Saturday, 7 December 2013

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

This is a real classic and a book that we decided to read in one of my reading groups. It was totally different from what I thought it would be. I thought it would be heavy, tragic and with horrible details of the times at the front. It is horrible of course but told in an easy and accessible prose. It is told in first person singular with the voice of nineteen year old Paul Bräumer, a soldier at the Western front during the first world war.

We follow Paul from the first staggering steps as a new soldier into the more routine soldier who has been there and seen it all. It is told in a matter-of-fact way that makes you feel you are standing beside him and experience all the things he experiences. That is probably also why you can identify with him. You follow him in school with his friends who also enrol. During the initial training which does not prepare them for what they are about to experience. Through the bullies who think the most important thing is the drill and who punish the boys for stupid things. The first experience of the fighting, the dirt, the lice, the lack of food and hygiene. On his first leave when he goes back to his family and friends and does not really have anything to speak to them about. They would not understand how it is so it is better not to say anything. Being injured and seeing fellow soldiers getting legs amputated or dying. The old world is not there anymore and how is it possible to go on living a life after the experiences of the trenches? How can you go back to your old life? You did not really have a life yet being only nineteens years old!

Nowadays we would no longer have any real links with the way we used to be. it wasn't the awareness of how beautiful it was that meant so much to us, or of how good the atmosphere was, but the feeling of community, the way we all felt a kinship with the objects and events of our existence. That's what set us apart and made our parents' world a little difficult for us to understand; because somehow we were always gently bound up with that world, submissive to it all, and the smallest thing led us onwards along the parth of eternity. Perhaps it was just the privilege of our youth - we were not yet able to see any restrictions, and we could not admit to ourselves that things would ever come to an end; expectation was in our blood, and this meant that we were at one with our lives as the days went by.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Black Ops. Inc. Series by Cindy Gerard

One day during my two week 'not feeling well' time when scrolling down my bookmarks on book blogs I came into the forgotten site of 'Xoxo After Dark' (xoxoafterdark.com). There is a free read section. Mostly Fantasy and Romance and not always to my liking but from time to time something pops up. And this series did. You normally have a limited time to read them free directly from the internet.

This Black Ops. Inc. series remind me of Alison Brennan's books on the Kincaid family. It is the same easy read, very thrilling stories and a little bit of romance in between. This series is about a bunch of tough, brave and gorgeous men and women who fight for the good side! Yes, it is a lot about the good guys and the bad guys. The series start in Sierra Leone where our guys are on a mission with their special forces group. One of them dies in the attack. This makes them think of what they are doing especially since they suspect that he died by foul play.


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Book beginnings on Friday

I will use this wonderful book for the book beginnings challenge. This one is really wonderful and this is the kind of beginning that captivates me from the first line:

I'll never forget the night it snowed over Calcutta.


Yesterday I was a little tired due to a cold so I decided to spend the day reading (what luxury even if the upper respiratory system is blocked!). I grabbed a book from my TBR shelf since the reader was set for loading! The book I choose is from one of my absolute favourite writers, Carlos Ruiz Zafón. His "The Shadow of the Wind" is a magic book, as is "The Angel's Game". I thought that I picked the third book in the series (although they are all independent books). How wrong was I not! The third book, I have now learned, is called "The Prisoner of Heaven". This turns out to be the second book of two he wrote in the 1990's for Young Adults (the first being "The Prince of Mist"). However that might be, it is certainly a book also for adults.

Ruiz Zafón does not disappoint you. This is just another of his magic books which is written in such beautiful prose that it almost makes you loose the story just for the beauty of the words. There is, as usual in his books, a mystery story that erases the line between real and make believe. It takes place in Calcutta in principal in May 1932, but the book starts 16 years earlier in 1916 when Lieutenant Peake saves newborn twins (a boy, Ben and a girl, Sheere) from an avenger with, what seems like, supernatural powers. He manages to deliver the twins safely to their grandmother before he meets his faith. To protect the children the grandmother leaves the boy with an orphanage run by a friend of the family. Ben grows up there and 16 years later when the orphans are considered grown ups and have to leave the place the story continues.

Seven of the children in the orphanage created their own secret society called Chowbar Society and there meetings take place in a deserted, derelict house they call the Midnight Palace. It is a very tight group and for these orphaned children they only have each other. They know they will meet for the last time on the eve before they all have to leave the orphanage for a new life on the outside. This is the same eve as the grandmother visits the orphanage with her niece to speak to the director and to reveal the identity of the boy she left with him 16 years earlier. The niece, while waiting for her grandmother, meets the other youngsters and the ball has been set in motion. How little do the group know what the near future bears in mind and how their loyalty to each other will be stretched to the very limit.


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Kinship With All Life by J. Allen Boone

If you have any kind of animals this is a book for you but of course for all animal lovers. Dr Dolittle invited us to 'speak to the animals' and this is book that has the same message but maybe on another level. The initial story of the book is about the German shepherd Strongheart who
Strongheart
was a famous movie dog in the 1920ies. He came to stay with the writer for some time and a very strong bond developed between the two. This was of course a very well trained dog and when you read about their time together he seems very human. Ah, but stop... this is exactly the point. Boone means that we humans always put ourselves above the animals and think ourselves superior. However, in the dealings with Strongheart the writer discovers time after time that the dog has his own private sphere and life which is on an equal level with himself. Mentally, we have to see each other as equal creatures and try to find the level where we can communicate with each other. Words are not always necessary although we often seem to think so. There are many fantastic stories in the book on how intelligent this dog was. You wish you had a dog like that to teach you a thing or two!

Having been very successful with Strongheart, Boone continues to investigate people who live very closely with their animals and seem to have a special bond, for example indians and their horses, bedouins and their camels and horses. They see their animals as equals and all of us have been created by a higher authority to understand each other. You have to open your mind to one another. You think though that to reach this universal language and understanding with animals it works with a dog like Strongheart. However, Boone tells in his book on how he managed to use this universal language of love to also capture the spirits of other animals. In the book he tells the stories how he befriended a skunk, ants, earthworms and Freddie the fly...!


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Visit to Amsterdam

Your local bread shop!
As I mentioned in the Tulipomania post we had scheduled a trip to Amsterdam for the long weekend. Although I have lived in Brussels for 16 years we never visited the city (although my husband have been there before). Well, some things you regret! This is a wonderful city and I should have visited it much earlier. But...never too late! There are a lot of things to see and just to walk around the city is a pleasure in itself. The wonderful canals, the beautiful Dutch houses, the flowers, the house boats just about everything. The people all speak English and they are all very friendly.

We arrived on Friday afternoon and having settled into our Designer hotel, Artemis, in the outskirts of Amsterdam we took the bus downtown. First the important thing to find something to eat and then we were ready for the Rijksmuseum where the main attraction is Rembrandt's 'Nightwatch'.
The Library in the Rijksmuseum
Nightwatch by Rembrandt
I like art, especially the old masters (not so much modern art), but I am no expert. However, the paintings here from 16-17th centuries are absolutely fantastic. The Dutch painters portrayed very well everyday life which I think is far more interesting to see than gods and goddesses (although they have their charm as well). Unfortunately we were late and they closed an hour early that day so we really had to rush through this section and had to run (more or less) through the 18-19th centuries. This is a very good excuse to go back to Amsterdam to have a proper look. And the LIBRARY I could have stayed there for some hours (have a look at the picture).
The Flower Market
The Flower Market from the
canal by night

Afterwords a walk around the canals and the flower market before we headed to eat in the highly recommended Indonesian restaurant Sama Sebo (http://www.samasebo.nl/en/) where we had the famous 'rijstafel'. Two different kind of rice with I think at least 15-20 small dishes to go with it. Yammi!

Saturday saw us walking around the city again.  Our first aim was  Anne Frank's house but as it turned out we were not the only onces! The queue was too long so we had to settle for a picture. Instead we headed to the other side of the canal to visit the Tulip museum. This is a very nice, rather small museum but with all the information on how the tulip came to Europe and Holland, the Tulipomania and the present day tulip market in Holland. Very interesting.


Thursday, 31 October 2013

Tulipomania by Mike Dash - Book Beginnings on Friday Challenge

Since we are popping over to Amsterdam for the weekend I thought it would be interesting to read something connected to Holland. Recently I found a reference to 'Tulipomania' by historian Mike Dash as a reference book for an historical novel. Tulipomania is the name for a period in the Dutch Golden Age in the beginning of the 17th century during which prices for tulip bulbs which had then recently been introduced to Europe reached extraordinarily high levels and then suddenly collapsed. Do we see here a forerunner to modern share markets?

 "The Viceroy", from a 1637 Dutch catalog.
Price between 3,000 and 4,150 
guilders
(florins)
 depending on size. A skilled craftsman at
the timeearned about 300 guilders a year.
Just starting it and it is bound to be a fascinating book. During the years 1633-37 there was a boom in the prices of tulip bulbs than can only be compared to the frenzy of shares today. Fortunes were made and lost over night. People paid more for a tulip bulb than for a house. There are many excellent reviews for this book and I like what Hortus says:  This is tulip-mania-as-ripping-yarn. I can't remember the last time I read a plant book or gardening book that was such a page turner.

Here is the opening line in the Prologue:

They came from all over Holland, dressed like crows in black from head to foot and journeying along frozen tracks rendered treacherous by the scars of a thousand hooves and narrow wheels. 

I also have to add the first paragraph of chapter 1 which is brilliant as well:

The tulip is not a native of the Netherlands. It is a flower of the East, a child of the unimaginable vastness of central Asia. So far as anyone can tell, it did not reach the United Provinces until 1570, and by then it had already been journeying for many hundreds of years from its original homeland in the mountain ranges that run north of the Himalayas along the fortieth parallel. 

Once read there will be a full review of this book.


Sunday, 27 October 2013

La liste de mes envies (My Wish List) by Grégoire Delacourt - European Reading Challenge

In the European Reading Challenge I have said I will read five books from five different European countries. This is the first one and as you see it is a French book (although I read it in Swedish, my French is not that good). This is about Jocelyne an ordinary French woman or any woman. Her life did not exactly turned out the way she dreamed of. She is living in a small French town, married to Jocelyn and have two children (one child died at birth). She has a small haberdashery and she also has a blog about sewing, knitting and similar handicraft. Nothing much happens in her life. The prose is very calm, down to earth and you can feel the eventless life slowly pacing on. The neighbouring shop is run by her friends which are also twin sisters. They always play the lotto and convinces Jocelyne to play as well.

She pays 2 euros for a lotto shine from the machine and wins 18 million euro (or 18 547 301 euro and 28 cents)! She is shocked and doesn't know what to do. She receives a check from the lotto company and hides it in a shoe in her wardrobe and says nothing to her husband or anyone else. She continues her life and you follow her reflections of the past and present.  She considers that she has everything that she needs and she has a loving husband (at least these days), two wonderful children, her shop and her blog which has become very popular and she can now earn money also on the blog. She is afraid that if she tells her husband about the money her whole life will change. The only luxury she involves in is to write a wish list of things to buy. Even the wish list is very moderate and one easily realises that she could almost fulfil the list without the lottery win. I will not reveal the story any further since this would spoil the fun and the story does take some unexpected turns.

Some years ago I read in a Swedish magazine an article on people who have won a lot of money, what they did with it and what happened to their lives. Most people paid off their debts and then bought either a car, boat or any other vehicle of their dreams. However, 80% of all the people had spent all the money within five years! The other 20% had also paid off debts, treated themselves to nice purchases or taken a nice holiday but for the rest they invested the money into something and kept up their normal life style.

Well, think of what you would do and compare to what happens in the book. In the end I think most people agree that money does not make you happy but it can give you a comfortable life and you can help other people.

That is my third book for the European Reading Challenge. You can find the list of the other books here

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1dDMSxsV5zkRYVGEfQvAUJ3nynk1oU2EQYDJCc_-o0J8/edit

Monday, 21 October 2013

Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

Charles Dickens has been hot the last year, mainly since 2012 was the 200 anniversary of his birth, but also because after all this time his books are still read and admired. The book about his life that I have read is a brick stone of around 500 pages written by Claire Tomalin. Claire Tomalin is a new acquaintance to me but she will become a close friend in the future. This is an excellently written biography and when you look at the list of books by the same author you have a very interesting list of biographies that she has written. Can't wait to read about Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelly, Katherine Mansfield, Jane Austen, Samuel Pepys and Thomas Hardy.

Back to this book. It is a very thorough and very detailed book. It really must cover most aspects of his life. It covers his younger years, the beginning of his carrier as a journalist, his marriage to Catherine Hogart, his carrier as a writer, his travels (America, Italy, France) his friends, family and monetary problems etc etc. Dickens must have been a man out of the extraordinary considering his energy and his production. It seems he was never still always on the move. His working capacity was above everyone else in his surroundings.

It seems he was a man with a conscious. He often walked the streets of London and not only the fancy streets but the poorer ones. He could see in what misery people lived. His own background where his father was put in jail and the family had to come there to live with him gave him a scar for life. He himself had to start working as a teenager and although he did get an education he was more or less a self made man.

Dickens was one of the most popular writer during the Victorian time.
His books are still known and read today; The Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, A Christmas Carol, Bleak House, Hard Times, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations and many many more. I think most of them have been filmed several times and some of the have been made into musicals. His legacy is still alive today.


Friday, 18 October 2013

Book Beginnings on Fridays - New Challenge

I just joined this very interesting challenge. I love a good beginning of a book. The sentence(s) that capture you from page 1.

Anna's website:
www.annabelfrage.com/Home/
For my first 'beginning' within this challenge I start with the book I am presently reading; A Rip in the Veil by Anna Belfrage. This is about time travelling which is not really my very favourite theme of a book or movie (although I loved Back to the Future) however this book is rather fascinating. It is about Alexandra Lind who suddenly disappears without a trace. She finds herself transferred to 1658 on the deserted moors of Scotland (same place as where she disappeared in). The transfer is rather violent and she is injured but is luckily found by a nice guy Matthew Graham. Although it turns out that this guy has run away from the gaol and there are soldiers all over the place to hunt them.

In parallel you follow the people she left behind. It turns out that there are more time travellers around and what about her mother who mysteriously disappeared three years ago? The questions are mounting. The story continues to run parallel with past and present. I am now half way through and it is an easy read and stories within the story pops up along the way. It is the first story of the Graham saga of which the third one came out recently.

Here the beginning

The radio died first. Halfway through Enrique Iglesias' Hero there was a burst of static and the display went black. The dashboard lights gave up one by one, the steering wheel locked, the engine coughed, and the BMW glided to a stop by a crossroads.


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig

I just don't understand how I could have missed this book which came out already in 2007! Me being a fan of Gone With the Wind and all. Unlike the sequel Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley this is not a sequel but takes place at the same time as the story in Gone With the Wind but seen from another angle; that is Rhett Butler and his people. It is an absolutely fantastic book and a MUST for fans of Gone With the Wind.
Reading about the American south,
in the south of Europe, with a glas
of rose overlooking the Mediterranian
Hmmm, not bad

The book follows Rhett Butler and his family from his young years. His parents, brother and his sister who plays the biggest part. There are his childhood friends and the life in Charleston at the time. As the story evolves we also get to meet Scarlett, Melanie and Ashley Wilkes, Miss Pittypat, Mammy, Belle Watling and other old friends. He weaves a fantastic story but wholly credible around these people. The most impressive part is in the way he has taken on the characters. It can not be easy to write on characters created by another author but he does it as if they were his own. Very impressive.

Although, at the time, I read the sequel Scarlett through rather quickly I did not really like how the book saw the future of Scarlett and Rhett. However, as the story is told in this book it makes a perfect match for me. The author is new to me but he has also written Jacob's Ladder which is, according to The Virginia Quarterly "the best civil war novel ever written". I can't wait to put my teeth into that one!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Hampton Court, Henry VIII and others

Last weekend of September my husband and I went to London for the weekend. It is very convenient with Eurostar from Brussels centre to London centre. We are favourable with friends who have an apartment in London where we can stay (thanks a lot R & M). On Friday evening we enjoyed some lovely tapas in a Spanish restaurant and on Saturday we went to Barbacoa one of Jamie Oliver's restaurant. I think I don't have to mention how heavenly that meal was!

Saturday we spent at Hampton Court which was absolutely fabulous. I visited it many years ago but can only remember the maze (probably because I panicked when I couldn't get out of there)! The castle has recently been renovated and the tours through the various apartments is a real treat. Furthermore, the audio guides are really great and give you exactly what you need to know to enjoy what you see.

Hampton Court is forever connected to Henry VIII who never cease to fascinate us. However, part of the castle was renovated in the Baroque stile in the end of the 17th century by William III and Mary II which adds to the fascination of the place. The gardens was renovated accordingly and are quite fantastic even on a late September day.

The BBQ!
Dinner in preparation
We started with Henry's kitchen which is a fascinated place. The amount of food that was prepared here is almost beyond imagination. 75% of the meals eaten here consisted of meat! Hmm, high blood pressure, high cholesterol... Not that people in those days thought of that, but it seems that Henry had scurvy so he should have eaten more fruits and vegetables!




The Great Hall
The great hall in Henry's apartments is something extraordinary. Here we could meet the man himself and his fourth wife Catherine Howard (not that she remained long). Where ever you go you run into characters from Henry's court.  There was also a 'Bedchamber' exhibition. It seems the English looked south to the court of Louis XIV and his 'lever'. From time to time this is where the most important decisions were made by the kings and queens. William III's travelling bed was also displaced. It would not fit into a trunk in our modern cars if I may say. A truck more likely. It was a bed that any of us would like to have fixed at home!

Henry VIII and Katherine Howard
 The Baroque apartments was grand but not much furnished.  William III's private apartment is more comfortably furnished and you can imagine him relaxing there. It seems he was not a man for grand ceremonies and he enjoyed his private space.

We also had a look at Mantegna's grand painting 'Triumphs of Ceasar' which was rather fantastic. To know more about this master piece read 'The Seventeenth Century Lady' blog on the subject
http://www.andreazuvich.com/?s=Mantegna

Having spent 4,5 hours around the apartments it was time for a quick lunch and then a quick stroll around the gardens. There are a lot of activities going on during the year so if you are interested check up  http://www.hrp.org.uk/hamptoncourtpalace/

Having spent a day with royals I was thinking it would be interesting to read a book about the kings and queens of England from the beginning to the end. Just a little bit about everyone so you can get an idea in which order they came and who was the father/mother, son/daughter, brother/sister. Going to the WH Smith bookshop at Standstead airport I looked through the book cases. In the very end I came to history and biography books and what is hitting me? Exactly. The book I was thinking of. It turned out to be 'The Kings and Queens of England: A Biography' by David Loades. It is one of these books that is difficult to put down so in a few days I had gone through all the famous and less famous royals. I can only say that it was not easy to be a royal in the old times either. You never knew whether you would stay on the throne, be put away or even made away with, maybe ending up in the Tower? Having been visiting Hampton Court, come to think of it, you never knew what would happen if you were a wife either!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Nobel Prize in Literature 2013 - Alice Munro

We are heading towards the end of the year. In Sweden this is the time of the Nobel Prizes. In October when the prizes are announced and on 10 December when the prizes are delivered the eyes of most of the world is turned on Sweden. This is all due to one man, Alfred Nobel (1833-1896). He was a chemist, engineer, innovator and armaments manufacturer. He held 350 different patents of which dynamite was the most famous. In his will most of his money went into the establishment of the Nobel Prize.

The receivers of the scientific prizes are mostly unknown to the general public, but we normally can engage ourselves a little bit more in the prizes for literature and peace (given out in Norway). Especially the prize in literature. Having said that, I think this is probably the most controversial one. To the general public it seems it is often given to writers you have never heard about. Ok, it is fine we are happy to try a new writer. But many of them - at least I think so - are very difficult to read and you have to struggle with the book and do you understand anything of what is written? Hmm... This year is different though. Alice Munro seems to be a reader we all can read and love. I have not read any of her short stories yet but this will be on my list for the near future. Please share your experience of having read her.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

A wonderful bookshop

Hello again. I have been away for ten days and believe it or not no real access to the internet. At least not in such a comfortable environment where I can write something on my blog. But, I have not been lazy, been reading a lot and also visited a wonderful antiquarian bookshop in Palma city on Mallorca. And I want to share this experience with you.

Fitfh & Bond Fine Books (The English Bookshop, Calle Morey 7, Palma (just off Plaza Santa Eulalia - nottinghillbook@hotmail.com) is situated in the old city of Palma, its surrounding very fitting. You come inside and there are books absolutely everywhere. There are some small paths without books and here is where you have to carefully walk along. The whole place is like a labyrinth and where ever you turn there is a book case or books lying on the floor in piles. You come in on the top floor and work yourself downward 3-4 floors. When you are at the bottom of the shop you quietly wonder whether you will find your way up again!


You find here both old and new books in all matters; fiction and non-fiction on literature, geography, history, marine and military history, art, music, film etc, etc plus a room with new pocket books where you can choose 3 for 10 euros. I spent two hours there this time and came out with 6 books for 30 euros. Since I am a book freak I could have bought another 10 if I hadn't controlled myself.


Here are the books that I bought:

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Stories by R.L. Stevenson (this is for my Brontë Reading Group)
Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCraig (look out for a review of this book which will come in a few days)
A Quiet Flame by Philip Kerr
Anybody Out There by Marian Keyes
Thackery: A Writer's Life by Catherine Peters
Mrs Jordan's Profession by Claire Tomalin (presently reading her book on Dickens)



 

If you are in Palma de Mallorca this place is a must! Good luck in venturing into the labyrinth of books. I actually think of Carlos Ruiz Zafón's 'The Shadow of the Wind' and his 'Cemetery of Forgotten Books' when I am here. Closer to that place I don't think you can come. Maybe I should look for it in Barcelona when I am there next.


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Alchemist's Daughter by Katharine McMahon

Autumn has come to Brussels. The leaves are changing colour and the air is more damp. Today, however, as I write this we have a wonderful sunny day with blue sky and clear air. Over 22 C I would say. A book suitable for this time of the year is the Alchemist's Daughter. I got it on a book swapping day and it has been on my shelves for some time. A fascinating book, full of the earth and dampness of the autumn and with a story that takes twists and turns all the time.

Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition and from antiquity onwards it has claimed to be the precursor to profound powers. The definitions are varied but some of them more common ones historically are the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone, the ability to make gold or silver and the development of an elixir of life. It is today recognised as a contribution to modern chemistry and medicine but differs from them in its inclusion of Hermetic principles and practices related to mythology, magic, religion and spirituality (these definitions from Wikipedia).

This description fits well in describing this book. It includes, science, philosophy, religion and magic. It tells the story of Emilie who is the only child of John Selden, know as the alchemist. He comes from a long line of scientist and his all life is spent within the sphere of natural philosophy and alchemistry. He educates his only daughter to go in his footsteps.

The story starts when Emilie is around 19 years old. We get to know that her mother died when she was born and she has been raised by her father who has taught her all he knows about science and alchemy. She has been his own scientific experiment. Her father has - as the scientist he is - kept an 'Emilie Notebook' where everything about her is written down, but she is not allowed to see it.  She


Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Being There by Jerzy Kosinski

I got this book from my son who had to read it in school for his English class. I say had to read, because for him it is almost a punishment to read a book. Unfortunately, he is not so fond of reading as I am myself. This is really an easy read, a very thin book but it says it all. I remember the film when it came in 1979 starring Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine and I always wanted to see it but never got around. Well, it is not too late to watch the movie yet.

The book is about a gardener named Chance. He has lived his whole life in a room adjacent to a closed in garden in a big house in New York. It is owned by the Old Man as Chance calls him. We don't get to know too much about him only that he has 'taken care of' Chance and given him this position. Chance has never left the house. It is hinted that he might be the son of the Old Man but it is not for sure. He has been given a room, a TV and a job as a gardener and this is his whole life. When his work with the garden is finished he goes to his room and spends the evening watching TV.

Then one day the Old Man dies. The lawyers who take care of the estate are somewhat puzzled since there is not track on paper that Chance has been employed. There are neither any birth certificate, no passport, no id whatsoever. He has to leave the house with his suitcase. Difficult to say his age but I would guess around 40. This is the first time he is outside the house. The first time he tries to cross the street he has a small accident and is slightly hit by a limousine owned by another rich guy called Rand. Mrs Rand is in the car and feel obliged to take him home to be nursed. That is how he ends up in this house of an important business person who is also close to the president.

Mr Rand takes a liking to him and thinks he is something of a genius. Chance only speaks in metaphors connected to the garden since this is the only reference he has. However, everybody thinks he has a insight in the presently bad economic situation and he becomes the hero of the day. He meets the President, makes TV interviews and are popular on all kinds of gatherings in the political elite.

Here an extract when he meets the President first time in a private meeting with Mr Rand. The President asks him what he thinks about the bad season in The Street.

'Finally, he spoke: 'In a garden,' he said, 'growth has its season. There are spring and summer, but there are also fall and winter. And then spring and summer again. As long as the roots are not severd, all is well and all will be well.' He raised his eyes. Rand was looking at him, nodding. The President seemed quite pleased.
'I must admit, Mr Gardiner,' the President said, 'that what you've just said is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I've heard in a very, very long time.' He rose and stood erect, with his back to the fireplace. 'Many of us forget that nature and society are one! Yes, though we have tried to cut ourselves off from nature, we are still part of it. Like nature, our economic system remains, in the long run, stable and rational and that's why we must not fear to be at its mercy. 'The President hesitated for a moment, then turned to Rand. 'We welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, yet we are upset by the seasons of our economy! How foolish of us!' He smiled at Chance. 'I envy Mr. Gardiner his good solid sense. This is just what we lack on Capital Hill.' 

A wonderfully written, rather short book.  The language is as simple, beautiful and straightforward as the mind of Chance. A refreshing book in this complicated world of today. I can highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The End of your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

This is one of the books I grabbed at Sterlings bookshop the other day. The title had my attention right away. Anything with a book club in it because it has to be a book about books. This is so much more. The writer has written a book about the books he and his mother are reading after she is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The mother was always a great reader and loved books. They decided to have a book club between the two of them. They decided on the books, read them and discussed them, often while waiting for the chemo therapy.

This could easily be a very sentimental book but it is not. It is all through written in a matter of fact way and keeps a wonderful balance between the terrible times that are coming, a son's love for this mother and how to create quality time together.

The mother Mary Anne Schwalbe seems to have been a wonderful person. Full of energy and care for everyone around her. She was working all her life (not so common for women to work when she was young) as well as raising a family of three children. She was active in teaching, international humanity organisations and had a never ending regard for refugees around the world. Her last project was a library project in Afghanistan. A quite fantastic woman.
The son, Will, does not understand how she can always be so present and always seem to pay attention to all the people around her. For him, and as I am sure, for a lot of us we simply can't always give our attention like that. He found out when he was accompanying here to an IRC dinner that she was invited to:

'Held in the cavernous gilded ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, the dinner and award ceremony were powerful and moving as always. I watched Mom greet people, dozens and dozens of people.
How do you do that? How do you talk to fifty or a hundred different people without interrupting them or yourself? And I understood suddenly what Kabat-Zinn  means about mindfulness - it isn't a trick or a gimmick. It's being present in the moment. When I'm with you, I'm with you. Right now. That's all. No more and no less.'

...and later in the evening

'"The worse it gets in Afghanistan," she added, "the more convinced I am that we need to see this library project through. It may not be the biggest thing we can do, but it's something. And we've just got to do something".

Monday, 2 September 2013

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell

The Sterling Bookshop in Brussels had an open day on Saturday 31 August to inaugurate their new book cafe. I had to have a look of course and being in a bookshop I had to buy a few books. I managed to limit myself to two! One of them is a really funny book on Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops collected by Jen Campbell. The comments come from The Edinburgh Bookshop, and the Ripping Yarns bookshop in London and from some other bookshops around the world. I inaugurated the cafe and started to read this easily read book. I was sitting there on my own and laughing about the hilarious comments people make. It continued during my metro ride home and during cooking dinner in the evening. For your benefit and as a teaser I quote some of the comments here.

Customer: I read a book in the sixties. I don't remember the author, or the title. But it was green, and it made me laugh. Do you know which one I mean?


Customer: Do you have any books by Jane Eyre?

Customer: Do you have any books in this shade of green, to match the wrapping paper I've bought?

Customer: What kind of bookshop is this?
Bookseller: We're an antiquarian bookshop.
Customer: Oh, so you sell books about fish.

Customer: I'm going to America next year and I'd like to read about it before I go.
Bookseller: Sure, our travel section's probably your best bet.
Customer: No, i don't think so...Do you have any stories about cowboys and Indians?
Bookseller: ...

...and many many more. Read, enjoy and laugh!

Friday, 23 August 2013

The Garden of Evening Mist by Tan Twan Eng

There is a goddess of Memory, Mnemosyne; but none of Forgetting. Yet there should be, as they are twin sisters, twin powers, and walk on either side of us, disputing for sovereignty over us and who we are, all the way until death.

Richard Holmes, A Meander Through Memory and Forgetting


This is the introduction to this wonderful book on memory and trying to forget. The book is written on such wonderful prose so it is almost like reading poetry. It tells the story of Yun Ling. She is a chinese malayan and she and her sister are taken prisoners by the Japanese during their occupation of Malaysia 1941-42. Yun Ling is the only survivor of this prisoner's camp. After the occupation she is trying to find out where this camp was situated but she finds out that nobody knows. 

The introduction of the books is as follows:

'On a mountain above the clouds once lived a man who had been the gardener of the Emperor of Japan. Not many people would have known of him before the war, but I did. He had left his home on the rim of the sunrise to come to the central highlands of Malaya. I was seventeen years ofd when my sister first told me about him. A decade would pass before I travelled up to the mountains to see him.

He did not apologise for what his countrymen had done to my sister and me. Not on that rain-scratched morning when we first meet, nor at any other time. What words could have healed my pain, returned my sister to me? None. And he understood that. Not many people did.'


After the war Yun Ling goes into law, partly to be able to trace and sentence war criminals but when she realises that this takes her nowhere, in the end she becomes a judge. She retires a little bit early from this work due to a fatal illness. She goes back to Yugiri (the garden of evening mist) to await her death. From here we get glimpses from three different times of her life. 

After she left her first job she goes to visit her friends Magnus and Emily, boers who came to Malaysia in the beginning of the century to set up a tea plantation. There is also Magnus nephew Frederik. She stays with them while her real purpose is to see the Japanese gardener, Aritomo, to ask him to make a garden in the memory of her sister. He refuses, but after some consideration he tells her he will take her on as an apprentice so that she can create the garden herself.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Duchess of Milan - A novel of the renaissance by Michael Ennis

You know what it is like when you find such a good book that you never want it to end. When it does, it is like parting with a good friend. This is such a book. As you saw from my last blog I am into history (again) for the time being. Therefore I grabbed this book from my TBR shelves. And it sure was a good choice?

I love books set in a historic perspective and especially when following history as well as this one. It's almost like reading a biography about a historic person. To sideline a bit I would just like to mention a couple of my favourite historic biographies:  'Potemkin' by Simon Sebag Montefiore (absolutely excellent). Luckily I have two other of his books on my TBR shelves ('Stalin' and 'Jerusalem') so something to look forward to. Another favourite writer of biographies is Mary S Lovell ('A Scandalous Life' (Lady Jane Digby), 'A Rage to Live' (Sir Richard Burton the explorer, absolutely fantastic) and 'The Mitford Girls'. There are still books from her to explore.

Beatrice
Back to this wonderful book which is from 1992 and I bought it on a sale years ago. Michael Ennis says in the foreword that this is as work of fiction but very true to historical facts. The persons he writes about have all lived and the events that take place are all real events. He has recreated their world as exact as possible with the help of letters, paintings, archive material and research in the actual places. The rest is in the imagination of the writer and is imagination is very good.

He argues that the last decade of the 15th century is a time when a lot of things happened in the world (Columbus discovery and other seafarers and travellers) but for most people the amazing place was renaissance Italy where trade and culture were blooming and it was an era that also saw geniuses like Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci.


Duke of Bari - Il Moro
The main characters are Beatrice d'Este and Isabella of Aragonia. They are cousins and married to the duke of Bari  and duke of Milan. The duke of Milan is not interested or capable of governing Milan so the duke of Bari is the regent. The book covers the period from 1490-1498 which indeed was turbulent times in Italy with the powerful city states of Milan, Venice, Florence, Rom and Naples among others. The problem was that they were all independent and too small to be able to defend themselves from an external threat. This threat existed in the French king who wanted to conquer the kingdom of Naples. To come there he had to pass almost all of Italy.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Summertime - Sweden time and this year historic time

Summertime is the time I go to Sweden. This year I was very lucky with the weather; sunshine but not too hot. I spent the time in Karlskrona which is situated in the south east corner of Sweden by the sea. It is built on islands so wherever you go you see the water. It is possible to walk around the whole city on the water front. Karlskrona was founded in 1680 by Carl XI who needed an ice free harbour for his war ships. The province of Blekinge where Karlskrona is situated was perfect. This area as well as Skåne and Halland was given back to Sweden from Denmark in the peace of Roskilde in 1658. However, the Danes were still trying to take it back so a harbour in this area seemed perfect.

This year I decided to go historic in my reading (as you see from the reading list) and discover more about this city where I lived between 1968 and 1980.


 The city has many houses still from the 18th and 19th century. Unfortunately there was a big fire in 1790 which destroyed most of the houses in the city centre. However, wherever you turn you still see something historic. Since it was founded as a military city it has been more or less ruled (for good and for worse) by the military until the end of the last century. During the last years Karlskrona has gone from a closed military city to a prosperous IT centre with an influx of new people as well as using its historical context in the tourist promotion.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Tess of the d'Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy

Tess, Tess, Tess...! What can I say. What a miserable story this is. I recently read the wonderful 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' and earlier I re-read 'Far from the Madding Crowd'. I loved the two books and started with Tess with a very positive mind. What a gruesome story! Misery, misery, misery. Here we have poor Tess who is the daughter of a poor farmer. Their name is Durbeyfield and someone put in the head of the father that they are descendants from the noble family of d'Urberville. Since there is a family with such a name nearby the mother arrange for Tess to go there to work for the widow of the d'Uberville. It turns out that the son  Alec arranged everything and did not tell his mother of the possible relationship. So Tess come to work for the mother and all is well until Alec one evening takes advantage of Tess. She immediately quits her job and goes back to her family. It is soon discovered that she is pregnant and she gives birth to a son who soon dies. She does not inform Alec of the events.

After the death of her son she seeks another job as a dairy maid. Here she has a comparatively wonderful time and she meets the love of her life, the righteous Angel Clare. He is a character too good to be true and of course she falls in love. He wants to marry her and she refuses since she thinks she is not good enough for him considering her past (as if that was that unusual in those days). However, he is the son of a priest and to her he is above everything. In the end she agrees to marry him. She wants to tell him her story before the wedding but he reveals that he has also something to tell her and that they should wait until the wedding. Her wise mother tells her not to tell anything at all and she should have followed this advice.

Once back from church they have rented a house to spend their honeymoon in. They start with the revelations although it would have been good if they had consummated the marriage before! Angel tells her of a woman he met in London and that he was intimate with. She is very happy because she thinks than that he will understand her mistake. However, when she tells of her same mistake as his he has no understanding what so ever! Just figures...!

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The Midwife's Daughter by Patricia Ferguson

This is a wonderful book set in England in the beginning of the 20th century. It is about a midwife, Violet  Dimond, who lives in a small town. Her husband is dead and her son has emigrated to America. Her twin sister Bea,  with which she has never been of equal terms lives nearby and is running a home for orphans. On one visit Bea shows her a black girl of 2 years that has been found on the street. Violet is connecting to the girl since she reminds her of her dead daughter and decides to adopt her. She names her Grace.


The story tells of the difficulty to grow up in a small community being black at the time when people had hardly seen a black person in their lives. But also how difficult it is to be different. Prejudices and narrow mindedness is part of the life. But it is also a story about the changing times coming up towards the first world war. The poverty and the strife to survive the day.

The story follows Grace, Violet's and Bea's lives. Things are not always what they seem to be. The relationship between the sisters are coming to a point where they finally can talk to each other and look back to how their different lives developed. Is maybe Grace someone they know? Was there a purpose that she came in to their lives?






The Lucy Kincaid series by Allison Brennan

I recently reviewed the book 'Love Me to Death' by Allison Brennan. I liked it so much so I threw myself over the rest of the books in the series (Kiss Me Kill Me, If I Should Die, Silenced, Stalked, Reckless and Stolen). The books are just soooo good I can't stop reading. The stories are absolutely fantastic, so thrilling with many different layers and I can't remember when I read such suspense novels last. Maybe the books of Henning Mankell can match. There you also have a story and a suspense that makes it difficult to put down the book.

This is a series of books and like with the Sookie Stackhouse novels it is a continuing story that covers a shorter period. Where one book ends the next one takes up. That makes you feel like part of the family and you follow the development of the relationship between Lucy and Sean and their relationship with their respective families and jobs.

It seems there is a new trend in writing series with characters that belong to a tight family or 'clan'. I am thinking of the Sookie Stackhouse novels and the Twilight series for example. I am sure there are other books out there with the same setting. The persons within the family or clan help each other and there is a goodwill feeling of caring about each other. It is a nice change to all those stories where people seem to only want to hurt others.

This book sees Sean Rogan go undercover for the FBI and is set to join his former hacker gang. Lucy meanwhile is making her training with the FBI. Neither Lucy, nor his family, understands what is happening. The job is not a clear cut as it seems and as usual other actors have other plans. Thrilling as it can be!

I said in my earlier review of the books that I thought they had something of the books of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. There is the same day to day, hour to hour scheme of the story and the whole set is only covering days or a week. I just finished the last book of the series 'Stolen' which was so exciting that I had to force myself to stop reading at 2.30 a.m.! The stories are seen from the perspective of different persons and I find myself thinking or screaming in my head 'don't do it, don't do it' when the heroine or the hero is doing something because they don't know as much as I do. It is all very thrilling.


Saturday, 15 June 2013

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam

When finding this title on the Kobo site I got intrigued. This is for someone like me who can hardly do anything before breakfast... even when breakfast comes at 10 a.m.! However, just having gone into early retirement and finding that on the contrary to what I believed, my days have become shorter and I am achieving less then when I was working, I thought this was a good hint.

And so it is. It turns out that a lot of the most successful people in the world (at least on the American continent) go up at 5-6 a.m., go for a jogging run, reading the papers, spending time with their family and in this way manage to spend some valuable time by themselves and with their family before heading for a stressful work.


It sounds really good and I got a little bit inspired.  I do realise that the reason I don't get anything done is because I start the day too late and I spend around 1,5 hours breakfasting, reading the papers and e-mails etc. By the time I have dressed it is already mid-day and half the day is gone. I must admit though that I will not be able to go running at 6 a.m. My body is screaming on such exercises at this time of the day.  I do go up at 7 a.m. to prepare breakfast for my husband and son, but what happens then? Yes, your are right, I go back to bed an sleep another hour!

Well, this book has inspired me to not go back to bed but do some useful time in the morning. Since I was never a jogger this is really hard for me. However, I have started on a 10 week scheme to come into shape where you jog 1 minute and run 1 minute and increasing to 2 and 3 and the last week 10 minutes jogging! Hmm, we will have to see. Just today I am doing the 3rd round of the 1st week!


Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Love Me To Death by Allison Brennan

It seems that every time I now go into the Kobo books web-site I find another book to purchase. Perfect with the E-Reader, then you can start reading right away. The summary of the latest book in the series of Lucy Kincaid 'Stolen' by Allison Brennan drew my attention. I realised quickly that this is a series so looked for the first book. I downloaded 'Love Me To Death' and finished it over two days. This was really a surprisingly good suspense book.

It tells the story of Lucy Kincaid, her PI boyfriend to be Sean Rogan, FBI agent Noah Armstrong, other family members and agents. Such a book could easily become a cliché but Allison Brennan manages to keep the whole book within all limits. While reading I was thinking of good old fashioned thriller books 'noir' like the books of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Mike Hammer and filmed versions like 'The Maltese Falcon' and 'The Big Sleep'.  The story is really exciting and is moving forward all the time. 

We get to know that six years earlier Lucy Kincaid was held hostage, beaten, raped, filmed for videos to use on the internet and almost died in the process. She came out of it alive and has spent the last six years to get over her trauma. She now has her university degree in computer science and psychology, is working on voluntary bases with an organisation helping abused women and is dreaming about an FBI job. All her family is already working with law enforcement and her boyfriend to be is a partner with her brother in a security firm which is on a borderline  between legal and illegal activities. 

The Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers by Henry James

Some years ago I read a book which has become one of my favourite ones. It is a biographical novel on Henry James called 'The Master' by Colm Tóibín. It is an absolute masterpiece and has to be read if you are in to both Henry James and Colm Tóibín. Since then I have read several books by him and 'The Master' really made me want to read something of Henry James. I can remember having read 'Washington Square' but not remember it (have to read it again). I was therefore quite eager to read 'The Turn of the Screw' when my Brontë reading group put this on the list. Since 'The Aspern Papers' is in the same Penguin book I finished both of them within a couple of days.


The 'Turn of the Screw is a ghost story. A group of people are gathered in an old house around Christmas. They amuse themselves by telling ghost stories. One of the guests, Douglas, says he has the most dreadful story to tell, but it is written down, placed in a safe and he has to send for it. The manuscript was written by his sister's governess. When she died some twenty years earlier she had sent the manuscript to him for safe keeping. The mystery surrounding the story excites the guests but they have to wait for a couple of days before the package arrives. The story thus begin...

The fact to be in possession of was therefore that his old friend, the youngest of several daughters of a poor country parson, had at the age of twenty, on taking service for the first time in the schoolroom, come up to London, in trepidation, to answer in person an advertisement that had already placed her in brief correspondence with the advertiser. This person proved, on her presenting herself for judgement at a house in Harley Street that impressed her as vast and imposing - this prospective patron proved a gentleman, a bachelor in the prime of life, such a figure as had never risen, save in a dream or an old novel, before a fluttered anxious girl out of a Hampshire vicarage. One could easily fix his type; it never, happily, dies out. He was handsome and bold and pleasant, off-hand and gay and kind. He struck her, inevitably, as gallant and splendid, but what took her most of all and gave her the courage she afterwards showed was that he put the whole thing to her as a favour, an obligation he should gratefully incur. She figured him as rich, but as fearfully extravagant - saw him all in a glow of high fashion, of good looks, of expensive habits, of charming ways with women. he had for his town residence a big house filled with the spoils of travel and the trophies of the chase; bit it was to his country home, an old family place in Essex, that he wished her immediately to proceed.


Thursday, 2 May 2013

The Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris

Yes, continuing with the vampire theme. Charlaine Harris' books about supernaturals in the fictional town of Bon Temps in Louisiana is like a fairy tale (also including faries) and a lot of other creatures like vampires, shapeshifters, werewolves (of dogs or tigers or panthers or....) meanads and a lot of other things you have never heard about. In the centre of all this attention is telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse. Her boring life changes dramatically when she falls in love with Vampire Bill. This is in a time when vampires have come out into the open and have more or less the same rights as humans. From now on her life is never boring. She herself, has a little bit of fairy blood which attracts vampires and other supernaturals. With her specific telepathic gift (or curse as she sees it herself) she is hunted by various groups who need her to read the mind of people.


The books are the base for the successful TV series "True Blood". The series is far more juicy than the books. Screen writers are often straying away from the original story and so it is here as well. However, the books are enjoyable in themselves but are written entirely from a Sookie perspective. In the TV series you follow more in details also the persons surrounding Sookie which works very well for TV.


Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

I really loved her first book 'The Tenderness of Wolves'. A lovely story set in the wilderness of Canada in the mid 19th century. Her second book which I just ran into by chance (thank you very much) is called 'The Invisible Ones' and has a similar theme but a totally different setting. Both books are about people disappearing and the search for them. The new book is about private detective Ray Lovell. He is approached by an older man looking for his daughter Rose who disappeared 7 years ago. She married a man from another family, moved to them and was never heard of again. The man is of gypsy origin and Ray is half gypsy so that is why he is getting this assignment.

The story is told from two different points of view; from Ray's side and from JJ's side. JJ is a teenager boy from the family where Rose married into. The parallel stories covers more or less the same time frame and it is interesting to see how the two sides see things and are affected by the investigation. JJ's family is living on a small campsite by themselves. The are very special and do

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Four new books in my Library

As of January 1, 2013 I went into retirement. A new life lies ahead of me. Time for more blogging possibly!

When I left I got a voucher from my colleagues for buying books. This is what I did this week. Bought four new books and have still some money to go. I was quite happy to find four quite different books. 'The Notebook' by Nicolas Sparks,  which is an easy read. I finished it in a couple of hours. A fantastic love story (many tears from me as well). I happened to come into the middle of the film one evening and the little I saw made we want to buy this book. In all the misery in the world it is sometimes nice to just read a very nice, romantic love story.

The second book which I am reading for the moment is more of a fantasy fiction book. 'The Left Hand of God' by Paul Hoffman got fabulous reviews. Quite opposite to the first book you don't find that many nice people here. The beginning is very dark and reveals a hard life. Let's see wether there will be some more light and romantic moments. Hmmm, I am not sure!

The third book I recognised from a review 'The Lighthouse' by Alison Mogre. It says that 'it looks simple but isn't...'. If the second book is more down-to-earth this might need a little bit more thinking. It promises a thrilling end and I am not sure this necessarily means a happy end. Who knows.

Last but not least I found a new book by ace Umberto Eco, 'The Prague Cemetery'. It is a tale about the complex nineteenth century history. Conspiracies are promised and you never know what can come out of such tales. Looking forward to read.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Reading in 2012


Another year is gone. As far as reading is concerned it was a good year for me. A lot of new books and new experiences in sharing reading. Thanks for my friends Alex (The Sleepless Reader) and Patty (Three Tales of a City) (thank you for that) I got into blogging and created my own blog. Yet still in its first infancy but hope that 2013 will see it expand and grow. 2012 was the first year that I read and recorded the books. I have always been a vivid reader but it adds and extra touch to really note it down and from time to time write a review.

Looking back on the 70 books I read last year I was lucky to read one of the best books just in the end of the year. It was a Christmas present for my son (yes, I am still trying to get him interested in reading!) but so far I am the only one who has read it. It is a book for youngsters but can be read by adults without any problems. It is an absolutely fantastic book by Ransom Rigg 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children'.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Rigg

Jacob Portman grew up listening to stories from his grandfather. The grandfather escaped Poland during the was and came to a home on a small island outside the Welsh coast. Jacob always thought that the stories was made up. As he gets older and challenge his grandfather about the truth the grandfather gets very upset and shows him some photographs. As the old man gets more and more eccentric the contact between the two fades out.

One day his grandfather calls him and says that the monster has come for him. Jacob drops what he has and hurries over to his grandfather's house. He finds it empty but with blood on the floor. He traces the blood out through the garden into the woods where he finds his grandfather on the ground dying. The grandfather utters a few cryptic last words and tells him to go to the island since he is not safe where he is. Jacob hears something in the bushes, flashes his pocket lamp and see a monster which then disappears.

Jacob starts thinking of what his grandfathers' last words and when he get holds of a box with old photographs he decides to head for the island. It is a fantastic story which has been based on a lot of photographs of 'peculiar' children. These kind of children or adults that once upon a time were shown as celebrities in circuses. The fantastic photographs are included in the book which also gives the story a sort of legitimacy. Lovely characters and settings and a very interesting, sometimes dark story makes this the best book of the year for me.

Loving Che by Ana Menendez

Another favourite book of the year is 'Loving Che' by Ana Menendez. It's about an ex-cuban exile in Florida who left Cuba during the revolution and grew up with her grandfather. When he dies she finds some letters and she decides to go to Cuba to look for her past. She is, maybe like most immigrants or people who had to run away from their country lost in the world. She thinks that looking for her past and to know what really happened to her mother and to know of her father will be what she needs.

It is a very interesting and touching story. The prose is absolutely wonderful, one of the most beautiful I have read. It is there through all the book. Here some examples:

As a child, I had been one with weather. When we went down to the farm on the weekends, and the nights without moon were so black that you could scarcely make out your fingers in the dark, I used to lie awake, battered this way and that with the sound of the wind. If there was a storm coming, I could feel it miles away, smell it; and often I would wake the family, my parents and all the cousins, with my howling. This is when I began to wonder if perhaps the outer world was no more real than our imagination and all its thrashings but a mirror of our own thoughts. And I wonder now if our recorded history isn't like this, if our 
idea of history isn't another way of saying an idea of ourselves. 


And his writings were so obscure that no one ventured to guess out loud. Sometimes I suspected that he proposed the complete destruction of language as a way to progress. Other times I wondered if he wouldn't destroy everything in order to preserve the purity that had once resided somewhere in the sentence but that was not under attack by modern man, with his babble of radios and half written newspapers. We might ponder, he wrote in a typical passage, why the Romance languages are so rich with syllables and colours, trellised with flowers and diversions so that we cannot say a plain thing even when we think it and all our endeavors become hopelessly entangled in the baroque.

When I turn, Ernesto is sitting at the edge of the couch, his legs spread out before him, watching me.
What are you afraid of? I watch him. I have never considered this question. As a child I was afraid of the black nights, the duendes in the walls. But it was more than that. Because I continued to be afraid long after I stopped believing in duendes. I open my eyes and look at the man before me, his beard so close, the rough hair that moments ago had touched against my rawness. I am afraid of his going, of the black space 
he will leave when he vanished from my life. 

The book came out already in 2003. A highly recommended read. Her first book was short stories and she also came out with her third book, 'The Last War' in 2009. Might be worth looking for this one.