I admired him more than anyone but I didn’t wish him well. It was that I preferred him to me and wanted to be him.
This book has a bit of everything for everyone. As well as conjuring up the traditions of generations against a backdrop of the beautiful Lake District, there is a strong human element, unexpected happenings and the perfect balance of detail and technical talk to keep both those with prior knowledge and those without a clue hooked throughout. It should be read by farmers, walkers, lovers of the British countryside and ancient traditions, anyone who has ever knitted or eaten lamb or even refused to eat lamb. Basically everyone, get you this book. There is also an illustrated version jam-packed with photographs that looks stunning or you can check out his instagram account full of sheepish goings on.
This was an intriguing read, falling somewhere between beach fodder and thriller. The characters and writing are simple enough to imply a quick read and enough twists and turns to keep it absorbing yet there was something unsettling about it. Continue reading “The hundred year house – Rebecca Makkai”
Wandering through the cobbled streets of Rye in the sunshine is a quick introduction to all that is quintessentially British; Tudor and Georgian architecture, an abundance of churches and good pubs, forts and cannons, silly house names and plenty of fish and chips. We were lucky enough to catch both the sun and the blossom out and it was even warm enough for an icecream on a bench overlooking the marshes. My favourite find was the Tiny Bookstore, tucked away behind the church, which is brimming with beautiful old books, from leather bound books to classic penguins.
There is no doubt that Fitzgerald has a wonderful way of laying words on the page. The first few pages of this book are sheer eloquence. This excerpt perfectly captures that delightful happy wriggle of getting into cool water on a hot day:
Rosemary laid her face on the water and swam a choppy little four-beat crawl out to the raft. The water reached up for her, pulled her down tenderly out of the heat, seeped in her hair and ran into the corners of her body. She turned round and round in it, embracing it, wallowing in it.
It’s not that the rest of the book is any less eloquent, only that I find the poetic
summations a bit wearisome after a while. It takes me longer to work out what is actually going on and feels a bit like wading through mud and poking around with a big stick, trying to find the point. I, shockingly, felt the same about ‘The Great Gatsby’. Continue reading “Tender is the night – F. Scott Fitzgerald “
The sulky, sarky and irreverent Edgar narrates from beyond the grave as his father investigates his death. Edgar holds that common youthful belief that he knows better than anyone else and feels noone understands him or his potential while never seeming to really understand others himself. Knowing nothing about its context or the GDR in the 1970s, I read this as an amusing, confusing ‘trials and tribulations of an aspiring artist’ that was quite stark and just a bit odd. It felt as if the book was probably being very clever in a way I couldn’t quite understand. And it was. It turns out that the tale was a remodelling of Goethe’s ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’, written a century before, and the original is repeatedly referred to and even plays a starring role as a nameless High German book that Edgar finds and keeps quoting from. Overall, it seems a quirky quick read that made me go find out a bit more about East Germany.
This quote is not typical of the slang heavy style but I loved the sentiment.
All the books suddenly looked like they were constantly being read by someone. You suddenly wanted to go and plop yourself down somewhere and read them all one after the other.
From: the local library
Read: February 2016
Felt: a general wry sense of amusement but slightly unsure of what exactly was going on. I think it could make quite a good play with a really bare set and a lot of ‘pretend this box is a boat’ involved.
Liked: Edgar’s grudging admiration of Zaremba – probably the most real and likable of all the characters.
Would recommend: if you happen across it. Don’t rush out to find it but if you stumble across it and you’ve a long train journey ahead then go for it. Or if you have any interest or understanding of Germany in the 1970s.
A huge thank you to Brontë’s page turners for finding this blog interesting enough to nominate among so many great book blogs. Your blog is so beautifully written and the series of reviews for International Women’s Day was inspiring and left my TBR list bulging.
I love that these nominations allow us to let other bloggers know how enjoyable their posts are – there is something so exciting about stumbling across someone reading a book I adored or have only just put down – and the questions allow us to find out a little more about the person behind the screen; reading around, there have been some interesting questions and hilarious responses!
Book blogs seem to form the best bookclub in the world; one where you get to choose the books, read them at your own pace and discuss them with people whose opinions often resonate, reflect your own or encourage you to rethink – without the struggle of finding a mutually available Thursday or having to reread Middlemarch when you’d really rather not. The whole process of reading is much more enjoyable when it doesn’t end when the book is finished – so here’s cheers to everyone who has read and indulged me in my musings and to everyone who shares their love of books and their thoughts on them online.
A French patisserie with Scandinavian decor with friendly staff, varied selection of teas and an open kitchen that fills the café with the smell of fresh baking. There are examples of their beautiful wedding cakes on show and the whole place channels the Dutch concept of ‘gezelligheid’ – one of those wonderfully untranslatable words of which the closest, yet still inadequate, English equivalent is an atmosphere of contented coziness of a place or gathering. Visiting feels like a real indulgence even before you start on the cake, and it’s always nice to find somewhere that doesn’t mind you taking up residence in a corner for a good few hours with a book.
Sat reading Terry Pratchett who needs no introduction or review. His books are comic genius (for those who appreciate the wry ridiculousness of very British humour – which should be just about everyone). He left an amazing legacy, as well as a huge void, when he passed away last year.
A brief history of modern France as viewed and experienced by a fictional frenchman. Having bought this after falling for the cover, which is not just beautiful but soft enough to make the physical process of reading really enjoyable, it was nice to find it contained a punchy and engaging story. It was very frank and there were a lot of gritty or unpleasant moments (and characters) but it still managed to be charming. It reads like an autobiography rather than a work of fiction and includes a lot of reference to contempary events in France in each time period. It still worked in translation but probably has another layer of meaning to those with a better knowledge of the country and its history. It was interesting to see the ripples these political and national events caused in the private lives of the characters. If you dont mind unlikable characters and a lot of talk of sex, Dubois has turned an apparently unremarkable life into an interesting and thought-provoking read.
The wonderful wry tone of the narrator allows him to laugh at himself and everyone he meets while still expressing a great fondness for life.
On his childhood behaviour
The child is father to the man
On his boss
Spiridon became giddy from his adorably effervescent little sin of pride
And finally, a great quote from the Marquise de Montespen – Mistress of Louis XIV
The grandeur of a destiny arises as much from what one refuses as from what one gains
From: The French Embassy in New York. Really. Walking along the side of central park, coming out of Café Sabarsky and heading for the Frick, I stumbled across a sign saying French and English books for sale. This felt the most magical place, hidden past a beautiful marble entrance hall. I ended up buying this book in both English and French (not as pretty but a compact little thing that seems to be a standard in French publishing), an even smaller book of Rudyard Kipling’s work in French and a canvas bag with Jules Verne quotations. The French bookseller’s enthusiasm for this particular book was encouraging too!
Read: Nov 2015 in Seville over breakfast on the roof terrace.
Felt: like I was listening to someone reminiscing on their life over a bottle of red wine.
Liked: The honesty and realism with just a touch of the bizarre. The tree photography concept was also mesmerising.
Would recommend: to anyone wanting to learn more about France or French life, or to those who like life stories and books that are more than fluffy niceties.
This is an extremely well written book on a difficult topic. Challenging the stereotyping and scaremongering that always surface around cultural or religious rifts, Hamid manages to keep the story engaging and even pleasant to read. The unusual conversational styling is well constructed and avoids being clunky or distracting. The language was beautiful and pitched just right to create the warm tone of an educated man, from a land with a proud tradition of poetry and storytelling, recollecting a series of events ranging from perplexing to incomprehensible. The narrator was not lovable or good but very human and understandable, a real and relatable person refusing to be wholly defined by their labels or circumstances. A brilliantly observant book that can be read and read into as much as you wish. If only it were less, rather than far more, poignant today than when it was written.
For a more detailed plot review head to the wonderfully written post by Miss quickly at the blue bore which inspired me to dig these thoughts out the archive.
It is not always possible to restore one’s boundaries after they have been blurred and made permeable by a relationship: try as we might, we cannot reconstitute ourselves as the autonomous beings we previously imagined ourselves to be. Something of us is now outside, and something of the outside is now within us.
From: the depths of the TBR shelf, origin unknown.
Read: April 2015 as my ‘it’s ok, I’m early’ backup book. I have never been so punctual as the week I was reading this!
Felt: like I was sat with them in the cafe, and ashamed of how familiar and common all those acts of prejudice were.
Liked: the clever construct and seamless switching between the past and present.
Would recommend: to everyone. Would read again someday.