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Hmm, it’s been a while since my last Sunday Post, things are so busy. Many people keep talking about how much more time they have thanks to the quarantine, but I have experienced just the opposite. So the first things to go is blogging time.
But I have been doing a lot of reading recently, including catching up with review requests from 2019!
JUST READ THIS WEEK
📚 Un crime en Hollande, by Georges Simenon
Published in 1931. Counts for The Classics Club
This is book 8 in the Maigret series, that I have been reading along with one of my French students.
His books are getting more and more atmospheric. This one, as most so far, takes place near the water (sea and canals).
Maigret is called to investigate the death of Professor Popinga in Holland, as he died the day after a visiting French professor gave a conference there. The French teacher is the culprit. So what happened to Popinga, and why?
There were great details about the ambiance in the port town of Delfzijl, way up north, with the local lazy workers, spending most of their time gossiping around the harbor and spitting away, and different other groups in the city, their obvious or hidden relationships, their behaviors influenced by their religious stance, and the façade they keep towards each other. An asphyxiating milieu for younger people… The pettiness of it made me think about Jacques Brel’s song Les bourgeois…
Simenon’s details makes you feel and smell the places he talks about. There are also real time pieces, like people listening to these very old radio transistors. As for local details, I learned about the common juniper drink in Holland, basically the origin of our current gin.
It seems Maigret understands quite quickly what’s going on, but it takes him time to be able to unveil concrete proofs of it. In this one, I actually felt that the dénouement scene was dragging on a bit too long. And maybe it’s because I had actually identified the culprit and even the motive (for once!) behind what was done!
📚 Berezina, by Sylvain Tesson
Published in 2015. Audiobook
Tesson and a few friends decided to drive on sidecars from Moscow to Paris, to retrace Napoleon’s route after his debacle.
As usual in all the Tesson’s books I have read or listened to, the narrative is absolutely stunning, here full of details about the environment and the Russian culture that Sylvain appreciates so much.
It is obviously also packed with historical details, thanks to books and memoirs the team reads by night. The descriptions of this episode I read in French textbooks a few decades ago are miles away from the horrific reality. Some passages here sounded worthy of a horror novel, alas that was reality, as described in journals of soldiers who experienced the whole thing.
I like how Tesson tries to capture Napoleon’s character, and how Russians and French see him.
If you love reading books about Napoleon, you absolutely need to read this one – it is available in English, with the same title.
If you understand French, I obviously recommend it in the original, or even in its audio form: Franck Demesdt is an excellent narrator that made me feel I was part of this unusual expedition.
📚 Inhabitation, by Teru Miyamoto
Published in 2019. Review upcoming.
A new to me author, and I definitely want to read more by him, even if I found it a bit dragging after a while.
CURRENTLY READING/LISTENING TO
📚 Or What You Will, by Jo Walton
Expected publication: July 7th 2020 by Tor Books
Received for review
Just starting. I’m curious about this novel about books, and wondering how it’s a fantasy, a genre a bit outside my comfort zone, with a few exceptions.
“He has been too many things to count. He has been a dragon with a boy on his back. He has been a scholar, a warrior, a lover, and a thief. He has been dream and dreamer. He has been a god.
But “he” is in fact nothing more than a spark of idea, a character in the mind of Sylvia Harrison, 73, award-winning author of thirty novels over forty years. He has played a part in most of those novels, and in the recesses of her mind, Sylvia has conversed with him for years.
But Sylvia won’t live forever, any more than any human does. And he’s trapped inside her cave of bone, her hollow of skull. When she dies, so will he.
Now Sylvia is starting a new novel, a fantasy for adult readers, set in Thalia, the Florence-resembling imaginary city that was the setting for a successful YA trilogy she published decades before. Of course he’s got a part in it. But he also has a notion. He thinks he knows how he and Sylvia can step off the wheel of mortality altogether. All he has to do is convince her.”
📚 And the Earth Will Sit on the Moon: Essential Stories, by Nikolai Gogol
Published December 5th 2019 by Pushkin Press.
Received for review through Edelweiss.
I usually don’t like too much the short story genre, but I’m curious to read more from this Russian master. I read Dead Souls years ago, but can’t remember anything about it.
This new collection contains five of the most famous ones.
I like how the editor connects their themes to the author’s life.
📚 And in audiobook, Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy
Expected publication: August 4th 2020 by Flatiron Books.
Receive through Libro.fm
“Franny Stone has always been a wanderer. By following the ocean’s tides and the birds that soar above, she can forget the losses that have haunted her life. But when the wild she so loves begins to disappear, Franny can no longer wander without a destination. She arrives in remote Greenland with one purpose: to find the world’s last flock of Arctic terns and follow them on their final migration. She convinces Ennis Malone, captain of the Saghani, to take her onboard, winning over his salty, eccentric crew with promises that the birds she is tracking will lead them to fish.
As the Saghani fights its way south, Franny’s new shipmates begin to realize that the beguiling scientist in their midst is not who she seems. Battered by night terrors, accumulating a pile of letters to her husband, and dead set on following the terns at any cost, Franny is full of dark secrets. When the story of her past begins to unspool, Ennis and his crew must ask themselves what Franny is really running toward—and running from.
Propelled by a narrator as fierce and fragile as the terns she is following, Migrations is a shatteringly beautiful ode to the wild places and creatures now threatened. But at its heart, it is about the lengths we will go, to the very edges of the world, for the people we love. ”
BOOK UP NEXT
📚 A Wild Sheep Chase, by Haruki MurakamiPublished in 1982.
This is the next book the Online Murakami Bookclub (on Discord) will be talking about, so I’ll start reading the first chapters around June 14.
“His life was like a recurring nightmare: a train to nowhere. But an ordinary life has a way of taking an extraordinary turn. Add a girl whose ears are so exquisite that, when uncovered, they improve sex a thousand-fold, a runaway friend, a right-wing politico, an ovine-obsessed professor and a manic-depressive in a sheep outfit, implicate them in a hunt for a sheep, that may or may not be running the world, and the upshot is another singular masterpiece from Japan’s finest novelist.”
LAST 2 BOOKS ADDED TO MY GOODREADS TBR
📚 White Rage, by Carol Anderson
Published in 2016
I was looking for a serious, scholarly book on the issue, and looks like this one is excellent:
“From the Civil War to our combustible present, acclaimed historian Carol Anderson reframes our continuing conversation about race, chronicling the powerful forces opposed to black progress in America.
As Ferguson, Missouri, erupted in August 2014, and media commentators across the ideological spectrum referred to the angry response of African Americans as “black rage,” historian Carol Anderson wrote a remarkable op-ed in the Washington Post showing that this was, instead, “white rage at work. With so much attention on the flames,” she writes, “everyone had ignored the kindling.”
Since 1865 and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, every time African Americans have made advances towards full participation in our democracy, white reaction has fueled a deliberate and relentless rollback of their gains. The end of the Civil War and Reconstruction was greeted with the Black Codes and Jim Crow; the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision was met with the shutting down of public schools throughout the South while taxpayer dollars financed segregated white private schools; the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 triggered a coded but powerful response, the so-called Southern Strategy and the War on Drugs that disenfranchised millions of African Americans while propelling presidents Nixon and Reagan into the White House.
Carefully linking these and other historical flashpoints when social progress for African Americans was countered by deliberate and cleverly crafted opposition, Anderson pulls back the veil that has long covered actions made in the name of protecting democracy, fiscal responsibility, or protection against fraud, rendering visible the long lineage of white rage. Compelling and dramatic in the unimpeachable history it relates, White Rage will add an important new dimension to the national conversation about race in America..“
📚 Marie Antoinette’s World: Intrigue, Infidelity, And Adultery In Versailles, by Will Bashor
Release date: June 15, 2020
at Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
I have already read two excellent books by the author on Marie Antoinette. He’s really excellent.
Now the good news is I’m organizing a virtual book tour for it, and I still have a few free copies for you! Click on the cover to reserve your spot!
The author writes really well, not dry at all!
“This riveting book explores the little-known intimate life of Marie Antoinette and her milieu in a world filled with intrigue, infidelity, adultery, and sexually transmitted diseases.
Will Bashor reveals the intrigue and debauchery of the Bourbon kings from Louis XIII to Louis XV, which were closely intertwined with the expansion of Versailles from a simple hunting lodge to a luxurious and intricately ordered palace. It soon became a retreat for scandalous conspiracies and rendezvous—all hidden from the public eye.
When Marie Antoinette arrived, she was quickly drawn into a true viper’s nest, encouraged by her imprudent entourage. Bashor shows that her often thoughtless, fantasy-driven, and notorious antics were inevitable given her family history and the alluring influences that surrounded her. Marie Antoinette’s frivolous and flamboyant lifestyle prompted a torrent of scathing pamphlets, and Bashor scrutinizes the queen’s world to discover what was false, what was possible, and what, although shocking, was most probably true.
Readers will be fascinated by this glimpse behind the decorative screens to learn the secret language of the queen’s fan and explore the dark passageways and staircases of endless intrigue at Versailles.”
BOOK RECEIVED THIS PAST WEEK
📚 Strength Training Over 40: A 6-Week Program to Build Muscle and Agility, by Alana Collins
Expected publication: June 16, by Rockridge Press
Ebook received for review through Callisto Publisher’s Club
“Start the next stage of your life strong with a comprehensive 6-week strength training program that guides you through building and maintaining total-body strength, so you can keep doing the things you love to do for years to come. You’ll find illustrated exercises and stretches, complete with step-by-step instructions and weekly home and gym workout routines that put all the moves together.“
📚 I listened for about 30 minutes to Berezina. I really enjoy Sylvain Tesson art of description. As often, there’s a lot of vodka flowing, but I guess you can forgive him when his books are so fascinating! This is a real page of history, as Tesson and a few friends are driving on sidecar from Moscow to Paris, to retrace Napoleon’s route after his debacle. Amazing details!
📚 Reading Inhabitation. I wonder how this is going to evolve between the two main characters, not to mention the lizard! A new Japanese author to me, I’ll definitely will want to read more.
📚 Almost done with Un crime en Hollande, #8 by Georges Simenon, that I read along with one of my French students
The series is getting so atmospheric! I think I have identified the killer, but at 91%, we still don’t know for sure. Maigret makes the dénouement scene drag on and on, delightful and painful at the same time!
📚 Today I finished Un crime en Hollande and my audiobook Berezina. See the review to both at the beginning of this post.
📚 So I began Migrations. I had to double check if it was really a novel! It sounds so real and on the hot theme of what we have been doing to our planet.
📚 Inhabitation is a bit less fun now. There’s so much packed in this book, and the long discussion on Lamentations of Divergences, a late 13th century short Buddhist text, got boring.
📚 I’m really going to love Migrations, with Franny’s wild project, to follow the migration path of possibly the last arctic terns.
📚 I finished Inhabitation. The ending is perfect! I need to try another book by this author. Any suggestion?
📚 Migrations is getting more complex. I love all the back and forth between Franny’s current project and her past. It’s getting more and more mysterious.
📚 I did tons of gardening today, major weeding, and separating and replanting about 60 leeks, so I got to listen a lot to Migrations and I am half done already.
Now we have different periods of Franny’s past, and more and more dark elements surfacing. I have read the ending is heart wrenching, so I’m starting to prepare. The writing is excellent and the narrator has it perfect!
I wonder f we even know what year that trip is actually taking place.
THIS PAST WEEK ON
WORDS AND PEACE
and FRANCE BOOK TOURS
📚 Book of the month giveaway: your choice between two books
COMING UP ON
WORDS AND PEACE
FRANCE BOOK TOURS
- Reviews of books received from Callisto Publisher’s Club
- A few late reviews
- More Orthodox book notes
As I’m catching up on things, I didn’t participate in the Classics Spin. BUT I’ll be talking about 20 Books of Summer 2020
HOW WAS YOUR WEEK?