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Autumn reading


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#1 GWTW

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 02:14 AM

I've been on bedrest recently so I've been able to do more 'real' reading than usual:

-

The Time Traveler's Wife

was an inspired choice, because if I hadn't been on pregnancy-related bedrest and if my husband hadn't been half way around the world in a relatively remote location when I read this book, I would probably have dismissed it as a hokey romantic novel and picked a million holes in the time traveling theory. As it was, I allowed myself to wallow in the power of romantic love fueled by physical and temporal distance and a heavy dose of fatalism.

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Cathedral of the Sea

by Ildefonso Falcones is a historical novel about 14th century Catalonia, specifically Barcelona. It was an interesting read because I don't know much about that time or place and although I did get a bit lost between Pedro the Cruel and Pedro the Proud, I certainly learnt a great deal. However, most of the characters were not three dimensional enough and remained medieval stereotypes or ciphers whereas the main character was far too developed for his time (his strong belief in the equality of all men and women seemed to burst into his conscious like Athena from Zeus' head).

Anyone else reading at the moment - or are you all too busy getting out of the house and going to live performances :) ?

#2 dirac

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Posted 22 October 2009 - 10:44 AM

Thank you for starting the thread, GWTW. I hope your time on bedrest goes pleasantly and smoothly. I'm reading The Closing of the Western Mind by Charles Freeman and Johnny U by Tom Callahan.

#3 dirac

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Posted 24 October 2009 - 02:01 PM

Has anyone else read The Time Traveler's Wife, BTW?

#4 vagansmom

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Posted 25 October 2009 - 05:30 PM

I read Time Traveler's Wife a couple years ago and enjoyed it very much. I also saw the movie, but found it so-so. I don't think it's possible for a movie to parallel the book. The movie had a sickening sweet feeling, but the book didn't at all. What I found interesting when I was reading the book was that I knew quite a number of men who read and loved it. I think the time travel aspect and the author's matter-of-fact writing hooked them.

I couldn't remember if I'd mentioned that I'd read The Leopard by Lampedusa, so in checking the threads, I see that Bart reread it this year. This was my first time, and I found myself living in its aura for days after completion. The story centers around a nobleman, Don Fabrizzio, in Sicily, around the time of Garibaldi's successful invasion of Sicily which completed the unification of Italy. It's based on the life of the author's great-grandfather. The protagonist, Don Fabrizzio, is caught between two worlds, the aristocratic one he's known his whole life, and the newly emerging democratic world. He's caught between both worlds, believing in the value of each, but grieving because he knows that he cannot fully live in either.

I'm just starting a book of short stories, Cavallieri Rusticana written by another Italian author, Giovanni Verga. I'm looking forward to it. I visited Italy this summer and decided to spend this year reading Italian authors. So if anyone knows any other good books, please share.

I'm also reading a book of essays titled Healing Trauma: attachment, mind, body, and brain. It's edited by Marion F Solomon and a favorite author of mine, Daniel J. Siegel whose essays are among those included in the book. Siegel's The Developing Mind and Parenting from the Inside Out are books I strongly recommend to all teachers and parents. They are not "how to" books, but provide a framework for understanding our relationships with children.

Oh, and members of my family are trying something new. :( My 24 year old daughter expressed an interest in reading Tolstoy's War & Peace. I've mentioned on this board that I read this book once a decade. I just reread it a year or two ago, but said I'd read it again so that we could discuss it together. My husband decided to join in, as he hasn't read it since his college years. So we each have our own copy of the same translation, one I haven't read, and are discussing it together over the phone - our own version of a book club.

#5 dirac

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Posted 26 October 2009 - 05:44 PM

Thanks, vagansmom. :)

#6 vipa

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Posted 26 October 2009 - 05:55 PM

Has anyone else read The Time Traveler's Wife, BTW?


I read it about a year ago and loved it. I've resisted seeing the movie.

I'm waiting for the 3rd book of the trilogy that began with "The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo." Not as deeply human as "Time Traveler's Wife" but really fun read.

#7 Farrell Fan

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Posted 27 October 2009 - 12:38 PM

vagansmom, your brief description of The Leopard is perfect; it's one of my favorite books. In addition to his short stories, you might also want to try the novels of Giovanni Verga, notably I Malavoglia and Maestro Don Gesualdo -- lots of Sicilian realism. And if you're still in the Italian mode, I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed) by Alessando Manzoni is a great old-fashoned novel.

Enjoy your War & Peace project.

#8 Canary

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Posted 29 October 2009 - 08:46 PM

I Promessi Sposi is really good, definitely read it. I'm thinking of reading the Stieg Larsson novels, but I'm still not sure. Can anyone fill me in on this series, who is it suited for, what tastes, etc.

#9 Estelle

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Posted 30 October 2009 - 12:46 AM

"The Leopard" (translated in French as "Le guépard") is one of my mother's favorite books. I read it when I was a teen, but probably should read it again, as I would probably understand it differently now...

Now I'm reading Julian Barnes' "Arthur and George", a novel about Arthur Conan Doyle and George Edalji (Edalji was a young lawyer of Indian descent whom Doyle defended as he was wrongly convicted), which I find quite enjoyable.

Recently, I enjoyed a lot "First among sequels", the fifth and latest book of the "Thursday Next" novels. As the fourth previous books, it is a strange and funny mixture of sci fi, humor, detective story, references to English literature... The main character, Thursday Next, lives in a parallel universe in which England is a Republic, Wales is an independent Socialist country, Russia still has a czar, planes don't exist but cloning is a cheap commodity (and people can have cloned dodos as pets). Thursday Next works as a Literary detective (in that world, literature is far more popular as in ours), and there are a lot of travels inside the Book world, which has a "jurisfiction" system (one of my favorite moments of the third book was the moment when Miss Havisham from Dickens' "Great expectations" does an anger management session for the characters of "Wuthering Heights"). I've been too lazy to try to read this one in English and so have only read the French translation, but I suspect the translation robbed it of some of its charm, and hope to read it in English someday (the problem is that reading such a book in English takes me far more time than in French... And also there are quite a lot of puns that I don't get, for example it took me ages to realize there was a pun in the name "Yorrick Kaine" ! :) )
I would heartily recommend the series to any lover of 19th century English literature (there are quite a lot of references to Lewis Carroll, Jane Austen, the Brontë family...)

GWTW, best wishes for your pregnancy. :)

#10 dirac

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 02:44 PM

I Promessi Sposi is really good, definitely read it. I'm thinking of reading the Stieg Larsson novels, but I'm still not sure. Can anyone fill me in on this series, who is it suited for, what tastes, etc.


Canary, welcome to the General Reading and Literature forum. We do have BTers who are familiar with the novels, and if you do a search using Larsson's name posts will come up.

The Thursday Next series sounds charming, Estelle.

Thanks to everyone who's keeping this thread going!

#11 Ed Waffle

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Posted 04 November 2009 - 06:20 PM

Estelle, I love the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. I may re-read it starting with "The Eyre Affair", which actually begins with the theft of the manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit by an arch criminal who shows his ruthlessness and power by killing a minor character in the book, thereby alterting every single copy in print.

In one of the books--it might be "First Among Sequels"-- the Goliath Corporation (real rulers of England) are planning to make Pride and Prejudice into a reality-TV dating show and in doing so will destroy Austen's classic forever.

It isn't really possible--at least for me--to do justice to these books and it is always nice to find another fan.

#12 Ed Waffle

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 08:15 PM

4 by Eric Ambler

I recently re-read four of the pre-World War II political espionage thrillers by English author Eric Ambler. They are among the books I re-read every five or ten years. The American titles, in copyright/publication order, are: “Background to Danger”, “Cause for Alarm”, “A Coffin for Dimitrios” and “Journey into Fear”. They have a lot in common in addition to their lurid titles.

In each of them the protagonist is a middle class or upper middle class Englishman abroad in central or Southern Europe. He is always a person in whom England could be proud—while not serving for King and Country like those in the armed forces or diplomatic service, Ambler’s heroes uphold the finest traditions of the gentleman. Each of them always keeps his word, no matter what difficulties may arise. In “Background”, for example, the journalist Kenton makes a promise to Herr Sachs, an odd character he meets in a compartment on a train from Berlin (much of the action in each of the books takes place while traveling). That Herr Sachs’s story becomes less likely as he tells it—his mother is Jewish, his family’s fortune will be seized by the Nazis, he has liquidated everything, converted it to bonds and has it all in large envelope. All he needs is a person above suspicion, a person who won’t be searched at the border, perhaps an Englishman to take his envelope to an address in Linz—doesn’t change the fact that Kenton has promised to help him. That Kenton is in need of funds, having had a bad turn at a poker dice game in Berlin, and that Sachs is willing to pay a tidy sum for his help doesn’t change things. A man’s word is his bond.

So we follow Kenton to a seedy hotel where he is to deliver the envelope. We find, as he does, that the man to whom he is to make the delivery is dead having met his end recently and violently. If only he hadn’t agreed to Sachs crazy story...

But he did and the rest of the book gets Kenton further into trouble with the Austrian police, a nasty group of Germans and a nastier group of hard men in the pay of a shadowy financier in England. He is helped to escape by the heroic Comintern agent Andreas Zaleshoff and his network of Russians. That a Soviet spy is a positive character wasn’t surprising, either in “Background” or in “Cause for Alarm” because the real evil lies with those who paid for the bullets, not who pulled the trigger. In “Cause” the protagonist helped by Zaleshoff is Marlow, an engineer who is made redundant in England and must go to Italy as a sales engineer for a British firm. Since the firm supplies machine tools that the Italian navy uses for making large cannons his appearance is noted by agents from the Soviet Union, the Third Reich and even Yugoslav intelligence.

Zaleshoff, accompanied by his attractive sister and fellow spy Tamara, is part of an intriguing set of characters that Ambler created for his protagonists to encounter. Another, who appears in both “Journey” and “Coffin” is Colonel Haki, the cunning but oh so charming director of Turkish military intelligence. In “Journey” yet another English engineer, Graham, is the target of Balkan assassins who are trying to keep him from returning to the home office with the plans for the destroyers his firm is refurbishing at their shipyards. The bad guys will have won if they scare him enough that he goes to ground in Turkey, since the delay of a several weeks would put the project off for a year. Colonel Haki decides the best way for him to travel is via a freighter that takes passengers and that is leaving for Genoa in the morning. But there are complications on the high seas. Nazi spies might be aboard, a lovely burlesque performer has set her cap for Graham while her protector keeps track of thing and there are others who are not who they seem to be.

“Coffin” is more of the same, this time with a professor of political economy who writes detective stories in his spare time stumbling into a nest of spies in Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria. It is full of local color with plenty of double-crossing and backstabbing (literally in one case) and Colonel Haki intervening to keep things on track. It is my least favorite of the four because one has to work to suspend one’s disbelief.

I haven’t done these books justice, but I strongly recommend them to those who like sophisticated espionage tales with political overtones full of good guys who are really good and bad guys who are really bad.

#13 dirac

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Posted 19 November 2009 - 06:19 PM

Thank you for posting, Ed. I've seen good movies with screenplays by Ambler but never read one of his books. (There's a little known Alec Guinness picture that I like, The Card, that was adapted by Ambler from a novel by Arnold Bennett.)

#14 Estelle

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Posted 20 November 2009 - 05:32 AM

It isn't really possible--at least for me--to do justice to these books and it is always nice to find another fan.


Nice to meet another Fforde fan :wink:
Now I'm going to start soon "The big over easy" (by Fforde too) in the "nursery crimes" series.
I'm reading it in English (it hasn't been translated into French yet), but am a bit afraid of missing many of the puns and references...

#15 Ed Waffle

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Posted 21 November 2009 - 01:32 AM

It isn't really possible--at least for me--to do justice to these books and it is always nice to find another fan.


Nice to meet another Fforde fan :wink:
Now I'm going to start soon "The big over easy" (by Fforde too) in the "nursery crimes" series.
I'm reading it in English (it hasn't been translated into French yet), but am a bit afraid of missing many of the puns and references...


I miss many of the references since I read Fforde pretty quickly but even getting just the obvious ones means that they are still quite funny. One of the joys of reading the series is the way he will mention that seems extraneous to the present action while while developing the plot. One example, and I can't recall which book, was when a veteran LitTec operative recalled the theft of all the humor from the novels of Thomas Hardy, a crime that had never been solved. Apparently there were parts of Hardy's Wessex that were as gently funny as the country houses where Bertie and Jeeves vacationed in P. G. Wodehouse. Goliath Corp. agents were suspected of the big robberty but it could also have been the work of a free lance literary footpad...


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