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: 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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The Shadow King

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Read 18/04/2021-04/05/2021

Rating 4 stars

Hirut, a woman with a long scar “that puckers at the base of her neck and trails over her shoulder like a broken necklace”, waits in Addis Ababa station for a man she hasn’t seen in almost 40 years. They are connected by a secret, one from history, involving Mussolini and Emperor Haile Selassie. Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation: from Daisy Jones and the Six to Revolutionary Road

Happy New Year! And I’m starting 2020’s book blogging with 6 degrees of separation because I haven’t quite finished the book I started before Xmas.

I don’t do New Year resolutions, so it’s untrue for me to say I’ve resolved to do all of 2020’s 6 degrees of separations. I’m going to try my best to remember to, though.

January’s chain begins with a book I haven’t heard of. Continue reading

Double Drink Story

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Read 03/05/2019-06/05/2019

Rating 2.5 stars

The full title of this autobiography is My Life with Dylan Thomas: Double Drink Story. It is Caitlin Thomas’s memoir of her life as Dylan Thomas’s wife. I bought it on a whim at the Dylan Thomas Boathouse on the last day of my holiday in Laugharne. Earlier in the week, I’d read Aeronwy Thomas’s memoir, which didn’t put Caitlin or Dylan in a particularly good light. I was interested to know Caitlin’s take on things. Continue reading

How to be both

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Read 12/03/2017-13/03/2017

Rating: 5 stars

Ali Smith wrote the introductions to some of the recent English translations of Tove Jansson’s non-Moomin books. I liked her observations, so decided I should read something by her.

I picked a book at random from the shelf in my local library, and came home with How to be Both. I had no idea what it was about. It starts with a woman coming to terms with the death of her mother. Continue reading

A Sicilian Romance

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Read 08/03/2017-11/03/2017

Rating: 3 stars

Ann Radcliffe’s novel of gothic romance is an absolute hoot. It’s very much of its time, and I had to put myself in the frame of mind of someone from the 1790s when I started reading it. The language is wonderfully flowery at times, and the plot is very different to the type of book I normally read. The good are very, very good, the bad are very, very bad, and the secrets are very, very mysterious. It was a riot of hilarity for this 21st century reader. Continue reading

My Brilliant Friend

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Read 27/10/2016-07/11/2016

Rating: 3 stars

Even before the recent ‘outing’ of Elena Ferrante’s true identity, I had been meaning to read her Neapolitan Quartet. I’ve read articles comparing it to Karl Ove Knausgård’s series of books fictionalising his passage through life and his family relationships. I’ve had it recommended to me as something I would enjoy. It has been on my Kindle for a while. In October, I decided I would only read books written by women and, as much as possible, books by women I hadn’t read before. So I came to My Brilliant Friend at the end of the month.

I’ll be honest. I found it a difficult book to immerse myself in. It’s well written but somehow too aware of itself. I felt as though I was being taken through a plot, rather than sharing the experiences of the people in the story. It had peaks and troughs for me. I didn’t feel compelled to keep reading. There have been days when I’ve only managed 30 minutes with it. It hasn’t been because it’s an intellectually difficult read, more that I’ve found it difficult to really connect with the characters. I found it a bit clichéd.

The story follows two friends, Elena and Lila, through their childhood and adolescence in a village outside Naples. Told from Elena’s perspective, it examines the nature of friendship and rivalry, and touches on political and social tensions in Italy in the years after the Second World War. Ferrante depicts village life vividly: the brutality, the closeness of death, with what ease simple actions become destructive and sometimes fatal.
Continue reading

Vertigo (W G Sebald)

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Read 15/08/2016 to 18/08/2016

Rating: 5 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Olympic Challenge

I’ve been meaning to read some Sebald for a while. I know next to nothing about him, save that other writers whose work I admire speak warmly of him. I read his bio at the start of Vertigo, of course, and learnt that he studied in Manchester and taught at the University in the 1960s. I can be very partisan at times, and learning that someone made Manchester their home, however briefly, makes me warm to them.

Vertigo starts with a veteran of an alpine march led by Napoleon in 1800 reminiscing thirty-six years later about his experiences in the armed services. Continue reading