranger, The Stranger) by Albert Camus
  19. Grejen med substantiv (The Thing With Nones, my transl.) by Sara Lövestam
  20. Dubbla slag by Malin Persson Giolito
  21. Nattvakten (The Night Watch) by Anna Ihrén
  22. Skånes slott och borgar by C Karlsson, P Karlsson, M Christensen
  23. About Grace by Anthony Doerr
  24. Ett jävla solsken by Fatima Bremmer
  25. Five Great Short Stories by Anton Chekhov
  26. Stora Stygga Vargen (Böser Wolf/Big Bad Wolf) by Nele Neuhaus
  27. Med Örnen mot polen by Svenska Sällskapet för Antropologi och Geografi (Scientific account of the Andrée expedition 1897)
  28. Störst av allt (Quicksand) by Malin Giolito Persson
  29. Juliette - kvinnan som läste på metron (La fille qui lisait dans le metro) by Christine Féret-Fleury
  30. Geniet från Breslau by Lena Einhorn
  31. Of Love and Shadows by Isabel Allende

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

20 Books of Summer

This challenge is hosted by 746 books and I will join this year. I really need to lower by TBR books and this might be the way. The overall rules below, but more on 746 book's website:
Do you fancy getting 20 books off your TBR in three months? Think of the joys that this challenge brings: 
All that deliberating over what books to choose and how many – 10, 15 or the Full Monty? 
Crazed reading during the warmest months of the year 
Decisions over how you measure your progress – by books read per month? Or pages read by day? 
Panicked reviewing as you try to cram everything in to the time frame
I will really try to follow the list. However, I know myself and as soon as I make a list to read I tend to read something out of the list! Yep, that me. Disciplin is the word I guess. These are books I really want to read, they have been on my shelves a long time, and... maybe this is the summer it will all happen. I go for 20, but you can choose 10 or 15 as well. 

  1. Ashdown-Hill, John - Eleanor, the Secret Queen
  2. Barry, Sebastian - On Canaan's Side
  3. Boyd, William - Ordinary Thunderstorms
  4. Byatt, A.S. - The Children's Book
  5. Ferguson, Niall - The Ascent of Money
  6. Freud, Esther - Mr Mac and Me
  7. Hadley, Tessa - The Past
  8. Hughes-Hallett, Lucy - Cleopatra
  9. Jacobovici, Simcha and Wilson, Barrie - The Lost Gospel - Decoding the Ancient Text that Reveals Jesus' Marriage to Mary the Magdalene
  10. Larkin, Philip - The Whitsun Wedding (poetry)
  11. Lee, Hermione - Edith Wharton
  12. MacEwan, Helen - Winifred Gérin: Biographer of the Brontës
  13. MacKrell, Judith - Flappers
  14. McBain, Laurie - Tears of Gold
  15. Maugham, W. Somerset - A Writer's Notebook
  16. Meyer, Stephanie - The Host
  17. Nesbo, Joe - Pansarhjärta
  18. Nicholl, Charles - The Lodger, Shakespeare on Silver Street
  19. Swingler, Susan - The House of Fiction
  20. Terzani, Tiziano - A Fortune-Teller Told Me
In alphabetical order according to authors. Some I have actually started, but not got very far. I hope I will finish them this summer. You know of any of the books? Read them maybe? Please let me know.