Monday, 19 April 2021

Classic Club Spin #26



The Classic Club Spin #26 took place yesterday and gave us # 11. For me, that number is Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. Since I do not have that book with me where I am now, I will take the next book on the list, which is The Wings of the Dove by Henry James. A favourite author and a book I wanted to read for some time, so please with that.

I hope you all got an interesting book as your number 11. Enjoy!


Friday, 16 April 2021

Book beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

The Content Reader

It is some time since I posted here on two of my favourite memes or challenges, but now it is time. I recently read W. Somerset Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence which I found wonderful. These memes are hosted by Rose City Reader and Freda's Voice.


Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader

I confess that when First I made acquaintance with Charles Strickland I never for a moment discerned that there was in him anything out of the ordinary.


The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

I had said all I had to say on the subject that had brought me to Paris, and though I felt it din a manner treacherous to Mrs. Strickland not to pursue it, I could not struggle against his indifference. It requires the feminine temperament to repeat the same thing three times with unabated zest. 

Do we discern a little bit of sexism in the last sentence?

A wonderful book, my review under link above. 

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Eleanor Marx by Rachel Holmes

 


I finally got to reading this book, thanks to the challenge The Unread Shelf hosted by Whitney Conard. An excellent challenge how to lower your TBRs and how to sort out what to read. One of the ways to read from your shelves is to take a book according to the monthly theme. The theme for March was - 'A book you bought on a trip'. I bought this book on a trip to London some years ago. I then visited the beautiful Highgate Cemetery where, among others, Karl Marx is buried. I found the book in the little shop at the entrance.

I did not know anything about Eleanor Marx, or much about the Marx family. Marx's ideas I think most are familiar with, even if they have been somewhat distorted through the years. Eleanor was the favourite daughter of Marx and she started helping him with research early on. She only had basic schooling, so she turned into a autodidactic. Highly intelligent she had a interest, not only in politics, but also in literature (she worked also as a translator), culture, theatre, acting and much more.

She had an energy that few could beat. Working hard all her life, and continuing and developing her father's and Jung's ideas about capitalism and society. Helping workers organising unions and being part of the international workers efforts for better working conditions. At one point she wanted to become an actor, and did actually perform on the stage, as well as setting up plays. She translated Madame Bovary into English and was working for introducing Ibsen, a favourite author, in Britain.

She was a modern woman and adapted herself the new ideas about women's right and a lot of her work dealt with "the women question". She lived and worked with, what seems to have been, the love of her life, Edward Aveling without being married. Unfortunately, he turned out to be a womaniser, half crook and cheated on her in many different ways. Warned by friends about his character, Eleanor choose not to listen. In a way it seems typical that an independent and intelligent woman like Eleanor Marx, would go down the same road as many other women have done; to fall in love with the wrong man, and because of this love sacrifice other things. 

"Eleanor was a confirmed atheist and freethinker. If only she'd noticed that unconditional love and the faith it requires are too much like the requirements for believing in an unverifiable god. GBS (George Bernhard Shaw, my comment) saw this clearly and directly in relation to the dynamic between Eleanor and Edward. In 1906 Saw wrote The Doctor's Dilemma, a play exploring the problem of criminal genius and featuring the figure of an unscrupulous artist-philosopher. He used Aveling as one of the models for Louis Dubedat, a gifted moral degenerate loved by a loyal wife (so she believes), Jennifer, based on Tussy." (Eleanor was called Tussy by family and friends. my comment).

Rachel Holmes has written a marvellous biography. I think everything about Eleanor's life and deeds are there. It is thoroughly researched, lots of quotes from letters and papers, to help us form a picture of this incredible lady. There is the background of her father and family, the relationship with Jung, her personal relationships and the influence she had on other people which reached all over Europe, her unbelievable achievements when it comes to the socialist movement and its policies and outcome, her personal interests in literature, translating, theatre just shows what an amazing person she was and so versatile. While reading one cannot help but admire her life's achievements.

"Eleanor assisted Thorne in composing and drafting the rules and constitution of the union. She helped him do the accounts and write the half-year report from March to September 1889, circulated to 30,000 members around the country. In 1939, at the age of eighty, in an interview in the House of Commons, Thorne described Elanor as the most intelligent woman he had ever known, who had an immeasurable influence on his life."

Her life ends in a more somber tone. I will not reveal it her, for those who want to read about her, but there are family secrets coming out in the open, and then there is her death and the aftermaths. 

This biography also gives us a good picture of Europe at the time. It was a time with a lot of developments in many areas of society. Revolutionaries, class difference coming out in the open and a change in society on all levels. Eleanor died in 1898 and just a few years in the future the ongoing changes in Europe, during her time, turned into World War I. 


Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Classic Club Spin #26

 

The time has come for another Classic Club Spin, #26. To join, prepare your list of 20 books before Sunday 18 April, 2021. The book with the number from the spin should be read by 31 May, 2021.

I am still on my first 50 classic book list, but the non-read books do not cover the 20 list, so I am happy to have started on my second list; 51-100, although the list is still not filled with 50 books. I let myself be inspired by your choices and add books as I find them interesting. 

Here is my updated list for the spin.

1. The Master and Margarita by Michail Bulgakov

2. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Carter

3. Daisy Miller by Henry James

4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoj 

6. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence

7. Child Harold by Lord Byron

8. House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

9. The Red and the Black by Stendhal

10. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

11. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

12. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James

13. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence

14. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

15. Moments of being by Virginia Woolf

16. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

17. The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham

18. The Brothers Karamazov by Fjodor Dostoevsky

19. The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier

20. A Writer's Notebook by Somerset Maugham

Some of the books I don't have with me here in Austria. I will not be back in Sweden and my book shelves until preliminary end of May. If one of the books I don't have with me comes up, I will choose the next available book on the list. After all, the main purpose is to read all the books on the list. 


Tuesday, 13 April 2021

The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham

 


I found this book on a flee market or second hand shop. I always wanted to read something by Maugham and I had heard a lot of good things about this one. 

Based on the life of Paul Gauguin, The Moon and Sixpence is W. Somerset Maugham's ode to the powerful forces behind creative genius. Charles Strickland is a staid banker, a man of wealth and privilege. He is also a man possessed of an unquenchable desire to create art. As Strickland pursues his artistic vision, he leaves London for Paris and Tahiti, and in his quest makes sacrifices that leave the lives of those closest to him in tatters. Through Maugham's sympathetic eye, Strickland's tortured and cruel soul becomes a symbol of the blessing and the curse of transcendent artistic genius, and the cost in humans' lives it sometimes demands.

This novel caught me from page one. Maybe it is the times in which it is written, or just the wonderful writing of Maugham. I have another book by him,  A Writer's Notebook which I started many years ago, but have not managed to go through. After having read The Moon... I think it is time to start from the beginning with the notebook.

The story is loosely based on the life of painter Paul Gaugin. Maugham has created a very dynamic and stubborn character in Charles Strickland, and on top of it, most of the time, not a very nice person.

The narrator, a hopeful writer to be, first meets Strickland at Mrs. Strickland's literary saloon in London. It is said Strickland never attends these sessions, have no interest in culture and is a big bore. Not long afterwards, we hear that he has left his wife and children and moved to Paris. Mrs. Strickland asks the narrator to go to Paris and pursued him to come back. It is rumoured that he left with a mistress. 

The narrator do find him and meets up with him. Strickland is more than willing, in his often course manners, to inform everyone that he has not left with a woman, he is living alone and will become an artist, a painter. He is not going back to his old life.

"I glanced at him with surprise. His cordial agreement with all I said cut the ground from under my feet. It made my position complicated, not to say ludicrous. I was prepared to be persuasive, touching, and hortatory, admonitory and expostulating, if need be vituperative even, indignant and sarcastic; but what the devil does a mentor do when the sinner makes no bones about confessing his sin? I had no experience, since my own practice has always been to deny everything."

We follow Strickland for a time in Paris. He is always a recluse but Dirk Stroeve, a Dutch painter manages to keep in contact with him. He thinks Strickland has genius when nobody else believes he can even paint. When Strickland gets very sick, Stroeve and his wife helps him back to life, which leads to disastrous consequences. 

" "You gave up a comfortable home and a life as happy as the average. You were fairly prosperous. You seem to have had a rotten time in Paris. If you had your time over again would you do what you did?" 

"Rather."

"Do you know that you haven't asked anything about your wife and children? Do you never think of them?

"No."

"I wish you weren't so damned monosyllabic. Have you never had a moment's regret for all the unhappiness you caused them?"

His lips broke into a smile, and he shook his head.

"I should have thought sometimes you couldn't help thinking of the past. I don't mean the past of seven or eight years ago, but further back still, when you first met your wife, and loved her, and married her. Don't you remember the joy with which you first took her in your arms?"

"I don't think of the past. The only thing that matters is the everlasting present." "

Some years later, Strickland is headed for Tahiti where he spends the rest of his life. For the first time in his life he feels integrated in the society and with the people around him. He nevertheless, lives as a recluse far out in the wilderness and continues painting.

The story of Gaugin is a fascinating story in itself. I think that Maugham has brought part of Gaugin's life into the character of Strickland and added other parts. Although you don't have any warmer feelings for Strickland through the book, they tend to melt somewhat as we near the end of his life. It is an interesting portrait of a genius. Geniuses tend to live their lives according to their own ideas. Being somewhat above the rest of us. They also tend to have skills that many of us lacks. 

I loved this book. I loved the writings of Maugham and am eager to read more by him. Furthermore, this is a wonderful edition from 1925, with thick pages. Just wonderful to touch and turn the pages. 

Have you read anything by him that you can recommend?  

Friday, 9 April 2021

Searching for Caleb by Anne Tyler


I am a little bit late with this March read for the Anne Tyler project (hosted by Liz Dexter at Adventures in reading, running and working from home), which I finished just the other day. 

Family can be a trying thing, and that is what some of the members of the Peck family feels. They solve the problem by going away. If the other members are lucky, they will know where they are going, if not, like with Caleb, he disappears without a trace. 

"Duncan Peck has a fascination for randomness and is always taking his family on the move. His wife, Justine, is a fortune teller who can't remember the past. Her grandfather, Daniel, longs to find the brother who walked out of his life in 1912, with nothing more than a fiddle in his hand. All three are taking journeys that lead back to the family's deepest roots...to a place where rebellion and acceptance have the haunting power to merge into one..."

Anne Tyler is, once again, looking into the webs of family life. We meet the Peck family who is as close as anyone can be. Almost claustrophobically close. It is fine for most of the family members, which covers four generations. The first Peck (in the 19th century) bought a piece of land, or more like a park, in Baltimore, and built houses for all the family members. As they married and had children, the family increased, but they still managed to fit into the Peck family residences and the unspoken rule on how to behave towards each other and outsiders. Except a few persons who did not like the proximity of the family living.

The grand old man is Daniel, is in his 90s when the novel starts. His brother Caleb disappeared one day in his 20s and was never heard of again. Daniel has tried through the years to find his brother, but without success. 

His grandson Duncan is a restless soul and also leaves the family circle. Although he informs the family, and at the same time marries his cousin Justine (who becomes a fortune teller) and takes her all over the country. After a while in one place, Duncan gets the bug and has to leave for other pastures. Justine, the more social of the two, sighs, but go along. They have a daughter, Meg. The bohemian life of her parents does not find approval with Meg, and she keeps her private space tidy and neat, in contrast to the total chaos in the rest of the house and their lives. 

Duncan's thoughts about his urge to always uproot Justine and Meg.

"Yet it seemed he suffered from some sort of chronic dissatisfaction which came and went like malaria, and the only way to hold it back was to learn more and more new facts, as if continually surprising his mind."

Daniel finds a kindred spirit in Justine and she helps him to go looking for any trace he thinks he has found. Time is running out, and finally Daniel gets a helping hand from his family. As a birthday present they have hired a private detective to help him find his brother. 

It is interesting how Tyler examines the interactions of family life. Characters, as usual, well drawn and either makes you love them or not. The contrast between the family members who are 'stuck' in their old ways, or just adapt to the family views, and the few others who opposes and leave. If you cannot follow the rhythm of the family, it seems there is no other way than to leave the circle. 

I did love this novel by Tyler. Although, I don't agree with hardly any of the characters, it is interesting to stand outside, looking in. The search for Caleb creates a little bit of mystery, and we wonder if Daniel will ever find him. 

SPOILER WARNING:  If you want to read this book, you should stop here. When Caleb finally is found, and we get to see how he has lived his life, we realise that he just is so different from his family. However, some things you have learned early in life do not leave you easily. Caleb is found and disappears again. A short time afterwards Justine and Duncan receives a thank you note from his short stay with them. When you have read the book, you know that every family member has been taught to be polite and send a thank you note after each visit they do, family or no family. This twist of fate, which Tyler seems to enjoy in the end of her novels, is spot on. Maybe she wants to say that you cannot get away from your family ties, however hard you try. 



Thursday, 8 April 2021

Förförelsen (Glahn) by Knut Faldbakken

 

I bought this in a second hand shop, and had never heard about the author. The text on the back cover caught my attention and for that I am happy. This is a gem of a novel. It is the love story between a teenage girl and a mature man. My first thoughts went to Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, but it is a totally different book. The story turns out to be a re-writing of the novel Pan by Knut Hamsun

Thomas Glahn is a man seemingly roaming around without a goal. He meets and old friend, Mack, and his teenage daughter Edvarda. He is totally smitten by her from the first sight. Glahn is drawn into Mack's family life, with its mysterious relationships. Glahn has difficulties interpreting the relationship between Mack and his wife Eva. Although Glahn realises it is best to stay away from the family, it is like a magnet is drawing him in. 

Glahn and Edvarda start a relationship which is not consummated until much later. Both are afraid to commit, and when they do, their commitments come at different times. Jealousy is a constant undercurrent. Although Glahn, at a first glance, seems to be a man rather sure of himself, he is lost in his feelings for Edvarda, and his own sexuality. Always looking for love, without really finding it.

Simultaneously, we understand that Glahn is in therapy. His psychiatrist encourages him to write down his thoughts and actions, and these talks interlopes with the ongoing story. It is only when we reach the end that we realise that things are not what they seem to be.

 I learned, after reading the book, that Knut Faldbakken studied psychology at Oslo University. That is well visible in the construction of the novel, where he goes into the psyche of his characters, primarily Glahn and Mack. The ending, which came as a total surprise to me, gives another dimension to the love story and the actions of the main characters. 

It is a novel to enjoy, partly due to the psychological delusions. However, you don't really realise the scope of the story until you have finished reading. It is not a difficult read, on the contrary. Although given the emotional depths with which it deals, it is a comparably easy read. 

Checking out the connection between Pan and Glahn I found an article by Stefanie von Schnurbein which sounds interesting if you want to venture further into the stories: Failed Seductions: Crises of Masculinity in Knut Hamsun's "Pan" and Knut Faldbakken's "Glahn".  This is where I am heading now. 



Monday, 15 March 2021

Celestial Navigation by Anne Tyler


Liz Dexter at Adventures in reading, running and working from home is hosting The Anne Tyler re-read project 2021. I have really enjoyed the reading so far. If you are interested in earlier reviews please check my blog archive. For March we read Celestial Navigation and Searching for Caleb. 

"Thirty-eight-year-old Jeremy Pauling has never left home. He lives on the top floor of a Baltimore row house where he creates collages of little people snipped from wrapping paper. His elderly mother putters in the rooms below, until her death. And it is then that Jeremy is forced to take in Mary Tell and her child as boarders. Mary is unaware of how much courage it takes Jeremy to look her in the eye. For Jeremy, like one of his paper creations, is fragile and easily torn--especially when he's falling in love..."

Another wonderful story by Anne Tyler. We understand that Jeremy has some kind of mental syndrom and suffers from panic attacks. Tyler's characterisation of his mental state is written with such care, sympathy and above all, so well described that you can easily put yourself in Jeremy's shoes. You suffer with him, admire him when he manages to move outside his own fears and do things he has never done before.

Mary has a troubled life as well, but in another way. Always dependent on a man she makes the decision to be self sufficient. When Jeremy courts her she is not taking it seriously. Mostly, because she is still taken up by the two men who have made an imprint in her life. However, she sympathise with Jeremy and much to her own surprise she accepts his proposal.

They are both, in their own way happy in their relationship, until one day something happens that changes their life forever.

We also meet the other inhabitants of the boarding house where Jeremy lives. Some of them are part of the narration, which gives you an outside view on the relationship between Jeremy and Mary. Anne Tyler is a master of characterisation and does not let you down in this rather tragicomic tale. As usual Tyler's endings come rather abruptly and surprising. I found the ending very sad in this story. But what a story it is. One of her best reads so far in this project.  



Monday, 1 March 2021

The Clock Winder by Anne Tyler

 

Liz Dexter at Adventures in reading, running and working from home invited those interested to dive into the authorship of Anne Tyler with The Anne Tyler re-read project 2021. Two books are scheduled for February; A Slipping Down Life and The Clock Winder

"Mrs. Pamela Emerson lives a lonely new widowhood outside of Baltimore, with only a house full of ticking clocks for company. Then she hires eccentric Elizabeth Abbott as a handyman and both discover that parts don't have to be a perfect match to work."

A story about, what we would call today, a dysfunctional family.  Mrs Emerson has seven children (grownups) that she seldom sees. She dresses elegantly and is keeping up her standards, although she is getting older. She is living her somewhat elegant life in a run-down house. Elizabeth comes along and life is never the same again. 

Elizabeth is a somewhat peculiar character. She stopped her studies, left home and is now roaming rather freely around to find a job. She really loves the work with Mrs Emerson, although they don't seem to get along that well. After a while she gets to know the rest of the family, which starts some unhappy events.

Elizabeth is like a magnet, everyone around here seems to be drawn to her. She becomes the support to the whole family, in different ways. One day something happens and Elizabeth leaves, which upsets the whole family. Without her, they seem to be lost. 

I will not reveal the end here, if you are interested in reading the novel. I like the way Anne Tyler writes, beautiful prose, describing ordinary things in a magic way. I found this novel more complex than her earlier ones. Feelings, actions and the way Elizabeth, Mrs Emerson and her children are interacting. They all seem to have difficulties socialising among themselves.

"'We won't be needing dessert,' Mary told her. 'Now, aren't you an optimist. Have you ever known this family to make it through to the end of a meal?'

'Your mama and Elizabeth always did,' Alvareen said." 

These comments describes the whole setting of the novel. I was wondering why it was called The Clock Winder. Mrs Emerson's house is full of clocks everywhere. They were a hobby of her late husband. Apart from mentioning them at the beginning of the book, they are hardly mentioned again. However, I think the title refers to Elizabeth and her capacity of keeping things going. It is her energy that transforms people around her. She makes them going. 

The ending is somewhat peculiar and abrupt. I do not really know how to interpret it, but it might mean that there is no hope for this family as far as family ties are concerned. 



Thursday, 25 February 2021

The Devil and Miss Prym by Paulo Coelho

"A stranger arrives at the remote village of Viscos, carrying with him a backpack containing a notebook and eleven gold bars. He comes searching for the answer to a question that torments him: Are human beings, in essence, good or evil? In welcoming the mysterious foreigner, the whole village becomes an accomplice to his sophisticated plot, which will forever mark their lives."

It is pure coincidence that I read this book just after reading Barabbas. The two books are not alike, but they both deal with one age old question: that about good and evil. In Barabbas the protagonists  are Jesus and Barabbas. Without doubt we would see Jesus as the good and Barabbas as the evil. In The Devil and Miss Prym the devil comes in the form of a stranger, the evil and goodness in the form of Miss Prym. As we know, some questions are not so simple to answer. The opening is grand as so worthy Paulo Coleho.

"For almost fifteen years, old Berta had spent every day sitting outside her front door. The people of Viscos knew that this was normal behaviour amongst old people: they sit dreaming of the past and of their youth; they look out in a world where they no longer play a part and try to find something to talk to the neighbours about. 

Berta, however, had a reason for being there. And that morning her waiting came to an end when she saw the stranger climbing the steep hill up to the village, heading for its one hotel. He did not look as she had so often imagine he would: his clothes were shabby, he wore his hair unfashionably long, he was unshaven.

And he was accompanied by the Devil."

Miss Prym is interested in the stranger. She is the youngest woman in the village and is hoping to find a man that can take her away from there. Miss Prym is following the stranger the next morning when he walks up the mountains. She makes sure they will meet. On his way down the mountain they meet, as both expected.  The stranger gives her a proposition. In the mountain he has hidden eleven gold bars. One is hers if she tells the village people that they can have the other ten if they kill one of the villagers. All of them will be able to live without thinking of money for the rest of their life. 

”Why are you doing this? Why did you choose my village?” 

”It’s nothing to do with you or with your village. I’m simply thinking of myself; the story of one man is the story fo all men. I need to know if we are good or evil. If we are good, God is just and will forgive me for all I have done, for the harm I wished on those who tried to destroy me, for the wrong decisions I took at key moments, for the proposition I am putting to you now - for He was the one who drove me towards the dark.

”But if we’re evil, the everything i s permitted, I never took a wrong decision, we are all condemned from the start, and it doesn’t matter what we do in this life, for redemption lies beyond either human thought of deed.”

Before Chantal could leave, he added:

”You may decide not to cooperate, in which case, I’ll tell everyone that I gave you the chance to help them, but you refused, and then I’ll put my proposition to them myself. If they do decide to kill someone, you will probably be their chosen victim.”

Miss Prym is chocked over the proposal and fights with her conscience. Should she tell or not? The villagers on their part are full of their own wishes and expectations. Even the priest has his own past and hopes for a glorious future. The stranger has set events in motion and is eagerly awaiting the outcome. 

Elegantly, as ever, Coelho takes us through the philosophical pitfalls while exploring the minds of the village people and Miss Prym's dilemma. It is, as much of Coelho's production, a masterly story. It is a story of dreams, how to fulfil them, and how far we are willing to go. Coelho's stories touches the core of life. 

The ending is somewhat interesting and really open for discussion. Have you read the book? Any views on the ending?


Thursday, 18 February 2021

Barabbas by Pär Lagerkvist



Pär Lagerkvist is a well-known Swedish author. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1951. I have not read anything by him earlier (only a short book on words and its arts, which cannot compare to a novel). During his literary career he dealt with fundamental questions of good and evil, and these questions were dealt with through his various characters. He was a moralist and often used "religious motives and figures from the Christian tradition without following the doctrines of the church." (Wikipedia). Barabbas is one such characters. It is a wonderful novel and I was quite taken by it.

Barabbas is, according to Christian legend, the criminal who was pardoned when Jesus was sentenced to be crucified. Historians doubt whether this person actually existed, but that is for another post. He disappeared from historical sources after the event and nothin much is known about him.

Lagerkvist has used Barabbas to create a tale of the times. Barabbas is astonished that he is freed and an innocent man sentenced. He discreetly follow Jesus through Golgata and sees him dying on the cross. Afterwards he is going back to his old life in Jerusalem. However, the whole event has confused him. Listening to the gossip around town he hears, for the first time, about this Messias and his new, peaceful message to love each other.

Through all his life, Barabbas is biased towards the rev religion. Sometimes he believes and sometimes he doubts. It makes him do good deeds he would never have done otherwise, and he does not know how to interpret his own actions. His life turns out to be hard and troublesome, but all through its different phases Jesus' message is following him through people he encounters.

Reading the novel is like a discussion on morals and ethics. We can recognise ourselves in the doubts we have about, not only religion, but life in general. How do we know we are on the right course? Who says what is roght or wrong? At the end of his life Barabbas finally adhered to the belief. However, life is not that easy, and although he thought he was following the right path, it turned out to be the wrong one.

With Barabbas Lagerkvist has shown us that life is not a straight road to either happiness or salvation. We are week, we might not always be able to follow the right path, or be able to interpret the signs, no matter how much we try. Just like Barabbas we fight with our believes and our actions. It tells us a lot about our lives, even today, and is maybe a help on our journey through life. 

I think Lagerkvist deserves the Nobel Prize just for this one novel and wonderful story on life's struggle. The writing is poetic, although the story is a trouble some one. 


Tuesday, 16 February 2021

A Slipping Down Life by Anne Tyler

 


Liz Dexter at Adventures in reading, running and working from home invited those interested to dive into the authorship of Anne Tyler with The Anne Tyler re-read project 2021. Two books are scheduled for February; A Slipping Down Life and The Clock Winder

"Evie Decker is a shy, slightly plump teenager, lonely and silent. But her quiet life is shattered when she hears the voice of Drumstrings Casey on the radio and becomes instantly attracted to him. She manages to meet him, bursting out of her lonely shell—and into the attentive gaze of the intangible man who becomes all too real…."

Anne Tyler has with Evie Decker created another bigger than life character. A girl different from others, with few friends, good at school, but without any real interests or aim in life. That is, until she gets obsessed with a local rock singer and takes fate into her own hands. Together with her only friend Violet she starts going to concerts at a local restaurant just to hear Casey sing. This leads to her carving his name, backwards, onto her forehead. It gives a short time of local fame and is to change her life forever. 

One thing leads to the next and before both Evie and Casey know it they are married and living together in a small, rented house. Too young, too immature, and no real vision of how their life together will be. In the beginning there are a few glimpses of happiness. However, as Evie develops her mind and visions, Casey is not able to do anything out of his talent. Easy to leave things when they don't turn out the way he wants, he cannot take the responsibility for their marriage. And when Evie confronts him, he attacks by asking Evie why she carved his name onto her forehead. The answer is astonishing.

Once again Anne Tyler is spot on with her characters, her descriptions of people, places and the environment in which her characters live.  Beautifully written and a story that takes you to the core of love and what life is about. 

"Because of the edgeless shimmer of his hair in the sunlight, he seemed only another daydream, nothing to get nervous about. "Afternoon," he said."
...

"He sat on the top porch step, with his forearms resting on his knees. Now that he was in the shade he had lost his shimmer. He was made of solid flesh, damp from the heat. Evie began swinging back and forth very rapidly." 

 

Friday, 12 February 2021

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56.


 

This week's book beginning and page 56 is taken from the biography The Lonely Empress, a biography of Elizabeth of Austria by Joan Haslip. 



Book Beginnings on Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader

"We were eight children and each one of us had our Christmas tree."



The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

"She was even prettier than he remembered and in his enthusiasm he wrote off to his mother, 'I can never thank you enough for having laid the foundations of my happiness', adding, 'every day I love Sisi more and more and am more convinced that no one could be better suited to me'. Seen in her own environment, Elizabeth was at her most enchanting, a gay, excited little girl rather than a future Empress, proudly showing him off in front of her brothers and sisters, all of whom, including Helen, gave him a tumultuous welcome. "

How little did they both know what their marriage and lives would be like?  



Tuesday, 9 February 2021

The Lonely Empress by Joan Haslip

The Lonely Empress is a biography about Elizabeth of Austria. Known as Sisi she has mesmerised a whole world and it was with great anticipation I started to read. I think a lot of people, including myself, have a somewhat romantic image of her, but you realise rather quickly that you are wrong. She is far from a romantic princess, rather the contrary. But let's start from the beginning.

She was one of a big family of siblings in the Wittelsbach family. Growing up rather freely, close to nature and away from binding court protocol, her future life came as a shock to her. Emperor Franz Joseph's mother Sophia and Sisi's mother Ludovica were sisters and planned to marry off the young emperor to the oldest Wittelsbach daughter, Helen. As it happened, Sisi was accompanying her sister to the first meeting with the crown prince, and, as they say, the rest is history. He fell madly in love with Sisi and persuaded his mother to change her mind about who should become his wife. 

"Neither Ludovica nor Sophia seems to have given a thought to the fact that Francis Joseph and Elizabeth were not only first cousins, but that Elizabeth was a child of second cousins, both of them Wittelsbachs - a dangerous inheritance for the heirs to the Austrian throne."

After their first meeting in the spa resort of Bad Ischl Sisi had to go back home. 

"In the most romantic of all Austrian towns they said good-bye, and it seemed as if the Emperor would never tire of kissing Elizabeth's tearstained face. But it was two strangers who said good-bye, two people who as yet knew nothing of one another, and who would only gradually discover the incompatibility of their characters, the divergencies of their tastes. But whereas Francis Joseph's love would be strong enough to survive all the vicissitudes of their married life, Elizabeth's love, fragile and ephemeral as a dream, would fade in the first hour of disillusion." 

The last sentence above more, or less, sums up the character of Elizabeth. She lived in an imaginary dream, suffered from melancholia, was very shy and had physiological problems of various kinds. A little bit of paranoia added to it makes a troubled life.  Although she did love her husband for some years, it slowly disintegrated. "The tragedy for Elizabeth was that she was married to a man with no imagination." Two souls that never really met. Elizabeth had very little empathy and could not even give love to her own children, the exception being her last child Marie Valerie. She was a worried soul which made her travel around Europe for most of her life. Elizabeth and Franz Joseph were married for forty-four years, but it seems they only spend around four years together. Elizabeth went from one place to the next, without finding any peace. She got easily bored and ventured on another trip.

Part of the problem was the Habsburg court which kept the most rigid etiquette in Europe. Strict rules on how to spend the days, both with the family and the court itself. It came as a shock to Elizabeth who had grown up in a rather unruly household. She never took to Vienna and only reluctantly stayed there when she had to for political reasons. She loved Hungary and even learned Hungarian. She took their political course into her heart and this was the only time she engaged in the politics of the Habsburgs and Austria. 

Elizabeth was considered the most beautiful woman of her time. She could be very charming when she wanted to and people fell for her spirit. In a way, it turned out to be her curse. She came to worship her own beauty which took peculiar turns. She spend hours every day to do her hair, she let the maids make face cream out of strawberries and she slept with raw meat on her cheeks, just to keep her beauty. She was a fanatic for exercise and walked hours every day. Her main love seems to have been for horses and she was considered an excellent rider and hunter. She could easily compete with any man on a hunt. Her restless energy made it difficult for most people to keep up with her pace. Afraid of becoming fat she dieted most of her life and sometimes only ate an orange or two during the day. I think today she would have been diagnosed with anorexia. All these factors did not improve her health. 

Elizabeth often talked about how she wanted to die: "I would like to die alone, far from my loved ones, and for death to take me unawares." In this sense, her wish was fulfilled. She was stabbed by an anarchist on the Montblanc quay in Geneva and died soon afterwards. The Habsburg family suffered many losses of loved ones and various accidents during their lives. When Emperor Franz Joseph received the news that the Empress had passed away he said: "'Is nothing to be spared me on this earth?' Count Paar was the only one to hear the harsh and bitter sobs of a broken-hearted man questioning his God. Then raising his head, Francis Joseph looked across at the portrait of the woman he had worshipped but never understood. And speaking to himself, rather than to Count Paar, he said, 'No one will ever know how much I loved her.'"

The biography covers not only Elizabeth but also part of the life of Franz Joseph and the family. The Mayerling drama is here, as well as political events during the latter part of the 19th century.  "The tragedy of Francis Joseph was that he was never prepared to make sacrifices until it was too late." The political upheaval in Europe during the latter part of the 19th century might have needed an Emperor who was more flexible and not so bound to traditions. 

The biography makes for fascinating reading, both on a personal account of the Habsburg family and their, somewhat, doomed heritage. When looking back on the personal lives of Franz Joseph and Sisi, I think Franz Joseph turns out to be the nicer person of the two. His love lasted a life-time and must have caused him a lot of sadness, considering how Sisi spent her life. Sisi on her side, should not have been an Empress. She would probably have been happier in an ordinary marriage, living a simpler life, close to nature. Having said that, she definitely enjoyed the lifestyle of the rich. That is, she was free to choose the lifestyle she wanted. 

Joan Haslip has managed to capture the life of a lost soul and a tragic life. The biography is very well researched and documented and gives an in-depth view of the life of the royals at the time. The difficult balancing between private and official lives, having to adapt to external circumstances. Joan Haslip treats the story with great respect, documenting their lives and showing sympathy to the people she is writing about. An excellent biography. 

(PS I have used the Austrian (and Swedish) spelling of the names of Habsburg and Franz Joseph (except for quotes from the book). It seems in English you can use both b and p for Habsburg and the biography uses p. Franz Joseph is Francis Joseph in English.) 

Monday, 8 February 2021

2 x Anne Tyler

 Liz Dexter at Adventures in reading, running and working from home invited those interested to dive into the authorship of Anne Tyler.  I read several of her books when I was younger and always loved them. The books are chosen according to the order in which they were written. For January that meant If Morning Ever Comes (1964) and The Tin Can Tree (1965)

Already with her two first books, she has found her way of telling a story. The characterisation is there, as well as the environment in which her characters live and work. With a few words, she brings you into the world of her characters and you are stuck. 

If Morning Ever Comes

"Ben Joe is the only boy in a family of six sisters, Mama and Gram. He is studying for a law degree in New York when he hears his eldest sister Joanne has left her husband and returned home with her baby girl. Out of a mixture of homesickness and duty Ben Joe returns to the home in which he has always felt like an outsider."

Coming back after having studied for half a year, makes Ben Joe feel even more like an outsider. When growing up he had certain responsibilities in the family, and now he realises they manage without him. After New York, although missing home, he knows that the small-town mentality is not something he misses. He is upset about his sister leaving her husband, but it seems no-one else does. While the rest of the family takes things as they come and does not pay too much attention to things, Ben Joe tends to linger longer on what is happening. 

"At the doorway he turned to look at them again. He was in one of those faraway moods when everything he saw seemed to be inside a shining gold-fish bowl, and he suddenly saw how closed-off his family looked. They went peacefully on with what they were doing; Ben Joe, having vanished, might as well not exist. When he stepped outside he gave the door an enormous slam, just to make himself exist a minute longer. "

He is a person that seems to always want to be in another place. "Every place I go," he said, "I miss another place." Although he is trying to get away from what this small-town mentality is and the life that is lived there, he seems incapable of breaking with the past. "Behind his own eyelids the future rolled out like a long, deep rug, as real as the past or the present ever was."

The Tin Can Tree

"When young Jamie Pike dies in a tragic accident, she leaves behind a family numbed with grief and torn with guilt and recrimination. In this compassionate and haunting novel Anne Tyler explores how each member of the family learns to face the future in their own way."

The story of the Pike family, Aunt Lou, Uncle Roy and their son Simon, is also a story about their neighbours, all with their own problems. Brothers James and Ansel. James is the provider for his brother Ansel who is ill, anaemic but seems to thrive on his illness. The older Potter sisters, Miss Faye and Miss Lucy and Joan Pike a cousin to Jamie Pike living with the family. Joan is introduced in this way: "Joan Pike was twenty-six years old, and had lived in bedrooms all her life." While the parents are trying to come to terms with their loss, their son Simon is suffering. Joan is trying to do the best for him, as does James. 

The everyday drama plays out over a short time, while all of them have to deal with everyday life, where nothing much happens. But when it does it has consequences. Joan is the one who is mostly contemplating her life and what is in it for her. "They were going to stay this way, she and all the rest of them, not because of anyone else but because it was what they had chosen, what they would keep a strong tight hold of."

Anne Tyler already so early in her career, masters the language and the storytelling. Nothing much is really happening in her books, but still, there is. Her characters and how they behave rings so true, and even if she talks about ordinary things, the beauty of her language stands out, as I think you can see from the quotes above. She brings you into her characters' lives and their feelings, good or bad, are your feelings. The descriptions of towns and people are spot on. A real pleasure to read. 

The two books for February are The Slipping-Down Life and The Clock Winder. I have already read the first one. 



Thursday, 4 February 2021

The BookTube Spin - number 15

The BookTube Spin by Rick MacDonnell on Youtube took place on January 31. The set-up was to choose twenty books from your TBRs and you will have two months to read it. The list of The Content Reader. The Spin number was 15. It guided me to Orlando Figes' book Natasha's Dance, A Cultural History of Russia. It has been on my shelves for a few years so a good book to read. 

Love the beautiful cover. 

Sunday, 31 January 2021

What I read in January 2021


January is at its end. Since I will not be able to finish another book today, here a short summary of what I have read during the month. I have mostly concentrated on the challenges I am following. Wanted to start the new year with a little bit of discipline and finish what I had envisaged. It has worked out very well indeed. 

The Unread Shelf hosted by Whitney Conard is aiming at reading anything on your shelves. She is guiding you through e-mails and thoughts on how to get through your piles. If you are interested to join go to her website. So far I have read two books; The January book was 'A book with high expectations' and I choose In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway. His first short stories concentrating on relationships and man's relation to nature. I was not overenthusiastic but will continue to read two more short story collections; Men Without Women and Winner Take Nothing, before going over to his novels.

From my Top TBR for 2021 I choose  My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman. He has a sharp eye for what is going on in society and it is always a pleasure to read his books. 

Back to the Classics is hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate. I started with number 5 on the list - 'A classic by BIPOC author; that is, a non-white author' and choose The Prophet by Khalil Gibran (1923). Looking at various situations in life the Prophet tells us what is important. It is all beautiful and thoughtworthy. 

The Classic Club Spin in December gave us number 14. My book was C.G. Jung's The relation of the ego to the unconscious. Not entirely easy to read, but rather short. There were some interesting studies though that one could follow - more or less. 

The Anne Tyler re-read project is hosted by Liz Dexter at Adventures in reading, running and working from home. I have loved all books I read by Anne Tyler, and it is not that many, so I decided to join the project. I am happy to say that I managed to read the first two books for January; If Morning Ever Comes (1964) and The Tin Can Tree (1965). I did like them both and a review will follow. 

Apart from challenges and projects I read all the Bridgerton novels by Julia Quinn, starting in December and finishing in January. A nice, relaxed reading with a little bit of romance, to make our present-day dread a little bit easier. Also enjoyed the Netflix TV-series.

Finished two books for my on-line book club; The Past by Tessa Hadley and, for the upcoming meeting, Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell. Two different kinds of books but both enjoyable. The Past about family relations and how they turned out, looking back on childhood memories. I used to read a lot by Ruth Rendell when I was younger. Always excellent and thrilling reading. So is this one about a housekeeper trying to hide a life long secret. 

I don't have a lot of patience with audiobooks. However, I have a few downloaded from an earlier subscription and would like to finish them. I just don't know when to listen and it seems to take forever to finish the books. One I had listened to for quite a while, and which is really good, was The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley. I really wanted to finish it, so downloaded an e-book copy from my library and finished it in an hour. Felt really good. Eager to read also the following books, but I feel I have too much at hand for the time being. 

Since I am now in Austria with my husband, I decided to finally read The Lonely Princess by Joan Haslip. A nonfiction account on the life of Sisi, Empress Elizabeth, married to Emperor Franz Josep. A very interesting account on her life, as well as her families, against a backdrop of the turbulent times at the end of the 19th century. A review will follow. 

That was a summary of my reading for January. A good way to start the year I feel. Let's see how February will turn out. For my challenges, I will read Ernest Hemingway by Carlos Baker, Kristuskvinnan by Stoika Hristova, The Moon and Sixpence by Somerset Maugham, An Ice-cream War by William Blake, The Sibyl by Pär Lagerkvist, and A Slipping Down Life and The Clock Winder by Anne Tyler. At least, that is the plan. 

How are you doing with your reading and possible challenges?




Friday, 29 January 2021

The BookTube Spin

 

Simon at Stuck in a Book has guided me to a youtube channel on books. I do follow some from time to time. I had not heard about Rick's The BookTube Spin, and am still to check it out. Nevertheless, the cause is worthy, read books from your TBR shelves. Choose twenty of them and on 31 January Rick will spin a number and you have two months to read it. 

Seems to go very well with my other challenges this year, aiming at lowering the number of books on my shelves. So here I am, making another list of twenty books. Most of them will probably appear also on other lists. I am a little bit limited since I am now in Austria and my bookshelves are in Sweden. I did prepare though and brought around 35-40 books, so a list of twenty is definitely all right. Here we go.

  1. eleven minutes by Paulo Coelho
  2. Brida by Paulo Coelho
  3. An Ice-Cream War by William Boyd
  4. The Moon and Sixpence by William Somerset Maugham
  5. Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd
  6. Kingdom of Shadows by Barbara Erskine
  7. The Lodger by Charles Nicholl
  8. The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
  9. Ernest Hemingway by Carlos Baker
  10. Eleanor Marx by Rachel Holmes
  11. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  12. The Sibyl by Pär Lagerkvist
  13. Barabbas by Pär Lagerkvist
  14. Through Belgian Eyes by Helen MacEwan
  15. Natasha's Dance, a Cultural History of Russia by Orlando Figes
  16. Plum by Maurice Gee
  17. Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks
  18. The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield
  19. The New Countess by Fay Weldon
  20. Long Live the King by Fay Weldon
A mixture of fiction and nonfiction, long and short books. Looking forward to having someone decide which book I will read. 

Thursday, 28 January 2021

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

 

I have had The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran since 1992 when it was gifted to me. I re-read itbook for the Back to the Classic Challenge.  It goes under the title A classic by BIPOC author. I took more time to read it this time and let me be surrounded by beautiful words and philosophical meanings. 

It is about a prophet who travels from place to place. "We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way, begin no day where we have ended another day; and no sunrise finds us where sunset left us." People are gathering to listen to him and ask him about the essentials of life; Love, Marriage, Children, Giving, Word, Eating and Drinking and so on. Here a few quotes from his preachings.  

Love

"... When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you shield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as
the north wind lays waste the garden."

Work

"... You have been told also that life is darkness,
and in your weariness you echo what was said by the weary.
And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,
And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge.
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love;
And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God."

Pleasure

"And he answered, saying:
Pleasure is a freedom-song,
But it is not freedom.
It is the blossoming of your desires,
But it is not their fruit.
It is a depth calling unto a height,
But it is not the deep not the high.
It is the caged taking wing,
But it is not space encompassed
Ay, in very truth, pleasure is a freedom-song.
And I fain would have you sing it with fullness of heart; yet I would not have you lose your hearts in the singing. 
..." 

A short biography of the poet. "Kahlil Gibran was born in 1882 near Mount Lebanon, a region that has produced many prophets. He was a poet, philosopher and artist and his poetry has been translated into more than twenty languages. His drawings and paintings were compared by Auguste Rodin to the work of William Blake. His other books include The Madman, The Forerunner, The Wanderer and The Broken Wings. Kahlil Gibran died in 1931."

The drawings included in the book are beautiful and have a magic touch.   


 

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Bridgerton by Julia Quinn


Last year I read the first in this series of eight books about the Bridgerton family. It was a pleasant read, especially since I like historical fiction, although I don't read a lot of the very romantic ones. When the new series about the Bridgerton family was announced on Netflix I was keen to see it. There are just too few historical pieces out there. I was not disappointed. Beautifully filmed with grand houses, wonderful clothes, a romantic setting and full of humour.  What more do you need during these difficult times? Something that makes you forget the outside world.

Having seen the series over two evenings, I was eager to read the rest of the books. So perfect these days when you can borrow e-books from the library or just buy them directly. I spent the end of last year and the beginning of this year reading one a day, more or less.

It might be a little bit too much to read all of them in one go. Some things tend to be similar. But I liked that the stories of finding a wife/husband for the siblings were quite different. You also get into most of the characters as they re-appear in several books.

Easygoing reading of Regency romance.  Perfect set of books for leisurely days. If you are interested in historical pieces the series is a must-see. (image from juliaquinn.com)


Tuesday, 12 January 2021

My Grandmother Asks Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman is today a well-known author even outside Sweden. I understand many of you are a fan of his books. Before this book, I had only read the excellent A Man Called Ove, so it was with a little bit of anticipation I started this one.

It is a different story from his first one but has Backman's sharp eye on society and people's behaviour. It is about people who are different and don't 'fit into 'normal' society. I don't know if this is maybe typical Swedish? Everyone has to be like everyone else, you should not stick out. Honestly, I think this might not be so typical in the Sweden of today, but definitely was when I grew up. 

Elsa is an almost eight-year-old girl who is mobbed in school. Her only friend is her grandmother who supports and care about her. To help her she creates a fairy-tale country; The Country-Almost-Awake. There everything is different, meaning no one needs to be normal. 

Then her grandmother dies and leaves Elsa alone. However, she has left a treasure trail of letters for her to deliver to persons in her house. They all have a common theme; she says that she is sorry for what she has done. The grandmother is a woman who lived her life as it came. However, she dedicated it to save people. She's a doctor and travelled all over the world, wherever there was a crisis she was there. Being there for strangers who needed her, meant she was not there for her own family. Is it worth the price saving lives of people you do not know and not being there for your family and the people you love?

The make-believe world of the grandmother and Elsa contains monsters, fighting dogs, drunks, knights and dragons and the typical inhabitant of fairy-tales. As she gets to know them better and analysing the stories her grandmother told her, she realises that all is not a fairy-tale, these people also live nearby her. in different disguises.  

It is quite a complex story that Backman is telling us. It feels somewhat long at parts but comes together beautifully in the end. As always he gives you a lot of things to think of when it comes to life, how we interact with our fellow beings and just the way things are. It is full of humour and sadness and lets us think there is hope in the end. 


Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Reading statistics 2020

Another year has begone and it is time to have a look at last year's reading. It was a good year for me. Maybe not difficult considering the times and the time available for reading. I ended up at 107 books. It meant I managed to achieve my aim of 100 books at Goodreads. 

I have divided the genres between Fiction, Nonfiction, Mystery/Thrillers and Classics. The outcome is quite even between the genres with a slightly higher number for fictional books, which is normal. 


Fiction                      38

Nonfiction                 29

Mystery/Thrillers       23

Classics                    17


Favourite books within each genre

My three favourite books within each genre.

Fiction

Carlos Ruiz Zafón - The Prisoner of Heaven and The Labyrint of the Sprits (cheating here but they are both the 2nd and 3rd in a series so I treat them as one, so I can add another two)

Gail Honeyman - Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Delia Owens - Where the Crawdads Sing


Nonfiction

Elizabeth Lev - The Tigress of Forli (Renaissance Italy's most courageous and notorious countess

Karin Tegenborg Falkhagen - Svenska drottningar (Swedish Queens)

Tilman Lahme - Familjen Mann (Die Manns, The Mann Family)


Mystery Thrillers

Jane Harper - The Dry

Jo Nesbo - The Leopard

Alexander Söderberg - The Andalucian Friend (and the two following books The Other Son and The Good Wolf)


Classics

Dante - Purgatory (from the Divine Comedy)

Philip Larkin - The Whitsun Wedding (poetry)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - The Speckled Band


Twelve favourite books this year


That was a few highlights from my reading year. I enjoyed most of the books, but there are always a few rising above the rest. I was not aware but like the evenness between the genres. Now it is time to start a new reading year. I have opted for another 100 on Goodreads. I hope most of them will be from my own shelves. 


Sunday, 3 January 2021

Challenges, outcome of 2020

 


I enrolled in a few Challenges during 2020 and here is the outcome.

Nonfiction November

I read five books this month. Two about painter Johannes Vermeer, one about Jenny Lind, famous opera singer called The Nightingale, one about Eels, very interesting and one about literature. All were interesting in their own ways. 

1. Litteraturorientering (Educational book on Literature)
2. Ålevangeliet (The Gospel of Eels) by Patrik Svensson
3. Näktergalen (The Nightingale, biography of Jenny Lind) by Ingela Tägil
4. Vermeer's Little Street by Frans Gruzenhout
5. A View of Delft, Vermeer then and now by Anthony Bailey

Mount TBR  Challenge

Hosted by Bev at My Reader's Block.  I almost made it up Mt Ararat (48 books) but ended at 43 a little bit below the top. 

1. Gustaf Fröding by Staffan Bergsten
2. Presumption of Death by Perri O'Shaughnessy
3. The Letter by Kathryn Hughes
4. The Leopard by Jo Nesbo
5. The Whitsun Wedding by Philip Larkin 
6. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman 
7. The Newton Letter by John Banville
8. Tiggaren (The Beggar) by Sara Sarenbrant
9. The Book of Secrets by Tom Harper
10. Drömmarnas vals (Die Strauß-Dynastie) by Peter Prange 
11. The Andalusian Friend by Alexander Söderberg  
12. Bokhandeln på Riverside Drive by Frida Skybäck 
13. Morning in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa 
14. The Divine Comedy - Hell by Dante 
15. Vågspel (Venture) by Ann Rosman 
16. Axel Oxenstierna, part I by Gunnar Wetterberg 
17. Välkommen till Amerika by Linda Boström Knausgård 
18. before we met by Lucie Whitehouse 
19. Laterna Magica by Ingmar Bergman 
20. Nattens historia by Gunnar Broberg
21. A Scandal in Bohemia by Arthur Conan Doyle 
22. The Red-Headed League by Arthur Conan Doyle 
23. Five Orange Pips by Arthur Conan Doyle 
24. The Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle 
25. The Manns by Tilmann Lahme 
26. The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle 
27. The Beryl Coronet by Arthur Conan Doyle 
28. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle 
29. The Mangle Street Murders by M.R.C. Kasasian 
30. Medicinhistoriska promenader by Magnus Carlsson 
31. Längtan visar vägen by Patricia Tudor-Sandahl 
32. The Divine Comedy - Purgatory by Dante
33. The Divine Comedy - Paradise by Dante
34. The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay
35. Contemplating Adultery by Lotte and Joseph Hamburger
36. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
37. Hummelhonung by Torgny Lindgren
38. Dorés bibel by Torgny Lindgren
39. Pölsan by Torgny Lindgren
40. Ingen mans land by Jan Guillou
41. Jaget och det omedvetna (Die Beziehungen zwischen den Ich und dem Unbewussten) by C.G. Jung
42. Min salig bror Jean Hendrich by Carina Burman
43. Sophie Brahe by Monica & Lennart Hultqvist

European Reading Challenge

Hosted by Rose City Reader. The top is five-star deluxe entourage and I made it to 11 different European authors, of which I am rather proud. It is always interesting to read authors from different countries, outside the English speaking world from which most books come that I read. 

1. The Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood by Jan Marsh (UK)
2. 120, Rue de la Gare by Léo Malet (FR)
3. The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (ES)
4. A Sorrow Beyond Dreams: A Life Story by Peter Handke (AUT)
5. Don't Look Back by Karin Fossum (NO)
6. Pennskaftet by Elin Wägner (SE)
7. The Newton Letter by John Banville (IRE)
8. Die Strauß-Dynastie by Peter Prange (DE)
9. The Divine Comedy - Hell by Dante (IT)
10. Den stora matchen (Einvígið (The Duel) by Arnaldur Indridason (ICE)
11. Vermeer's Little Street by Frans Gruzenhout (NL)

Read 52 books in 52 weeks

Another favourite challenge hosted by Robin of my two blessings.  I read a book each week except for three weeks. 

Read from my own shelves

From April I started a challenge on my own. To read at least 7 books from my shelves each month. Some months I read more, some less. In the end, I ended up on -3. I am rather pleased nevertheless. 

2021 Reading Challenges

Another year is ahead and this year I have enrolled in four challenges, all of which are aimed at lowering the number of books on my shelves. The challenges are:

The Unread Shelf hosted by Whitney Conard
Back to the Classics hosted by Books and Chocolate
Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas Into A Good Book
Alphabet Soup Author Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas Into A Good Book

I wish you all a good reading year and a lot of interesting challenges.