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