Sunday Post #54 – 2/20/2022

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More cold, more snow. Nothing new here.

  • On Friday, we had our monthly book club meeting online. Will share the books we talked about on February 24.
  • Yesterday, for our Cultural Saturday breakfast, we watched the first episode of The Blue Planet, one of many fabulous documentaries by David Attenborough. We are twenty years late, I know, but it is still enjoyable today. This should keep us busy for a few months.
  • We may actually use another Saturday morning to finish watching the ballet Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev, in a modern choreography by Nureyev (Opéra de Paris).

Since last Sunday, on the blog:


 Lean On Me   Les Dimanches de Monsieur Ushioda

Strega Nona

📚 Lean on Me, by Serge Joncour
Translated from the French by Louise Rogers Lalaurie and Jane Aitken
US publication date: March 1, 2022
by Gallic Books
Literary fiction/romance

Received for review
Read it also for
The 2022 Books in Translation Reading Challenge

VERDICT: Romance and social analysis of the impact of urban life on human nature. An exquisite French mix.
My full review is here

📚 Les Dimanches de Monsieur Ushioda, by Yasushi Inoue
Published in 1970
Translated by Jean-François Laffont and Tadahiro Oku
Read for The Japanese Literature Challenge 15
The 2022 Books in Translation Reading Challenge
and The Classics Club

VERDICT: Humoristic take on Japanese modern life. With warnings related to the environment.
Come back tomorrow to read my full review.

📚Strega Nona, by Tomie dePaola
Picture book published in 1975

I saw this on another blog, and the cover was so cute I checked it out right away at my library.
The illustrations are indeed fabulous, this is a style I thoroughly enjoyed.
The beginning of the story was great, but I didn’t like at all the ending. I thought the choice of the punishment was stupid and didn’t really fit with the original intention of the boy.
Strega Nona could have turned the boy’s action into something so much more positive than this stupid thing to do. Definitely not eco-sensitive either.


The Box Man  The Final Days of Abbot Montrose

Chez les Flamands

Once Upon a River

📚 The Box Man, by Kobo Abe
Published in 1973
Reading for The Japanese Literature Challenge 15
The 2022 Books in Translation Reading Challenge
and The Classics Club

“Kobo Abe, the internationally acclaimed author of Woman in the Dunes, combines wildly imaginative fantasies and naturalistic prose to create narratives reminiscent of the work of Kafka and Beckett.
In this eerie and evocative masterpiece, the nameless protagonist gives up his identity and the trappings of a normal life to live in a large cardboard box he wears over his head. Wandering the streets of Tokyo and scribbling madly on the interior walls of his box, he describes the world outside as he sees or perhaps imagines it, a tenuous reality that seems to include a mysterious rifleman determined to shoot him, a seductive young nurse, and a doctor who wants to become a box man himself. The Box Man is a marvel of sheer originality and a bizarrely fascinating fable about the very nature of identity.”

📚  The Final Days of Abbot Montrose, by Sven Elvestad
Published in 1917
Reading for The 2022 Books in Translation Reading Challenge
and The Classics Club

I was contacted by Kazabo Publishing. They specialize in forgotten gems, best-sellers in their country of origin at one point, but never yet translated into English. Totally my type of books, especially for classic mysteries. This one is a classic from Norway.

“From the founder of the modern Norwegian crime novel, a story that will keep you thrilled and mystified.
It is an evening in early May when the quiet of Montrose Abbey is shattered by the sounds of shouting and broken glass. When the police arrive, they find the abbey library ransacked and bloodstained. Broken furniture and a burning carpet bear witness to a violent struggle. And the abbot himself, the scholarly Abbot Montrose, is missing. Only a torn fragment of his cassock remains, caught in the wrought-iron fence surrounding the abbey.
The police, the press, and citizens of this northern city fear the worst. What could have befallen the missing abbot? Has he been murdered? Abducted?
As world-renowned Detective Asbjørn Krag and his partner, Detective Sirius Keller, begin to unravel the tangled knot of clues left behind, they find themselves in the city’s infamous Krydder District, “where the dark doorways are as close together as rat holes in an old warehouse.” The more answers they find, the more questions seem to pop up.
This well-constructed, evocative and witty mystery by Sven Elvestead, also known as Stein Riverton (for whom the Norwegian Riverton Prize was named), will keep you guessing until the very last page.”

📚  Maigret chez les Flamands (Maigret #15), by Georges Simenon
Published in 1932
Available in English as The Flemish House.
Reading for The 2022 Books in Translation Reading Challenge
and The Classics Club

I am reading this one with one of my French students.
With this #15 (out of 75!), we are back near the water, this time in France near the Belgian border. Awesome greyish ambiance as always with Simenon.
Talking about Maigret, this week a new movie, Maigret, is coming out in France, with Gérard Depardieu as Maigret himself. I have the feeling this is going to be really good. I can’t wait to have it available in streaming.

“Maigret is asked to the windswept, rainy border town of Givet by a young woman desperate to clear her family of murder. But their well-kept shop, the sleepy community and its raging river all hide their own mysteries.”

🎧 Once Upon a River, by Diane Setterfield
464 pages/16H27
Published December 4, 2018 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Historical fiction

I have a few more hours to go, and not sure yet where this is going. It’s good, but I find it too long and not as good as The Thirteenth Tale.

“On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the river Thames, an extraordinary event takes place. The regulars are telling stories to while away the dark hours, when the door bursts open on a grievously wounded stranger. In his arms is the lifeless body of a small child. Hours later, the girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can science provide an explanation? These questions have many answers, some of them quite dark indeed.
Those who dwell on the river bank apply all their ingenuity to solving the puzzle of the girl who died and lived again, yet as the days pass the mystery only deepens. The child herself is mute and unable to answer the essential questions: Who is she? Where did she come from? And to whom does she belong? But answers proliferate nonetheless.
Three families are keen to claim her. A wealthy young mother knows the girl is her kidnapped daughter, missing for two years. A farming family reeling from the discovery of their son’s secret liaison, stand ready to welcome their granddaughter. The parson’s housekeeper, humble and isolated, sees in the child the image of her younger sister. But the return of a lost child is not without complications and no matter how heartbreaking the past losses, no matter how precious the child herself, this girl cannot be everyone’s. Each family has mysteries of its own, and many secrets must be revealed before the girl’s identity can be known.
Once Upon a River is a glorious tapestry of a book that combines folklore and science, magic and myth. Suspenseful, romantic, and richly atmospheric, the beginning of this novel will sweep you away on a powerful current of storytelling, transporting you through worlds both real and imagined, to the triumphant conclusion whose depths will continue to give up their treasures long after the last page is turned.”


The Year of My Life

📚 The Year of My Life, by Kobayashi Issa
Published in 1973
Reading for The Japanese Literature Challenge 15
The 2022 Books in Translation Reading Challenge
and The Classics Club

An autobiography in haibun – a mixed form of haiku and prose.


L'Oiseau bleu

📚  L’oiseau bleu, by Maurice Maeterlinck
Play published in 1905 – Belgian classic
Available as The Blue Bird in French

There was a mention to it in Les Dimanches de Monsieur Ushioda! Now I’m intrigued!

“A story of a brother and sister who help a little girl whose illness can only be cured by the magical Blue Bird of Happiness. To find the bird, Mytyl and Tyltyl quest through the Land of Memory to the Palace of Night. The children get help from the good fairy Bérylune.”


The Final Days of Abbot MontroseSee information above.

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57 thoughts on “Sunday Post #54 – 2/20/2022

  1. I’m eager to hear your thoughts about Lean on Me. I will look for your review.

    Our book club chose to meet online in February, too. We are hoping we can meet outdoors at one of our houses in March. We might even be able to meet in person at the library if the weather is bad.

    A lot of old picture books are surprising to read today. There is a lot of focus on solving problems with violence or revenge. I’m not sure that most people think these are good ways to solve problems today!


  2. Interesting book list. I keep meaning to return to Maigret! I’ve been reading a few very recent Japanese publications as well, though some are older books that have only been translated recently.

    best… mae at


  3. No snow here, but we have had Storm Eunice and swiftly on her heels Storm Franklin! I have mostly been too tired for reading, but when I haven’t been I have continued re-reading Eldest by Christopher Paolini. Take care and happy reading in the coming week. 🙂


  4. I have not read any of the books you’ve posted, Emma. The Box Man looks intriguing. I love the cover of l’Oiseau bleu. I’ve had a particularly busy week as I’m taking a 5-week writing class that is bootcampish in nature. Can’t keep up. Bonne semaine!


  5. I am trying to start a neighborhood book club. Several people said they were interested. I have one person who said she will for sure come, the others have been radio silence, we’ll see how it goes.


  6. The Blue Planet series is so beautiful. I hope you enjoy it.
    I have read many books by Tomie dePaola and Strega Nona is one of my least favorite. My kids never liked it either.
    I really like the sound of the Final Days of Abbott Montrose. I hope it will be translated into English at some point.
    Have a great week!


  7. I had Once Upon a River on my wish list for a while, but after listening to an extract of the audiobook, I decided it wasn’t for me. Will look forward to your final opinion, although I doubt, I’ll change my mind.


  8. Welcome to the world of 1970s children’s literature, where the punishments are heavy-handed and we can just let the environment figure itself out. Some of the nursery rhymes I recall from my youth would scare the pants off kids now.

    I didn’t know Mike Martin’s book had been translated into French. I enjoyed that book. Hope you like all your new reads.

    Thanks for sharing and for visiting my blog.


  9. I enjoyed ONCE UPON A RIVER, but I agree it wasn’t as good as THE THIRTEENTH TALE (probably my favorite novel). LEAN ON ME looks good! I may check that one out.

    Have a great week!


  10. I vaguely remember Strega Nona, I always assumed it was a folktale from long ago, but I guess that isn’t quite the case and I was surprised to google and find that the author wrote a whole series of Strega Nona books. Go figure. Hope you have a nice week with less cold and snow–


    • It looks like the author made it first appear as a retelling of an old folk tale, but there’s debate on the question. Yes, there’s a whole series, but if it’s with the same mindset, I’ll pass, though the art is fabulous


  11. My daughter and I read Merry Christmas, Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola a couple or so years ago and really enjoyed it. We haven’t read any of the other books in the series though. I hope you are having a great week and enjoying your reading!


  12. Pingback: 2022: February wrap-up | Words And Peace

  13. I’ve started reading Maigret. Bought half a dozen old editions at the Bouqinistes along the Seine. I always check the dates. His books are a great “peinture” of France de l’entre-deux-guerres. Historic really.
    A bientôt.


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