Thursday, 5 December 2019

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

It has taken me quite some time to write this post. Mainly, because I am about to make a very bold statement. This is the best book I have ever read! Yes, that is indeed a bold statement, but I have considered it for some time, and it feels good to say it. It is difficult to write about everything that crosses your mind while reading this book, mainly since I don't want to give away spoilers.
"In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery. 
Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose." (Summary from Penguin Random House)
In the beginning of the book I was thinking: "How can you write a whole book about someone in house arrest, in a small room, in a hotel?" What can really happen? Obviously, a lot of things.

A gentleman is "a chivalrous, courteous, or honourable man" according to Wikipedia. Count Rostov definitely applies to this characterisation. He is a charming man of the world, with a pragmatic attitude, which probably helps him live his life under extra ordinary circumstances. Nothing seems too complicated for him to grasp and deal with. He has his ups and downs, that is true, but he has a positive outlook on life, which helps keep him sane.
“if a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them.” 
― Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
As we follow his life in the hotel, the world around him is changing. The story starts in 1922 and continues thirty years into the future. It is a terrifying time in the Sovjet Union under Stalin's reign.  Amor Towles' story is nothing but genius. The small world inside the hotel, reflects what is happening in the outside world. All the terrible things, the hunger, the terror and the changing of society, effects him as concerns his friends, but in a way, he is all saved from the madness of the world. Even if the outer world and its changes are also visible in the hotel. Rules change, new employees and new kind of hotel guests.
“At the center of all that is Russia - of its culture, its psychology, and, perhaps, its destiny - stands the Kremlin, a walled fortress a thousand years old and four hundred miles from the sea. Physically speaking, its walls are no longer high enough to fend off attack, and yet, they still cast a shadow across the entire country.”
― Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
Through Count Rostov we meet people frequenting or working in the hotel. Some become his life long friends and some temporary acquaintances. He is a well known and liked character in the hotel, part of the decorations or, if you want to see it like that, a remnant of what once was. Through the story, the Count reflects on times passing by, anonymity and invisibility, regret and heartache, the past och future.
"Every year that passed, it seemed a little more of her had slipped away; and I began to fear that one day I would come to forget her altogether. But the truth is: No matter how much time passes, those we have loved never slip away from us entirely.”― Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
It is an amazing story that captures your heart. It reflects on life, politics and a changing world, and how we can live in it. Do we have to adapt, or can we live the life we want? What if your life is suddenly totally changed by a revolution and new political agendas? How are we able to adapt, even if we don't want to? What about the past, the present and the future? Usually, it is a gradual change.
“As we age, we are bound to find comfort from the notion that it takes generations for a way of life to fade. We are familiar with the songs our grandparents favored, after all, even though we never danced to them ourselves. At festive holidays, the recipes we pull from the drawer are routinely decades old, and in some cases even written in the hand of a relative long since dead. And the objects in our homes? The oriental coffee tables and well-worn desks that have been handed down from generation to generation? Despite being “out of fashion,” not only do they add beauty to our daily lives, they lend material credibility to our presumption that the passing of an era will be glacial”― Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
The story has so many layers. It is both political and personal, and digs dip into the human mind. How do we live our life, and what do we make of it? Count Rostov manages to adapt to circumstances, and live a fulfilled life. I have only touched on a fragment of what is happening in this novel. There is so much more to enjoy. While nearing the end of the book, one can't help wondering; how will it all end? I can only say it is a surprisingly, perfect ending. As you, as a reader, have become an acquaintance of Count Rostov, it only makes sense. He follows his own motto; “if a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them.” A perfect ending to an absolutely, wonderful, perfect novel.

It seems Kenneth Branagh has bought the rights to make a film of the book, and he will star as Count Rostov. Although, I don't imagine Count Rostov looking anything like Kenneth Branagh, I am sure he can make the character full justice. Can't wait to see his interpretation of the book.

I did read it in Swedish, but will buy the English version, re-read it, slowly, slowly, and enjoy the story all over again.

Monday, 25 November 2019

Nonfiction November - week 5

We have reached the last week of Nonfiction November. It has been a great month, with many discussions on nonfiction, various subjects and inspiration from people with other interests than my own.

This week is hosted by Rennie @ What's Nonfiction and the task is to go through recommendations through the month, and see what ended up on your TBR. In my case, they entered into my list of Wish to Read I am not entirely sure I will be able to track all of my recommendations, so sorry about that. If you recognise it, please let me know, and I will add your link.

The Brontë sisters are a big interest of mine. I love their books, but also enjoy reading about them. I have already read quite a few books, but I am happy to have received tips on some books, of which I was not aware. Lisa of Hopewell recommended three interesting books, and they all seem different from the ones I have read before. It is always good when an author/expert manages to near the subject from a different angle, whether it is fiction or nonfiction. Here are the three:

The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects by Deborah Lutz
The Brontës: Charlotte Brontë and Her Family by Rebecca Fraser
The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë by Syrie James "A fictionalised look that I enjoyed (You know much more so may not! I don't always enjoy royal fiction for that reason)"

While on the Brontës, I also received a tip from What Cathy Read Next:

The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis. "It is a historical crime mystery which casts the Bronte sisters in the role of amateur detectives. It's a lot of fun and you might spot more allusions to their lives and novels than I did."

I don't think Mel @ The Reading Life, participates in Nonfiction November. Nevertheless, he often has very interesting reviews on Biographies, of which several has ended up on my wish list. He recently had a post on Elizabeth Cobbs' fictional account, The Hamilton Affair. Mel suggests to read Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton, before starting with the fictional one. So, both books will go on my wish list.

Here are four interesting books, I would like to look more into. If it is you who recommended, please send me a comment. I tried to find the expert...!

I love The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan, and was so happy when someone recommended two books about him.

Beyond The Thirty-Nine Steps A Life of John Buchan by Ursula Buchan
Modern John Buchan: A Critical Introduction (scholarly reflections from a modern perspective on Buchan's books) by Nathan Waddel
Looking forward going into his world.

The last two are based on literary characters. Always interesting to read such analyses. Darcy is one of Jane Austen's fascinating characters, and I look forward reading about who he really was in There's Something About Darcy by Gabrielle Malcolm.

Another beloved and intriguing character is Alexander Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. Maybe we find a real character behind the enigmatic count in The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal 
and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. Emma at Word And Peace recommended this book. Emma and I seem to like the same kind of books! Having now read her post, I will add another three books to my list. Two by Alberto Manguel.  I recently read his excellent A History of Reading, so he is high on my list for other books. Fabulous Monsters: Dracula, Alice, Superman, and Other Literary Friends and Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions. Another interesting subject is old manuscripts. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts, by Joshua Hammer, probably has everything I like about history and old manuscripts.

Something to look forward to read in 2020. I have very much enjoyed this month. I am still reading Simon Sebag Montefiore's Stalin, The Court of the Red Tsar. It is thick, but I am nearing the end. It is terrifying reading, and sometimes one just must stop. So many terrible things happened and it is difficult to take in at once.

Thank you all for your recommendations and comments. Looking forward to next year.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Nonfiction November - week 4

This weeks Nonfiction November is hosted by Leann of Shelf Aware. This week we look into how we choose our nonfiction books. Leading us to what makes a book you have read your favourite one. Is the topic important? Is it the way it is written? They way it tells a story? Do you look for a humorous approach, or a more serious one? Leann thinks that picking one of your favourite nonfiction books, is like picking your favourite human. Leann gives us a hint of what could be part of our favourite nonfiction read.
  • Time period – favourite this year or decade
  • Type of nonfiction – is it a big idea book, a how-to book, a memoir, a book aimed at academics or clinicians?
  • Use Case – are you trying to find out how to solve a problem? Do you need a new skills? Is the topic on business, creativity, mindset, relationships, etc?
  • How easy it is to understand and ultimately, how helpful was it?
Leann thinks it is hard to rate a book by using stars and numbers. I totally agree. Both as concerns fiction and nonfiction. I never use a rating, unless I add my book to Goodreads and the like. I want to convey my thoughts through my review, and hope that people will find it useful, and will find a hint of whether they would like it or not. For nonfiction it does depend a lot on the subject. Is it something you want to learn more of? Do you already know something and want to compare your own thoughts? Is the nonfiction easy to understand? Is it high above your head? It all depends on the subject, and what we want to achieve by reading it.

I mostly read nonfiction to learn something more about a subject, in my case...history. Or maybe the evolution of mankind. Or something about a historical person. All in all, I read nonfiction to learn more.

I have read many nonfiction books and it is difficult to name just a few that I like more than the rest. If I have to mention a writer, I would go for Simon Sebag Montefiore. A wonderful writer and historian, who manages to make history come alive. This is one of the most important aspects of me reading historical nonfiction. Imagine if all the history teachers out there, would make history interesting to their pupils! I think many more people would be interested in history. I am presently reading his book Stalin - The Court of the Red Tsar. Amazing story of how one paranoid man could rule a country for so many years. His Catherine the Great and Potemkin, is another wonderful story of an empress and her favourite lover.

Another great historical account is Christopher Clark's The Sleepwalkers, on how the First World War came to be. It seems to be as detailed as it can be.  For both historians they manage to make historical events come alive, and write it, as the most exciting fictional novel. That, I think, is what I am looking for in a nonfiction book. It should be written in a way, as if you are reading a fiction, although it is true. Because, after all, real life often exceeds anything you can make up in fiction.

Monday, 18 November 2019

Amok by Stefan Zweig

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) was an Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer. He was one of the most popular writers in the 1920s and 30s. He published his first book in 1900 and his last in 1942, the same year he committed suicide, together with his wife. They were then living in exile in Brazil. Amok came in 1922.

Amok, or running amok, is often used when describing something wildly out of control or causing a frenzy (Wikipedia). It is a good title for this book of five short stories. The stories tell of men and women who, when something specific happens, loose their bearing in life, that is, they run amok.

We meet a man obsessed by playing chess, almost like an addict. One day he finds himself on a cruise ship, where the world's best chess player, a very young man, has challenged some enthusiast. Winning over the young man, he withdraws and refuses a return match. He quietly tells his story to a fellow passenger.
“People and events don't disappoint us, our models of reality do. It is my model of reality that determines my happiness or disappointments.”
― Stefan Zweig, Chess Story
Twenty four hours of a woman's life, can be very dramatic. A small group of strangers are holidaying in a small pension in the Riviera. Among them is an older lady, very correct and comme-il-faut. But, behind her quiet and proper facade, a story of love and passion is hiding.

A student gets mesmerised by his professor. A professor who manages to inspire his class of literature students to unknown heights. But, he has a secret. He goes away from time to time and no-one knows where or what is his business. The revelation in the end is somewhat chocking for our student.

The amok runner is a doctor, practicing in the countryside in Indonesia. He lives a lonely existence and is waiting for his contract to end, so he can go back to Europe. One day a mysterious, European woman from the upper classes, enters his small practise. She only hints her business. He refuses her plead and she leaves. However, the doctor cannot get her out of his mind, and follows her to the city. Embarking on a crazy run for something he does not understand himself, he is running amok. It can only end in disaster.

All in all, Zweig's stories are beautifully written with lots of insight into the human psyche. He was a friend of Sigmund Freud, so might have been influenced by his research. His people are living on the edge, not being able to control their feelings. He shows how passions can take over your life, and not always in a good way. At the same time it can be a help and a way out of where we are. His writing, as John Banville puts it in an article (Ruined souls) in the Guardian: "Zweig's work is marked by a clear, fluent and expressive style, which translates easily and well, a paramount requirement for international success,...".

Unfortunately, he is not much read today, but he is definitely worth being discovered by another generation. This is the first book I have read by him, but, it will not be the last. Are you familiar with Zweig? Any recommendations to start with?

Friday, 15 November 2019

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

This week's book beginnings and page 56 text comes from a book on my shelves. Since it is November and I am participating in Nonfiction November, I choose a non-fiction book; The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer.

Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader

"What does the word 'medieval' conjure up in your mind? Knights and castles? Monks and abbeys? Huge tracts of forest in which outlaws live in defiance of the law" Such images may be popular but they say little about what life was like for the majority."

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

"The foregoing makes the woman's lot seem a particularly harsh one. However, there are some great advantages to being a woman. When the king issues writs to his sheriffs summoning an army, it is the men who have to risk their lives and fight, not the women. Despite this, high-status women are still entitled to all the benefits of being connected to 'those who fight'."

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Nonfiction November - week 3

We have reached week 3 in Nonfiction November, hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey This is all about being the expert, asking the expert or becoming an expert. There are three ways to approach this week.
  • Be the Expert: Share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend
  • Ask the Expert: Put a call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read
  • Become the Expert: Create your own list of books on a topic that you would like to rea
Can I be so bold as to use all three of the options? It is rewarding to be an expert, fantastic to be able to ask and expert, which will, hopefully, made you become an expert.

My main interest in nonfiction is history. Although it seems to take a lesser part in the educational flow (at least in Sweden), I think it is important to know and remember our history. The German philosopher Friedrich Hegel said: "The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history."  Another philosopher, George Santayana, said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." How true are not those reflections?

To be the expert of the Brontës

While living in Brussels I was a member of the Brussels Brontë Group. Charlotte and Emily Brontë spent some time there in order to study to become teachers. They wanted to open a school of their own. That was not to be. Instead they became world famous writers, still tremendously popular. I read a lot about them and have read all their books (except the Juvenilia, but I will do). Here are three of their books (one from each of them) and three books about them, that I like very much. I can recommend them all. The nonfiction ones will make you an expert in not time at all.

Charlotte Brontë - Jane Eyre
Emily Brontë - Wuthering Heights
Anne Brontë - The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The Brontës by Juliet Barker is THE biography of the family. A thick book with everything connected to them. Excellent read and you get to know it all.
The Brontës in Brussels by Helen MacEwan. If you are interested about their stay in Brussels, and want to follow in their footsteps, this is the guide to where they lived and enjoyed life in Brussels. Helen is the founder of the Brussels Brontë Group, which has researched the sisters stay in Brussels, and given it another angle, as well as highlighted the influence their stay had on their writing, Charlotte especially. Her book Villette is about her stay there, and Villette is a synonym for Brussels. Emily was not as easily influenced by anything except her beloved moors.
Charlotte Brontë's Promised Land and The Pensionnat Revisited (More light shed on the Brussels of the Brontës) by Eric Ruijssenars are two books going into details about Charlotte's and Emily's life at the pensionnat. Well researched, it gives you everything you need to know about how it was to live in Brussels at the time, and how they spent their time in the school and surroundings.

Ask the expert about the Congress of Vienna

This is an interesting Congress, held from November 1814 to June 1815, where the great powers of the day met to provide a longterm peace plan for Europe. It took place in the aftermath of the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. Participants were Austria, Britain, Russia, Prussia and France.

It would be interesting to read more about the political situation and the implications of the decisions made by the congress. Interested in anything you can recommend.

After reading your suggestions I hope to become the expert. 

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Nonfiction November - week 2

The second week of nonfiction reading is hosted by Sarah's Book Shelves. This is a week of pairing nonfiction books with fiction. From Sarah: "It can be a "If you loved this book, read this!" or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it's a historical novel and you'd like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story."

Pairing nonfiction and fiction - theme Russia

I am still reading the very big and thick book about Stalin: Stalin, The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore. Excellent, scary and terrifying reading of the situation behind the scenes. Still 150 pages to go.

While visiting the library the other day, I saw the book Stalin's Children. Three Generations of Love and War by Owen Matthews. Matthews tries to find out what happened to his family. His mother is Russian. Her father was picked up one day in 1937, never to be seen again. Her mother was sent to one of Stalin's camps, and miraculously survived. Decades later Owen Matthews lives in Moscow as a reporter, and starts investigating the story of his family.

I recently finished the excellent novel A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (review will follow). This is a fictional story which takes place from 1922 until present time, and thus touching the same era as Stalin's reign.

These are the paring I have done as regards my main book about Stalin. I am a fan of historical fiction and often, when I have read about a specific person or event, I am eager to read a nonfiction book about what really took place.

Combine reading

Under my label, Connected Reading, (which I think I will rename 'Pairing') I try to connect one finished book with a new one (have to updated!) It is interesting to connect your reading, in whatever way you can.

I always tend to read more than one book at the time. Therefore, I am reading another nonfiction book for this November challenge; The Ascent of Money by Niall Fergusson. Very interesting account on how economic thinking, money, banks, inflation, and all the other things connected to economy, started.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

The Mystery Path - part II

The first Mystery Path you find under link. I have read a few very good mystery/thrillers and would like to share a few short reviews with you.

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

Another typical Kate Morton story. I love her way of telling two parallell stories; a modern one and a mystery in the past. This time we meet Elodie Winslow, a young archivist, living in London. She is working for a prestigious, old lawyer's firm and take care of their archives. One day she finds a leather satchel with two unrelated items; a sepia photograph of a beautiful, mysterious woman dressed in Victorian clothing, and an artist's sketchbook containing a drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river. It is a drawing of Birchwood Manor and it feels familiar to Elodie.

The past story takes place in the summer of 1862, when a group of young artists meet in the house of talented painter Edward Radcliffe. They are meeting to spend a secluded summer with friends and to find inspiration for their creative work. However, it does not turn out as expected; one woman has been shot dead, one has disappeared and a priceless heirloom is missing. Edward Radcliffe's life is in ruins and will never be the same.

When Elodie finds the photograph of the mysterious woman, she gets mesmerised by her. She wants to find out who she is. What is her story? How is she connected to the house in the drawing? And why does Elodie has a feeling she knows the place. As always an interesting, dramatic story and Kate Morton takes us through time to find out a hidden mystery and disastrous circumstances. It is exciting, well written and difficult to put down.

Flowers Over the Inferno by Ilaria Tuti

"Ilaria Tuti’s debut thriller explores a remote community in Northern Italy—a place of secrets, eerie folktales, and primal instincts. In a quiet village surrounded by ancient woods and the imposing Italian Alps, a man is found naked with his eyes gouged out. It is the first in a string of gruesome murders. 
Superintendent Teresa Battaglia, a detective with a background in criminal profiling, is called to investigate. Battaglia is in her mid-sixties, her rank and expertise hard-won from decades of battling for respect in a male-dominated Italian police force. While she’s not sure she trusts the young city inspector assigned to assist her, she sees right away that this is no ordinary case: buried deep in these mountains is a dark history that may endanger a group of eight-year-old children toward whom the killer seems to gravitate." (Summary from Penguin Random House)
It is interesting to find a new kind of detective. A mid-sixties, very experience female detective. She is tough to her colleagues, but they seem all to admire her, and always wanting to do their best for her. Although she seems strong outwards, she has her own demons to fight. I like the personal struggle between Battaglia and her new city inspector.

A rather amazing debut novel. The setting in a small village in the Alps, with a small community, where everyone knows each other, gives and extra twist and underlying tensions. Also here, we find two stories; one in the past and one in the present. We do understand that the past one will have a bearing on the modern murder case. However, even the past one is a mystery, and we only get small hints as we read along. It is gruesome, exciting, thrilling and scary. It is a very dark story, and though it is a murder mystery, it can as well be seen as a life drama. While reading I came to think of the story of Frankenstein's monster. As with the monster, we do, in this story, get a kind of sympathy for the culprit. Really looking forward to another novel by Tuti.

The Hiding Places by Katherine Webb

"Wiltshire, 1922. Fifteen-year old Pudding Cartwright has begun the career she always wanted, as girl groom to the Hadleigh family's horses at Manor Farm. Irene Hadleigh is struggling to adjust to her new life in sleepy Slaughterford, having married Alistair to escape a scandal in London. At a loss to occupy herself, Irene sets about restyling Manor Farm, and during the work the chance finding of a strange object, hidden away in the house for years, will change everything. 
When somebody close to both of them is murdered, Pudding and Irene are thrown together to seek out the identity of the killer in their midst, unaware of just how deep the roots of the crime lie. 
During a hot, humid summer of grief, betrayal, and misapprehensions, they will uncover truths neither of them could ever have foreseen." (Summary from Goodreads)
This novel is much more than just a murder mystery. It is a book about relationships, interaction between high and low, rich and poor. The characters are very well drawn and you connect with most of them. The mystery itself does not get an answer until the very end, and I was not able to guess who it was. There is a twist here that is not obvious at all as you read along, but I don't want to give any spoilers here, unless you want to read it. Quite a different murder mystery, but also a story of people in a village and obstacles in relationships, whether it is love or just with your neighbour. A little bit of witchcraft always complicate the matter.

Sen Frost (Später Frost/Late Frost) by Kerstin Danielsson and Roman Voosen

This is the first detective story by this Swedish/German duo translated into Swedish. They have written seven books about Nyström and Forss in German. I got interested in it, because it takes place in Växjö, a city in the south of Sweden, of which I am familiar. I have many relatives there, one has actually worked with the police force.

An old man, a butterfly researcher, is brutally murdered, in his house in the forests. There seem to be no direct motive for the murder, but as the detectives Ingrid Nyström and Stina Forss find out more, they realise that he lived a double life. It takes them to the higher circles of Stockholm as well as to a hospital in Jerusalem, before they have the answer to who the murder is.

I found it a little bit slow in the beginning, but it changed quickly. I love detective stories where there is an intriguing mystery about the victim. Here you have it all, and it is only in the end that you can guess who did it.

Black Water Lilies (Nymphéas noir) by Michel Bussi

I read Bussi's After the Crash and liked it very much. When I saw Black Water Lilies in the library I quickly grabbed it. Michel Bussi is one of the most popular writers in France, and you know why when you have read some of his books. It is a murder mystery, but so much more. There is really a story, or two, behind the murder and the characters.
"This is the story of thirteen days that begin with one murder and end with another. Jérôme Morval, a man whose passion for art was matched only by his passion for women, has been found dead in the stream that runs through the gardens at Giverny, where Monet did his famous paintings. In Jérôme's pocket is a postcard of Monet's Water Lilies with the words: Eleven years old. Happy Birthday. 
Entangled in the mystery are three women: a young painting prodigy, the seductive village schoolteacher and an old widow who watches over the village from a mill by the stream. All three of them share a secret. But what do they know about the discovery of Jérôme Morval's corpse? And what is the connection to the mysterious Black Water Lilies, a rumoured masterpiece by Monet that has never been found..." (Summary from Goodreads)
A murder mystery, where it is almost impossible to guess who did it. As you see from the summary, it is also so much more than a murder. A story of a village, the people in it, relationships and agonies, friends and enemies. All set against Monet's beautiful garden in Giverny. What does the old woman in the windmill know of what is happening? She has a view overlooking the whole village. Who is she and which story does she carry? A marvellous mystery where you don't see the end coming until you are there. And what a wonderful ending!

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Nonfiction November: My year in nonfiction, so far

Week 1 in Nonfiction November 2019, runs from Oct 28 - Nov 1

First week is hosted by Julz of Julz Reads. We have a few questions guiding us on what we have read so far this year.
  • What was your favourite nonfiction read of the year? 
  • Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? 
  • What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? 
  • What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

List of nonfiction books read this year (by category)

  • Linnés skånska resa (Carl von Linné's Scania Travel) by Ove Torgny 
  • Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match by Wendy Moore (audio)
  • Skånes slott och borgar by C Karlsson, P Karlsson, M Christensen
  • Med Örnen mot polen by Svenska Sällskapet för Antropologi och Geografi (Scientific account of the Andrée expedition 1897)
  • Politik och passion  - Svenska kungliga äktenskap under 600 år (Politics and Passion - Swedish Royal Marriages during 600 years) by (editors) Henric Bagerius and Louise Berglund 
  • Eleanor, The Secret Queen - The Woman who put Richard III on the Throne by John Ashdown-Hill
Biographies or memoires:
  • Till minne av en villkorslös kärlek by Jonas Gardell. The author is a famous entertainer in Sweden and this is his memories of his mother. It is very touching. 
Grammar and studies: 
  • Grejen med verb (The Thing With Verbs, my transl.) by Sara Lövestam
  • Grejen med substantiv (The Thing With Nones, my transl.) by Sara Lövestam
  • Grejen med ordföljd (The Thing With Word Order)by Sara Lövestam
  • F in Exams. The Best Test Paper Blunders by Richard Benson

My favourite nonfiction read this year

My favourite book(s) have to be Sara Lövestam's three small books about Swedish grammar. They are hilariously funny, and makes a rather boring(? or not) subject into something spectacular. I made me realise that the Swedish language is rather more difficult than I imagined.

Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year?

Looking at the list of books I have read, I realise that for this year, I have a little bit more variety in my nonfiction reading than usual. Mostly, my nonfiction relates to history. This covers both historical events and specific persons. Of the 11 nonfiction books I have read, only five can be directed towards this category.  I can be quite pleased that I have read a little bit more various nonfiction books so far this year.

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? 

That would have to be the same as my favourites; the grammar books.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

To continue reading several books I have started but got stuck.  The books I have chosen are:

Simon Sebag Montefiore (one of my favourite historian authors) Stalin, The Court of the Red Tsar
Andrew Wheatcroft, The Habsburgs
Penelope Fitzgerald, Edward Burne-Jones, A Life
Cressida Connolly, The Rare and the Beautiful, The lives of the Garmans
Niall Ferguson, The Ascent of Money

I realised when starting that I have already read about The Lives of the Garmans. However, the other books are rather thick, so I will not add another one. Will probably not be able to read them all. I have started two books (of course, can't just read one at the time!); Simon Sebag Montefiore's biography about Stalin and Niall Ferguson's The Ascent of Money. Always a current subject!

Monday, 28 October 2019

The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

I love the cover

Eight o'clock on Saturday, May 13, 1939, steamer St Louis, sailing with the Amerika Linie (HAPAG), set sail from Hamburg with destination Cuba. On board were 900 people, mostly German-Jewish refugees leaving a more and more troublesome Germany for freedom at the other side of the world. The passengers had entry visas for Cuba. Nearing the island, the Cuban president Federico Laredo Brú, cancelled those visas, signed by one of his own general director. Only those visas, signed by a specific ministry, were valid. The result was that most of the 900 passengers had to stay on board and, in the end, return to Europe. Since all of them had entry visas for the US, the ship sailed on to the States and Canada, but they both refused to admit the people. They had to return to Europe. A couple of days before touching European soil, a committee had agreed with Great Britain, France, Belgium and Holland to receive the remaining refugees. In principal, only the people who were accepted by Great Britain survived the war.

The story follows Hannah, who is 12 years old in 1939, and her best friend Leo. They make their way around Berlin as the situation for the Jews become more stringent. Her parents are well off, even have money put away abroad. But as their lives are tightened, they talk about leaving their beloved Germany.

Anna is 12 years old in 2014. She grows up with her mother in New York. Her father died before she was born in mysterious circumstances. Her mother does not want to talk about what happened to him, so Anna make up his character from an old photo she has. Her mother is devastated about her loss, and it is Anna who has to take care of her mother. One day a letter and a small box arrive from Cuba and her mother is taken back to life. Her husband's aunt has sent them letters and photos, so they decide to travel to Cuba.

Of this sad exodus, Armando Lucas Correa has written a touching story of survival. But what exactly is survival? Is it just to survive, or should it be a possibility for a new future? Are there similarities between Hannah and Anna, although they are one, or even two, generations apart? Life in Cuba was another upheaval for the refugees from Germany. Revolution and a new system. How many times can you change your whole life, you sense of being? Is it better to just survive, thinking of old times, or is it better to try to adjust to whatever new life is there for you?

With this novel Armando Lucas Correa touches the essential questions in life. His characters are well drawn, which does not mean that you always agree with them. It is said of the Rosenthals (the name of Hannah's family) that they did not die. They just let go when they thought it was time. To let go can mean many things, also the prospects of a new, better life.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

This week's book beginnings and page 56 text is another library book, Shadowplay by Joseph O'Connor. It is a little bit out of my usual style, but it features Bram Stoker, so could not resist it. I have not yet read it, but review will follow.

Love the cover!

"1878: The Lyceum Theatre, London. Three extraordinary people begin their life together, a life that will be full of drama, transformation and passionate devotion to art and one another.

The Chief ... HENRY IRVING volcanic leading man and impresario
The Leading Lady ... ELLEN TERRY most lauded actress of her generation
The Theatre Manager ... BRAM STOKER following along behind them in the shadows
Fresh from life in Dublin as a clerk, Bram may seem the least colourful of the trio but he is wrestling with dark demons in a new city, in a new marriage, and with his own literary aspirations. As he walks the London streets at night, streets haunted by the Ripper and the gossip which swirls around his friend Oscar Wilde, he finds new inspiration. But the Chief is determined that nothing will get in the way of his manager's dedication to the Lyceum and to himself. And both men are enchanted by the beauty and boldness of the elusive Ellen.This exceptional novel explores the danger and complexity of unconventional love, the restlessness of creativity, and the experiences that led to Dracula, the most iconic supernatural tale of all time. "

Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader

Victoria Cottage Hospital,
Near Deal,
20th February, 1908

"My dearest Ellen,
Please excuse this too-long-delayed response. As you'll gather from the above, I'm afriad I've not been too well. Money worries & the strain of overwork weakened me over this wretched winter until I broke down like an old cab-horse on the side of the road. ... 
Some of it is in a code even its maker has forgotten. I wonder what I can have been trying to hide & from whom. 
Well then, old thing - my treasured friend - it is a holy thought to imagine my words moving through your heart's heart because then something of me will be joined with something of you and we will stand in the same rain for a time under the one umbrella. ... 
Ever Your Bram.
P.S.: Like a lot of thumping good stories, it starts on a train."

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice
"'This extravagance - it's insane. I'm quite up a tree trying to understand.'  
'I might go to bed now.'
'For curtains.' 
'Why don't you come, Bram?' 
'I'll just finish up this. Be along in a minute.' 
Close to eight the following morning he awakens on the sofa. There's a note from her to say she's gone to the library. The fire in the grate is lighted but the room is cold. Raindrops on the windows cause strange shadows down the walls."

Thursday, 24 October 2019

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

This is a book outside my comfort zone. I don't read a lot of scary book, and this is said to be a classical, scary Victorian style, ghost story. What made me take it? A reference at the back to indicate that this book has been compared to Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. That is really all I need.

Arthur Kipps, is a young lawyer who travels to a village in the middle of nowhere, to take care of the estate of recently deceased Alice Drablow. Her house is situated outside the village, on an island which is only accessible via a small bridge, or road, during low tide. It is a monstrous house, with a life of its own.

Already during the funeral, he sees a peculiarly dressed woman in black. Everyone seem reluctant to even talk about the lady, and he gets no answers to his question on who she is. While staying in the old house, he is haunted by sounds, locked doors, wind, fog and rain. He hears things which sounds real, but are they?

This is a traditional ghost story with all the usual elements. It is very well written, not overly dramatised, and we can feel both the helplessness of Kipps, as well as an urge to find out who the woman in black is. And then comes the ending...! Spooky, to say the least. Yes, Henry James comes to mind. I am afraid that it might stay with me longer than I wish.

It has been made into a film with Daniel Radcliffe. It is also a theatre play in West End where it has been running for 25 years. It is obviously rather famous, but I have never heard of it. What about you?

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Non Fiction November Challenge

Nonfiction November is coming up, hosted by Readerbuzz and co-hosts. I think one third of all my books are nonfiction, so I am ready to go. Co-hosting with Deb Nance are: Katie at Doing Dewey, Julz of Julz Reads, Rennie of What’s Nonfiction, Sarah of Sarah’s Book Shelves, and Leann of Shelf Aware.

The event will run from Oct 28 – Nov 30 

November is dedicated to our favourite nonfiction. There will be talks, discussions, exchange of views, recommendations and lots more. On top of this I expect to find new blogging friends who, like me, love nonfiction. Head over to Readerbuzz for more practical details on posting, links etc. Below is the schedule of events and the host for each week.

Schedule of Events

Week 1 (Oct. 28 to Nov. 1)

Your Year in Nonfiction So Far (Hosted by Julie at Julz Reads)

Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favourite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

Week 2 (Nov. 4 to Nov. 8)

Nonfiction / Fiction Book Pairing (Hosted by Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves)

This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

Week 3 (Nov. 11 to Nov. 15)

Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (Hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey)

Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

Week 4 (Nov. 18 to Nov. 22)

Nonfiction Favourites (Hosted by Leann at Shelf Aware)

We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favourites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favourites.

Week 5 (Nov. 26 to Nov. 30)

New to my TBR (Hosted by Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?)

It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

There will also be an Instagram Challenge! Find all the hosts that are on Instagram: @sarahsbookshelves, @julzreads, @shelf_aware_, and @doingdewey!

What now?
What is the most important thing to do now? Get together some wonderful nonfiction books, I think. Look through your stacks and see what nonfiction books you have been saving for Nonfiction November. Request books at your local library. Don't forget to look for a few audiobooks. Keep that stack near at hand, but be prepared to shuffle out something if it isn't working for you.

My month, my nonfiction favourites

I have chosen five books from my shelves rather randomly. I will probably not be able to read them all, but maybe a couple of them. I am interested in history. Most of my books are somehow connected to history and people through centuries, high and low.

  • Simon Sebag Montefiore (one of my favourite historian authors) Stalin, The Court of the Red Tsar
  • Andrew Wheatcroft, The Habsburgs
  • Penelope Fitzgerald, Edward Burne-Jones, A Life
  • Cressida Connolly, The Rare and the Beautiful, The lives of the Garmans
  • Niall Ferguson, The Ascent of Money

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Calypso by David Sedaris

I used this novel for last week's Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56.

David Sedaris is a new, to me, author. I knew nothing about him, but found this book at the library's new books' shelf. The back cover text sounded good, it is a large print edition, which is always helpful, so I grabbed it. It is a great read.
"With Calypso, Sedaris sets his formidable powers of observation toward middle age and mortality. Make no mistake: these stories can make you laugh till you snort. Sedaris's wirting has never been sharper, and his ability to shock readers into laughter is unparalleled. But much of the comedy here is born out of that vertiginous moment when you own body betrays you and you realize that the story of your life is made up of more past than future." (From back cover)
He takes you on a hilarious ride of satire and humour, spelling out a lot of the things we usually just think to ourselves, but not always dare to speak out loud. When his sister used up all her inheritance at once and went to live in the street, he writes. "It's like she saw poverty as an accomplishment. "I'll be out at one in the morning, knee-deep on a Dumpster and elbowing aside some immigrant Haitian lady for the good stuff," she boated once when I visited her in Somerville.
"Maybe the Haitian woman has to be there," I said. "she has nothing at her disposal, while you have an education. You had braces on your teeth. You speak good English." My argument was an old and stodgy one: the best thing you can do for the poor is avoid joining their ranks, thus competing with them for limited goods and services."

Sedaris highlights memories of his past with his family and partner. It is enjoyable, and takes place to the background of world events. Highlighting modern life with all its technicalities, healthy life style...or not. "Every one in America is extremely concerned with hydration. Go more than five minutes without drinking, and you'll surely be discovered behind a potted plant, dried out like some escaped hermit crab. When I was young no one would think to bring a bottle of water into a classroom. I don't think they even sold bottled water. We survived shopping trips without it, and funerals. Now, though, you see people with those barrels that Saint Bernards carry around their necks in cartoons, lugging them into the mal and the movie theatre, then hogging the fountains in order to refill them. Is that really necessary? I think as I stand behind them with an aspirin dissolving in my mouth, fuming." I really liked this part, since I always need to have water with me when I am out walking. My husband insists it is not necessary, even for a longer walk in the woods.

Sedaris is looking at how society works and how we move within it. He has lived in the US, France and England and he tells us about aspects of life in different countries. Once, while in their house in England, he fell down from a ladder and could not get up, and his partner calls the hospital, on which he has the following thoughts. "Hugh phones the NHS - the National Health Service - and after being asked a number of preliminary questions, I'm put through to a nurse named Mary.
"Who are you again?" I ask.
"Mary," she repeats, not, I notice, Mary Steward or whatever her last name is. Everything in America is based on lawsuits, on establishing a trail. In the United States I'd be told to come in immediately for X-rays, but in England they figure that unless you're unconscious or leaking great quantities of fluid - blood, pus etc. - there's no point in wasting everyone's time. Mary asks me a number of questions to determine whether I pierced a lung, which apparently I have not. "But it really hurts when I cough," I tell her.
"Well, David," she says brightly, "then my advice to you would be not to cough, and to have a lovely Christmas."

I love his sense of humour and his outlook on life. It makes you think about life's peculiarities and how we perceive the world we live in. There are some 'below the waste' humour which I am not so fond of, but most of it makes you smile and nod in recognition. He paints a wonderful picture of his family, if it is true or not, I don't know. But it makes for charming and witty reading, based on a lot of love.

Friday, 18 October 2019

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

The Content Reader

Friday once again, and time for Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56.  This week I go for a library book that I borrowed a couple of days ago. Calypso by David Sedaris.  Here an extract from the back cover:
"When David Sedaris buys a beach house on the Carolina coast, he envisions long, relaxing vacations spent playing board games and lunging in the sun with those he loves most. And life at the Sea Section, as he names the vacation home, is as idyllic as he imagined, except for one vexing realization: it's impossible to take a vacation from yourself. "
The Content Reader

Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader
"Though there's an industry built on telling you otherwise, there are few real joys to middle age. The only perk I can see is that, with luck, you'll acquire a guest room. Some people get one by default when their kids leave home, and others, like me, eventually trade up and land a bigger house." 

The Content Reader

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

"Who wants to date you anyway? I wondered, scowling at the photos. 
I'm not one of those short men who feels he got shafted. Yes, it's hard to buy things off the rack, but that's what tailors are for. I fit easily into airplane seats. I can blend into crowds hen I want to. Added height would be of no more use to me than a square head, so who needs it? "

A little bit of humour would be the summary of this book. Looking forward reading it.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

The Mystery Path, part 1

Without any exact planning, I have gone down the mystery path lately. I have read several books that have a mystery and/or murder in it. What I like about them is that they are more like average fiction, rather than a detective story. Only one of them belong to the traditional genre. The other positive thing is that the murders are not that bloody or cruel. Many of the traditional detective/crime stories these days, have these gruesome, cruel and violent murders, which is not so nice to read about. The books I have read lately tend to lean on good, traditional mystery solving à la Agatha Christie.

Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd

Adam Kindred is a scientist, working with climate relating research. He has a meeting with a fellow researcher at his home. When he arrives to the flat, he finds his friend dead, murdered. He is wrongly accused for the murder and has to go underground. In a split second he lost everything; his home and job and his whole life. He can't use his credit cards, he has little money in his pockets.

This is a story of survival. How do you survive without the ordinary comforts we have today, without money in your pockets?  When hunted by the police and the murderer? Kindred encounters all sorts of people on his underworld journey; priests, prostitutes, people sleeping under the bridges and along the Thames, a police woman whom he might be able to trust, or not? It is an interesting journey into the psyche of people with different aims in life. Maybe we can find a happy life, even when we are forced to turn away from the life we expected.  It makes you  think of what is relevant in life. Maybe we don't need all the things we think we need. Quite an extra ordinary story with many twists.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Said to be the thriller of the year, it is an amazing debut novel. Alicia is a famous painter, married to a fashion photographer. One day when her husband returns home, she shoots him five times in the face, and then refuses to speak. To hide her away from public life she is taken in at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London. In spite of various kind of treatments, she remains silent.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist and has set his mind on working with Alicia. When a position is available at the Grove he manages to secure it. He is sure that he will be able to make her speak. The story is mainly set from Faber's point of view. We follow his treatment of Alice, as well as a story of his private life and relationships. Having been himself a patient in psycho therapy for many years, one can expect a few surprises along the way.

It is an excellently written story. The sympathy lies with both characters, and they are very well molded.  The various doctors within the Institution closely guard their own section of psycho therapy, and something is going on. Faber is a master of analysing the different fractions and actions that are taking place. Not everyone agrees with his take on making Alicia talk. And what does Alicia think?

The ending is a pure surprise and it hits you rather suddenly. I, at least, did not see it coming. The Silent Patient is a psychological thriller that keeps your attention to the very, surprising end. Hitchcock comes to mind. Can't be better than that.

The Muse by Jessie Burton

I loved Burton's first book, The Miniaturist. It came with a lot of good reviews, which always raise your expectation. No problem there, it is a wonderful novel. With such a first book, one has high expectations for the second book, which might lead you to believe that it is really difficult to hit the high mark once again. No worries! This is another wonderful novel and story from Jessie Burton.

Odelle is a young girl, and aspiring author, from Trinidad who comes to live in London in the 1960s. She gets a job as secretary at the Skelton Gallery, to work for the co-director Marjorie Quick. She meets Lawrie in a party and they start going out together. One day Lawrie comes to the gallery with a painting, which is an inheritance from his mother. When Marjorie sees the painting she turns pale.

Olive Schloss is the talented daughter of art dealer Harold Schloss and his wife Sarah. The family lives in Spain in the 1930s, just before the Spanish Civil War starts. They get acquainted with local artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half sister Teresa. She works as a maid in the house, but also becomes a friend to the family. As trouble is looming in Spain, the interaction between Isaac and Teresa and the Schloss family tightens.

Burton's stories, in this excellent novel, is about being talented and daring to do something about it. Odelle, doubts her own talent, and it is only because of Marjorie that she gets a short story published in the papers. Olive Schloss is also talented, but reluctant to go public with her works. Different times, similar parallells. This is a story of daring to follow your dreams, but also a story of, especially, I think, female lack of self confidence in what you are able to achieve. What happens when love enters your life? Does it take over other dreams? Is it possible to combine your love for art with your love for a person? How do you value it, in the years to come?

I love these kind of novels, where the story takes place in different times. It gives you more perspective on the issues, considering the times in which they took place. Burton knots the stories beautifully, but sadly, together in the end. Stories like these, stay with me long after I have finished reading the book.

Jessie Burton is now out with her third book, The Confession. Can't wait to read it.

To be continued...three more novels in part 2.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2018 and 2019

The local library had an open invitation for a Nobel reception, to await the announcement of the new Laureates of the Academy.

A lot of expert guesses before the announcement. Several important writers from all over the world was suggested. Once Mats Malm took the floor, it was announced that two European writers, one woman and one man has been awarded the prize. Polish Olga Tokarczuk won the prize for 2018, and Austrian author Peter Handke for 2019. I am not familiar with any of the two authors, but am looking forward to read something by both of them.

The 2018 prize is awarded to Polish author Olga Tokarczuk,
“for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”
I am looking forward reading something by her, and it seems that her 2014 novel The Books of Jacob is well worth to start with. She also won the Man Booker International Prize 2018,  for Flights. 

The 2019 prize is awarded to Austrian author Peter Handke,
“for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.”
He is an author as well as a play wright. Suggestions to start with might be, Short Letter, Long Farewell, from 1972 and The Left Handed Woman, from 1976 (also made into a film).

Anyone who has read anything by these two authors? Any recommendations? What do you think of the choices from the Academy? Did you have a favourite of your own?

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Beyond All Reasonable Doubt by Malin Persson Giolito

Malin Persson Giolito has written five books, of which I have read four. Have not yet read her last book. Of the four, there is only one I did not really like (her first one), the others are excellent and thrilling. Probably, mostly known for Quicksand, about a school shooting, made into a TV series by Netflix.

Her heroine, Sophia Weber, is a lawyer. Stig Ahlin was sentenced to lifetime, thirteen years earlier, for having killed a fifteen year old girl. He has always insisted he was innocently sentenced, and is now trying for a re-examination of his case. Sophia's mentor is asking her to take the case.

She is not so eager to jump into this case, which seems doomed beforehand. She promises her mentor to have a look at it. She discovers that the police investigation was very badly done at the time. That is a reason, good enough, for her to take on the case.

The book changes between Sophia's work and Katrin, the murdered girl, and her actions leading up to the murder. It is an exciting story, where Persson Giolito takes us along the legal offices, mixed with a personal account of the girl, her friends and family. To  sentence someone for murder, the evidence has to be beyond reasonable doubt. Was Stig Ahlin guilty? Or was he wrongly sentenced? Was there another murderer? In that case, who? The story keeps you guessing until the very end. And when the end comes...! You are utterly surprised, more than once.

Malin Persson Giolito writes very well. Having worked as a lawyer herself, she knows the subjects on which she is writing. It is realistic, exciting and utterly thrilling.

Monday, 30 September 2019

On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry

From the back cover:
"Dublin, 1918. At the end of the First World War, Lilly Bere and her sweetheart Tadg are forced to flee Ireland for America. They plan to marry and forge a new life together, in the hope that their past will not catch up with them.
Seven decades later, Lilly, mourning the loss of her grandson, tries to make sense of her own life and the lives of the people she has loved. At once epic and intimate, On Canaan's Side is a novel of memory, war, family ties and love."
Another master piece by Barry, who is one of my favourite authors. He never disappoints you. This time he tells the story of Lilly, an Irish girl who has to leave Ireland when her husband is accused of collaboration with the English. Set just after World War I, it is another enchanting story by Barry. Lilly looks back at her life and the different paths it took. Must revenge and sorrow follow you all your life? Don't you deserve a little bit of happiness?
"Because the ingredient we had missed was the actual enormous violence of it, the tearing out, the vigorous unstoppable intent, the distraction for Tadg of the portrait, me seeing the killer come, me trying to alert Tadg, and  then the huge war of it, the suddenness, the completeness, the colossal ungenerosity of it, implacable eternal hatred of it, that they wouldn't let us go, forgive us our trespasses. That they wouldn't allow us to cross into Canaan, but would follow us over the river, and kill him on Canaan's side. The land of refuge itself. "
As we follow Lilly through her life, Barry lets us reflect on our destinies. Even if we try to run away from life it seems to catch up with us. Lilly is such a likeable character, true to herself all through her life, and in her contacts with other people. Such a well structured story, realistic with the hopes and wishes we have for our lives. Beautifully written, this novel stays with you long after finishing the last line.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

The Content Reader

Another week and another challenge for a good book beginning and interesting quotes from page 56. This week I have found On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry. A short review will be up on Monday, 30 September.

Book beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader
"Bill is gone.What is the sound of an eighty-nine-year-old heart breaking? It might not be much more than silence, and certainly a small slight sound."

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda´s Voice
"Amazement and delight were Mr Eugenides' bywords. When Bill was going into the army, just a couple of years ago, Mr Eugenides bought him a copy of Homer in translation, which Bill dutifully brought with him to the war.In this way, Bill and I, on very separate occasions, received the same book, in different editions and translations, as a gift."