Sunday Post #42 – 4/11/2021

Sunday Post

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Already a month since last time I was able to participate in the #SundayPost #SundaySalon! And I have missed it!
It’s been a bit crazy here schedule wise, with more Church services (yeah, I am still in Lent until May 2, the Orthodox Pascha/Easter this year!), a lot of French classes, and a lot more business at France Book Tours, including the preparation for our first webinar: “French artists in fiction: four lives, four authors”. 


Since last post a month ago, I have read 8 books and listened to 5 novels, plus listened to 11 Biblical books. So as usual, I’m actually only going to talk to you about what I finished this past week.

  The Swedish Cavalier  Appointment with Death  

📚 The Swedish Cavalier, by Leo Perutz
Published in 1936
Read for the #1936Club, the Classics Club, and the Books in Translation Challenge.

I have already experienced a lot of wow reading moments this year, with some delightful surprises. That is definitely one of them. It had been on my TBR for a while, because I heard a French author say a lot of good things about it. I now understand why.
Very unique and fascinating mix of genres, think of Cervantes and Kafka maybe. How come this Austrian author seems to be so little known? I don’t remember seeing this book on many blogs, including those covering the classics.
As it’s for the #1936Club, you will have to come back after April 12 to read my review. But here is part of the synopsis (one more, I’m not happy with the full synopsis that reveals too much):

“A thief and a nobleman, both down on their luck, cross paths on a bitter winter’s day in 1701. One, known locally as “The Fowl-Filcher,” is fleeing the gallows; the other, the callow Christian von Tornefeld, has escaped execution to fight for his Swedish king. Neither will reach his destination. Sent with a message to secure aid for von Tornefeld, the thief falls in love with his companion’s secret fiancée. He resolves to win her love for himself, and through a clever stratagem, exchanges his fate for the other man’s.”

🎧 Appointment with Death, by Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot #19)
Published in 1937
Listened to for the Classics Club, and personal project to listen to all of HP.

I didn’t remember this story at all. Great description of a dysfunctional family around a most detestable matriarch. There were many reasons for each of her children to kill her, so which one did it? Only the great Hercule Poirot could figure it out!
I liked the portrayal of rich tourists of the time visiting the Middle East (Israel, Jordan, and Egypt). It also made me want to visit Petra!
There was also a neat epilogue, set five years later.

“Among the towering red cliffs of Petra, like some monstrous swollen Buddha, sat the corpse of Mrs Boynton. A tiny puncture mark on her wrist was the only sign of the fatal injection that had killed her.
With only 24 hours available to solve the mystery, Hercule Poirot recalled a chance remark he’d overheard back in Jerusalem: ‘You see, don’t you, that she’s got to be killed?’ Mrs Boynton was, indeed, the most detestable woman he’d ever met.”

🎧 I also listened to 8 Biblical books, as part of my project to listen to the whole Bible:
these are very short books of the Minor Prophets: Jonah, Obadiah, Micah, Joel, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Nahum, Haggai.


  A Swim in the Pond in the Rain The Archipelago of Another Life

Piège pour Cendrillon

📚 A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, by George Saunders
Published on 1/12/2021

I have never read his novels or short stories. This is based on “his class on the Russian short story to his MFA students at Syracuse University”. “he shares a version of that class with us, offering some of what he and his students have discovered together over the years. Paired with iconic short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol, the seven essays in this book are intended for anyone interested in how fiction works and why it’s more relevant than ever in these turbulent times.”

I have not read that type of literary criticism for a long time, and I so thoroughly enjoy how the author analyses the functioning of each story.

📚 The Archipelago of Another Life, by Andreï Makine
Published in 2016 in French and 2019 in English

I have meant to read this one since it came out, and then Carol at Cas d’intérêt proposed we do a buddy-read. You can join us, reading it either in French or in English, our posts will be bilingual. I have read the first 25%, this is gorgeous writing!

I have found 3 versions of the synopsis in English! The one on Goodreads is quite bad, compared to the French one, the one by the publisher is slightly better. The one that captures better the spirit, the ambiance, and is closest to the French is on Amazon:

“At the borders of the Russian Far East, at the limits of the Pacific Ocean, inside a land that seems to escape history, at the sundown of the Stalin era, unfolds an incredible manhunt.
Who is the criminal with many faces that Pavel Gartsev and his comrades must track into the eye of the taiga?
When Pavel discovers the true identity of the fugitive, his life will be turned on its head. The hunt will become an exalting experience that makes another life possible, in the frail eternity of love.”

🎧 Piège pour Cendrillon, by Sébastien Japrisot
Published in 1962
Listening to for the Classics Club

Before jumping into the next Hercule Poirot, I looked at my Wishlist on EStories (same as Audible really, but cheaper), and saw this title, by an icon French author of mysteries I have never read!!
The beginning is weird, at least in audio. The whole book is only 4 hours, so I have the feeling I am going to have to listen to it twice.

It has been translated as Trap for Cendrillon:
“A racy, chilling noir mystery of mistaken identity, deception, and greed by the author of A Very Long Engagement. A suspicious fire consumes a beach house at a southern French resort. Two young women — friends on the surface but deep down foes — are trapped inside. One is rich, the other poor. One is killed and the other survives, burned beyond recognition and in a state of total amnesia. Plastic surgery gives her a new pretty face, but it can not restore her memory of her identity. Who is she? The heiress or her friend? A killer or an intended victim? Only one person knows the truth about the betrayal and hair-raising terror which took place that night. And she is not about to give it away…Winner of France’s most prestigious crime-fiction award, Trap for Cinderella is an engrossing tour de force by a master of mystery and deception.”

I am also still reading:

📚 Dictionnaire amoureux du polar, by Pierre Lemaitre
Published on October 22, 2020

📚 The Future of Buildings, Transportation, and Power, 
by Roger Duncan and Michael E. Webber
Published in July 2020


Monet and Oscar

📚 Monet & Oscar: The Essence of Light, by Joe Byrd
To be published in May 1st, 2021
Will be reading for France Book Tours

This is one of the four historical novels that will be discussed during our webinar.
We have some review copies available!

“At the end of WWI, Oscar, an American soldier in a French Army hospital, learned of his mother’s death while recovering from his war wounds. He remained in France to search for his father, an Impressionist painter, whose identity his mother never revealed. Through curious circumstances, he’s hired to be a gardener for Claude Monet.   Oscar jumped at the opportunity to further his landscaping career by working in Monet’s world-famous garden at Giverny. He hoped the most renowned Impressionist could help him find his father.
Monet, tired and disheartened by his ailing health and deteriorating eyesight, took Oscar along on visits to his previous painting venues and allowed him to meet some of his art-world friends. These meetings provided insights into Monet’s life and art and clues to Oscar’s father’s identity.
On a train returning from Paris to Giverny, Oscar met and fell in love with Isabelle, a beautiful young American artist, who introduced him to the emerging 1920’s fashions and mores. She is the daughter of one of Monet’s major American clients, which interests him. Over Monet’s daughters’ objections, Isabelle and Oscar become regular guests at family gatherings as their infatuation blossoms into a unique love affair. Oscar’s past, present, and future collide in a way that he could not have anticipated.”


    Agatha Christie's Poirot Murder for Pleasure

📚 Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Greatest Detective in the World, by Mark Aldridge
Published March 9th 2021 by William Morrow

Planning to read this when I finish listening to all of Hercule Poirot, as a wrap-up.

“From the publication of Agatha Christie’s very first book in 1920 to the release of Sir Kenneth Branagh’s film Death on the Nile in 2020, this investigation into the phenomenon of Hercule Poirot celebrates a century of probably the world’s favorite fictional detective.
Hercule Poirot has had a near-permanent presence in the public eye ever since the 1920 publication of The Mysterious Affair at Styles. The detective who solves diabolical crimes using his “little grey cells” has enamored audiences not only in the original novels, short stories, and plays, but also across radio, television, and movies.
From Agatha Christie’s earliest conceptions and publication history, to forays on the stage and screen, the story of Poirot is as fascinating as it is enduring. Mark Aldridge tells this story decade-by-decade, exploring and analyzing Poirot’s many and often wildly different appearances, following the detective to present day when he is enjoying a worldwide renaissance. 
Packed with original research, never-before-published correspondence, and images from the Agatha Christie archives, Agatha Christie’s Poirot will delight fans of Hercule Poirot and mystery lovers alike.

📚 Murder for Pleasure: The Life and Times of the Detective Story, by Howard Haycraft
Published in 1941

I found this reference book it in the excellent preface to The Black Lizard, by Edogawa Rampo. As I have been reading a ot of classic mysteries, I ant to check this one out.

“Author Howard Haycraft, an expert in detective fiction, traces the genre’s development from the 1840s through the 1940s. Along the way, he charts the innovations of Edgar Allan Poe, Wilkie Collins, and Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as the modern influence of George Simenon, Josephine Tey, and others. Additional topics include a survey of the critical literature, a detective story quiz, and a Who’s Who in Detection.”


5-Minute Core Exercises for Seniors

📚 5-Minute Core Exercises for Seniors, by Cindy Brehse
Expected publication: April 20th 2021, by Rockridge Press

Not yet officially in the senior group, but still these exercises might be handy when I feel too busy.

“Strengthen your core and boost your confidence with 5-minute exercise routines for seniors.
Having a strong core can improve mobility, reduce aches and pains, prevent falls, and build everyday confidence. 5-Minute Core Exercises for Seniors makes it easy to incorporate daily exercise for seniors, with a collection of 40 individual movements and 25 quick routines for strengthening the major core muscles.”


My inspiration to add this section comes from
Book Jotter‘s posts called “Winding Up the Week”.

15 classic French mysteries/thrillers
(article in French)

A gallery of fabulous bird pictures(among other categories) by a fellow birder.


📚 Book of the month giveaway choice between this book and four others 
The Readers' Room
📚 Book available for free this month, to review at your own pace!
Island on Fire
Review copies available for upcoming book tours:
    Madeleine Last French Casquette Bride in New Orleans  Island on Fire Monet and Oscar  Church of Tango
📚 Subscribe to my Newsletter, and win a book each month!
Here is a sample, with link for subscription at the bottom
📚 Books available for swapping


  • A few reviews for the #1936Club
  • Tips on where to cross-post your reviews


The Archipelago of Another Life: read-along

  The Archipelago of Another Life Archipel dune autre vie

by Andreï MAKINE

Along the years, I have enjoyed participating in read-alongs and buddy-reads, with some of my French students, as well as other book bloggers.
Recently, Carol at Cas d’intérêt mentioned her interest in reading a French book with me.
We met on Zoom and came up with a book and a plan.

Published July 11th 2019 by MacLehose Press
288 pages
Translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan 

A tense “Siberian Western” set in the inhospitable, boundless Russia taiga at the height of the Cold War.
On the far eastern borders of the Soviet Union, in the sunset of Stalin’s reign, soldiers are training for a war that could end all wars, for in the atomic age man has sown the seeds of his own destruction.
Among them is Pavel Gartsev, a reservist. Orphaned, scarred by the last great war and unlucky in love, he is an instant victim for the apparatchiks and ambitious careerists who thrive within the Red Army’s ranks.
Assigned to a search party composed of regulars and reservists, charged with the recapture of an escaped prisoner from a nearby gulag, Gartsev finds himself one of an unlikely quintet of cynics, sadists and heroes, embarked on a challenging manhunt through the Siberian taiga.
But the fugitive, capable, cunning and evidently at home in the depths of these vast forests, proves no easy prey. As the pursuit goes on, and the pursuers are struck by a shattering discovery, Gartsev confronts both the worst within himself and the tantalising prospect of another, totally different life.”

Feel free to join us, reading the book in English or French, as our posts will be bilingual. You can comment on her blog and mine, or create your own posts.

Here is our tentative schedule:

April 5: our reading begins, Chapters I and II
April 19: questions posted by Cas d’intérêt on Chapters I and II
May 3: questions here at Words And Peace, on the second quarter of the book, ending with “Une fois sur l’autre rive, nous relançâmes la poursuite mais le soleil déclinait déjà, il était temps d’allumer le feu, avant une nouvelle gelée…”
May 17: questions posted by Cas d’intérêt on the third quarter of the book, up to “loin de mon passé, du monde des autres où je n’avais plus de rôle à jouer.”
June 4: questions here at Words And Peace, on last quarter of the book.
And possibly a  (French?) Zoom/Skype session with all participants some time in the evening.

I invite you to visit Carol’s announcement post, with maps and much more!



En dix ans de blog, j’ai eu l’occasin de faire quelques très bonnes expériences de lectures en commun, soit avec certains de mes élèves de français, soit avec d’autres blogueurs et blogueuses.
Récemment, Carol (Cas d’intérêt) m’a contactée pour faire cela ensemble. On s’est parlé sur Zoom, on a choisi un livre qui nous intéressait toutes les deux et on a planifié notre aventure.

Publié le 18 aout 2016 –  Seuil
288 pages

Une chasse à l’homme à travers l’infini de la taïga, au crépuscule de l’ère stalinienne.
Qui est donc ce criminel aux multiples visages que Pavel Gartsev et ses compagnons doivent capturer ? Insaisissable, le fugitif paraît se jouer de ses poursuivants, qui, de leur côté, s’emploient à faire durer cette traque, peu pressés de retourner au cantonnement.
Dans cette longue parenthèse rythmée par les feux des bivouacs et la lutte quotidienne contre les éléments se révélera le vrai caractère de chacun, avec ses lâchetés et ses faiblesses. Un à un les hommes renoncent, découragés ou brisés par les ruses déroutantes de leur adversaire, jusqu’au moment où Pavel se retrouve seul à la poursuite de cette proie mystérieuse. Une étrange communion à distance semble alors s’instaurer entre ces deux êtres que tout sépare. Lorsqu’il connaîtra l’identité véritable de l’évadé, sa vie en sera bouleversée.
La chasse prend une dimension exaltante, tandis qu’à l’horizon émerge l’archipel des Chantars : là où une « autre vie » devient possible, dans la fragile éternité de l’amour.

N’hésitez-pas à nous rejoindre ! Nos billets seront bilingues. Vous pourrez y ajouter vos commentaires ou en créer sur votre propre blog.
Dites-moi si vous avez beosin d’une copie numérique.

Voici notre calendrier – susceptible d’être modifié :

5 avril : début de la lecture, Chapitres I et II
19 avril : questions postées à Cas d’intérêt sur ces deux premiers chapitres
3 mai : questions ici à Words And Peace, sur le second quart du livre, jusqu’à “Une fois sur l’autre rive, nous relançâmes la poursuite mais le soleil déclinait déjà, il était temps d’allumer le feu, avant une nouvelle gelée…”
17 mai : questions postées à Cas d’intérêt sur le 3e quart du livre, jusqu’à “loin de mon passé, du monde des autres où je n’avais plus de rôle à jouer.”
4 juin : questions ici à Words And Peace, sur le dernier quart du livre.
Et peut-être aussi une session (en français ?) sur  Zoom/Skype ce soir-là (heure à déterminer) avec tous les participants some time in the evening.


Before The Coffee Gets Cold: read-along, part 3

Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Before The Coffee Gets Cold,
by Toshikazu Kawaguchi,
translated by Geoffrey Trousselot
was first published in 2015
Literary fiction/fantasy

Read-along with
Julie Anna at Julie Anna’s Books
part 3

📚 Come this way to read our answers to her pre-read questions

📚 Part 1 is here

📚 Part 2 is here

📚 Here are my questions about Part 3, and Our answers

1. I enjoyed the change of structure, with this time starting in the past. Though actually, we have had the introduction to this story at the beginning of part 2. So what did you think about this structural aspect?
Julie Anna
I enjoyed the changeup, and I thought it was at the right time in the book. It took me off-guard a little bit and had me thinking about why the scene started at this point in time. In particular, it made me wonder even more about the past that the cafe-goers are leaving behind. We usually see things from the perspective of the time traveler, but now we get to see more of the emotion (and the confusion in particular) for what it’s like for those on the other side. It definitely made the story feel a lot more fleshed out for me.

Yes, it definitely made it richer, and broke the possibility of tediousness with the repetition of the same setting. It was also neat that originally, we didn’t know who she was and whom she was waiting for.

2. Like in part 2, it’s also about a letter. What’s your reaction that we have already met that pattern in part 2?

I liked that, while they both involved a letter, they were executed in different ways. I think the combination of the way the backstory was revealed over time as well as the change in structure made these stories feel very unique despite the similarities. Given the short timeframe for time travel, the letters do make the communication between the characters a little more convenient. That being said, I’m glad that there were other elements that made this story stand out. I’m also curious to see what form of communication will be used in part 4 and if they’ll have enough time to communicate without passing along something like a letter.

Right, it’s remarkable to have two stories with letters, and yet very different in content and shape. I like that the author tried something very different actually for each story.
For me, these two stories highlight the fact that we should never suppose, imagine, or interpret what others are thinking or even saying, especially in an intimate relationship as a couple. Hence the importance of dialoguing daily to clarify, and make sure we understand what the other means. I believe it would prevent many divorces.
I have had several instances, not in my couple, but with people I didn’t know well, and they say, Oh I see what you mean. And they are wrong, this is not what I was thinking. I used to let it go, but now, I try to take the time to say, no, actually, here is what I meant.

3. What did you think about Kumi’s letter?

Like Fusagi’s letter, I found it very heartbreaking! But the main difference here is the way that Kohtake couldn’t have done anything to change Fusagi’s fate. Here, even though Hirai couldn’t have known turning her sister away would lead to her death, she knows that letting her in could have stopped this. And her and her family will always know that she could have done something different in order to save her, even if it wasn’t directly her fault. To make matters worse, knowing what Kumi’s dreams were from this medium and what she was trying to do this whole time only adds to what will likely be lifelong guilt for her.

Funny, I didn’t perceive the guilt at the end. I see Hirai determined to fulfill her promise, and as she does so, experiencing her sister’s presence at her side, in a very special way.

4. So far, what do you think about the impact of the time travel on the main characters?

After reading this part, I honestly think that the impacts of time travel isn’t all that positive. I think that there are some things that are best to be left unknown for sanity’s sake. The first part is an example of closure that I think was ultimately good. In the second part, I think it could go either way. But in the third part, I feel that Hirai may have been better off not traveling. I don’t necessarily always agree with the idea of ‘ignorance of bliss,’ but I can’t imagine the immense guilt that Hirai feels. Perhaps knowing Kumi’s wishes can help her rebuild her relationship with her family, but in the short-term it feels like it did more harm than good.

But if she hadn’t traveled, she would have known none of that and of her sister’s deep wish. Now, she can fulfill her sister’s ultimate desire, and also keep the restaurant in the family. In their life together, they were not able to communicate and reveal their deep desire, Hirai needed that trip back to finally know better her sister.
As we know, these time travel experiences do not change the present situations, but they actually change the heart of the travelers. I think now, they will all live their daily life with a much deeper awareness of people around them, they won’t take anything or anyone for granted, and they will try to communicate with others at a much deeper level.

5. Kohtake doesn’t like iced coffee. What about you?

If I had to drink coffee, I’d probably pick iced over hot. But either way, immense amounts of caffeine sadly don’t agree with me! It’s quite the contradiction as well because I love the smell of coffee more than most things.

I actually understand: when I was a teen, I used to hate coffee, but so loved the smell that I would often prepare it myself for my Mom and sister, who would drink a lot of it.
I have now learned to love coffee, but I also have health issues, so I usually drink some only as a treat on Saturday mornings.
I don’t really enjoy iced coffee. Maybe because it doesn’t smell as strong as hot coffee? Or simply because I’m French: we typically don’t often add ice in our drinks.

6. Do you know Sendai? I decided to check cultural aspects. I found this great video on what to see and do in one day in Sendai. And here is a cool sample of the gorgeous sasakazari for Tanabata Festival.

Thank you for sharing these! I didn’t know about Sendai. I especially loved seeing the Mausoleum and Shrine; the variety of trees there is absolutely beautiful. It seems like they’re fairly close to the city as well according to the map, and so many great observation points to go to! I was aware of the Tanabata Festival, but I didn’t know about much about it other than it taking place over the summer and the decorating involved for the festival. I also didn’t know that different parts of Japan have their own traditions that take place during the festival.

And I have one more question as well:

Earlier in the book we contemplated what the past they traveled to was. In this part, we got to see the perspective of characters like Kumi react when the time traveler present went back to the future. I previously speculated that the characters are traveling to a parallel universe, and I wanted to reflect on this again. What if it could also be a simulation? I tend to think it’s a parallel universe still. Does your speculation still stand as well?

I am always amazed at the place of nature in Japan, even in very large cities.
And I love how they use so many vivid colors for everything.

As for your additional question, I’m actually not sure we are in parallel universes here. Was there any element in the narrative that seemed to confirm that idea? I didn’t pick it up. Things don’t seem logical, but I think the author is not trying to wrap up things in a logical way, but let it happen in a whimsical way. There’s certainly a lot of whimsy in many Japanese novels I have read!

Thanks Julie Anna, looking forward to answering your questions for the last part of the book.

And now to part 4