Friday, 22 September 2017

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsey

For Full House Reading Challenge hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, I had to read a book by an Australian/New Zealand author. Having just read a blog post from Brona's Books  about Top Ten Tuesday Aussie writers I found a reference to Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. This is a typical story that attracts me. A mystery never solved. Although, in a perfect world, there wold be an answer in the end.

The backdrop story is a group of young, female pupils, that made an excursion on Valentine's day in 1900 to Hanging Rock. Four of them and a teacher ventured up the rock. One of them did not follow the others and came screaming back without remembering very much. The others three and the teacher went missing. A week later one of the girls is found. She neither remembers anything of  what had happened to her.

From this tale Joan Lindsay has written an account of what might have happened. Were they snatched by aliens? Did they fall into a time zone? Was it a case of female hysteria? Or did they just fall down into a crevice? Even after all these years nobody knows.

The novel is a fascinating read and difficult to put down. Lindsay manages to balance her story without taking part for anyone solution over the other. It is well written, the mystery is hanging all over the novel, including a nasty school mistress. I went on to watch the film by Peter Wier, just after having finished the book.

Looking into the story a little bit more it seems that Lindsay's novel is a work of fiction, based on actual events. Although she includes newspaper articles in the end of the novel, the events she describes are not all part of real events.  This was a little bit of a setback for me, since I though she had researched the matter very well. For all we know, she might have, but still choose to make it a novel of fiction. Whatever is the case, it is a great read.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Careless People by Sarah Churchwell

Careless People tells the true story behind what inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write The Great Gatsby. Churchwell has written a fantastic story of the Jazz Age and the people who were the forerunners. In the middle of the circle is Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, their lives, friends and work.

Parallell to Fitzgerald's lives, Churchwell has read newspapers and books of the time and highlights what was going on in America in the 20s. One big thing is the Hall-Mills murder mystery which was never solved. We follow the development of New York, people moving out to Long Island, constructions, inventions, dramas, prohibition and much more. It is a lively, charming tale of a time when people seemed not to have any bigger troubles. But, there is always a snake in paradise.

Churchwell shows us how many things that was happening in America at the time, in their lives and with their friends, entered into The Great Gatsby. There are numerous references to similarities in the book and happenings at the time. Fitzgerald was set to write a classic and according to himself The Great Gatsby was it. It did not sell very well during his own lifetime, and it was only after his death that it was more highly appreciated, not to talk about almost 100 years later.

It is a charming tale, and Churchwell also manages to describe the life the two Fitzgeralds lived, their time in France and the inevitable fall from the peak years. The times are very well described, the details sometimes a little bit too much, but it gives the reader an insight into what made the Jazz Age such a charming time. Maybe a belief that you were living on the edge and life was a party. For some but not for everyone.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Bookbeginnings on Friday and The Friday 56

Rose City Reader, is hosting Book beginnings on Friday. She says:

Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

Freda’s voice is hosting Friday 56 and the rules are:

*Grab a book, any book.

*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
 *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post below in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.

My book this week is "Careless People" by Sarah Churchwell


"At 10 a.m. on 3 May 1924, armed with seventeen pieces of luggage and a full set of Encyclopedia Britannica, F. Scott Fitzgerald, his wife Zelda and their two-year-old daughter Scottie departed from Pier 58 on the North River in New York for Cherbourg, France, on board the SS Minnewaska."

Friday 56

" Knowing where their money comes from tells a great deal more about their character than knowing where their families come from. The American east-coast aristocracy saw itself as fitting into the mould of European aristocracy. But what it took the Europeans centuries to accrue, families like the Morgans and the Harrimans did in a generation, sufficient time in America's rapidly cycling class system. The difference between old and new money is, after all, purely relative: it just depends on when you start counting."

Monday, 11 September 2017

Back to the Classics

If  you have had a look at my reading recently, you might notice that there are some plays that have entered into the general reading of novels. I have started a correspondence  university course in literature on-line, with a university in Sweden. I really felt that it was time for me to know more about literature, how to analyse and review. And how fantastic is it not, to be able to study something which you are really interested in. Just for your own sake.

The very first task was to read A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen and King Oedipus by Sofokles. That is, to see how a tragedy and drama are built up. As the saying goes; "It goes back to the Greeks", Aristotle in this case. His Poetics set the scene what a play should contain and how it should be performed.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr

This is the second book by Philip Kerr that I read, and the second book about chief inspector Bernie Gunther. Checking through his books it seems Kerr does not write in a chronological order. The Quiet Flame, which I read several years ago, obviously before I started blogging in 2012, since I cannot find it among my reads. Remember liking it a lot though. The series of books is quite different, following a detective working during the Nazi time. The Quiet Flame is set in 1950 when he emigrates to Argentina. Prague Fatale takes place in 1941-42 in Berlin and Prague.

While trying to solve a crime in Berlin, where it seems, not everyone is interested in a thorough investigation, Gunther is called to Prague to work as a body guard to his old boss, Reinhard Heydrich. Unwillingly, he ventures on this mission with his mistress Arianne, which he met during his latest investigation in Berlin.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Bookbeginnings on Friday and Friday 56

Rose City Reader, is hosting Book beginnings on Friday. She says:

Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

Freda’s voice is hosting Friday 56 and the rules are: 

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
 *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post below in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.

My book this week is "Prague Fatale" by Philip Kerr

Book beginnings on Friday
"September 1941
The thought of suicide is a real comfort to me: sometimes it's the only way I can get through a sleepless night."

Friday 56
"A science graduate from the University in The Hague, Vranken had been quickly eliminated from Lüdtke's inquiry when his alibi checked out; but, hardly wanting to rely on this alone - after all, his alibi relied on other foreign workers - he had been at pains to adduce evidence of his good character, and to this end he had offered the name of a German whom he'd met before the war, in The Hague."

Review of the book will follow.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Six Degrees of Separation

Another month and another chain. I am joining Books Are My Favourite And Best for another six degrees. This month the chain starts with Wild Swans by Jung Chang. I read it many years ago, and loved it. It is a family saga that spans three female generations in China.

I love family sagas so I go from here to The Empress of South America by Nigel Cawthorne. It is the story of a middle class Irish girl who went to Paris and ended up the wife of the emperor of Paraguay. It is a true story of how two, evil people made a whole country their private family business. Quite intriguing and chocking.

From royalty to royalty I go to Mrs Jordan's Profession, by Claire Tomalin. It is a biography about the Anglo-Irish actress, courtesan and mistress of the future King William IV of UK. They had ten illegitimate children together. Fascinating story about a fascinating woman far ahead of her time.

My 20 Books of Summer

Cathy at Cathy 746 Books hosted her annual challenge of 20 Books of Summer. It was up to
participants to choose 10, 15 or 20 books from our TBR shelves to read between 1 June and 3 September 2017. A great challenge to lower the number of books on your shelves.

I did not write a list but just choose what I was feeling like at the time. When I make a list I tend to read everything except the titles on the list! Yes, that's me. I opted for 10 books since I also tend to over estimate my capacity, it was summer and this year a lot of holidays for me.

I am therefor rather pleased that I managed to read 13 books from my shelves. The books cover different genres and are rather easy reads, which is totally suitable for the warmer months of the year. Here is the list and links when there is a review.

  1. Chopra, Deepak - Self Power - Spiritual Solutions to Life's Greatest Challenges
  2. Indridason, Arnaldur - Den som glömmer (Kamp Knox)
  3. The Spy - Paulo Coelho
  4. Bryson, Bill - Notes from a Small Island
  5. Muir, Kate - left Bank
  6. Shreve, Anita - Eden Close
  7. Shreve, Anita - Sea Glass
  8. Isherwood, Christopher - Goodbye to Berlin
  9. Munro Alice - Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You 
  10. Jónasson, Ragnar - Rupture
  11. Simenon, Georges - Maigret Mystified
  12. Johnson, Robert G. & Westin, Janey - The Last Kings of Norse America
  13. Kerr, Philip - Prague Fatale

Great challenge and I hope to return for next year!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

The Last Kings of Norse America by Janey Westin and Robert Glen Johnson

I found this book in the museum of Njal's Saga in Iceland. An interesting account on the Vikings presence in North America. The sub-title is "Runestone Keys to a Lost Empire" and it makes for exciting reading. The authors explore a possible 14th century visit to North America on behalf of the Norwegian king Magnus. He sent his son Haakon VI as leader of the expedition and Johnson and Westin investigate available manuscripts and rune stones to follow in their foot steps as far as possible.

It is a fantastically, exciting journey they take us on. They start with an historical background on the situation in Scandinavia, Iceland and Greenland. As everywhere there were political turmoil and fight for power. The Norwegian had early ties with North America and the fur trade, but due to circumstances the trade had ceased. Now was the time to try to establish this lucrative business again.

The authors base their book on earlier research but have made a lot of new research, including new translations of the rune stones. There are two stones that they analyse; The Kensington stone and the Spirit Pond stone.

The Spirit Pond stone was discovered in 1971 by Walter Elliott who were out looking for arrowheads. Instead he found a strange, flat stone with markings on it. Elliott was excited about his find and tried to get it acknowledged. It is still controversial and there are people on both sides of the coin; is it a hoax or is it real. It does not look like a traditional rune stone and this might be the reason why it is controversial.

The Kensington stone was found on a forty-foot-high hill in 1898 when farmer Olof Ohman and his son were out clearing land in Kensington, Minnesota. It also had markings on it. Although the discovery was documented in detail at the time, the finding of the stone has led to a bitter 100-year-long controversy.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Maigret Mystified by Georges Simenon

I have lately read som reviews of Maigret books. I remember the TV-series from when I was very young and I really liked them. The books never came my way though, and when I found one in a second hand shop, I quickly grabbed it.

This mystery was first published in 1932. Although the writing is old, it does not feel old fashioned. I quite enjoyed the story and the way he was solving the crime.

An industrialist, Raymond Couchet is shot dead in his office one evening. The office is situated in an apartment building, so more or less all of the people in the building are suspects. They are a bunch of extraordinary individuals, so it takes a sharp brain to disentangle the web.

At the murder scene he meets Couchet's mistress Nine who came to look for him when he did not turn up for their dinner. In the building lives Couchet's first wife and her new husband. Next to the room in the hotel where Nine stays, Couchet's son Roger (with his ex-wife) is lodging with his mistress. The second wife is waiting for the inheritance. And then there are those mad women peaking about the corridors. Not to talk about the ever present concierge who knows everything that is happening in the building.

Much to consider, but Maigret approaches the crime in his calm, collective manner and with a few questions here and there, follow up of leads he manages to solve the crime.

It is an easily read, rather thin book. In all its simplicity the culprit still eluded me to the very end. That always makes for a good read.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

The Saga of Egil

Iceland is forever connected to The Sagas. They tell the story of the Vikings and the early settlers on this wild island. Our recent trip to Iceland was more of a natural experience and there was not so much time for the more historical, cultural theme. I managed to pick up a few books though.

The Saga of Egil is a short version of the original saga.  As is normal for the Icelandic sagas, a lot of terrible, violent things happens. Here is the story in short, taken from the Introduction to the book.

"The Saga of Egil was written in the 13th century, possibly by chronicler Snorri Sturluson. It is about the famous Viking-Poet Egil Skallagrimsson who lived three centuries earlier and left behind a lot of outstanding poetry. Egil, born in Iceland of refugees from Norway, participated with vengeance in the long and bitter feud his family fought against the Norwegian royal family, especially against Hing Harold Fairhair, King Eric Bloodaxe and Queen Gunnhild. Tall, strong and brutal, Egil was a mercenary in the army of Anglo-Saxon King Athelstan, also going on Viking raids and missions to parts of Sweden and Latvia. Avaricious and vain, but also sensitive and generous. Egil was a true individualist, not only challenging kings who tried to put down his family, but also the heathen gods when they deprived him of two sons, after which he lamented his loss in a moving poem. The author of this saga is not oblivious to Egil's comic traits, but he also admires this larger-than-life character. "

Egil Skallagrimsson lived in 910-990. The story is in line with other stories and tells a tale of a hard life in the wild scenery of Iceland. Being there I could easily look up the areas where the family arrived and where they settled. Makes it all the more interesting to read.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Rupture by Ragnar Jónasson

As you, who follow me, know, I am a great fan of Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason. Now I have made the acquaintance with another Icelandic crime writer, Ragnar Jónasson. It is a meeting that will lead to more, of this I am sure.

As with Indridason, Jónasson works on two levels. One old story that never got an ending and one contemporary murder mystery to solve. I think this is what I really love with these two authors. Their ability to totally engage the reader in an interesting, old story, which most of the time has a very tragic course.  I find that these cold cases sometimes are more interesting than the contemporary story, but in the end they do complement each other.
"1955. Two young couples move to the uninhabited, isolated fjord of Hedingsfjördur. Their stay ends abruptly when one of the women meets her death in mysterious circumstances. The case is never solved. Fifty years later an old photograph comes to light, and it becomes clear that the couples may not have been alone on the fjord after all..."
That is the background story, and possible crime, that policeman Ari Thór is asked to investigate by the son of one of the couples. Thór becomes intrigued by the story and works on it when he has time. He is on duty in a city in the north of Iceland who has been put into quarantine due to an unfortunate death, caused by a dangerous virus. Nobody is out and about and there is not that much to do. A perfect time to look into something that can take away the dreary thoughts of the present time.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Book Beginnings on Fridays and Friday 56

Rose City Reader, is hosting Book beginnings on Fridays. She says:

Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

Freda’s voice is hosting Friday 56 and the rules are:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
 *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post below in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url.
*It's that simple.

My book this week is "Brazzaville Beach" by William Boyd

Book Beginnings on Fridays

"I live on Brazzaville Beach. Brazzaville Beach on the edje of Africa. This is where I have washed up, you might say, deposited myself like a spar of driftwood, lodged and fixed in the warm sand for a while, just above the high tide mark."

Friday 56 (56% through my e-reader)

"Bogdan said that the first really bad sign was when John started working piecemeal, almost at random, on other topics - irrational numbers, tiling, topology - 'Even the dread world of physics attracted him for a week or two,' Bogdan said, with a sarcastic smile."

My review of Brazzaville Beach.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Bookmark Monday

I am joining Guiltless Reading for Bookmarks Monday meme. I have been travelling in Iceland for two weeks and I found some really nice bookmarks.

Three with pictures of the wonderful Icelandic nature as seen here.

 Two from Icelandic historical sagas.

I think they are from a tapestry they are creating, something like the Bayeux tapestry. You can see it as the work progress in the Njal's Saga Center in Hvolsvollur in the south of Iceland. Great museum. Here is a picture of what the tapestry will look like.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You by Alice Munro

Finally, I got around to read something of Alice Munro. As a Nobel Literature Laureate she is easy accessible to everyone, which, I find, is not always the case with the Laureates. Alice Munro writes short stories, which is not really my cup of tea, although I read them from time to time. This is a time when it was really worth it.

From the back of the cover the Observer notes: "Read not more than one of her stories a day, and allow them to work their spell: they are made to last". I can agree to that, although I read half the book before I left for my holiday and half of it when I came back. Her stories are about life, often included middle aged or older aged people, and they all tell something about life. Our inner thoughts, how the world change around us, or something that happened in their youth and which has affected their whole life.

The stories are engaging, real and the characters she creates on only a few pages are incredible. You are right into them from the first line of each story. The stories makes you think about life, what it is and how we live it. Worth reading and reflecting. These stories are some of her earlier one and was published in 1974 for the first time. I am sure this is not the last time that I read Alice Munro, and I would be curious to read some of her later stories.

Have you read anything by her? What do you think?

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd

This book came by recommendation by my brother-in-law, who is a big fan of William Boyd. After this initial meeting with him, I am looking forward reading more books, and I do have another one of his books in my book case, Waiting for Sunrise.
"What cannot be avoided, must be welcomed, as Amilcar had told me."
Brazzaville Beach was written in 1990, and is narrated by Hope Clearwater, a scientist. There are several stories in the novel; Hope in the present time, where we find her studying chimpanzees in Grosso Arvore in Congo. We are presented to her fellow researchers; Eugen Mallabar who is the leader and the acknowledged expert on chimpanzees, with several books to his name. He is working on his final book on the peaceful chimpanzee, when Hope discovers something that does not add up to his conclusions; Ian and Roberta Vail, who are more or less her friends and Anton Hauser that she dislikes. The whole camp seem to be full of conflicts and the behaviour of the scientists can be compared to the behaviour of the chimpanzees; there are conflicts in both camps.
"So let me ask you this: the more you know,  the more you learn - does it make you fell better?'
I don't understand.'
'All these things you know - does it make you happy? A better person?'
'It's got nothing to do with happiness.'
He shook his head, sadly. 'The pursuit of knowledge is the road to hell.'
Parallell we get Hope's story of her marriage to John Clearwater, a mathematician with ambitions  of making his name on his subject. It takes him over the edge and the marriage fails.

The various chapters are introduced by descriptions of chaos theory. The theories can be applied to Hope's life, her actions, other people's actions but also on the chimpanzees.

As the scientists are working in their isolated area they seem isolated from the world. The only connection is when one of them, once every two weeks, goes into the city to buy supplies. As the tension in the camp and the tension among the chimpanzees escalates, Hope is captured by the domestic tension of Congo. Her lover, an Egyptian pilot, goes missing as Hope goes missing as well. She manages quite well to keep her logical mind set on survival. Has she learned from the chimpanzees or it is just her scientific approach to any happening in her life?
"It seems to me that there are statements about the world and our lives that have no need of formal proof procedures."
William Boyd weaves a spider web of conflicts by humans and animals. How they interact, how to find oneself when the world is knocking on the door. What is important and what is not important. It is a thrilling novel. There are much more in the novel, than I have revealed here. I don't want to spoil the story. Boyd spent his first years in Africa, and many of his novels take place there. He is obviously familiar with the surroundings and it makes for good reading. Can't wait to read another one of his books.
"The unexamined life is not worth living"

Thursday, 10 August 2017

6 Degrees of Separation - Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

To celebrate the bicentenary of Jane Austen's death, host to 6 Degrees of Separation, Books are My Favourite and Best starts this month with one of her most popular books; Pride and Prejudice. It also happens to be my favourite book by Austen.

My chain starts with my second favourite book of hers which is Northanger Abbey. It has a Gothic theme, which reminded me of The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, who was, more or less, contemporary with Jane Austen. This is a Gothic tale in all its glory. I somehow liked it, although it is rather long and could have been shortened.

Checking in from Iceland

It has been far too quiet on this blog the last couple of weeks, which is because we have been touring Iceland. We have been camping and driving around the whole island. I thought there would be time to read a lot (I did download extra e-books just for the occasion), but we had full days from morning to late evening. I did read a short Icelandic saga The Saga of Egil and a big part of Williams Boyd's Brazzaville Beach. That was it.


The reason being that Iceland had so much to show and we had a great time. Our son is studying geology, so he had prepared an itinerary that was very ambitious. We drove around most of the island, camped and saw so many spectacular things. Iceland is fantastic, magic and blessed with most of the wonders of nature. It was one of my best trips ever.


This is just to say that I am back in rainy Brussels and will catch up with you, to see what you have been up to this summer. See you soon!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Paris in July, 2017 - A trip to Normandie, part 3

After having spent a couple of days in Guernsey and Jersey it was time to head back home. We
choose the inland route and drove through a beautiful, sometimes hilly, scenery, stopped for a coffee or cider in small villages along the way. This is the cider area, and it is really good.

We did take off slightly to visit the village of Camembert. One would think that this is a big place full of tourists trying out this wonderful cheese. Not at all. It is a tiny village with about 8 houses of which one is the hotel de ville and the other is the tourist information. Which was on lunch break when we arrived! Luckily, they opened ten minutes later and we had a degustation de Camembert with the local cider to it. Very good, so we could not refrain from buying a few cheeses, some cider and Calvados which is also famous in this area.

Degustation de Camemberts

Paris in July 2017 - A trip to Normandie, part 2

Heading south to the main attraction I wanted to see during this trip. Mont St Michel. An island just off the coast. When it is ebb you can walk out there on the sand, when it is flood you can use the bridge leading just up to the walled city and cathedral. It is an impressive place. Be prepared for steep streets and going up and down. Although we were there before the main tourist season the streets were so crowded when we arrived in the late afternoon, we could hardly get through.

Me, in front of Mont Saint Michel

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Paris in July - a trip to Normandie, part 1

My reading this year for the Paris in July, hosted by Tamara at Thyme for Tea, is really suffering. I have only managed Kate Muir's book left Bank so far. I have not had time to do anything else on Paris. However, we went on a lovely trip to Normandie during Easter and I would like to share some of our memorable moments.

We spent most of the time on the Cotentin peninsula, where we started our trip, staying at the Chataeu Du Rozel. It is a castle from the 17th century and wonderfully picturesque. We stayed in a tower in one of the corner sof the garden with a wonderful view of the premises.

On the way to our flat

Part of the park

Enjoying a champagne rosé in the sun

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood

A famous novel, that to a new audience is probably more known as the musical Cabaret. This book was a very positive surprise for me. All I knew was that Cabaret is based on the novel, but it is so much more. It is a semi-autobiographical account of Isherwood's time in Berlin during the 1930s. It describes the pre-Nazi Germany during the Weimar Republic.

The novel is really six short stories that are connected. They are titled: "A Berlin Diary" (Autumn 1930), "Sally Bowles" (Cabaret), "On Ruegen Island (Summer 1931), "The Nowaks", "The Landauers" and "A Berlin Diary" (Winter 1932-33). Isherwood is the narrator and the stories describes the situation in the country and the wild array of people he meets. They are all fascinated, outsider kind of characters and give the novel its base.

Sally Bowles is an Englishwoman who sings in a local cabaret and she goes through life with her court of admirers. A total free spirit, or is it her way of coping with an uncertain world? Frl. Schröder, the landlady, another kind of free spirit, living in her own world of how it should be, and who is who. The other tenants of the house, as well as the poor, working class Nowak family, with his friend Otto and the rich and successful Jewish family Landauer.

It is all set against the turbulent times of Germany and it is very well described in a low key. Slowly, slowly we see how life changes for the people we have gotten to know. The first adaptation of the book was called "I am a camera" and this is in a way a very good title. Isherwood is the camera. Through the lens he sees what is happening around him, but, although he cares about the people he meets, he is able to leave whenever he wants.

I read the book in a day, and I must say it was difficult to put it down. Isherwood transfers you to the times which seems unreal in a way. Maybe this is how it is in a society which is about to change and where people do not really know what the outcome will be. Trying to do the best they can to survive. Very well written account of the times. It takes you away to the streets of Berlin and its inhabitants.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

2 x Anita Shreve

For quite some time I have had two books by Anita Shreve on my shelves. Many years ago I read The Pilot's Wife and got fascinated by Shreve's way of writing and her personal stories. It seemed like a good idea to read some more and I have now finished both of them.

Eden Close and Sea Glass are stories about everyday people who are facing a drama or events in life that change their lives. In Eden Close Andrew returns home after many years to attend his mothers funeral. While preparing their old house for sale, his memories of the fatal events that struck his neighbour Eden comes back to him. Going down memory lane and his old feelings for her, he finally digests what happened that night many years ago. Like in The Pilot's Wife, everything is not what it seems to be, and the event that so effected many people finally gets its solution.

In Sea Glass we meet at set of people in north east England just before the Wall Street crash in 1929. Honora and Sexton, a young couple just getting married. He is a salesman of typewriters and copying machines, she is a bank clerk, McDermott, working in the mill and mostly deaf due to the noises in the factory, Vivian, a bored society lady who does not know what to do with her life and Alphonse, a twelve year old boy working in the mill.

All these people do not seem to have anything to do with each other. But as the events of the big crash occurs their lives intermingle in unexpected ways. This is the time of strikes, workers fight for a decent work hours and pay and the situation slowly builds up until the day it is time to go into a strike.

As usual Anita Shreve slowly builds up her stories, we get to know the characters and their positive sides and their failings. Then all of a sudden events happens fast and it is difficult to put the book down, until the end of the story is revealed. I really like her stories, maybe because they are about you and me, ordinary people who find themselves in situations we all face in life. Well, maybe not all of the situations in her books, but we are still able to sympathise with them.

I was quite fascinated by Honora's collecting of sea glass. The description sounds lovely. While finding the covers for this post, I did find pictures of sea glass. They are absolutely beautiful. I don't know if they are available on European beaches. Anybody who knows? Anybody who also collects sea glass? Here is an image I found. Aren't they beautiful?

 All in all, two books perfect for a summer day read.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

A little book inventory!

I have been doing an inventory of my book cases. That is, going through books I have read and books from the TBR shelves. Space is always a problem, and I must admit, that these days I look at the book after finishing it and decide whether to keep it or not. Influenced by KonMari? Maybe. I had a big problem in the beginning doing it,  but I am getting better at it. It also helps that we will move next year and the idea of moving a lot of books I will never read again is helping. Book boxes tend to be very heavy. And there is not much space where they are going.

Here they are!
So, one sunny day I went through my books and managed to sort out 65 of them! Yes, I was rather amazed myself. In Belgium there is a FB group called Swedes in Brussels and I posted a short message and bawang! The books were given to someone eager to read them. I am quite happy since I don't really like to throw books away.

About the same time (this happens when you clean up dark corners) I found two bags of used books. Quite forgotten they were there. Yes, this happens too. One bag was from my friend Helen who also sorted out her book shelves. I choose the following books from her pile: The Past by Tessa Hadley, Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, Emily's Journal by Sarah Fermi and Brontë in Love by Sarah Freeman. Toibin is a favourite of course, it is always interesting to read about the Brontës and Tessa Hadley is a new acquaintance.

The other bag must have come from Sweden and a second hand bookshop, plus two new purchases. Two of them are old favourite authors, Anya Seton and Barbara Erskine and the third has the interesting title The Time Travelling Guide to Medieval England. The New purchases are an historical account of the southern provinces of Sweden and a new guide to Linné's Skåne travels. This is the area where I will settle down in the future so good to read up on the history.

I am quite happy about the inventory and there are now spaces on the shelves. Means I can fill them up with new ones!

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Mixed reading

Lately, I have been reluctant to write reviews of the books I have read. Sometimes I make notes during my reading, sometimes not. I always think I will remember what I was thinking at a certain point, but, alas, this is just wishful thinking. I have been slow with reading and for once did not have the energy or will to open a book. It comes and goes, but this time it has lasted longer than ever. I hope I am over it now, so looking forward to more reading during the summer. For now, I will share my thoughts on three books.

The Temporary Gentleman by Sebastian Barry

Sebastian Barry is a favourite author and I loved his The Secret Scripture and A Long, Long Way. Here we meet Jack McNulty in Ghana in 1957. He is a former UN observer whose mission is over. He is dreading going back to Ireland and the life he used to lead. He reflects on his life and failed marriage and his failings as a father. His present life acts as an opposite to his past life. While he has had problems engaging in his own family, he does engage himself in his servant's life and is trying to save his troublesome marriage.

As usual Barry gives us so many layers of what life is about. How do we act towards ourself, our family and friends, and people around us. McNulty starts to write a diary and this is when he really starts reflecting on his life and how to act in the future. Excellent writing, as usual, from Barry.

Blood & Guts - A Short History of Medicine by Roy Porter

I purchased this book while visiting Stratford-upon-Avon. It is an account on how humankind has fought disease over the ages, and the often gruesome ways in which doctors and surgeons learned how the inside of the body looked and worked.
"With an extraordinary cast of barber surgeons, quacks, apothecaries, witch-doctors and anatomists, this is an eye-opening, humorous and often terrifying look at our ongoing quest for immortality." 
Often while reading, I am really happy to live in the 21st century. Entertaining reading though and it gives you an overview of medical history. It is humorously written and understandable even for non-medical persons.

Self Power by Deepak Chopra

I think we all have our part of ups and downs in our lives. We all seek different ways to handle them. One of them is spiritualism. I am not a very spiritual person myself, but do embrace some of the wisdom. This book by Deepak Chopra is very good read. It gives good advice without being to overwhelmingly spiritual, and keeping it on realistic grounds. In the first part of the book he gives advice for how to act as life imposes itself on you. In the second part he answers questions from readers. Both parts are very useful and insightful.
"How you deal with the unknown determines how well you make choices. Bad decisions are the result of applying the past to the present, trying to repeat something that once worked. The worst decisions are made by applying the past so rigidly that you are blind to anything else. We can break down bad decisions into specifics. What we see is that each factor is rooted in contracted awareness. By its very nature, contracted awareness is rigid, defensive, limited in scope, and dependent on the past. The past is known, and when people aren't able to cope with the unknown, they have little choice but to remember the past, using old decisions and habits as their guide - a very fallible guide, as it turns out."
I really felt that his advise on how to approach things in life is practical and easy to adapt into you own life. Which decisions do you make, how can you change your life when you are unhappy. How can you open up to new ways and directions in your life. Useful reading for anyone.