rachbxl 2023

KeskusteluClub Read 2023

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rachbxl 2023

tammikuu 2, 10:35 am

In a triumph of hope over experience, I’m back. I was entirely absent from LT for the second half of last year (not that I was particularly present during the first half), but I didn’t stop reading - far from it. Reading was my refuge during a very difficult year; I just didn’t have time to post about it here, and, for the first time in 30 years, I didn’t even make a list of what I read. Off the top of my head, I would say that my favourite book of 2022 was L’Arminuta by Donatella di Pietrantonio (A Girl Returned), and Intimacies by Katie Kitamura gets a special mention.

I’m not a planner when it comes to reading, and I have no goals. I just want to enjoy my reading, and, I hope, be a bit more present here in this lovely community which has given me so much over the years.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 27, 3:25 am

Read in 2023:

1. The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (fiction, Canada, 2012)
2. Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman (fiction, USA, 2020)
3. The Women of Troy by Pat Barker (fiction, UK, 2021)
4. Asylum Road by Olivia Sudjic (fiction, UK, 2021)
5. Foster by Claire Keegan (fiction, Ireland, 2010)
6. April in Spain by John Banville (fiction, Ireland, 2021)
7. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (USA, 1963)
8. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes (UK, fiction, 2019)
9. Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths (non-fiction, 2020)
10. The World's Wife by Carol Ann Duffy (poetry, UK, 1999)
11. Cutting Edge: New Stories of Mystery and Crime by Women Writers edited by Joyce Carol Oates (anthology, short stories, 2019)
12. Peace Talks by Tim Finch (fiction, UK, 2020)
13. Friend of my Youth by Alice Munro (fiction, short stories, Canada, 1990)
14. Best of Friends by Kamila Shamsie (fiction, Pakistan, 2022)
15. Exiles by Jane Harper (fiction, Australia, 2022)
16. Claire of the Sea Light by Edwige Danticat (fiction, Haiti, 2013)
17. Love Marriage by Monica Ali (fiction, UK, 2022)
18. Old Babes in the Wood by Margaret Atwood (fiction, short stories, Canada, 2023)
19. Galatea by Madeline Miller (fiction, USA, 2013)
20. Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur (non-fiction, memoir, USA, 2019)
21. Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King (fiction, short stories, USA, 2021)
22. Girl A by Abigail Dean (fiction, UK, 2021)
23. Assembly by Natasha Brown (fiction, UK, 2021)
24. Bleeding Heart Yard by Ellie Griffiths (fiction, UK, 2022)
25. Queen K by Sarah Thomas (fiction, UK, 2023)
26. The Love of my Life by Rosie Walsh (fiction, UK, 2022)
27. Dissident Club: chronique d'un journaliste pakistanais exilé en France by Taha Siddiqui and Hubert Maury (non-fiction, memoir, graphic novel, Pakistan, 2023)
28. Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski (fiction, Poland, 2020)
29. Trespassing by Louise Kennedy (fiction, UK (NI), 2022)
30. Reste by Adeline Dieudonné (fiction, Belgium, in French, 2022)
31. Bodas de sangre by Federico Garcia Lorca (fiction, play, Spain, in Spanish, 1933)
32. L'autre fille by Annie Ernaux (non-fiction, memoir, France, in French, 2011)
33. So Sorry for your Loss by Dina Gachman (non-fiction, USA, 2023)
34. La nuit des pères by Gaelle Josse (fiction, France, 2023)
35. When I Sing, Mountains Dance by Irene Solà (fiction, Spain, translation (Catalan), 2019)
36. Ils ont surgi de la nuit by Elise Karlin (non-fiction, France, in French, 2023)

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 6, 8:15 am

An attempt to reconstruct my 2022 reading:

1. The Final Murder by Anne Holt (Norway, translation)
2. Death in Oslo by Anne Holt (Norway, translation)
3. Fear Not by Anne Holt (Norway, translation)
4. What Dark Clouds Hide by Anne Holt (Norway, translation)
5. Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church by Tracy Rees (UK)
6. A Quiet Life by Natasha Walter (UK)

This is as far as my records got last year. So now, piecing it together from here and there and no doubt forgetting some, here is an idea of what I read for the rest of the year, in no particular order:

7. Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh (India)
8. The New Wilderness by Diane Cook (USA)
9. How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu (USA)
10. Intimacies by Katie Kitamura (USA)
11. French Braid by Anne Tyler (USA)
12. The Maidens by Alex Michaelides (Cyrpus/UK)
13. Sea of Tranquililty by Emily St. John Mandel (Canada)
14. Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy (Australia)
15. The Less Dead by Denise Mina (UK)
16. The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths (UK)
17. One of the Girls by Lucy Clarke (UK)
18. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (UK)
19. The Maid by Nita Prose (Canada)
20. The Man Who Died Twice: a Thursday Murder Club Mystery (UK)
21. The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller (USA)
22. L'Arminuta by Donatella di Pietrantonio (Italy, in Italian)
23. A Beginner's Guide to Murder by Rosalind Stopps (UK)
24. The Hangman by Louise Penny (Canada)
25. Fire in the Stars by Barbara Fradkin (Canada)
26. Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason (Australia)
27. Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler (USA)
28. The Bullet that Missed by Richard Osman (UK)
28. an Australian novel with one of those of-the-moment "abstract noun and abstract noun" titles (Sorrow and Bliss, for example)

To take stock: not a huge number of books read, but I don't mind that. What I did mind was that I felt that I was stuck in a contemporary fiction rut and ended up reading lots of ok but entirely forgettable novels, like existing on a diet, not of junk food, not that bad, but of food that's lacking in nourishment and variety - ok for a short spell, but not enough in the long run. I put this list together largely on the basis of the list of e-books borrowed from the library, and I'm shocked by how many of them I have no recollection of at all.
I read no non-fiction and only 1 book not in English, which is bad even by my low standards. That one book in Italian, though (L'Arminuta by Donatella di Pietrantonio (A Girl Returned), was hands-down my favourite of the year. I also particularly enjoyed Katie Kitamura's Intimacies, and I was pleased to discover, at last, the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths, which I will certainly continue with, and, for pure enjoyment, the Thursday Murder Club series.

I'm hoping for more variety and rather more substance in 2023, but ultimately, I'm just pleased to have kept on reading right through a challenging year.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 19, 7:57 am

I decided I didn’t need a ‘reading now’ post so I’ve moved ‘read in 2023’ up to >2 rachbxl:.

tammikuu 2, 3:25 pm

Hi Rachel - happy new year! Let's hope 2023 is much better than 2022.

I'm so glad you have started a thread, even though I know that you are going to be very bad for adding to my TBR pile. And I hope you do manage to reconstruct your 2022 reading, or the best bits of it.

tammikuu 2, 3:27 pm

Glad to see you here! I hope 2023 is a much better year for you.

tammikuu 2, 5:26 pm

Welcome back, I hope 2023 is a better year for you! (It is somewhat selfish wish as I always enjoy following your reading -- interesting books chosen and good reviews written.)

tammikuu 2, 6:40 pm

So good to see you back, even if you just mention what you're reading, I'm sure there will be lots of inspiration.

tammikuu 2, 8:29 pm

Welcome back, Rachel. Take care of you, and Club Read will always be here when you have the time and inclination.

tammikuu 2, 8:35 pm

Great to see you hear again. I was just thinking of a quirky title for my thread, and then I saw your clean, minimalist title and I think I'll follow you.

tammikuu 3, 12:13 pm

>5 cushlareads: I’ve on leave this week and one of my (many) projects is to sit down and try to put together a list of what I read last year, though I don’t think I’ll be able to remember everything. I’ll post at least some if it here.

>6 japaul22:, >7 ELiz_M:, >8 SassyLassy:, >9 labfs39: Thanks! I’m glad to see you all have threads too.

>10 Nickelini: Funny - I noticed your clean, minimalist title (though you’ve added an extra word ;-) ) when I posted on your thread, but as I hadn’t read this, I didn’t realise I was your inspiration. Having spent a good while casting around in vain for a snappy title, I decided that having a thread at all was more important than what it was called!

tammikuu 4, 8:35 am

Happy New Year, Rachel. Glad you’re posting again. And glad you we’re still reading a lot when you weren’t posting last year.

tammikuu 4, 9:23 am

Happy new year, Rachel. Thanks so much for stopping by at my thread.
You're further along than I am with the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. But you just reminded me that I should read another book in this series.
Happy reading 2023.

tammikuu 5, 4:34 am

>12 dchaikin: Thanks, Dan.

>13 Ameise1: Thanks for the return visit! I usually find myself reading an Inspector Gamache book at this time of year because they fit the bill for cozy reads by the fire perfectly. Then because I enjoy it I’ll go on to the next, which I won’t get far with because it’s too much of a good thing. And that will be it till next time I need a cozy book to curl up with. Actually I found this one a little disappointing (I’ll post my comments shortly) so will not start the next one right way, although I’m sure I’ll read it at some point.

tammikuu 5, 5:54 am

Hello Rachel, I'm glad you've set up a thread for this year.
I hope 2023 will be more gentle on you than 2022 and that you'll have the time and space of mind to enjoy reading and lots of other great things.

tammikuu 5, 5:51 pm

Good to see you back! Happy reading.

tammikuu 6, 4:33 am

tammikuu 6, 5:04 am

My first book of the year:

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

I am a fan of this series, although I pace myself very carefully and read only around one per year as I find that the charm wears off in large doses. As long as I space them out, I love them - until now. This one, whilst enjoyable enough, didn’t hit the sweet spot for me. Apart from the first chapter or so it’s set entirely in an isolated Gilbertine monastery in Quebec (the choirmaster has been murdered) to which no visitors have ever previously been admitted. An interesting setting, then, and Penny as usual creates a strong sense of place (I can see the monastery in my mind’s eye as I write), but for me this huis clos is the novel’s downfall too - there’s not enough going on. I found myself skimming over entire paragraphs because they felt like padding. Of course, the extraneous detail (a.k.a. padding) is a large part of the charm in the other novels in the series so far, but the monks with their cloistered lives provide much less fodder for fascinating asides than do the inhabitants of Three Pines (they don’t eat as well, either) so it got rather repetitive. There is also a lot of obvious character development for Gamache and Beauvoir which sometimes felt rather forced; I wonder if this novel is perhaps something of a necessary stepping stone in order to get us to where Penny wants to go next with the series.

I don’t regret reading it, and I will no doubt continue with the series, but I feel a bit cheated out of my annual (more or less) date with Gamache.

tammikuu 6, 5:42 am

Welcome back Rachel, good to see you here. Best wishes for the year ahead!

tammikuu 6, 8:16 am

>19 wandering_star: I was thinking I hadn't seen you around yet! Have you got a thread? Best wishes for the coming year to you too.

tammikuu 6, 8:17 am

For anyone interested (but mainly for myself), I've put together a no-doubt incomplete list of what I read last year; it's in >3 rachbxl:

tammikuu 6, 8:18 am

>18 rachbxl: I must have liked that one more than you did, as I rated it 4 stars back in 2017. It's been a long while, but from what I remember, I think you're right about the character development being necessary to get their relationship to where Penny needed it for the next book.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 6, 8:44 am

I loved both Migrations and How High We Go in the Dark. I've been eyeing Intimacies for a while.

Doesn't look like an bad reading year.

tammikuu 6, 10:39 am

>3 rachbxl: It seems like Ghosh is focusing more on climate change these days in his writing. Gun Island is from 2019, and I picked up The Nutmeg's Curse, essays published 2021. I think I liked his historical fiction better.

tammikuu 6, 7:16 pm

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 7, 2:27 pm

>1 rachbxl: So glad you are BACK! Happy New Year!

I have the lastest Anne Holt (Selma Falck series ) coming my way

tammikuu 7, 4:46 pm

>18 rachbxl: Hi Rachel. I just stopped by to star your thread, and saw your comments about The Beautiful Mystery. It’s interesting, my daughter was reading this one over the Christmas break, and as much as she loves the series, she wasn’t loving this one. I read it so long ago that I don’t really remember it at all. I still love the series, and just finished listening to the newest one.

tammikuu 8, 4:17 pm

Good to see you back, Rachel. It can be hard to keep up with LT at times - hope this is a better year for you.

tammikuu 9, 5:16 am

>22 Julie_in_the_Library: Ah, that's good to know. I will definitely persist with the series in that case.

>23 ELiz_M: No, it doesn't look like a bad reading year on paper, but I didn't really enjoy much of what I read. I really disliked How High We Go in the Dark, though I can't remember much about it now, and Migrations was one of the many books last year I liked well enough whilst reading but which immediately became forgettable. I suppose in-the-moment satisfaction and entertainment is also a function of literature, though, so it's not all bad.

>24 labfs39: Yes, it was Ghosh, or rather an article of his in the Guardian in response to Ghosh expressing surprise at the dearth of climate change fiction, which set me off on a climate change fiction binge about 18 months ago (I can't find the article, but to be fair it's a couple of years old now and things have moved on). I've certainly over-dosed on it now, which is perhaps one reason that I didn't really enjoy Gun Island all that much, delighted as I was to meet some of the protagonists from The Hungry Tide (which I loved) again all these years later.

>26 avaland: Thanks, Lois. I do hope you'll be more mobile soon. Annie Holt is someone I want to read more of; I was impressed with what I read at the start of last year.

>27 NanaCC: Hi Colleen! Interesting that your daughter's reaction was similar to mine. I always think of you when I read an Inspector Gamache novel!

>28 AlisonY: Thanks, Alison. I was completely overwhelmed by work for much of last year, but in theory things should be better this year so I'm hoping for a bit more LT time.

tammikuu 10, 4:03 pm

>3 rachbxl: >23 ELiz_M: Like Liz, I really loved How We Go in the Dark--one of my top reads last year. (I also liked Sea of Tranquility). On the other hand, of your other reads I hated The Maid. And I have Migrations on my Kindle but haven't gotten to it yet.

tammikuu 13, 2:42 am

>30 arubabookwoman: I think I should have put How High We Go in the Dark aside and picked it up some other time, but it was a library book so I persisted. Or maybe I was always going to hate it, who knows? I have to say that I didn’t much enjoy The Maid either. It wasn’t the best year for me for reading!

tammikuu 13, 3:10 am

Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman

Until a few days ago I hadn’t heard of Laura Zigman, but her new novel Small Islands came up in an article I read listing eagerly-awaited new releases. Separation Anxiety was available at the library, and when I saw that it has a 50-year old female narrator/protagonist, I couldn’t resist.

Judy’s life isn’t working out as she expected. She wrote a best-selling children’s book years ago but success has eluded her since then, and she now ekes out a living writing superficial short texts for a wellness website. Her marriage is over but she and her husband can’t even afford to live separately. Her teenage son barely needs her and she misses the child he was. Her parents both died recently, and her best friend is dying of cancer. She’s sinking under it all, and then one day, clearing out the basement, she finds an old baby-sling. She puts it on…and puts the dog in it. Unexpectedly, wearing the dog brings her great comfort, and before she knows it she can’t function without it. This first part of the book was brilliant - funny, tender, unbearably poignant, and all too believable. I found that the rest, whilst still very readable, didn’t live up to it, as if Zigman didn’t quite trust her original story so added various other sub-plots, resulting in it being all over the place. It became a bit madcap, whereas I liked the realism of the first third or so; I can see how someone could find comfort in wearing a little dog (and Zigman nicely exploits the comic potential there (dog-in-sling at a school event, for example) without over-doing it), but much of what comes later pushed the bounds of credulity too far for me. I’ll read more Zigman though, because when it was good it was very good.

tammikuu 13, 3:22 am

The Women of Troy by Pat Barker

Glorious, every bit as good as The Silence of the Girls. I’m a sucker for these re-tellings from a female point of view (not just Pat Barker), and I love how Barker breathes new life into these stories and makes them feel so modern and relevant. The Women of Troy is narrated mainly by Briseis, once the wife of a Trojan prince, then the concubine (war prize) of Achilles (whose child she is carrying), before being given by Achilles before his death to Alcimus in marriage. It covers the period after the fall of Troy, when the Greeks, impatient to return home after years of war, are unable to set sail for months on end because of the wind, and is set entirely in the Greek camp, seen from the perspective of the women. Highly enjoyable in itself, but it also led me down some enjoyable rabbit holes as I looked various characters up.

tammikuu 13, 7:08 am

Two great reviews.

tammikuu 13, 8:32 am

>33 rachbxl: This is a reminder that I need to get to these retellings by Barker. I loved her Regeneration trilogy, especially the first one, and I also liked Circe by Madeline Miller, so I think I would like Silence of the Girls and The Women of Troy as well.

tammikuu 13, 10:23 am

>33 rachbxl: Ooooh something to look forward to!

tammikuu 16, 5:45 am

>34 dchaikin: Thanks, Dan.
>35 labfs39: I suspect you would like them, Lisa. I had read and liked just about everything Pat Barker had done before, but for me The Silence of the Girls and The Women of Troy are in a different league, even better than Regeneration.
>36 ELiz_M: I hope you enjoy it when you get to it!

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 16, 6:21 am

I am just back from a wonderful weekend in Cambridge (UK), where I attended a reunion dinner, saw other friends too, and, of most relevance here, spent a long time in bookshops. It made me realise that part of my disillusionment with reading over the last few years stems from the fact that I haven’t been able to go to good English bookshops, or not without a bored child in tow. I’m grateful to have my e-readers and the access to books they give me, grateful that I can borrow e-books from Queens Library in New York, grateful too that I can order books over the internet…but for me nothing beats a browse in a really good bookshop. My last good haul came from Cambridge too, but that must have been about 6 years ago. Here’s what I came away with this time (I was limited by what I could carry or the list would be much longer):

Asylum Road by Olivia Sudjic (I’ve already finished this one)
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney
The Story of English in 100 Words by David Crystal
Death Goes on Skis by Nancy Spain
Catch the Rabbit by Lana Bastašić
The Feast by Margaret Kennedy
Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles
Foster by Claire Keegan

I woke up this morning with a bad throat, and the doctor has just signed me off for 3 days. I’ve already finished Asylum Road, and now I just have to decide which to start next as I lie here on the sofa with a sleeping cat on my lap. Life could be worse.

tammikuu 16, 9:53 am

Great haul! Sorry about the sore throat—hope it stays just at the level where you can read and enjoy some inactivity and no worse.

tammikuu 16, 10:07 am

>38 rachbxl: ...but for me nothing beats a browse in a really good bookshop Absolutely.

That Seamus Heaney translation is excellent. I was lucky enough to read it in an edition that was also illustrated with plates of archeological finds from the era, and it was a beautiful book. You could contemplate what you had just read while staring at something that made the saga seem much more immediate.

tammikuu 16, 11:17 am

>40 SassyLassy: I envy you your book store browsing. What a lovely trip you had. Too bad about the sore throat. I'm currently reading Death Goes on Skis. So far it's pretty fun.

tammikuu 16, 11:35 am

Hi Rachel, it's so good to see you here posting again. I've starred your thread.
You brought home a great selection of books. I only read Foster by Claire Keegan and loved it. Catch the Rabbit by Lana Bastašić was already on my wishlist.
I hope your sore throat won't bother you too much.

tammikuu 16, 12:18 pm

Happy new year! That's a great reading list. I should put Sea of Tranquility into my rotation. I loved Emily St. John Mandel's earlier novel.

tammikuu 16, 3:02 pm

>39 lisapeet: Thanks, Lisa. I haven’t been feeling too bad other than the very sore throat and tiredness so I’ve got lots of reading done today - it’s been quite a treat!

>40 SassyLassy: I’d had my eye on the Seamus Heaney for years but it had fallen off my radar until I saw it in the shop - text only, though, of course, not the beautiful edition you read. That must have really added to the experience.

>41 Nickelini: Funny, Death Goes on Skis is the one I picked to read next and I’m now over 100 pages in. It’s a lot of fun. Strange we’re both reading it at the same time given how little-known it is on LT! I assume you discovered it because it is set in the Alps? For me it was just a lucky find in the bookshop; I hadn’t heard of it before.

>42 Trifolia: Thanks, Monica. It’s good to be back, and I’m hoping to last a bit longer this year… I very nearly picked Foster as my next read earlier today, but I decided that whilst I have the time I may as well get my teeth into something longer.

>43 johnxlibris: Thanks for visit. Happy New Year to you too! I’ve read several books by Emily St John Mandel and enjoyed them all. I find that they don’t make a lasting impression on me so I couldn’t tell you much about them, but I’ve really enjoyed them all at the time of reading.

tammikuu 16, 3:54 pm

>38 rachbxl: That is a NICE haul!

tammikuu 16, 3:59 pm

Great book haul, Rachel! Which bookshops in Cambridge did you visit? I've only been to Heffers and Waterstones there, IIRC.

I look forward to your thoughts on Foster, as I was very fond of Small Things Like These.

I'm sorry that you're not feeling well, and hope that you recuperate quickly and completely.

tammikuu 17, 7:25 am

Three days off to read is almost worth the sore throat ;-)

I know what you mean about going to a bookstore without having to worry about bored kids (or the weather), it's heaven to just browse. Great haul. I read Before the Coffee Gets Cold last year, and it has stayed with me more than I thought it would.

tammikuu 17, 12:15 pm

Here you are! I agree about the brilliance of both A Girl Returned and Intimacies.

Looking forward to following your reading this year. I've had stretches of reading mostly escapist stuff and, at least for me, it has been useful for making me really love the good stuff once I get back to it and there's nothing wrong for reading for pure entertainment.

tammikuu 17, 1:22 pm

Coming in late, but welcome back and happy reading in 2023. I'll look forward to seeing where your reading takes you over the rest of the year. Cheers!

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 17, 1:33 pm

>44 rachbxl: Strange we’re both reading it at the same time given how little-known it is on LT! I assume you discovered it because it is set in the Alps? For me it was just a lucky find in the bookshop; I hadn’t heard of it before.

It is strange indeed :-)

I heard about Death Goes on Skis from Booktuber Simon Savidge, and when I heard "Alps" I ordered it as soon as it was republished. So you're right!

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 18, 10:25 am

>46 kidzdoc: Hi Darryl. Yes, it was Heffers (to which I have a sentimental attachment) and Waterstones (to which I don’t). I have just read Foster this afternoon in one sitting. It’s perfect.

>47 labfs39: I agree! I’m rarely ill, but the last couple of times I have been it’s been full-on on-my-knees with Covid or flu kind of thing so no reading. I have long fantasized about having some kind of lurgy which renders me unable to work (or cook, or clean, etc etc) for a few days whilst leaving me able to read, and this is it!

>48 RidgewayGirl: Hello there! I agree, there’s nothing wrong with reading purely for entertainment - as long as it works. My gripe in recent months is that I haven’t even been particularly entertained by much of what I’ve read. In fairness, I was so exhausted by work that I must have become quite hard to please. (Have you read Foster? I thought of you as I read it).

>49 rocketjk: Happy reading year to you too! There are still lots of threads I haven’t made it to this year yet so no need to apologize for coming in late.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 19, 7:29 am

>51 rachbxl: Heh, I made the mistake? of reading The Magic Mountain during the early part of COVID and now I kind of want a mild case of TB with the rrquisite months spent in a Swiss sanatorium recovering.

tammikuu 20, 4:24 am

>52 ELiz_M: I'll be right there on the next recliner, looking up from my book only to take in the majestic views as I breathe in the pure fresh mountain air... I confess that this is my REAL fantasy (the thing about a couple of days at home is just the more realistic version), also inspired by books, though in my case not quite as edifying as The Magic Mountain. It's my early obsession with the Chalet School books that put that in my head - someone or other was always popping off for a ridiculously long convalescence in the local sanatorium, where they seemed to do very little other than read and sleep and look at the view - BORING! Except that at some point in the intervening years I must have crossed a line, and what used to seem boring now has great appeal!

tammikuu 20, 7:23 am

The second best option is a snow day, of which I am having one today. Hooray! Only downside is that my reading time is infringed upon by all the snow removal I have to do. Boo!

tammikuu 20, 7:27 am

Asylum Road by Olivia Sudjic

I have a loose personal rule whereby on visiting actual English-language bookshops I can't buy books I already know about or want to read; visiting a bookshop is a chance to browse and see what catches my eye. This is purely practical, just because I then have to get the books back to Belgium. I think I introduced this rule after my daughter's birth - she's bigger now so it's getting easier, but I often travel with her alone so used to have to be able to carry everything myself. Like all the best rules, it can be broken, which is how I ended up buying Beowolf last weekend, for example. All this to say that I picked up Asylum Road just because I liked the look of it; I'd never heard of it or its author.

I'm struggling to talk about it in a way that will do it justice. It was uncomfortable to read, in a good, exhilarating way. It's elliptical, things swirl in and out of focus, come close to the surface and then sink back down again, that which is said is said beautifully and precisely, but just as important is that which is not said - and all the while Anya, the articulate narrator, is unravelling. That probably makes it sound challenging and hard work, but it's not; it's easy to read and I didn't want to put it down. I'll leave it at that.

tammikuu 20, 10:03 am

Foster by Claire Keegan

Another I hadn't heard of, another where that which is said is said beautifully and precisely, even sparingly. It's short, even for a novella - I read it in one sitting earlier this week when my daughter, who's also been unwell, went to sleep on me one afternoon (she's nearly 9, doesn't do this soppy stuff any more unless sick). A young girl's father takes her and leaves her on a farm in rural Ireland with relatives she doesn't know. She has no idea how long she is to stay. Under the care of her foster parents she discovers a new way of living she hasn't previously known, full of love and gentle care, and she blossoms. A story like this could easily be sentimental and full of overblown description, but not here; it's understated and every word counts. I loved it.

tammikuu 20, 10:37 am

April in Spain by John Banville

I was going to say that I hadn't read anything by Banville before this, but LT tells me I read The Sea in 2007. I don't remember it, even having looked at a couple of reviews. I happened upon this as a library e-book last week, and as it was available I thought I'd give it a go. I was enjoying it in a quiet sort of way, because it's a quiet sort of book, but it was overshadowed by my exciting haul of physical books. I made myself go back to it because it would have been a shame to return it unfinished, and I'm glad I did because it merited being read to the end.

Quirke, Ireland's state pathologist (with a known taste for the booze), is on holiday in San Sebastian with his wife when he thinks he spots a young Irish woman from a well-connected family (her uncle is a government minister) who was declared dead several years previously. This leads to his daughter, who was a friend of the (possibly) dead woman's, and an Irish detective flying out to Spain...but a hitman is sent too. It wasn't the plot I liked, though; it was the (lengthy) parts where not much was happening plot-wise that made the novel worth reading for me - the interaction between Quirke and his wife (the trip to the hat shop, trivial bits of dialogue, Quirke and his wife in various cafes and bars as he struggles to relax on holiday), the scenes with his daughter and her wonderfully odious boyfriend. I don't expect the plot to stay with me, but I think some snapshots of the characters will.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 20, 2:46 pm

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I had never had any desire to read The Bell Jar because I knew what it was going to be like and I wouldn't enjoy it. Until yesterday, that is, when I was suddenly seized by the compulsion to read it right now, and I loved it. (Fortunately, despite not wanting to read it I had had it on my Kindle for over 10 years, just in case a day like yesterday should come along).

I was well aware that this is the semi-autobiographical account of Plath's own road to her breakdown, and I expected it to be hard to read (both the language and the subject) and harrowing. How wrong I was. I had no idea that it was so fresh and accessible, and the biggest surprise of all was that parts of it even made me laugh. Other parts didn't, of course - a lot of it IS difficult to read in terms of the subject matter, but at the same time easy to read because of how it's written, in that I found it completely compelling and had to keep on reading; Esther's is a voice that you can't help but listen to. I think I'm going to be mulling it over for a while to come.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 21, 2:07 am

>58 rachbxl: I've read it five years ago and still have strong memories. It's a very good book.

tammikuu 20, 5:00 pm

>57 rachbxl: I know what you mean — I read April in Spain last year and couldn’t work out why I’d never read anything by Banville before. I really liked it, but I only have a very vague idea now what it was about, apart from being a lovely quirky portrait of a middle-aged couple on holiday together.

tammikuu 20, 6:05 pm

Four great reviews. Glad you read The Bell Jar and that it was so enjoyable. I’m tempted to hunt down my unread copy instead of whatever is next on my tbr list. Also, I’ve been curious about Foster, and you’re made Banville appealing.

tammikuu 21, 6:19 am

>58 rachbxl: I have the same preconceptions as you regarding The Bell Jar, but suddently, I feel that I should give it a try. Too busy with other committed readings at the moment, but I might look for a copy of it. Thanks for this short and great review!

tammikuu 21, 11:13 am

>58 rachbxl: I never had a desire to read The Bell Jar, however, when I was driving my 14 year old grandson to school on Thursday, he had just finished it, and was raving about how great it was. Now you’ve added to pushing me towards adding it to my list.

tammikuu 21, 9:20 pm

>55 rachbxl: I have a similar rule for independent bookshops - you have a sense that they have selected the books they display and so it is good to take advantage of that.

>58 rachbxl: I love your description of the "in case" owning of The Bell Jar...

tammikuu 25, 11:09 am

>58 rachbxl: Hmm, The Bell Jar wasn't on my radar but it is now.

Sorry to hear you're poorly and I hope you start feeling better soon, though not *too* soon ;-).

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 26, 8:00 pm

Hi Rachel,

Just catching up - hope your sore throat is gone soon.

I really love John Banville's writing - have you read any of his other Quirke books that he's written as Benjamin Black? I've read the first three and loved all of them - Christine Falls is the first one. And The Untouchable is one of my favourite books since I joined LT. I just looked it up on here, and it was my first book of 2009 and made my top 5 for the year. It's a novel that felt like he was inside Anthony Blunt's head. So if you like reading anything about the Cambridge spies, I'd highly recommend it.

Loved reading about your bookshop visit without your daughter! I remember doing a trip to London when we were living in Basel and the kids were little - I lugged home a lot from the LRB shop and Waterstones.

tammikuu 26, 10:45 pm

>51 rachbxl: No, but having read Small Thing Like These, I did pick up a copy of Foster recently. I'll read it on some quiet weekend afternoon.

tammikuu 27, 3:35 am

>61 dchaikin:, >62 raton-liseur:, >63 NanaCC:, >65 rhian_of_oz: And I thought it was just me! Colleen, I love the idea of your grandson telling you about it.

>66 cushlareads: I haven’t read any of the other Quirke books, no, and in fact until about halfway through April in Spain I didn’t know that there were any other - it works really well as a standalone. Given how much I liked what Banville does with the characters in April in Spain I may well give them a go at some point. And The Untouchable does sound like I might like it…

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 29, 7:53 am

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths by Natalie Haynes

I have been a fan of Natalie Haynes for several years, since a colleague told me about her excellent radio/podcast series Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics - she’s a broadcaster, writer, classicist and comedian, and she uses a combination of her skills to bring the classics to life in the 21st century in a brilliantly effective way. If you only listen to one episode of her podcast, make it the one on The Odyssey, in which she retells the story from memory in less than 25 minutes.

I didn’t intend to read these two books together. I’d already borrowed Pandora’s Jar and was well into it when my hold on A Thousand Ships came through, and actually reading these two books in parallel worked well. Pandora’s Jar is non-fiction, and as the subtitle says it’s a look at women in the Greek myths, with each chapter given over to a scholarly but extremely accessible examination of the role and portrayal of an individual woman in not just the texts from Ancient Greece (Euripides and Homer, of course, but others too) but more recent texts as well, as well as looking at art (my reading experience was enhanced by looking up the works of art Haynes mentions), film and TV - she even mentions Beyoncé. Who were these women who have come down the centuries to us like shadows? Euripides, it turns out, wrote some well-rounded strong women, but unlike the men they have been watered-down, at best (at worst vilified) in subsequent retellings. They have become flat and almost like caricatures of certain vices (or virtues, in the case of the impossibly perfect Penelope (has she perhaps become a male projection of the perfect wife, faithful yet turning a blind eye to her husband’s infidelities, good at weaving, and, crucially, a long way away?)) - but why have we been so ready to accept what we’re told about them? Medusa, for example - we all know she’s a monster with snakes for hair. And yet…over the centuries we have lost sight of the fact that her hair was a punishment from the gods FOR BEING RAPED. Medea - she killed her children! (But not, it turns out, in all early retellings…) But if we do the unthinkable and imagine her as a real human being, a mother, was perhaps killing her children the least bad way out she could find (better that she kill them herself than let them face the mob that was quite possibly going to come for them)?

A Thousand Ships, meanwhile, is fiction, and like Pat Barker’s excellent The Women of Troy, it’s a retelling from the point of view of the women involved of the time immediately after the fall of Troy, though whilst Barker only covers the period between the fall of the city and the departure of the Greek ships, Haynes covers the whole ten long years it takes Odysseus to get home to Ithaca (the period covered by The Odyssey, therefore). I can’t over-state how much I enjoyed this novel or how successful I think Haynes is in breathing life into these women. I loved The Women of Troy (and The Silence of the Girls before it), but even they didn’t succeed in making me see these women as truly real women. Haynes does. The scene where Hecuba says goodbye to her daughters, to give just one example, really drove home to me the enormity of what was happening to the women in a way nothing I’ve read before has. They had gone from being queens and princesses to being slaves, divided up as war spoils between the Greeks, and now they are starting to leave for their new homes with their new owners. They know they will never see each other again. It’s devastating.

A word of caution, though - I don’t think A Thousand Ships is a good place to start for someone wanting to read their first retelling of this kind. It’s not particularly accessible to someone without prior knowledge (I am hardly an expert, but I was glad to have read The Women of Troy recently, to have listened to Haynes’s podcasts and to be reading Pandora’s Jar).

tammikuu 29, 8:12 am

>69 rachbxl: How interesting - I am reading Haynes' Medusa book at the moment Stone Blind and was having the opposite reaction when comparing her approach to the retellings with that of Pat Barker or even Madeline Miller - it’s clever, but I didn’t feel any real emotional weight or connection.

It is a while since I read The Silence of the Girls but I read it quite close to A Thousand Ships and definitely preferred the former.

Life would be boring if we all reacted the same way to things!

tammikuu 29, 8:32 am

>69 rachbxl: I must get to both Haynes and Barker's retellings. I have only read Madeline Miller's. Your fantastic review makes me wish I had one to hand.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 29, 10:18 am

>70 wandering_star: Ha, funny. I do think that Barker’s are superior as beautifully written novels (works of art, if you like), and Miller’s too. But I’ve never had the women come alive with Barker and Miller as they did for me in A Thousand Ships. The insight that I’ve gained makes me want to go and read Barker and Miller again.

>72 rachbxl: Both are well worth it! (But start with Barker).

tammikuu 29, 11:28 am

>69 rachbxl: cool pairing. Pandora’s Jar really interests me. One thing i liked about the classical Greek plays (and Shakespeare) is that the women are full characters with some individuality. And i’m not sure the west finds then again for a long time. Boccaccio is kind of a miss. I guess I should hold out on Chaucer until i’ve read him. Of course, women writing women is an empty set - the lost Sappho, Mary of France? Who else?

tammikuu 29, 4:28 pm

>58 rachbxl: Now there is a blast from the past....

tammikuu 30, 5:23 am

>69 rachbxl: I have The Silence of Girls waiting on Mount TBR and have read Madeline Miller so these are both appealing.

I've requested Pandora's Jar from my State library (which will likely take a while to become available) and am pleased to see A Thousand Ships at my local library, though I will heed your advice and hold off on this one until I've read the others.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 1, 8:45 am

>69 rachbxl: >73 dchaikin: i was just reading how Ovid inspired Chaucer, especially in Chaucer’s undermining of the Aeneid in his House of Fame, where he uses Dido’s voice to undermine Aeneas’s imperial ideals. I had forgotten Ovid’s Heroides.

Anyway, Marion Turner puts it this way: Chaucer takes from Ovid that the “female voice {could} undo the impersonal solidities of epic, and the assurance of accepted, masculine, imperial ideals.” That is Ovid and Chaucer both used women’s voices as subversives aimed at controlling tyrants (Augustus Caesar or Richard II and the European trend of centralizing absolute power in the the king)

helmikuu 1, 8:46 am

Tämä käyttäjä on poistettu roskaamisen vuoksi.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 1, 6:40 pm

>76 dchaikin: Very interesting about Ovid. When I visit my mum I am working my way slowly through her copy of "Ovid's Heroines", a loose modern translation of Heroides by Clare Pollard. That comment about subversion gives me extra perspective on the poems.

helmikuu 1, 10:29 pm

>78 wandering_star: ooh. What do you think of Pollard’s version so far?

helmikuu 4, 9:26 pm

>79 dchaikin: I’m enjoying them! They feel very modern (of course sometimes this works well and sometimes less so) and I have been curious about how close they are as translations to the original. I think Ovid was deliberately being quite satirical though so some of the things which feel modern actually come from what he wrote.

helmikuu 4, 11:21 pm

>80 wandering_star: actually the translation i read felt modern too. Maybe he just uses a more straightforward storytelling structure that translates clean. He was heavily satirical to me in everything i read by him (all in translation). But Heroides felt the least satirical. (The heaviest satire was his love poems. They are always noted as a source of romantic medieval literature and yet they are the most unromantic poems I’ve ever read)

helmikuu 9, 6:31 am

I'm already feeling nostalgic about my 2 weeks of sick leave and all the reading I got done, as well as all the time I spent on LT. I was getting enthusiastic about the Greek myths and thinking of all the books that might lead on to...but I've been back at work for nearly 2 weeks now and feeling more realistic. If I could just maintain a spark of that enthusiasm it would be something!

>76 dchaikin:, >78 wandering_star: I missed a whole conversation, sorry. Clare Pollard's Ovid has gone on the wishlist.

helmikuu 9, 6:58 am

The World's Wife by Carol Ann Duffy

I don't read poetry in general, just because. It's a gap in my reading that I've been sort of tip-toeing round for a while now, wondering what to do about it. Poetry always seems intimidating, somehow, though I was inspired by a recent comment here on one of the Club Read threads that said something like 'the best way to get comfortable reading poetry is to read poetry'. Natalie Haynes mentions The World's Wife in Pandora's Jar, which seemed like a sign, so I bought it, read it - and really enjoyed it.

Each poem in The World's Wife is about a woman, most often the wife of a famous man (so we have poems entitled "Mrs Sisyphus" and "Mrs Darwin", for example), whilst a few are about what might have been if Mr X had actually been Ms X, how differently she would have gone about things. Many of them made me laugh; lots of them made me think. I particularly liked "Mrs Midas" ("I made him sit / on the other side of the room and keep his hands to himself") and "Mrs Sisyphus", which opens, "That's him pushing the stone up the hill, the jerk", and the brief "Mrs Darwin":

Mrs Darwin

7 April 1852

Went to the Zoo.
I said to Him -
Something about that Chimpanzee over there reminds me of you.

Here's another of my favourites:

Mrs Icarus

I'm not the first or the last
to stand on a hillock,
watching the man she married
prove to the world
he's a total, utter, absolute, Grade A pillock.

I shared these with my dad (not previously known for a love of poetry), and he said he liked them, apart from "Mrs Icarus", which he, formerly a keen amateur pilot, found almost offensive because he understands Icarus and his desire for flight. I was glad we had this conversation because it made me think hard about why I liked this poem. The answer I came up with was that in under 30 words Duffy made me think of a side to the Icarus story that I'd never even thought of before.

helmikuu 9, 7:20 am

>83 rachbxl: The World's Wife sounds interesting to me for all the reasons you mention. I should look for it.

helmikuu 9, 7:23 am

Tämä käyttäjä on poistettu roskaamisen vuoksi.

helmikuu 9, 5:07 pm

>82 rachbxl: I hated going back to work after covid. ☺️

>82 rachbxl: >78 wandering_star: ok, i can be really oblivious. I only just realized that conversation was with two different people. Not that that changes anything I posted.

>83 rachbxl: I enjoyed the examples. And the Midas line made me laugh.

helmikuu 11, 10:29 am

>82 rachbxl: I guess that's the upside of my not having gotten any sick leave for Covid—no transition necessary...

I'm also interested in that Ovid translation. Also speaking of Covid—the earliest days of the pandemic were how you could tell someone had read Ovid, because they'd pronounce the virus name with a soft "o".

huhtikuu 30, 5:42 am

>83 rachbxl: Great review of the Duffy collection. I love her work. I have this massive hardcover of her work and have had it for some time...but I've yet to dive into it. I imagine some it is duplication of the single volumes I have.

huhtikuu 30, 8:33 am

Hope all is well, Rachel, and that you have lots of good books to hand.

elokuu 2, 7:31 am

The best-laid plans and all that... My 2023 thread hasn't fared any better than last year's, though it's not just my thread that's been taking a battering. Work has been nightmarish, to such an extent that I'm now on sick leave with an all-too-predictable burn-out. On top of work pressures I'm also having to deal with a stubborn elderly father 650km away who has steadily shut everyone other than me out of his life and who can no longer cope alone (clear to me but not to him). Oh, and then there's the house renovations which have been underway for over 6 months now (I can hear drilling as I type).

I struggled to read for several months earlier in the year, but it's picking up again. LT for months has felt like just another thing I feel I should do so I've stayed away, but suddenly today I feel like reviving my thread. I'm going to try to piece together what I've read, in no particular order, though I'll undoubtedly miss some books out, which saddens me a little since I've kept a complete reading log for over 30 years now. Here are the library e-books I've read (thank you, library, for the handy timeline of what I've borrowed, returned and put on hold):

Peace Talks by Tim Finch
The chairman of international peace negotiations taking place in a remote hotel in the Alps addresses a monologue, a letter she will never read, to his dead wife. There's not much plot, which did make it feel a bit directionless at times, but there is a sympathetic portrayal of a man lost in grief, and as he looks back at their life together there's humour and lots of little details that makes them come alive. Nice wry observations about the current round of talks, too. It's a few weeks since I read it, and it's proven to be one of those quiet books that didn't make much of an impression as I read it, but which has stayed with me more than I would have expected.

Friend of my Youth by Alice Munro
Exiles by Jane Harper
Best of Friends by Kamila Shamsie
Claire of the Sea Light by Edwige Danticat
Love Marriage: a Novel by Monica Ali
Old Babes in the Wood by Margaret Atwood
Galatea by Madeline Miller

Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur
I was struggling to find any fiction that grabbed me and I thought I might do better with non-fiction for a change, but why and how this particular memoir I have no idea. In it Brodeur recounts life with her impossible mother, a flamboyant, larger-than-life character, a gifted cook who enjoyed nothing more than entertaining admiring friends, but also a narcissist who poisoned her teenage daughter's life by confiding in her about her extra-marital affair with a family friend and used her to lie for them. Much of what she recounts is mind-boggling to me, but I really liked the way Brodeur writes (enough to put a library hold on her novel). She has also made me want to visit Cape Cod.

Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King
A brilliant collection of short stories.

Bleeding Heart Yard by Elly Griffiths
This turns out to be the third in the Harbinder Kaur series but it was totally accessible without having read either of the first. I read this because I was looking for something not too taxing but well-written, and what little I've read by Elly Griffiths suggested this was a good bet - and it was.

elokuu 2, 2:49 pm

Good to see you back. When life gets busy I think we all understand that LT is something that will fall by the wayside.

elokuu 2, 3:13 pm

Welcome back, even if only for a visit. I hope all those stressors abate over time. I certainly relate to the "stubborn elderly father."

Wasn't Five Tuesdays in Winter wonderful?

elokuu 3, 12:00 am

It feels to me like a lot of things that have been stalled are ready to move forward again. I hope that proves true for all the stress you have had. My job has also been stressful lately - we are very short staffed - and I keep rethinking my plan to not retire until I am 70. I've got several non-fiction things I'd like to finish, but tonight I feel like ditching it all and maybe doing a free trial of Kindle Unlimited. I have a list from my lists (haha) of books that are available on KU, so maybe I'll see how many I can binge read in a month! Best of luck to you, and it's good to see you.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 3, 10:21 am

>90 rachbxl: So good to see you here despite your busy life. I like what you are reading and you remind me that I have not picked up Atwood's most recent. I fear it might be her last book and I'm dragging my feet because I don't want the love affair to end (perhaps I'll save it for the week at the lake in a few weeks.

And that is a Lily King I have not read....

I'm off and on these days, but do drop here in whenever you can XX

elokuu 4, 8:03 am

>91 AlisonY: thanks, Alison.

>92 RidgewayGirl: You as well…oh dear. Fortunately (for me) it feels like I’m surrounded by people who have similarly stubborn elderly parents so at least I’m not alone. Earlier this year I went to a college reunion and suddenly we were all talking about how to manage our parents. At least, those of us who still have our parents were, which kind of puts it in context, I suppose.

>93 WelshBookworm: What a lovely message, thank you. I’m sorry you’ve been having a stressful time at work as well. We’re short-staffed too, which has been part of the problem. Your list from your lists made me smile (I won’t pretend never to have done that!), and I can relate the urge to ditch your usual reading in favour of a KU binge. I find that I’m reaching for not quite my usual kind of book but I’m enjoying my reading so who cares?

>94 avaland: I think the Atwood would be the perfect lake book. I was conscious when I picked it up that it might be the last…but I read it anyway.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 4, 8:29 am

Queen K by Sarah Thomas

As I said in >95 rachbxl:, I’m not really reading my usual kind of thing at the moment because I have the attention span of a gnat and need something a bit lighter…but still well written. A recent trip to a bookshop with a very limited range of English books threw this up, in that it and the other couple of books I bought were pretty much the only books there that weren’t murder mysteries (enough!) or celebrity autobiographies.

Queen K is narrated (unreliably) by Melanie, hired as a tutor for the daughter of a Russian oligarch. I really enjoyed the glimpse into the alien world of the super-rich (Thomas apparently spent several years as a tutor for very rich families), but there’s more to it than that. My favourite character was the most unlikeable Kata, the oligarch’s wife - the passages where she clumsily tries to move up in British society were beautifully vicious and at times truly funny, but mainly I felt sorry for her, this woman who seems to have it all but can’t stop needing more. We’re given a lot of backstory (Kata’s happy childhood in Russia, her miserable adolescence in New York where all her attempts to fit in at school failed, how she met Ivan back in eastern Russia and decided to hitch her wagon to this already-successful young man, how in time she outgrows him and feels held back by his uncouthness and lack of sophistication (whilst spending his millions, of course)). Without the backstory the novel wouldn’t hold together, but I did often question how Melanie knew all this. Thomas covers this by having Alex, the oligarch’s daughter, confide in Melanie and speak to her at great length as though she weren’t there, but it didn’t ring quite true for me. Still, overall I was thoroughly entertained by this debut novel, and that was the point.

elokuu 6, 6:32 pm

>94 avaland: >95 rachbxl: There is another Atwood after Old Babes in the Woods. It is Burning Questions: Essays and Occasional Pieces, 2004 - 2021, which my book club read for July. Basically it's a series of essays and speeches over that period. It was really interesting, but could get repetitive at times, especially the award thank-you speeches.

elokuu 7, 6:13 am

>97 SassyLassy: I have Burning Questions as it came out in 2022, but I haven't spent much time with it. Thanks for the review :-)

elokuu 7, 9:26 am

It's so nice to hear from you, Rachel. I'm sorry you are having a rough time. Why do multiple troubles always seem to come at once? I hope things settle down to a dull roar soon.

"I have the attention span of a gnat" LOL. Me too, although for less valid reasons. I persist in trying to read my normal fare with little success. How did you like the Shamsie and Danticat? They are both authors I like, but I've read neither of these books.

elokuu 9, 5:51 pm

Good to see you, Rachel! I do recognise that feeling when LT just seems like another chore, I'm glad you've taken the pressure off yourself because it's always nice to hear from you.

You've made Queen K sound very intriguing!

elokuu 11, 3:42 pm

Sorry to hear that life is so overwhelming, Rachel. I've been there with the stubborn parent. It's exasperating.

I read Peace Talks a few years ago and loved it, although now I don't remember all that much about it.

Hope your reading picks up. I'm having a somewhat off reading year myself. Maybe when I retire I'll be able to read.

>93 WelshBookworm: Working until 70 sounds like a lot. Part of my problem is that everyone around me is retiring. How do you keep motivated to keep working?

elokuu 11, 4:31 pm

>101 Nickelini: Joyce, I grit my teeth a lot. Seriously, it's hard. Although I do like my job. And it is part-time. I just don't like the hierarchy and putting up with somebody judging me for an annual review. But my income has always been so borderline - living paycheck to paycheck. I do live within my means. I have no debt, except for the house now, but I can't do a lot of travelling for example, which I would like to do. Social Security payments keep going up 8% every year until age 70, so I'm going for the maximum payout. My pension also goes up, but not as much. So that 18 months is another almost $400 in monthly income. I can do a lot of travelling with that, or add a porch to the house, or put up a fence in the backyard, or it is a new car payment. And I expect to live a long time. My grandmother was almost 98. My mother is 93... Now I just have to hope that Social Security doesn't go bankrupt, because I have no savings whatsoever.

Rachel, I am glad my list from my lists made you smile! And I did go for the Kindle Unlimited Trial...

elokuu 11, 5:31 pm

>102 WelshBookworm: Oh, that makes sense. And 18 months seems like you can hold on and ride it out! Enjoy your retirement when you get there!

elokuu 18, 4:58 pm

Hope things are going ok with you and you are getting some time to read.

elokuu 27, 10:56 am

>90 rachbxl: I so relate... I've been away from here for a bit too, similar combination of work stress and my husband's health issues, and extracurricular activities like LT took a hit. But I also realize, when I think of it, that even these online connections are important to me—I work from home, don't have friends nearby (and all my friends seem to be going through similar rough times), and I start to feel really isolated. So I'm making more of an effort to be here, and here I am.

I'm another work-until-70 person, which gives me 10 more years. I'm kind of wishing it were otherwise right now, but my husband can't work anymore so I'm the breadwinner with my mediocre media salary, and I'm going to do my best to hold out. I love my work intensely but it grinds me down (very uncoincidentally, I'm reading Work Won't Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone... I'll report back when I finish).

You've got some great reading here, despite outside forces! I'm reading Old Babes in the Wood too, or at least dipping into it—I'm on a short fiction collection judging panel so right now I have to read a few stories apiece out of 20 books, but that's one I think I'll go back to. I have to say I really enjoy stories with older protagonists these days.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 2, 5:01 am

My wonderful Dad died last week. Despite not having lived in the same country as each other for over 20 years we were extremely close, and I feel like I've come untethered. I wasn't with him (a doctor had told me 2 days earlier that he might have been able to leave hospital, finally, within a week or so, so I was planning to go then and bring him to stay with us for as long as he needed) but we had a lovely chat on his last morning, and although all seemed to be well I somehow knew it was goodbye and spent the rest of the day waiting for the phone call from the hospital.

I'm taking in refuge in certain friends (not necessarily the most obvious ones, it turns out - I've had some lovely surprises) and in books, both reading and buying. Whilst wandering around Limoges, France earlier this week between meetings with the funeral director and the like, I spent a soothing hour or two in a fabulous independent bookshop, Page & Plume, and came away with this little haul, all in French:

Les déracinés by Catherine Bardon: first in a series of novels about the small community of European Jews who were given visas to the Dominican Republic around the time of WW2. I'd never heard of the author or the books, but (true and fictional) stories about European Jews in the 20th century fascinate me, and I didn't know about the Dominican Republic visas.

Beyrouth-sur-Seine by Sabyl Ghoussoub: I'd almost bought this before (it came out last year) but this time did so purely because of the cover blurb - "My parents' life is like the war in Lebanon. The more I know about it, the less I understand. I can identify the main characters, and then there are a few key moments that I'm clear about, but after that I'm lost. Too many dates, events, gaps, silences, contradictions" (my translation). After a morning spent sorting through Dad's papers (I knew he had kept a lot, but it turns out that he had kept EVERYTHING) this resonated with me.

Un chien à ma table by Claudie Hunzinger: I just liked the look of it.

Paroles de résistants et résistantes ed. Véronique Tixier: this is a collection of already-published interviews with members of the French resistance in the Limousin (my dad's home for the last 20 years). This was a subject which fascinated my dad and one we often discussed. I was delighted to find this little book, published by the Friends of the Limoges Resistance Museum, but a little sad to find it only now.

Reste by Adeline Dieudonné: I was looking out for this, Dieudonné's latest. I started it yesterday. It's very Belgian, as in, quirky and full of black humour whilst having a clearly visible tragic side (having lived here for over 20 years I've come to love my adopted country).

Dissident Club by Taha Siddiqui and Hubert Maury. I was introduced to graphic novels by LT. I haven't read a lot, but I enjoy (and get a lot out of) autobiographical graphic novels like this one. I have already finished it so will post comments later.

Ils ont surgi de la nuit: Quand les objets des victimes des camps nazis sont resitutués à leurs familles by Elise Karline: very recent non-fiction book about the work done by the Arolsen Archives to return the belongings of prisoners held in the Nazi camps to their families.

Les exportés by Sonia Devillers: Devillers looks into her (Jewish) family history - in 1961 they were "exported" from Romania together with hundreds of others, in exchange for agricultural goods.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 2, 5:02 am

And then on my return to Belgium, because I hadn't bought enough books this week (actually because I had found the Limoges bookshop so soothing and wanted to recreate it) I spent a quiet hour in a big Brussels bookshop and left with the following:

L'eau rouge by Jurica Pavicic translated from the Croatian

Must I Go by Yiyun Li because I very much enjoyed The Vagrants and Kinder than Solitude

Les abeilles grises (Grey Bees in English) by Andrei Kourkov translated from the Russian (the author is Ukrainian)

La nuit des pères by Gaelle Josse: it has the word "père" (father) in the title so I took it as a sign

L'autre fille by Annie Ernaux: because it was there, and I realised I'd never read anything by Annie Ernaux

East West Street by Philippe Sands, a non-fiction book I have picked up and put down many times before. This time, though, I'd bought so many books this week that one more was going to make little difference.

syyskuu 2, 8:20 am

I also bought a (totally unnecessary, needless to say) beautiful Moleskine book journal with space not just for reviews of books read but also for wishlists etc. Then today my husband suddenly produced a beautiful old fountain pen which belonged to his aunt. Small pleasures…

syyskuu 2, 9:24 am

Rachel, I'm so sorry to hear about your dad's passing, may his memory be a blessing. I'm glad that you were able to have a good conversation with him on his last day and that you have been able to find some solace in books and friends. Small pleasures are important. Take care of yourself.

syyskuu 2, 9:32 am

I’m so sorry for your loss. Take care of yourself

syyskuu 2, 10:16 am

So sorry to hear this news. Glad to hear you've found some good support. Take care.

syyskuu 2, 2:09 pm

Rachel, I'm so sorry for your loss. Be gentle with yourself.

syyskuu 2, 4:06 pm

My condolences, Rachel.

syyskuu 3, 7:58 am

My condolences for your dad. I hope you find comfort in your friends and in books.

L'autre fille was my way back into Annie Ernaux, a couple of decades after reading my mother's copy of La place. Les déracinés sounds fascinating and I am looking forward to reading your opinion on Les exportés, which I read for my book group earlier this year.

syyskuu 3, 10:10 am

Condolences, Rachel. I'm so glad you were able to have a good conversation with him that day. Look after yourself.

syyskuu 11, 5:52 am

Thank you all for these messages - they mean a lot.

This morning I’m re-organising the big (whole of one wall, built-in) bookcase in the ground floor room we use as an office. When Dad died we had just started turning it into a bedroom for him as he couldn’t have got up the stairs, and I’ve avoided going in there since then. Today, though, it feels like a peaceful place where I want to be.

syyskuu 11, 7:22 am

>116 rachbxl: It sounds like a perfect place to be today. Thinking of you

syyskuu 12, 2:53 am

>117 labfs39: Thanks, Lisa.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 12, 10:22 am

Dissident Club: Chronique d'un journaliste pakistanais exilé en France by Taha Siddiqui and Hubert Maury

I'd never read a graphic novel when I joined LT - I had all sorts of preconceived ideas about them and, I think, didn't even realise that they really were for adults too. I still haven't read that many, but I've discovered that I really enjoy - and learn a lot from - non-fiction graphic novels which are a combination of autobiography and current affairs (or history, depending on how long after the events you read the book). The first I read in that vein was Persepolis. In Dissident Club, which caught my eye in the Limoges bookshop 2 weeks ago, and which I read in the car on the long drive home, Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui tells the fascinating story of his life so far, beginning with an idyllic childhood which comes to an abrupt end as his father embraces radical Islam after moving the family to Saudi Arabia, and ending with his arrival in France as an exiled dissident journalist in 2018, forced to flee Pakistan after somehow managing to escape arrest by the regime. In between we see how the author initially follows his father before starting to question things and ultimately distancing himself from him, all against a backdrop of the major events involving radical Islam which have shaped the world in recent years. I don't know if this has been translated into English, but it's highly recommended for those who read French.

syyskuu 12, 2:20 pm

My sincere condolences on the death of your father. I hope the wonderful memories will ease your sadness. Take all the time you need.

I also hope you find ways to deal with your burnout. Reading and interacting with books has proven to be a blessing for me and it seems you have taken that path as well.

>119 rachbxl: I haven't really ventured into graphic novels since I was a child, although Lisa's (labfs39) enthusiasm has made me very interested in trying the adult version. Maybe I should follow your example.

syyskuu 13, 7:39 am

>119 rachbxl: That sounds like an excellent book, Rachel. How was the artwork? I too enjoy nonfiction/memoir graphic novels. Some of the best that I've read are

When stars are scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed (Somalian refugee)

Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim (Korean comfort women)

Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey by Ozge Samanci (Turkish coming of age)

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei (American internment camps)

Palestine by Joe Sacco (anything by journalist Sacco is good, imo)

Well, I could go on, but these are a sample of ones I've enjoyed.

syyskuu 16, 3:56 pm

Just popping on to my thread to note down 2 books I enjoyed earlier this year but seem to have forgotten to record so far. I’ll come back another time to reply to messages.

Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski
Beautiful novel about a young gay man coming of age and falling in love in communist Poland, a summer of love and freedom in the wilderness followed by a return to real life and the harsh reality of the intolerant regime.

Trespassing by Louise Kennedy
This debut novel from Northern Ireland was recommended by a bookseller in Hatchards in London’s St Pancras Station. She actually recommended it to the customer before me and I half-heard, so when I was my turn I asked her about it, and that led on to a lovely bit of book chat. She was right, this is really good - a love story between a married Protestant man and a younger Catholic woman in 1970s Northern Ireland. I’ve only put Swimming in the Dark and Trespassing because I just put them both away and realised I hadn’t noted them here, but now I realise they have a lot in common - both tell a story of forbidden love set against a vivid backdrop of a troubled, tense, violent society.

syyskuu 17, 7:39 pm

I'm just catching up on your thread after most of the summer away, Rachel, and I'm so sorry to hear about your dad. It sounds like you didn't have much unfinished business between you, other than his not making it out to live with you, so I hope there's peace for you somewhere in all this. I love the notebook/fountain pen serendipity... do you know what kind of pen?

syyskuu 22, 12:14 am

>106 rachbxl: I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your father. I am glad that you are able to find comfort in books and bookstores. You will treasure that last conversation with your father.

syyskuu 26, 3:24 am

>120 Trifolia: Thank you. I am slowly and gently returning to something like normal life, and it feels good. I like what you say about "reading and interacting with books has proven to be a blessing for me" - that's the case for me too, exactly; not just reading (although I'm doing a lot more of that than I have for several years, and enjoying it much more too) but also being surrounded by books, touching them, reorganising bookshelves, spending time in bookshops. I've put my trusty Kindle aside for now, because it's not having the same effect as "real books".

Today I'm going, just my book and me, to the spa at Boetfort - do you know it? I didn't think spas were my thing, but I've been a couple of times these last few months and find it a wonderful way to cut myself off from the world for a few hours.

>121 labfs39: Hmm, I've been thinking about your question about the artwork since I originally read your post, Lisa...and I still don't have an answer. It reminds me of those early days on LT when I used to feel ill-equipped to post my thoughts on books (I could have churned out university-style essays, but not pithy comments, though when it comes to art-work I couldn't do essays either!) Anyway, I liked the artwork, particularly the way (for me, anyway) it seemed to be so full of movement. It's all black/white/grey/shades of one other colour, which I thought I might find boring but I didn't at all.

Thanks for the list of graphic novels - they're exactly the kind I like and I haven't read any of them, though Joe Sacco has been on my mental wishlist for ages. (I also saw in the weekend newspaper that Marjane Satrapi has just brought out a new one, Femme, Vie, Liberté, about the new Iranian revolution).

syyskuu 26, 3:28 am

>123 lisapeet: Thank you, Lisa. That's right, we really had no unfinished business. The more I think about our last conversation, the more I marvel at how Dad managed to tidy up all the ends (for someone who invariably followed up a phone call with a message saying, 'I forgot to tell you half the things I wanted to', that's quite something). The pen is a beautiful slim Parker with a gold nib, and it fits in my hand like it was made for me.

>124 WelshBookworm: Thank you.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 26, 3:50 am

The good news is that I have a renewed enthusiasm for reading. I've had to reorganise all my books recently, and I've felt excited at TBR books which for the last couple of years had been things I wondered why I had ever bought. I've even read some of them!

Reste by Adeline Dieudonné

This one wasn't from the TBR shelves, it was one of my Limoges haul. It could only be Belgian, which I mean in a good way. It takes the form of a series of letters written by a 40-something woman to her lover's husband. She starts the first letter by saying that the lover is lying dead next to her in bed, and it soon becomes apparent that he hasn't just this minute died. On the surface this is a very readable novel full of mordant humour about a crazy woman who takes her dead lover's body on a road trip round the Alps. But you don't have to scratch very deep to start to feel extremely uncomfortable as the narrator unravels through grief into madness. I read the whole thing with an increasingly tight knot in my stomach, willing the narrator to give up and do the right thing...but what IS the right thing? Does "normal" or "legal" mean "right"? There were a couple of points where I felt that the plausibility wore thin (the involvement of another woman, for example, albeit a hermit who rejects society), but in general I thought Dieudonné did a very good job of portraying a woman teetering between the rational and the irrational.

syyskuu 26, 3:49 am

Bodas de sangre by Federico Garcia Lorca
available in English as Blood Wedding

This leapt out at me as I was rearranging bookshelves, so I sat down and read it in one go. I have read it countless times before, though not for many years, and having studied it both at school and at university I know huge chunks of it off by heart (in fact when I lived in Spain in my 20s one of my party pieces was innocently shoving quotes from Bodas de sangre into everyday conversation); it was good to be reminded how the chunks fit together. I am planning to sit down soon with La casa de Bernada Alba, though Yerma seems to have disappeared.

syyskuu 26, 4:04 am

L'autre fille by Annie Ernaux (2011)

Bought as part of my recent hauls because I hadn't read any Annie Ernaux. This is a very slim book which takes the form of a letter to Ernaux's dead sister...dead before Ernaux's birth. Ernaux, an only child, found out by overhearing an adult conversation that the sister had existed and that she was "nicer" than Ernaux, causing her to see her whole life through a different lens from then on - does she only exist because the sister died, is she simply a replacement daughter? Which of the two is the "other daughter" of the title? This is a book about family, about the strange hidden ways in which families operate, about telling the truth and about hiding it. It took me a long time to read despite its brevity because I kept going back and re-reading bits, marvelling at the way Ernaux constructs her sentences. Her style isn't easy but it's not unnecessarily difficult either, in that EVERYTHING is there for a reason.

(I am always fascinated to note coincidental links between the books I read back-to-back or at the same time, as I usually have several on the go. Here, both Reste and L'autre fille are epistolary).

syyskuu 26, 1:02 pm

So Sorry for your Loss: How I Learned to Live with Grief, and Other Grave Concerns by Dina Gachman

Dina Gachman is a writer who was prompted by the death of her mother to write this book. It's a mixture of personal experience and research into what grief is, why we feel it, why we feel it in different ways, with first-hand accounts of her family's experience interspersed with interviews with an interesting selection of not-entirely-predictable experts on the subject: psychiatrists, psychologists, funeral directors, etc. Gachman has a warm, friendly style and her book kept me company when I needed it.

syyskuu 26, 1:14 pm

La nuit des pères by Gaelle Josse

Gaelle Josse is a (French) poet, and it shows in her writing, full of images. The main narrator, Isabelle, returns after years away to her home village in the Alps (another of those coincidental links to a recently-read book - Reste is also set in the Alps) to see her brother and the difficult father whose temper overshadowed her childhood and from whom she has distanced herself. If she is back now, it is only because her brother fears that their father doesn't have long to live. Most of the book is written in the second person as Isabelle addresses a monologue to her father (not quite a letter, as in Reste and L'autre fille, but almost), looking back at their life together and her life since she left home. Isabelle has no explanation as to why their father was as bad-tempered (or downright unpleasant) as he was (is?), or as to why her sweet-natured, long-dead mother stayed and endured it. I almost put this book aside about a third of the way through as I was irritated by the repetition and the slightly overworked style, but it kept itching away at me and I carried on, and I'm glad I did. I was, however, a bit surprised when the brother suddenly took over as narrator for a brief chapter, and then the father later - it seemed as if the author knew she needed to get another viewpoint across and couldn't see another way out. An enjoyable little book overall though, though I suspect it won't stay with me for long.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 27, 11:12 am

When I Sing, Mountains Dance by Irene Solà
Translated from the Catalan by Mara Faye Lethem

This marvellous book is hard to talk about as I'm not sure I've read anything quite like this before. It's set in the Spanish Pyrenees (see? Mountains again), and the thread running through it is the episodic story of the tragic life of Domènec's wife and children in the years and decades after he, Domènec, is killed by lightening high up in the mountains. These people are fully-formed characters, when they have the stage...but the stage (the mountains) isn't fully theirs; it belongs too to everyone who has ever lived in or even just passed through this majestic setting - the women cast out as witches centuries ago, the Republicans trying to escape to France, steps away, in the aftermath of Spain's Civil War, local people who have died more recently, for in this place the dead are as real as the living - as well as to all the animals that live there - the deer, the bears - and even the plants - the trees, the black chanterelles - and the weather. All of these have voices and narrate sections of this polyphonic book - but this isn't one of those books where the author makes it easy for the reader by telling them at the start of each section who is narrating. No, here the reader has to persevere and work it out. The effect is dizzying, sometimes bewildering, utterly immersive. It's not just the narrators that shift, either, it's time, too. Irene Solà does something very strange with time here, switching imperceptibly between a time so ancient that nobody could tell whether it were history or myth and the present day, with other times thrown in in between (the experience of reading the book also did something strange to my own perception of time, as I read it over 2 days but by the end was convinced that there were things in it I had known for ages, in the real sense of ages). It wasn't always entirely clear to me who or what was narrating, or from when, but as I read I realised that a bigger picture was forming in my mind from all the fragments. Brilliant.

syyskuu 27, 2:48 am

Ils ont surgi de la nuit: quand les objets des victimes des camps nazis sont restitués à leurs familles by Elise Karlin

A very-recently published book by a French journalist nominally about the Arolsen Archives, the modern incarnation of an incredible organisation based in Germany which ever since the end of WW2 has, in one form or another, been working tirelessly, in part thanks to volunteers, to elucidate the fate of the millions who disappeared at the hands of the Nazis and to return the possessions with which they entered the camps to their families, even now. I say that the subject of the book is "nominally" the Arolsen Archives because at the same time it's a very personal book about the author's family; Karlin admits that she had never been in the least bit curious about her family, but in 2019 her father happened to be in his doctor friend's office when the latter took delivery of a small parcel from the Arolsen Archives, containing his mother's brooches. Karlin started researching the Arolsen Archives from a journalistic perspective, still without associating what she was doing with her own family, but before long her own ancestors broke through and took up the space they had been denied. Each chapter of the book is about a particular family or individual, sometimes someone who died in the camps and whose final months or years have been pieced back together and their possessions (yellowing photographs, pieces of jewelry, wallets, letters...) returned to their grandchildren/great nephews and nieces, etc; sometimes one of the Arolsen Archives volunteers; sometimes a contemporary family member. And then there are the chapters about Karlin's own grandparents and great-grandparents and the work of memory and restitution that she, with the help of the Arolsen Archive, has undertaken. Fascinating and very moving.

syyskuu 27, 8:42 am

>132 rachbxl: Wow, this looks like a book I'd love. Thanks for the terrific review. In a way, your review puts me in mind of We, the Drowned, except the subject is the ocean (specifically the North Atlantic) rather than the Pyrenees.