Sunday Post #55 – 2/27/2022

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More cold, more snow. Nothing new here. Did I already write this introduction last week?

  • Yesterday, for our Cultural Saturday breakfast, we watched the second episode of The Blue Planet, one of many fabulous documentaries by David Attenborough.
    In this time of ugliness, beside urgent prayer for peace, it is good to focus on beauty in the natural world. I had no idea such stunning creatures existed so deep down on the ocean floor.

Since last Sunday, on the blog:


 A Brush With Birds  

📚  A Brush With Birds: Paintings and Stories from the Wild, by Richard Weatherly
Published in 2020 by Hardie Grant
Christmas gift!

This book was offered to us for Christmas.
I love birding and art, but didn’t know the Australian artist Richard Weatherly.
This is a gorgeous book (the cover is a good example).
In it, you follow Weatherly throughout the world, as he studies and paints birds. He exclusively paint from live observation in nature, not from picture!
The book made me discover many Australian birds, with so many amazing colors. The author is a specialist on fairy-wrens.
The book is divided into parts relative to each continent. There are not many pages on North America, but the choice of the wood-duck should delight many readers.
Some passages are a bit dry, with lots of scientific details.
But other parts are fascinating travel journals, with anecdotes and humor. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Antarctica. The chapter where he tells about the disastrous consequences of Australian wild fires are so so sad.
If you have bird lovers in our life, this is a gorgeous gift for them!

The Final Days of Abbot Montrose 

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

VERDICT: A clever plot symbolizing different layers of the Norwegian society in the early 20th century. A nice glimpse into the impressive work of Sven Elvestad, aka Stein Riverton.
My review will be live on March 2

  Chez les Flamands

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

With this novel, we are back near the water, this time the River Meuse, in the French town of Givet, not far from the Belgian border. Incidentally, it was fun visiting Givet through Google Streets, seeing the Meuse there, the narrow streets, the railway station, and the larger square in front of the church, with bars, restaurants, and hotels around, as mentioned in the novel.
A Flemish inhabitant of this small city asked Maigret to come from Paris to investigate about a murder her family is accused of. I’m not going to say more about the plot.
I have to admit, I wasn’t really surprised at who did it, though I’m not completely clear about the why even after finishing the book, just like after I finished the previous book in the series.
But as usual, Simenon is fabulous at creating and describing an ambiance. The city seems both half asleep and violent, with the cold rain and the raging waters of the Meuse, flooding the area.
What is special to this novel, is the description of the animosity between French and Flemish people in the same city.

   Once Upon a River  

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

I enjoyed a lot The Thirteenth Tale, so I blindly launched into this one. I listened to it all only because I had bought it, otherwise I would have DNFed it.
Some positive things: the narrator Juliet Stevenson is absolutely fabulous, in her various intonations and voices, from little girls and boys, to kind women and rascal men. She can do it all!
The theme of storytelling was interesting, especially at the beginning. There are with fascinating characters, and intriguing details on the Thames and on the famous photographer of it, Henry Taunt (1842-1922), but the plot got really boring.
I would probably have enjoyed this ten years ago, but this type of historical fiction is no longer for me.


The Box Man  After the Romanovs

  Love in the Time of Cholera The Radium Girls  

📚 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

Really enjoying the quirkiness and the deeper social themes under it.

“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.”

📚  After the Romanovs: Russian Exiles in Paris from the Belle Époque Through Revolution and War, by Helen Rappaport
Expected publication: March 8th 2022 by St. Martin’s Press
Ecopy received for review

I really enjoyed The Romanov Sisters, by the same author, who’s really an authority for the Romanovs and this period. This topic is very much of interest to me, and the author really knows her stuff.

Paris has always been a city of cultural excellence, fine wine and food, and the latest fashions. But it has also been a place of refuge for those fleeing persecution, never more so than before and after the Russian Revolution and the fall of the Romanov dynasty. For years, Russian aristocrats had enjoyed all that Belle Époque Paris had to offer, spending lavishly when they visited. It was a place of artistic experimentation, such as Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. But the brutality of the Bolshevik takeover forced Russians of all types to flee their homeland, sometimes leaving with only the clothes on their backs.
Arriving in Paris, former princes could be seen driving taxicabs, while their wives who could sew worked for the fashion houses, their unique Russian style serving as inspiration for designers like Coco Chanel. Talented intellectuals, artists, poets, philosophers, and writers struggled in exile, eking out a living at menial jobs. Some, like Bunin, Chagall and Stravinsky, encountered great success in the same Paris that welcomed Americans like Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Political activists sought to overthrow the Bolshevik regime from afar, while double agents from both sides plotted espionage and assassination. Others became trapped in a cycle of poverty and their all-consuming homesickness for Russia, the homeland they had been forced to abandon.
This is their story.

📚  Love in the Time of the Cholera, by Gabriel García Márquez
Published in 1985
Reading for The 2022 Books in Translation Reading Challenge
and The Classics Club

For February, The Classics Club invited us to read a classic romance. I accepted the challenge and decided to choose this book that’s on my classic list. Not sure everyone would classify it as romance, but the word love is at least in the title!
I started it late, so will not be done by the end of the month.
I’m enjoying it a lot, especially the amazing description of characters… and the parrot!

“In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is heartbroken, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs—yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.”

🎧 The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women, by Kate Moore
404 pages/15H52
Narrated by Angela Brazil

Published May 2, 2017, by Sourcebooks

This book was very popular five years ago, and I’m finally listening to it.
It is both fascinating and horrible. The content is great, but I find the narrator annoying. I don’t like her voice. I used a credit for this, so I’m stuck, So I try to really focus hard on the content and ignore the voice.

“The Curies’ newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.
Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive—until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.
But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women’s cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America’s early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights that will echo for centuries to come.
Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives.”


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.


The Echo Wife

📚  The Echo Wife, by Sarah Gailey
February 16, 2021, by Tor Books

I discovered this book through Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy, and it sounds really good.

“Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be.
And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband.
Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and both Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up.
Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty.”


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Constellation Red is my Heart

 The Most Beautiful Book in the WorldThe Woman with the BouquetThree Women in a Mirror 


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Thanks for your input, much appreciated!

29 thoughts on “Sunday Post #55 – 2/27/2022

  1. I’m curious about The Radium Girls but I definitely won’t be listening to it on audio. Looks like you have lots of good reading coming up! And The Echo Wife is very good😁 Have a good week😁


  2. I’ve added A Brush with Birds to my wish list, but it seems unlikely I will find a copy of it around here. I’m glad to see you enjoyed it so much.

    I thought The Radium Girls was excellent when I read it. It was recommended to me by the publisher the last time I went to BookExpo.

    I’m curious about The Echo Wife. I’m busily reading picture books for my Around the World in 80 Books challenge, so I probably won’t get to anything else for a while.


  3. I always enjoy listening to Attenborough, and I remember The Blue Planet being a nice series if I’m thinking of the same one.

    The Simenon book sounds wonderful. I love the sound of the ambience.

    The Echo Wife is really good and very thought provoking.


    • Thanks for your feedback, Yes, I’m sure it’s the same Blue Planet series, I’m just very late to it. We don’t want TV, and we often watch things later on, on DVD from the library


  4. I enjoyed the movie made of Love in the Time of Cholera, very darkly romantic. Wish I had more time to read the books I have in French. I’m a slow middle French reader. Have fun this week.


  5. I haven’t read In the time of Cholera yet, but it is actually on my TBR. So is Once upon a river. Sorry to hear it wasn’t a complete hit for you, but I will remember the audio recommendation.

    Have a good week Emma!


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