While many of you might be awaiting the new Ferrante book (on preorder at Amazon) I suggest this, a different take on women’s lives with a time distance of a hundred years.
After reading a review of a new Alma Mahler biography (Does the world really need a new biography of Alma Mahler?) I reread a biography of her I had finished long ago. Then, I hadn’t noticed how often the author described Alma as an “hysteric” a term that came from Professor Charcot at the hospital Pitié-Salpêtrière in Paris. Besides reflecting the general fear of woman present in the Symbolist art movement, these ideas were carried into Sigmund Freud’s psychiatric practice and Strindberg’s plays after the two observed at the hospital.
The book currently getting another reread is Per Olov Enquist’s, The Book of Blanche and Marie. Blanche Wittman after her stint at the hospital, worked with Marie Curie and radium, the effects of which caused Blanche multiple amputations, leaving her mostly a torso in the box Marie had prepared for her. Present also in this novel is Jane Avril who was committed to the hospital at a young age before her appearances at the Moulin Rouge.
Well written in tight sentences and only about 200 pages, this book for me is unforgettable.
Having bought the 4th volume of the Ferrante books with a gift voucher, I am sporadically reading it. I still don't like the narrator and she is kind of zooming through her life, with little of the descriptions of Naples that made the previous books occasionally interesting.
I just finished a Andrea Camilleri book from the library -- "The Pyramid of Mud". Good as all the others although even more critical of contemporary Italian corruption. And I found a book at the library called "Le Vieux Libraire et Grégoire", about an 18 year-old who discovers the pleasure of reading when he works in an old age home where there is an old man who used to own a bookstore and whose little place is still stuffed with books.
Bonsai Succulents seems like something I need to own, notwithstanding that I sometimes make accidental ones due to lack of care.
Hysteric as diagnosis has gone away, but not hysteria as an epithet used to tag and discredit women. Do you think you'll read the new autobiography of Alma, Huckle?
Intrigued by your comments on The Book of Blanche and Marie, I looked it up and discovered that it's a novel, called "austere but mesmerizing novel" in this review. Thanks for that recommendation, as I now can't wait to get my hands on this.
Mention of Alma triggered an earworm, which I'll now share with everyone ~
Edited to say I was still constructing my post & didn't see Bjd's. Glad to know about another Camilleri book.
I am saving Ferrante to read for when I die and go to Hell, where the only books will be hers, the only chairs will be kitchen-counter stools, and there will be an endless track of Angel of the Morning playing too loudly in the background.
I am well into -- over half way -- into Bring Up the Bodies. It's amazing to me that, after hating the first Hilary Mantel book I attempted, I got so deeply into these two (Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies). She is a phenomenal writer and the world she creates seems as real as anything around us. I say "creates", but the Tudor world and the people in her books are every bit as much living re-creations as Robert Graves' Rome and Romans were in I, Claudius.
Criticisms of Bring Up the Bodies are kind of all over the place, with some of its defenders saying it's not a sequel. Hmmm. No, I think it is a sequel, as the careful, layered character depictions are missing from this second book, quite as though the author meant us to have read Wolf Hall first. There are also rather casual allusions to incidents in the second book, in a way that shows the author believes us to be on this journey together.
I don''t know if it's good or bad to be grounded in Tudor history before reading this book as, since I do know a good deal about that history, I am now reading with dread.
I finally finished the Ferrante book and will never read anything else by her. I don't know how that will be treated in the TV show because there will be little to focus on, the 30 or so years covered zooms by. Well, "zooms" is perhaps not the right word in Ferrante's case. I noticed too that the Guardian no longer has her weekend column. That didn't last long.
I have "Bring Up the Bodies" lying around somewhere. I found it in a book box and set it aside for my daughter who found "Wolf Hall" in a box, just in case. I hadn't planned to read it but maybe now I will after Bixa's recommendation.
Interesting, Bjd, as I definitely thought of you while reading these two books. Do read Wolf Hall first. I think it grounds you in her style and in Thomas Cromwell. Bring Up the Bodies proceeds from & is an outgrowth of Wolf Hall.
When I'm done with Bodies, I'm going to go back & watch the tv series Wolf Hall again, as I hadn't read the books when I saw it the first time. It's really an excellent series. It's also fun to go to Google Images & look up the portraits of the main players in the books.
I have read Wolf Hall, Bixa. It seemed to me that you didn't like it?
This afternoon we went for a walk and stopped at the local junk/secondhand store. I bought a book called "Don't Run whatever you do" - by a safari guide who starting working in southern Africa when he was 19, Peter Allison. Lots of funny stories, as well as info about the animals. I'm already at page 87!
Bjd, it was Hilary Mantel whose oeuvre I rejected in its entirety after hurling myself against the first few pages of The Giant, O'Brien. This may have been the usual mental laziness and philistinism on my part, since after both those long Tudor books I am willing to give her another chance.
I absolutely love finding gems like your safari book. That is one of the great pleasures of good libraries, the way they'll lead you down all kinds of paths.
I just finished a book by William Boyd, Love is Blind, The Rapture of Brodie Moncur. I usually like his books, and this one is pretty interesting too, about a piano tuner from Edinburgh who works in Paris, then in St Petersburg for an Irish pianist at the turn of the 20th century. Unfortunately, I had to read it in French because I got it from the library.
I also took a French novel set in Colombia but don't think I'll continue -- too gruesome, too much killing. May be reality for Colombia and Colombian politics but I don't like it. I also read (partly) a book by J.K. Rowling that I found in a book box, to where it will return: The Casual Vacancy. About life in a small English town and local politics, but it just never got off the ground and I couldn't find any interest in any of the characters. I read one or two chapters before falling asleep, then finally skipped to the last chapter. Meh.
You did well. I read a casual vacancy in full. Meh indeed. I am alternating between : A Donna Leon - the last one she wrote. La Waffen SS by Leleu. In french. More like an essay. Quite good for those who like it. Rudolf Hess.by ? Also in french. Interesting but i hope it will talk more about him and his role. The first chapters aremore about gernany post WW1 and how fascism took hold. interesting stuff but i have read it often elsewhere Homo sapiens by ... thst i had forgotten i had started. Bought the first in french the sequel in English. So i am quite loaded Have ordered the last frim milosevitch er ? Something like that. I love 'rage'.
A House in the Mountains: The Women Who Liberated Italy from Fascism By Caroline Moorehead
on reserve at the Montréal system. I'm looking forward to that at I'm familiar with the period. Did you know that Primo Levi's slightly younger sister Annamaria was a partisan throughout the Nazi occupation - unlike Primo she never got caught. Think she had false "Aryan" papers - how on earth are most Italians supposed to look 'Aryan' anyhow?
If you are confused about the Nazi occupation, most Italian Fascists surrendered in 1943, and the Nazis moved in and committed most of the wartime atrocities, alongside the most fanatical Fascists. Pretty much the same thing happened in Hungary, also an ally of Nazi Germany. They weren't Nazi enough! And fascist Spain and Portugal stayed on the sidelines, though they certainly turned refugees over to the Nazis and French collaborators.
I'm not very fond of Ferrante either. She had been recommended to my by friends who didn't read Italian and weren't familiar with recent Italian history.
I don't think you need to be familiar with recent Italian history to like or not like Ferrante. I think the problem is her writing style and, to me, her extremely unlikeable narrator. On the contrary, the picture she draws of 1950s-60s Naples is what I liked most in the books.
For the rest, her mentions of background politics are just that -- background, never really fleshed out.
I can't believe nobody is reading these days. Along with old detective stories, like Dorothy Sayers, I just finished an Israeli book published in 1992. It sounds autobiographical but is not totally so. It starts sort of lightly since the narrator and his cousin are too young to understand about the Shoah, but then it does become a bit grim. But very good, showing how various Shoah survivors live in Haifa, although nearly of them have deep psychological wounds. Author is Amir Gutfreund, English title "Our Holocaust".
I’ve been reading a lot and have just finished two books. One written by an American expat physician practicing in Italy (Dotoressa) and the other written by an American whose blog I started following last year (Sea of the Unknown).
I don’t read much fiction anymore, and I very rarely read fantasy or sci fi. However, I’ve just agreed to participate in a Zoom book club with my youngest daughter and my two older granddaughters, ages 11 and 13.
For me, this will be a real challenge and a labor of love. Here’s the beginning of the first book selection’s description from Amazon: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth's fate hinges on one girl. . . . Cinder by Marissa Meyer.
The same friend recommended The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. It’s next on my reading list....
It came in at the library and I read it, enjoyed it, and returned it just before the library closed down for coronavirus. Guess they weren’t up to disinfecting borrowed materials between users.
Having discovered a Little Free Library not too far from our house, and needing to get rid of some of the weight on my groaning bookshelves, I was looking at my collection for books I could part with, and lo and behold, there sat a pristine hardcover copy of The Nightingale!
After verifying that it didn’t belong to the library, I realized it must have come from a friend who’s a prolific reader and passes along her books to me when she finishes with them. Remembering that I had a tote bag full of her “used” books, I checked out the contents and found another book by Kristin Hannah: Winter Garden, which will be my next read.
The Nightingale was about two somewhat estranged sisters set amid the French Resistance during World War Two. Sort of a cross between historical fiction and a story about women’s lives and their relationships.
Winter Garden is set during the Siege of Leningrad, and I expect I’ll like it as much as I did The Nightingale.