2021: April wrap-up

April 2021 WRAP-UP

Phew, this was a busy month, ending with a liturgical marathon, as we finally had our Great Week (Orthodox services are so deep and powerful, and also quite long, especially during this very special week) and Pascha (aka Easter), almost a month after everyone else.

I have been also reading a lot, as much needed time off at the end of the day, but as I’m in the middle of so many books, my stats are actually not very impressive.
The big news was my first participation ever in the Club organized by Simon at Stuck in a Book. This time, in was the #1936Club.

Two other big highlights were
my buddy read of Before the Coffee Gets Cold,
and the beginning of another buddy read: The Archipelago of Another Life

📚 Here is what I read in April:

18 books:
6 in print 
with 1,377 pages, a daily average of 45 pages/day
12 in audio
= 24H39
, a daily average of 49 minutes

9 in nonfiction:

  1. The Book of Micah
  2. The Book of Joel
  3. The Book of Obadiah
  4. The Book of Jonah
  5. The Book of Nahum
  6. The Book of Habakkuk
  7. The Book of Zephaniah
  8. The Book of Haggai – these first 8 books were as audiobooks, for The Classics Club and the Books in Translation Challenge
  9. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life, by George Saunders

5 in mystery:

  1. Murder in the Mews (Hercule Poirot #18), by Agatha Christie
  2. Appointment With Death (Hercule Poirot #19), by Agatha Christie
  3. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (Hercule Poirot #20), by Agatha Christie – these first three were as audiobooks, for The Classics Club
  4. Double Indemnity, by James M. Cain – ebook for the #1936Club and The Classics Club
  5. Piège pour Cendrillon, by Sébastien Japrisot – French ebook for the The Classics Club

2 in literary fiction:

  1. The Old Capital, by Yasunari Kawabata –  ebook for  The Classics Club
  2. First Person Singular, by Haruki Murakami

1 in historical fiction:

  1. The Swedish Cavalier, by Leo Perutz – ebook for the #1936Club and The Classics Club

1 in science-fiction:

  1. How to Mars, by David Ebenbach – ebook received for review

MY FAVORITE BOOKS THIS PAST MONTH

A Swim in the Pond in the Rain    The Swedish Cavalier

READING CHALLENGES & RECAP

Classics Club: 47/137 (from November 2020-until November 2025)
Japanese Literature Challenge: 12 books 

Total of books read in 2021 = 60/120 (yes, already at 50%!)
Number of books added to my TBR this past month = 11

OTHER BOOK  REVIEWED THIS PAST MONTH

The Black Lizard

GIVEAWAYS

The open giveaways are on my homepage

Books available for swapping

REVIEW COPIES AVAILABLE

Posted on my homepage

And we offer a Book Box!
And monthly raffle with a Newsletter
(see sample with link to sign up)

MOST POPULAR BOOK REVIEW THIS PAST MONTH

Arsene Lupin

click on the cover to access my review

MOST POPULAR POST THIS PAST MONTH
– NON BOOK REVIEW –

My top 10 books for the 1936 Club

BOOK BLOG THAT BROUGHT ME MOST TRAFFIC THIS PAST MONTH

Stuck in a Book
please go visit, there are a lot of good things there!

TOP COMMENTERS 

Marianne at Let’s Read
Iza at Books & Livres
Judy at Keep the Wisdom
please go and visit them,
they have great book blogs

BLOG MILESTONES 

2,326 posts
over 5,470 followers
over 219,700 hits

📚

Come back tomorrow
to see the books I plan to read in May

📚 📚 📚

How was YOUR month of April?

Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction
has created a Month In Review meme
where you can link your monthly recap posts
Thanks Nicole!

 

My top 10 books for the 1936 Club

the 1936-club

#1936Club

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.

For this year, he chose 1936. As I had a few titles from that year on my Classics Club list, I thought that would be a great way to work on my list.

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.

It seems I have personally read 10 books published that year.
NB: For books translated into English, I am considering the year they were first published in their original language, not the year they were published in English

  1. Gone with the Wind
  2. The Joy of Cooking
  3. The Diary of a Country Priest
  4. A City of Bells
  5. Double Indemnity
  6. The Swedish Cavalier
  7. The A.B.C. Murders, by Agatha Christie
  8. Murder in Mesopotamia, by Agatha Christie
  9. Cards on the Table, by Agatha Christie
  10. A Cat, a Man, and Two Women, by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki’

And I have 3 on my TBR list:

  1. Jamaica Inn
  2. War with the Newts
  3. Death at the President’s Lodging (Sir John Appleby, #1)

I have read and reviewed four since January 1st, 2021:

click on the covers to access my reviews

  The ABC Murders Murder in Mesopotamia

  Cards on the Table A cat a man and two women

So now, to follow the rules for #1936Club, here are 2 fresh reviews:

Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity,
by James M. Cain
Published in 1936
115 pages
Mystery/noir
Goodreads

I watched the movie years ago, but didn’t remember all of the story, and have completely forgotten the ending, which is a good thing, as I am told the ending of the book is different. They changed the ending in the movie, to go along with the movie codes of the time.

It’s basically the story of Walter Huff, a Californian insurance salesman always on the lookout for the ideal client for a perfect sale. He thinks Mr. Nirdlinger could be one. Until things don’t go exactly as planned.

What really struck me right away was the style. It’s a first person narrative that flows like daily conversation and inner monologue, with loose grammar. I think this raw style fits beautifully to tell that story, but it sounds quite modern for 1936.

There’s many a man walking around today that’s worth more to his loved ones dead than alive, only he don’t know it yet.
Chapter 1

The richness of the book is in the astute psychological study of the characters.
As an Orthodox Christian steeped in Patristics, I have to say this was also a perfect illustration of the functioning of what we call temptations and the passions. You just touch something lightly with your little finger (at that point, you still have the freedom to get away afterwards), but you linger on the feeling, and then before you know it, you are stuck in up to your elbow, and then with your whole body and soul (and it’s basically too late to unglue yourself from the situation).
For instance, when Huff meets Mrs. Phyllis Nirdlinger for the first time, he sees all the red flags and his intuition tells him to get out of there presto, and yet he sits down and starts talking.
All along, Huff almost seems to be dragged along by inner forces stronger than his conscious will. 

I knew where I was at, of course.  I was standing right on the deep end, looking over the edge, and I kept telling myself to get out of there, and get quick, and never come back. But that was what I kept telling myself.  What I was doing was peeping over that edge, and all the time I was trying to pull away from it, there was something in me that kept edging a little closer, trying to get a better look.

But that thing was in me, pushing me still closer to the edge.
Chapter 2

And at the same time, he is actively getting more and more willingly and creatively involved. But is he even smart enough to do that?

Of course, the suspense is extremely well done. The story could go into so many directions, as little by little, more characters get involved.
The ending the author chose seems consistent to me with the inner mechanism I have described above.

It’s ultimately a great study of double manipulation. 

The Swedish CavalierThe Swedish Cavalier,
by Leo Perutz
(Austrian novelist and mathematician)
Translated from the German by John Brownjohn
Published in 1936
192 pages
Historical fiction
Goodreads

This was a major surprise, and I am shocked indeed to see that none of my fellow readers at the Classics Club seems to have reviewed it. I don’t remember seeing this title on any book blog I follow. The reason why it was on my TBR is that I heard about it in 2016 in a French TV literary program. It was recommended by contemporary author Emmanuel Carrère.

The foreword wants to present the story within a firm historical background, telling the reader this is based on the unknown memoirs published by Maria Christine von Blohme, whose father she only called “the Swedish cavalier”. His story, or the story of two men, then follows.

The first part opens in the cold winter of 1701, along the war-torn Polish-Russian border. By chance, a thief fleeing the gallows meets Christian von Tornefeld, a Swedish aristocrat and deserter (because he no longer wants to fight for foreign powers), now on his way to fight for his Swedish king Charles XII. But neither will reach his destination, and their fate is going to get inter connected in many ways, to the extreme that I will not specify here to avoid spoilers.

If Cain chose a rather modern style, Perutz did just the opposite, with a curious mix of genres (and it works superbly!): older style historical fiction, crime novel, and fairy tale (for instance with the secret powers of an arcanum, the character of the old miller, and the visits to the young girl at the end). It totally felt I was meeting with Don Quixote again. It has some of its humoristic passages (for instance with the thief giving his particular interpretation to what he sees in the fields, and then following that as reality), yet also dramatic scenes not unlike Dante’s Inferno (the bishop’s stamp-mill is even called the inferno; and there are a few final judgement scenes), and outcome that have made some critics compare it to Kafkaesque literature.
I often also felt I was inside a Bruegel painting!

The Swedish Cavalier has themes not uncommon to Double Indemnity, such as manipulation, deceit, and betrayal, but with a more metaphysical outlook, with moral values like courage and loyalty, an active conscience leading to thoughts of repentance, as well as aspects of redemption, totally absent in Cain’s novel.

This is a fascinating story in its form and content, and I highly recommend it.

My year 1936 recap over three continents:

A major American classic (and I am sorry, but if you plan on cancelling it, you have no idea what REAL culture and history are, and you might want to look into ways to get educated in the first place); a major French classic; a cookbook that is still used in many households; a charming and romantic British classic (at least that’s the memory I have of this book by Elizabeth Goudge I read in my late teens); three books by the queen of crime; a whimsy Japanese classic; and the two unique works (including one from Austria) reviewed here: all these attest to a rich and diverse year 1936, at least from I have read.

HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THESE?
CLICK ON THE 1936 CLUB LOGO TO DISCOVER MANY MORE REVIEWS
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE BOOK PUBLISHED IN 1936?

The top 9 books to read in April 2021

Here are

The top 9 books
I plan to read in April 2021

Click on the covers to know more

CURRENTLY READING

  FutureofBuildingsBookCover    Dictionnaire amoureux du polar

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

📚 The Future of Buildings, Transportation, and Power, 
by Roger Duncan and Michael E. Webber
Published in July 2020
See my latest words about it here.

📚 Dictionnaire amoureux du polar, by Pierre Lemaitre
Published on October 22, 2020
See my latest words about it here.

📚 The Archipelago of Another Life/ L’Archipel d’une autre vie, by Andreï Makine
Published in French in 2016
Published July 11th 2019 by MacLehose Press

I will technically begin to read this book in French on April 5 with Carol from Cas d’intérêt. We will post bilingual Q&A on her blog and mine, let us know if you would like to join our buddy read.

“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.”

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

“From the New York Times bestselling, Booker Prize–winning author of Lincoln in the Bardo and Tenth of December comes a literary master class on what makes great stories work and what they can tell us about ourselves—and our world today.
For the last twenty years, George Saunders has been teaching a class on the Russian short story to his MFA students at Syracuse University. In A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, 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.
In his introduction, Saunders writes, “We’re going to enter seven fastidiously constructed scale models of the world, made for a specific purpose that our time maybe doesn’t fully endorse but that these writers accepted implicitly as the aim of art—namely, to ask the big questions, questions like, How are we supposed to be living down here? What were we put here to accomplish? What should we value? What is truth, anyway, and how might we recognize it?” He approaches the stories technically yet accessibly, and through them explains how narrative functions; why we stay immersed in a story and why we resist it; and the bedrock virtues a writer must foster. The process of writing, Saunders reminds us, is a technical craft, but also a way of training oneself to see the world with new openness and curiosity.
A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a deep exploration not just of how great writing works but of how the mind itself works while reading, and of how the reading and writing of stories make genuine connection possible.”

READING NEXT

Monet and Oscar   The Old Capital

Double Indemnity

📚 Monet & Oscar, by Joe Byrd
Release date: May 1st, 2021
Will be reading for France Book Tours
There are still review copies available: click on the link or on the book cover to get your free copy!

“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.”

📚 The Old Capital, by Yasunari Kawabata
Published in 1962
Will be reading during April 19-25 with the Japanese Readathon Community (on Discord), and for Books in Translation Challenge and for The Classics Club

The Old Capital is one of the three novels cited specifically by the Nobel Committee when they awarded Kawabata the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. With the ethereal tone and aesthetic styling characteristic of Kawabata’s prose, The Old Capital tells the story of Chieko, the adopted daughter of a Kyoto kimono designer, Takichiro, and his wife, Shige.
Set in the traditional city of Kyoto, Japan, this deeply poetic story revolves around Chieko who becomes bewildered and troubled as she discovers the true facets of her past. With the harmony and time-honored customs of a Japanese backdrop, the story becomes poignant as Chieko’s longing and confusion develops.

📚 Double Indemnity, by James M. Cain
Published in 1936
Will be reading for The 1936 Club, and for The Classics Club

I have never participated in any club readings posted by Stuck in a Book.
As I have two books published in 1936 on my Classics TBR list, I might as well use this opportunity. Actually, I had a third book, which I just read : A Cat, a Man, and Two Women.

“Tautly narrated and excruciatingly suspenseful, Double Indemnity gives us an X-ray view of guilt, of duplicity, and of the kind of obsessive, loveless love that devastates everything it touches. First published in 1935, this novel reaffirmed James M. Cain as a virtuoso of the roman noir.”

📚 For The 1936 Club, I’m also planning on reading The Swedish Cavalier, by Leo Perutz

📚 If all goes well, I will read a French novel with one of my student:
Cinq cartes brûléesby Sophie Loubière
And Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, with another friend

CURRENT AND NEXT AUDIOBOOKS

Murder in the Mews Appointment with Death

📚 Murder in the Mews (Hercule Poirot #18) by Agatha Christie
Published in 1937
Part of my project to listen to all of HP, for The Classics Club

“Are you ready for a question about each of the stories? How did a woman holding a pistol in her right hand manage to shoot herself in the left temple? What was the link between a ghost sighting and the disappearance of top secret military plans? How did the bullet that killed Sir Gervase shatter a mirror in another part of the room? And who destroyed the “eternal triangle” of love involving renowned beauty, Valentine Chantry?

Hercule Poirot is faced with four mystifying cases: Murder in the Mews, The Incredible Theft,, Dead Man’s Mirror and Triangle at Rhodes. Each of them is a miniature classic of characterization, incident, and suspense.”

📚 Appointment with Death (Hercule Poirot #19) by Agatha Christie
Published in 1937
Part of my project to listen to all of HP, for The Classics Club

“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 should be able also to listen to at least Hercule Poirot #20, plus 5 Biblical books (Micah, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum), and a French audiobook. 

CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

Listed on the homepage 

Review copies available throughout March:
The first two for book tours,
the third one to read and review at your own pace!

    Madeleine Last French Casquette Bride in New Orleans  Island on Fire Monet and Oscar  Church of Tango
On tour in April and May

List of books I can swap with yours

PLANS FOR APRIL

📚 Several buddy-reads, as you see
📚 And usual refrain, trying to catch up with my reviews…

Eiffel Tower Orange

HAVE YOU READ
OR ARE YOU PLANNING TO READ
ANY OF THESE?
WHAT ARE YOUR READING PLANS FOR APRIL?