Monthly Archives: July 2012

Holiday Reading

My holiday books all packed and ready to go!

A holiday is around the corner – hurrah! I haven’t been on a beach holiday for about four years now and I am stupidly excited at the prospect. One of the reasons for my excitement is the opportunity to spend even more time reading books, and hopefully catch up on my goal of reading 52 books this year (I am on number 21 of the year so far, pretty poor for a supposed book blogger…). Two weeks of sunshine and beach reading can’t come soon enough! I have six books packed at the moment and I am waiting on two more arriving in the post. And my boyfriend is taking a few for himself which I may have to muscle my way in on!

Currently packed are as follows:

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Shadow play and the “whirlpool of history” – Book Review: By Night in Chile by Roberto Bolaño

Publisher: Vintage
Selected Edition: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-099-45939-2
Published: 2009 [2000]
No. of Pages: 130
Price: £7.99

I recently listened to a Guardian Books podcast which discussed modern Latin American literature, and the name Roberto Bolaño popped up a few times. I had heard of his novel 2666 and have even picked it up in bookshops a couple of times but have felt slightly daunted by its size. After hearing about him again, I had a look for some of his work in my local library and came across his novella By Night in Chile.

The novella follows the thoughts and memories of Father Sebastián Urrutia Lacroix who thinks he is on his death bed and sees the more prominent parts of his life flashing up before him. There are some memorable episodes; his encounter with the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, his employment by shady characters to gather information of practices of church preservation across Europe (including falconry to scare off pigeons and doves and their toxic faeces from damaging the buildings), and his employment as an educator of Marxist theories to General Pinochet and his cabinet ministers.

The novella is very Latin American in its feel, by which I mean there are moments which seem a little outlandish, there is an artistic licence taken with certain figures and times of history that I think is a big feature of Latin American writing. It reminded me very much of Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende and their talent for weaving real historical events into their narratives with additional, fictional, details.

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A Book That Will Take and Break Your Heart – Book Review: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Publisher: Penguin
Selected Edition: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-14-101997-0
Published: 2005
No. of Pages: 252
Price: £8.99
SHORTLISTED FOR THE ORANGE PRIZE FOR FICTION 2006

I had heard good things about Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love and it had been on my To-Be-Read list for a while, so when I stumbled across it last week in my local Oxfam bookstore I grabbed it greedily off of the shelf. I was not disappointed. In fact, I think it might be one of my favourite books of the year so far, and that it has changed the way that I feel about reading and writing. But first, what is the story of The History of Love?

SYNOPSIS

In New York, Leo Gursky, a Polish immigrant is living each day as it comes, trying to survive in a lonely world, spending his days going out just in order to be seen and prove to himself that he still exists in the world. He passes the time thinking about his first and only love, Alma, and desperately trying to hold on to anything that connects the two of them.

Meanwhile, Alma Singer, a fourteen-year-old girl is trying to deal with her own loneliness and grief after losing her father, and help her mother through her grief. She spends her days researching how to survive in the wilderness, keeping her father alive in her memory as he had been a bit of an adventurer. Her brother, Bird, is losing himself in Jewish religion and clinging to a janitor as a replacement for the father he barely knew.

Alma’s mother is a translator and has recently received a request to translate a book called The History of Love, written originally in Spanish by a Polish writer living in Argentina. The book had been given to her by her husband in the first days of their relationship and feeling a special sentimental attachment to it, she agrees. What follows are stories of lives that intersect and influence each other, leaving behind a trail of coincidences, contradictions and fictions.

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Never has a book been so beautifully noisy – Book Review: Grace Notes by Bernard Mac Laverty

Publisher: Vintage
Selected Edition: Paperback
ISBN: 0-09-977801-7
Published: 1997
No. of Pages: 277
Price: £5.99
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 1997 BOOKER PRIZE

In Bernard Mac Laverty’s Grace Notes, Catherine McKenna, a composer, struggles to cope with post-natal depression, the break-up of her relationship with the child’s father, Dave, and the death of her own father. The novel opens as Catherine returns to her home town in Northern Ireland for her father’s funeral, trying to rebuild a connection with her mother after an estrangement and recalling the events that separated them. On her return from Ireland, in a series of parts we see her life on Islay with Dave, her return to Glasgow and eagerness to see her daughter Anna again, and her battle with the depression which threatens to suffocate her, trying to bring to life the music of her inner hearing, and share her musical compositions with the world.

Grace Notes is a novel that sings, filled with music and the sounds that life can create. Everyday things are given a new aural quality, and I found myself listening out for these new sounds, like I was learning how sound could be written down. Never has a book been so beautifully noisy.

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Book Club – Meeting #2

At long last my book club met up again, a month later than originally planned but worth the wait!

We had been reading Mary McCarthy’s The Group and it received mixed reviews.

I enjoyed the book. I liked the representations of life as a woman in the mid-30s in New York. If I’m honest I can’t remember which character was which now, but my overall impression was that life for women was portrayed very sadly. None of the women seemed to have rewarding relationships with men, or even with each other, with the exception of one of the characters, Polly. They seemed to be dominated, particularly clear in the case of Priss whose paediatrician husband bears over her pregnancy and the infancy of their child, telling her what to do and how to treat the baby, and treating her as a guinea pig for his own ideas on mothering. I found it strange how compliantly she agrees to his decisions, despite her own reservations about it all.

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Bookish Gifts

Recently I have been the lucky recipient of three books in the post and thought it was high time I thanked everyone properly!

Through the Literary Blog Hop Giveaway organised by Leeswammes’ Blog, I won two books:

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

From Ali at Heavenali

&

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

From Debbie over at ExUrbanis

Thank you very much to both Ali and Debbie, and of course to Leeswammes for organising the Literary Blog Hop. The next giveaway is in October and I hope to be taking part. Keep checking back on my blog around then and you may be a lucky winner too! 🙂

I also received a free book from Book OxygenThe Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan.

They have started a forum called the Inner Circle which will be a forum for publishers to consult about new releases and to find out a little more about readers’ thoughts. You can read more about it and join on their website.

I would also like this opportunity to thank Bundleofbooks who nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award! Please do have a look at her blog as there are always lots of interesting posts and book reviews. And if you’re interested in finding out more about the Versatile Blogger award have a wee look here. I’m pretty new to blogging so it’s very nice to know that people are interested by what I post on here!

In the spirit of the Versatile Blogger Award I would like to nominate a few of my favourite Versatile Bloggers and will do so on my return from holiday (end of July).

I haven’t had internet of late so please do excuse me for the upcoming barrage of posts. Should keep readers busy for an hour or so!

Jennifer 🙂

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