Diane’s Reading Life, 2023

KeskusteluClub Read 2023

Liity LibraryThingin jäseneksi, niin voit kirjoittaa viestin.

Diane’s Reading Life, 2023

tammikuu 8, 5:52 pm

I’ve been looking at many threads in this group to get an idea of how I might set this up, so I’m a little late with this introduction. I’m a retired English teacher, retired for almost 25 years now (I’m 76), but my reading took a great leap forward in 2020, during our first Covid “stay at home” period. I joined LT in 2021 and this group late in 2022. I was an English major and then a specialist in Medieval English Lit in my graduate studies. My education gave me a good handle on 14th through 16th century literature and in my retirement, I have enjoyed reading in areas totally neglected before. I spent my teaching career in St. Louis and at retirement returned to my home state of Alabama, where I live in Birmingham with one close friend, 5 rescued (formerly feral) cats, and one deliberately acquired, extremely bossy (but lovable!) Welsh Corgi, whose dearest goal in life seems to be herding the mostly uncooperative cats.

I enjoy reading fiction, both classic and contemporary: literary fiction, science fiction/fantasy, historical fiction, mystery/crime. I read far less non fiction, but do enjoy history, biography, some science, and some essays. I read 50 books last year; favorites were Anna Karenina, The March by E. L. Doctorow, Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres, The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting, and Honor by Thritty Umrigar. You will probably notice that most of my ratings are 4’s and 5’s. This is because I DNF any book that does not hold my attention or strike me as worthwhile. So for me, 5 means I will definitely reread this book, 4 means I might consider a reread, and a 3 means that while this book was good enough to finish, I don’t need to spend more time with it.

tammikuu 8, 6:00 pm

(Intro., continued)

So what are my reading goals for this year? The number of 5’s in my ratings means a lot of books I want to reread. So maybe I’ll get to 4 or 5 rereads in 2023. I know that the first one will be Crime and Punishment.

I’d like to continue filling gaps in my reading history by focusing on Russian fiction and history. I have a number of books on my shelves in these categories, War and Peace, some more Dostoevsky, and some books on Russian history. I’ve been pleased to read from more authors in translation over the last two years, and plan to continue this.

I truly love 19th century British fiction and I hope to read in this category throughout the year as my fancy takes me. I usually reread Middlemarch and Bleak House in alternating years, this would be the year for Bleak House.

I have a keen interest in Franciscan spirituality and intend to read more books in my collection. Geoffrey Chaucer and some more of the fiction of the Southern U. S. are also on my horizon.

Currently reading: Dr. Thorne by Anthony Trollope and The Song of the Cell by Siddhartha Mukherjee

I think 2023 will be a great reading year, and I’m looking forward to sharing reading experiences with CR. I am already following many threads though I’ve not yet commented. It’s most enjoyable to see how reading progresses for different people.

tammikuu 8, 6:38 pm

Hi Diane, good luck with your reading plans.

Welsh Corgi, whose dearest goal in life seems to be herding the mostly uncooperative cats.

That made me laugh! That boy has a career in front of him.

tammikuu 8, 6:57 pm

Welcome and its good to see someone interested in 14-16 century literature. I share a passion for it. Hope you enjoy the Chaucer

tammikuu 9, 7:23 am

Welcome to Club Read 2023, Diane. I'm glad you made a thread. I too enjoy Russian literature, and would also like to reread Middlemarch one of the these days. I will follow along with interest.

tammikuu 9, 3:37 pm

Nice to see your thread here. I look forward to following. Chaucer is a 2023 theme for me (although I haven’t started anything yet). I’ll be interested in anything you post about him. Well, or Dostoyevski, or Victorian stuff.

tammikuu 9, 5:18 pm

>3 LolaWalser: Thanks—and for stopping by as well! And I have to admit the pets provide great entertainment

tammikuu 9, 5:53 pm

> I’ve been lurking about among several CR threads to get some pointers for organizing my own, and I loved your reading list. I look forward to your comments on the 16th century poetry you mention.

tammikuu 9, 6:17 pm

>6 dchaikin: I’m planning to read more of Chaucer’s dream visions, and will probably begin with The Parliament of Fowls, my favorite of his shorter works. I read The Book of the Duchess last year, and decided that I should reread this material that I’ve not looked at in years.

tammikuu 9, 6:49 pm

>9 dianelouise100: i have the Penguin collection of Dream Visions. It just arrived and is really appealing. I’m not sure if i will start there or with a biography.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 10, 6:59 pm

Here is my review of Doctor Thorne, which I finished this morning.

In his introduction to this edition of Doctor Thorne, David Skilton quotes from the October, 1863, edition of Saturday Review: “Mr. Trollope has, in fact, established his novels as the novels of the day, and his is the picture of English life which, for a brief space at least, will be accepted as true by those who wish to see English life represented in fiction.” In Doctor Thorne Trollope focuses his picture on the small village of Greshamsbury and the estate of the Gresham family in fictitious Barsetshire.
Having moved westward from Barchester in this third novel in the Chronicles of Barsetshire, Trollope begins the story with a thorough description of Greshamsbury, its history and its inhabitants. Such an experience of being immersed in an unfamiliar setting, meeting its populace, learning about their economic and social situations and their relationships with one another is one of the greatest pleasures I have in reading novels. And Trollope does this “world building” so very well.
It is clear from the novel’s opening chapters that plot and action will be of less significance than character and theme. The story’s main conflict emerges from the love of Frank Gresham, son and heir of the local squire, for Mary Thorne, the portionless niece of the local doctor. In addition to her lack of wealth, Mary is also the child of a rape, and thus unsuited by by “blood,” as well as by financial status, to marry into the Squirearchy. Moreover, Frank’s father, because of poor management of his expenses (especially of his wife’s) has had to sell a favorite portion of his land and to mortgage the rest, so Frank must “marry money” if the property is to remain in Gresham hands. Frank loves his father devotedly and to follow his father’s wishes would mean giving up Mary Thorne. There might have been much suspense in the novel if Trollope, in his role of omniscient narrator, had not in the first chapter assured readers that “I am too old now to be a hard-hearted author and so it is probable that Frank will not die of a broken heart.” Confident in the novel’s happy ending, readers are free to pay attention to character and theme.
Dr. Thorne is filled with characters who caught my interest. Dr. Thorne himself, the novel’s hero, is fascinating and thoroughly sympathetic. He is very good at his profession, a dedicated and sensible physician. He is filled with integrity and is loyal to those he loves. However, there is a little streak of pride and stubbornness in him: though he himself earns his own bread and Mary’s by his profession, he is quite proud of his family connections with the Thornes of Ullathorne, and will not tolerate being patronised. I enjoyed watching the young lovers Mary and Frank mature over the course of the novel, each becoming more worthy of the other. I sympathized with Sir Roger Scatcherd, the extremely wealthy former stone mason, who was miserable in his elevated position. And perhaps my favorite character was Miss Dunstable, the “ointment of Lebanon” heiress, whose hand in marriage Frank is instructed by his mother and aunt to win. Miss Dunstable turns out to be a sensible, good humored, and good hearted woman, and she develops a real fondness for Frank. She is the only one who openly supports his love for Mary. The De Courcy family including Frank’s mother, the Lady Arabella, are treated satirically to show their misplaced priorities. They claim to value “good blood” and family over all else, especially in potential marriage partners, but it is made clear that in their world money and power are the real objects. The interactions between Augusta Gresham and her snooty cousin Lady Amelia de Courcy are entertaining until the true hypocrisy of the De Courcys is revealed: Lady Amelia marries the suitor she had persuaded Augusta to reject.
Two major themes of the novel stood out to me, one being that happiness is not bound up in wealth and position, the other that a person’s value is to be found in character, not in pedigree. I admired Doctor Thorne, Mary, and Frank for their refusal to consider money or lineage as all-important. And those who adhered to those false values, instead of being raised to the status of villains, seemed either laughable or pitiable.
I’d like to spend more time in Barsetshire and so will probably read the last three novels in the Chronicles. I give Doctor Thorne a rating of 4 stars.

tammikuu 10, 6:03 pm

>11 dianelouise100: I'm sorry to say that I've lost my copy of Doctor Thorne, unread, especially after reading your review. Are you reading them all?

tammikuu 10, 9:30 pm

>11 dianelouise100: Really enjoyable review. I haven’t read Trollope at all, which leaves me very interested in reading about him.

tammikuu 11, 8:35 am

>11 dianelouise100: This review made me want to read Doctor Thorne again!

tammikuu 11, 8:49 am

>11 dianelouise100: I loved Dr. Thorne - one of my favorite Trollope novels, and I think I've read about 20 now. It was fun to remember the book through your review.

tammikuu 11, 11:49 am

Welcome Diane! I'm sure you will enjoy the interactions here in Club Read. For me, it's difficult to find people in RL who like to read as much as I do.

I'm in the process of finishing a reread of Middlemarch begun in the Victorian Tavern thread of CR last year. I've been slow at it and am behind, but I'm enjoying it.

I only (re)discovered Trollope in the last 5 or so years (I hated the one book I read by him in a Victorian Novel class in college), and I have been working my way through the Palliser novels. Just finished Phineas Redux. And I'm hoping this will be the year I finish the Rougon Macquart series. I don't want to give the wrong impression though--I read lots of contemporary fiction and I like a good mystery novel as well.

tammikuu 11, 5:11 pm

>11 dianelouise100: Enjoyed your review. I have not read any Trollope

tammikuu 11, 5:17 pm

My thanks to all of you who’ve visited my thread with good wishes and comments. Finishing the Barchester novels is now one of my reading goals for the year. In the meantime, Trollope’s fictitious Barsetshire has reminded me of the fictitious county much closer to where I live—William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, Miss. I’ve read all his novels at one time or another, but it’s been quite a while. Now another goal is to reread some of his novels. I’m beginning with Flags in the Dust.

tammikuu 15, 10:40 am

For this month’s RTT theme (Our Feathered Friends), I ordered copies of two books about birds by British naturalist John Lewis-Stempel and have now finished The Soaring Life of the Lark. Lewis-Stempel is a fourth-generation farmer in the western part of England, who is also, according to The Times, “Britain’s finest living nature writer.” The Soaring Life of the Lark is a little gem. It combines information about the lark’s physical appearance, habitat, behavior, flight patterns, and song, with a fine discussion of the skylark’s significance to British culture and its need for conservation. Samples of poetry about the lark are abundant throughout, and the illustrations are lovely.

One chapter of particular interest to me was a discussion of the lark on the battlefields of World War I, where it continued its “soaring song” even in the height of the worse battles. Lewis-Stempel writes: “The bird even stayed put on day one of the Somme…The correspondent for The Times informed readers that the skylarks could be heard singing during the battle ‘whenever there was a lull in the almost incessant fire.’ “ Sergeant Leslie Coulson wrote about the lark during that same battle:

From death that hurtles by
I crouch in the trench day-long,
But up to a cloudless sky
From the ground where our dead men lie
A brown lark soars in song.
Through the tortured air,
Rent by the shrapnel’s flare,
Over the troubleless dead he carols his fill,
And I thank the gods that the birds are
beautiful still.

Like so many other WWI poets, Coulson did not live to see his poem published: he died “charging the German line at Le Transloy on the Somme in October 1916.” (pp. 52-53)

At 90 pages, this book could be read in one sitting, but I wouldn’t recommend doing so.

tammikuu 15, 11:51 am

>19 dianelouise100: that’s a wonderful review. I’m going to recommend this to my own nature book group

tammikuu 16, 7:26 am

>20 dchaikin: Thank you, Dan. And I think John Lewis-Stempel would make a great author for nature book groups.

tammikuu 18, 6:17 am

My Broadview edition of Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde arrived yesterday. I had only enough time to leaf through it briefly, but I could appreciate at once the use of marginal glosses and notes at the bottom of pages. I can’t wait to dive right in….That’s the problem with my TBR, being pulled to one thing before finishing something already started. Unless I’m at least a little disciplined, I won’t ever finish anything! I can see this beautiful copy of Troilus already becoming irresistable though…

tammikuu 18, 6:36 am

Oh, nice! Happy you have a copy. I’m really looking forward to it. I opened Marion Turner’s biography Monday, but I’m still focused on other books.

tammikuu 18, 7:57 am

>22 dianelouise100: That’s the problem with my TBR, being pulled to one thing before finishing something already started. Unless I’m at least a little disciplined, I won’t ever finish anything! That's my big problem, too! I'm too impulsive. I'm trying to be better about it this year, though.

tammikuu 21, 5:59 pm

>23 dchaikin: I’m happy we share these planned reads. I’ll be interested in your opinion of Faulkner’s short stories, too. Should be interesting along with Wright.

tammikuu 21, 6:03 pm

>24 Julie_in_the_Library: And it’s not that I’m not really into the current read (in this case Flags in the Dust). I really wish I could keep 6 or 7 books going at once, like others in this group!

tammikuu 22, 7:30 am

We’ve been traveling the last few days, and I didn’t spend much time reading. Returned home last night, now settling back into a more usual schedule. I’ll be finishing Flags today or tomorrow, and I’m hoping to keep the Blotner biography and Troilus and Criseyde going at the same time.
(This is odd—there’s no earlier touchstone for Faulkner: A Biography by Joseph Blotner. I distinctly remember some conversation about that book, must have been in Reading Now thread)

tammikuu 22, 10:59 am

>26 dianelouise100: Oh, same. My problem is that I try, but I can't actually do it, so I end up with lots of books midstream and nothing finished. Also that I'm so easily distracted from whatever I'm reading, even when I'm enjoying it, by the novelty of all of the books I'm not reading.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 2, 8:20 am

I finished Flags in the Dust a couple days ago. Here is my review:

Flags in the Dust was originally published in 1929 under the title Sartoris. After Faulkner’s original typescript had been turned down by a dozen publishers, Harcourt, Brace accepted it in 1928, with the requirement that it be cut down to 110,000 words—about three quarters of its original length. Faulkner’s friend and agent Ben Wasson did the shortening and revising and Harcourt Brace changed its name. In 1973, Flags in the Dust was published by Random House, using the text of the only surviving copy of Faulkner’s original typescript, the one which had begun making the round of publishers in 1927. Some editing and revision was done at that point. In 2006, additional editing was done by Noel Polk, and the text I have just read was published. (Thanks to the End Note from Vintage International Press for this information.)

Having read Sartoris sometime in the 1960’s, I was interested to read Flags in the Dust when I became aware of its availability. I enjoyed this book a great deal, despite agreeing with the original editor that some cutting would be helpful. Flags in the Dust introduces readers to Yoknapatawpha County, William Faulkner’s “own little postage stamp of native soil” and the setting for his best novels. It is the fictitious version of Lafayette County, Mississippi, Faulkner’s birth place. With this earliest of his Mississippi novels, Faulkner begins to familiarize readers with the families and landmarks of his imagined world. And in this early work, only his third published novel, I was happy to enjoy all of the pleasures I’ve come to anticipate in a Faulkner novel: impressive evocation of mood, skilled use of imagery, believable and relatable characters, a moving story, and a setting whose landscape and inhabitants are so real I expect to visit there someday—as soon as I learn to time travel.

Set immediately after World War I, Flags in the Dust tells the story of the homecoming of young Bayard Sartoris from France to his family in Jefferson. Old Bayard’s grandsons, young Bayard and his twin brother John, had served as pilots in France. Just as the war was ending, John had recklessly and unnecessarily flown to attack a German squadron who were flying more powerful and faster planes; he had been killed in the ensuing fight. This encounter is witnessed by Bayard who can neither stop his twin nor protect him when he engages the enemy. The main plot line of the novel involves Bayard’s dealing with the unbearable loss of his brother. As he falls deeper and deeper into despair, he takes ever greater and more violent risks, heedlessly racing cars, horses, wagons, anything that will allow him to attain reckless (of himself and others) speed.

It is in this novel that we first begin to hear stories about the people of Yoknapatawpha County, stories that will be repeated and added to in the novels to come. We hear some of the stories of Confederate Colonel John Sartoris, who survived his war and came home to found the Bank of Jefferson and to take part in the building of the railroad through Jefferson; and of his brother John who didn’t survive, because he rode recklessly into a Yankee camp to steal some anchovies. We meet Narcissa and Horace Benbow, daughter and son of Old Judge Benbow. Narcissa tries to save young Bayard from his self-destructive behavior, because she loves him. We meet Miss Jenny Sartoris Du Pre, who after being widowed young, came to live with her brother Col. John Sartoris, and who remains as the matriarch of the Sartoris family, now consisting only of grandfather and grandson Bayard. She is the aunt of Old Bayard, and the great-great aunt of young Bayard. She is the most formidable and sensible character in the novel, and she is also my favorite. Aunt Jenny too tries to save young Bayard from killing himself, perhaps because she loves him, but definitely because she needs him to father a (male) child to continue the family name. In addition to the Sartorises and Benbows, we meet many others, about whom we will hear more in future novels. And another main character in the novel is Byron Snopes, whose seemingly innumerable relatives from the Mississippi hill country will eventually take over financial power in Jefferson.

One of my great pleasures in a Faulkner novel is watching the development of his favorite theme of the eternal presence of the past, the inescapable influence of heredity and place. I love the opening paragraphs of Flags in the Dust:

“As usual old man Falls had brought John Sartoris into the room with him, had walked the three miles in from the county Poor Farm, fetching, like an odor, like the clean dusty smell of his faded overalls, the spirit of the dead man into that room where the dead man’s son sat and where the two of them, pauper and banker, would sit for a half an hour in the company of him who had passed beyond death and then returned.

“Freed as he was of time and flesh, he was a far more palpable presence than either of the two old men who sat shouting periodically into one another’s deafness while the business of the bank went forward in the next room….” (p.3)

The majority of the Sartoris men die violent deaths. Colonel John Sartoris, CSA, is eventually murdered. Miss Jenny will comment throughout the novel on the violent streak and rash behavior of all the Sartoris men whom she has watched over eight decades. We wonder if Bayard, given his wild grief for his twin brother and guilt over not protecting him, will be able to escape his heritage and his own nature. Perhaps a quarter of the way through the novel a scene occurs reminiscent of that earlier Bayard, great-great uncle of the novel’s young Bayard. Young Bayard and a friend, wandering through town, approach the livery stable. Bayard sees a horse trader and a magnificent stallion, tied with rope and halter, that the trader has brought to sell:

“The stallion stood against the yawning cavern of the livery stable door like a motionless bronze flame, and along its burnished coat ran at intervals little tremors of paler flame, little tongues of nervousness and pride.” (p. 127)

Determined to ride the supposedly unmanageable horse and ignoring all attempts to stop him, Bayard is able to mount the horse. Then he rides at breakneck speed through the streets of Jefferson, barely able to control him. A small boy wanders into the horse’s path, and trying desperately to avoid the child,

“Bayard leaned forward and wrapped the rope about his hand and swerved the beast toward the opposite sidewalk….The small figure came on, flashed safely behind, then a narrow band of rushing green; a tree trunk like a wheel spoke in reverse, and the stallion struck clashing fire from the wet concrete. It slid, clashed, fighting for balance, lunged and crashed down; and for Bayard, a red shock, then blackness. The horse scrambled up and whirled and poised and struck viciously at the prone man with its hooves…” (p. 131)

Since this is one of the earlier incidents, it should not be a spoiler to say that Bayard eventually recovers from these injuries, living to mend his ways—or not.

The plot in this novel is more straightforward than later ones. The writing is gorgeous, and we can’t help but realize how at home William Faulkner is in this setting. I have to restrain myself from quoting at greater length, but I do recommend Flags in the Dust without reservation.

tammikuu 26, 5:12 pm

>29 dianelouise100: Fantastic review. I had never heard of this one, not that I've read much Faulkner anyway.

tammikuu 26, 5:28 pm

>29 dianelouise100: enjoyed your review, which has a real flavour of Faulkner's writing. I am about to start his collected short stories.

tammikuu 26, 5:30 pm

>30 labfs39: Thanks so much, Lisa. This one I would recommend to someone who may not have read much Faulkner!

tammikuu 26, 5:34 pm

>31 baswood: Hope you enjoy the short stories. I’ve read and enjoyed many of them. Both The Collected Stories and the Uncollected Stories sit on my shelves, neither completed.

tammikuu 28, 1:44 pm

Only a month in and already I can see that this will be a dangerous thread for my wishlist.

>11 dianelouise100: We share a love of 19th century authors. Trollope is a fairly recent addition to my reading, and I haven't read Doctor Thorne as yet, but can see that I would enjoy it.

>19 dianelouise100: >20 dchaikin: Reading more about the natural world is something I'm trying consciously to do more of this year. Love the idea of a nature reading club.

>29 dianelouise100: Not a title I know under either title - great review.

tammikuu 28, 7:00 pm

>29 dianelouise100: terrific review of Faulkner's Flags in the Dust.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 29, 9:44 am

late to the party but Im here!

>1 dianelouise100: The March by E. L. Doctorow, Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres

Yes, loved both of these , tho the latter took three times to finally hook with me I notice you included the bell in the lake with these so I assume its in the same calibur?

Speaking of Covid, and Middle Ages, have you read To calais in ordinary time parts of it have some Chaucher language and sometimes can be confusing but as you read everything becomes apparent in context.

" You will probably notice that most of my ratings are 4’s and 5’s. This is because I DNF any book that does not hold my attention or strike me as worthwhile. So for me, 5 means I will definitely reread this book, 4 means I might consider a reread, and a 3 means that while this book was good enough to finish, I don’t need to spend more time with it."

Id thought about doing something like this, but then between those three Id have to add + or - since often the books in one ranking needs another ranking with in it. I do agree, 1s and 2s are usually DNF I like how you rate 3, that is rather perfect

tammikuu 29, 9:48 am

>11 dianelouise100: Im not a huge fan of that period (im more an early middle ages to late ren kind of girl) but Im intrigued by that book. May have to take a peek at it

tammikuu 29, 9:53 am

>29 dianelouise100: wow, you write very good reviews! I can never manage to get as detailed as you do so I have my own system. But I enjoyed yours

tammikuu 29, 10:22 am

>36 cindydavid4: Thanks so much for stopping by! I did enjoy reading The Bell in the Lake, but no, I don’t think it’s of the same quality as the other two. I say this mostly because it’s the beginning of a trilogy and has some loose ends. Not as satisfying for that reason to me, though I’ll get around to reading the other books. #2 came out a while back.
Yes, I did read To Calais in Ordinary Time;was one of my favorites the year it came out. I loved the way Meek used language to help define the characters.

tammikuu 29, 10:27 am

>37 cindydavid4: Dr. Thorne is my favorite in the Barsetshire chronicles so far. It is #3 of a series of 6, but is very satisfying on its own, if you decide to read it, hope you’ll like it.

tammikuu 29, 10:39 am

>38 cindydavid4: Thank you! I love your reviewing system, it is so to the point and with your system I can tell pretty quickly if I want to expore further. I’d never heard of Tove, so now I have a new author to try.

tammikuu 29, 9:55 pm

>39 dianelouise100: I should check to see if Meek has written anything else. Id read him again for sure

tammikuu 31, 6:33 pm

I have finished Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly, which I had chosen to read as one of my WWI time period books for RTT quarterly. And I had just finished my review and pressed Post when my Server disconnected, and the post was lost. Grrr.. I’ll try to regroup.

This novel deals with the horrendous fate of many former Russian aristocrats (known as White Russians) during the time of the overthrow of the Tsar and the Revolution of 1917. Its plot revolves around the experiences of Romanov cousin Countess Sofya Streshnayva as she attempts to escape Russia and find safety in Paris. Her very best friend, wealthy New Yorker Eliza Ferriday, tries desperately to find out what is happening to Sofya when her letters stop coming. While trying to find information about Sofya, she encounters many White Russians now living in New York. Eliza is appalled at the conditions in which these immigrants are living, and she forms a Commission for Russian Relief, which also enables her to travel more freely abroad. The plot is very suspenseful and held my attention throughout.

Eliza Ferriday and her Committee, as well as many of the other American characters, are factual. For the character of Sofya, Kelly read many of the documents, memoirs, autobiographies, and biographies of the time, and created a credible Russian Countess. She discusses her research in an Author’s Note at the end, and I was impressed with her thoroughness. I’d never read about this particular aspect of the Revolution, and Kelly has given me many references to books I may want to add to my Wish List.

tammikuu 31, 6:50 pm

since reading animal farm decacdes ago, Ive noticed a scarcity of attention paid to this group when the russian revolution was talked about. I know the famous journalis Teffi was one who skillfully wrote about the subject when she and others fled, Would like to read this, and probably seek others.

helmikuu 1, 12:17 pm

February reading “plans”:

I have several categories for reading this month—and I have a goal of reading only books from my shelves.

1. William Faulkner—Finish the biography by Joseph Blottner. This is problematic since I am moved to reread the works as Blottner writes about them. Right now I’m thinking I may have to reread The Sound and the Fury, it’s exerting a strong pull. So maybe more Faulkner novels, lessening my chances of completing the biography this month…

2. Reading for WWI theme. I have several books on my shelves I could read, I’m leaning toward John Lewis-Stempel’s Where Poppies Blow. I’m wanting to start Margaret Macmillan’s The War that Ended Peace, but that will probably be next month.

3. Chaucer. Troilus and Criseyde

4. Reading for group themes:

RTT February theme, “Lions, Tigers, and Bears”
I may be inspired to struggle through Faulkner’s The Bear, one of my favorites, but challenging. Otherwise, I’ll read Lewis-Stempel’s The Hidden Life of the Owl

Monthly Author Reads for February, Sylvia Townsend Warner
Possibly I’ll try to read from this category. I enjoyed Lolly Willowes, but have not been drawn to other works I’ve looked at. I’ve just sent The Corner that Held Them back to the library. (Drawback—none of Warner’s books are on my sheves, and “No, Diane, that’s not a reason to buy one!)

5. I was given 4 books for Christmas, I want to read at least 1 in February. My choices are

The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh; Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt; The Song of the Cell by Siddhartha Mukherjee, and Indigenous Continent by Pekka Hamalainen
I’ll probably make a real effort to finish The Song of the Cell this month.

Since I average only about 300 to 400 pages a week, some of these books will be “left over” (or left out), but I’m looking forward to this month’s reading.

helmikuu 1, 12:31 pm

I’m currently reading Tove Jannson’s The Summer Book and Blottner’s biography of William Faulkner.

And I also want to say how much I’m enjoying keeping this thread going, and doing my best to keep up with others’ threads. I’m finding so many new books for my Wish List, and equally important, so many I DON’T have to read—thanks to you all for January’s reviews

helmikuu 1, 1:25 pm

>46 dianelouise100: I loved The Summer Book when I read it a few years ago.

helmikuu 3, 1:33 pm

>43 dianelouise100: that stinks about losing the post, but interesting. Has me thinking about Nabokov.

>44 cindydavid4: fun plans

helmikuu 5, 8:43 am

I’ve finished The Summer Book, which I rate at 5 (a definite reread). I loved the island setting and felt really drawn to the peace and opportunities for solitude represented by living on your own island. I loved the characterizations of 6-year old Sophia, adjusting to the absence of her mother, and her elderly grandmother facing the changes brought by old age. So much of this book resonated personally with me…
I read and listened to the book; the audio, narrated by Natasha Soudek, was well done and makes a lovely selection for car trips.

helmikuu 5, 8:48 am

Tämä käyttäjä on poistettu roskaamisen vuoksi.

helmikuu 5, 8:51 am

>49 dianelouise100: I loved that one too. I was thinking of rereading this summer, maybe I'll try the audiobook.

helmikuu 5, 11:45 pm

>51 labfs39: So glad you liked it too! But did you think Sophia sounded like a 6 year old?

helmikuu 6, 6:04 am

>52 cindydavid4: I thought so, but I was listening to it and the narrator did a great job with Sophia’s voice.

helmikuu 6, 10:22 am

>53 dianelouise100: oh that would make a difference indeed. Its likely my lack of experience with that age (as opposed to my preschoolers) is selling her short (but I did student teach first graders way back when so...)

helmikuu 6, 10:48 am

>54 cindydavid4: Maybe also the fact that it’s a translated book? Difficult sometimes for translation to catch tone and nuance.

helmikuu 6, 11:26 am

>52 cindydavid4: I think she was both precocious and used to being around adults, not kids. Growing up the way she did, I think it would have been more unusual if she were like today's six year olds brought up on iPads and rarely going outside.

helmikuu 17, 4:31 pm

I’m about halfway through The War that Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan. This book gives excellent historical background on conditions in Europe (also U.S. and Japan) in the twenty years or so preceding WWI. I’m learning so much!

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 26, 5:32 pm

Review of Faulkner: A Biography by Joseph Blotner 5*

Blotner begins his Foreword to the one-volume edition of what was first published in two volumes with the explanation that he wanted to make the book more accessible and suited to a more general audience. He also wanted “to bring that account (the two-volume edition) up to date by incorporating material from the enormous outpouring since then of scholarship, criticism, and other writings, including posthumously published Faulkner works.” The outpouring of Faulkneriana has continued in the years following Blotner’s publication of his latest revised edition in 1991. But to me, the fact that Blotner knew William Faulkner personally is important. They met at the University of Virginia, when Faulkner became Writer in Residence there and Blotner was an assistant professor in the English Department, and very quickly became good friends. Blotner knew Faulkner’s family as well and was one of very few outside the family to be invited to his funeral. He was the only “outsider” (not part of the family) to serve as pallbearer. His firsthand knowledge of his subject matter gives the biography that “ring of truth” that makes me feel that I now know this great writer, his world, and his vision in much greater depth.

Blotner organizes the biography by year, Chapter 1 being entitled “September 1897-September 1902,” Chapter 71 being “May-July 1962. The portrait of Faulkner’s life emerges in meticulous detail, all backed by extensive research and/or personal experience. The writing style is clear, easy to read, and congenial. Blotner does not spare the reader any of the intensity of the most destructive elements in Faulkner’s life: not his unhappy marriage or his preference for young women; not his tremendous need for alcohol and horrific bouts of drinking that ended in passing out, sickness, sometimes physical injury; not the depths of his periods of depression in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s when financial constraints forced him to endure long stays in Hollywood, working as a scriptwriter for MGM and later for Warner Bros.; not the extent of his physical misery as he aged and suffered the consequences of numerous falls sustained during bouts of drinking and, when he took up foxhunting on horseback late in life, falls from horses. In later years he was never free of the severe back pain which he treated with seconal as well as alcohol.

I find most of Faulkner’s novels a mixture of the tragic, the uplifting, and the humorous, and Blotner makes clear that all these were elements of the novelist’s own life. Some highlights of the book for me were:

**Faulkner’s sense of responsibiliy toward his family and toward his literary vision. In order to feed and care for the extended family that totally depended on him, he had to spend months at a time over a period of two decades in Hollywood, working at a job he loathed. Through all of this, he worked on his novels, arising at 4 am to work on the current novel or short story, then leaving at 9 for the studio. Over these years his best fiction was written. I’ve wondered how much more he might have produced if from the first, his novels had sold in the U.S. as well as they did abroad.

**I loved the parts about Faulkner’s response to the works of others: Hemingway, Wolfe, Fitzgerald, Dickens, Dostoevsky, to name a few. And the description of how he himself loved to read: “On some evenings after dinner, he would take down a volume from the shelf—perhaps Dickens or Cervantes—and read aloud to Tommy and Estelle and Dot, like a Victorian paterfamilias. The books were always old favorites. ‘I suppose I have about fifty that I read,’ he said. ‘I go in and out like you go into a room to meet old friends, to open the book in the middle and read for awhile…’” (p. 672)

**I enjoyed Blotner’s thorough description of the writing process for each novel and his obvious care about making his (Blotner’s) readers familiar with Yoknapatawpha County, its history, and its inhabitants and their relationships to each other, to the land, and to the county seat town of Jefferson. (Faulkner’s “own little postage stamp of native land.”) I’d really like to read the novels now in the order of their writing.

**I loved the numerous anecdotes showing Faulkner’s wit; his sense of humor and his irony made him great at one-liners.

Faulkner came from a time and place where storytelling was a much appreciated art, and he told stories from his early youth to appreciative audiences of all ages. I think the most valuable thing I learned from this biography may be something I took from Faulkner’s answers to questions about his work. He felt that what was most important was the story he was telling. He would not or could not answer questions about symbols, style, stream of consciousness narration or other matters of technique.

This is definitely one of the best biographies I’ve read, and one that I would highly recommend.

helmikuu 25, 8:46 pm

Ive never been a huge Faulkner fan but this bio sounds really good. thanks for an excellent review

helmikuu 26, 9:18 am

>59 cindydavid4: Thanks, Cindy!

My reading has been sluggish lately. I’ve felt the need for shorter, hopefully lighter, books after finishing Faulkner, because in the long run it has made me sad. And the WWI history by Margaret Macmillan that I’m still listening to has done nothing to lighten the mood!

I did listen to Rebecca West’s The Return of the Soldier last week, since it had gotten so much praise over in the RTT thread, and I found the praise well-deserved. And I’m currently listening to something much lighter, The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald. I’m enjoying the audio of this very short book, but I’m not sure yet what to make of it. I’m thinking I may be in for a surprise at the end, too much is going well for the main character. I’ve been meaning to explore Fitzgerald’s work for awhile now. I have the idea that she may be similar to Barbara Pym—whose work I love, but have almost finished.

helmikuu 26, 1:27 pm

>58 dianelouise100: such a lovely review. Terrific. I've been thinking about reading through Faulkner for years, and I've never read anything by him before! On my little list, next year would be Arthur Miller, and then after that Faulkner. But this year kidzdoc expressed plans to try to read through is early novels. If you do start reading through them, from the beginning, this year, I'll be tempted to join you. I'm also tempted to mix up my list (gasp!) and read Faulkner in 2024 - well begin him. I think he will need more than 1 year.

helmikuu 26, 1:49 pm

I posted a list of his novels here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/347513#8079757

helmikuu 26, 3:39 pm

>61 dchaikin: I’d love it if you were reading Faulkner, too. I will be giving a miss to Soldier’s Pay and Mosquitoes and beginning with the Mississippi novels. The first one, Sartoris/Flags in the Dust, I read back in January. Either version works well to intoduce a reader to Yoknapatawpha and some of its inhabitants. So my next read will be The Sound and the Fury. I was talking about Faulkner with a friend earlier this week (we go all the way back to graduate school), he said he thought The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Light in August and Absalom, Absalom were the Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth of American literature. I’d put the novella The Bear (part of Go Down, Moses) up there, too.

I hope whenever you read Faulkner, you’ll really enjoy him. I’m planning to get to The Sound and the Fury in March, and have thought of reading one of the novels every month.

And thanks so much for your generous compliment.

helmikuu 27, 9:38 am

>58 dianelouise100: Wonderful review, Diane.

helmikuu 27, 10:24 am

>64 labfs39: Thanks, Lisa!

helmikuu 27, 11:26 am

>63 dianelouise100: I’ll follow along your reading and think about maybe reading something by Faulkner this year.

helmikuu 27, 7:18 pm

Excellent review of the Faulkner biography. I am reading a collection of his short stories on my kindle at the moment. I might be tempted to get that Bio.

helmikuu 28, 7:47 am

>66 dchaikin: I’ll look forward to your comments and to your responses to his books.

>67 baswood: Thanks! Hope you’re enjoying the stories.

maaliskuu 2, 5:55 pm

Excellent review of Faulkner: A Biography, Diane! I'll be on the lookout for it soon.

maaliskuu 2, 7:56 pm

>69 kidzdoc: Thank you, Darryl! I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

maaliskuu 2, 8:21 pm

In the last week of February, I listened to The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald and to The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West. After the long Faulkner bio it was very pleasant to be entertained by two well done audiobooks, both very short. But I think I woud be able to give a more valid review of both if I had read the print versions. I’d seen a lot of praise given to The Return of the Soldier on RTT quarterly thread focused on WWI, which motivated my choice there, and it was obvious through the narration that it deserved the praise. But in parts of the audio, I wished I was reading and could spend more time over what was said… I would have gotten more from what is clearly a rich book.

The Bookshop I would definitely want to read before evaluating. I could not quite make out what Fitzgerald was driving at. She has been on my list of TBR authors for a long time and I probably did not choose the best starting point. (I have to confess I picked this because of its topic, but mainly because it was short.) I will probably reread it after reading another of her works first and attempt to arrive at an opinion.

maaliskuu 10, 1:02 pm

>58 dianelouise100: I am not often attracted to biographies of writers, but Faulkner is a favorite of mine and you have made this biography sound very tempting! I too would be up for any "group reads" of his works. I've not read many of his early works, but I've read the main ones (see >63 dianelouise100:), sometimes multiple times (which is not common for me). I've not read many of his earlier works, and of the Snopes Trilogy I've read only The Hamlet, and that's the work (the trilogy) I would like to get to next. And I am going to check out the biography.

maaliskuu 10, 4:44 pm

>72 arubabookwoman: I’d love to read along with someone else, especially for the Snopes Trilogy. Few people like them as well as the other Mississippi novels. I’d need to reread The Hamlet and then get to the others. I also want to reread The Sound and the Fury this month. I don’t really know how one sets up a group read, I’ve been on LT for two years, but not participated in a group read. What are your thoughts?

If you do dive in to the biography, I hope you’ll enjoy it! It should be a natural for someone already a Faulkner lover.

maaliskuu 10, 7:02 pm

Review of Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I decided to read this book now, so long after its original publication, because Elizabeth Strout has been recommended to me by so many trusted friends. When the book was new, I was put off by the short story format, and I’ve always had plenty else on my TBR. But as I approached Olive this time, I found that I did in fact like the separate stories which are unified by their focus on Olive and by their setting in the small town of Crossby, Maine. I found Strout’s writing clear and pleasant to read. The stories are well drawn scenes, that made me laugh at times, cringe with embarassment at others, sometimes even flinch with pain. But what I enjoyed most about the book was the character of Olive herself. From the outset, she is an unpleasant woman, not very sociable. She suffers from a wide streak of paranoia. Much of the time she treats her husband terribly, and she manages to totally alienate her son who grows up afraid of her; she is a controlling, demanding, and irritable mother. Many of her students (she teaches math) fear her as well, though some do appreciate her as a teacher. The remarkable thing about her characterization is that it was not long before I began to like Olive, and by the last stories, I was rooting for her. It gradually becomes clear that she loves her family fiercely and loyally. I really want her to figure out how to repair her rifts with them.
I rated Olive Kitteridge at 3.5 stars. I enjoyed reading it and will be reading more of Elizabeth Strout.

maaliskuu 11, 9:43 am

>74 dianelouise100: I wanted to like Olive Kitteridge because it is set in Maine and I like crusty older woman protagonists. Unfortunately, it didn't work for me. In my review I wrote:

My lack of enthusiasm stems partly from an inability to be drawn into the lives of quiet desperation that seem to plague everyone over the age of fifty. Is there anyone in Crosby, Maine who has not had a late mid-life crisis? And is there anyone in Crosby who has a normal, emotionally healthy mother?

maaliskuu 11, 10:30 am

All points well taken, Lisa! Did you read any of the Lucy Barton series? That would be where I’d go next, so would like to know what you think, if you went there.

maaliskuu 11, 10:40 am

>76 dianelouise100: I have not read anything else by Strout. She seems to be either loved or hated here on CR, and I have people whose opinions I value on both sides of the fence.

maaliskuu 11, 10:52 am

Ive read her second Olive book as well as the first Lucy one, loved both. since then Strout has been lukewarm for me.

maaliskuu 11, 11:25 am

Thanks to both of you, I may give the first Lucy a try eventually.

maaliskuu 11, 11:35 am

I liked Olive Kitteridge a lot for what it was, kind of a literary local soap opera. I haven't gone further with her books, other than the glum Amy and Isabelle, which I was very lukewarm about, but I have a few of the later ones and will probably get to one or two eventually.

maaliskuu 15, 10:06 am

Over last couple weeks I’ve finished The War that Ended Peace, Animals by Argentinian writer Hebe Uhart, and The Return of Faraz Ali by Aamina Ahmad. Next up will be two books gifted me at Christmas, which I should have read sooner: The Song of the Cell (about halfway through this) and Remarkably Bright Creatures which I started last night. That will leave only The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh of the Christmas TBR.

maaliskuu 15, 12:51 pm

>73 dianelouise100: fwiw, I loved the Snopes Trilogy. I haven't read anything else by Faulkner, though, so maybe I'd be in the camp of those who didn't like the Snopes novels as well as the others, too, but that would be a very high bar!

maaliskuu 15, 1:13 pm

Not having read these novels myself, I can’t say that I’ll like them less either. Now I’m more motivated than ever to read them. Various Snopeses appear in the earliest Mississippi novels and they are always fascinating characters.

maaliskuu 16, 6:13 pm

Animals by Argentinian writer Hebe Uhart is one of two of her works to have appeared in English, thanks to the efforts of Archipelago Press. I read this book in response to a monthly prompt from RTT.

Animals is a collection of short essays filled with careful observations of all sorts of animals, including human animals. Uhart writes about visits to zoos, interviews with zookeepers, ornithologists, zoologists; about visits with pets and their people, and about amateur naturalists from the 19th and 20th century, many of whom she’s also interviewed. Her chapters wander hither and yon with little sense of order; they are more the ramblings of someone who cares deeply about animals, looks at them carefully, and reflects on her observations. My favorite chapters were the ones on Thoreau and von Humboldt, and all the ones on parrots. She illustrates the book herself with wonderful pen and ink drawings, mostly of birds.

I came away from this book with a lot of information about South American animals and their relationships with those who love them and with a delightful picture of an author I’d like to be friends with. This book is a treat!

maaliskuu 16, 9:56 pm

>84 dianelouise100: oh that sounds like a fun read! Always enjoy illustrations and cool that she did them.

maaliskuu 20, 2:03 pm

Nice review of Animals, Diane. I received it as part of my Archipelago Books subscription, and given your positive comments about it I'll move it higher on my TBR list.

maaliskuu 20, 7:20 pm

>84 dianelouise100: Animals looks like it would be right up my alley. Wishlisting, thanks!

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 20, 8:29 pm

>87 lisapeet: >86 kidzdoc: >85 cindydavid4: Hoping you’ll try it, and enjoy it as much as I did. It served as a great break for me after the heavy WWI reading.

huhtikuu 1, 5:54 pm

>73 dianelouise100: If we wanted to do a group read it would be as simple as deciding when to start and setting up a thread. For me, I would be able to start June 1. We would also have to decide how long to take for each book. I wouldn't want to go any faster than one per month (i.e. June, July, and August) or much slower than one every two months (June, August, October). Are you interested, and what would be your preferences? I could put an announcement on the messages thread to see if anyone else is interested, and set up a thread for each of the books.

huhtikuu 1, 11:57 pm

I am interested, and I’d be fine with one per month. Would we comment on up to a quarter of the book each week? Timing of the reading seems a little complicated to me…

huhtikuu 2, 10:03 am

To bring my reading for first quarter up to date, in the last two weeks I’ve finished two novels and another yesterday: Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt, High Rising by Angela Thirkell and My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier. For the last 10 days of March I was unable to follow threads or to do much to mine. We had planned a vacation drive along the Natchez Trace Parkway for last week, then unexpectedly the week before, my sister had to have a fairly complicated shoulder replacement surgery. She did well with that and is recovering nicely now, and we did manage to leave for Tennessee on time for a very enjoyable ride on the northern half of the parkway. Dogwoods and redbuds were abundant, and varying shades of green everywhere. This parkway is not spectacular like the BRP—what it offers is a peaceful solitude, with lots of birdsong, wild turkey sightings, historical sites, and almost no traffic.

The three books I’ve managed to read during this period were just what I needed—on the shorter side, much emphasis on plot, not requiring intense concentration. I do hope to catch up on reviewing at some point and am glad to be more informed now with what’s going on in CR.

huhtikuu 2, 1:35 pm

>91 dianelouise100: I'm glad your sister's surgery went well and that you were able to get away for a bit. I would love to drive the BRP when the azaleas are blooming

huhtikuu 2, 8:36 pm

>92 labfs39: Thanks,Lisa. If you could get away in June, you’d probably find flame azaleas and then catawba rhodendrons all along the parkway in North Carolina, the rosebay rhododendrons are later still, sometimes on into July…would make a nice change from the winter you’ve had.

huhtikuu 2, 8:56 pm

Review of The Return of Faraz Ali by Aamina Ahmad

The Return of Faraz Ali is set between 1968 to 1972, in Lahore and then in East Pakistan. These were years of political upheaval and finally war in Pakistan, after which Western and Eastern Pakistan were divided and East Pakistan became the country of Bangladesh. The novel’s main character, Faraz, is a policeman in Lahore; the story opens as he is leading a police attack on a group of students attempting to listen to a political speech by the liberal politician Bhutto. When Faraz returns to the police station after the fighting, his sleep is interrupted by a phone call from his father Wajid. With much pulling of strings, Wajid has arranged to send him to lead a very sensitive investigation in the Mohalla, the red-light district in Lahore’s walled old city. His task will be to cover up an accident that had resulted in the death of a prostitute, so that the presence at the time, in the vicinity of the crime, of some high ranking government officials need never be known.

The relationship between Faraz and Wajid is not known to anyone else, even Faraz’s wife, since Faraz is the child born from a liaison between his prostitute mother and Wajid that had occurred in the 1940’s, just before Wajid’s service in World War II. It would have been a crippling dishonor for the powerful Wajid, the “senior bureaucrat in the province,” a “general secretary,” to acknowledge a son from the Mohalla. The novel’s initial conflict is created when Faraz, on viewing the body, discovers that the death was in fact not an accident, but clearly murder, and that the victim was an 11-year old child. He reacts with horror and determines to bring justice to the child’s family and to the murderer (while also trying to preserve his own life in a society run by rich and powerful men, who could do whatever to whomever without fear of repercussion). Complicating this fairly standard police thriller material, however, is the urge Faraz also feels to use the opportunity of the assignment to find his mother and sister, whom he has had no contact with since a very young age when Wajid abducted him from the Mohalla in order to give him a better life. Then, to reveal more information about Wajid, the author chooses to move back in time to 1942, to North Africa and Wajid’s war experiences, introducing another plot thread. I found these sections disruptive and a bit tedious, though their relevance was shown at the end.

Ahmad’s writing style is straightforward, usually clear. My understanding, unfortunately, was hindered at times by my lack of background information about Pakistan’shistory. I enjoyed her characterization throughout in particular of the women and other inhabitants of the Mohalla. Firdous, Faraz’s mother, is beautifully developed and the setting itself comes across clearly, its extreme poverty, but also its exotic nature. It is here that the theme of sacrifice emerges. And of course, the novel conveys also the themes of justice/injustice and of the question what constitutes honor.

Overall this was an enjoyable novel, which I rate at 3 stars, meaning that it certainly kept me reading, but I don’t think I will be rereading it.

huhtikuu 3, 11:33 am

Great review of The Return of Faraz Ali, Diane. Given your 3 star rating of this book I probably won't read it.

huhtikuu 3, 3:06 pm

>95 kidzdoc: Thanks, Darryl… and I do think my time could have been better spent.

huhtikuu 3, 3:49 pm

>94 dianelouise100: enjoyed your review

>76 dianelouise100: I didn’t like Olive, but I really took to My Name is Lucy Barton. Fwiw

I would also be interested in joining a June Faulkner group read.

huhtikuu 3, 4:26 pm

>94 dianelouise100: Although I want to read more Pakistani literature, I don't think it will include this one. Good review though.

huhtikuu 3, 4:52 pm

>98 labfs39: Thanks, Lisa. I’ll be interested in what you do read, now that I’ve learned a little about Pakistan.

huhtikuu 3, 4:56 pm

>97 dchaikin: Thanks, Dan, for your view on Lucy Barton. I will be reading that sometime this year. And please keep in your plans the Faulkner group read, hope you will join in. I’m excited to try out this group reading experience.

huhtikuu 4, 7:16 am

>99 dianelouise100: So far I've read four Pakistani novels:

Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie (4.5 stars)
The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad (4 stars)
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (4 stars)
A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif (3.5 stars)

I definitely want to read more by Shamsie, who writes beautifully, and I have Exit West by Hamid on my shelves.

huhtikuu 4, 1:06 pm

>101 labfs39: I’ve made note of these, thanks.

huhtikuu 4, 8:41 pm

>90 dianelouise100: >97 dchaikin: Great! Let's do it. The Hamlet in June, The Town in July, and The Mansion in August. I will post an announcement in the messages thread to see if anyone else wants to join in (I'm so glad you're joining us Dan), and then post a thread for each of the books.
As to the pace of the reading, I personally don't do well with rigid schedules about what to read each week. I'm thinking that we can each read/comment at our own pace, but at the beginning of each post put what chapters/pages we are commenting on (ie at the top of the post put something like "Book I, Chapters 1-3" or whatever). That way if someone is worried about spoilers (which I am not, but I recognize I'm probably in the minority on this), they can avoid reading the comment until they've read the portion of the book being commented on. What do you think? Or if other participants really want a weekly schedule, we could do that. I think each of the books is roughly 400 pp more or less, so about 100 pp per week??

huhtikuu 4, 8:53 pm

I think this will work well, and I’m with you on the “scheduling.” I do my best reading when it’s at my own pace. I think your plan for the commenting will work well,too.

huhtikuu 4, 11:40 pm

>103 arubabookwoman: Enjoy, everybody. I loved those books.

huhtikuu 5, 9:37 pm

Review of High Rising by Angela Thirkell

This is a delightful novel. It’s the first of a 30-book series known as the Barsetshire chronicles. These books are social comedy, focussed on matrimony and generally lighthearted and humorous. High Rising’s witty style, its clearly developed and mostly sympathetic characters, its plot surprises, and gentle satire of the conventions of social comedy made it a pleasure to read.

The story is set in the early part of the 20th century in the fictitious rural county of Barset, where main character Laura Morland has a summer cottage in the village of High Rising. Laura is a successful “good bad writer” of mysteries, who is “happily widowed” with no wish to change her station. Laura lives with the youngest of her four sons, Tony, whose all consuming interest in trains and incessant talking make him obnoxious and boring to everyone but himself. He is a great source of humor in the novel. Another writer lives in the adjoining village of Low Rising. George Knox, also widowed, writes successful historical biographies. With George lives Sybil, his twenty-year old daughter, and lots of dogs, puppies, and horses, which Tony loves almost as much as trains. And also part of the Knox household is George’s brand new secretary, Una.

The plot is set in motion when George’s longtime secretary leaves to care for a sister in ill health, and George has to hire someone new. He selects Una Grey from a list of applicants, an attractive young woman very competent in all she sets out to do, be it typing, running the household, nursing the sick, or general management of everyone. It soon becomes clear to all except George that Una plans to marry him, and in general dismay, the servants, his daughter, and his closest friends, Laura among them, set out to prevent such an undesirable match.

Scenes and evolving relationships are developed carefully, characters are well established, and the novel moves at a good pace to its somewhat surprising conclusion. Thirkell’s writing is witty and clear, making for a well-crafted and satisfying story that I can recommend without reservation.

huhtikuu 7, 7:21 pm

Liking the first of 30 that much is a good sign!

huhtikuu 8, 9:28 am

>103 arubabookwoman: I will likely join in on the Faulkner group read! I've read several of his books, but none of the ones mentioned.

huhtikuu 23, 8:31 am

Holy Week and Easter are a wonderful and consuming season for us, and on visiting my thread, I see that I need to review all of April’s books. I’ve been holding onto two library books, thinking I’d soon be writing reviews, but as the reading moves further back in time, I’ll try now to give my responses to the books and let them go home and to other readers. Then I can begin to catch up on threads, too.

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier, read mostly in March, finished on April 1:

I liked this book very much and rated it 4*. Philip Ashley, the main character and narrator of the story, is a moody young man and from the very beginning we have insight into his passionate nature. He has recently inherited a large estate in Cornwall from his beloved Ambrose, the guardian with whom he had lived from an early age. Together they had led a reclusive life in a home with no female influence—even all the servants were male. Ambrose began teaching his misogyny to young Philip from the beginning of his guardianship with his dismissal of Philip’s nurse. Ambrose later travels to Florence for health reasons, however, and there he meets, falls in love with, and marries the beautiful Rachel, also a distant cousin. Ambrose dies in Florence, and from evidence in Ambrose’s last letters to him, Philip suspects that Rachel poisoned him; this is reinforced by Ambrose’s will, which leaves his entire estate to Philip and makes no provision for his wife. As the novel continues, the first person pov, revealing only Philip’s thoughts and emotions, is ever more critical to interpreting the novel.

In desperate need of an income, Rachel comes to Cornwall to meet her husband’s heir, where she remains as Philip’s guest for the rest of the novel. The central question is whether or not his cousin Rachel, with whom Philip also quickly falls in love, is a murderess, or whether Ambrose, suffering from “brain fever,” was delusional in his last days.

Du Maurier’s readers know to expect a story with a compelling plot and an atmosphere of foreboding. The mood of My Cousin Rachel is dark, oppressive, suffocating. The plot proceeds at a good pace, as Philip wavers among suspicion and vengefulness and an intensely possessive passion for Rachel. Unexpected twists every so often heighten suspense and lead to an unforgettable ending. This novel has become my favorite of her stories.

Orient Express: An Entertainment by Graham Greene

I have not read Graham Greene, but after Barry’s great review of The End of the Affair, I looked at the Greene section of our library. Of course, The End of the Affair was not on the shelf, but I was intrigued by this title. I did enjoy reading it, but I did not love it. (I still want to read End of the Affair.)

The Orient Express has a Depression-era flavor. The plot begins as the train is preparing to pull out of Ostend for its 3-day run to Constantinople. The passengers get on and off in different places along the route, but the three central characters plan to travel the entire distance. Carleton Myatt, a wealthy young Jew who imports raisins, is traveling to Constantinople to negotiate a takeover of a competitor’s business. Coral Musker is a chorus girl traveling to Constantinople for a job in a show. The two develop an attraction for each other. A third main character is a Communist revolutionary, traveling under a false passport to Belgrade, where he is to lead an uprising. Some of the other more interesting characters are a rabid newspaperwoman, a forty-something lesbian whose paid companion is preparing to leave her; a lecherous middle class shopkeeper and his sickly wife on holiday; and a burglar, who has committed a murder just as the train pulls into the station in Vienna. Hoping to escape his pursuers, he manages to get to the station in time to board the train. These characters all express their nasty natures and their strong prejudices in their interactions with each other. The only two I sympathized with at all were the chorus girl and the revolutionary.

I did want to know whether or not the revolutionary got to his destination or if he was caught first and how the romance between the chorus girl and the Jewish businessman turned out, so I didn’t dnf the book. For me it was a 3-star read.

huhtikuu 23, 9:18 am

>109 dianelouise100: I'm intrigued by your review of My Cousin Rachel. I have not yet read anything by Du Maurier and want to.

huhtikuu 23, 9:35 am

>110 labfs39: I hope you’ll read her; Rachel and Rebecca are her best know works. I want to reread Rebecca soon.

huhtikuu 23, 1:52 pm

>109 dianelouise100: I have read both of those not too long ago. I really enjoyed My Cousin Rachel which is a real page turner with no secondary storyline. I rated it as four stars.

Stamboul Train or the Orient Express seems a bit tame these days as a thriller, but plenty of period detail.

toukokuu 8, 5:19 pm

I finished Romola a few days ago, my review is in the next post.

toukokuu 8, 5:41 pm

Romola by George Eliot

Written in 1863, Romola was the fourth of George Eliot’s major novels and her only novel to be set in the Middle Ages. The story begins on April 9, 1492, in the marketplace of Florence, which is abuzz with the news of the death of the Medici ruler, Lorenzo the Magnificent. Most of Eliot’s other novels are set in England fifty years or so before her writing them and are fairly comfortable for me to get into. Romola, though, set in the last decade of the 15th century in Italy, required a good bit of patience at the beginning. But eventually the strangeness of time, place, and history became fascinating, and I found myself wanting to get back to my book quickly whenever I put it down.

Setting is a great strength in this novel. It gives a convincing depiction of Florence at one of the most chaotic times of its history. Lorenzo di Medici has just died at the beginning of the story, and his heir, Piero, is soon driven out after a miserable performance dealing with the invasion of the French army under Charles VIII. The power struggles begin, with more factions competing treacherously, even murderously, for power, than I can remember. The Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola is at the peak of his power in his quest to stamp out corruption in the Church and in the people. Religious factions contribute much to the chaos. The conflict between religion and humanism, faith in God and faith in man, is brought out here and Eliot questions whether the two can exist peacefully together. The two scenes around Bonfires of the Vanities are frightening. Spectacles and crowd scenes such as these abound in Romola—festivals, executions, riots, huge crowds at the Duomo for Fra Savonarola’s sermons—and historical characters are everywhere. According to a biography of George Eliot I read, she spent years researching for this historical novel, and the result made me feel that I had actually seen the Florence of this era. (I would not have wanted to be there.)

Eliot’s familiar strengths as a novelist are all present from the beginning. Point of view is her customary 3rd person omniscient, her persona, the familiar guiding voice of the wise woman with much experience of life. The Proem is magnificent, and of course should be reread after finishing the book for insights into her theme. By this point you’ll know whether or not you agree.

Romola is the beautiful daughter of elderly, blind classical scholar, Bardo di Bardi. Not only compassionate, but extremely intelligent, she has been her father’s secretary since the departure of her older brother to join the Dominican friars. She has lived most of her life in seclusion, meeting only the elderly people, mostly scholars like her father, who visit their house. When young and handsome Tito Melema, a well educated and learned Greek recently arrived in the city, is employed by Bardo to also help in his work, Tito and Romola fall in love. Not long after meeting him we begin to understand the essential selfishness of Tito’s nature. His inability to “do the right thing” when it involves any sacrifice, or even discomfort, for himself becomes apparent to the reader. Romola’s struggle to free herself from this thieving, deceitful, treacherous man she has married forms the main conflict of the plot. Effective use of foreshadowing and symbolism help the reader to see more truly than Romola, setting up a sad irony. Here is an ominous scene that occurs on the very day of Tito’s arrival in Florence. He is in Nello’s barbershop, a popular center of conversation, mainly gossip. Tito encounters the painter Piero di Cosimo who requests that Tito sit for him for a painting of Sinon, the Greek who persuaded King Priam of Troy to receive the Trojan Horse into Troy. Nello objects that Tito has too beautiful and mild a countenance to represent the most famous traitor in the world. Piero replies:

“A perfect traitor should have a face which vice can write no marks on—lips that will lie with a dimpled smile—eyes of such agate-like brightness and depth that no infamy can dull them—cheeks that will rise from a murder and not look haggard. I say not this young man is a traitor: I mean, he has a face that would make him the more perfect traitor if he had the heart of one, which is saying neither more nor less than that he has a beautiful face, informed with rich young blood, that will be nourished enough by food, and keep its colour without much help of virtue.”

Hopefully the reader who at this point thinks that Tito may be the novel’s hero will think again.

Eliot’s skill with portraying and developing character is also an expected strength. Romola’s illusions about Tito are slow in giving way to a truer judgment of his nature. Her inner struggles to deny her uneasy suspicions and what she experiences in his behavior are shown through her words and actions as well as the comments of other characters and the narrator’s own comments. Tito’s deterioration into the thoroughly evil character he has become by the end of the story is shown in the same way. Many of the characters in the novel are figures from history, some with important roles to play in the story. The painter already mentioned is one. A more important one is Fra Girolamo Savanorola, Prior of the Domicans of San Marco. Eliot presents a finely balanced portrait of the single-minded Dominican. This view of him surprised me as I only knew enough about him to associate him with book burning. That Eliot would be even-handed and fair is no surprise at all. She shows the strength and purity of Savonarola’s quest. She makes him one of Romola’s most important supports. And toward the end when he has been executed by burning, having lost his battle against Pope Alexander VI, whom he wanted to depose, she sums up her opinion of Savonarola in these memorable words:

“There is no jot of worthy evidence that from the time of his imprisonment to the supreme moment, Savonarola thought or spoke of himself as a martyr. The idea of martyrdom had been to him a passion dividing the dream of the future with the triumph of beholding his work achieved. And now, in place of both, had come a resignation which he called by no glorifying name. But therefore he may the more fitly be called a martyr by his fellow-men to all time. For power rose against him not because of his sins, but because of his greatness—not because he sought to deceive the world, but because he sought to make it noble. And through that greatness of his he endured a double agony: not only the reviling, and the torture, and the death-throe, but the agony of sinking from the vision of glorious achievement into that deep shadow where he could only say, ‘I count as nothing: darkness encompasses me: yet the light I saw was the true light.’”

I am glad to have read Romola and will certainly be reading it again. I loved the setting and the story and I learned a lot of history. I’ve had to refrain from quoting on and on—George Eliot’s writing is so full of memorable passages. I’m hoping this year to get to Felix Holt the Radical, the last of her major novels I’ve yet to read. I rate Romola 5 stars.

toukokuu 8, 10:22 pm

>114 dianelouise100: excellent review. I put this book on my kindle and am eager to read it. BTW Savonarola is best known for his Bonfire of all Vanities

toukokuu 8, 11:03 pm

Thanks for visiting, Cindy. That was certainly what I knew about him, and Eliot’s more balanced treatment of S. was one of my favorite aspects of Romola.

toukokuu 9, 6:22 am

>114 dianelouise100: Fantastic review, Diane. I was completely unfamiliar with Romola and didn't realize that Eliot wrote a novel with such a different setting from Middlemarch, which I am rereading right now. Very interesting.

toukokuu 9, 2:06 pm

What a lovely surprise to read a review of Romola I am another person who did not know that George Eliot had written a book about 15th century Italy. I have read quite a bit of history and some literature from the Renaissance and so I am going to make some space in my reading calendar to get to Romola

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 9, 4:21 pm

>118 baswood: Happy to share, and will be looking forward to your impressions. And now I will have to do some reading myself about the 15th century, want to find more information about Savanarola and Alexander VI, now that my image of Savanarola has changed, and of course about the Medicis.

toukokuu 9, 4:14 pm

>117 labfs39: Thanks! And lucky you to be immersed in Middlemarch again, such a great book.

toukokuu 9, 6:00 pm

When I’ve finished a long book that required some time and mental energy, and been worth it all, I often need a few days of rest from reading. I’m thinking now that I’ll turn to some medieval topics. My hand fell on Donald R. Howard’s Chaucer: His Life, His Works, His World when I was looking over the medieval bookshelf, and I’ve enjoyed its first few pages. I’m thinking I’ll settle into this for awhile and see where it leads me.

toukokuu 20, 8:43 am

Fabulous review of Romola, Diane. I've just purchased the free Kindle version of it, but it will be awhile before I get to it.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 20, 8:45 am

Tämä käyttäjä on poistettu roskaamisen vuoksi.

toukokuu 20, 10:38 am

>122 kidzdoc: Thanks, Darryl—I’ll look forward to reading your comments when Romola’s turn comes.

toukokuu 21, 9:57 am

Hi Diane--I've set up a thread for the group read of The Hamlet starting June 1. Hope you are still up for it!

toukokuu 21, 4:40 pm

>125 arubabookwoman: thanks for setting up thread, looking forward to these books.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 22, 12:02 pm

I recently finished two classic detective novels, both first published in the 1930’s, the Golden Age of detective fiction: Pietr the Latvian by Georges Simenon and A Shilling for Candles by Josephine Tey. Each story was short and each provided me several hours of absorbed entertainment.

Pietr the Latvian. Reading Georges Simenon was a new experience for me, and I can see why he has such devoted fans. Here is the set-up: International police agency wants swindler Pietr the Latvian in custody. Detective Inspector Maigret is provided with a detailed physical description and sent to the Gare Nord in Paris to meet his train and arrest him. When the train arrives, it is discovered that a passenger has just been murdered. Maigret identifies the victim as Pietr, the man he is supposed to arrest. But then that evening, Pietr reappears at the Majestic Hotel, keeping his appointment to dine with a wealthy American couple, possibly his next partners in crime.

The plot is intense, filled with repeated frustrations and increasing tension. This mood is due to the tenacity of Maigret’s efforts to solve this puzzling murder. The confusion over identity increases, more murders occur, and Maigret becomes adamant in his resolution to sort things out. The dominant image I have of him from this novel is that of a huge, physically powerful man, smoking his pipe and waiting patiently in dark corners to keep watch on various suspects. His stubbornness increases to the point of continuing his investigation even after a very serious wound, thus putting his own life in jeopardy and so ratchetting up the tension a few more notches.

I listened to the audio version of the novel, which confused me more than was necessary, I think, so I’ll be reading other Maigrets in the lovely Penguin editions I found on the public library shelf.

A Shilling for Candles. I read all the Josephine Tey novels I could find at the public library when I was a teenager, so A Shilling for Candles was a reread. The story opens with the discovery of the body of Christine Clay, a beloved movie star, on a beach near Westover in southeast England. She has drowned. Tangled in her hair is found a coat button, which indicates that her death is a murder, a case for London detective Alan Grant. Grant arrives on the scene, finds numerous suspects, and with a bit of help from the Chief Constable’s daughter has to exclude his chief suspect, but of course eventually discovers the right person.

Tey fills the novel with well described and interesting characters, almost all of them sympathetic: Christine’s powerful husband Lord Edward, peer of the realm; her circle of “friends” in the movie industry, all of whom would seem to have had a motive for her murder; the irrepressible Jammy Hopkins, journalist extraordinaire (his words), paparazzo for sure; Colonel Burgoyne, local Chief Constable and his 16-year old daughter, Erica; and Robert Tisdall, who has been staying with Chris. Grant immediately becomes friends with the Burgoynes and is helped by my favorite character, the intelligent and practical Erica, to solve the murder. The novel is paced well and kept me reading, a very pleasant “cozy” read.

kesäkuu 28, 10:07 am

Review of Chaucer His Life His Works His World by Donald R. Howard

I loved this comprehensive study of Chaucer and the medieval world he lived in. Howard uses an informal style throughout that is clear and very readable. He discusses Chaucer’s writings, the cultural background necessary to understanding them now that we’re so far distant in time, and his role at the courts of Edward III and Richard II. He provides ample documentation in endnotes I found very useful, and an excellent bibliography.

The material is developed in chronological order, presenting what Chaucer’s education and duties would have been as a page at the court of Prince Lionel and his wife Elizabeth, Countess of Ulster, what is known of his life at war in service with John of Gaunt and Prince Lionel, his return to the court of King Edward and the development of his life as courier and diplomat at home and abroad, and concluding with a description of his life in accounting jobs, working with the Wool Custom and as Clerk of the Works (in charge of maintence of all the buildings, etc., of the Royal Courts). Howard is always clear about documentary evidence, and when he is speculating or theorizing, he says so.

Along the way are excellent discussions of Chaucer’s development as a poet, paying detailed attention to how his European trips gave him the opportunity to grow more familiar with the works of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccacio. Early on, a helpful description of courtly love conventions is given, along with the French literature Chaucer would have known from his education and liife at court. Howard devotes two chapters to presenting the influence of Boccacio, not only on Chaucer, but also on the development of fiction in European literature. At appropriate points in this chronology excellent analyses and discussions of the individual poems are given, sometimes in one or more chapters. We see the development of his style toward more realism that will culminate in The Canterbury Tales. And throughout we learn that valid interpretations of Chaucer’s work depend on a reader’s carefully considering and giving appropriate weight to the facts that the 14th century was an Age of Faith and that Chaucer, like most everyone else of his time and place, was concerned foremost for the fate of his soul. Overall, this book was very informative and a pleasurable reading experience.

This study would provide useful (maybe indispensable?) background for first-time readers of Chaucer, or for anyone needing a thorough review before rereading. I think it would also be enjoyable for anyone interested in medieval Europe (focus on England, of course) in the 14th century.

kesäkuu 28, 12:17 pm

>128 dianelouise100: Thats interesting. I regret that I didn't come across this book when I was reading Chaucer it sounds ideal

kesäkuu 28, 1:01 pm

>129 baswood: I’ve begun rereading Troilus and Criseyde, not read for many years, and I’m really glad for the “brush-up.”

kesäkuu 28, 5:41 pm

Ramola sounds terrific. I just read a history of Florence last month. I wonder how it would fit. Excellent review.

And I’m really happy to see your review of Donald Howard’s take on Chaucer. I may need to search that out. I was supposed to start Troilus and Criseyde this month, but it didn’t work out that way. Hopefully i’ll get going on it in July.

kesäkuu 28, 5:53 pm

>127 dianelouise100: I like both of these novels - nice reviews :)

kesäkuu 28, 7:34 pm

>132 AnnieMod: Thanks, Annie, and thanks for visiting.

>131 dchaikin: Howard’s book can usually be found in public libraries; his chapter on the Troilus could be read with benefit on its own I think, if you’re not ready to invest another chunk of time in a 500 page discussion of Chaucer this year. I still want to read the considerably newer work by Marion Turner, but I think that will be a project for 2024.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 3, 8:41 pm

Review of The Hamlet by William Faulkner

Set in the small village of Frenchman’s Bend, this novel tells the story of the rise of Flem Snopes, son of sharecropper and barn burner, Ab Snopes, to a position of wealth and power. Flem begins realizing his ambition to leave the country behind him when he secures a position as clerk in Will Varner’s general store; by the end of the story he marries Varner’s daughter and is driving off to “bigger pastures” in the city of Jefferson. All of his advances are secured by underhanded methods, the two just named by blackmail of Will Varner, the largest landowner in the area. For me, the greatest pleasure in this novel was living for a while in a world of Faulkner’s creation, enjoying his landscape, his characters, and his wonderful style. There’s a fine example of his “world building” in the novel’s first paragraph:

“Frenchman’s Bend was a section of rich river-bottom country lying twenty miles southeast of Jefferson. Hill-cradled and remote, definite yet without boundaries, straddling two counties and owning allegiance to neither, it had been the original grant and site of a tremendous pre-Civil War plantation, the ruins of which—the gutted shell of an enormous house with its fallen stables and slave quarters and overgrown gardens and brick terraces and promenades—were still known as the Old Frenchman’s place, although the original boundaries now existed only on old faded records in the Chancery Clerk’s office in the county courthouse in Jefferson, and even some of the once-fertile fields had long since reverted to the cane-and-cypress jungle from which their first master had hewed them.”

Setting is always important in a Faulkner story and we will learn much more about the world of Frenchman’s Bend through the course of the novel.

Ultimately, though, for me, The Hamlet was a disappointment, mainly because of plot deficiencies. Its first two sections, “Flem” and then “Eula,” are unified around the theme of Flem’s rise, which culminates in his marriage to Eula Varner. Unfortunately with the last two sections, dealing with the Snopeses migrating into Frenchman’s Bend and being placed by Flem in positions he has taken from inhabitants who have held them for years, the structure becomes episodic and rambling in nature, and not so clearly tied into the theme. Much of what happens in these last sections is the reworking of earlier short stories, and we lose the focus on Flem’s progress. For example, in the conflict between Mink and the hound belonging to Mink’s murder victim, the focus for me is on the intelligence and courageous actions of the dog in defeating his master’s murderer, as it was in an earlier short story entitled “The Hound.” I had read and loved all the short stories Faulkner reused in the novel and I would have not objected to his reusing old material, if I felt that he had carefully integrated it into this novel. But I didn’t see that he had—they made interesting reading, but distracted me from the overall interests of the novel.

In his best novels Faulkner’s plots are often complicated and difficult to work out, but they usually can be worked out (admittedly for me, only after multiple readings)—everything is tied in and works toward the climax. And it may be that I need to reread The Hamlet, which I probably will do eventually.

heinäkuu 18, 10:02 am

A few reviews behind as usual, so will try to post a couple soon.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 18, 11:08 am

To fulfill the South African theme in a global reading challenge, I read The Promise by Damon Galgut, winner of the Booker Prize in 2021; it was every bit as good as I expected, and then some. Set in South Africa over 30 years or so, following the dismantling of apartheid, the era of Archbishop Tutu’s Peace and Reconciliation Commission, The Promise focuses on the Swart family, father and three siblings. Its basic conflict is the family’s continuing failure to fulfill a deathbed promise made to Rachel Swart by her husband and its ongoing disintegration, both as a family unit and individually.

Amor, the youngest of the siblings, overhears her father promise her dying mother that he will give the maid Salome the house on the family property where she has lived for years as a trusted servant. Amor feels very strongly that the promise must be kept, and as the promise remains unfulfilled despite her urging over the years, she becomes increasingly estranged from her family. The skillful working out of this plot; the delineation of the characters, white and black, with their weaknesses and moral failings; and the strong impact of the theme of ongoing racism (and not so much reconciliation) and personal irresponsibility made this novel a great success for me.

The Promise received much positive attention in the media, and having lived through the somewhat similar situation of desegregation but not so much reconciliation in the U.S., I was drawn to it. Though set in a place unfamiliar to me, I felt sure that I would be all too familiar with the issues it treated. The novel was also said to have reminiscences of the work of William Faulkner, admittedly a plus for me, and it does—specifically of the novella The Bear, one of Faulkner’s masterpieces and my own favorite of his works. The Promise should appeal to anyone who enjoys a book with a skillfully constructed and suspenseful plot, a believable cast of characters, a sympathetic main character, and one of the most important challenges our world faces as its theme.

heinäkuu 18, 11:44 am

Great review of The Hamlet and you've also got me interested in The Promise. Sounds like it was interesting to read those to in close succession.

heinäkuu 18, 11:58 am

>137 japaul22: It was an interesting sequence—no similarity in style at all, but to think of two different and outstanding writers dealing with similar issues almost a hundred years apart! The more things change…. I am interested now in reading some of Galgut’s backlist.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 6, 10:25 am

Review of The Kites by Romain Gary

The Kites is set in Normandy during the German Occupation of 1941-‘44. It’s a beautiful novel about what people do to survive the worst thing that can befall them; it’s about the importance of tradition, memory, and imagination and their links to hope. It’s about doing what it takes to endure with courage and grace in a bleak environment of despair. This was Gary’s last novel, said to be his masterpiece. I’ve read nothing else of his, but can easily believe that assessment is valid.

The novel focusses on three men. Ludo, the young narrator, lives with his uncle and guardian, Ambrose Fleury, on a small farm near Clery. Ambrose farms and makes beautiful kites that are museum-quality works of art. Ludo, narrator and protagonist, is a teenager when the story begins; he has inherited the family gift/curse of a perfect memory. Unable to serve in the army because of an accelerated heartbeat, he is soon involved in the Resistance. He also remains faithful to his “eternal and forever” love, Lila, daughter of an aristocratic Polish family who spend their summers in Clery. The third major character, and my personal favorite, is Marcellin Duprat, fine chef and third-generation owner of Clos Joli, a world famous restaurant in Clery. Each character’s conflict is his personal struggle to maintain his integrity in a world where everything valued seems lost. The Duprat family motto is “I will stand firm,” and that is what these three eccentric characters do in The Kites, each in his own way. Ambrose expresses a similar sentiment in lines often repeated throughout the novel: “Hold tightly to the end of the line, so your kite doesn’t fly away and get lost in the pursuit of the blue yonder.”

A while after the Occupation begins, Marcellin and Ambrose have a conversation about the townspeople’s condemnation of the continuing standard of excellence at Clos Joli, whose main customers are now high-ranking German officers. The two old friends and Ludo are discussing the famous chef’s predicament and sharing a bottle of brandy at Ambrose’s home:

“Come on, Marcellin,” my uncle said gently. “Look, I know these words have often smacked of defeat, but…we’ll get them!”
Duprat pulled himself together. His eye recovered its famous steely gleam and you could even see a glint of some cruel irony. “Apparently in America, in England, they’re saying France is unrecognizable. Well, tell them to come to the Clos Joli: they’ll recognize it, all right!”
“There. That’s better,” said my uncle, filling his glass…
“Because,” Duprat went on, “I’m not one of those people whimpering, ‘Who knows what the future has in store for us!’ You ask me. I know: there will always be a France in the Michelin Guide!”

The Nazis will not extinguish the spirit of France.

A lush style that makes good use of imagery and symbolism; sympathetic main characters who are fully developed; an absorbing plot; and a theme of continuing significance make The Kites an unforgettable novel and one that I can recommend without reservation.

elokuu 5, 4:38 pm

I’ve become somewhat sidetracked with my reading plans by the appearance of the Booker Prize Longlist. My favorite local bookstore has several of the books in stock, and I purchased the two books I’d already had on my TBR, This Other Eden and Old God’s Time. I’m currently reading A Spell of Good Things (fullfilling a Nigerian theme in a global reading challenge) and In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. I’ll also read The Mansion, last of Faulkner’s Snopes trilogy, later this month.

elokuu 7, 9:36 am

>139 dianelouise100: I enjoyed your review of The Kites. It sounds like one I would like.

elokuu 8, 3:31 pm

Review of The Town by William Faulkner

I thought Faulkner’s The Town, second novel in his Snopes Trilogy, more satisfying than The Hamlet. There were not the lapses into soaring and beautiful flights of rhetoric, which I struggled to hold onto, but then just let go of out of frustration. And it did have a plot, a plot which follows a line, as Flem eventually weasels his way into the presidency of the Jefferson Bank, seemingly his goal all along. The writing is Faulknerian, but somewhat simpler and more readable than The Hamlet.

Flem’s character is fleshed out in The Town, and we are given a great deal more understanding of Eula, and her daughter Linda and their relationship to Flem. Linda, a babe in her mother’s arms when the Snopes family arrives in Jefferson, becomes significant; and we now have a team of Snopes watchers: our faithful Ratliff, there when his route brings him to town; Gavin Stevens, young lawyer, educated at Harvard and abroad; and Gavin’s nephew, Chick Malleson, who is not yet born when the Snopeses first arrive. These Snopes watchers provide the narration, each telling us in sections things he has observed for himself or heard about from others. I enjoyed this narrative technique and the variety in narrative voice. And the narrators have plenty to watch and report on. Many of the Snopeses from Frenchman’s Bend move into Jefferson when Flem has a spot for them. A significant new character is Manfred de Spain, son of one of the most aristocratic families in Jefferson. Eula falls in love with him, and surprisingly, their affair proves to be the lasting kind. Flem is aware of this affair, but ignores it. The sorting out of this triangle is perhaps the major plot interest, bringing together its major threads.

There are more surprises in this story, not all happy ones. I enjoyed the novel a great deal and now feel all set up for The Mansion, to see what else Faulkner has in mind for his Snopses.

elokuu 8, 5:16 pm

>141 labfs39: Thank, Lisa. I think you’d enjoy it.

elokuu 8, 6:33 pm

>139 dianelouise100: Enjoyed your review of The Kites - one to look out for.

elokuu 15, 6:55 pm

I finished A Spell of Good Things, which really impressed me. Set in a province in Nigeria, it focusses on two families, one well-to-do, the other struggling just to find food for a family of four. One of the two main characters, Eniola, is the teenaged son of the poor family. His father has lost his job as a teacher because of imposed job cuts—the family now has no income. The other main character is Wuraola, a young doctor on her first exhausting hospital service. Her demanding boyfriend, Kunle, only makes her busy life more impossible. Kunle’s family is close friends with Wuraola’s, and his father is planning a run for governor of the province. And then there is his opponent, a ruthless, Mafia sort of politician, who would prefer to run unopposed. This novel really develops into a page turner that leads to a shocking conclusion. Political corruption and violence, an underfunded education system whose methods of discipline reminded me of Dickens, abuse of women—all of these issues are present in the world of the novel. Its characters are believably developed; I was able to sympathize with many of them. And its plot kept me reading well past midnight the day I finished it.

I liked this book very much, and I’ve now added Adebayo’s earlier novel Stay with Me to my TBR. I’ve not read any other books on the Booker long list, but I wouldn’t be surprised if….


elokuu 16, 11:04 am

>145 dianelouise100: This sounds like a book I would like to read. I knew nothing about it prior to your review, other than it was on the Booker longlist.

elokuu 16, 5:28 pm

>146 labfs39: I think you would, too. In fact I thought of you and also of Darryl as I was reading it because of the setting. I think this year’s longlist contains some interesting novels and have planned to read more of them.

elokuu 17, 2:59 pm

I’ve finished Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia, which I read for the Immigration challenge on RTT and a Cuban slot in a global reading challenge. This novel is set in present day Miami and Cuba and is about Carmel, who emigrated in the early years of Castro’s regime, and Jeanette, her adult daughter, 28 years old and an addict who is often in detox. Family dynamics are important here:mother and daughter seem to have a caustic effect on each other both before and after the father’s death. Juxtaposed to this family are more recent illegal immigrants, Gloria and her daughter, 7-year old Ana. They live near Jeanette, and when Gloria is picked up by ICE while Ana is in school, Jeanette offers Ana a place to stay. The set up is interesting, and this novel did keep my attention, but the story jumped around in time too much for me to follow with any ease. I didn’t like it much and might not have finished had it not been for the challenges. Fortunately, it was short.

elokuu 27, 10:33 am

A Spell of Good Things and The Kites both look like they'd be books I'd like—thanks!

elokuu 27, 11:11 am

Catching up…

>140 dianelouise100: glad to see another Booker longlist reader.

>145 dianelouise100: I’m listening to this now. (A Spell of Good Things) Took me two hours to get into it, but i’m into it. Enjoyed your review. And I’m grateful to see the actual spelling of some of the names.

>134 dianelouise100: >142 dianelouise100: I’m just now reading these Snopes reviews. Very interesting. Agree the compilation of stories in The Hamlet has seams. It felt very much like a collection of stories. You liked The Town a lot more than i did

>136 dianelouise100: I liked The Promise, but not as much as most other readers. I found myself not fully in tune with the mixture of the sarcastic humor and deep serious reflection.

elokuu 31, 6:17 pm

>140 dianelouise100: I recently finished Old God’s Time. I’d hoped it’d make the shortlist. Still I’m glad it made it to the longlist. It’s brilliant. I listen to it on audio. Brilliantly narrated.
Unfortunately I can only “read “ audio and only few of this yeast’s Booker are published as audit\o, though I guess that will change.

elokuu 31, 11:00 pm

>151 kjuliff: I’m within a couple chapters of finishing Old God’s Time, and because you had mentioned the good narration in one of the threads, I’ve also listened to quite a bit of the narration, which I’ve enjoyed a great deal. I’m not sure what I’ll finally make of this book—but it is quite something. I feel so sympathetic to Tom and horrified at the situation at the center of things in the novel, and at this point I’m still as confused as Tom is. I think I’ll be rereading this eventually for a better grasp.

My favorite of the Bookers so far has been This Other Eden, which I’m slowly rereading. This one is out on Audible.

elokuu 31, 11:02 pm

>150 dchaikin: Glad you’re coming to enjoy A Spell of Good Things, look forward to your thoughts about it.