Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Dream of Scipio by Iain Pears

"Julien Barneuve dies at 3:28 on the afternoon of August 18, 1943."
That is the first sentence of The Dream of Scipio. It is my first book by Iain Pears. Luckily, I have another one waiting on my shelves. This book was such a wonderful surprise and I think he will be one of my favourite authors in the future. 'The Washington Post' has put it right to the core: "A thrilling journey through history, into the human heart and soul."

We follow three men and their beloved through history and it takes place in France. In the 5th century we meet Manlius Hippomanes and his beloved Sophia. In the 14th century Olivier de Noyen and his beloved Rebecca and in the 20th century Julien Barneuve and his beloved Julia. Julien is an historian and is researching the other two.  Olivier is the middle man, already having had an interest in old manuscripts in the 14th century, his researched gives Julien the story of Manlius. It is only in the very last stage of his life, that Julien realises the real consequences of the life and actions of Olivier. Here an ancient murder mystery is part of the story.
"And Julien returned to his books, turning in these years to the subject that had been in the back of his mind for so long: to describe the resilience of civilization, its enormous strength, the way that even when near death it could revive and regrow. Bringing its benefits to mankind once more."
The novel takes up the eternal story of what civilisation is. Who are the civilised people? We or the others? What actions are to be called civilised? What is morally and ethically correct? Is it ethically correct to sacrifice one person to save another? This story covers big questions on these matters and it is heartbreaking at times. It also shows that it does not matter in which century you are living.  In time of war our decisions and actions change. We go through emotions we could not even dream of and have to act in ways we could never imagine.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Bookmarks on Monday


Monday again and this week I have another bookmark for the Bookmarks on Monday meme, hosted Guiltless Reading.

I bought i recently while visiting Le Mont du Saint Michel in France. As expected it shows the lovely island on a wonderful photo.


Visiting was almost like a fairy tale experience although the thick walls were maybe more fortress like than fairy tale like. Small alleys to walk around in, or climb rather. It is rather steep inside the walls. We stayed one night, walked around, up and down and had a lovely dinner watching the tide coming in.

Friday, 12 May 2017

6 Degrees of Separation - May


May is here and neither spring or summer seem to be with us. Still chilly and unstable weather. What better than to join Books Are My Favourite And Best and another 6 Degrees of Separation. This month starts with The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. I have never heard about either the book or the author, but reading up on Wikipedia gives me a hint. Seems like an interesting book and excellent book for a discussion, either in a book club or at a dinner.


The people in the book gather at a barbecue and brings my mind to The Dinner by Dutch author Herman Koch. Two brothers and their wives gather for dinner to discuss something that their sons have done. It is only in the end we get to know what they have really done. The deed lies underneath the thoughts and dinner conversation of the party.  A novel with many layers.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Classic spin #15

For once I did finish my book for the Classic spin. It was Sweet Bird of Youth by Tennessee Williams. It is a play and I am not really into reading plays, rather prefer to see them. However, this one was quite easy to read.

It tells the story of a gigolo, Chance Wayne, who is returning to his home town in company of a faded movie star. He has aspirations to become a movie star and hope that she will be the key to opening the right doors. A reason for coming home is also to try to get back what he lost in his youth; his girlfriend whose father made him go away years ago. However, you can never get back your youth. What has been done can not be made undone. This is a lesson he learns over a couple of days. The revenge of a small town can be hard.

It is a typical Tennessee Williams I would say. Set out in the South, young and not so young lovers, underlying feelings of heat, anger and violence. I really enjoyed it.




Monday, 1 May 2017

A Room With a View

My father says that there is only one perfect view — the view of the sky straight over our heads, and that all these views on earth are but bungled copies of it.” 

E.M. Forster, A Room with a View
THE SIGNORA HAD NO business to do it,” said Miss Bartlett, “no business at all. She promised us south rooms with a view close together, instead of which here are north rooms, looking into a court-yard, and a long way apart. Oh, Lucy" 
E.M. Forster, A Room With a View

A room with a view is always a nice thing. As E.M. Forster lets his characters wish for in his novel with the same name. We have been on a tour in Normandy, Guernsey and Jersey and were lucky to have wonderful views from our hotel rooms, most of the time. Here are a few views:

Chataeu Rozel

La Vieille Auberge in Le Mont St Michel

La Porte de Saint Pierre in St Malo

The Savoy in Jersey

Three wonderful views and one back yard. Well, you can't have it all. The Savoy was a wonderful hotel otherwise with a marvellous restaurant Montana. So good we ate there both nights.


Friday, 28 April 2017

Book Beginnings on Fridays and The Friday 56

Rose City Reader, is hosting Book beginnings on Fridays.


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 One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I think it is a great beginning.


Book beginning:

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

Page 56:

"In that discomfort, breathing quicklime and tar, no one could see very well how from the bowels of the earth there was rising not only the largest house in the town, but the most hospitable and cool house that had ever existed in the region of the swamp."

Still reading this book. The pages are very dense, hardly without any space at all and it takes time. The story is sort of magical.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Borden Murders - Lizzie Borden & the Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller

Lizzie Borden took an ax,
Gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

This is a song that was created around this famous murder case and it seems that it is quite well known in the US. However, it does not give us the whole extent of this extraordinary murder mystery. Behind it, is a real life murder mystery, to which there is no answer to 'who dunnit'!

Sarah Miller has done a thorough research into these gruesome murders which took place on 4 Augusti, 1892 in Fall River, Mass. The police was called to the house on 92 Second Street and found Mr and Mrs Borden murdered in the house. Mrs Borden upstairs in her bedroom and Mr Borden on the sofa in the living room.

The only persons in the house was the youngest daughter Lizzie and the maid Bridget. The police did not do a very good first investigation of the murder scene and this was later an obstacle in the trial. However, after a few days the police decided to arrest the daughter Lizzie Borden for murdering her parents.

Sarah Miller takes us through the events of the day of both the women, checking the house and the barn for evidence and not finding very much. There was quite a lot of blood from the bodies, but no blood was found on either of the women or anywhere else. The murder weapon was not found. A reason for the killing was not found, although it was said that Lizzie did not get along with her step mother, and, it seems, had no problem with her father. It is a complete mystery. Lizzie insisted all through this ordeal that she was not guilty. However, some of her initial remarks on what she was doing that day, left more questions than answers.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Bookmark Monday



I am joining Guiltless Reading for the Bookmark Monday meme.

I was recently travelling around Normandie and in the castle in Falaise, the birthplace of William the Conquerer, I found these lovely bookmarks. They really fit the Norman times.











Friday, 21 April 2017

Read lately

I have a pile of five books that I read lately and have not yet reviewed. Here are mini reviews of the books, although some of them really deserves a 'real' review.

The Last Girls by Lee Smith


A wonderful book about a group of young girls who, while in college, decides to go in the footsteps of Huckleberry Finn, and go down the Mississippi on a raft. Thirty-five years later four of them meets to make a different trip down the Mississippi. "Baby", who was the 'wild one' during their college years, has died and her husband has asked her friends to take her ashes down the river to commemorate their earlier trip.

Harriet, a teacher, unmarried, careful, not taking any risks. Courtney, married rich and have to deal with her husbands infidelity and her mother-in-law's dominance. Anna, comes från poor circumstances, got a scholarship to college and is now a successful bestseller author. Catherine, the southern beauty who went against her upbringing to become a sculptor and are in her third marriage.

They all remember Margaret "Baby" Ballou, beautiful, wild, rebellious, deceitful, promiscuous at college. She has died in a car accident and the friends suspects suicide.

The group has had not contact during the thirty-five years and they have to get to know each other again. They all think everybody else are more happy than themselves. During the trip they talk and get to know each other again. Looking back on their youth, their lives, what they made of it and where they ended up. After the trip they are all changed and realise that there is still time to live their lives.

A wonderfully written account of youth, life and where it takes us. In the background is the ever flowing Mississippi.


The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley


"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."

The famous opening of this wonderful account of a young man's experiences during a hot summer holiday. Leo is invited to spend the summer with his upper class school friend Marcus. He is asked to act as a messenger between Marcus' sister Marian and the farmer Ted. He is deeper and deeper drawn into their relationship of deceit and desire. One day he wakes up to make a shocking and premature revelation which ends in disaster. 
"He had made me realize something of what Marian and he meant to each other, and though I did not understand the force that drew them together, any more than I understood the force that drew the steel to the magnet, I recognized its strength."
It is a beautifully written story. A pure pleasure to read. Although the story is slow you never notice and the story slowly, slowly takes you towards the inevitable. When we reach the end, in Leo's old age, we are once again drawn into the go-between. 
"Perhaps this was unfair to Marian and Lord Trimingham, who had both treated me with signal kindness. To to them, I knew, I was a go-between, they thought of me in terms of another person. When Lord Trimingham wanted Marian, when Marian wanted Ted, they turned to me. The confidences that Marian had made me had been forced out of her. With Ted it was different. He felt he owed me something - me, Leo: the tribute of one nature to another. 

Thursday, 20 April 2017

New purchases

Long time no see! I have been on a trip to Normandie, Guernsey and Jersey. It was a nine day trip on the road from morning to evening, so I had not so much time to blog. There will be some reports from our trip which was very nice and interesting, as well as a few short reviews of books read lately.

During the trip I was exhausted in the evenings and I just read a few very easygoing historical fiction books. Now at home again I will go back to One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It is a little bit more demanding to read.

Today I went to a "Book Festival" and though I was very restricted and disciplined (at least I thought so myself!) I came back with 16 books! Yes, I know. As if I don't have several TBR shelves already full of books. But when the books cost 2-5 € each, it is difficult to resist.

Of the 16 books I have divided them into four piles; five books with favourite authors, six books with authors I wanted to read, three with biographical content and two thrillers.


Favourite authors

Diana Gabaldon, The Scottish Prisoner - a 'side' book out of her Outlander series. I love historical fiction and Diana Gabaldon writes very well.

Philip Kerr, Prague Fatale - I read his book The Quiet Flame and loved it. Therefor I grabbed this one and I am sure I will not be disappointed.

Tracy Chevalier, Burning Bright - historical fiction at its best. London at the end of the 18th century.

Catherine Cookson, Kate Hannigan's Girl. Read several books by her when I was young, but that was a long time ago. I recently read a biography about her To be a lady: Story of Catherine Cookson by Cliff Goodwin and, after that interesting account of her life, I wanted to read something else by her.

Paulo Coelho, Adultery. I think Coelho does not need a lot of introduction. I recent read his The Witch of Portobello and loved it. This should be an interesting read.