Thursday, 28 February 2019

Book sale

Every year, in the end of February, there is a big book sale going on in Sweden. Yes, I know, I should not buy any more books before reading all the unread books I already have. But, I am weak when it comes to temptations. So, not only did I place a post order, I was lured to the actual shop buy a promotion of "buy 4 pay for 3", which led to me buying 6 books.

Here are the titles:

Ett jävla solsken (A Bloody Sunshine, my transl.) by Fatima Bremmer, about Ester Blenda Nordström, and investigating, female journalist in the beginning of the last century. She worked anonymously as a maid in order to write articles on how life for the maids were. The articles were turned into a book. From there she went to bigger expeditions, of which one was to a dangerous volcano area in Siberia. Always interesting to read about pioneer women.

Die Manns by Tilman Lahne about the family of Thomas Mann. I loved his Buddenbrooks and it should be an interesting biography.

The Muse by Jessie Burton. Just loved her book The Miniature Maker and it can't be wrong to try another of her books.

The German Girl (La nina alemana) by Armando Lucas Correa. Starting during the World War II when young Hannah Rosenthal and her best friend Leo Martin manage to get a ticket for Kuba. The overseas asylum they were promised turns out to be an illusion. Seventy five years later twelve-year-old Anna Rosen gets a strange packet from an unknown relative in Kuba. I love when stories from two different ages melts into one. This story sounds promising.

Evolutionen och jag (The Evolution and Me, my transl.) by Johan Frostegård. The evolution is always interesting to read about. This book evaluates the evolution and how it affects our own lives; moral, gender roles, religion, AI and mikro organisms. A book that might explain our society today.

This Book Will Make You Mindful by Jessamy Hibberd & Jo Usmar. Another useful book for every day life. To understand our ups and downs and help us live in the now and use time better, which will hopefully make you happier and more satisfied. Let's hope. I will keep you updated.

Vego in 30 Minutes by Ylva Bergqvist. I am not either a vegetarian or a vego person, but I like to mix my food with such meals. It does make you feel much better, is healthier and if you can fix a meal in 30 minutes it helps. It has a nice layout, just the way I like it in a cook book; Ingredients, a small text on how to do it and a picture. If I plan well, it will make my week meals much better.

Last, but not least three grammatical books by Sara Lövestam. Yes, you heard me.
Grejen med verb (The Thing With Verbs)
Grejen med substantiv (The Thing With Nones)
Grejen med ordföljd (The Thing With Wording)
Grammar is not my best subject, although (at least in Swedish) I just know how to use grammar. I do find it quite fascinating though. These books are written in a humorous way. I think they would be excellent to use in school. The author is a teacher, so hopefully she uses it in her teachings.

Ten new books to squeeze into my shelves, although I don't know where. I am very pleased though with the variety of books. 

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match by Wendy Moore

Slowly, slowly I am getting used to the audio books. Some are more suitable than others to be listened too. I find it difficult though to blog about audio books. While writing I often go back to look at passages in the books, and that is not possible here. Anyway, I am getting there.

Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match by Wendy Moore (excellently narrated by Rachel Atkins) was quite a long audio book. I have listened to it over several months. You might think that this is a fiction book while reading it. Big mistake and it just shows that real life often is more dramatic and terrible than anything you can make up. Mary Eleanor Bowes was the only child of rich parents. She got a good education for a woman at the time. She married, accordingly, the Earl of Strathmore, with whom she had five children. Eleven years later the Earl died of tuberculosis. So far so good.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

I read this comedy by Shakespeare as part of a challenge from the Classic Club in co-operation with Rachel @ Hibernator's Library -  2019 Year of Shakespeare. The idea is to read a Comedy for Jan - April - The Taming of the Shrew, a historical drama for May - Aug - King John and a Tragedy for Sep - Dec - Hamlet. At the same time Hamlette's Soliloquy announced the February blog party of We Love Shakespeare Week. Hitting two birds with one stone, I read The Taming of the Shrew.  I find it very difficult to read Shakespeare, that is maybe why I expose myself to the challenge. On top of it, I promised Hamlette's Soliloquy to write a review of The Taming of the Shrew. So, here we go.

The story, in short, is set in Padua, where wealthy Baptista Minola has two marriageable daughters. The older one, Katherine, is vicious and ill-tempered and the young one, Bianca, is beautiful and mild. Bianca has suitors, but the father has announced that she can only marry when Katherine is married. Since most men are afraid of her and she does not have any suitors, there is a problem. Petruchio arrives and announces he intends to marry a rich woman. He does not care what she looks like or how she is. The rest of the play is taken up by Petruchio's taming of Kate and the various suitors' fight for Bianca. In the end, the newly wed men enter into a contest to see which wife is the most obedient, Petruchio wins. Katherine is not only the most obedient, she gives the other ladies a lesson how to be loyal to their husbands.

Researching the web, I ran into a very interesting article by Rachel De Wachter (teacher of English Literature at Esher College) Power and gender in The Taming of the Shrew

She discusses how we should think about the relation between the sexes in the play, and how writers, directors and actors have explored it in productions ever since the time of Shakespeare. As early as as the beginning of the 17th century a John Fletcher wrote a counterpart play to Shakespeare's play called The Woman's Prize or The Tamer Tamed. Here the tamer is the wife and the tamed is the husband. "It concludes with the lesson that men ‘should not reign as Tyrants o’er their wives’ (Epilogue, l. 4). Indeed Fletcher’s play aims ‘to teach both Sexes due equality / And as they stand bound, to love mutually (Epilogue, ll. 7-8)." I must say he was rather ahead of this time. Should probably try to find this play.

Looking at the introduction of the play, which really has nothing to do with Padua and the main story, we meet Christopher Sly. He is, as usual, drunk. A Lord decides to clean him up, put him in his own castle and tell him, but the time he wakes up, that he is a Lord. Although Sly does not believe it in the beginning he slowly learns the advantages of his new rank. However, it does not last. He is put back to his original place and old life. De Wachter means that this dehumanising of people is also shown in the main story. Kate is seen as an 'household item', part of what belongs to a house, including the animals.

"She is my good, my chattels, she is my house, 
My household stuff, my field, my barn, 
My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything; (3.2.230–32)"

With the two stories Shakespeare shows a similarity between the lower classes and women. They are both dependent on their livelihood by their masters/husband.  They have to be obedient to be taken into the protection of the high ranking man and/or husband. Katherine is fighting against being married, but in the end she is lured into it, against her will. She has to accept the situation and find herself outwitted by Petruchio. To survive she has to give in to his whims. Is this what she is doing? Or has she got a higher cause?

In the last scene Katherine has a rather long monologue.

“Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign, one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance; commits his body
To painful labor, both by sea and land;
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou li’st warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks, and true obedience-
Too little payment for so great a debt.
Such duty as the subject owes the prince,
Even such a woman oweth to her husband;
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And no obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel,
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?
I asham’d that women are so simple
‘To offer war where they should kneel for peace,
Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway,
When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.
Why are our bodies soft, and weak, and smooth,
Unapt to toil and trouble in the world,
But that our soft conditions, and our hearts,
Should well agree with our external parts?”

Can this be seen as a speech of independence? To say that women are different than men, and so it should be. Men are out fighting, but women know better than that. Women try to solve problems another way. Maybe it is she who has tamed Petruchio, although he does not know it.

Well, well...!  It is rather outdated, probably more than any other of his plays. One has to take into consideration the time in which it was written, although it is no excuse. But what do we know, maybe Shakespeare wrote it as a satire? There are numerous modern productions (stage and film) with various interpretations of especially Kate and her relationship with Petruchio. It would be interesting to see one of those. It is certainly not a play you want to mention in connections with today's question of gender equality, which is still a strife. Maybe this play should not be considered a comedy at all, but rather a tragedy?

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

A Man Of Some Repute by Elizabeth Edmondson

This is an audio book I downloaded without knowing too much about it. However, the introduction sounded like something I would like. 
"Selchester Castle in 1953 sits quiet and near-empty, its corridors echoing with glories of the past. Or so it seems to intelligence officer Hugo Hawksworth, wounded on a secret mission and now reluctantly assuming an altogether less perilous role at Selchester. The Castle’s faded grandeur hides a web of secrets and scandals—the Earl has been missing for seven years, lost without a trace since the night he left his guests and walked out into a blizzard. When a skeleton is uncovered beneath the flagstones of the Old Chapel, the police produce a suspect and declare the case closed.
Hugo is not convinced. With the help of the spirited Freya Wryton, the Earl’s niece, he is drawn back into active service, and the ancient town of Selchester is dragged into the intrigues and conspiracies of the Cold War era. With a touch of Downton Abbey, a whisper of Agatha Christie and a nod to Le Carré, A Man of Some Repute is the first book in this delightfully classic and witty murder mystery series."
Definitely a little bit of Agatha Christie in it, but much more witty and funny. It was a perfect book to listen too (maybe I will become more positive to audio books?!). The narrator, Michael Page, was absolutely fantastic. He changed his voice and dialect according to the person who spoke (and there were many persons involved). It was almost like sitting in the theatre and see it all in front of you. The mystery is slowly told and developing in front of you.  The characters were such a delight, from Hugo to his 13-year-old sister Georgia, who is far ahead of her age. They temporarily settle in at the castle and Hugo gets a secret mission. Georgia keeps her eyes and ears open.

It is 1953, war memories are still fresh, as is the defection of Philby, Burgess and Maclean. Authorities are suffering from a little bit of paranoia. The mystery of the Earl's disappearance gets and answer when his corps is unexpectedly found. There are only a small group of people suspected. The Earl seems to have had only enemies, including his two children. Is it convenient for the police to blame it all on his son, who died during the war? Maybe a little bit too convenient?

Elizabeth Edmondson also wrote under other names (Aston and Pewsey as surnames). When she studied she fell in love with Jane Austen and has written two series connected to her; Darcy series and Darcy Novellas, and other series not connected to Austen. This book belong to "A Very English Mystery Series, which include another three books. Can't wait to dig into them as well. A really, true, traditionally, slowly developed murder mystery of which there are few today. And so funny you laugh out loud sometimes. It is probably, for a foreigner like me, the perception of the very English life.

Monday, 4 February 2019

The Greek Treasure by Irving Stone

This is a book that I have had for a long time. I did start reading it years ago, but never finished it. Time to start again, since this was the book for the Book Challenge by Erin: 5 points - read a book that is at least 200 pages. My pocket version is 579 pages.

Irving Stone is mostly known for his biographical novels, or which A Lust for Life about Vincent van Gogh, and The Agony and the Ecstasy about Michelangelo are his most famous. The Greek Treasure is about Heinrich Schliemann and his Greek wife Sophia and their quest to find the city of Troy and Priam's treasure. It is a fascinating book in many ways. The characters, their goals in life and the pride in their achievements.

Heinrich Schliemann was born in Germany, but had the world as his home. He was a self-made man and made three fortunes in different countries. He spoke many languages and said he could learn a language in six weeks. He was interested in the classics and learned Greek just to be able to read Homer in the original language. Archeology was another interest and he had a dream of finding Troy, and he had his own idea of where it was located.
"'To the questions: "How much time in a Collegiate course of study should be given to the study of languages?" I answer as Charles V justly observed to Francis I: "With every new language one acquires a new life"; for by the knowledge of the language of a foreign country we are able to get acquainted with its literature its manners and customs...'"
In order to pursue his dream he needed a Greek wife. He announced in the papers for a wife with similar interests as his. His friend, the Archbishop of Athens, suggested a relative of his, 17-year-old Sophia Engastromenos. In spite of the age different, Schliemann was 47 at the time, they got along and married. It turned out to be a very successful and happy one. As is seen from a letter extract below (from Henry Schliemann to Sophia on September 6, 1869) Schliemann approaches all parts of his life in quite a practical way.
"... Could you please ask your excellent parents and write to me if it is possible to see you without all those people around, but alone with you, and not once but more often, because I think we are seeing each other to get acquainted, and to see whether our characters can get along together. This is quite impossible in the presence of so many persons. Marriage is the most magnificent of all establishments if it is based on respect, love and virtue. Marriage is the heaviest bondage if it is based on material interests or sexual attraction.
Thank God I am not so crazy that I should go blindly into a second marriage; so if the fashion in Athens does not allow me to see you often alone with your parents, to know you well, then I beg you not to think any longer of me. ..."

Friday, 1 February 2019

Book beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

Back to this, one of my favourite challenges! A book beginning and a quote from page 56. This week's book is a new purchase, a non-fiction book that sounds interesting. It is Prisoners of Geography, The maps that tell you everything you need to know about global politics, by Tim Marshall. From the back cover:
"All leaders are constrained by geography. Their choices are limited by mountains, rivers, seas and concrete. Yes, to follow world events you need to understand people, ideas and movements - but if you don't know geography, you'll never have the full picture."
The book covers the following countries and regions; Russia, China, USA, Western Europe, Africa, The Middle East, India and Pakistan, Korea and Japan, Latin America, The Arctic.

Book beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader
"It has become a truism to think, and to say, that we live in exceptionally unstable times. The world, we are told, has never been more unpredictable. Such statements invite a cautious, even sceptical, response. It is right to be cautious. The world has always been unstable and the future, by definition, unpredictable. Our current worries could certainly be much worse. If nothing else, the centenary of 1914 should have reminded us of that.

The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice
"Taiwan's official name is the Republic of China (ROC) to differentiate it from the People's Republic of China, although both sides believe they should have jurisdiction over both territories."