Sunday, 1 February 2015

L'herbe des nuits (Herb of the Night) by Patrick Modiano

As usual, you could almost say, the Nobel Prize winner in Literature in 2014, was not widely known. Patrick Modiano, is a French writer with around 30 books to his name. Some of his books were already translated into Swedish, but very few into English. I suppose that has or will change soon. The reason for the prize according to the Nobel Committee is "for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies."

I thought that maybe this writer is a little bit more accessible than a lot of the others. So when my friend Lena asked if I wanted to borrow, 'Nätternas gräs' (L'herbe des nuits) I said yes. It is a short book, and it is about memory. Jean, the narrator, is a writer and he wanders around the streets of Paris and villages in the outskirts, to remember something that happened 40 years ago. He met Dannie, a mysterious woman, who at one point just disappeared. She befriended a crowd of various, also rather mysterious persons, bordering on criminality, or something else? Once they all disappeared from his view, the police contacted him about his connection to the group.

We follow Jean through the streets of Paris, and his notebook. He always makes notes about everything; name of cafés, streets, signs, shops, etc. While reading his notes 40 years later he is trying to find answers to what happened to Dannie and his own feelings for her.

It is an easy read, and I can really recommend it. The streets of Paris are nicely described, and we can follow along Jean's and Dannie's life at the time. When he happens to run into the police officer that once interrogated him, he gets a few more clues on Dannie. Jean's story is told in a matter of fact way, and without emotions, neither then nor now.  I would not mind reading another book by him. The Academy's Permanent Secretary Peter Englund suggest to start with one of Modiano's books that has been translated into English; Missing Persons. 

Friday, 30 January 2015

Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up the Bodies" adapted for television

Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell
It is with great pleasure that I have started to watch the BBC adaption of Hilary Mantel's two books, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. The first two parts of the six part series do not disappoint. They have managed to capture the calm undertone, in spite of all the things happening, that pervades through the books.

Normally, BBC does not make you disappointed when they adapt historical drama. Neither this time. The cast contains some of the finest actors in England, and it is all very professionally done.

Peter Kosminsky, the director of the series, said:

This is a first for me. But it is an intensely political piece. It is about the politics of despotism, and how you function around an absolute ruler. I have a sense that Hilary Mantel wanted that immediacy. ... When I saw Peter Straughan's script, only a first draft, I couldn't believe what I was reading. It was the best draft I had ever seen. He had managed to distil 1,000 pages of the novels into six hours, using prose so sensitively. He's a theatre writer by trade. The Guardian

Do have a look if you have the possibility

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

New interesting books

I recently found the web-site of Bookreporter and am now subscribing to some of their newsletters. In the latest version I found two books that sound especially interesting. There are of course many more, especially a lot of thrillers/mystery books that are interesting, but these two stuck out for me.

CARELESS PEOPLE is a unique literary investigation: a gripping double narrative that combines a forensic search for clues to an unsolved crime and a quest for the roots of one of America’s best-loved novels. Acclaimed scholar of American literature Sarah Churchwell reconstructs the events of that pivotal autumn in 1922, revealing in the process new ways of thinking about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece.
Penguin Books * 9780143126256

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Series vs Single Book

It seems that the new trend in book writing is to write a series rather than a single book. There are different kind of series; those where the story continues over a number of books, or, those where the story is finished in each book, but the main character reappears in several books. The last option has been a trend for a long time, especially within the detective story genre. Some of the most famous sleuths belong to this category; Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Sam Spade and others. I think this is a favoured category among readers.

Monday, 26 January 2015

The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan

Author: Kate Riordan
Format: Paperback
Published: 15 Jan 2015

Two generations, two women, two mansions and a hidden secret going down through history. This is my kind of book indeed. Kate Riordan's first book does not disappoint you.

The story is told with two voices; Alice’s and Elisabeth’s. Elizabeth is the unhappy woman, in the 1890s, who once inhabited Stanton house. Alice is the young girl, finding herself unmarried and pregnant in 1933s London. Her shameful mother makes up a story that she is a widow and sends her to a childhood friend in the country to await the birth.

Alice is unhappy about the whole situation when she arrives at Fiercombe Manor.  The house is an old and lovely Tudor house, but she can feel a non-visible presence. Someone is watching her. Old houses like this always have their own ghosts, but Alice feels that there is something more. Little does she know how Elizabeth's life will be intertwined with her own and how her own life will change forever.

Mrs Jelphs, her mother’s childhood friend, and Mr Ruck are both old and have been working for the family since Elizabeth’s time. They keep a close guard upon her, and she does not know why. While she is getting familiar to the estate and the surroundings, she discovers the grounds of the now, torn down, Stanton house, and the ‘Eremitage’ by the river. There is a suffocating feeling hanging over the whole valley, which is not entirely caused by the heat wave. When she finds the diary of Elizabeth in the ‘eremitage’ she slowly discovers the story of a woman, who, in a lot of senses, seems to be connected to her own, present day, situation. A woman who is frightened and in distress.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Enjoying a winter week in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy

For the first time in years I am enjoying a real winter. We were lucky enough that the snow came just the day before we came. We had a lovely drive from Bergamot via lake Garda to MdC. Here some photos along the way.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Jane Austen and Names by Maggie Lane

After finishing Jane Austen and Food  it was time to get on with Maggie Lane’s Jane Austen and Names. Names have a special meaning to most of us, and mostly names mean more than just the name itself. In this study, Maggie Lane has looked at an area which has not been given much attention. She looks at the history of English names up to Jane Austen’s time and the pattern of giving names in society, and the way Jane Austen uses names that fits the personality of her characters, as well as their place in society. Unlike most novelists of her period, Jane Austen used names found in everyday life.

Sometimes she uses a name to explain the characteristics; “Her Charlottes are usually clear-eyed pragmatists and her Henrys are rarely without charm. More often, characters given the same name have nothing in common at all. In one novel Fanny might be a despicable, mercenary snob, and in another the timid, tender-hearted heroine. George Wickham and George Knightley are morally worlds apart. No fewer than three of Jane Austen’s most vulgar characters are named Anne; but so too is the possessor of the most refined mind she created.” 

In her six published novels Jane Austen uses 26 boy’s names and 55 girls’ names. They are repeated through her novels for the naming of 114 male characters and 127 female characters. For some characters she just uses only surnames; Mr and Mrs Allen, Mr and Mrs Bennet, Colonel and Mrs Wallis etc.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Jane Austen and Food by Maggie Lane

Jane Austen never gave much detail to food and eating in her novels. Still, food is a very important part of her writing, since all references to food and eating, although indirect, suggests something about the character who refers to it. Maggie Lane, an English author of several books about Jane Austen and her time, has examined the books to find out Jane Austen’s attitude to food and how it affects the social sphere and customs of her characters. Maggie Lane starts:

“One of the characteristics of Jane Austen’s style is how sparing it is of physical detail. She never pauses in her narrative to give a lengthy description, whether of faces, clothes, rooms, meals or any other facet of material life. … Jane Austen pays us the compliment of letting us imagine for ourselves. …”

Jane Austen grew up in the countryside as one of eight children. Her father was a reverend, but also a gentleman farmer, so the household was more or less self sufficient during her early life. Her mother catered for this big family, and we can imagine the logistic of preparing things to eat every day, which must have been full time work. Although Jane Austen did not herself care to much about this duty (it was taken over by her sister Cassandra when her mother died) she nevertheless had an idea of how the food issue worked.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Reading translated literature

This post is inspired by Dolce Bellezza's post on the reason to read international literature. For Americans, and other English speaking countries, it is surely not a necessity, considering the number of authors and books that are published in this world. However, for a small country like Sweden, we would be very poor if we did not read foreign literature. I think that if you live in a big country like the US you have most things around you and might not have to look abroad. For smaller countries it is a necessity. Since most of the European countries are now in the European Union, we can see ourselves as a bigger entity. However, the countries in Europe are definitely more different than the various states in the US. Each country has their own history and culture. Through history we were often at odds with each other, so it is really comforting to know that today we strive for a common goal.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Monday morning inspiration

It is not always easy to write inspired blog posts regularly. For a book blog it depends on finishing
books to have something to write about. Although there are a lot of other 'bookish' matters that you can write about, but that depends entirely on inspiration. I have spent this - once again very windy - morning to read inspirational blog posts, recommendations, inspirations, good advice and so on, to start out this week in a good way.