The Radetzky March

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Read 02/01/2022-09/01/2022

Rating 5 stars

Onwards in my European literary tour to Austria. Joseph Roth was born in a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that is now in Ukraine, but studied in Vienna and is considered to be an Austrian writer. I have his novel The Radetzky March in a Folio edition, which is no longer in print.

The Radetzky March is considered to be a political masterpiece that draws parallels between the elevation and subsequent fall of a military family and the decline and eventual collapse of the Habsburg monarchy. The focus of the novel is the Trotta family, Austro-Hungarians of Slovenian origin, the patriarch of whom rescues Emperor Franz Joseph I from death during the Battle of Solferino. This earns him an elevation to the nobility and the title Baron Trotta von Sipolje.

It’s a funny book that captures the camaraderie of military life, the ridiculous nature of civil service life, the generational changes in parent-child relationships, and the curious rigidity of friendship between men of a certain class. Having studied the causes of the First World War at school, it also provided a different, more social context to the political one I garnered from O Level text books in the 1980s.

It’s also a poetic book, in the way Roth describes landscape, seasons, thoughts and emotions. His turn of phrase is perfection. I loved the lightness of his touch, the humour and fondness for his characters, and the way he skewers the social structures of the time, while simultaneously mourning their passing. Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation: From Rules of Civility to Daisy Miller

It’s 2022, so a Happy New Year to you. 1 January was also the first Saturday of the month, making it time for Six Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.

Our starting book this month is one that I included in my January chain two years agoRules of Civility by Amor Towles. This is a book I read before I started this blog. It was recommended to me by a good friend in New York, and I loved it.

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Random Thoughts: European Book Tour

Political map of Europe from vidiani.com

I’ve been perusing my stack of books that I have yet to read, and have decided that I’m going on another book trip. I enjoyed “holidaying” over the summer via the books I’d bought on recent holidays. As it’s unlikely that I’ll get to Europe for a while (thanks pandemic, thanks Brexit), I thought I’d knock a few titles off the stack that are by European authors and head off on a virtual tour of the continent.

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Six Degrees of Separation: From Beezus and Ramona to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

It’s May Day! Beltane, if you will. I wish I’d been clever enough to do a folk horror Six Degrees of Separation this month. Kate, who hosts the meme at Books Are My Favourite and Best, has chosen a children’s classic, Beezus and Ramona, for the first book in the chain. Read on to see how I end up in a submarine with Captain Nemo.

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The Post Office Girl

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Read 01/05/2017-05/05/2017

Rating: 3 stars

Poor Christine Hoflehner. Twenty eight years old and bereft of hope. She toils away in a rural post office, caring for her sick mother, her family devastated by the Great War and the poverty that engulfed Austria as one of the losers.

Her glamorous aunt, who has lived quite a life in the Americas and has largely escaped the trials experienced by her compatriots, has returned to Europe for a holiday. She invites her sister to stay with her at her luxury Swiss hotel. Christine’s mother is too ill, though, so the honour is transferred to Christine. Her lack of enthusiasm is brilliantly rendered by Zweig. Continue reading

Fantastic Night

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Read 13/03/2017-21/03/2017

Rating: 5 stars

Over on Brontë’s Page Turners not so long ago was a review of a novella by Stefan Zweig. I hadn’t heard of Zweig, but Brontë’s review made me want to read something by him.

Last week I went to the library to borrow one specific book. The library staff had done that thing of getting a table out and putting books on it to entice people to borrow them. One of the books was The Portable Veblen, which I’ve already read. But it pulled my irresolute eye towards the table and then Stefan Zweig’s Fantastic Night winked at me. There and then, I couldn’t recall why I knew his name, but I borrowed it anyway. Continue reading