The President’s Last Love

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Read 28/11/2021-07/12/2021

Rating 3 stars

I started reading Andrey Kurkov’s books almost 20 years ago, starting with the first of his Penguin books, about an investigative journalist and the penguin he adopts from a closing zoo. I enjoyed his satire of life in a former Soviet state and its struggles with a post independence relationship with Russia. The President’s Last Love, translated by George Bird, is a more ambitious work that spans four decades and explores the trajectory of one man from street gang member to catering manager to president.

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Six Degrees of Separation: From Ethan Frome to That Old Ace in the Hole

December is here and, as ever, I’m taking part in the Six Degrees of Separation meme, hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.

Suitably for the month of December in the Northern hemisphere, if not her southern one, Kate has chosen Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome as our starting book. It’s a book I’ve read twice, once more than 25 years ago, when I first discovered Wharton as a writer, and then again around the time that the film adaptation starring Patricia Arquette and Liam Neeson was released. It’s a book that I love, my favourite of the works of Wharton that I’ve read.

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Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

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Read 20/11/2021-28/11/2021

Rating 11 stars

I eyed up Olga Tokarczuk’s novel Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead for a long time after its publication, resisting its simple but elegant dark blue cover each time I saw it on display in a bookshop. I finally succumbed earlier this year and now my European book tour brings me to Poland and it’s reached the top of my To Read pile. Continue reading

Dead Souls

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Read 27/10/2021-17/11/2021

Rating 5 stars

Next on my literary tour of Europe, I’m off to Russia. Nikolai Gogol’s Dead Souls is set in an unspecified Russian provincial capital, only referred to as N—. This undefined location means that I can fudge my journey on the map and visit Kaliningrad. This city is also a Russian provincial capital, but in a small exclave of Russia that sits on the Baltic coast between Lithuania and Poland, the Kaliningrad Oblast. Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation: From What Are You Going Through to The Essex Serpent

It’s been a busy first weekend in November, which is why I’m a couple of days late for this month’s Six Degrees of Separation. This bookish meme, in which readers link together a chain of books, is hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.

November’s starting point is Sigrid Nunez’s novel What Are You Going Through.

I haven’t read this novel yet, but I have read Kate’s review of it, so I know what it’s about.

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The Polyglot Lovers

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Read 03/10/2021-10/10/2021

Rating 4 stars

I’m starting my Euro Tour in Sweden with Lina Wolff’s The Polyglot Lovers. I read Wolff’s first novel, Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs, not so long ago and have intended to read her second for a while. Wolff is Swedish, from Lund in Skåne. She lived in Spain for a while, where her first novel and some of the stories in her first collection, Many People Die Like You, are set. The Polyglot Lovers is set in Sweden and Italy. Continue reading

Random Thoughts: A gendered reading of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery

I’ve been thinking about Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery, which was the starting point for the October 2021 Six Degrees of Separation. In particular, I’ve been thinking about the character Tessie, and what she represents for me. I found a few essays online analysing the story in relation to public reaction, symbolism, the purpose of ritual, even Marxist theory. I didn’t find anything about gender roles that satisfied me, though, so I decided to marshall my random thoughts on the subject here.

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Random Thoughts: Meeting People is Easy

Image from EMS-FORSTER-PRODUCTIONS/DigitalVision/Getty

I don’t know why I’ve chosen the title of a film I’ve never watched about a band I’m not that bothered about as the heading for this post. Perhaps because I don’t think meeting people is easy. And yet here I am about to pretend to meet people by answering some questions about myself. Thank goodness we’re not in a room together.

I don’t often do things that involve tagging, but Chris over at Calmgrove’s recent post in response to a new tag #goodtomeetcha invented by Mayri at Bookforager sent me off to the origin post.

I enjoyed both Chris’s and Mayri’s answers so much that I’ve decided to have a go myself. The questions are all as they appear in Mayri’s post.

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Six Degrees of Separation: From The Lottery to The Resident

September has flown by and suddenly it’s the first Saturday of October. Which means it’s time for Six Degrees of Separation, hosted as ever by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.

October ends on Hallowe’en, making it the spookiest month, and our starting point for this month’s chain is a Shirley Jackson short story, The Lottery (available online here).

A heads up – I’m thinking a lot about Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa this week, two women brutally murdered by opportunistic men while simply going about life in a way we should all be free to, regardless of gender, but that women are conditioned to feel at risk doing. So there’s a flavour to my choices this month.

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