Sunday Post #57 – 3/13/2022

Sunday Post

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by
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Sunday Salon    Stacking the Shelves  Mailbox Monday2

 It's Monday! What Are You Reading2  IMWAYR  WWW Wednesdays 2

#SundayPost #SundaySalon
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#WWWWednesday #WWWWednesdays

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This was a super busy week, with more French online classes.
And mostly, this was the first week of Great Lent (I’m Orthodox Christian), so with prayers at Church Monday through Thursday. As my reading time is essentially in the evening after supper, I didn’t have much reading time. Still, I managed to finish 2 short ebooks and 1 audiobook.
Emotionally, this was a blue week, seeing the horrifying invasion of Ukraine still going on and even intensifying. Finally, some Orthodox bishops (Metropolitan John for instance) are finally asking Patriarch Kirill to be a better spokesman of Gospel values…

  • Yesterday, for our cultural breakfast, we washed Episode 3 of The Blue Planet documentary.

Since last Sunday, very little on this blog. And sorry for the delay in responding and approving your comments.
I’m including here posts I published on my 2 other blogs:


Le Fou de Bergerac

📚 Le Fou de Bergerac (Maigret #16), by Georges Simenon
Published in 1932
Available in English as 
The Madman of Bergerac.
Read with one of my French students and for
The Classics Club

This was an unusual one. For the first time in the series, there was a lot of humor, in Maigret’s situation and habits, and in the descriptions of locals.
And for once, we really get to know Madame Maigret (trying hard to prevent her husband from smoking, for the sake of his health!), and her husband even sends her on mission, as he is stuck in bed!
But as usual, the second half of the book was a bit more difficult for me, even though there’s some kind of recap of what was done by whom and for what reasons.
I guess I need to get resigned to the fact that when I’m done with a book by Simenon, I’m not completely sure I understand all that happened and why!
Is it also your experience?

The Postman Always Rings Twice

📚 The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M. Cain
Published in 1934
Read with the Goodreads Mystery, Crime, and Thriller group 
and for The Classics Club

I was impressed by Cain’s Double Indemnity, so I decided to read The Postman Always Rings Twice (for and with Goodreads’ The Mystery, Crime, and Thriller Group).
I found less subtlety in this plot than in Double Indemnity, but I really enjoy Cain’s voice here again, with his grittiness, his rough, toxic, and ambiguous characters (who ultimately don’t really know themselves nor each other), and down to earth dialogs.
It’s also a great picture of life in the bleak and underbelly world California in the late 1920s-early 1930s.
In a few words: Nick and his wife Cora run a sandwich shop and filling station. One day a drifter (Frank) shows up and gets a job there. A relationship starts right away between him and Cora. With many consequences.
First, I got puzzled by the title, but then realized it added a deeper almost metaphysical dimension, if you equate the postman with fate (and this applies both for Franck and Nick! Explaining more would be spoiling the story).
I read that Camus got here his inspiration for The Stranger. I can see that now, though it would never have come to mind when I read the book. I guess only Camus’s creativity could have made his work from this story.

The Radium Girls

🎧 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

VERDICT: A horrifying tale. Great research but dry style.

My full review is live here.


  After the Romanovs    Love in the Time of Cholera   

  The Year of My Life   The Clairvoyant Countess  

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

Really enjoying the author’s writing. She does a fantastic summary of several centuries of relationship between France and Russia!

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

Still enjoying this a lot, Really loving the various characters, and the different portrayals of love! Very rich details.
It’s also much easier to follow than One Hundred Years of Solitude.

“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 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.
I am in the (excellent) introduction for now.

🎧 The Clairvoyant Countess, by Dorothy Gilman
240 pages/6H48
Narrated by Ruth Ann Phimister

Published in 1975

After the dreadful The Radium Girls, I’m glad to be going to my two last audiobooks on the list of books I have had on my audio shelf for a while. This is definitely lighter, mood wise!
I have thoroughly enjoyed Mrs Pollifax series by Dorothy Gilman. Emily Pollifax is probably my most favorite detective.
And in this book, I’m meeting another variation of Emily, in the person of Madame Karitska. So far, I really enjoy the unusual team between this clairvoyant and the down to earth detective Pruden.
Too bas there are only two books in this series.

“Madame Karitska has a style all her own—a rare blend of psychic power, an exotic past, and an uncanny gift for common sense. As a psychic to the public, Madame Karitska has seen a lot.
But when a chance encounter with Detective-Lieutenant Pruden of the Police Department catapults her into the unforeseen, she must use all of her resources to keep danger–and death–at bay….”


When I Whistle

📚 When I Whistle, by Shusaku Endo
Published in 1974
Will be reading for The Japanese Literature Challenge 15
The 2022 Books in Translation Reading Challenge
and The Classics Club

I was not too impressed by Endo’s short stories (Five by Endo), but I’d like to give him another chance. And I’m curious to see how it predates Ishiguro’s novel, as mentioned below.

“One of Endo’s most unusual and powerful novels is set largely in a modern hospital, with themes and scenes that eerily seem to predate Never Let Me Go.
A jaded businessman has a chance encounter with the doctor son of his best friend at school, Ozu, and memories are stirred of a former love interest of Ozu’s, Aiko. The son of his friend proves to be contemptuous of the outmoded values of his father’s world and ruthless in pursuit of success at his hospital. The story reaches a terrible climax when Aiko, now a middle-aged cancer-sufferer, is admitted to the hospital and Ozu leads the way in experimenting on her with dangerous drugs.”


Phantom Lady

I actually didn’t add any book on my TBR Goodreads shelf this past week (really, again??), so I decided to feature one I added recently.
Another classic noir.

📚  Phantom Ladyby William Irish (aka Cornell Woolrich)
Mystery noir
Published in 1942

“Phantom lady, I was with you for six hours last night, but I can’t remember what you look like, or what you wore—except for that large orange hat. We sat shoulder to shoulder at a little bar in the east Fifties. We ate dinner together, saw a Broadway show together, shared a cab together.
The bartender, the waiter, the usher, the cab driver—none of them remembers you. The police say I was home strangling my wife at the moment I met you.
You are the only one who can prove my story—but I don’t know your name, or where you live. And I can’t search for you from a jail cell….”


Eat Pretty Live Well

📚 Eat Pretty Live Well: A Guided Journal for Nourishing Beauty, Inside and Out. by Jolene Hart
Diary, 160 pages
Published April 5th 2016 by Chronicle Books

I won this when participating in the vvb32reads giveaway for her blogiversary. Thanks Velvet!

📚  GIVEAWAY, in French 📚 

Le Promeneur sur le cap


Le Promeneur sur le cap

Request today, review whenever you want.
And win credits towards gift cards!




My top 10 books for the 1976 Club



For several years, Simon at Stuck in a Book, has been organizing club years, in which he encourages everybody to read books published in the same year.

This time, he chose 1976

I think the main idea is to draw a literary portrait of that year.
If you are curious, you can check on this Goodreads list or on this one (less complete, but you can compare with the books you have read), or on this wikipedia page (more complete I think) titles of books published that year.

Before considering what to read for this club, it seems I had read 8 books published that year.

Click on the book covers to discover my reviews

2 mysteries: 

  Mrs Pollifax on Safari   Sleeping Murder  

Mrs. Pollifax on Safari is the #5 in this delightful series with Mrs. Pollifax.
Imagine: Emily Pollifax is retired and is bored, so she goes to the CIA if by any chance they would have some little jobs for her. Who would think twice about this grand-mother who loves flowery hats? She would actually be a perfect spy. So in each book of these books, she’s sent on a mission in a different country.

You may not all know Mrs. Pollifax, but you all know Miss Marple.
Sleeping Murder is #12.

1 poetry in prose:


I recently fell again in love with Paul Valéry, and I read this one a few months ago.
It’s a collection of vignettes each starting by a letter of the alphabet, written as poetry prose. Powerful gem!

1 classic nonfiction:


I read Roots in my late teens, in French.

3 spiritual nonfiction books:

  The Genesee Diary   One Yet Two

For those who are into spirituality, Henri Nouwen is an important author. Combine that to the milieu of a Trappist monastery in his Genesee Diary (Genesee is a Trappist abbey in Piffard, NY), and you have quite a nourishing book!

When looking for a cover for this post, I was shocked to discover that One Yet Two: Monastic Tradition East and West, edited by the Trappist monk Basil Pennington is no longer available in print.
Very sad, as it was an excellent compilation of the Orthodox-Cistercian Symposium that was held at Oxford University, from August 26 to September 1st, 1973. A very important symposium for unity of Christians. The articles were excellent.

Second Look at Saint Bernard

And same for A Second Look at Saint Bernard (by Jean Leclercq, the Belgian authoritative voice on Saint Bernard of Clairvaux), which I read back then in French.
So sad to see that very solid spiritual books published a mere 35 years ago are already out of print!

And I just read 2 this month for the #1976 club, which I am reviewing here:


by Renata Adler
Published in 1976
192 pages
Literary fiction

My first reading for the #1976Club left me rather disappointed.
Speedboat is a novel without any plot, that reads more like a rather boring nonfiction work (though most of the nonfiction I read is NOT boring!).

The narrator is a young journalist in New York. She writes a collection of short vignettes with for the most part no beginning and no end, and which seem more or less random.
I actually often understood the connection between them, a keyword, or the type of connection that happens in your thoughts or during your dreams or nightmares, but still it left me rather cold. If I read experimental fiction, I prefer the real thing, coming from Oulipo writers especially.

As for the content, it looks like Adler is intending to provide us with glimpses into the cultural world of New York in the 1970s, with the variety of people you could have met then and there.
I’m too young to feel it as being familiar, especially as I didn’t grow up in the US.
1976 was a very important year for me, but that was thousands of miles away from the confused American youth.

My own mind is a tenement. Some elevators work.

“I have lost my sense of the whole” says the narrator. And that’s definitely the impression given by the book.

A few aphorisms did talk to me in the first quarter of the work, but not enough to make the whole book really interesting. 

I think sanity is the most profound moral option of our time.

Actually, in the one cultural element I had in common, my experience was vastly different.
The narrator was invited for a surprise event. It turned out it was a five-hour performance of Parsifal. She ends up being totally bored and her boyfriend who invited her sleeps during most of it.
When I was 16, Parsifal came out as an opera-movie. We had a special theater in my French city that would exclusively show that type of cultural movie. This was the closest for me to going to Bayreuth, which of course I would never have been able to afford.

So I went (by myself, no one else I knew was interested) to watch the five-hour opera-movie. Like in Speedboat, we were just a few in the room. But I didn’t sleep and it totally fascinated me. To this day, I remember some words of it in German.

Final verdict: A rather boring glimpse on the chaotic New York society of the 1970s. Skip.

A River Runs Through itA River Runs Through it,
by Norman Maclean
Published in 1976
168 pages
Historical fiction

From a boat we go to a river and to fly fishing – totally by chance.

I know nothing about fly fishing or plain fishing, but still I thoroughly enjoyed the style of the author, with all his highlights on the beauty of nature, and the close connection between the inner landscape of his characters and the outdoors.

A River Runs Through it was published when the author was 73, and I think you can feel the tranquil wisdom of its author. Even the dramatic event concerning his brother near the end of the story is presented with a certain calmness.

It also contains a certain nostalgia at the past, at lost time, at people we have lost. 

It consists basically of reminiscences of a young boy with his brother Paul and his father, a Presbyterian minister, especially as they go fly fishing.

The first sentence grabbed me right away:

In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.

Now did you notice I actually mentioned 10 books?
So here is my fun story with my 10th:

I actually experienced a powerful memory near the end of A River Runs Through it.
A paragraph suddenly reminded me of another book about fish that I had read decades ago and had left me that same feeling of nostalgia.
It was extremely far in my memory, I couldn’t remember the author (I only thought maybe he was a Jean-Marie) nor the title (except that it was one short word and the noun of a fish).

I focused really hard with the sounds I could remember from the title, starting with something like sola, sora, to rhéa, to finally créa!! The book is Le Créa (which is a common name for un esturgeon, that is, a sturgeon) by Jean-Marc Soyez.

Le Créa

And the amazing thing is that this book was also published in 1976.
And I did manage to request it through inter-library loan.
It will be interesting to see if I experience what I felt when I read it about 45 years ago!

My year 1976 recap:
So beside my disappointment with Renata Adler, looks like this year brought a solid and memorable harvest.



Six degrees of separation: From Moscow to Vimy


Six degrees of separation:
From Moscow to Vimy

Using my own rules for this fun meme hosted by Kate at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest (see there the origin of the meme and how it works – posted the first Saturday of every month), I started in Moscow and ended up in Vimy, France, where many Canadian soldiers fought during WWI.
Come with me!

Here are my own quirky rules:

1. Use your list of books on Goodreads
2. Take the first word of the title offered and find another title with that word in it
3. Then use the first word of THAT title to find your text title
4. Or the second if the title starts with the same word, or you are stuck

After the covers,
you can find the links to my reviews
or to the title on Goodreads

 a-gentleman-in-moscowArsene Lupin 

 Mrs Pollifax and the second thiefStar For Mrs Blake

 Shakespeare's Star warsUnravelled

1. A Gentleman in Moscow
I was going to read it, as I have heard so many people rave about this book. But then, I talked with a Russian woman, and she told this could really never have happened in Moscow. As it’s a historical fiction, and I like my histfic to be based on real facts, I’ve passed so far. But you may convince me to read it?

2. Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief
The author Leblanc is basically the French Conan Doyle. This is a major classic in mystery, and totally fun! He’s a thief, yes, but what a gentleman!!

3. Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief
I discovered Mrs. Pollifax, because I wanted to read books set in different countries, for the 52 countries challenge.
I have loved this series to pieces, the character of Mrs. Pollifax is delightful: image a retired lady who’s afraid to get bored, and ends up working as a secret agent. Each book of the series is set in a  different country. This one is in Sicily, and is about art thieves and the mob.

4. A Star For Mrs. Blake
Excellent historical novel featuring Gold Star Mothers, whom I knew nothing about.
VERDICT: Very powerful, yet not overwhelmingly emotional historical novel, reflecting on many facets of international conflicts. Highly recommended to anyone curious to know what happened on the field of WWI, and how it affected people, relationships, and countries.

5. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars
This is an incredible series: imagine Star Wars, “all recounted in the style of the Bard,
with rhymes, chorus, list of characters entering and exiting for each scene, just like a real play. It really made me laugh aloud many times.”
VERDICT: For fans of Star Wars and Shakespeare,  this book offers a refreshing look at how it all began. Tension, suspense and humor are all present. Not to miss.
(the link is to book 1)

6. Unravelled: Two Wars. Two Affairs. One marriage
Another great historical novel, both on WWI and WWII. Great author!


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