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You can read tons of information and reflections on world events on many other sites, so I’ll stick to what this blog is about: reading good books.
I have already finished 6 books, actually probably 7 when this post gets live on Sunday.
📚 The Romanov Sisters, by Helen Rappaport
Published in 2014
Public library book
Every winter, my public library proposes a winter reading challenge. You answer questions, and they try to have you read a book that’s outside your reading comfort zone. I guess they forgot I am very active in my Russian Orthodox Church, and had me read The Romanov Sisters! In case you don’t know, the Orthodox Church considers them martyrs for their faith, so they are saints for us, and we even have an icon of the whole family in our church.
Anyway, I had never read the book, so I’m glad the library picked it up for me.
Helen Rappaport is an author and historian specialized in that period both in England and Russia. She writes very well and you can see she put so much research into this book.
Even if you are not Orthodox, but are interested in world history, you absolutely need to read it. She has two more books on the Romanovs.
I so enjoyed getting to know better each sister, with her own strong personality. But it was emotionally really hard, for instance when they have crushes and talk about marriage plans, and when you know how it all ended.
Another element of the sadness is that the tsar was never made to have that position (as this page 312 excerpt shows), and all he or his wife dreamed of was living peacefully in a secluded area with their children, their family life being their most precious treasure.
So it was ultimately a very sad read for me.
If you are interested in Orthodoxy, there were two points I discovered:
– it’s actually thanks to the French crook doctor Nizier Anthelme Philippe that Saint Seraphim of Sarov was recognized by the whole Church and canonized. Indeed, before leaving the Russian court where he had been too influential, Philippe told the couple to pray St Seraphim of Sarov to have a son (see pages 69-70). At the time though, there was no such official saint in the Orthodox Church. So they went to Sarov and discovered a humble monk who had been locally revered and had died 70 years before. That was the beginning of the process, and he is now one of the most beloved modern Russian saints. So, even French crooks can help, lol!
– Also, I sometimes wondered why my Church has such a strong position on keeping the Julian calendar (which runs 13 days late compared to our Gregorian civil calendar). I had not realized that the Julian calendar had been used not only for Church life, but also in civil life in Russia until 1918. It’s actually the Bolsheviks who made the change and had Russia adopt the Gregorian calendar for civil life on February 4, 1918. Now it makes sense to refuse such a change. (information found on page 351)
📚 Les grands cerfs, by Claudie Hunzinger
Published in 2019, book received through Netgalley.fr
Nice discovery for me. A novel strongly based on the author’s own experience of living in a very remote area. It’s all about observing deer in all kinds of weather, to the point of recognizing each one, of naming them, of following their daily life. And it’s also about disastrous decisions taken by the French government about French rural areas. Also ultimately sad!!
The descriptions are fabulous and remind me of Sylvain Tesson‘s style and content.
📚The Sound of Waves (1954), by Yukio Mishima
Published in 1954
Reading for Japanese Reading Challenge 14, for Books in Translation Challenge, and for The Classics Club
Purchased at a library book sale
I should actually have finished this book when you read this post. This is the first time I read Mishima, and I really enjoy his style, especially his description of the natural environment, and also of the two main characters, with their innocence that most of the world cannot even understand.
“Set in a remote fishing village in Japan, The Sound of Waves is a timeless story of first love. It tells of Shinji, a young fisherman and Hatsue, the beautiful daughter of the wealthiest man in the village. Shinji is entranced at the sight of Hatsue in the twilight on the beach and they fall in love. When the villagers’ gossip threatens to divide them, Shinji must risk his life to prove his worth”
📚 L’Anomalie, by Hervé Le Tellier
Published in 2020, winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt
I’m often weary of literary awards, but when I realized this author is part of the Oulipo (a bunch of authors trying something very different in their art of writing), I knew I had to try it. I have heard that the originality is that he mixes many different literary genres in the same book. I have just started it, and so far, sounds good indeed.
BOOK UP NEXT
“The marriage of Kaname and Misako is disintegrating: whilst seeking passion and fulfilment in the arms of others, they contemplate the humiliation of divorce. Misako’s father believes their relationship has been damaged by the influence of a new and alien culture, and so attempts to heal the breach by educating his son-in-law in the time-honoured Japanese traditions of aesthetic and sensual pleasure. The result is an absorbing, chilling conflict between ancient and modern, young and old.”
LAST 2 BOOKS ADDED TO MY GOODREADS TBR
📚 Permafrost, by Alastair Reynolds
Published in 2019
If I consider the recent additions to my Goodreads TBR, looks like I’m shifting more towards science-fiction. And the last two added are in that genre.
“Fix the past. Save the present. Stop the future. Alastair Reynolds unfolds a time-traveling climate fiction adventure in Permafrost.
2080: at a remote site on the edge of the Arctic Circle, a group of scientists, engineers and physicians gather to gamble humanity’s future on one last-ditch experiment. Their goal: to make a tiny alteration to the past, averting a global catastrophe while at the same time leaving recorded history intact. To make the experiment work, they just need one last recruit: an ageing schoolteacher whose late mother was the foremost expert on the mathematics of paradox.
2028: a young woman goes into surgery for routine brain surgery. In the days following her operation, she begins to hear another voice in her head… an unwanted presence which seems to have a will, and a purpose, all of its own – one that will disrupt her life entirely. The only choice left to her is a simple one.
Does she resist… or become a collaborator?”
📚 How to Mars, by David Ebenbach
Expected publication: May 25, 2021 by Tachyon Publications
“What happens when your dream mission to Mars is a reality television nightmare? This debut science-fiction romp with heart follows the tradition of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, with a dash of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and a hint of The Real World.
For the six lucky scientists selected by the Destination Mars! corporation, a one-way ticket to Mars—in exchange for a lifetime of research—was an absolute no-brainer. The incredible opportunity was clearly worth even the most absurdly tedious screening process. Perhaps worth following the strange protocols in a nonsensical handbook written by an eccentric billionaire. Possibly even worth their constant surveillance, the video of which is carefully edited into a ratings-bonanza back on Earth.
But it turns out that after a while even scientists can get bored of science. Tempers begin to fray; unsanctioned affairs blossom. When perfectly good equipment begins to fail, the Marsonauts are faced with a possibility that their training just cannot explain.
Irreverent, poignant, and perfectly weird, David Ebenbach’s debut science-fiction outing, like a mission to Mars, is an incredible trip you will never forget.”
NO BOOK RECEIVED THIS PAST WEEK
THIS PAST WEEK ON
WORDS AND PEACE
and FRANCE BOOK TOURS
- 1/11: Bout of Books recap
- 1/12: December book of the month winner
- 1/13: Spotlight and giveaway: The Canterbury Murders
- 1/15: Spotlight and giveaway: Loving Modigliani
- January 7-20: Loving Modigliani live tour
COMING UP ON
WORDS AND PEACE
FRANCE BOOK TOURS
- Late reviews?
- More Orthodox book notes?
- Another tour live: L’Origine
HOW WAS YOUR WEEK?