Charlotte (Charl08) swims with the penguins (4)

Dette er en fortsættelse af tråden Charlotte (Charl08) swims with the penguins (3).

Snak2021 Category Challenge

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Charlotte (Charl08) swims with the penguins (4)

Redigeret: I går, 4:03pm

I'm Charlotte, I'm dipping my toe into the Category Challenge for the first time this year after a couple of years in the 75ers.
I enjoy reading a wide range of books, from romance and crime fiction to literary fiction, not to mention non-fiction (although less of that). I try to read fiction from different places, and in 2020 joined an online book group that just reads translated fiction.

I am keen on penguins, both of the publishing and bird kind. Inspired by a recent documentary I'm organising my categories by penguin type - but advance warning, it gets pretty tangential.

Photo by Long Ma on Unsplash

Galapagos penguin (fiction ETA and NF in translation) 22
African penguin (books by authors with links to the African continent, loosely defined) 4
Yellow-eyed penguin (Keeping things interesting i.e. first time authors) 9
Chinstrap penguin (Graphic novels and memoirs) 10
Little penguin (Familiar faces - authors I've read before) 10
King penguin (books with links to feminism) 4
Great auk (histories) 3
Southern Rockhopper penguin (new-to-me authors) 10
Adelie penguin (prize nominees) 8
Macaroni penguin (genre fiction) 62
Emperor penguin (catch all category - everything else) 8

June 12 (Total 150)
May 25 (138)
April 31 (113)
March 29 (82)
Feb 29 (53)
Jan 24

All images via wikipedia unless otherwise stated.

Redigeret: I går, 4:03pm

Galapagos penguin (fiction and NF in translation)

1. The Inspector of Strange and Unexplained Deaths (France)
2. Sidewalks (Translated from the Spanish, although author now writes in English and is based in the US)
3. London under snow (Catalan)
4. The Eighth Life (German)
5. Zero (Norwegian)
6. House on Endless Waters (Hebrew)
7. Not a Novel (German)
8. Abigail (Hungarian)
9. Paula (German)
10. Bookshops (Spanish)
11. The Book of Jakarta (Indonesian)
12. If I Had Your Face (Korean)
13. Crocodile Tears (Spanish - Uruguay)
14. Nordic Fauna (Swedish)
15. Slash and Burn (Spanish - El Salvador)
16. Snapping Point (Turkish)
17. Havana Year Zero (Spanish - Cuba)
18. The Slaughterman's Daughter (Hebrew - Israel)
19. Tomorrow They Won't Dare to Murder Us (French)
20. All Men Are Liars (Spanish: Argentina)
21. Vivian (Danish)
22. Distant Sunflower Fields (China)
Planned reading for this category from the Borderless Book Club:

May 20th
Charco Press | Havana Year Zero by Karla Suárez
With translator Christina MacSweeney

June 3rd
Fitzcarraldo Editions | Vivian by Christina Hesselholdt
With translator Paul Garrett Russell and author Christina Hesselholdt

June 17th
Sinoist Books | Distant Sunflower Fields by Li Juan
With translator Christopher Payne

Books from the shelves

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree (Iran)
All Men are Liars
In the Twilight: stories (Russia)

Books from the library
Velvet (Palestine)
Asylum Road

Redigeret: jun 6, 10:34am

African penguin (books by authors with links to the African continent, loosely defined)

Photo by Lizel Snyman De Gouveia on Unsplash

1. Adua (Author is Italian-Somali)
2. Girl Called Eel (Author born in Comoros, based in France)
3. Transcendent Kingdom (Author is Ghanaian-American)
4. Lightseekers (Nigerian author)

Possible reads from my shelves:
To Hell with Cronje
Kicking Tongues (African Writers Series)
Occasion for Loving (VMC)
The Loss Library
This Mournable Body
Orchestra of Minorities
Speak No Evil

Redigeret: maj 5, 4:47am

Yellow-eyed penguin (Keeping things interesting i.e. first time authors)

Had never come across these penguins before until I saw the BBC documentary last week.

1. Strange Beasts of China
2. Citadel (Poetry)
3. Keeper
4. Greetings from Bury Park
5. These Ghosts are Family
6. The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney
7. A Dutiful Boy
8. How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House
9. A Net for Small Fishes

Possible reads from my shelves:
Love and Other Thought Experiments

Possible reads from library requests:
Rainbow milk
24044033::As you were by Elaine Feeney

Redigeret: maj 30, 7:07pm

Chinstrap penguin (Graphic novels and memoirs)

(Photo by Eamonn Maguire on Unsplash)
Because these penguins seem to appreciate graphic design...
1. Strong Female Protagonist
2. Britten and Brülightly
3. The Golden Age: Book 1
4. Ms Marvel : Stormranger
5. Palimpsest: documents from a Korean adoption
6. Petty Theft
7. Taxi! Stories from the back seat
8. Couch Fiction (2020 edition)
9. Shadow Life
10. I Know What I Am

Possible reads from my shelves:
On Ajayi Crowther Street

Redigeret: jun 5, 4:34pm

Little penguin (Familiar faces - authors I've read before)

Saw some of these guys at Phillip Island, about a million years ago now (it feels like).
1. The Haw Lantern
2. More than a Woman
3. Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?
4. The Pull of the Stars
5. Deacon King Kong
6. Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard
7. The Galaxy and the Ground Within
8. The Silver Collar
9. Daughters of Night
10. American Mules

Possible reads from the shelves: Divisadero
Underground Railroad

Redigeret: maj 12, 12:37pm

King penguin (books with links to feminism and gender)

King penguin creche
1. Hag: forgotten folktales retold
2. Laura Knight
3. Eileen Agar
4. What Comes Naturally

On the shelves
Invisible Women
Voyaging Out

Redigeret: jun 13, 3:58pm

Redigeret: jun 11, 4:11pm

Redigeret: maj 5, 4:40am

Adelie penguin (prize nominees)

1. The Bells of Old Tokyo (shortisted for Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year)
2. The Historians: poetry (winner of the Costa Prize poetry category)
3. A Village Life (Louise Glück won the Nobel for Literature 2020)
4. Luster (Women's Prize Longlist 2021)
5. Piranesi (Women's Prize Longlist 2021)
6. The Vanishing Half (Women's Prize Longlist 2021)
7. No one is Talking About This (Women's Prize Longlist 2021)
8. Detransition, Baby (Ditto)

Possible Prize winners to read:
Costa Prize category winners announced (Jan) -
Winner of the 2020 First Novel Award Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud (Faber)
(read in 2020)
Winner of the 2020 Novel Award: The Mermaid of Black Conch: A Love Story by Monique Roffey (Peepal Tree)
Winner of the 2020 Biography Award The Louder I Will Sing by Lee Lawrence (Sphere)
Winner of the 2020 Children's Book Award: Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant (Faber)

Redigeret: I går, 3:32pm

Macaroni penguin - genre fiction

Macaroni penguins are the most numerous penguin (according to wikipedia!)
For the full list 1-40 see previous thread.

41. The Mix-up (r) Netgalley - UK publish date 06/21
42. Edge of the Grave (c)
43. Who's That Earl (r)
44. Hard Luck (r)
45. The Dating Plan (r)
46. One Thing Leads to a Lover (r)
47. The Torso: Irene Huss (c)
48. Close Call (c)
49. The Charmer (r)
50. Riley Thorn and the Dead Guy Next Door (r&c)
51. Midnight Atlanta (c)
52. Meet You in the Middle (r)
53. A Gift of Daisies (r)
54. The Worst Best Man (r)
55. Bitter Wash Road (c)
56. The Intimacy Experiment (r)
57. The Jigsaw Man (c)
58. A Rake's Guide to Seduction (r)
59. Peace (c)
60. Back in the Burbs (r)
61. One Snowy Night (r)
62. How Town (c)

Redigeret: maj 21, 5:39pm

Emperor penguin - ruling over everything else

1. A Rustle of Silk (audio)
2. From Crime to Crime (Law, Memoir)
3. I carried a Watermelon (Memoir, humour)
4. All the Young Men (Memoir)
5. Life Mask (Poetry)
6. Being Heumann (Memoir/Disability activism)
7. When We Rise (Memoir/LGBT activism)
8. Many Different Kinds of Love (poetry/ health)

maj 3, 3:21am

Currently reading

Redigeret: maj 3, 8:47am

Out from the library:

The long Glasgow kiss Russell, Craig,
Daughter of the tigris Ramli¯, MuhŽsin
The survivors Harper, Jane (Jane Elizabeth)
The secret life of Dorothy Soames
Mutual Admiration Society
In a dark wood Moring, Marcel
How beautiful we were Mbue, Imbolo
When we rise Jones, Cleve
Outlawed North, Anna
Sovietistan Fatland, Erika,
Red widow Katsu, Alma
Light perpetual Spufford, Francis,
Be frank with me Johnson, Julia Claiborne
Beside myself Salzmann, Marianna, 1985-
Velvet Haba¯yib, Huza¯mah
Afterlives Gurnah, Abdulrazak, 1948-
Rainbow milk Mendez, Paul
As you were Feeney, Elaine
A net for small fishes Jago, Lucy
Asylum road Sudjic, Olivia
The mermaid of Black Conch Roffey, Monique
Midnight Atlanta Mullen, Thomas
The slaughterman's daughter Iczkovits, Yaniv, 1975-
Snapping point Bic¸en, Asl‡
Havana Year Zero Sua´rez, Karla, 1969-

Redigeret: maj 3, 6:51am

Happy new thread, Charlotte!

From your library stack: I liked Sovietistan and I wonder if you mean In a dark wood by Hella Haasse, or an other book by Marcel Möring.

maj 3, 5:50am

That is a lot of library books! I can barely keep up with one at a time! :D

Happy new thread!

maj 3, 6:25am

Happy new thread, Charlotte. Happy to revisit all your lovely penguins.

maj 3, 7:06am

I have several of your library loans on Kindle or Netgalley, none from the library (yet). I covet Light Perpetual. I'm finding the current thing of issuing reserved books before I (or actually, my partner) get to collect them very confusing, especially as the account doesn't then show where they're awaiting collection. I've realised that it makes more sense to ask for books to be sent to a different branch from normal but where I was in q queue and expected to wait another month or two I've not done this, and some of my books have surprised me.

maj 3, 7:25am

Happy new thread, Charlotte.
>13 charl08:, >14 charl08: !!! Impressive.

maj 3, 7:56am

Happy new thread, Charlotte. That's a beautiful cover on the Pamuk.

maj 3, 8:29am

Happy new thread, Charlotte!

maj 3, 8:56am

Happy new one, Charlotte!

maj 3, 10:45am

Happy New Thread!

maj 3, 4:11pm

>15 FAMeulstee: Thanks Anita. Thinking I'll take Sovietstan with me on holiday. I think I've fixed the touchstone on the other one.

>16 Jackie_K: I can't keep up either: they all come at once.

>17 Helenliz: Thanks Helen. Maybe I'll see some new ones in 2022.

>18 elkiedee: Embarrassingly, I'm a bit worried about where Light Perpetual might be...

>19 BLBera: Thanks Beth. I'll be more impressed when I return them without a fine, I think.

>20 MissWatson: It's a lovely floppy 'American' binding, very happy with my copy.

>21 bell7: Thanks Mary. Hope your enormous dictionary is happily settled in! (I am jealous).

>22 katiekrug: Thanks Katie. I'm still reeling from #Systemgate (as no one is calling it). Thanks for helping me avoid Suffragette City though. I was tempted.

>23 MissBrangwen: Thanks for visiting Mirjam.

maj 3, 4:42pm

>24 charl08: Yes, you fixed it. The touchstone now goes to Marcel Möring's book.

maj 3, 10:15pm

Happy new thread! I'm going to have to finish Lennox soon so that I can get to The Long Glasgow Kiss!

maj 4, 2:59am

Happy new thread and just wow on the number of books you are currently reading!

maj 4, 4:35am

>25 FAMeulstee: The touchstones don't seem to like my long lists.

>26 rabbitprincess: I don't think I'm reading in order, but looking forward to trying this new series.

>27 Tess_W: I should recategorise my currently reading into "actually currently reading" and "have been reading, put down, but want to pick up again".

maj 4, 7:22am

Happy New Thread, Charlotte. Yes, I am back and trying to slowly catch up with the threads. I did not see any penguins but I saw many other birds.

maj 4, 8:24am

>29 msf59: Looking forward to seeing those holiday photos, Mark.

I am packing the binoculars for my trip, hoping to see some waders and other coastal birds.

Redigeret: maj 4, 4:46pm

ETA I posted this and it started hailing a couple of hours later. Sigh.

Redigeret: maj 4, 4:57pm

A Net for Small Fishes

When I was young, there was no news. Gossip perhaps, about neighbours, but nothing of high persons. Since then, a great hunger had arisen in the bellies of ordinary people to know everything that happened beyond their own parish. The streets were littered with the ballads and broadsides ripped from the doors of churches and walls of taverns to make way for the next. No person was safe from the libellers and intelligencers, not even the King...

This beautifully produced book (the endpapers alone are stunning) is centred on the court of James I. Jago has taken a historical court case featuring Frances Howard and unpicked it, exploring the motives of Howard and one of her friends and courtiers, Anne Turner. Turner's life doesn't fit neatly into categories. Jago shows how despite much wealth around the court many lived with huge debts, pawning gifts and endlessly seeking access through the King's favourites. Her husband dies, and as a widow, Turner becomes particularly vulnerable. Meanwhile Frances Howard is trapped by a terrible marriage arranged by her parents.

This is a first novel, and I think perhaps the pacing is where this shows: for some reason there is a huge spoiler on the back cover, despite it not being mentioned in the text itself. It felt to me that it takes a long time to build to a very dramatic conclusion, which I found past my patience, and had I not felt "invested" (I've got this far, I'm not abandoning it!) I might have put it down unfinished. Maybe less detail would have helped here.
I suspect fans of Wolf Hall might enjoy this. There's lots of plotting.

maj 4, 8:59pm

... last thread...
t was *county* (local govt area) not country!
Haha, and, oops!

>14 charl08: all of those, at once? I just returned 4 today (2 of which I had read, 2 of which I had not) and I vowed not to get any more out. But, I needed something to read while I had my coffee at the cafe, I got out Colum McCann's Apeirogon.

maj 5, 5:08am

>33 LovingLit: Having just seen your currently reading list, I think we're the same: some of the list in >14 charl08: are ones I just can't quite bear to admit I'm not going to pick up again.

maj 5, 5:10am

The Torso

I really like Irene Huss, she's middle aged, she solves crime, and she's sometimes scared in a realistic manner. This one was a bit bonkers, criminal wise, but there were no women locked away for the majority of the book (a big personal bugbear of mine) so allowances have been made. I enjoy all the restaurants she visits for her lunches too. Although maybe the police are better paid in Sweden?

maj 5, 8:25am

35: The Irene Huss series is yet another series in which I've bought a lot of books and have to get round to reading ANY of them. I must have been intending to start this series for more than 15 years. Thanks for reminding me, I guess.

maj 5, 12:56pm

>31 charl08: Oh, I hope they survive.

A Net for Small Fishes sounds like one I might enjoy. And I do like to try first novels. Great comments.

maj 5, 3:15pm

>36 elkiedee: Well, if you read the first one and don't like it, you've cleared a big chunk of your shelf!

>37 BLBera: I hope it finds readers, Beth, it's a fascinating book.

It's been really cold here (for the UK for this time of year), so not optimistic for the garden. But maybe warm weather is coming?

Redigeret: maj 5, 3:31pm

New bookgroup questions are out. The novel this week is translated from the Turkish (and I still have 100 pages to go).
More info on the books (and the group) here:


This week's read, Snapping Point, focuses on the island of Andalıç, adrift on the Aegean between Greece and Turkey. What starts as the realistic tale of a charming provincial town develops into a richly detailed political novel in a fantastic setting. Hear Feyza Howell read from her translation here.
Here are the discussion questions for the breakout rooms:
Have you noticed that eighteen out of the twenty-four chapters open with musings on time, weather or geography ? How does this enrich the narrative?
Discuss the four main female characters Jülide, Saliha, Muzaffer, and Cemile, and how they exert control over their lives.
‘All that remained in the festering wound was a tiny thorn.’ Discuss the significance of the last line of the book.
Julide’s supernatural powers develop throughout the novel. Along with the breaking off of the peninsula from the mainland and the seabed, how do you feel about the inclusion of these magical elements?
Have you noticed the subtle ways in which the Greek/Turkish tensions are referenced in the book? ( clue: scene at the jewellery shop, the island rescue). (For those who are interested to learn more about this issue, here is a great graphic novel recommended by the translator NB: nothing at all to do with today’s waves of refugees; This was a direct outcome of the Treaty of Lausanne.)

maj 5, 4:06pm

>38 charl08: None of the print copies I have - I think the first 3 books in the series - are on shelves. I ran out of shelf space a long time ago and my crime fiction shelving as was had to go to make way for the stairs to the top floor of the house (which was a loft conversion). A lot of them were on offer on Kindle over the years. So if I find print copies in any boxes they can go to a new home at some point anyway.

Redigeret: maj 5, 5:56pm

>40 elkiedee: Ah well, no motives there then.

I've finished Snapping Point, as well as visiting two bookshops in one day for the first time in months. Picked up a couple of secondhand bargains and some gifts for friends and family. I managed to miss two connections though: seem to have lost the knack of public transport during lockdown.

Redigeret: maj 7, 6:06am

Great discussion about Snapping Point at the bookgroup last night. We were lucky enough to have not only the Turkish author but the original Turkish publisher too. This book was originally written and published more than ten years ago, but manages to be weirdly prescient in themes, as the translator noted. In the discussion group several people commented on the way the book felt like two very different novels. The first is a detailed account of small town life in coastal Turkey, where everyone knows one another's business. Çemal is stuck running the family shop until his childhood sweetheart comes home, somehow disenchanted with her high-flying career. Alongside this is the story of a young girl (Jülide) pursued by a boyfriend she no longer likes.
There are clear political tensions in the community, as Jülide goes to visit the local paper and finds them under attack for printing corruption stories. Alongside this is social pressure on the women, all monitored by the community (from dress to who they spend time with).

Trailed on the cover (so not a spoiler!) and with a shift in tone, an earthquake hits the town and it detaches from Turkey. This starts what felt like a different book. Comparisons were made to 'Lord of the Flies' from the discussion group (as I read The Plague recently this was the one I had thought of). The state shifts into high gear as there are no signs of rescue, imposing rationing of food and water, and insiduously gathering more power to itself, announcing each change via loudspeaker.

Back when such things were possible, I went to an Amnesty-sponsored reading at the Edinburgh book festival for two Turkish writers in prison, and the situation doesn't seem to have got much better. The publisher and author discussed the politics of publishing. "We don't self-censor" (and have good lawyers who work practically pro bono). I do not think I could be a Turkish publisher! What emerged from the discussion was the unpredictability of just what the Turkish government would see as falling foul of their restrictions. Alongside that was a sense that they are influenced by how popular a book is, as well as the status of the author (Elif Shafak and another writer on Armenia were mentioned.)

Re the climate for Turkish writers.
Statement by Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International:
15 April
‘The PEN community welcomes the long-awaited release of Ahmet Altan, after more than four gruelling years spent behind bars on trumped-up terrorism charges. As we rejoice at the sight of the novelist embracing his loved ones, we do not forget how months ago the Turkish authorities freed him, only to cruelly send him back to jail eight days later. This cannot happen again. While we celebrate Ahmet Altan’s freedom, we remember those who remain unjustly jailed, including Osman Kavala, Selahattin Demirtaş, Nedim Türfent and İlhan Çomak, and forcefully call for their immediate release.’

Redigeret: maj 7, 8:56am

>42 charl08: Last year I read Women Who Blow on Knots by Ece Temelkuran and, like the author, the protagonist is/was primarily a journalist who has to decide between going abroad and writing whatever she wants or returning to Turkey and the realities of repression.

I've been looking at Snapping Point with interest so thank you for the review. I think my next "Turkish" (Turk-ish) book will be Ledra Street.

maj 7, 6:46am

maj 7, 8:27am

>43 spiralsheep: Glad if it is useful. There is so much more I could say but I'm never sure about spoilers. I had Women That Blow on Knots out from the library but didn't get to it. On the plus side I'm finding the bookgroup helps me read books that I "mean to" read (but often don't).

>44 Tess_W: I'd be keen to hear what other readers make of it. Our group was quite critical!

Redigeret: maj 7, 8:55am

>45 charl08: TBH, while I suspect the original of Women Who Blow on Knots was very good the substandard translation didn't do it any favours. The characters, plot, and ideas, all held my attention but some of the prose was a slog in a book of that length and some of the word choices were plain wrong. (I note that while I might critique aspects of translations there are vanishingly few professional translations I actually think are substandard or bad.)

maj 7, 9:08am

ON JANUARY 8, 1978, HARVEY MILK WAS SWORN IN AS A MEMBER OF the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco. He walked from Castro Street to City Hall with about a hundred of his supporters and campaign volunteers, holding hands with his boyfriend Jack Lira. I'd like to say that I was there, but I missed the event entirely, having spent most of the previous night getting well fucked by a long-haired waiter...named David.
I also enjoyed When We Rise the memoir of the founder of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Jones writes about his life as a young gay man, convinced that he was alone and storing pills to commit suicide. He writes movingly about finding out about the lgbt community, and how it saved his life.
Moving to San Francisco he gradually became involved in local politics, working for Harvey Milk before Milk and the mayor was assassinated. He went on to work in regional politics and national equality campaigns. His account of being aware of HIV (or GRID as it then was) as an activist, and then as waves of people got sick and died is as devastating as you would expect. Having read accounts and histories based on New York and South African experiences, I was struck by how early people were aware, getting sick and dying. It brought home to me (again) just how long the wait was for an effective treatment.

Out of this experience of devastating loss came the idea for the NAMES AIDS memorial quilt. Jones convinced others to take up the idea, and he played a key role in getting the project off the ground nationally.

He knew he was infected and expected to die, but despite getting very sick, thanks to the discovery of new treatments, he survived. The book goes on to document his involvement in education projects and the film Milk, as well as finding a way to live with his grief.

This book isn't going to win any prizes for the writing, and I got a bit tired of the paragraph each chapter listing what happened elsewhere around the world (which only occasionally had something to do with his own experience). However there are some fabulous one liners, and it felt honest, which I value.

maj 9, 4:43pm

Enjoyed the swimming talk at the end of your previous thread Charlotte. I'm sure you have read Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox. It was a fabulous book!

maj 10, 4:39pm

>48 mdoris: I haven't, but it's on my wishlist!

maj 10, 4:56pm

Eileen Agar
I'm enjoying this series of short biographies of women artists put out by a small publisher. These books are filled with beautiful reproductions of the artworks. I knew nothing about Eileen Agar, a British artist working in the 20th century. Her art changed throughout her life, different formats and approaches, and the book links this to her biography, from travel to Europe in the 1930s, to her experiences in the UK during WW2, right through to her election to the Royal Academy.

Slow Movement, 1970

maj 10, 5:00pm

>42 charl08: That was so terrible when Ahmet Altan was released and put back in jail. I hope he will remain free now. His book I will never see the world again was heartwrenching.

maj 12, 8:19am

>52 charl08: Fingers crossed they don't repeat it, Anita.

Redigeret: maj 12, 2:47pm

I have fallen behind on comments on my reading.

Riley Thorn and the Dead Guy Next Door

Light romance-crime fiction with a strong humorous tone. The narrator is having a life crisis (job, ex-husband, rubbish housing) when she witnesses a murder. Part of a famously psychic family, she's always resisted her "gifts" (can you guess what happens?)
Along with the elderly entourage of the main character (great comic relief) this reminded me of the Stephanie Plum novels...

What Comes Naturally
I like picking up old feminist books in bookshops, and this one was fascinating, a slim novel entirely addressed to the (male) reader who is tied up to listen to what lesbian life in Norway was "really" like in the 60s.

Midnight Atlanta
The third book in the "Darktown" series: the first Black police officers in Atlanta are involved in solving the shooting of a newspaper editor. Gripping stuff: the FBI are poking their nose in. There's infidelity, property deals, and of course, racist hate-crime as possible motives. As MLK leads the bus boycott in Montgomery, nerves are on edge amongst those seeking to preserve segregation.
Inspired by a real murder of an Atlantan newspaper editor.

Redigeret: maj 14, 3:57am

Havana Year Zero
It all happened in 1993, Year Zero in Cuba. The year of interminable power cuts, when bicycles filled the streets of Havana and the shops were empty. There was nothing of anything. Zero transport. Zero meat. Zero hope. I was thirty and had thousands of problems. That's why I got involved...

It turns out all I need to finish a book on time for the bookgroup is a week off work. This novel is set in 1993, with Cuba abandoned by the Russians and things looking rather bleak. Julia, the narrator, is a maths lecturer living in a small apartment with her mum, step dad, brother and SiL, and mostly surviving on rice and beans. Within a couple of chapters she is caught up in the complex story of the Italian inventor of the telephone (who was gazumped by Bell). The Italian worked in Cuba before leaving for the US: a document detailing the discovery was held by a Cuban family. But it has been lost, and the plot gets busy around just who has it. Julia gets caught up in trying to wrest the truth from her former lover, her current one, and her fiancee, all connected to a woman who originally owned the paper and had emigrated to Brazil. It's a rather meandering process, and the MC takes rather a long time to work out with the reader that no one knows where the paper is.
He looked at me like a wounded wild beast and screamed: Never travelled anywhere? Never travelled...? Then he took a book down from the shelves and showed it to me, saying: What about this? It was Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. And this? Cortázar's Hopscotch. And he threw them onto the bed, saying: Paris. He turned back to the bookcase, pulled out two more volumes and flung them onto the bed as well: Are you going to tell me that I've never been to St Petersburg? I only managed to catch a glimpse of the author: Dostoyevsky. Leonardo continued his frenzied throwing of books onto the bed. Thanks to Eduardo Mendoza, he'd visited Barcelona, and he'd been to New York with John Dos Passos and Paul Auster, Buenos Aires with Borges, he knew the whole of the Caribbean through Carpentier and Antonio Benítez Rojo.

This is based on the true story of the inventor of the telephone. Perhaps most interesting is the everyday Cuban life here in the book, from homemade hooch to reliance on hitching to travel outside of Havana. The power held by tourists able to access scant resources in exchange for $$ is skewered too.

maj 16, 3:44am

Missing book lists, this one popped up in my feed. I'm amused that I'm not the only person who writes books off on the flimsiest of grounds.
(Although I'm still not tempted in many cases.)

Books I Wish I Had Read Sooner: 28 Readers Share
By BookBub Updated: May 12, 2021

The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Redeeming Love Francine Rivers
The Big Burn Timothy Egan
Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston
Unbroken Laura Hillenbrand
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
The Left Hand of Darkness Ursula K. Le Guin
Moby Dick Herman Melville
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Betty Smith
The Last Policeman Ben H. Winters
The Shell Seekers Rosamunde Pilcher
The Fifth Season N. K. Jemisin
Cutting for Stone Abraham Verghese
East of Eden John Steinbeck
Swing Time Zadie Smith
A House in the Sky Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett
Up the Down Staircase Bel Kaufman
The Alchemist Paulo Coelho
Crazy Rich Asians Kevin Kwan
A Discovery of Witches Deborah Harkness
Harry Potter: The Complete Collection (1–7) J.K. Rowling
Anne of Green Gables L. M. Montgomery
Shadow and Bone Leigh Bardugo
Educated Tara Westover
The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood
Little Fires Everywhere Celeste Ng
The Green Mile Stephen King

maj 16, 5:03am

I can relate to a few of those... I don't like horror either, so it was years before I read anything by Stephen King. And the one about having to read it in school and not being ready for it resonates.

maj 16, 5:04am

That list is an odd mixture, established classics, more literary recent stuff, and err other books. I've read quite a few, I have several on Kindle TBR, I'm really not tempted by Stephen King and I don't like the sound of The Alchemist. I read Cutting for Stone and thought it was excellent, but I don't remember there being a central romantic love story.

maj 16, 5:36am

The Alchemist made me so angry.

Of the rest, Their Eyes Were Watching God and East of Eden are favorites of mine. I liked The Handmaid's Tale and The Green Mile. The others I've read on that list didn't particular move me. The only one that was on my school curriculum was Moby Dick, and I think that's cruel and unusual punishment, even considering we were told to skip the whale/whaling information chapters.

maj 16, 6:12am

>55 charl08: Funnily enough I only got to The Prince of Tides last year, and wondered why I'd left it on the shelf so long.

maj 16, 7:15am

>56 Helenliz: I still avoid King for that reason, Helen. I'm a scaredy cat.

>57 elkiedee: I agree, it is an odd mix, I guess reflecting how reading can be quite personal. I only read The Handmaid's Tale in the last couple of years (and only because of a bookgroup) so I definitely identify with some of them.

>58 ursula: Making a class read Moby Dick seems like a big ask. We read David Copperfield as a 14/15 year old and it took me a fortnight of commutes to my work experience. Looking back now I wonder what it was like for kids who didn't read as fast as I did/do.

>59 Caroline_McElwee: I didn't even realise it was a book before it was a film (embarrassing).

Redigeret: maj 16, 7:37am

New acquisition. I really love the cover picture, would like it as a print (except I have no wall space!)

Via Eiderdown Books

maj 16, 8:47am

>61 charl08: I love it.

I looked at the list as well, Charlotte, and think the ones I'm interested in I have already read. So, one less list to worry about.

I am not a fan of Moby Dick.

maj 16, 10:19am

>58 ursula: The best thing I could say about The Alchemist is that it wasn't as bad as his The Pilgrimage, which made me so cross I wanted to hurl it across the room. I only didn't as I didn't want to damage the wall. I know he's a very popular author, but I've no idea why.

maj 16, 1:58pm

>55 charl08: Hm, I've read 9 of them, including Moby Dick, which I've now read twice, happily. Also East of Eden. Some others are on my mental list.

maj 16, 3:22pm

>62 BLBera: I think maybe Moby Dick is one that I'd like to try and read. At some point.
Not right now though...

>63 Jackie_K: I've never picked him up, but this conversation isn't making me regret that!

>64 ffortsa: Moby Dick does seem to divide people! I am really interested in the ones (maybe not on the list) that we have waited to pick up (but then been very glad we did! ). I'd definitely put The Handmaid's Tale in that category for me.

Redigeret: maj 16, 4:21pm

The Slaughterman's Daughter
In the same way that a novice tailor makes inferior clothes before learning to produce flawless garments, people develop a moral sense through failure, flaw and sin.
For many years, Pazhari had replayed that scene at the battle on the Shipka Pass in his mind, and had come to realise that his role as a commander in the Czar's army was to teach his men to accept reality as it was. Nothing more. If he could go back to that moment and how often he imagined that he could, not a day passed without him wishing that he could - he would have turned to Novak's pleading face and said sternly: "The leg is gone, deal with it." And even if Novak would have expected him to offer consolation, Pazhari would have fulfilled a basic moral obligation: to see people as they are - in this case, with a mangled leg- and not as they ought to be.

Fantastic (in both senses of the word) novel set in the "Pale of settlement" in the Russian empire. A Jewish woman, Fanny, decides to go hunting for her brother-in-law, who has abandoned her sister. She leaves only a short note: noone had expected her to leave her family, let along go on a long journey across country for her sister with a man she barely knows. Rapidly, things go wrong, from bandits on the road to the secret police. Full of digressions detailing the experiences of those they meet, Iczkovits' book builds an increasing comic momentum, even as the outcome for the protagonists seems increasingly bleak.

There are also beautiful chapter illustrations, in the style of paper cut art.

However: this is a long book at over 500 pages. I felt it took a while to get going, I didn't find the initial discussion of Merle and Fanny's humdrum life particularly interesting. It picked up for me once then journey got underway, as soon as we find out why Fanny is not a vulnerable woman on the road. Instead she is an experienced butcher who travels with her knife. I read it on holiday and I think it helped not having to put it down for too long!
As to the question of when the service will resume, the sleepy cashier removes his glasses, rubs his eyes and shrugs. A conductor leaning against the wall next to Novak puffs on his pipe and says, "The way things are run in this country, it will take for ever." Novak sees that the man is expecting to start a conversation. There is nothing better for striking up a conversation than a complaint about how the country is run, which soon leads to talk of avarice among the aristocracy, the corruption of bureaucrats, and ends with the defencelessness of the man in the street against the state. What a royal waste of time.

maj 16, 5:57pm

Happy new thread, Charlotte. >66 charl08: sounds good.

maj 17, 3:16am

Thanks Rhonda! It was a good read, not like anything else I've read in a while.

Beach scene from Anglesey last week. Back to the office for me.

I didn't read as much as I hoped over the two weeks I had off, but I have managed to return my library books so I'm back within the 20 maximum. Phew!

maj 17, 4:38am

>68 charl08: I love Ynys Môn. Apart from the people, the wildlife, and the archaeology, it has some very interesting geology exposed on the beaches too.

maj 17, 8:06am

>69 spiralsheep: I'd never been before: I liked it, but not as much as I expected to. Looking forward to being able to get to more places, especially Scotland, soon. (Fingers crossed.)

maj 17, 9:14am

>68 charl08: Lovely photo. Good luck with the return to work.

maj 17, 9:51am

>68 charl08: Thank you for sharing that wonderful picture!
I've only been to Beaumaris so far, but I'd love to explore more of the island.

"I didn't read as much as I hoped over the two weeks I had off"
I never read a lot when I'm traveling because I need so much space inside my head taking everything in. All the new impressions, sights, experiences! Sometimes I'm able to read towards the end of a trip (of course depending on how long I'm away for), but I always need some time to adjust and can't start reading right away. And I also spend the evening reading leaflets, guidebooks, doing research on the things I want to do etc., so sometimes I don't have any time to read my book!

maj 17, 1:28pm

>71 BLBera: It was a brief interlude: we had quite a lot of rain. There's definitely a reason Wales is so green!

>72 MissBrangwen: You sound like a very well prepared visitor! I usually try to read a novel linked to the place I'm going to: I read several books set in Berlin on a recent(ish) trip there, and it was lovely.

maj 17, 2:32pm

>73 charl08: So glad someone else does this: I usually try to read a novel linked to the place I'm going to I try the same. My favourite example being I read The Illiad while on a mediterranean cruise. It didn't take 10 years.

Redigeret: maj 18, 1:30am

What a gorgeous beach!

Nancy Pearl wrote a wonderful book for travelers Book Lust to Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds and Dreamers.

Redigeret: maj 18, 1:58am

>74 Helenliz: Best book ever read in the place it was about? (Or even, the ones you remember!). According to my notes Beth recommended Leaving BerlinHere in Berlin (which was great), and I also read Berlin Now, which filled in some of the (many) gaps in my history knowledge of the city.

>75 mdoris: Still thinking about Berlin, Turning: lessons from swimming made me want to explore the lakes. Maybe one year. The Pearl book sounds dangerous for the wishlist!

maj 18, 10:05am

>76 charl08: Thanks for the shout out. I did love Here in Berlin.

maj 18, 10:41am

My favorite novel about Berlin is A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones, although I'm not sure if part of that was not that I read it on the train coming home from Berlin.

maj 19, 3:49am

>68 charl08: Lovely picture, Charlotte, glad you could go there.

Our library will open up tomorrow, it will be nice to be able to browse the shelves again. Although I had no problem with only picking up my reserved books when they were closed for months.

maj 19, 4:27am

I went into the library and had a bit of a browse, though we have to put back anything we've touched and aren't taking away in a box for quarantine so I was very cautious about not picking up everything after picking up a picture book with a very similar title to a grown up non fiction work that is a memoir of a family and a home. I've ended up getting several books out that I already have on Kindle, and I realised when I got home that I discharged 2 books that I had out for ages on the self service machine but forgot to reissue them to myself - the library worker I know best since his boss retired last year was on duty and kept offering help as well. I did find a children's/YA book clearly indicated as such (Macmillan Children's books) by Emma Donoghue on the adult shelves and got it redesignated as a children's book.

maj 19, 4:54am

>55 charl08: I've read quite a few on this list, but I can't say, for the most part, that I should have read them sooner! In fact, a couple of them I wish I had not read!

Redigeret: maj 19, 6:56am

Have you ever read The Penguin Lessons? I bought it a few years ago but haven't got to it yet, but remembered it and was reading the description as it's come up again as a Kindle Daily Deal today.

maj 19, 8:47am

>77 BLBera: I'm thinking about compiling a list of books to reread about places I can't go just yet. Tempted to stick this on it.

>78 RidgewayGirl: I still haven't read this, though I fear you're recommended it to me before. Bad Charlotte.

>79 FAMeulstee: The picture doesn't really convey the level of damp! But it was lovely to be somewhere away from My House.

>80 elkiedee: Ours has just got new shiny machines (they take credit cards! Hurrah!) but still the same restrictions. Glad I'm not the only one who reshelves!

>81 Tess_W: Now that's an intriguing comment that needs titles, surely...?

>82 elkiedee: I haven't, am in dire need of reading my own books before I'm buried by my 'unread' pile otherwise I'd be snapping it up.

Maybe I shouldn't mention that I bought Nan Shepherd's The Living Mountain yesterday. Ah well, I don't claim to be consistent.

Now reading Daughters of Night which I am finding gripping (historical fiction).

maj 19, 9:12am

I was having to restrain myself from rearranging a couple of books that were the wrong way round in the library yesterday!

Yes, I liked Daughters of Night a bit better than her previous book.

Redigeret: maj 19, 11:48am

>82 elkiedee: I've got The Penguin Lessons on the June pile, I've had it a while and meant to read it last year but committed to too many other books to get to it. Hopefully this year is its chance!

>83 charl08: I hope you enjoy The Living Mountain, it's a classic for a reason. I must admit though while reading it that I was glad to be experiencing the mountains vicariously from my armchair rather than actually having to do the hard work of climbing them!

maj 19, 5:48pm

>68 charl08: Lovely Charlotte.

No, I'm not getting much time to read either. Out for chunks of time during the day, means I'm too sleepy at night. Though read a few last week.

maj 19, 6:34pm

>55 charl08: Great idea for a list. Pride and Prejudice is my one must read. The Alchemist and The Left Hand of Darkness are two I didn't need to read. Things Fall Apart and The Metamorphosis are two I'd add.

maj 20, 7:50am

>84 elkiedee: I was a fan of Blood and Sugar so was really glad when this turned up at the library.

>85 Jackie_K: I read the first chapter the day before yesterday and rather think that the author has me pegged. She talks about people who prefer the lowlands - I am not one for any kind of cliff edge or steep ascent. I like a nice view but not near the edge!

>86 Caroline_McElwee: Finding the shift back to being 'in the office' really exhausting, Caroline. And I can't even blame the stress of public transport, as I just walk.

>87 pamelad: I guess it's always going to be very personal: those books that found you at the right time, perhaps?

>88 Tess_W: I read The Handmaid's Tale very late too. I don't quite know (now) what I thought it was, but it wasn't the excellent read I got.

Redigeret: maj 20, 8:08am

Book group is discussing Havana Year Zero tonight, and we have been sent our usual briefing notes.

There is an interview with the author here:
Since I began writing, I’ve been interested in talking about women—because I am a woman, but also because I come from a very sexist country. There are concepts and attitudes that are entrenched in the ways most people think and that’s always bothered me. That’s why since I was young, I’ve stood up to this type of macho mentality...

Or this quote about her writing from 'outside' -
Zero has an inside and an outside: it is an empty stomach, but it is also a lens to see close up from far away. Born and educated in Havana, Suárez has been writing about her city from Europe for the past twenty years (she now resides in Lisbon): “When you are sunk into a reality, an important historic reality, it’s hard to see it,” she says. “Distance, remoteness, gives you a certain detachment, less pain.”

What impact does the narrator's breaking of the 'fourth wall' have on the book?
Did the book change your impressions / confirm your impressions of Havana?
A question about the telephones not working and the significance of the telephones not working.
What are the outstanding features of this novel, and how does it compare to other Cuban novels.

Well - I don't think I've read much other Cuban fiction (if any other Cuban fiction, bar detective novels) so that's out.
For me, that the telephones don't work is just part of the way Cuba was falling apart in 1993 (when the book is set).
I don't know that I have many impressions of Havana beyond the beautiful cars and it being a place people go on holiday.
The seediness experienced by the characters in the book seem to match the experience (or at least, be similar to) the experience of many coastal communities dependent on tourism, especially in the off-season. There were echoes of another book we read as part of the bookgroup, set in a Thai coastal setting (in terms of sex work with tourists misshaping community relationships).
I'm not sure the fourth wall thing worked - it was a bit like The Reluctant Fundamentalist but without quite so much commitment to the device.

There's more about the book club here

maj 20, 10:11am

Havana Year Zero sounds interesting, Charlotte. I'll keep it in mind.

maj 20, 3:32pm

>85 Jackie_K: Yes, it's the steep ascents that are my nemesis! I know the views from the top (or even halfway) are amazing, it's just that I hate the thought of being miserable all the way before I reach them! I think what I appreciated about Nan Shepherd was that she wasn't interested in getting to the highest point or reaching the destination in the shortest period of time, it was about savouring the experience of being, wherever on the mountains she was.

maj 21, 12:29am

>53 charl08: Have you read the previous books in the Darktown series, Charlotte? I have the two first books but have not read them yet. You are reminding me that I should.

Redigeret: maj 21, 2:31am

>91 BLBera: There was a lot of enthusiasm for the book in the session, Beth. The author attended the beginning of the session, and there were tantalising mentions of possibly translations of the other books. I am particularly interested in her novel about Cuba and the war with Angola. I've not come across much fiction from lusophone authors around anti colonial conflicts, let alone from a Cuban perspective.
I didn't make it through the full discussion, it has been rather a long week!

>92 Jackie_K: And that challenge is before you add the weather! I am listening to the rain on the roof and thinking that I am quite content not to be in a wild place just now!

>93 Familyhistorian: Yes, as the second two books weren't out when I read the first one, I have had no option but to read this series in order. I think the series is well done.

maj 21, 8:00am

Daughters of Night
I thought this was brilliant.
Caro becomes involved in a murder investigation when she goes for a clandestine meeting in Vauxhall Gardens. Instead of a helpful friend, she finds a stabbed woman. On raising the alarm, the woman she thought was also to be a member of 'society' turns out to have been a prostitute. Her husband is on a diplomatic mission, helping negotiate peace with the French and the newly independent Americans. Her sense of obligation to her former friend kicks in when the authorities show little interest in the case, and she contacts Peregrine Child for help. So begins a rattling tale of (mostly) dodgy parts of London in the company of Child, a thief-taker who appeared in the previous book by Shepherd-Robinson.
I loved the historical details, from the rag-trade in second hand clothes to the carved cat used to secretly sell gin, and though this was over 500 pages (albeit in rather large hb print) it didn't drag at all.

maj 21, 5:45pm

Many Different Kinds of Love
Touching account of poet Michael Rosen's survival of a tough bout of COVID. Although having heard him read short extracts from the book, I think audio is probably the best option. I found myself getting quite teary at the "patient diary" entries: volunteers on the wards writing messages to (often unconscious) patients about what they've been through.

maj 21, 6:17pm

>96 charl08: Michael Rosen is a national treasure.

maj 21, 6:21pm

You got me with both Daughters of the Night and Many Different Kinds of Love, Charlotte. Darn it!

maj 22, 12:41am

I just love Michael Rosen. I was so scared that he would die last year. And I'm thrilled that he's come back to broadcasting - I quite like that he's doing so with others to help, including writers, but also medical staff and family members. For anyone outside the UK, he presents a programme about language called Word of Mouth, and he's also done a bit of radio about his new book and about the experiences described in it.

maj 22, 4:19am

Adding my name to the Michael Rosen fan club list! I've got Many Different Kinds of Love on my wishlist.

Redigeret: maj 22, 6:28am

>97 spiralsheep: I love listening to him talk. He did a session for the WoW Liverpool book festival and it was so compelling. He's clearly not fully recovered though, seemed frail.

>98 BLBera: I really hope she writes a third Georgian set book, she does it so well.

>99 elkiedee: From the book, it seems as though the medics weren't sure he would make it. I also hovered on Twitter hoping for a more positive update from his wife, but worried there would be the opposite. I can't imagine what it must have been like for his family.

>100 Jackie_K: There are several lovely moments when his carers reflect on how his writing has meant things to them: a speech and language therapist (volunteering to support intensive care during COVID) on Rosen's campaigning for reading, parents on his picturebook "Going on a Bear Hunt" and others on his NHS poem. He reflects movingly on all the care being given, so many many people working so hard for his (and others) recovery.

maj 22, 6:38am

Bitter Wash Road
A new-to-me crime series by Gary Disher. An Australian policeman is posted to a "single-officer" police station in the middle of the Australian "bush" as a punishment posting. He's super careful wherever he goes, suspicious of other colleagues, taking photos wherever possible as evidence. His colleagues in the next town over address him as "worm". However they don't appear to be as offended by the allegations of corruption as they are about those about him snitching on other police officers. And then a young woman's body is found on the side of the road.

This wasn't showy, but had a good line in building tension as Hirsch tried to work his way out of a tangled web, unsure who he could trust.
The only good thing to come out of it was an understanding in Hirsch. Police officers could drift over time, he saw. It wasn't always or entirely conscious; more like a loss of perspective. Real and imagined grievances festering; a feeling that the job a deserved greater and better public recognition. Or at least perks, rewards. More money, more or better sex, a promotion, a junket to an interstate conference. Greater respect in general.

maj 22, 8:04am

>95 charl08: hit with a bullet, thanks Charlotte.

maj 22, 8:34am

Happy Saturday, Charlotte. I see that they made a film of The Dry, which has just been released here. I hope they did a good job.

>68 charl08: How was the trip? See any interesting birds or wildlife?

maj 23, 2:28am

>103 Caroline_McElwee: I don't think my comments do it justice, but I found it hard to summarise given how much is going on (and avoid spoilers, of course).

>104 msf59: We did. Baby rabbits grazed outside the picture window, small birds visited the feeders and pheasant and grouse seemed to use the garden as a circular route! Also some lovely seabirds.

I saw the ads for The Dry film. For some reason I am not tempted. Maybe on tv when it's free!

Redigeret: maj 23, 2:33am

Weird moments when unexpectedly my books seem to be talking to each other - from the quote in >102 charl08: about the sink to being a corrupt police officer, to The Intimacy Experiment on personal motivation.
"So, why do you get out of bed in the morning?"

Something about the intensity of her voice when she asked pulled the truth out of him.

"There's a moment, when you're speak ing to someone, and you're listening to something they said, or actually”—it didn't even require conversation—“maybe not, maybe you're just giving them your attention, holding a door open at the deli, and something shifts behind their eyes and you know that they feel seen."

Redigeret: maj 24, 9:29am

Incomparable World
The first of Evaristo's curated republishing of "Black Britain Writing Back" collection (for Penguin) I've read. Set in London after the American war of independence, where soldiers who were former slaves (and who didn't head for Canada) ended up to avoid the consequences of having fought for the losing side. The book highlights the precarious nature of life after the war, rejected by guilds as a threat to wages and viewed as a problem to be solved by "encouraged" migration schemes to Sierra Leone. It's a world of trickery, poverty and crime, but also of music and political debate.

maj 24, 8:47am

>107 charl08: - That sounds really interesting. I'll have a look for it.

maj 24, 2:25pm

>108 katiekrug: It was a bit of history I didn't know about Katie. There were some cameos from famous names too.

Redigeret: maj 25, 7:27am

Well, the only reading I did last night was two chapters of a romance novel that was not good writing, so I shall report on the garden instead.

Still not enough sunshine for the poppies, but most of the others seem to be enjoying the wet spell we've been having.

maj 25, 8:07am

>110 charl08: The rain actually managed to flatten some of my aquilegias. I'm glad yours are happier.

Redigeret: maj 25, 8:04pm

Love the garden pictures. My ceanothus is out right now and the bees are going CRAZY!

maj 26, 12:41am

Eek! I missed your move. Happy new thread Charlotte!

>31 charl08: >110 charl08: So pretty!

maj 26, 2:34am

Love the garden pics. Mine seems a bit behind this year - and the rain means that it's got a bit out of control (again).

Redigeret: maj 26, 7:28am

>111 spiralsheep: They grow like weeds in the streets around us, we have purple, pink, maroon and white. It's quite galling when some of my expensive garden centre purchases refuse to look anything like as nice.

>112 mdoris: So pleased to see a bee on the newly planted apple tree. When it arrived it looked pretty dead and I was not convinced it was going to make it, let alone blossom already.

>113 humouress: Thanks! Spring has sprung. (No sign yet of summer).

>114 Helenliz: I have been doing a lot of aphid squashing in the evenings: they are definitely liking the damp conditions. I am hoping for a few sunnier days so that more things will start flowering, as well as shooting up!

I have been distracted from reading by The Umbrella Academy. However, the next bookgroup book Vivian has arrived, in its distinctive Fitzcarraldo blue cover, so I better get busy for next week.

maj 26, 8:18am

>110 charl08: Lovely flowers, Charlotte!
I thought I had lost all my aquilegia's, but noticed today a large purple one, almost in bloom, that hides under the firethorn.
My German iris is almost done, now the peonies have started.

maj 26, 1:23pm

What pretty flowers, Charlotte!

Incomparable World sounds interesting; I love historical fiction that covers things I don't know about, so I will look for this one.

maj 26, 3:37pm

>107 charl08: This is near the top of the tbr mountain Charlotte. Glad it hit the spot, I'll give it a nudge.

maj 26, 4:03pm

Incomparable World does sound interesting!

maj 27, 2:19am

>116 FAMeulstee: Glad that one made it, Anita!

>117 BLBera: It's given me a nudge to pick up the other five books in the series. They all come with Evaristo's intro as well, which explains why she picked the book to republish.

>118 Caroline_McElwee: Good to hear Caroline. I do love the idea of an author unexpectedly getting a little windfall from a previously out of print book.

>119 banjo123: Hope you can find a copy, Rhonda. I am not sure if it is being marketed just in the UK.

maj 27, 2:20am

Loved this book as a kid. RIP Eric Carle.

maj 27, 3:31am

>121 charl08: bought it for both my children and grandchildren. When I was offering enrichment classes to 5-6 year olds, I used this book as a basis of a science centered thematic unit.

maj 27, 3:35am

>121 charl08: I heard that on the radio this morning.

maj 27, 5:01am

>121 charl08: My younger son used to demand reads and rereads - he also shredded several copies as a baby.

maj 27, 7:28am

I will look for those, Charlotte. Thanks.

maj 27, 3:00pm

Looks like your garden is doing well, Charlotte. You got me with a BB for Daughters of Night but it doesn't seem to be available anywhere here.

maj 28, 10:01am

>122 Tess_W: >123 Helenliz: >124 elkiedee: I have been rather tempted to buy this costume for a friend's son.

>125 BLBera: Hope they are available on your side of the pond, Beth.

>126 Familyhistorian: Oh how frustrating. Hope it's not too long a wait - was her first book also delayed, do you know?

maj 28, 10:05am

This looks good.

The Women’s Prize Trust is delighted to present the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction fully digital shortlist events.

Following the success of our shortlist readings, our much-loved digital events are back for 2021.

We’ll be showcasing two authors per night on Monday 14th, Tuesday 15th and Wednesday 16th June. Each event will feature well-known actors reading extracts from the shortlisted books. You will also have the opportunity to ask the authors questions in live Q&A sessions each night, chaired by Kate Mosse, Founder Director of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and bestselling novelist.

Your £12 ticket will admit you to the following three digital events:
Monday 14th June 2021 , 7.30pm BST: Brit Bennett + Susanna Clarke, chaired by Kate Mosse

Tuesday 15th June 2021, 7.30pm BST: Yaa Gyasi + Claire Fuller, chaired by Kate Mosse

Wednesday 16th June, 7.30pm BST: Patricia Lockwood + Cherie Jones, chaired by Kate Mosse

All three events will be made available to watch on demand for ticket holders, the morning after the live event.

maj 29, 12:07pm

Within our organization, we were in contact with the families and loved ones of Resistance fighters who'd gone before the firing squad. We published their letters in our bulletins. And this morning I remembered a letter from one of them, his name was René, I think, yes, René, that's it, he was head of the Building Federation, I remember he wrote that he was dying so that the sun might shine on all the peoples who aspire to liberty. I remember his exact words. And I was thinking of him, of you, as I came here. History is cruel... With these and a words he gets up and takes a newspaper from his bag Huma, here you are. Fernand thanks him and takes it. It mentions you. He leafs through. Comes upon his photograph -Iveton whose life is in danger-courageously expressed the Algerian Communist Party's position before his judges - Nordmann continues: I'll write to the prime minister and try to contact the minister of justice, François Mitterrand. I promise we'll do everything we can to get you out of here. Fernand thanks him, and Nordmann, a quick smile creasing his face as he stops before the door (on which he has just knocked, and which the guard outside immediately opens), declares that Algeria will one day be free and independent, there's no doubt about that.

Tomorrow They Won't Dare to Murder Us
Powerful modern novel about the execution of Gernand Iveton, an Algeriam communist executed for a bomb that didn't go off, in a place where it might have brought down a couple of factory wall dividers (and when everyone was at home). Technique of alternating his courtship and marriage with imprisonment, torture and trial works remarkably well to highlight the actions of the French state in Algeria, and their irony given the (then) recent German occupation.

maj 29, 1:39pm

Hi Charlotte! After you visited my thread I wondered why I hadn't seen any new posts from you for ages, only to find I had somehow fat-thumbed the Ignore button on your thread. Silly me. Anyway, I've got you properly starred now. Your garden flowers in >110 charl08: are lovely.

I hope you're having a marvelous weekend.

maj 29, 3:51pm

>129 charl08: definitely a BB for me!

maj 30, 4:18pm

>130 rosalita: I think we've all been there, Julia.

>131 Tess_W: It's not a lot of text, but it packs a punch.

Redigeret: maj 30, 4:52pm

All Men are Liars
I love Manguel's books about reading so I bought this when it was mentioned in one of the international fiction book group meetings. There were some great quotes but I really didn't feel particularly compelled by it - one of those books where footnotes might help! The story is told by different narrators in sequence, all with a contrasting perspective on the life and death of an Argentinian political exile's life and death in Madrid.
(Manguel appears as a character in the book)
I think Manguel's inability to pay attention comes from too much reading. All that fantasy, all that invention - it has to end up softening a person's brain. I must have been barely twenty-five at that time, and Manguel was under thirty, but I felt a thousand times more experienced, more real than him. I used to listen to him and think to myself: at his age, and still playing with toy soldiers.

Redigeret: maj 31, 4:30am

I Know What I Am
I thought this was well done, a graphic (novel-style) biography of the painter Artemesia, and her life in complex political times (30 years war, plague, Neapolitan rebellion...) The author has reproduced many of the artist's paintings, showing the influences on her (but also her influences on others), and how her work changed over time. I knew very little about her life - especially fascinating to see her own words recorded (from a court case, and her letters).

I want to read more about some of the community that surrounded her - I'd read Sarah Dunant on women in convents (historical fiction) but there's clearly more here.
It's not a light book though- and there are pages of notes which I've only skimmed at the back.

maj 31, 4:07am

>134 charl08: there was an exhibition of her paintings at the National Gallery that got shut down at lockdown, but was instead the subject of a 30 minute BBC documentary - fascinating.

maj 31, 4:16am

>135 Helenliz: I was very tempted to buy the catalogue, Helen! Now you've reminded me I can put it down to your influence (!!)

maj 31, 4:27am

>134 charl08: How very interesting! I'm going to see if I can dig up a copy!

maj 31, 4:05pm

>137 Tess_W: Look forward to hearing more about what you think of it.

Redigeret: jun 1, 8:02am

I am going to add a special category for June: "just" my own books. I've got plenty to choose from, but some of the possibilities pictured here.

Lightseekers (links to Africa - set in a university town near Port Harcourt. Just the opening in Lagos airport reminded me of a very long day waiting for an Air France plane).
Molotov's Magic Lantern (history)
Dangerous Ages (new to me authors)
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree (in translation)
Bright Dead Things (new to me authors)
Ellen Wilkinson Books with links to feminism
Sylvia Pankhurst: women artists series ditto
Childhood (history)
The Living Mountain (new to me authors)
Last Witnesses (history)
The Fat Lady Sings (new to me authors)
How to be a failure and still live well (others)
13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl (new to me)
The Gold-Rimmed Spectacles (in translation)
A Map of Home (new to me)
La Bastarda (in translation / Africa)
Coming of Age in Mississippi (history)

jun 2, 1:39am

However, Peace just came in at the library, so I read that instead. Second in series featuring rural constable Paul Hirschausen. It's Christmas, but it is not a time of peace or one of much joy.
Hirsch sped south along the Barrier Highway, passing the disused grain silos at the end of the little town, their shadows like blockish brushstrokes across the highway, then down through a shallow valley, distant, dirty grey hills on either side. A corrugated-iron hayshed here, a scrap of red farmhouse roof there, closeted behind cypress trees. Otherwise the world was populated by wind turbines silhouetted against the sky, wheat stubble, a tiny dust eddy on a hillslope that might have been the wind, might have been a farmer checking sheep. For now, Hirsch was calling it home.

jun 2, 4:24am

>139 charl08: Childhood, The Living Mountain and Last Witnesses.

Three in a row I have read and would recommend, Charlotte.

jun 2, 7:06am

>141 FAMeulstee: Thanks Anita. I want to read them, honest...

Redigeret: jun 2, 3:43pm

Very odd book, both in narrative structure and rather jerky tone. I am not sure what to make of it, and after waking up this morning at 5 I am not in a fit state to say much about it either! Loosely based on life of Vivian Maier, but lots of "imagined" thoughts and conversations, left me a bit unsettled.

Questions from the publisher for the discussion tomorrow:
What do you think of Hesselholdt's decision to fictionalise Vivian Maier's life? And what do you make of Vivian Maier the person? Were you familiar with her story (perhaps the documentary) before reading the book?
The novel has an unusual narrative structure - what do you make of the multiple narrators in the book? And the choice to have a narrator speak to Vivian Maier?
Vivian Maier says in the novel, 'Art is not somewhere you feel comfortable'. How do you think this statement applies to the life of Vivian Maier, to her photography and to Hesselholdt's portrayal and writing?

jun 2, 5:35pm

Hi Charlotte - I Know what I Am looks great!
>140 charl08: This series sounds interesting as well.

jun 3, 1:47am

>143 charl08: From the publisher's questions, it might be that "I'm not sure what to make of it" was an intentional position the author wanted to place the reader.
I've not heard of Vivian Maier, should I have done?

jun 3, 6:58am

>143 charl08: - It almost sounds to me that this book is more work than I'd be willing to put in (well, especially these days, when my attention span is so easily distracted). I did see the documentary film on her, some years back and it was interesting and insightful, as I remember it.

jun 3, 7:09am

>144 BLBera: I am not sure what I was expecting from I Know What I Am but definitely thought I got my money's worth: so much detail. Hope I will go back to it at some point in the future, too, and read the notes in more detail.

>145 Helenliz: I am not sure what the author was going for, only that I didn't much care for it! Maier was a street photographer all her life but her paid job was as a nanny. As she got older she had a bit of a hoarding problem, and put her photographs in storage and then didn't pay the storage fees, so her stuff was auctioned off. One of the people who bought her stuff then sold the photos and publicised them. As Shelley says there was a documentary in cinemas - and one by Alan Yentob too which seems to have been taken down by the BBC, but there are a couple of v short clips here:
Reading about her for this book it seems that since the documentary, there has been an ongoing legal battle around the ownership of copyright of the images.

>146 jessibud2: Well, on the flip side it's less than 200 pages and lots of short paragraphs? But I am not sure whether I would have finished it had it not been for the meeting tonight.

jun 3, 5:29pm

>143 charl08: Hmm, is it a novel Charlotte?

I love Maier's work, and found the documentary about her life fascinating 'Finding Vivian Maier' it's on Prime at the moment. I think I saw the Yentob programme too.

Redigeret: jun 4, 1:30am

>148 Caroline_McElwee: It's a novel Caroline. The author was there last night and said she had been inspired by the many voices used to narrate the documentary.
I had spent most of the work day listening to events, so I couldn't stay awake for the full book group meeting. Not good!

jun 4, 2:51am

Have been waiting for this poppy to open for weeks!

jun 4, 3:29am

>150 charl08: beautiful!

jun 4, 5:25am

>150 charl08: The poppy is lovely but I hope you get more than one flower at a time! Mouldy chiz otherwise.

My yellow Welsh poppies opened en masse just before the wind and torrential rain. Everything that was over 30cm tall is now flat except the foxgloves, which is why I and my neighbour love our foxgloves, lol.

jun 4, 1:06pm

>151 Tess_W: I agree.

>152 spiralsheep: It's the size of my hand (it's one of the giant ones), and I've only got a small space to work with, so I'm glad to just have a few. I am a fan of foxgloves too. Just found some borage hiding behind the helibore (which has gone mad this year) so that makes me happy.

jun 4, 2:18pm

Enjoying reading American Mules
Mammy examined my run-down heels, said
I was hard on shoes and it was true, I threw
myself hard into everything. My Biro indented
the page. My eraser rubbed holes in my copybook,
the page lit up by the Master's absinthe eye
staring through at me before he ran for the stick.
My books too-squeezed, flattened, pawed with butter,
dripped with cocoa, pushed into pockets and once
between the covers of a missal when I hoped to get away
with reading Enid Blyton in Mass. Animal Farm
left after the picnic at the Mass Rock, drenched
by rain, ruffled by the wind, swollen like my feet
inside the oven of the kitchen range in Burnfort.
I didn't notice my shoes burning, turning the pages.

jun 4, 2:27pm

>150 charl08: Stunning, Charlotte.

jun 4, 2:38pm

>153 charl08: I spotted a borage trying to escape from behind the purple geraniumy mass that's eaten everything else in the front beds except a handful of marigolds and one very determined teasel, lol. I mostly leave in anything that isn't hostile to animals and also has plenty of flowers for the bees.

jun 4, 7:11pm

>150 charl08: Gorgeous poppy!

jun 4, 10:29pm

>134 charl08: beautiful! As was the art from The Slaughterman's Daughter, earlier in the thread.

jun 6, 12:20pm

I went to a newly opened RHS garden yesterday, just outside Manchester. Not much reading done, but lots of ideas for the garden.

>155 Caroline_McElwee: Blink and you'd miss it, Caroline. I'm choosing to see the seed pod as architectural...

>156 spiralsheep: I've been doing some weeding / thinning as some plants have gone a bit bonkers. Await results!

>157 mdoris: They make me happy Mary.

>158 LovingLit: Yes, I've had some great GN reads recently.

Just my own books challenge update:
I've read two!
(Although one only arrived last week, so probably shouldn't count.)

jun 6, 1:58pm

Looks like perfect weather for a day out strolling in the gardens!

jun 6, 2:16pm

Hope you had a lovely day out. Looks very pleasant.

jun 6, 2:53pm

>159 charl08: Looks like a lovely place, Charlotte.
What ideas for the garden?

Redigeret: jun 6, 11:52pm

>115 charl08: I had to look up aquilegia (also known as columbine - not that I knew what those look like either). I’m loving all the garden talk (even if I don’t recognise most of the plants - though I’ve come across many of the names before. Time to get out the plant encyclopaedias).

Redigeret: jun 7, 2:37am

>160 rabbitprincess: It was a good job I'd taken my hat, as it got pretty warm.

>161 Helenliz: It's still in the early stages, some of the planting was clearly in progress, but hoping to be able to go back in a year or two and see how things have progressed.

>162 FAMeulstee: I really liked how they had used lots of alum, and beautiful iris in clumps of contrasting colours.

>163 humouress: I'm hopeless with plant names. I've got an app but I'm not always convinced it's right.

RHS Bridgewater.

jun 7, 2:46am


Great Nigerian-set crime. Philip Taiwo is asked to investigate a mob killing, when the father of one of the victims refuses to accept police conclusions. Used to working as an academic psychologist exploring why crowds act criminally, Taiwo is at first reluctant to travel to sport Harcourt, but events at home make the trip more tempting. With the support of a mysterious "driver" he is rapidly thrown into a murky world of university fraternity gangs, town-gown relations gone bad, and drug dealing.

There are some interesting language choices here (it made me want to reread Helon Habila and compare), and impressive use of the protagonist's status as a former US migrant to explain unfamiliar terms and contexts. A gripping read, with plenty of unexpected twists.

jun 7, 2:51am

>115 charl08: I just saw that you mentioned you'd been watching The Umbrella Academy. I love that show! I hope they've managed to film season 3 before Five starts looking as old as the rest of them.

jun 7, 7:16am

>166 ursula: Yes, I binged all the way to the end of the second series in a week or so - and am now v keen to find out what happens next.

jun 7, 3:59pm

>164 charl08: Those pictures are super wonderful, especially the top right one, the blue meconopsis. It is nearly impossible to grow, very very fussy and to see 7 or more blooms is a triumph. Thanks for sharing.

jun 7, 4:43pm

>164 charl08: Looks like a lovely place Charlotte. I've been to RHS Wisley a few times. Their outdoor bonsai collection is amazing.

jun 8, 8:13am

>168 mdoris: Ooh, thank you. I didn't know what they were called.

>169 Caroline_McElwee: It was lovely, Caroline. I was glad I had booked ahead (and that we were so lucky with the weather!)

jun 8, 8:16am

Reading my own books for July mini challenge. Update.
4 new books read.
3 of my own books read.

Acquired two new books:
The Dead Girls' Class Trip (NYRB book club)
Out of the Easy (elkiedee recommendation)

jun 8, 9:26am

171: I'm currently reading Out of the Easy after having it out of the library for some time- interesting so far

jun 8, 11:01am

Great garden photos, Charlotte!

The Lightseekers sounds good; I'll add it to my list.

Redigeret: jun 10, 8:03am

>172 elkiedee: Apologies, I should have said I picked it up from your thread I think?

>173 BLBera: I'm enjoying it so much this year: several plants seem to have done much better than before. Plus I've got the new space at the front of the house. Although I don't much like the weeding in front of dog walkers!

Ed to fix the #s

jun 9, 5:00pm

Trixie's cooing at me to come out, come out, so I do, I pull back the curtain and stand before the mirror under the track lighting, Trixie hovering behind me. She looks me up and down, her head cocked to one side. "Cute," she says. But this means nothing. To Trixie, even the apocalypse is cute. Scorched earth. Galloping black horses foaming at the mouth. The shadow of the scythe-wielding dealer of Fate bearing down on her. All super cute.

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl which I think I owe thanks to Katie for reviewing it on her thread. I found this pretty hard to read in places, as Awad shows the young female protagonist in such a dark place. Her mother's experience of Ill health through obesity, her own feelings about her size, her prison-like approach to losing weight. Her partner's well meaning cluelessness (particularly a barbecue that goes grimly wrong) just seemed to reinforce the sense of a private battle that could be lost at any point. The weird thing is that this mentality is so familiar, and yet Awad's able to make it compelling.

jun 10, 8:02am

I'm still reading Molotov's Magic Lantern. I think I've found the first library I don't feel the need to visit...

No patient would be left without ideological attention, the book promised. There are evenings of patriotic song, visits by heroes of labour, lectures on communist morality... There is a Lenin room, and a library wth tens of thousands of alluring titles such as Urgent Problems in the Internal and External Politics of the Communist Party, and Interpreting the Decisions of the Twenty Sixth Party Congress...

(on Staraya Russa, a spa town, during Stalinist period)

jun 10, 8:29am

>176 charl08: 'alluring titles' :0)

jun 10, 8:55am

>175 charl08: - I found this one very uncomfortable to read in parts, but you're right - it was very compelling.

jun 10, 9:02am

Denne bruger er blevet fjernet som værende spam.

jun 10, 1:15pm

>177 humouress: I bet there was a race for the shelves...

>178 katiekrug: I don't think I'll forget this book in a hurry. Creepy read.

jun 13, 3:51am

And here I thought you hadn't been posting all year--found you! Loving all the garden stuff.

>139 charl08: "just" my own books--great category name! LOL

jun 13, 7:00am

Thanks for visiting Kim.
The least said about my June challenge the better at the moment. Hoping to finish some books in the next few days though.

Redigeret: jun 14, 6:53pm

Molotov's Magic Lantern

Fascinating book which uses a preserved bookshelf in Molotov's old flat (complete with purple underlining) as a way to travel through Russia and explore aspects of Russia's literary history. I was really struck by how communists in exile (and then those they in turn exiled) looked to books.
Shalamov remarked, ...Throughout his childhood, his father's cry resonated: 'Stop reading!', Put down that book!', 'Turn out the light!' After decades of absolute hunger for books in the Gulag, he perceived the hunger for books as the condition of his childhood, the condition of his whole life. His primal hunger was such that no number of books could ever slake it. There is no sweeter thing, he said, than the sight of an unread book.
The book's not new, so I wonder how much has now changed. There's lots of visits to museums stuck in some kind of quasi historical past, not quite sure of what to make of themselves now communism is over. Her accounts of conversations with museum staff reminded me of a trip to Bucharest, visiting galleries monitored by fierce looking elderly ladies.

Some scary stuff about the weird mystical/nationalist beliefs of Putin and his followers.
Roerich led a caravan from Moscow to the Himalayas in search of the 'common source' of Slavic and Indian cultures and the legendary subterranean city of Shambhala. It is rumoured in Moscow - though no one can say it in print - that Putin, who takes an interest in 'Eastern wisdom' of this kind, has assigned money from the national budget to be spent on another search for the doorway to Shambhala in the Altai region of Siberia, a cosmic energy centre where he likes to pose for photographers, seated half-naked on a horse, like some latter-day Mongol khan.
At the end of the book, the flat (along with the whole building) is being dramatically renovated by Moscow's new elite: the bookcase is ripped out and the books have gone.

jun 14, 6:49pm

>183 charl08: I think you got me with that one Charlotte,

jun 15, 12:30am

>183 charl08: Could be a BB for me! Scary and interesting, if it's true.

jun 15, 8:14am

>184 Caroline_McElwee: I think you will like it Caroline. It has reminded me that I really do mean to read Chekov. At some point.

>185 Tess_W: There are a couple of comments linked to the FSB's bizarre nationalist beliefs, not least the claim to ownership of a section of the arctic seabed. Weird!

jun 16, 7:28am

As if unaware that I am trying not to be distracted by new books, new books have turned up at the library. It's as if someone hit the 'reserve' button.

Fresh water for flowers
This lovely city
Moonflower murders
Redemption Point (which seems to be just Redemption on my library catalogue. But I'm assuming it's the same book...

jun 16, 8:29am

>187 charl08: Cursed in your cradle by the evil but very specialist Library Reservations Fairy! What, I wonder, did your parents do to upset her?

jun 16, 9:02am

>187 charl08: 'It's as if someone hit the 'reserve' button.'
Gosh; I wonder who did that?

jun 16, 9:20am

>187 charl08: Wow, how mysterious. Haunting by library reservations?

jun 16, 9:45am

>187 charl08: Perhaps your library has been the victim of a ransomware cyber attack, Charlotte? Unless you (or they) pay up more and more books will be placed on reserve in your name. Scary!

jun 16, 10:02am

>191 rosalita: Don't pay; it just encourages them.

Of course, you run the risk of getting more books.

jun 16, 10:10am

>192 humouress: More books would be a risk worth taking, I think. :-)

jun 16, 11:08am

Have you discovered 'Penguin Town' on Netflix yet Charlotte?

jun 16, 11:18am

Molotov's Magic Lantern sounds great, Charlotte. Wow, a magical reserve button! You are special.

jun 17, 2:22am

>188 spiralsheep: >189 humouress: >190 elkiedee: >191 rosalita: >192 humouress: >193 rosalita: Despite thinking I should wait until the end of the month, the knowledge that the books are waiting for me is making me feel a bit itchy.

>194 Caroline_McElwee: Not yet Caroline. I've been watching a Korean drama about a trauma cleaning agency, and Love and Monsters, which was silly but sweet.

>195 BLBera: I think Molotov's Magic Lantern would work for anyone who has an interest in Russia or Russian lit. Although it took me ages and I began to wish I had a digital copy to enlarge the print size.
(I am due a visit to the opticians.)

Redigeret: jun 17, 5:36pm

This isn’t to say that official censorship doesn’t exist. A government body known as the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (Sapprft) is responsible for managing publishing in China. But it gives out most political directives as vague recommendations, and leaves publishers to interpret them. Publishers then pass on to authors a general sense of foreboding, casting it as an unfortunate but unavoidable fact of nature, like bad weather. They advise precaution, while expressing their sympathy...
It's the meeting of the translated fiction book group today, and I am reading this NYT article about fiction and censorship.

I går, 7:02pm

Good luck reading books off the shelves! I have also been trying to do so, and new books do keep wiggling their way in.