Thursday, 10 August 2017

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi "Americanah"


Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi "Americanah"  - 2013

I read "Half of a Yellow Sun" earlier this year and really liked it. This is another novel about Nigeria even though a very different one. It takes place about thirty years after the events in the first book (Biafra war). The author tells the story about a young woman from Nigeria who emigrates to the United States and comes back years later.

This was an interesting book for me not only because of all the information you can get about Nigeria but also because it resembles my life. I didn't flee from a war-torn region but I have lived abroad for almost half of my life and I always hear comments by others who haven't who have a completely different idea about that, both people from my home country as well as those from my host country. So, for me this is not just a book about Nigeria but about immigrants and their torn-apart worlds. It is not as much a love story but a story about what you do if you end up somewhere where you are not wanted. It might as well have been a story of my life, without the love story gone wrong. Same as Ifemelu, I will go back to my own country one day and I am sure it won't be the same as it was when I left.

Someone mentions in the book that "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe was a great book but didn't help them to understand Africa but "A Bend in the River" by V.S. Naipaul did. I have not read the first book but it's on my wishlist whereas I really can recommend the second one.

In any case, I did enjoy reading this book even though it touched a completely different side of Nigeria than "Half of a Yellow Sun" . I am looking forward to reading the author's third book, "Purple Hibiscus".

From the back cover:
"As teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America. There she suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.

Thirteen years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a blogger. But after so long apart and so many changes, will they find the courage to meet again, face to face?"

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Sitch, Rob: Cilauro, Santo: Tom Gleisner, Tom "Molvanîa. A Land Untouched By Modern Dentistry"


Sitch, Rob: Cilauro, Santo: Tom Gleisner, Tom "Molvanîa. A Land Untouched By Modern Dentistry" - 2003

Molvanîa is a small country somewhere in the Central Europe with funny people, strange customs, an even stranger language. One of my favourite quotes: "Molvanîan is a difficult language to speak, let alone master. There are four genders: male, female, neutral, and the collective noun for cheeses, which occupies a nominative sub-section of its very own."

Their capital city is called Lutenblag, the country is divided into four provinces: The Great Central Valley, the Molvanîan Alps, Eastern Steppes and the Western Plateau.  Apparently, it borders Germany, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Slovenia. It is known for being "the world's number one producer of beetroot and the birthplace of whooping cough".

Don't worry if you've never heard of Molvanîa - it is totally invented.

Although, in this case, any similarity with fictitious events, characters or places are probably not purely coincidental.

I still can't decide whether this "mock" travel book is just mocking the people who live in the area of where Molvanîa is situated but since I've heard they find it funny, as well, I might have been a tad oversensitive at times. I think we all can imagine where the ideas for the people and the customs in this weird country come from. However, it is quite funny at times, the only travel guide I ever read back to front, and I do have quite a few of them and use them regularly.

So, if you'd like to visit Molvanîa, you want to consider Aeromolv, the only flight line that offers a 10% discount per engine not in service per flight.

From the back cover:
"When sophisticated travelers get together to discuss ever more exotic destinations, the name "Molvanîa" often comes up. Not even John McPhee or Jan Morris can claim to have visited this small, remote Eastern European nation, the birthplace of the polka and whooping cough. How would they even get there? Fortunately, this definitive Jetlag Travel Guide offers everything a curious tourist will need to prepare for encounters with the Molvanîans. With winning insincerity, the authors describe the fascinating complexities of the native language: "Molvanîan is a difficult language to speak, let alone master. There are four genders: male, female, neutral, and the collective noun for cheeses, which occupies a nominative subsection all its very own."

Friday, 4 August 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



"I can study my books at any time, for they are always disengaged." (Mihi omne tempus est ad meus libros vacuum, numquam enim sunt illi occupati.) Cicero "De re publica"

"There are different rules for reading, for thinking, and for talking. Writing blends all three of them." Mason Cooley

"When a farmer dies who knows the land and the story of the people working it, when a wise man dies, who knows how to read the moon and the sun, the wind and the flight of the birds, ... not just one man dies. It's a whole library that dies." Dario Fo

"The primary purpose of a liberal education is to make one's mind a pleasant place in which to spend one's leisure." Sydney Harris

"You have to remember that it is impossible to commit a crime while reading a book." John Waters

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Wolf, Naomi "The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are used against Women"


Wolf, Naomi "The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are used against Women" - 1990

The next book introduced into the Emma Watson Book Club - Our Shared Shelf.

I didn't think I would like this book as much as I did. I didn't think it would be as contemporary as it was. After all, this book was written in 1990 about the way women "obey" the "God of Beauty". As I can tell when I look around, nothing has changed since then, even though almost three decades have passed.

What can be done? First of all, I think this book should be read by everyone, not only women. There aer so many ideas and thoughts that should make every woman be happy with the body they have and not try to run after a fantasy image.

We should all be aware that the image of a "beautiful woman" is imposed on us, that hardly anyone really judges us the way we think they do and that, if we all stick together, women shouldn't be regarded in the workforce the same way as men are.

I remember the many articles I read about Angela Merkel, our current chancellor, and her clothes. Articles that would never have been written about her male colleagues. And I always wondered what that has to do with her ability to run a country. Nothing. She dresses decently and that's enough for me. And that should be enough for any woman who works no matter where.

I never had big issues with the way I look. I wouldn't call myself pretty and I certainly don't have a good figure anymore after giving birth to two children but I've always told myself whoever doesn't like me this way can just stay away. But I know how many women do have issues, they go from one diet to the next and suffer even more afterwards. If only they would all read this book!

However, there are a few things I have learned from this book. For example, I now know why I don't like women's magazines.

If I had a daughter, I would give her this book right now. But I think my sons should read it, as well in order to help their partners in future.

From the back cover:
"In the struggle for women's equality, there is one hurdle that has yet to be fully cleared - the myth of female beauty. It challenges every woman, every day, by seeking to undermine psychology and covertly the material freedoms that feminism has achieved for women. And, fueled by new technology in media and medicine, its ravages are reaching epidemic proportions.
The Beautify Myth cuts to the root of the 'beauty backlash,' exposing the relentless cult of female beauty - antierotic, averse to love, and increasingly savage - as a political weapon against women's recent advances, placing women in more danger today than ever before.
Naomi Wolf tracks the tyranny of the beauty myth throughout its history and reveals its newly sophisticated function today - in the home and at work; in literature and the media; in relationships, between men and women and between women and women. With an arsenal of sometimes shocking examples, Wolf confronts the beauty industry and its influence and uncovers the ominous, hidden agenda that drives this destructive obsession.
In a searing, timely analyses, The Beauty Myth indicts the new forces coercing women into participating in their own torture - starving themselves and even submitting their bodies to the knife. A direct descendant of The Female Mystique and The Female Eunuch, this book is a cultural hand grenade for the 1990s."

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Happy August!

Happy August to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch


 "Boats in the Harbour of Gager" 
"Boote im Hafen von Gager"


August used to be Sextilis in Latin, the sixth month of the year, but the Romans added two months and named this one after Emperor Augustus. 
We don't have a holiday in Germany or the Netherlands in this month, but the Belgians celebrate Mary's Assumption on 15 August.

 Enjoy this month with the beautiful watercolour painting 
by Frank Koebsch. 
I think it is inviting us to spend a day at the seaside.
 
You can find a lot more wonderful pictures on their website here.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Mercier, Pascal "Lea"


Mercier, Pascal "Lea" (German: Lea) - 2007

This is my third book by Pascal Mercier. He is just such an excellent writer, I need to read his fourth book (Der Klavierstimmer, not translated yet), as well, and then he urgently has to write more.

Pascal Mercier's writing style is almost like poetry, even though he stays very close with his topic. You can tell he is a philosopher in his "first life", he brings a lot of expertise into the story.

In this story, we hear from a father whose daugher learns to play the violin and who is a great talent. This talent destroys everyone's life around her, including her own. Her passion is described in a way that it is easy to follow but hard to understand. You want to get inside her brain, what is she thinking, what is everyone else thinking.

The author creates a great story with fantastic figures. The storyteller is a third person, a brilliant idea to get a little distance to the main characters.

A perfect story, a perfect read.

From the back cover:
"Pascal Mercier's Night Train to Lisbon mesmerized readers around the world, and went on to become an international bestseller, establishing Mercier as a breakthrough European literary talent. Now, in Lea, he returns with a tender, impassioned, and unforgettable story of a father's love and a daughter's ambition in the wake of devastating tragedy.

It all starts with the death of Martijn van Vliet's wife. His grief-stricken young daughter, Lea, cuts herself off from the world, lost in the darkness of grief. Then she hears the unfamiliar sound of a violin playing in the hall of a train station, and she is brought back to life. Transfixed by a busker playing Bach, Lea emerges from her mourning, vowing to learn the instrument. And her father, witnessing this delicate spark, promises to do everything and anything in his power to keep her happy.

Lea grows into an extraordinary musical talent--her all-consuming passion leads her to become one of the finest players in the country--but as her fame blossoms, her relationship with her father withers. Unable to keep her close, he inadvertently pushes Lea deeper and deeper into this newfound independence and, desperate to hold on to his daughter, Martin is driven to commit an act that threatens to destroy them both.

A revelatory portrait of genius and madness, Lea delves into the demands of artistic excellence as well as the damaging power of jealousy and sacrifice. Mercier has crafted a novel of intense clarity, illuminating the poignant ways we strive to understand ourselves and our families."

I also read:
Mercier, Pascal "Perlmann's Silence" (German: Perlmanns Schweigen) - 1995
Mercier, Pascal "Night Train to Lisbon" (German: Nachtzug nach Lissabon) - 2004

Monday, 24 July 2017

Ali, Monica "In the Kitchen"


Ali, Monica "In the Kitchen" - 2009 

I read another book by the author a couple of years ago, "Brick Lane", about Bengalis in London, this one tells us about people of different cultures who work in a hotel kitchen.

I was a little disappointed at the beginning since I had hoped for this to be another one with a Bengali background but then I thought, okay, it's fine, she'll be just as good a writer about another subject and this takes place in a multinational kitchen.

Unfortunately, it didn't get much better. I always thought something more interesting would happen but in the end, this is just a crime novel that takes place in the kitchen of a hotel. I preferred her other book.

From the back cover:
"Gabriel Lightfoot, executive chef at the once-splendid Imperial Hotel, aims to run a tight kitchen. Though under constant challenge from the competing demands of an exuberantly multinational staff, a gimlet-eyed hotel management, and business partners with whom he is secretly planning a move to a restaurant of his own, all Gabriel's hard work looks set to pay off. Until, that is, a worker turns up dead in the kitchen's basement.

Enter Lena, an eerily attractive young woman with mysterious ties to the dead man. Under her spell, Gabe makes a decision, with consequences that strip him naked and change the course of the life he knows - and the future he thought he wanted.

In The Kitchen is Monica Ali's stunning follow up to Brick Lane. It is both the portrait of a man pushed to the edge, and a wry and telling look into the melting pot which is our contemporary existence. It confirms Monica Ali not only as a great modern storyteller but also an acute observer of the dramas of modern life."

Friday, 21 July 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



"I consider as lovers of books not those who keep their books hidden in their store-chests and never handle them, but those who, by nightly as well as daily use thumb them, batter them, wear them out, who fill out all the margins with annotations of many kinds, and who prefer the marks of a fault they have erased to a neat copy full of faults." Desiderius Erasmus

"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen." Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

"As you grow ready for it, somewhere or other, you will find what is needful for you in a book." George Macdonald

"Reading is the difficulty to populate a country of strange fantasies with your own thoughts." Kurt Tucholsky

"I am too fond of reading books to care to write them." Oscar Wilde

Find more book quotes here.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Toptaş, Hasan Ali "The Shadowless"



Toptaş, Hasan Ali "The Shadowless" (Turkish: Gölgesizler) - 1995 

This author was recommended to me by a Turkish friend of mine with whom I love discussing our latest "finds". He certainly is an interesting author. On the back of my book he is described as an oriental Kafka enriched with Islamic mystic. I don't remember liking Kafka much when I had to read him in school but I do agree with the description and like the author anyway.

I would describe this novel as a mixture between fantasy and the historical description of life in Turkey. It certainly is difficult to describe the topic of the book. Or the story. There is a village in Anatolia and people disappear from there. Others go looking for them. But reality doesn't go much further, there seem to exist several times, even several worlds next to each other who interfere which each other in a very surreal world. You almost feel like in a painting by René Magritte or one of his fellow surrealists.

A partly amusing partly fantastic story. A different kind of Turkish author but you can still see his oriental influence. I certainly recommend it.

From the back cover:
"In an Anatolian village forgotten by both God and the government, the muhtar has been elected leader for the sixteenth successive year. When he drunkenly staggers to bed that night, the village is prospering. But when he awakes to discover that Nuri, the barber, has disappeared in the dead of night, the community begins to fracture. In a nameless town far, far away, Nuri walks into a barbershop, not knowing how he has arrived. Blurring the lines of reality to terrific effect, this novel is both a compelling mystery and an enduring evocation of displacement."

I read the German translation of this novel "Die Schattenlosen".

Monday, 17 July 2017

Taylor, Andrew "Books That Changed the World"



Taylor, Andrew "Books That Changed the World" - 2008

What an interesting list of books! A list of important books that made a major impact on our present view of the world. I haven't read all of them but I am sure most people have heard the titles and the authors at some point in their life.

Whether Andrew Taylor mentions the Bible or the Qur'an, Marx's Communist Manifesto or Mao's Little Red Book, you can be sure that millions of people have read and followed those writings.
Then there are the scientific books like Darwin's "On the Origin of Species", the writings by Galileo, Newton, Einstein and many others without them we would not have the understanding of our world what it is today.

But also novels feature in the list, i.a. one of my most favourite authors, Jane Austen, who could omit her?

In any case, a most interesting list of books that are worth looking at. The author himself mentions that whenever you make a list of any books, there will be people who disagree. I can only second that but it is interesting anyway.

From the back cover:
"Books That Changed the World tells the fascinating stories behind 50 books that, in ways great and small, have changed the course of human history. Andrew Taylor sets each text in its historical context and explores its wider influence and legacy. Whether he's discussing the incandescent effect of The Qu'ran, the enduring influence of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, of the way in which Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe galavanized the anti-slavery movement, Taylor has written a stirring and informative testament to human ingenuity and endeavour. Ranging from The Iliad to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the Kama Sutra to Lady Chatterley's Lover, this is the ultimate, thought-provoking read for book-lovers everywhere."

Introduction.
"The Iliad, Homer; The Histories, Herodotus; The Analects, Confucius; The Republic, Plato; The Bible; Odes, Horace; Geographia, Ptolemy; Kama Sutra, Mallanaga Vatsyayana; The Qur'an; Canon of Medicine, Avicenna; The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer; The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli; Atlas, Gerard Mercator; Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes; First Folio, William Shakespeare; The Motion of the Heart and Blood, William Harvey; Two Chief World Systems, Galileo Galilei; Principia mathematica, Isaac Newton; Dictionary, Samuel Johnson; The Sorrows of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith; Common Sense, Thomas Paine; Lyrical Ballads, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge; Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen; A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens; The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx; Moby-Dick, Herman Melville; Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe; Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert; On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin; On Liberty, John Stuart Mill; War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy; The Telephone Directory; The Thousand and One Nights, Sir Richard Burton; A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conan Doyle; The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud; The Protocols of the Elders of Zion; Poems, Wilfred Owen; Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, Albert Einstein; Ulysses, James Joyce; Lady Chatterley's Lover, D.H. Lawrence; The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, John Maynard Keynes; If This is a Man, Primo Levi; Nineteen Eighty-four, George Orwell; The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir; The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger; Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe; Silent Spring, Rachel Carson; Quotations from Chairman Mao, Mao Zedong; Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling."

So far, I have only read 11 of these. I wouldn't agree that they have all changed my world but a lot of them certainly had an impact.

The Bible" - 2nd century BC "2nd century AD
Cervantes, Miguel de "Don Quixote" - 1605-15
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von "The Sorrows of Young Werther" - 1774
Austen, Jane "Pride and Prejudice" - 1813
Dickens, Charles "A Christmas Carol" - 1843
Beecher Stowe, Harriet "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" - 1852
Tolstoy, Leo "War and Peace" - 1869
Joyce, James "Ulysses" - 1922
Orwell, George "Nineteen Eighty-four" - 1949
Salinger, J.D. "The Catcher In The Rye" - 1951
Rowling, J.K. "Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone" - 1997

Friday, 14 July 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



"Books are absent teachers." Mortimer J. Adler

"What I say is, a town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it's got a bookstore it knows it's not fooling a soul." Neil Gaiman 


"If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that." Stephen King 

"Be awesome! Be a book nut!" Dr. Seuss

"I think books are like people, in the sense that they'll turn up in your life when you most need them." Emma Thompson

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Emcke, Carolin "Echoes of Violence"

 

Emcke, Carolin "Echoes of Violence: Letters from a War Reporter" (German: Von den Kriegen. Briefe an Freunde) - 2004

I learned about Carolin Emcke when she was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade and I wanted to read one of her books every since. Now I found one and am happy to say, it was worth the wait.

The author is a journalist, covering mainly war areas and she has written e-mails to her friend every time she returned from one of her journeys. Here, she published them. She visited Afghanistan, Columbia, Iraq, Kosovo, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Romania and the USA (before and after September 11th), and reports about her meetings with affected people. A brilliant account of what war can do to a people. If we didn't know it before, we should certainly learn it from this book. War is stupid! War is terrible! War should not be allowed! For any reason. Put the leaders in one room and let them fight about their problems themselves.

I have to include one quote from the book:
"History is the object of a construction whose place is formed not in homogenous and empty time, but in that which is fulfilled by the here-and-now." Walter Benjamin

From the back cover: "Echoes of Violence is an award-winning collection of personal letters to friends from a foreign correspondent who is trying to understand what she witnessed during the iconic human disasters of our time--in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and New York City on September 11th, among many other places. Originally addressing only a small group of friends, Carolin Emcke started the first letter after returning from Kosovo, where she saw the aftermath of ethnic cleansing in 1999. She began writing to overcome her speechlessness about the horrors of war and her own sense of failure as a reporter. Eventually, writing a letter became a ritual Emcke performed following her return from each nightmare she experienced. First published in 2004 to great acclaim, Echoes of Violence in 2005 was named German political book of the year and was a finalist for the international Lettre-Ulysses award for the art of reportage.

Combining narrative with philosophic reflection, Emcke describes wars and human rights abuses around the world--the suffering of civilians caught between warring factions in Colombia, the heartbreaking plight of homeless orphans in Romania, and the near-slavery of garment workers in Nicaragua. Freed in the letters from journalistic conventions that would obscure her presence as a witness, Emcke probes the abyss of violence and explores the scars it leaves on landscapes external and internal."

Carolin Emcke received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 2016.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Dickens, Charles "Bleak House"


Dickens, Charles "Bleak House" - 1852/53

My seventh Dickens after "A Christmas Carol", "Great Expectations", "A Tale of Two Cities", "The Pickwick Papers", "Little Dorrit" and "Hard Times" but certainly not my last one. I hope I will get through all of his works one day.

A thousand pages of a well-written novel, Apparently, this is supposedly an early work of detective fiction and is one of his later titles. But apart from that, it certainly is a Dickens novel. The characters' names might not be as weird as in some of his books. Maybe he had no more ideas or he grew tired of finding those kind of names, I don't know. I missed it, of course.

This book is a page turner. Having worked in the legal system myself (even though in a different country), I could relate a lot to all the difficulties in the law suit. It's the same everywhere. That bit might be a little tedious for some readers but I promise, it's worth it.

What I love about Dickens, even though he grew up under  poor circumstances, he can describe any character, rich or poor, clever or not so clever, he manages to put them all into his novels and makes them appear alive. He was a master of the pen.

From the back cover:
"As the interminable case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce grinds its way through the Court of Chancery, it draws together a disparate group of people: Ada Clare and Richard Carstone, whose inheritance is gradually being devoured by legal costs; Esther Summerston, a ward of court, whose parentage is a source of deepening mystery; the menacing lawyer Tulkinghorn; the determined sleuth Inspector Bucket; and even Jo, a destitute crossing-sweeper. A savage, but often comic indictment of a society that is rotten to the core, Bleak House is one of Dickens' most ambitious novels, with a range that extends from the drawing-rooms of the aristocracy to the London slums."

Monday, 10 July 2017

Hemingway, Ernest "For Whom the Bell Tolls"


Hemingway, Ernest "For Whom the Bell Tolls" - 1940

After reading this book, I don't understand why I didn't read it earlier. This is one of the "must read" classics, a book that tells us so much about a terrible time, not just a particular terrible time about the guerillas in the Spanish Civil War, but about war in general. War isn't jsut a number of how many people died or how many fights were won or lost. War is horrible. War is brutal. War is everything nobody wants. And yet, we still have wars.

You can tell that a lot of experience flowed into this piece. Ernest Hemingway faught himself in the Spanish Civil War. He must have lived through lot of the actions described here.

This novel is a brilliant account of the partisans, their fight, their effort, their dreams. A strong story about a fight that we all know was lost and cost many Spaniards dearly in the following years.

I never watched the movie with Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, two actors I really loved. I probably should. They received nine Oscar nominations for it.

From the back cover:
"High in the pine forests of the Spanish Sierra, a band of anti-fascist guerrilla prepares to blow up a strategically vital bridge. Robert Jordan, a young American volunteer, has been sent to handle the dynamiting. There, in the mountains, he finds the dangers and the intense comradeship of war. And there he discovers Maria, a young woman who has escaped from Franco's rebels."

Ernest Hemingway received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954 "for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in 'The Old Man and the Sea' and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style" and the Pulitzer Prize for "The Old Man and the Sea" in 1953.

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



"Never write anything that does not give you great pleasure. Emotion is easily transferred from the writer to the reader." Joseph Joubert

"Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." Rainer Maria Rilke

"Boredom is why God invented books." Julie Schumacher

"Talking over the things which you have read with your companions fixes them on the mind." Isaac Watts

"To you it might be a cheap notebook, but to me, it’s my best friend, which listens to me and reminds me when I need it the most." N.N.

[If anyone can tell me the originator of this quote, I'd be very thankful and would happily include the name.]

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Mahfouz, Naguib "Sugar Street"



Mahfouz, Naguib "Sugar Street" (Arabic: السكرية/Al-Sukkariyya) - 1957 (Cairo Trilogy 3) 

Seldom was I so sad than when finishing this novel. Not because of its contents although they were not all happy events but because this is the end of the story about the family Abd al-Jawad. I would have loved to carry on following their lives and that of their descendants even into the present day.

After reading "Palace Walk" and "Palace of Desire", the first two novels in this trilogy about the author's home town Cairo, I couldn't wait to read the next one.

Same as in the two previous books, we don't just meet the family but also learn about the Egyptian history. This book takes us through the years 1935 to 1944. We can tell the difference in society between the beginning of the saga in 1917 and the (almost) end of WWII. There is quite a difference between how women are treated, what they are allowed to do, even though there are still some people who live in the previous century. Same as today, I guess.

I would love to read more about Egypt later on. There is another Egyptian author that I really like, Ahdaf Soueif, I have read her novel "The Map of Love" and a collection of short stories "Aisha", and I am sure I will find other good Egyptian authors that will continue this story. If anyone has a suggestion, I am always happy to receive recommendations.

From the back cover:
"Sugar Street is the final novel in Nobel Prize-winner Naguib Mahfouz’s magnificent Cairo Trilogy, an epic family saga of colonial Egypt that is considered his masterwork.

The novels of the Cairo Trilogy trace three generations of the family of tyrannical patriarch al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, who rules his household with a strict hand while living a secret life of self-indulgence. Sugar Street brings Mahfouz’s vivid tapestry of an evolving Egypt to a dramatic climax as the aging patriarch sees one grandson become a Communist, one a Muslim fundamentalist, and one the lover of a powerful politician. Filled with compelling drama, earthy humor, and remarkable insight, Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy is the achievement of a master storyteller."

Naguib Mahfouz "who, through works rich in nuance - now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous - has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988.

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Ruiz, Don Miguel Ángel "The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom"


Ruiz, Don Miguel Ángel "The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom" - 1997

I bought this book years ago. I don't remember what drew me to it but the fact that I didn't start reading it earlier probably says it all.

I'm not the kind of person who will feel better if you tell me that I will feel better if only I start to love myself. On the contrary, if you tell me a problem will be solved if only I looked at it differently, I will feel even worse because you tell me that I am the problem.

In general, I agree, if you are nice to people, they will be nice to you. Most of the time. But that is not a wisdom I need to read, I've learned that all by myself. And with some people, it just doesn't help. And if someone wants to be mean to me, there is no way this book is going to change that.

Anyway, I did not enjoy reading this book. It had less than 200 pages, so I carried on, hoping the big enlightenment would come at the end. Well, it didn't.

From the back cover:
"In The Four Agreements, bestselling author don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love."

Monday, 3 July 2017

Bonnett, Alastair "Off the Map"



Bonnett, Alastair "Off the Map" - 2014

Cartophilia is the love of maps. I certainly have that. It combines well with topophilia, the love of place. I think I suffer from both of them and this is a great book for those of us who are addicted to cards.

Alastair Bonnett, a professor of Social Geography from Newcastle, lists a lot of interesting, weird, forgotten, lost, invisible places in this book and describes them very accurately. There are places we don't want to visit (like Pripyat near Chernobyl), places we can't visit (like Mount Athos, well, at least not the female part of this world), places that don't exist anymore (or have been renamed), places that would be fun just to visit because of their weird identity (Baarle-Nassau in the Netherlands is an interesting example and definitely on our list) and lots of curious, weird, quirky places that it's just fun to read about.

So, if like me, you love geography and/or maps, this is the book for you. Get your atlas out and read it.

From the back cover:
"In a world of Google Earth, it is easy to believe that every discovery has been made and every adventure had, Off the Map is a stunning testament to how mysterious our planet still is. It takes us into unchartered territory, to places found on few maps and sometimes on none.

From forgotten enclaves to floating islands, from hidden villages to New York gutter spaces, Off the Map charts the hidden corners of our planet. And while these are not necessarily places you would choose to visit on holiday - Hobyo, the pirate capital of Somalia, or Zheleznogorsk, a secret military town in Russia - they each carry a story about the strangeness of place and our need for a geography that understands our hunger for the fantastic and the unexpected. But it also shows us that topophilia, the love of place, is a fundamental part of what it is to be human. Whether you are an urban explorer or an armchair traveller, Off the Map will inspire and enchant. You'll never look at a map in quite the same way again."

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Happy July!


Happy July to all my friends and readers 

New Calendar picture with this beautiful watercolour painting
 by Hanka Koebsch "Pool Party"

 "Poolparty"



July used to be Quintilis (or September), the seventh month of the year, but the Romans added two months and named this one after Julius Cæsar. It's supposedly the warmest month of the year (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), so I hope it will be over soon.

Enjoy this month with the beautiful watercolour painting by Hanka Koebsch.

You can find a lot more wonderful pictures on their website here.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Aaronovitch, Ben "Broken Homes"


Aaronovitch, Ben "Broken Homes" (Rivers of London 4) - 2013

Number 4 in the "Rivers of London" series, a crime story with wizards. Not my usual genre but I enjoy reading about London and the story is not too bad. But, as is the case with most crime stories, there is not much to talk about without giving away too much.

However, if you do want to read this, please start with the first novel in the series, "Rivers of London".

From the back cover:
 "A mutilated body in Crawley. Another killer on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil; an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man? Or just a common or garden serial killer?
Before PC Peter Grant can get his head round the case a town planner going under a tube train and a stolen grimoire are adding to his case-load.
So far so London.
But then Peter gets word of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on a housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans and inhabited by the truly desperate.
Is there a connection?
And if there is, why oh why did it have to be South of the River?"

The whole series:
"Rivers of London" - 2011
"Moon over Soho" - 2011
"Whispers Under Ground" - 2012
"Broken Homes" - 2013
"Foxglove Summer" - 2014
"The Hanging Tree" - 2016

I found a good site about this series: The Follypedia.

Book Quotes of the Week



"Reading makes a full man, writing a precise man." Francis Bacon

"A good reading strengthens the soul." Toba Beta

"I knew a gentleman who was so good a manager of his time that he would not even lose that small portion of it which the calls of nature obliged him to pass in the necessary-house; but gradually went through all the Latin poets in those moments." Lord Chesterfield

"The art of reading is in great part that of acquiring a better understanding of life from one’s encounter with it in a book." André Maurois

"I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in." Robert Louis Stevenson

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Herbert, Xavier "Capricornia"


Herbert, Xavier "Capricornia"  - 1938

This book was suggested to me by my Australian friends as a classic from their country. It was a tough read of sorts but not disappointing. In this novel, the author tells us of life in Australia's north at the beginning of the 20th century. The life of the white settlers as well as the Aborigines who had lived on this continent for whoever knows how long, the new life created by the two, the "half-breeds" called "yeller fellers", the "quadroons" and the problems that arise by them mixing together. I have never understood how you can believe one race to be better than another but to divide those that have both races in them into different kind of people again ... if you have an Asian parent in between your "white" and "black" ones, you are better than those that have more "black" but still worse than those with more "white" etc. Seems unbelievable and I don't even want to understand it.

A great view of a continent that I don't even know today, even less so a hundred years ago. I have a few friends in Australia and my son just spent six months there, but that doesn't teach me much about their history. However, this did. An informative story, a captivating story, a touching story.

It must have been quite a shocking book when it was published in 1938, so close still to the events, I guess a lot of people still thought that way. The author was even declared "Protect of Aborigines", I think that says it all.

A lot of the books I read about Australia covered more the convicts that were forced to immigrate to Australia, this is later and therefore tells the continuation of that tale.

Oh, and I also loved the names of the characters, almost like Charles Dickens, a lot of them are named after their occupation or some flaw in their character. The undertaker is called Joe Crowe, Mr. Bigtit is an important lawyer, O'Crimnell and O'Theef are police troopers etc. Quite funny. Which shows that the novel is also full of humour.

Good read. If you are interested in Australia, you should definitely try it. Apparently, it inspired Baz Luhrman to make his film "Australia" which I also highly recommend, although the background to the story is completely different. And placed a little later in history.

From the back cover:
"A saga of life in the Northern Territories and the clash of white and Aborigine cultures – one of Australia’s all-time best-selling novels and an inspiration for Baz Luhrmann’s lavish film 'AUSTRALIA'.
Capricornia has been described as one of Australia's 'great novels', a sharply observed chronicle about life in the Northern Territory of Australia and the inhumane treatment suffered by Aborigines at the hands of white men. The story is immense and rambling, laced with humour that is often as bitter and as harsh as the terrain in which it is set, and follows with irony the fortunes (and otherwise) of a range of Outback characters over a span of generations. Through their story is reflected the story of Australia, the clash of personalities and cultures that provide the substance on which today's society is founded. Above all, however, this is a novel of protest and of compassion - for the Aborigines and half-bloods of Australia's 'last frontier'.
Sprawling, explosive, thronged with characters, plots and sub-plots, Capricornia is without doubt one of the best known and widely read Australian novels of the last 70 years. When it was first published it was acclaimed as 'a turning point', an 'outstanding work of social protest'. Its message is as penetrating today as it was in the 1930s when Herbert himself was official 'Protector of Aborigines' at Darwin."

Friday, 23 June 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



"There is no substitute for books in the life of a child." May Ellen Chase

"Read to escape reality ... Write to embrace it." Stephanie Connolly

"The newest books are those that never grow old." George Holbrook Jackson

"A book worth reading is worth buying." John Ruskin

"I love to read. That doesn't mean I don't have a life. It doesn't mean I'm a nerd. I only love the feeling that.. even when you're back in reality you still feel like you're in a different world." S.A. 

[If anyone can tell me the originator of this quote, I'd be very thankful and would happily include the name.]

Find more book quotes here.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Whitehead, Colson "Underground Railroad"


Whitehead, Colson "Underground Railroad" - 2016

I have read quite a few books about the Underground Railroad, the life of slaves and their slaveholders but never one that described the life of a fugitive as well as this one.

I have liked all the Pulitzer Prize winning books of the last years and this is no exception. A great story - Cora, a slave, who tries to run away from her abusive "master" - brilliant description of everyone involved, the slaves, their helpers, ordinary people who just think it's not right to own other human beings -  and their enemies - the slave holders, the slave catchers and just those people who think they are someone better because their skin is lighter. What can anything make you think the colour of your skin says anything about you other than that you get sunburnt so much easier the lighter your skin is.

Anyway, back to the book. The story is written from many perspectives, we even get to know the opponents well enough, not that it makes us more sympathetic towards them. None of the narratives is written in the first person. That way, we don't identify with any of them as we might have if it had been written like that but I still identified a lot more with Cora and the other slaves and victims than I did with the other side of the party. Always on the side of the underdog.

Before reading this book, I had never thought about the Underground Railroad as exactly that, a railroad underground, literally underground. But it makes a nice story background.

In any case, a brilliant book. I'd like to read more by this great author.

From the back cover:
"Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the
Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The
Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share."

Colson Whitehead received the Pulitzer Prize for "Underground Railroad" in 2017.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Vance, J.D. "Hillbilly elegy"


Vance, J.D. "Hillbilly elegy: a memoir of a family and culture in crisis" - 2016

This book was chosen as our latest book club book. After having read Arlie Russell Hochschild's "Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right", I thought, not another book that tries to explain Donald Trump. I doubt that any book can ever explain why he was elected because I believe there is no real reason for him.

However, I would not call this a book that explains why people vote for someone like that, it is a book that tries to explain how you can get out of a life that gives you no chances. Because the author was just someone like that, he had a mother who was addicted, who ran from one man to the next and would neglect her children. If things got too bad, the grandmother would step in as I am sure many grandmothers do.

Yes, J.D. Vance made me understand those people better. I don't know a community like that in Europe, where you more or less are doomed when you come from a certain area, where the school doesn't do much to help you get out of your situation. It was interesting to read and I think every politician should read this, should try to give these kids a better chance in life.

An interesting view about a society most people know nothing about. And that includes myself and the other members of my book club.

We discussed this in our book club in June 2017.

From the back cover:
"From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class.
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis - that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.
The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.
But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.
A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country."

Monday, 19 June 2017

Cao, Xueqin "Dream of the Red Chamber"


Cao, Xueqin "Dream of the Red Chamber" (Chinese: 红楼梦/Hung lou meng/aka The Story of the Stone) - ca. 1717-1763 (18th century)

Apparently, this novel is "one of the four pinnacles of classical Chinese literature. The other three are: The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Journey to the West, and Outlaws of the Marsh."

Also known as "The Story of the Stone", it is said to be the first Chinese novel of this kind and has created an entire field of study "Redology".

I found this on the list of "101 Best Selling Books of All Time" and thought it might be interesting to read.

It was highly interesting indeed. The novel has semi-autobiographical sides, it is said that it shows not just the rise and fall of the author's family but also that of the Qing Dynasty.

I found it hard to remember all the names that were homophones with another character and therefore meant something else. It also took me going back and forth to the glossary in the back and then to the story in order to know who was talking or talked about when someone referred to Big Sister or Second Son etc. Sometimes the Chinese word for that was used, then the translation, then the real name, quite confusing. I think it might have to do with the translation and that a more modern one would have taken care of that. My library's edition is from 1957 and, with "only" 574 pages, an abridged version.

Still, the novel teaches us a lot not just about everyday Chinese life in the 18th century, but also their culture, religion, science, art and literature. Really captivating. Certainly one of the most informative books I have read about Ancient China, and I have read quite a few.

From the back cover:
"The Dream of the Red Chamber is one of the 'Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese Literature.' It is renowned for its huge scope, large cast of characters and telling observations on the life and social structures of 18th century China and is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the classical Chinese novel.
The "
Red Chamber" is an expression used for the sheltered area where the daughters of wealthy Chinese families lived. Believed to be based on the author's own life and intended as a memorial to the women that he knew in his youth, The Dream of the Red Chamber is a multilayered story that offers up key insights into Chinese culture."

Friday, 16 June 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



"I don’t think of literature as an end in itself. It’s just a way of communicating something." Isabel Allende

"If you have read 6,000 books in your lifetime, or even 600, it's probably because at some level you find 'reality' a bit of a disappointment." Joe Queenan, One for the Books

"One of the advantages of reading books is that you get to play with someone else’s imaginary friends, at all hours of the night." Dr. SunWolf


"Choose an author as you choose a friend." Sir Christopher Wren

"In a good book the best is between the lines." Swedish Proverb

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Mahfouz, Naguib "Palace of Desire"



Mahfouz, Naguib "Palace of Desire" (Arabic: قصر الشوق/Qasr el-Shōq) - 1957

"Palace of Desire", Part 2 of the Cairo Trilogy, starts in 1924, five years after "Palace Walk" ends. The children have grown up, even the youngest son and the family moves on after several backdrops. al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, the Patriarch, still tries to control his children but he is less successful than in the first book.

Again, we meet all the friends and neighbours of the family, the sons-in-law, the girls pursued by the sons - and the father. A story that really deserves the title "saga".

We also learn again about the Egyptians' view of the British occupation and can totally understand them. Why should one country rule over another?

I know I mentioned I love big books but what I love even more is a continuation of a big book that makes it even bigger. This is one of those cases. I'm looking forward to the third part, "Sugar Street".

From the back cover:
"The sensual and provocative second volume in the Cairo Trilogy, Palace Of Desire follows the Al Jawad family into the awakening world of the 1920's and the sometimes violent clash between Islamic ideals, personal dreams and modern realities.

Having given up his vices after his son's death, ageing patriarch Al-Sayyid Ahmad pursues an arousing lute-player - only to find she has married his eldest son. His rebellious children struggle to move beyond his domination as they test the loosening reins of societal and parental control. And Ahmad's youngest son, in an unforgettable portrayal of unrequited love, ardently courts the sophisticated daughter of a rich Europeanised family.
"

Naguib Mahfouz "who, through works rich in nuance - now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous - has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988.

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Solstad, Lexidh "Catpasity"


Solstad, Lexidh "Catpasity" - 2015

This book was written by an online friend of mine, otherwise I might not have discovered it. What a pity that would have been. I'm not a big animal lover, I love looking at cute cat pictures and/or videos like the next person and if I absolutely had to have a pet, it would have to be a cat. This book certainly hasn't encouraged me to get one, I know with my back and my migraines, I just couldn't do the work.

However, I loved the book, it was so nice to read, almost like having cats of your own. I had to chuckle quite a few times and recommend the novel heartily to everyone who wants a nice read, whether they own cats or not.

A very entertaining book, a feel good book without the feeling this is just all too easy. The author speaks from the heart and we can laugh with her and be sad with her.

I'm sure you find it even more entertaining if you are the "crazy cat lady" in your neighbourhood.

Loved it.

From the back cover:
"Cat experts write books about cats: how cats behave, why cats behave like they do; perhaps, also, what you can do to make your cats behave differently. This is not that kind of book.

This book is a story about how it really is to live with cats - when you let them be themselves. It explores how they have chosen to behave in all kinds of situations, over a period of 15 years. It is a true story about a woman and the cats that have driven her bonkers enough to write a book about them.

I am a survivor of a life with cats. This is our story."

The author also has a blog where you can find pictures of her cats.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Lenz, Siegfried "The German Lesson"



Lenz, Siegfried "The German Lesson" (German: Deutschstunde) - 1968

I can't believe I didn't read this until now. There are so many different ways to write about World War II, this is one aspect that probably a lot of people had to face, one member of the family (the father) definitely pro-Nazi, another one (the son) against. Must have been so hard. It reminds me of something some of my friends tell me about their families in the US and their clashes between Republicans vs. Democrats.

In any case, I read somewhere that this is not about World War II but about duty. I can only slightly agree. Of course, one has to fulfill one's duty but one should not just obey blindly, always use your brain, as well. That is my opinion.

I have read other books by Siegfried Lenz before, e.g. "Landesbühne" and "Zaungast" but neither of them have been translated, so I didn't write a review. But I enjoyed them all.

A remarkable book. What does a young boy do when his broadening mind clashes with narrow-mindedness? The author certainly tries to help his generation to overcome the restrictions laid upon them by the Nazi party. He actually belonged to a group of other writers called Group 47 that was created to renew German literature after World War II as well as in giving young authors the possibility to find an audience. The group certainly was very successful if you consider that very famous German authors like Ingeborg Bachmann, Heinrich Böll, Günter Eich, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Erich Fried, Günter Grass, Peter Handke, Uwe Johnson, Erich Kästner, Hans Werner Richter and Martin Walser (to name but a few) belonged to its members. Quote a few of them received renowned awards, two of them (Böll and Grass) even received the Nobel Prize for Literature and two the Peace Prize (Siegfried Lenz and Martin Walser). I want to believe that this group also had an influence on this book.

The novel is written in a great style, I don't know how well it translates but the original German is absolutely beautiful.

From the back cover: "In writing this novel, one of the major works of German fiction to appear since the Second World War, Siegfried Lenz has written, 'I was trying to find out where the joys of duty could lead a people.' His exploration is a disturbing triumph. Siggi Jepsen, the protagonist, is embroiled in the conflict between the totalitarian Nazi government and a creative artist. As a young boy he watched his father, constable of the northernmost police station in Germany, doggedly carry out orders from Berlin to stop a well-known Expressionist, their neighbour, from painting and to seize all his 'degenerate' work. Soon Siggi is hiding the paintings to keep them safe from his father. Against the great brooding landscape of the Danish borderland, Siggi recounts the clash of father and son, of duty and personal loyalty in wartime Germany."

Siegfried Lenz received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (Friedenspreis) in 1988.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



"It’s hopeless! Tomorrow there will be even more books I should have read than there are today." Ashleigh Brilliant

"I love the smell of book ink in the morning." Umberto Eco

"The walls of books around him, dense with the past, formed a kind of insulation against the present world and its disasters." Ross MacDonald

"True Readers Know Anything Makes a Good Bookmark." Toby Price

"We must form our minds by reading deep rather than wide." Marcus Fabius Quintilian

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Weir, Alison "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" - 1991


Weir, Alison "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" - 1991

After reading "Six Tudor Queens. Katherine of Aragon. The True Queen", I discovered that Alison Weir is not just going to write a book about every single one of Henry VIIIs wife but that she has already written a description of all their lives. In this book. I just had to go and read it.

Just as in the novel I read, we get to know the characters very well. There is so much information here about the six ladies who were married to Henry VIII as well as a lot about the king  himself and the children. You get a complete picture of the Royal Tudor family, not just the Tudors but all their contemporaries, the European Royal families, the people and families of influence a the time. At the beginning of the book, you find a chronology beginning with the Battle of Bosworth in 1458 and ending with the accession to the throne by Elizabeth I. in 1558. At the end there are several family trees of the families involved. There is so much to learn and Alison Weir makes it so easy to get into the lives of the people living at the time. I sometimes got confused with people having two different names, e.g. if someone is a Duke or an Earl he is named by his title but he also has a Christian name and you only see the relationship to his family by that name. But, the author has thought about that, as well. There is an Index at the end that gives you all the names and pages where they are mentioned.

I always found the Tudors interesting but this book taught me more than all the other books and documentations I read about them. A well written non-fiction book that reads almost like a novel and comprises everything you would look for in almost every other genre. Love and friendship, birth and death, murder, intrigues, betrayal, religion and politics and, of course, politics. What else do you need to find a fascinating book?

From the back cover:
"One of the most powerful monarchs in British history, Henry VIII ruled England in unprecedented splendour. In this remarkable composite biography, Alison Weir brings Henry's six wives vividly to life, revealing each as a distinct and compelling personality in her own right.

Drawing upon the rich fund of documentary material from the Tudor period, The Six Wives of Henry VIII shows us a court where personal needs frequently influenced public events and where a life of gorgeously ritualised pleasure was shot through with ambition, treason and violence."

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Woodruff, Elvira "Dear Austin"



Woodruff, Elvira "Dear Austin: Letters from the Underground Railroad" - 1998

I never read "Dear Levi" which seems to be the other side of the correspondence. Therefore, I don't think we get as much information about the Unterground Railroad as there might be in the other book. But I still think this story is good for children if they want to know what was giong on and how black people lived during slavery time - and even afterwards.

Nice little children's book.

From the back cover: "In this companion novel to Dear Levi, told in letters,11-year-old Levi helps a young African American in a harrowing flight for freedom along the Underground Railroad."

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Mahfouz, Naguib "Palace Walk"


Mahfouz, Naguib "Palace Walk" (Arabic: بين القصرين/Bayn al-qasrayn) - 1956 (Kairo Trilogie 1)

Part 1 of the Cairo Trilogy. I love big books, I love family sagas, I love historical fiction, I love books by Nobel Prize winners, so this should definitely the book for me.

And it is. The story of an Egyptian family between 1917 to 1919. We get to know al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad who rules his family like a tyrant, his wife, his daughters and his sons, they all have to obey him without question. He is by far not a perfect person himself but expects this from everyone around him. Given the time, everyone accepts this as a God-given law.

Brilliantly told, Naguib Mahfouz is a fantastic observer, he mentions so many things, describes people's feelings in a way that is unique and highly commendable. We can imagine being a fly on the wall who notices everything that is going on. I would love to read a book Mahfouz would write now about the same family, well, their progeny. The author managed to create a family that seems so real, so alive. We can well imagine meeting them somewhere. A very realistic story.

I already have the follow-up "Palace of Desire" on my table waiting to be read next and will certainly also read the last part "Sugar Street".

From the back cover:
"Palace Walk is the first novel in Nobel Prize-winner Naguib Mahfouz’s magnificent Cairo Trilogy, an epic family saga of colonial Egypt that is considered his masterwork.

The novels of the Cairo Trilogy trace three generations of the family of tyrannical patriarch al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, who rules his household with a strict hand while living a secret life of self-indulgence. Palace Walk introduces us to his gentle, oppressed wife, Amina, his cloistered daughters, Aisha and Khadija, and his three sons - the tragic and idealistic Fahmy, the dissolute hedonist Yasin, and the soul-searching intellectual Kamal. The family’s trials mirror those of their turbulent country during the years spanning the two world wars, as change comes to a society that has resisted it for centuries."

Naguib Mahfouz "who, through works rich in nuance - now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous - has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind" received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988.

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Book Quotes of the Week



"Reading gives one something to think about other than one’s self." Tom Bissell

"If you have never said 'Excuse me' to a parking meter or bashed your shins on a fireplug, you are
probably wasting too much valuable reading time." Sherri Chasin Calvo 
 
"We know that books are not a way of letting someone else think in our place: On the contrary, they are machines that provoke further thought." Umberto Eco

"Nothing is worth reading that does not require an alert mind." Charles Dudley Warner

"The food we eat feeds our body but the novels we read feed our mind." N.N.
 
[If anyone can tell me the originator of this quote, I'd be very thankful and would happily include the name.]
 

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Happy June!

Happy June to all my friends and readers

New Calendar picture with this
beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch


 "Flower Splendor of the Rhododendron" 
"Blütenpracht des Rhododendron"




June is the month of the summer stolstice. My least favourite season begins but there are also positive things, usually many flowers. And all the ice cream parlors. We must look at the bright side. ;) Enjoy this month with the beautiful watercolour painting by Frank Koebsch.

You can find a lot more wonderful pictures on their website here.