SassyLassy in the Pink, and Magenta Too

KeskusteluClub Read 2023

Liity LibraryThingin jäseneksi, niin voit kirjoittaa viestin.

SassyLassy in the Pink, and Magenta Too

tammikuu 2, 2:00 pm

Well it's officially 2023, so I can launch my thread.

That means some colour from Pantone. Pantone's Colour of the Year is 'Viva Magenta', a colour brimming with life:

PANTONE 18-1750 Viva Magenta, a vibrant and nuanced shade of crimson red, is a study in balances: drawing on both warm and cool tones, the color’s origins are grounded in nature with an electrifying hue that can be found in both the physical and virtual spheres, speaking to the diversity of our contemporary world.

The company says “We chose this color because we felt that it was an unconventional shade for an unconventional time, something that could present us with a new vision,”
It’s a colour that really vibrates with vim and vigor, that demonstrates a new signal of strength, which is something we all need for a more optimistic future.”

Or as Pantone's executive director says “The name of the color itself tells you this is a color to celebrate with, an exuberant color that promotes optimism and joy. It’s what we call a boundless shade, a real standout statement. There’s no way you’re going to walk into a room if you’re wearing this color and not have attention go to you. It’s audacious. It’s witty and inclusive—it welcomes anyone and everyone with the same rebellious spirit.

I say "bring it on".

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 2, 2:08 pm

Naturally there are examples (all images from with this Colour Palette:

photo: Yvonne Wilhelmssen

and for the book lovers:

photo Double G


photo Red Cover

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 2, 2:37 pm

Few of us ever find at year end that our reading measured up to our expectation at the beginning. However, by and large 2022 was a good year, although I didn't read enough, with June seeing only one book. These are in order read:

From the Victorian Tavern:
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (reread)
Villette by Charlotte Bronte (reread)
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (reread)
Jezebel's Daughter by Wilkie Collins
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Lady Anna by Anthony Trollope
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (reread)
Brother Jacob by George Eliot
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
Christmas at Thompson Hall and Other Christmas Stories by Anthony Trollope

In Translation (not nearly enough)
Phenotypes by Paulo Scott
Frog by Mo Yan
The Three Arched Bridge by Ismail Kadare
Unknown Soldiers by Vaino Linna
Flights by Olga Tokarczuk
No Room at the Morgue by Jean-Patrick Manchette
A Fairy Tale by Jonas Bengtsson
Rouge Street by Shuang Xuetao
The Colonel by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi
Professor Martens' Departure by Jaan Kross
Rickshaw Boy by Lao She
The Appointment by Herta Muller

Among Flowers by Jamaica Kincaid
Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie
The Floating Brothel by Sian Rees (from rebeccanyc's list)
Mantel Pieces by Hillary Mantel
The First Mrs Meredith by Diane Johnson
Islands of Abandonment by Cal Flyn
The Wildest Place on Earth by John Mitchell
The Last Interview Joan Didion
Duck Hill Journal by Page Dickey
The Day the World Stops Shopping by J B MacKinnon
The Terracotta Gardener by Jim Keeling
Testament of Experience by Vera Brittain
Dancing Fish and Ammonites by Penelope Lively

Other Fiction
Dante's Indiana by Randy Boyagoda
Foregone by Russell Banks
Slough Horses by Mick Herron
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Birds Fall Down by Rebecca West
David Balfour by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee
The Promise by Damon Galgut
Spring by Ali Smith
Dead Lions by Mick Herron
A Guest of Honour by Nadine Gordimer
The Custodian of Paradise by Wayne Johnston
First Snow, Last Light by Wayne Johnston
Kepler by John Banville
An Audience of Chairs by Joan Clark
The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West
Fat City by Leonard Gardner
Rizzio by Denise Mina
English Music by Peter Ackroyd
The Girl from Venice by Martin Cruz Smith
The Siberian Dilemma by Martin Cruz Smith
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 3, 4:29 pm

Who knows where this year will take me?

The Victorian Era reads will certainly be there, as will Reading Globally, starting with Around the Baltic.
Then there is the Nobel Laureates in Literature, which will include some new to me authors.
I'm also reading from rebeccanyc's list 'Hope to Read Soon'.
Lastly there is the Greenhouse Thread.
Outside these, I'll just wander along.

tammikuu 2, 4:39 pm

MaggggggENTah! As pleasurable to say as to look at. Happy new year, Sassy!

tammikuu 2, 6:10 pm

>2 SassyLassy: I love the room with the dark, dark greenish grey walls and magenta ceiling.

>3 SassyLassy: Rickshaw Boy was a favorite when I read it. It reminded me a bit of Zola.
I hope to get to Olga Tokarczuk and Herta Muller in the Nobel group, and the Vainno Linna book has been on my shelf way too long. And I'm surprisingly pleased that you seem to be enjoying the Slow Horses series.

And did you know Russell Banks has a new book out, The Magic Kingdom?

tammikuu 2, 8:08 pm

Welcome to Club Read 2023, Sassy. I should cut and paste your lists into my wishlist and save myself some trouble, so many of them end up there anyway. You influence my reading in many ways, and I look forward to another year of inspiration from your thread.

tammikuu 3, 6:38 am

I love the magenta! (I’m still traumatised by that grey and yellow combo - was that last year or longer ago?) Anyway, Happy New Year and happy reading.

tammikuu 3, 12:41 pm

I’ll take a long cardigan in that magenta, please. And also a silk scarf. Thanks

tammikuu 3, 1:15 pm

Hi Sassy,

That's a great list from 2022. I love the Slow Horses series (am up to Bad Actors) and have the latest Abhir Mukherjee on my phone from the library.

When I was a teenager I chose Laura Ashley wallpaper in almost that magenta colour in the second picture with white criss crosses on it. It was very.... uh....interesting. My Dad wallpapering that room and having to match the criss crosses was such a vivid memory it made it into his eulogy!

tammikuu 3, 4:54 pm

>6 LolaWalser: Now you've got me going - I'm now trying to say it with different accents or as I imagine various actors would try it. Then there's singing.... it seems to work best with Harry Belafonte like 'Matilda', but I have others too.

>7 arubabookwoman: I could be happy in any of those rooms, depends on the day and the weather, but I do like those tiles around the fireplace.
Thanks for the tip about the Russell Banks new book. It comes as somewhat of a surprise, but a welcome one.
I like the idea of Lao She as a Chinese Zola. I find many nineteenth century echoes in some Chinese authors.
You remind me to check the library for the third Slow Horses book.

>8 labfs39: Blushing and right back at you.

>9 rachbxl: That grey and yellow combo was awful, wasn't it? It was 2021 just to make it worse. The magenta is so welcome.

>10 Nickelini: Silk scarf - great idea. Just took a quick look on the internet, and found everything from sneakers to hats, but no dedicated scarves, although there were a few clothing items that could easily be transformed! I'm definitely not a follower of the Princess of Wales, but from this quick look, she does seem to favour the colour and has killer spike heels in it.

>11 cushlareads: That was a very caring Dad, well done him.

tammikuu 3, 5:08 pm

Thanks for the color hit. The magenta in the pic with the the old fisherman painting on the wall is the color we had in the livingroom in our previous house in Massachusetts.

>3 SassyLassy: That's a great list!

tammikuu 3, 7:20 pm

I like the color but it usually takes me a few seconds to remember how to pronounce the "g" in its name... :)

Great list at >3 SassyLassy: This year some books will be able to play double duty in both the Victorian Tavern and in the Translated literature list (if you plan to join the quarterly reads later in the year of course) :)

tammikuu 3, 7:36 pm

>14 AnnieMod: Try this video: - skip to 11:05. My kids used to watch this show when they were young and now whenever I hear the word "magenta", my brain automatically sings "Magenta's comin' over". Hmmm, maybe you don't want to watch it after all

On the way to that video, I found this: Magenta is all in our heads -

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 3, 7:53 pm

And don't forget this Magenta:

>2 SassyLassy: I'm not sure I'll ever have the huevos to paint a room in my house magenta... maybe a wall, but even that thought is a bit intimidating. I'm so vanilla when it comes to paint.

Anyway, your 2022 reading was great! Looking forward to seeing what this year brings.

tammikuu 4, 9:14 pm

such a great reading year you had last year. Happy new year Sassy. That magenta to say formal attire to me.

tammikuu 6, 5:55 am

>16 lisapeet: I thought of that too!!

tammikuu 8, 4:07 pm

That might be your best Pantone topper yet. What a gorgeous shade magenta is - not too red - enough dark undertones. I can't wear anything remotely red (makes me look like a clown), but if I could I'd have to wear a fabulous ballgown in magenta at some point in life.

tammikuu 11, 7:48 pm

Billy Porter Stuns in a Christian Siriano Magenta Tuxedo Dress on the Golden Globes Red Carpet

tammikuu 12, 9:51 am

>20 LolaWalser: I saw the back of this on the news and thought "Wait, who is wearing that wonderful over the top outfit - show me more", so thanks for enlightening me!

>19 AlisonY: Everyone can wear red - it just depends on the shade and the mood that day!

>17 dchaikin: Formal attire as in >20 LolaWalser:'s post above?

>13 avaland: Have to say that room was my favourite iteration.

>15 Nickelini: Hooray for our brains.

>16 lisapeet: Start small, try fabric - magenta goes well with vanilla:)

>14 AnnieMod: More seriously, of course I'm planning to join the quarterly reads.

tammikuu 12, 6:55 pm

I always love your Pantone openings. These are beautiful. Your 2022 reading list is filled with wonderful books, many of which I’ve read or intend to read. I was so bad at following threads last year. I may go back to check out your reviews.

tammikuu 16, 9:36 am

>22 NanaCC: I was so bad at following threads last year. That could easily be a line in any of my threads in any year! Good to "see" you here.

tammikuu 16, 9:40 am

I have to say, the magenta thing has been great for fountain pen ink manufacturers! Lots of really jazzy special editions this year.

tammikuu 16, 10:00 am

Well here it is, the midpoint of January - past time to get going.

Spadework by Timothy Findley
first published 2001
finished reading January 4, 2023

Usually I start the year with some kind of thriller. When I bought Spadework, knowing of Timothy Findley's famous garden I thought that might be the topic, but the local bookstore owner told me it was a murder mystery. He also that that Tiff, up above, would be pleased to know I was starting the year with one of his books, but that's another matter.

Well it turned out that there was both a garden and murders, but these were not the central focus. Instead, Findley has looked at how far his principal characters would go to get what they want, be it a leading role, a sexual conquest, or a measure of equilibrium in day to day life.

Findley was not only an author, he was also a skilled actor. His novel is set in Stratford ON, the home of Canada's Shakesperean theatre, and a town Findley knew well. His usual spot-on ability to portray people is definitely here, along with his way with dialogue. However, surprisingly for Findley, he wrapped up the plot with a sort of "all's well that ends well", one that seemed a bit too forced.

Was he getting too caught up in the theatrical aspects, with a director, a leading actor, and a props specialist as his main players? Was he getting too caught up in portraying Stratford itself, which he did really well? Was it that he was ill and would die the next year? It's difficult to pinpoint how or where it all went slightly astray. Others may have felt the same, as this is a lesser known book of his. Having said all that though, slightly astray for Timothy Findley is definitely better than many others' best.

tammikuu 16, 11:15 am

>24 lisapeet: I have to say, the magenta thing has been great for fountain pen ink manufacturers! Lots of really jazzy special editions this year.

Oooohhhh, that's exciting news. I'm not much on fountain pens, but I hope this trickles into other related art supplies.

tammikuu 16, 12:20 pm

I have definitely tasted some wines (zinfandels likely) that were vivid magenta in color. Happy reading!

tammikuu 16, 12:32 pm

Leave it to the inimitable Billy Porter to be so on trend in the magenta. I'd like a lipstick or nail polish in this color, please.

I just tried to find Spade Work as an ebook or on US Amazon and it wasn't available! I'm hoping the library has it. I love Stratford, ON although I've never made it for the festival.


tammikuu 16, 3:25 pm

>24 lisapeet: >26 Nickelini: That reminds me that in university I used to write with magenta ink colour coded to paper: five courses = five pen colours and five paper colours just to keep everything straight. Somewhere along the line I lost that part of me for better or worse.

>28 nancyewhite: You'd certainly know your way around town then if you read this book. The festival is great, so with luck you can get there sometime.

>27 johnxlibris: Maybe I can combine some of that kind of magenta with my reading.

tammikuu 17, 3:05 pm

>20 LolaWalser: I love Billy Porter.

tammikuu 18, 2:45 pm

The annual start of the year crime novel:

Fatale by Jean-Patrick Manchette translated from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith (2011)
first published as Fatale in 1977
finished reading January 8, 2023

A beautiful young woman turned up in the small coastal town of Bléville. She sought out a local attorney to help her in her hunt for a new home, telling him she was recently widowed and wanted to start a new life. Aimée Joubert's real hunt though was for victims. She was a killer; not a killer for hire, but rather one who seeks out wealthy citizens, insinuates herself into their social circles, learns their secret crimes, takes their money, and kills them. Bléville was just her latest stop.

Aimée was a hard worker. She exercised, practised her martial arts, kept up her appearance, and diligently took notes on her targets as she planned her next crime. Reflecting on this process one evening, she said to herself
Well it's the same as ever, isn't it? It seems slow, but actually it is quite fast. Sex always comes up first. Then money questions. And then, last, come the old crimes. You have seen other towns, my sweet, and you'll see others, knock on wood... Come on my sweet... the crimes come last, and you have to be patient.

It was indeed quite fast. The question is 'why?' The reader learns almost nothing about Aimée, or any of her previous selves. There was a lapse one evening between jobs, as she gorged herself on an uncharacteristic meal of pickled cabbage, sausage, and salt pork, washed down with two bottles of champagne. There was also her habit of going to great lengths to find newspaper clippings of her crimes, often described as accidents. Along the way, it is also revealed that her first victim was her husband. That's basically it.

Manchette's race to the end keeps the reader racing along too. It's only later that questions arise, none of which will have answers. The novel and its ending seem made for film, but a 'plane ride or weekend away would work too.

tammikuu 18, 6:55 pm

I have got a couple of Jean-Patrick Manchette on my shelves. Sounds like Pulp?

tammikuu 19, 12:23 am

sounds entertaining. Great review.

tammikuu 19, 9:48 am

>32 baswood: Depending on which ones you have, I would say pulp in a good way. I did start one I will never finish (The N'Gustro Affair), but the other two I've read have definitely been entertaining. If read in French, there is probably lots of useful slang in there to learn too.
In the Afterword to Fatale, Jean Echenoz speaks of how all Manchette's novels except this one have 'musical resonances': Corea to Callas to Bryan Ferry, something that might appeal.

>33 dchaikin: Thanks, it was.

tammikuu 19, 10:01 pm

>30 Caroline_McElwee:

The definition of panache. :)

>32 baswood:, >34 SassyLassy:

Manchette was published in the same series as some American pulp writers but I place him in a category above (separate anyhow). He liked that he made money with this stuff but it wasn't more important than politics.

I did start one I will never finish (The N'Gustro Affair)

I think I can understand, the main character is very repellent, but unlike what happens in the American pulp, he is not glorified and we are definitely not subtly (or even not so subtly) invited to identify with him. The story is based on actual events and Manchette is satirizing not just the perp but the attitude of the French police and politicians of the "leaden years".

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 20, 12:37 pm

>6 LolaWalser: et. al. "MaggggggENTah! . . . "

You have reminded me of my dad, who had a series of song snippets that he would come out with seemingly randomly at odd times. One of them was . . .

"Ramona, we meet beside the waterfall." And that was all. I don't even know if he knew the rest of the song. I know I don't, though I, too, find myself singing that single line from time to time, particularly when I'm reminded of the word Ramona, such as when somebody writes MaggggggENTah!

Fatale looks really good. I'll keep an eye out for it.

tammikuu 20, 12:38 pm

>34 SassyLassy: I don't know - I found The N'Gustro Affair fascinating in a very cynical and non politically correct way :) Which reminds me that I really should get back to Manchette.

tammikuu 20, 3:50 pm

>35 LolaWalser: >37 AnnieMod: You've both convinced to finish The N'Gustro Affair. I suspect I was in the wrong physical place when I was reading it (Fogo Island) and was having difficulty sustaining my interest as for some reason my usual ability to read in a very cynical and non politically correct way completely deserted me. As I said above, I did like the other two I've read.

tammikuu 20, 5:12 pm

>36 rocketjk:

I'm reminded of the word Ramona


>38 SassyLassy:, >36 rocketjk:

For my part, I wouldn't press you to finish it, Sassy, you wouldn't be missing out on great literature. However (I just supposed this must have been mentioned in the NYRB intro, they are usually good for background?), you may want to look up the Ben Barka affair, just so it's not a complete loss.

My standing advice with Manchette is to try, if possible, The prone gunman, which I think is his best. I loved Fatale, as I do most anything where women kill men (hey--to each their fantasy! :))), but it's not as good.

Incidentally, I don't think the lack of so-called "political correctness" is a good thing in itself but it's certainly something to be prepared for with the "classics" (of any genre).

tammikuu 21, 12:37 am

>36 rocketjk: I know a perfect place to sing “Ramona, we meet beside the water fall.” In the foothills east of San Diego there’s a town called Ramona. About 12 miles from the town center is a trailhead for hiking to Cedar Creek Falls, the best waterfall in San Diego County.
Those foothills get hot, so it’s even possible there are prickly pear cacti out there blooming with MaggggggENTah! flowers.

tammikuu 21, 2:37 am

>40 dypaloh: Love it!

tammikuu 22, 11:40 am

>35 LolaWalser: Panache indeed.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 24, 11:17 pm

>38 SassyLassy: Huh, you surprised me with Fogo Island. I know another Fogo, in Cabo Verde - there the name means Fire, it's a somewhat active volcano. Any idea about the Newfoundland island's name's meaning? I did look, but most of what I found was how to get there and where to stay.

tammikuu 25, 10:46 am

>43 jjmcgaffey: My own take on the name would be that it came from the Basque and Portuguese whalers, who travelled the waters off Newfoundland for centuries. Many place names there come from Portuguese. There was a large whaling station on Red Bay in Labrador, and while it may not seem logical to sail north of the island of Newfoundland to get there, there were more opportunities for good harbours, game and water for food, and shelter along the north coast than there were on the south.

So I imagine some homesick whaler from the islands naming this island Fogo, a name which persists in family names.

There is a place in Nova Scotia which sort of goes along with the homesick idea. The story is that the last place Champlain saw on the Normandy mainland leaving on a voyage to the Americas was Cap de la Hève. Arriving off the North American coast, he put in on a river now known as the LaHave, but believed to be named by him the la Hève. There, in 1632, he established the first capital of what was to become New France at a place now known as Fort Point.

In one of those odd LT coincidences, la Hève is right by Bléville, the setting for Fatale in >31 SassyLassy: above.

Probably a far more longer answer that you were looking for, but I do like tracing names and peoples.

tammikuu 26, 11:14 am

Compartment No 6 by Rosa Liksom translated from the Finnish by Lola Rogers (2014)
first published as Hyttu Nro 6 in 2011
finished reading January 17, 2023

It is roughly 6250 km by train from Moscow to Ulan Bator, Mongolia. A good train can make the trip in four days. Most Russians do not travel on good trains.

A young woman boarded a standard train in Moscow. She stowed her luggage in her four-berth third class compartment, grateful she had it to herself. Just as the train was about to leave, a thickset man joined her in the compartment for the duration. Compartment No 6 is the story of their odyssey.

The woman is never named, always being referred to as 'the girl'. The man, a self confessed Stakhanovite, speaks his name twice: once at the beginning of the trip and once at the end. Otherwise, he is 'the man'. Together, they are two specks on the vast landscape of the dying Soviet Union in 1986.

The girl had come to Moscow from Finland three years earlier to attend university. Her father had cried when she told him what she was doing. Things didn't go well in Moscow. She drifted into a life with her boyfriend's family. Now that too was gone. Mitka was in an asylum, pretending insanity to escape being sent to Afghanistan.

The man had served his time in the army and in jail. He appeared to be heading for work in Ulan Bator, a trip he had made before. Every morning he did his exercises between the bunks. Every day he drank. In between, he told the girl outrageous stories of sexual conquests, derided most nationalities, and occasionally propositioned her. The girl repeated to herself over and over how much she hated him.

The journey had to be endured somehow though, and they developed a sort of routine and truce. Sometimes nothing at all happened: The man and the girl sat silently. They sat in their own thoughts for a day or two.

Kirov, Tyumen, the closed city of Omsk where the train stopped because it needed 'a rest'. Novosibirsk, with a night off the train, Achinsk, closed Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk and a two day stop. There her hotel room had ...pure white starched sheets on the bed, and bug spray in a corner of the bathroom. Ulan Ude, then Khabarovsk with another break in
A land killed by oil and heavy industry and discarded, a heavy city surrounded by crumbling slabs of steel-reinforced concrete, where women walk the back streets in high-heeled fur boots, left behind.

On and on until finally the border was reached after countless cups of tea and the endless search for food in perishing cold.

Liksom somehow manages to keep the reader on track through all the misery, as she draws he picture of the Soviet Union through her mix of the girl's silent observations and the man's experiences. This book won the Finlandia Prize, Finland's most highly regarded literary prize. I suspect it will be high on my list of books read this year.


Some of the things people told the girl along the way:

People can handle anything, when they have no choice Arisa, the woman in charge of the train compartment

Kirov was a great leader in Leningrad who was stabbed in the back by Stalin. First they slaughter their enemies together with their allies, then the allies together with their friends, then their friends. They draw lots for the rest. No one is innocent. A person is always dissatisfied with something, and it's always discovered. The guilty party is always found, and his offence, too, within a day of his arrest. Remember that. Arisa

Suffering is what gives life its flavour, thank God. Want and emptiness are good for you. An old man in a bus queue

tammikuu 26, 11:36 am

Great review!

tammikuu 26, 12:40 pm

>45 SassyLassy: That sounds really interesting, thanks! Trains, Russia and Finland...

I should get back to Manchette as well.

tammikuu 26, 1:00 pm

self-confessed Stakhanovite

Lol @ "self-confessed", like it's some skin condition... People should google Stakhanov before jumping to conclusions. To be a "Stakhanovite" is no worse than being Fordist, Taylorist or other-ist of capitalist super-producerism.

But if it's Russian it's gotta be monstrous.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 26, 3:33 pm

>45 SassyLassy: An interesting book. I had never heard about it or about the author.
As I was checking if it was available in French (which it is, but expensive...), I figured it has been adapted into a film.
It's a film by Juho Kuosmanen and it won the Grand Prix at the Film Festival in Cannes in 2021 (ex aequo with another film).

ETA: I just realised this is my first post this year on your thread. I should have started wishing you a happy 2023 year and I should have added that I plan to follow your thread, as in past years, commenting (rarely) and lurking (often).

tammikuu 26, 4:04 pm

>45 SassyLassy: Compartment Number 6 was available at my library so I checked it out despite my resolve not to check so many books out of the library, and to let them percolate a bit. I have 21 days to get to it.

tammikuu 26, 5:09 pm

>50 arubabookwoman: Ah well, resolutions are never long for this world, and Sassy is a trustworthy source of recommendations.

tammikuu 26, 5:35 pm

>45 SassyLassy: Anyone tempted to make that train journey? Easier to read the book perhaps. Enjoyed your review.

tammikuu 29, 10:56 am

>47 thorold: Just don't travel third class!

>48 LolaWalser: Just as I was agonizing over whether I should have said "self confessed" or "self professed", up popped your comment. As Henry James says in the book I'm currently reading, "I am but the reporter".

>50 arubabookwoman: It's not a long book, and is a page turner despite the misery. Good library.

>46 dchaikin: >51 labfs39: Thanks, that's scary.

>52 baswood: A long time ago, some Canadian friends of mine actually took the train journey from Beijing through Ulan Bator and on to Moscow. It took days in a hard carriage, but they've been able to talk about it ever since. Definitely easier to read the book.

>49 raton-liseur: It did seem as if it would make a wonderful film in the right hands, so thanks for the info. I was imagining a sort of Wim Wenders trip with that John Cassavetes feel where everything happens so slowly it seems like real time

tammikuu 29, 3:27 pm

>45 SassyLassy: Great review and a nice revisit to the book for me. I've read The Colonel's Wife (2019) but have an older novel yet unread.

tammikuu 29, 3:50 pm

>54 avaland: Well I just looked up The Colonel's Wife and that is definitely required reading - thanks for mentioning it.

tammikuu 31, 3:59 pm

The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw (2016)
first published as De usynlige in 2013
finished reading January 23, 2023

Very few people whose families have not been involved in the fisheries take up fishing as a livelihood. It is also true that until the last fifty years or so, very few people whose families are engaged in the fishery, leave it. So it was that Hans Barrøy, head of the only family on the island of Barrøy, kept up the family tradition on his island.

He lived there with his widowed father Martin, wife Maria, sister Barbro, and daughter Ingrid who was three years old when the novel begins. The family managed. They fished, farmed, collected down, cut peat, maintained their buildings and equipment, and survived. It's difficult to put aside any surplus in an existence like this though, and a couple of back to back hard years could send you to the mainland and wage labour for good.

Hans owned shares in his brother Erling's large fishing vessel. Each January when it came to pick Hans up for the lucrative but dangerous Lofoten fishery, all his equipment, food, and luggage had to be carried across a narrow wooden plank between a rocky promontory and a heaving vessel. Hans believed that if he could only build a quay, where boats could tie up instead of beaching, larger boats could come to the island, bringing progress and prosperity.

Whatever his future, it would be rooted in the island. Toward the end of the first storm of the season, he took Ingrid out into it, trying to impress this on her.
He screams that she has to feel with her body that the island is immovable, even though it trembles and both the heavens and the sea are in tumult, an island can never go under, although it may quake, it is rock solid and eternal, it is fixed to the earth itself. Yes, at this moment it is almost a religious belief he wants to share with his daughter, since he doesn't have a son, and with every day that passes he becomes more and more convinced that he will never have one and he will have to content himself with a daughter and teach her the basic principle that an island can never founder, never.

Islands may never founder, but people can. Over the fifteen or so years encompassed in The Unseen, there are many trials and some successes. The world moves on, there is more contact with off islanders. Progress brings a greater dependency on the outside world.

Fishers all over the waters of the North Atlantic live very similar lives. No matter what their country, they have more in common than not. Jacobsen has written a novel that would resonate with any of them, and in so doing has created a superb portrayal of this disappearing world.

helmikuu 2, 4:55 pm

Having read this book, if I were starting out again now, I might seriously consider paleobotany!

Ginkgo by Peter Crane
first published 2013
finished reading January 31, 2023

Imagine a tree so beautiful Goethe wrote a poem about it. Imagine one so ancient it coexisted with the dinosaurs. Imagine one so hardy it could survive 0.5 miles from the epicentre of the bomb in Hiroshima. All these things are true of Ginkgo biloba.

The cut fan shape of its leaves is instantly recognizable, as is its yellow fall colour. It is found on city boulevards, university campuses, in botanical gardens, beside Asian temples, and gracing home gardens, yet today it is practically non-existent in the wild. How did it go from naturally plentiful in the Pleistocene era to a cultivated plant today?

Fossil records show that ginkgos had a range from Tasmania to Iceland and Greenland 40 - 65 million years ago. As the global climate cooled and dried, they seem to have disappeared from the southern hemisphere some 35 million years ago, from North America about 15.5 million years ago, and from Europe about 5 million years ago. They did survive in China, most likely centred in the Jinfo Mountain area of Chongqing and the Tianmu Mountain area in Zhejiang. The first mention of Chinese cultivating ginkgos is in the ninth century CE. They were reintroduced by traders to Japan and Korea about the middle of the 15th century. Western scientists and plant hunters brought what was a novel plant to them to Europe where it created a sensation in the second half of the 18th century. William Hamilton carried it to North America in 1784.

One of the theories advanced for the almost complete disappearance of ginkgos came from Bruce Tiffney in 1984, building on the work of Janzen and Martin. Tiffney suggested that the trees had lost their major dispersal agents. Like many fruit and nut trees, ginkgos rely on animals to spread their seeds. As animals moved to more attractive climates as the earth grew colder, the trees were left standing in place, unable to colonize. Caught in an extinction vortex, they almost disappeared completely.

Can a plant that basically doesn't exist in the wild survive today? Indications so far are good, especially as new cultivars are developed from naturally occurring mutations. Perhaps their greatest enemy today is humans. Ginkgos are dioecious plants, meaning there are male trees and female trees. Fertilized seeds fall to the ground, where they emit an incredibly rancid smell, perhaps the one that attracted the tree's prehistoric dispersers. Humans are repelled by this smell though, and so those who feel the natural world can always be made prettier, neater, and cleaner purchase male plants. No chance of upsetting smells there, but also no opportunity for natural spread.

Crane also speaks of a caretaker cutting down a pair of two hundred year old trees because his dog repeatedly ate the seeds and became ill. As he says:
Trees and forests that have stood firm for centuries in the face of repeated natural assaults have no power to resist one fleeting, but often devastating, attention.

Peter Crane is someone who really knows his subject. He has been director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, taught at the University of Chicago, and been Dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale. His book covers just about every aspect of Ginkgo you can think of, from morphology and phytochemistry, to its use in visual arts. There is something here for everyone. It's hard to imagine a more comprehensive general study.


This was a book on rebeccanyc's 'Hope to Read Soon' list. I would really like to know how it got there, and what she would have thought of it.

helmikuu 2, 5:37 pm

Back to nature with your last two books, both of them very interesting reads

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 3, 9:49 am

The poem Goethe wrote mentioned in >57 SassyLassy: above:

Gingko biloba

Dieses Baum's Blatt, der von Osten
Meinem Garten anvertraut
Giebt geheimen Sinn zu kosten
Wie's den Wissenden erbaut,

Ist es ein lebendig Wesen?
Das sich in sich selbst getrennt:
Sind es zwey? die sich erlesen,
Dass man sie als eines kennt.

Solche Frage zu erwiedern
Fand ich wohl den rechten Sinn;
Fühlst du nicht an meinem Liedern,
Dass ich Eins und doppelt bin?

September 15, 1815

Translation into English by Kenneth Northcott, 2006

Ginkgo biloba

This tree's leaf which from the Orient
Is entrusted to my garden
Lets us savor a secret meaning
As to how it edifies the learned man.

Is it one living being?
That divides into itself
Are there two who have chosen each other,
So that they are known as one?

To reply to such a question
I found, I think, the condign sense.
Do you not feel that in my poems
I am single and twofold?


edited to correct spelling error

helmikuu 2, 6:04 pm

Ginkgo biloba green leaf

image from Yale Nature Walk

fall leaf colour

image from South Carolina Living

helmikuu 2, 6:07 pm

>58 baswood: It's so good to be back living on the Atlantic coast where I can grow a Ginkgo, and should I ever need it, pick up salt for salting fish at my local hardware store!

helmikuu 2, 6:17 pm

>57 SassyLassy:

Botany was my worst subject but I loved that book. It made ginkgos sound the best trees ever.

helmikuu 3, 4:00 am

>56 SassyLassy: Wow, I want to read this one! Maybe not right now, but it’s on the wishlist now.

helmikuu 3, 4:35 am

>57 SassyLassy: Oh - this is a must-read! Thanks to both you and rebeccanyc for the recommendation. There is a wonderful street of gingko trees near my sister's flat in Berlin - nice to have the Goethe connection.

>53 SassyLassy: This reminded me that I used to have a bucket list item to take the Trans-Siberian. I haven't thought about that for years! I have never taken a hard seat cabin in China although I have taken all three other options - hard sleeper, soft seat and soft sleeper. The worst thing that happened to me in hard sleeper was that someone I was chatting to offered me some snacks and I managed to drop the whole bag out of the window....

>49 raton-liseur: I think I will look for the film rather than reading the book!

helmikuu 3, 7:19 am

>57 SassyLassy: How interesting! Leave it to rebeccanyc to find the best books, and you to share them with us. Thanks too for the poem and photos. Made me quite cheerful despite the Arctic blast outside. I hope you are holding up in these temps. Let no one lose power with this wind and the frigid air.

helmikuu 3, 9:11 am

>57 SassyLassy:, >59 SassyLassy: labfs39 sent me here because she correctly thought I'd be interested. I'm unsurprised the book was on RebeccaNYC's list as she was involved in all sorts of scientific enterprises.

helmikuu 3, 1:02 pm

>57 SassyLassy: sounds terrific! I’m bonding with the ginkgo just through your review (and pictures)

helmikuu 3, 1:40 pm

>57 SassyLassy: Adding it to my list.

We had a female tree at one of the libraries I worked and, and it did stink abominably in bloom season. Unfortunately, it dropped a limb on a coworker's car and totaled it, so the tree is no longer there.

helmikuu 3, 4:42 pm

>62 LolaWalser: 'best trees ever' - like a mother of many children, I couldn't pick a favourite, it all depends on the time of year, the light and how I feel that day, but it would definitely rank way up there (don't tell the other trees)

Botany seems to me to be one of those courses where you have to do the dread basic drudge course before you get into the more interesting things, which differ for everyone, but for me were plant physiology and phytochemistry. I wonder how many people were put off pursuing plant science in one area or another by the initial offerings.

>63 FlorenceArt: >64 wandering_star: >68 markon: Always happy to add to other people's lists

>65 labfs39: Let no one lose power with this wind and the frigid air.
Indeed! I don't usually comment on the weather as there's nothing you can do about it, but there are warnings and helpful advice all over the radio this time around. It will be the worst since I've lived in this house, indeed the worst for decades apparently, and I have no idea how likely the pipes are to freeze. So far today the temperature has dropped from a seasonal 3C to -12 in a couple of hours, with wind chill -29 and expected to hit -42 as the temperature drops another 15 degrees or so. Luckily normal will return by Sunday afternoon. Just keep picturing those ginkgos like >67 dchaikin:!

>66 qebo: Welcome! I knew rebeccanyc was involved in science and read a lot about it, which is part of why I would have liked her take on the book.

>68 markon: That seems like a severe punishment! Maybe the library could have got by with just a bit of better tree care.

helmikuu 4, 11:42 am

>60 SassyLassy: I love that green.

helmikuu 5, 4:51 am

>61 SassyLassy: I am an hour and a half from the Atlantic coast, but on the other side. Lovely photographs that shine out of my computer.

helmikuu 5, 6:42 am

>45 SassyLassy: That was a lovely re-visit of the Liksom novel (oh, it's adapted to film! Must look around for that).

Ginkgos are gorgeous, aren't they?! Thanks for sharing that.

helmikuu 6, 8:42 pm

Here in NYC, in the spring when the ginkgos drop their berries, you see old Chinese women with plastic bags and plastic gloves picking through them—they collect the fruit for the nuts inside, which are supposed to be as good as the fruit is nasty. It's such an urban sight, to me.

That's a great run of reading—all of them noted.

helmikuu 8, 4:52 pm

>70 Caroline_McElwee: >71 baswood: >72 avaland: >73 lisapeet: Definitely difficult to feel down looking at trees, no matter what the season.

>73 lisapeet: Crane even covered the culinary aspects of ginkgos. They seem to be what some would call an 'acquired taste'! I'm willing to try them though.

helmikuu 8, 4:53 pm

Noting that today is my 12th Thingaversary. It's certainly gone quickly.

helmikuu 8, 5:08 pm

Thanks again for drawing attention to Compartment No.6, I enjoyed it!

>57 SassyLassy: >59 SassyLassy: I learnt that Goethe poem by heart when I was about 14 (and I can still recite it), but I’ve no idea why that particular one attracted me. The only other one I knew at that point was “Wer nie sein Brot…” which only caught my attention because of the popular parody that turns it into a warning about the perils of crumbs between the sheets. I don’t think I really had any idea what a ginkgo leaf looked like until much later. That Crane book sounds interesting, anyway.

helmikuu 9, 5:40 am

Happy Thingaversary! May you have many more! (aren't you supposed to buy 12 new books or something like that?)

helmikuu 9, 7:15 am

Woohoo, it's your Thingaversary! May there be many more.

helmikuu 9, 5:09 pm

>75 SassyLassy: well, happy 12th!

helmikuu 11, 10:37 am

Happy 12th! Did you buy yourself a dozen books? That tradition seems like it could get pretty unwieldy after a point, though fun.

maaliskuu 26, 4:46 pm

Well I guess that Thingaversary was too much for me - it took me over a month to recover! Not over a month to read a book though. This one was read for the February Lusophone Africa month:

Sleepwalking Land by Mia Couto translated from the Portuguese by David Brookshaw (2006)
first published as Terra Sonambula in 1992
finished reading February 5, 2023

Mozambique's FRELIMO led War of Independence against Portugal was bad enough, but at least it held out the hope of a better future for the people. The civil war which followed held no such promise. As usual, it was everyday people who suffered most.

Opening the novel with a young boy and an old man on the road, Coutu writes in images.
They walk with swaying gait, as if journeying has been their only occupation since birth. Their destination is the other side of nowhere, their arrival a non-departure, awaiting what lies ahead. They are fleeing the war, the war that has contaminated their whole country. They advance under the illusion that somewhere beyond there lies a safe country....
The two travellers matched the road, withered and devoid of hope.

The boy, Muidinga, was recovering from a terrible illness that left him all but dead. The man, Tuahir, had found him abandoned in the refugee camp, and taken him under his wing when no one else would. Both were starving.

As they wandered along, they found a burnt out bus, its dead passengers still inside. A lone man lay dead on the road outside, shot to death. What better place to shelter than a burned out wreck? They buried the dead and settled in. The man on the road had had a series of notebooks with him, telling his story.

As the days passed, Muidinga, who could read a little, read them to Tuahir, gaining confidence as he went. Kindzu was the name of the boy in the notebooks, a boy who had grown up on the Mozambique coast, a new and exotic world to Muidinga.

The man and boy spent much of their time looking for food, water, and firewood, but both looked forward to the readings. Couto alternates the day to day life with these readings. However, as time goes on, a wonderful magic realism creeps in, bit by bit, blurring the lines between the two stories. Is the highway with the burnt out bus moving through the land? Roads should be still, "waiting for men's journeys". Which story does each boy actually belong in? Who is Tuahir?

This is indeed a sleepwalking land; one where travellers dream and hallucinate their way through on their way to unknown destinations.


Sleepwalking Land was Couto's first novel, yet is so well written it was selected as one of the best dozen African books of the twentieth century by the jury at the International Book Festival.

maaliskuu 26, 4:51 pm

In Sleepwalking Land, an outsider tells Kindzu:

... if there had to be war, there had to be death. And what was it all for? To license robbery. For nowadays, no wealth could be born from work. Only pillage gave people property rights. Death was necessary so that laws could be forgotten. Now that there was total chaos, anything was permitted. The finger would always be pointed elsewhere.

maaliskuu 27, 11:58 am

>81 SassyLassy: Wow. Sounds powerful. I need to read more Couto.

maaliskuu 28, 9:58 am

Over on the Africa Novel Challenge for February page, amanda4242 posted this link to an NYT article on Couto:

>83 labfs39: me too!

maaliskuu 31, 10:00 am

Great review of Sleepwalking Land, Sassy. I struggled with it last year so I put it aside, but I want to try it again later this year.

huhtikuu 1, 12:12 am

>81 SassyLassy: Excellent review, you have me interested.

huhtikuu 16, 3:19 pm

>85 kidzdoc: Hope you do get back to it. I can see that it might not work with interruptions.

>86 RidgewayGirl: I think you would like it.

huhtikuu 16, 4:00 pm

This was read for the Victorian Tavern North American quarter, but it took ages to write about it.
What is it about Henry James that always shuts me down?!
I have quoted him quite a bit here, as only James can convey James.

The Bostonians by Henry James
first published in serial form in Century February 1885 - February 1886
finished reading February 14, 2023

Set in Boston just after the end of the American Civil War, The Bostonians is a Henry James interpretation of the love triangle. However, since this is James, it is not the standard nineteenth century take. True, the sweet young thing must decide between two suitors, but in a major deviation from other novels of the time, one suitor is male, the other female.

Verena Tarrant was an uneducated young woman, but one with a gift for public speaking. This was what first attracted the attention of Basil Ransom and Olive Chancellor. The two, second cousins, had gone to a meeting about women's emancipation: Olive as a true believer, Basil as a polite and dutiful southerner and family member.

Olive was smitten instantly. Soon she had managed to persuade the young Verena to move into her Charles Street home, an address the very epitome of Boston respectability. Verena's parents were placated with a yearly stipend. As James describes it, Verena was a placid soul, willing to be educated to the feminist cause by the overwhelmingly intense Olive. As a featured speaker, and with Olive's backing, Verena could attract crowds to meeting halls to hear these new ideas presented to a wide audience.

Basil, a non believer, felt Verena's life was being wasted.
...he seemed to see the crowded, overheated hall, which he was sure was filled with carpet-baggers, to hear flushed women, with loosened bonnet-strings, forcing thin voices into ineffectual shrillness. It made him angry, and all the more angry, that he hadn't a reason, to think of the charming creature... mixed up with such elements, pushed and elbowed by them, conjoined with them in emulation, in unsightly strainings and clappings and shoutings, in wordy, windy iteration of inanities.
He felt that ...her apostleship was all nonsense, the most passing of fashions, the veriest of delusions, and that she was meant for something divinely different - for privacy, for him, for love.

Over time, Olive's possessiveness and jealously created an inner turmoil for Verena. An immense pity for Olive sat in her heart and she asked herself how far it was necessary to go in the path of self-sacrifice.

Using Olive and Basil and their differing views, James does an excellent job presenting the question of women's rights in the context of the time. His contrasting descriptions of the culture of the North and the South, and then of Boston and New York City, hold the reader with their immediacy. Yet there were many questions about the characters themselves that seemed unresolved.

Did Verena truly believe in Olive's cause, or was she just happy to find a comfortable life and escape her parents?

What was it about Verena that attracted Basil yet made him want to change her?

Did Olive realize the strong sexual undertones of her attraction to Verena?

The final chapter is frantic as a resolution of sorts is reached, but as James hints in the final sentence, it will not be a happy one for any of the three.

huhtikuu 16, 6:34 pm

Interesting review of The Bostonians which I have not read. I blow hot and cold over Henry James I loved his Portrait of a Lady but could not get to grips with What Maisie Knew

huhtikuu 17, 7:57 am

Fabulous review of The Bostonians, Sassy. I've not read anything by Henry James yet, but your review makes me want to try this book.

huhtikuu 17, 5:31 pm

I'm still struggling with The Bostonians, about 1/3 through, but haven't picked it up in over a month. I've always had difficulties with James. I just finished Alan Hollinghurst's Line of Beauty in which the main character has studied James, and is possibly adapting The Spoils of Poynton for screen. It sounded interesting, and I've been contemplating dropping The Bostonians and trying The Spoils of Poynton. Or maybe I should just accept once and for all that I will never get on with James.

huhtikuu 17, 6:54 pm

I have just never cared for James' novels, although I understand his importance in the evolution of narrative approaches, etc. I know how revered he is, however, and I can see the point. I just can't share the enthusiasm.

>91 arubabookwoman: I loved The Line of Beauty.

huhtikuu 19, 6:21 pm

>89 baswood: I have that same relationship to James. It does make the start of each novel interesting in a "what's this all about?" way; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. However, I wonder if it depends more on where the reader is at the start - a James book may not work at one time, but the same book will work well at another.

>90 kidzdoc: Thanks. One of James's more straightforward works, which also takes place in the USA, is The Europeans, which I found quite entertaining. The Europeans in question are visiting the US, and the interactions between the two sides of the family are quite revealing of national stereotypes.

>91 arubabookwoman: Line of Beauty sounds like a good one, and I like Hollinghurst. Have you read Colm Toíbin's The Master? That was about Henry James and done very well.

>92 rocketjk: Is James compulsory reading in school, or can you get away without him?
Noting the second vote for Line of Beauty.

huhtikuu 19, 6:43 pm

Right after finishing The Bostonians I was in the city visiting someone who had actually read it too. We discussed it (real life book discussion - wow!) and then understanding the need for a light break, she produced this next book.

A Foreboding of Petrels by Steve Burrows
first published 2022
finished reading February 19, 2023

A research scientist in Antartica, out alone on the ice, realizes he is being murdered, although there is no one there. He tries to leave as many clues as possible so that when he is found it won't be assumed he froze to death.

Back in England, avid birder DCI Domenic Jejeune, on leave and under suspension, hears of the death and starts poking around as much as he can from thousands of kilometres away and without official interest.

It sounds barely plausible, and I was sceptical at first, but it actually worked.

This is the seventh and latest in the so called 'Birder Murder Mysteries' series. Burrows, a contributing field editor to Asian Geographic, is a committed birder. Each book in the series features Jejeune, a Canadian outsider to his English colleagues. Obviously I missed the reasons for his suspension, but am quite happy to go back and start at the beginning with A Siege of Bitterns. As an added bonus, there are collective nouns to be learned with each book title featuring an appropriate one!

Apparently the earlier books in the series were from a small publisher, and distribution was not that wide, but with this later in the series title, Burrows has changed publishers, so should reach a wider audience.

It's always good to have a detective series on which to fall back.

huhtikuu 20, 4:48 pm

Hi Sassy. Terrific reviews of The Bostonians and, going back, of Sleepwalking Land. I’m not a mystery reader, but Burrows sounds fun.

huhtikuu 21, 12:30 pm

>94 SassyLassy: This looks fun.

huhtikuu 21, 7:51 pm

>94 SassyLassy: I have actually seen these books before - it must have been the early ones - in the shop of the visitor centre of a nature reserve in Norfolk (Cley Marshes)! I think one of the main characters is based in Norfolk? I was intrigued by the titles which is why they stuck in my memory.

huhtikuu 22, 4:40 pm

>95 dchaikin: >96 qebo: >97 wandering_star: He is interesting and quite fun. Today I was lucky enough to find the first one in a favourite local hangout, so picked it up. Then I'll know how a Canadian detective wound up in Norfolk. The nature reserve sounds like a good place to sell them given the content.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 25, 3:10 pm

>94 SassyLassy: et al: I'm glad you enjoyed the Steve Burrows birding mysteries. Adding to my "I need a mystery I haven't read yet" list. I'm curious about which one to start with, as I see mixed reviews on the first one in the series, although it did win an award for first novel.

toukokuu 9, 1:55 am

>94 SassyLassy: that sounds fun and interesting and hey, look at that — I own the first in the series

toukokuu 21, 9:55 am

Just stopping by to let you know that I have set up a thread for the group read of the first volume of The Snopes Trilogy, The Hamlet since you had expressed an interest in joining in.

toukokuu 23, 6:19 pm

>101 arubabookwoman: Thanks for letting me know. I now have the book, since this weekend, so am able to start on time.

toukokuu 27, 6:22 am

>94 SassyLassy: I think you might have snagged me with this series Sassy. Dropped the first in my cart!

heinäkuu 4, 9:50 am

Time to resurrect my thread.

Several times over the past few months I've tried to write about this book. Each time I've lost what I had written. Logically, this was a way of telling me I wasn't happy with the way I had expressed my thoughts. However, although I am no happier with this version, if it doesn't get done now, it will never be done.

In the Café of Lost Youth by Patrick Modiano translated from the French by Chris Clarke (2016)
first published as Dans le café de la jeunesse perdue in 2007
finished reading February 22, 2023

The very title of Patrick Modiano's novel suggests the pervading melancholy of the book. The Condé was part of a certain time and place, in a Paris that no longer exists, one which at the time in the 1950s was so representative of that era Modiano has it being featured in a monograph about the city.

The solitary young woman was a sporadic visitor at first, sitting at the back, as if she were running from something, trying to escape some danger. After awhile, the regulars gave her the name Louki, a name with which she was comfortable, as it wasn't her own.

Who was she really? This is the heart of the book. Three different narrators and Louki herself relate episodes of her life, each giving a different perspective, each seeming to belong to a completely different world, each making her story seem part of a long ago life.

There's a sense here of moving through fog on night time streets. Life is muffled, obscured, dreamlike, only partly seen. The glimpses are of youth that is not only lost in time for the narrators themselves, but in the case of Louki, lost completely.

Another great writer of lost youth said "You can't go home again". Modiano knew that too.

heinäkuu 4, 10:40 am

>104 SassyLassy: Terrific review. I read Modiano's short novel, Honeymoon five years ago and enjoyed it very much.

heinäkuu 4, 2:13 pm

>104 SassyLassy: I am a Patrick Modiano fan. You know what you are going to get from one of his novels- in fact you could use most of your review to cover any of his novel.

heinäkuu 4, 2:18 pm

>104 SassyLassy: Life is muffled, obscured, dreamlike, only partly seen.

This is exactly how I felt about Modiano's Suspended sentences : three novellas. Dora Bruder was a bit more energetic as it had a definite (partially nonfiction) plotline, but I wrote in the review that "I find the experience of reading Modiano to be like reading with cotton balls in your head."

heinäkuu 4, 3:20 pm

>107 labfs39: "I find the experience of reading Modiano to be like reading with cotton balls in your head." Something like that, yes.

heinäkuu 4, 3:38 pm

I don't like Modiano at all. Just about the only book of his I felt was worth something was Dora Bruder.

heinäkuu 7, 8:47 am

In the Café of Lost Youth was the first Modiano I've read, so interested in seeing people's responses above. I will read another down the road, just to see that repetition of mood and setting being suggested. Since Dora Bruder got several mentions, I will look for it.

>109 LolaWalser: What is it you don't like about his writing?

heinäkuu 7, 9:21 am

Back last summer, just after Battle of the Atlantic Sunday, a day always commemorated in Halifax NS, from where so many merchant marine convoys left to supply the UK and parts of Europe during WWII, my neighbour and I were having a backyard conversation about it. I happened to mention how much I had enjoyed Nicholas Monsarrat's The Cruel Sea, which captured those crossings so well, with all their terror and danger. A couple of weeks later, my neighbour appeared with this book, another novel by Monserrat, dealing with those same convoys from a different perspective. It got lost in the TBR, only to be found in the dead of winter, when a guilty conscience prompted me to read it.

The Kappillan of Malta by Nicholas Monsarrat
first published 1973
finished reading March 15. 2023

The Kappillan of Malta takes the fictional story of a beloved priest in WWII Malta and combines it with centuries of that island's history. The result isn't historical fiction, since it's not quite a mesh, but rather either a novel interspersed with history lessons, or a history broken up by bedtime stories. It's an odd mix, especially since the history is often delivered as a story to a congregation of homeless Maltese peasants, displaced by the war.

Father Salvatore, 'Dun Salv', was an ordinary enough priest, dedicated to building a new church for his parishioners and Saint Barnabas. His ancient and exalted family background on the island would have predicted a higher role in life, but now in his forties, Dun Salv was at peace with his station in life.

Then WWII broke out. Malta's strategic position in the Mediterranean made it not only a coveted base for Britain, who controlled the island and its harbours, but also a natural target for German and Italian bombers determined to prevent vital supplies from reaching it, on their way to North Africa.

The relentless bombing soon destroyed habitation in the main city of Valletta. The now homeless, and those still with homes but seeking shelter, moved into the catacombs high above the city, a sanctuary revealed by one of those very bombs. The partially built church to be dedicated to Saint Barnabas had been completely destroyed on that first day. Father Salvatore moved into the catacombs with his flock.

That first night he delivered the first instalment of his Hexameron. This is Monsarrat's device for inserting Maltese history into his novel. At each crucial stage of the ongoing seige of Malta, Dun Salv delivered a homily to the congregation, telling them of their history in a way that would allow them to relate it to their current situation, and so be led to believe they could survive as their forbears had.

June 11, 1940, was the first day of bombing, and the priest took them back to 1500 BCE and the arrival of the Phoenicians. By Christmas Day, 1941, things were desperate in Malta. People were beginning to starve as huge convoys bringing supplies were obliterated in the Mediterranean Sea. There were no celebrations of the day, and as it drew to a close, Dun Salv delivered his fourth instalment, the story of the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, the siege wherein the great enemy fleet was finally destroyed.

Malta endured the twentieth century siege until August 15, 1942. By then Dun Salv had incurred the wrath of his superiors for his unorthodox conduct and perceived tolerance of what they considered to be sinful behaviour.

The fictional story of Dun Salv, his congregation, his family, and his mounting questions about his faith are a good tale after the fashion of novels by Leon Uris and James Clavell, written around the same time. Monsarratt, however, isn't as skilful at bringing fact and fiction together, or at incorporating a love story: a disappointment in an otherwise good old fashioned narrative.


Although this review is chronologically out of order, I just found the book once more, and now will have to shamefacedly return it.

heinäkuu 12, 4:53 pm

image from Bear Pond Books Facebook

Bear Pond Books in Montpelier VT after the storm.

This is a book store I've been going to for years. Two weeks ago I was buying books there. Yesterday I heard the co-owner on CBC radio talking about the flood. They packed everything up to two feet above the floor in preparation; the flood went to three.

This year is their fiftieth anniversary, and they hope to reopen soon.

heinäkuu 12, 5:33 pm

>112 SassyLassy: Oh, that's rough. I hope they do manage to reopen again soon.

heinäkuu 12, 6:04 pm

>112 SassyLassy: Sorry to see this. Hope there wasn't too much damage to their stock.

heinäkuu 12, 6:45 pm

All caught up with your reading 🤓

heinäkuu 13, 7:09 am

>112 SassyLassy: Always painful to see. I hope they recover quickly. Have you had as much rain as we have lately? Maine had over 9" of rain in June, as opposed to the usual 3.5. Most rain in 25 years. July has not begun much better. Crops are rotting in the fields.

heinäkuu 14, 10:06 am

>112 SassyLassy: Oh my. I hope recovery is swift. A little wry humour with a volume called 'Trout Ponds' on the right perhaps.

heinäkuu 22, 1:57 pm

>110 SassyLassy:

Ah, just a personal thing, find him boring and opaque for no reason, Lisa describes the feeling well in >107 labfs39:.

Sorry about the bookshop. Wacky weather, whatever next.

heinäkuu 24, 9:29 am

>116 labfs39: Well, after record rainfalls in June, we had 252mm in under 24 hours this weekend. Today appears to be a major assessment day by all the various highway, infrastructure and like authorities, but since 6 bridges are completely gone, and 19 more need work, it will be awhile until things get back to normal. Even Canada Post has closed today while back roads are checked.

>117 Caroline_McElwee: I did get a chuckle out of that. Another photo had a Greta Thunberg book in it, but that looked a little too coincidental. The Trout Ponds book on the other hand I had actually seen there.

>118 LolaWalser: That is a good description in >107 labfs39:, but sometimes cotton balls can block out everything else, keeping you in that world. Sometimes you really don't want that. I guess it depends on the day.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 24, 10:09 am

A present to myself:

Orwell's Roses by Rebecca Solnit
first published 2021
finished reading February 28, 2023

It's somehow comforting to discover that George Orwell loved roses. This man, with one of the bleakest perspectives on his times and the future, found solace in that most elemental of human activities, cultivating a garden, the solution preferred by another philosopher in another turbulent age.

In April, 1936, Orwell moved to a small rented cottage in Wallington, one with a tin roof, lacking gas, electricity, and indoor toilet. While fairly standard rural living for the times, it was not exactly easy living. He immediately planted a garden, one focussed mainly on food, but he also planted roses; not an obvious choice given the circumstances. Later there would be goats.

Orwell left for Spain and its Civil Was at the end of that year, but he would return to the cottage and its garden, saying in 1940 Outside my work, the thing I care about most is gardening... In 2009, the George Orwell Diaries were published, filled with accounts of this domestic life.

Solnit suggests this was a way of remaining grounded, focussed.
Pursuits like that can bring you back to Earth from the ether and the abstractions. They could be imagined as the opposite of writing.
A garden offers the opposite of the disembodied uncertainties of writing. It's vivid to all the senses, it's a space of bodily labor, of getting dirty in the best and most literal way, an opportunity to see immediate and unarguable effect.
Gardens are full of life and death, but also of hope. This is the influence on Orwell and his writings Solnit examines in these essays.

At first they seem to meander, but then suddenly they return to the subject, and everything falls into place. How else does Ralph Lauren's 1980s insistence on chintz and roses morph into a discussion of the imperial passion for importing the products of empire, and then connect to Jamaica Kincaid and her visceral reaction to the colonisation of her Antigua home? Solnit suggests The Road to Wigan Pier provides the parallel and the answer, with Orwell saying You have got to choose between liberating India and having extra sugar. Which do you prefer?

Another essay. "In the Rose Factory", quotes Orwell on coal, saying It is only very rarely, when I make a great mental effort, that I connect this coal with the far-off labor in the mines. Solnit visited an actual rose factory in Bogata, describing the process of growing roses for the floral industry, and the condition under which the female workers work, ending with was even more rarely that anyone connected the roses to the invisible toil in these greenhouses. They were the invisible factories of visual pleasure.

Orwell's Roses is not by any means a standard biography. Rather, it is an exploration and a meditation on the writer, his works, and how he is viewed today. Solnit certainly knows her subject and his writing. Her thoughts often provide a different way of viewing them; ideas that definitely inspire another look at Orwell.

As for those roses he planted, they were still there at the cottage when Solnit visited in 2016.

heinäkuu 24, 10:11 am

Orwell's cottage in Wallington, image from The Financial Times

Albertine roses, a variety planted by Orwell
image from The Financial Times

heinäkuu 24, 11:20 am

>119 SassyLassy: I rather like Modiano's writing. To expand on my comment, his writing is very atmospheric, foggy, not claustrophobic, but muffled, muted. It's a bit of a strain to make things out, but worth the effort, IMO.

heinäkuu 24, 11:47 am

>122 labfs39: Yes! Although to me it doesn’t really feel like I’m making any effort, I just go with the flow. I’m good at that 😊

heinäkuu 24, 1:51 pm

>120 SassyLassy: George Orwell probably would not recognise Wallington now, but good to see his cottage is still there. Interesting book, I have not read anything by Rebecca Solnit, but her name is familiar from somewhere.

heinäkuu 26, 7:44 pm

>120 SassyLassy: Very nice review. The photos are lovely (wish I could be there in person)

heinäkuu 28, 5:31 pm

>124 baswood: She has articles published in the Guardian

elokuu 21, 2:00 pm

Out of chronological reading order, but I need to get this book out of here:

Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan
first published 2021
abandoned August 7, 2023

There I was in a bookstore in a country where I could neither speak nor read either official language. However, there was a small English language section, so I did a bit of browsing. Jenni Fagan caught my eye, as I had hoped to read her novel Hex, about Geillis Duncan, a victim of the North Berwick Witch Trials, executed in 1591.

Hex wasn't there, so I picked up Luckenbooth, as the back cover suggested an entertaining travel read:
Jessie, the devil's daughter, arrives on the doorstep of an imposing tenement building and knocks on a freshly painted wooden door. She has been sent by her father to bear a child for a wealthy couple, but, when things go wrong, she places a curse on the building and all who live there - and it lasts a century.

Okay, not my normal reading, but, as I said, I was looking for light entertainment.

10 Luckenbooth Close, a thin nine storey tenement near St Giles Cathedral, was hidden away and almost unknown to its neighbours despite its height. Fagan uses this architecture to create a series of stories, in which each character lives in a different floor in a different decade, each sensing some malevolent spirit lurking in the building. She does a good job describing a 1910 Edinburgh, one where spirits could indeed roam, and there's always the feeling that someone is following you.

Why did I abandon this book, something I've probably only ever done deliberately three or four times in my life? Well I didn't start reading it until late July, back at home, where easy reading was no longer a consideration. It started to grate on me; little details which I somehow magnified until they became the distraction. A character pulls on tights (pantyhose) in 1944. That didn't sound right, so a quick check revealed pantyhose were not marketed until 1959. Listening to Bing Crosby singing "I'll be Seeing You" in 1944 seemed questionable, but I have to give Fagan that one as he released it in 1944. Having a shop girl discuss having "issues" also grated. Back then there were real issues to deal with, like WWII, bombing, rationing, you name it. Dialogue sounding like high school in the midst of tense situations didn't ring true. There was a fun 1963 episode with William Burroughs winding up in the basement on a secret visit to Edinburgh, but it wasn't enough to compensate for the rest.

Out the books goes, and I may have to find another author for a read about Geillis.

elokuu 22, 4:52 pm

After the Luckenbooth episode, I needed the assurance that there were indeed writers out there who could tell a story. Grahame Greene never disappoints and this was on a TBR pile.

The Comedians by Graham Greene
first published 1965
finished reading August 10, 2023

Don't be fooled by the title. This is Graham Greene after all. The Comedians is more a twist on "All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely Players;"
Roles here are assigned by fate. Some are capable of rising to the demands of the role; others, the comedians, fail to meet the challenges presented by life.

The novel opens on a cargo steamer bound for Port au Prince and Santo Domingo. It was 1964, and what exactly waited in Port au Prince besides evil and danger was unclear. The Americans had pulled out and chaos was everywhere.

Brown, the narrator, owned a hotel in Port au Prince. He had no idea whether or not he would still own it when he arrived back. Smith, the 'Presidential Candidate', and Jones, 'that's Major Jones', were fellow passengers. Smith, Brown, and Jones: an improbable situation as Brown remarked, adding ..."the three names, interchangeable like comic masks in a farce."

There were no guests at the hotel on Brown's arrival, and only a minimal staff. There was however a crisis, a dead man, a friend of Brown's, in the empty swimming pool. The situation had to be dealt with immediately. Police couldn't be called, and the body had to be disposed of that night, without roving bands of Tontons Macoute discovering anything. Smith and his wife, true believers in their cause, had just arrived at the hotel as guests. They could not know either.

Brown's hotel, although never recovering to its pre Duvalier days, created a locus for the comings and goings of both Haitians and Europeans. As the horrors of Duvalier's rule became more inescapable, people had to decide whether to flee, or to join the rebels, or to accept their fate. The border, the destination for both rebels and refugees, was heavily guarded. Betrayal, personal and political, was a possibility at every step. The masks came off.


Greene knew Haiti well, staying there twice before Duvalier, and once again in August 1963 when it was the Haiti of The Comedians, of the Tontons Macoute, the searches, the road-blocks, the rebels in the hills. Having criticized the dictatorship in the English press, he was unable to return a fourth time, but did manage to travel the Dominican side of the border with two Haitian exiles. As with all Greene's political novels, it is this kind of local knowledge and experience that makes them so credible.

elokuu 22, 10:04 pm

>128 SassyLassy: I read the Comedians a few years back, in fact I selected for the reading group I was in then, and thought it was a very good tale. I recently read a long New Yorker article on the current situation in Haiti. Things just keep getting worse.

elokuu 23, 9:45 am

It is hard to abandon a book but I now reason-there are so many good books waiting to be read and ... I shouldn't waste my time with a bad book.

elokuu 24, 2:40 am

>127 SassyLassy: Oh, super interesting. Luckenbooth was on my wishlist because (I think) Jenn Campbell raved about it. But then I didn't see anything else about it, so it never bubbled up to buy. Hex was good but not amazing.

elokuu 24, 5:31 pm

>128 SassyLassy: I have not been to Haiti, but felt I had after reading The Comedians. One of my favourite Greene novels.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 25, 7:45 am

>129 rocketjk: >132 baswood: Greene certainly can give that feeling of being there. Reading The Power and the Glory, it was so easy to see the whisky priest, and The Quiet American also left me thinking I could recognize some of those types. Perhaps that's what made film adaptations of his work so good.
When I was younger I used to think my father and Greene shared many traits. Reading The Comedians reminded me of those earlier notions, as like Brown in The Comedians, my father travelled frequently by cargo steamer, and like Brown, he once wound up in Santo Domingo, where he always claimed to have been caught on the dock with American Marines firing to shore (1965). I have no idea what he was doing there.

This article in The Guardian shows Greene was a serious Nobel prize contender in 1967, but lost out to Miguel Angel Asturias:

Obituary from The New York Times

>130 torontoc: .. I shouldn't waste my time with a bad book. This is good advice, which I suspect I will follow more in future. Reading shouldn't be a chore, a job to be completed at all costs. Somehow, my earlier self believed once you start something, you must finish it! Now I should just regard the time lost as a "sunk cost" and move on!

>131 Nickelini: It was your review of Hex that got me interested, along with the idea of the Polygon series of commissioned authors writing novels on Scottish history. I did enjoy Denise Mina's Rizzio, which I believe you also read.

elokuu 25, 9:09 am

>133 SassyLassy: re: Greene, I found his memoir, Ways of Escape, which covers most of his writing life, to be very interesting. For what it's worth, my over-long (what else is new?) review of the book is here:

elokuu 25, 4:14 pm

elokuu 26, 4:39 pm

>134 rocketjk: Not overlong at all, and now I have a "new" Greene to track down. Loved the story about the arms dealer.

elokuu 26, 5:23 pm

Several of the books I read in late 2022 and so far in 2023 have involved children as protagonists. It wasn't planned, it just happened. This one features another child from East Africa, but is considerably different from Sleepwalking Land in >81 SassyLassy: above. Thanks to a fellow LT member for this.

Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah
first published 1994
finished reading March 3, 2023

In Yusuf's twelfth year, his father gave him to his Uncle Aziz in payment for a debt. Yusuf did not know this was the reason for travelling far from his village to the home of his adored uncle. Once there, he quickly learned that now he was to have nothing to do with his uncle other than on an employer-employee relationship. At all costs, he was not to address him as Uncle. He was to live under the direction of Khalil, the teenager who ran the shop. Khalil named him kifa urongo, living death, only half in jest.

It was Khalil who told Yusuf the reason for the sudden change in circumstances. It was Khalil who discouraged Yusuf's hopes of his debt ever being paid in full and returning to his family, for Khalil had a similar story. It was Khalil too who warned Yusuf of errors he might make, including venturing into his uncle's walled compound.

Aziz was a wealthy trader living on the coast of what is now Kenya. From there he traded northward along the coast and westward into the mountains, to what is now Tanzania. The westward trade involved huge caravans to carry the goods, which may or may not have included contraband, depending on the run. There was a whole chain of towns in which to trade along the route to the mountains in the interior.

Now, however, Europeans were starting to appear. At first they were an oddity, but then they started building a railway going inland from the coast. As time passed, fear and distrust of these newcomers spread among the many peoples of the region.
The traders spoke of the Europeans with amazement, awed by their ferocity and ruthlessness. They take the best land without paying a bead, force the people to work for them by one trick or another, eat anything and everything no matter how tough or putrid. Their appetite has no limit or decency, like a plague of locusts. Taxes for this, taxes for that, otherwise prisons for the offender, or the lash, or even hanging. The first thing they build is a lock-up, then a church, then a market-shed so they can keep the trade under their eyes and then tax it. And that is even before they have built a house for themselves to live in. Has anyone ever heard of such things?
Gurnah has set his novel at a time when the old ways of intercommunal trade and cooperation turned to competition and betrayal as the new railway shipped goods rapidly, making the caravan, and the towns and peoples along its route, obsolete. Yusuf saw this displacement as he travelled with the caravans to learn the business. He had been sent out to learn the ways of the different peoples, only to see them displaced by the new ways.

Gurnah weaves the tale of Yusuf's adolescence into this background. Yusuf had the same questions as any adolescent. Any answers though were not on the path to Paradise.

elokuu 27, 11:55 am

I think the novels of Henry James are difficult but very rewarding in the end. I usually need to read them twice, and keep them as I will likely want to read them later.

elokuu 30, 12:48 pm

>127 SassyLassy: The older I get, the more I'm able to jettison a book for any number of reasons.

>137 SassyLassy: That's a terrific synopsis, but I want to hear what YOU think/thought!

elokuu 31, 4:19 pm

>138 edwinbcn: James is definitely worth rereads. There is something new to consider with each one.

>139 avaland: ...but I want to hear what YOU think/thought!

Fair comment. I think I spent a lot of time comparing Yusuf's plight with that of Muidinga in Sleepwalking Land, which probably wasn't the best idea, given the completely different writing methods. I think I was also somewhat apprehensive about reading a new to me author with such a reputation, something which always makes me fear I am missing something.

That said, I think Gurnah did an excellent job portraying the doubts, the fears, and most of all the loneliness of a young boy suddenly thrust out into a difficult world without warning. Again, comparing it to the Couto, I wondered if perhaps some of Gurnah's characters were sort of stock characters. I did really like his portrayal of the relationship between Yusuf and Khalil, with all its ups and downs. The final paragraph was somewhat devastating. I wish they had chosen the sea option.

I need to read another book by Gurnah now, to discover more of his writing.

syyskuu 7, 12:33 pm

>128 SassyLassy: Years since I read it. Greene needs a revisit. Like Maugham, I read him a lot in my late teens/early 20s.

syyskuu 13, 6:47 pm

I see you have weather coming your way. Stay safe.

syyskuu 14, 9:05 am

>142 avaland: Thanks - it didn't look too bad in yesterday's forecast, but today's has changed the track and it is coming right at us. Saturday will be really "interesting"!

Wanted to tell you that I am finally reading JCO You Must Remember This, which should take me through the storm, power permitting.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 14, 4:58 pm

I’ll be interested in your thoughts on the JCO.

Hope the storm is diminished before it reaches you

syyskuu 17, 11:22 am

Hope you rode out the storm OK. My friend on Labrador-Newfoundland didn't get much, but she's on the Change Islands and I think they get spared the worst of the weather.

I read You Must Remember This ages and ages ago, and with all apologies to JCO, I don't remember it at all. Worth a reread? I always conflate it in my head with one of my favorite NYC oral histories, You Must Remember This: An Oral History of Manhattan from the 1890s to World War II.

syyskuu 20, 10:05 am

>144 avaland: >145 lisapeet:

Thanks for thinking of me. Well Lee did come barrelling in. The worst part is that my favourite walking beach is no more.

On the home front, the power went off on Saturday morning, coming back on Monday afternoon (53.5 hour outage). This meant no water, telephone, computer and other such conveniences of modern life. I did get lots of reading done though while there was light, in other words until about 8pm.

Lots and lots of branches down, and a lilac bush split in two. At one stage I had to go out and hold a copper beech upright while it was being stabilized (really hard on the shoulders and neck). However, living in an inlet the damage was not significant. All around though there was major tree damage, including some beautiful old ones in Lunenburg. The storm surge was incredible. Storm water washed over the local roads, leaving boulders which have now been removed by snowplows. The tides were so high that ducks roosted on the bridge deck right in front of my house - they just swam right up! The bridge is something I worry about in every storm, as there is no other way out other than a long hike through wetlands, or crossing a sand spit in high boots at low tide.

The Milky Way was spectacular in the absence of lights on the second night. Boats are now back in the water, roads are being cleared, but there are still people, about 700 households, just 30 km away without power.

>145 lisapeet: I did read You Must Remember This this weekend. I'm not sure it's worth a reread unless you are interested in the 1950s in the US, which it depicted really well. It was certainly a good read under the conditions though, keeping me engaged.

The Change Islands were well out of the path. I took the ferry there last summer on my way to Fogo Island. Your friend certainly lives out of the way. The south west coast of Newfoundland got a real beating last year with Fiona though, and houses were washed away. The communities of Channel / Port aux Basques will never be the same.

syyskuu 20, 12:03 pm

It's good to hear from you, Sassy. I was happy when the storm inched it's way east, thus missing southern Maine, but immediately thought of you. I'm glad the power is back on for you and hope the rest of the island gets sorted soon.

syyskuu 20, 4:36 pm

Managed to get a review written out during all that downtime:

My first book of 2023 was Timothy Findley's last novel, Spadework. As I mentioned above (>25 SassyLassy:), I had found it somewhat disappointing, not realizing that it was written by a dying man. Over the next few weeks, it troubled me, so I decided a quick reread of From Stone Orchard would restore my faith. It did.

From Stone Orchard: A Collection of Memories by Timothy Findley
first published 1998
finished rereading March 19, 2023

Timothy Findley and Bill Whitehead bought an old dairy farm and farmhouse in 1964. The men were both in their mid thirties at the time. Both had just switched from theatre to writing as careers. Neither endeavour is known for stability or security. However, in this case, as Findley said, "The curtain was about to go up on more than three decades of comedy, tragedy and romance."

Their new home at that time was a good two hour drive north from their professional base in Toronto. It was meant to be an affordable place where they could write and possibly garden. Some of the local people thought they had a still out there. Why else would a couple of men live out in the middle of nowhere? The house itself had not been lived in for over five years, although the fields were still grazed. Sometimes it's better not to know the challenges ahead.

The farm dates back to the 1840s. An amazing amount of work was needed to make the house liveable. The place that would become Stone Orchard, named for their biggest crop, would become their home for the next thirty-two years. At the time they did not realize that a 'stone orchard' was the local term for a graveyard. Time would be spent living and working in other places, but this was home in the real sense of the word.

From Stone Orchard: A Collection of Memories, is just what the title suggests. It's a series of essays and anecdotes, some published elsewhere over the years, some new, documenting the life of this place, its inhabitants, and many of the visitors over the years. The tone is chatty, with just enough underlying wit. Anyone who has ever lived a rural existence will recognize the cast of characters, both two and four legged. There's local history too, and writers galore.

Findley and Whitehead did manage to create the home they wanted. Part of the property, the 'Blue Barn', became a local landmark. All but Findley's first two novels and his last were written here. He freely acknowledges they could not have made such a space without their neighbours, to whom the book is dedicated.

This collection was compiled as Findley and Whitehead were preparing to leave their beloved home for good. Age was taking its toll.
Seasons change, the years pass, people age. The time has come for us to leave the farm. Our work continues - so do our lives... In memory, however, we will always remain at home in Stone Orchard.