Kate Keeps on Jumping

É uma continuação do tópico Kate Jumps Puddles in 2024.

DiscussãoClub Read 2024

Entre no LibraryThing para poder publicar.

Kate Keeps on Jumping

Editado: Jan 31, 9:40 pm

Thought I’d bounce gently into February with Enchanted April.

Writer Elizabeth von Arnim had an interesting and privileged life, staying mostly in London and major cities in Europe and the U.S.. She had an affaire with H.G. Wells and married Francis, 2nd earl of Russell, brother of philosopher Bertrand Russell. She became disillusioned with marriage - saw it as tyranny, and this is reflected in many of her novels.

I’m finding it worthwhile researching writers in order to understand their take on life. Von Amin’s life could not be more different than my own, but from what I’ve read so far in Enchanted April, we both share a love of Italy.

Edited to fix Touchstone.

Jan 31, 9:21 pm

Nice new thread, Kate. You read a lot of books in January! I like how you link to your reviews too.

Jan 31, 9:35 pm

>3 labfs39: Thanks. Yes, I was surprised at how many books I’d read. I thought of adding the rating and the gender of the writer, but then decided it’d look too busy and kept it simple.

Jan 31, 10:40 pm

Very good January for books. I’m interested in von Arnim. Hope you enjoy.

Jan 31, 11:12 pm

>5 dchaikin: I am enjoying it so far. But there’s something about it that’s a little fey. The writing is excellent and I’m enjoying the different characters,

Fev 1, 4:32 pm

>2 kjuliff: Arnim's first husband was German, and appears in Elizabeth and Her German Garden as "The Man of Wrath". It's fairly autobiographical, and shows her as a young woman trying to integrate into a foreign society - not nearly as light as Enchanted April

Fev 1, 4:36 pm

>7 SassyLassy: Thanks. I’ll put it on my list. She such an evocative writer.

Fev 2, 7:52 am

Nice to see you, Kate. What a lot of great January reading! Enchanted April sounds lovely.

Fev 2, 7:59 am

>2 kjuliff: I also like to read little about the authors whose books I read. February is the shortest month and so you will have to go some to match your January reading.

Fev 3, 4:18 am

You had a great January reading month, but a stressful end of month, so I wish you a happy new thread and a quieter February!

Editado: Fev 3, 9:01 pm

>9 BLBera: Yes The Enchanted April is a real gem. I’ll review soon.

>10 baswood:>8 I was so enchanted with Elizabeth von von Armin that I’m reading more about her life.. She mixed in upper-class literary circles but was by no means fully accepted and was not averse to saying and writing what she thought. Interestingly she thought little of Somerset Maugham’s works. And she was much criticized by the thinly-vaulted negative representations in her novels by the men in her life.

I am now reading her Vera which is nothing like The Enchanted April. Enjoying it as well though.

>11 raton-liseur: Thank you. I’ve only just recovered from my late January health problem - fixing the O2 concenrators really knocked it out of me. But I’ve been listening to audio books and will set up my February log today.

Editado: Fev 4, 4:33 pm

A Case of Stendhal’s Syndrome?

The Enchanted April
By Elizaber Von Arnim
Media: Audio
Reader Jennifer Mendenhall
Rating: 4

Set in the 1920s , The Enchanted April is a story of four English women’s vacation in a castle on the Italian Riviera and the effect the beauty of the castle, the vistas, and more especially its gardens have on them.

One of the women, a Mrs Wilkins is clearly overwhelmed by the beauty of the place and has a spiritual transformation, similar to that of George Harrison when he “found himself” in India in the mid sixties.

So sure is Ms Wilkins that all you need is love, that she telegrams her husband who she previously feared and felt was cold, asking him to join her. Surely he too would feel the love. Mrs Wilkins’ bliss is contagious, so much so that she persuades her friend Mrs Arbuthnot to do the same.

The other members of the group, Lady Caroline Dester and Mrs Fisher who are both “spinsters”, appear less affected, though Lady Caroline becomes more self-aware. She is more able to come to terms with her own beauty, which has so far been a hindrance in her young life. Mrs Fisher, who is considered ancient at 65 and who is still stuck in the Victorian era remains somewhat immune, though she occasionally has feelings she can’t quite work out.

As for the two husbands, von Arnim has little time for the men. Mr Wilkins becomes warmer toward his wife as his feelings for the female sex are rekindled by the beauty of Lady Caroline if not the garden. And Mr Arbuthnott sees that Mrs Arbuthnott has a sex appeal that he has been unaware of for many a year.

Which leave the main character in the book, the garden. As an avid gardner myself, I delighted in the long paragraphs describing in exquisite detail, the different flowers and shrubs, and their placement around the castle, and in some cases around the individual women when they act as shields allowing the individual women to revel in their solitudes.

The writing is crisp and humorous. The class distinctions separate Mrs Fisher and Lady Caroline Dester from the Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot, the former clearly seeing the other women as “below them”. But what the women have in common is that they are not men.

The men in the novel appear as necessary appendages. Accessories. Accessories that are generally found wanting.

I came saw from the book intrigued by the author. I wanted to find out more, and did.

I’m glad that I discovered von Arnim. I thoroughly enjoyed The Enchanted April and rated it a deserving 4.

Fev 5, 12:47 pm

>14 kjuliff: and free on audible. I enjoyed your review. I’m intrigued.

Fev 5, 7:32 pm

>15 dchaikin: I enjoyed the book so much I had to find out more, so I read Vera and found the tone to be so different. How much is based on her own life I cannot tell, but I am quite taken by this writer. Her private life is so interesting. I might see if I can find a decent biography. She was on close terms with so many “between the wars” writers there must be something.

I’ll review Vera later. I need to recover from my dental visit today.

Fev 5, 7:37 pm

>14 kjuliff: What is "Stendhal’s Syndrome?"

Editado: Fev 5, 8:21 pm

>17 dianeham: Stendhal’s syndrome is a psychosomatic condition involving rapid heartbeat, fainting, confusion, and even hallucinations, allegedly occurring when individuals become exposed to objects, artworks, or phenomena of great beauty. The name is taken from the writer’s experience in Italy.

He wrote of Florence I was in a sort of ecstasy, from the idea of being in Florence, close to the great men whose tombs I had seen. Absorbed in the contemplation of sublime beauty . . . I reached the point where one encounters celestial sensations . . . Everything spoke so vividly to my soul. - from Stendhal’s Naples and Florence

I used it in mild jest to describe Mrs Wilkins’ behavior in the novel.

Fev 5, 9:08 pm

>16 kjuliff: dentists visits. Yuck. I’m curious about Vera

Editado: Fev 5, 9:34 pm

>19 dchaikin: Think Rebecca with a dash of emotional DV. I was most surprised. Vera does not actually appear in the novel, but a large photo of her hangs on the wall overlooking the table where the new wife dines.

Editado: Fev 12, 11:11 pm

From Little Things Big Things Grow

Minor Detail
By Shibli Adania
Media: Audio
Reader: Siiri Scott
Rating: 4.5

This a a book I will never forget. It shows the true horror that can be enacted when one group of people see another group of people as less than human.

The book is in two parts and starts off describing an officer of the Israeli army getting ready for his day in his camp in what is now known as southern Israel. It is 1949, one year after the war that the Palestinians mourn as the Nakba, and the officer’s actions and ablutions are described in minute detail. Every action, every part of him putting on each item of clothing is described. At first I thought that the character was suffering from OCD, but eventually it came to me - every detail, every thing we do has its importance.

During that day in 1949 a Bedouin girl is captured and abused physically and mentally. A dog has followed her. She has her clothes torn from her body. They are thrown carelessly into a heap and petrol poured over them. They are burned. Her long hair too is covered in petrol and cropped. The dog howls. All this described in minute detail. She is then put in a hut and the officer leaves the camp and the detail of camp life stop. For the reader there is silence except for the howling of the dog. But we know and can imagine what is happening.

Many years later in the Occupied Territories an Arab office worker learns what happened to the girl in the camp from a newspaper article. She becomes obsessed with the story, as the day of the girl’s capture is the day after her own birth.

She can’t get hold of any official documentation because she is Arab. So she decides to go to the area of the camp to see if there is any record there. This is no easy task as being a non Israeli she can’t rent a car or even travel without a pass, and even then she has to line up at checkpoints. Nevertheless she manages and her efforts and trip south are described in minute detail.

Arriving south she rents a room in the Israeli Area A. She luxuriates in bathing in hot water and in having continuous electricity. The next morning she gets inter the rental and drives. There is a smell of petrol. A dog follows her.

The book ends fittingly. I’ve written all that is necessary.

It is shattering. It is brilliantly written. In both partís it is fearful and unsettling.

I highly recommend this novel.

Fev 6, 1:29 pm

Two more excellent reviews that I enjoyed reading

Fev 6, 1:37 pm

I have become aware of your recent difficulty obtaining books with excellent narration and I have a suggestion that you might consider. When I read The Return of Martin Guerre i was amazed at the quality of the narration by Sarah Mollo-Christensen and I did a Google on her.

I found that just in Audible she has over 400 books of a wide variety of genres. You can obtain a list of those books on Audible, but also can narrow it down to a genre, such as 'Literary Fiction'. Any list can be ordered by average rating, date released, etc.

It appears that you can do similar searches for your personal favorite narrators.

I don't know if this would be useful to you, but it might be a track to consider.

Fev 6, 2:43 pm

>23 JoeB1934: Thanks Jim. I have occasionally done a narrator search but didn’t thinks of narrowing it down by genre, so I will definitely be using your tip.

The two books - reviewed above - both had excellent narrators. I should note, in case you decide to read The Enchanted April that the version I got has a different narrator from the various versions available at Audible - my review. I borrowed it from the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Books division of the New York Public Library.

Because I often get books from that library I’ve decided to include narrator (reader) in the header of my reviews. Often this library has different versions than Audible or even the main New York Public Library.

Fev 6, 2:45 pm

>22 baswood: Thanks so much. I really liked both books and so far am having a very good run. I have two reviews waiting to be written, both about quite unusual books.

Fev 6, 3:35 pm

>21 kjuliff: Excellent review of Minor Detail, Kate. If I hadn't just read it, I would be inspired to pick it up again!

Fev 6, 9:32 pm

>21 kjuliff: phew. I couldn’t read that right now. Someday. Excellent review

Fev 6, 9:52 pm

>21 kjuliff: Great comments, Kate. Could you get someone to read to you if the book isn't available in audiobook format? I actually read to another blind student when I was in college, mostly math homework, unfortunately. It was a rewarding experience.

Editado: Fev 6, 11:41 pm

>28 BLBera: Not really. It would be a lot to ask. And everyone I know well enough in New York are too busy working. And I think I prefer to read alone anyway.

>27 dchaikin: It’s a short listen Dan, just under 4 hours listening time. And there’s not a lot of explicit violence. I think you would be OK with that part. Did you read Lisa’s review?

>26 labfs39: Lisa I’m so glad now that I didn’t read your review before reading Minor Detail as we felt in such similar ways and had the same reaction to the novel. I think Dan should read it but am worried about what he’d say about the ending.

Fev 6, 11:00 pm

>29 kjuliff: it's the subject. I'm not in a good mental place regarding that area, since Oct 7.

Fev 6, 11:17 pm

>30 dchaikin: I understand. I thought I might have given the impression that the book was too graphic. Which it isn’t but I understand about wanting to stay away from that subject in literature. I actually liked that it was short and to the point, and did not go on and on, as many other novels of that subject have.

Editado: Fev 7, 6:25 pm

Rebecca à la française

By Elizabeth Von Armin
Media: Audio
Reader: Paul Nicki
Rating: 4

Reading Vera was I in “The Willows” or “ Manderley”? Hard to say at times. But no, I was in The Willows, firmly entrencehed. But minus the sinister Danvers at the window with Manderley burning around her. Another woman stood at a window at The Willows. The first wife, Vera, who died not by fire but by falling through the open window to her death.

Liked Rebecca, Vera’s likeness hangs on a wall in The Willows, staring at Everard‘s new wife Lucy. And like Rebecca, Vera does not appear in Von Arnie’s Vera.

But let’s step back. It’s the 1920s, and Everard, a boring man whose platitude-based morality borders on Trumpism captured the heart of ingebue Lucy who is less than half his age. She’s a pretty girl, but none too bright. He is the first man whose sentences she actually understands. She has been used to her father’s intellectual friends, old lefties who discussed politics endlessly, in nuanced terms. Her father has recently died when Lucy meets Everard, a man who speaks in simple terms, a man who thinks there is one side to every question. Her fate is sealed.

Everard tals to Lucy in baby talk, telling her not to worry her pretty little head about his decisions. She’s in heaven, oblivious to her only living relative Aunt Dot’s gentle warnings. Her late father’s friends gradually disappear from her life, like liberals turning off the TV when Trump rambles on. They marry.

Once Everard has caught the fly in his boring Willows’ web the domestic abuse starts. Lucy is locked out in the freezing rain for hours and has to apologize repeatedly until Everard can fully relish her submission. He opposes every thing she desires. She is a virtual prisoner in his house. She obeys his every command. Nothing is good enough for her new husband who is a simple-minded bully. Lucy is isolated from the world. Vera looks at her as she sits at the table to eat. Vera’s eyes follow her and there is a twisted smile on Vera’s mouth.

She falls ill and her aunt Dot tries to help her but is unceremoniously forced to leave The Willows and forbidden to see Lucy again, ever.

We never find out about Vera’s death. Possibly it was suicide. But could Lucy last as long as Vera who had stayed married to Everand for 15 years, the exiled Dot muses.

Apart from Robby Doyle’s The Woman who Walked into Doors, I can’t remember reading a book about domestic violence. And although Vera’s Lucy suffers emotional rather than bodily violence, it is just as harrowing to read about it in Vera.

Lucy and Everard are not similar to Maxim and the second Mrs de Winter except for the age difference. But there are so many “pre-shadows” of Rebecca in this earlier novel that it is, like Everard, creepy.

Still intrigued by von Arrnim my reading of Vera has thrown some light on her life. Is the novel semi-autobiographical? I have read that Vera is based on her disastrous second marriage, to Frank Russell.

I need to find out more. I am on a quest.

Fev 7, 5:45 pm

The original story in English of enforcing submission of a woman was The Clerk's Tale way back in the 14th century. The story is still being retold.

Fev 7, 9:12 pm

>32 kjuliff: phew. Maybe i’ll try The Enchanted April 1st

>33 baswood: I haven’t gotten there yet. Reading the Summoner’s Tale (requiting the Friar’s… or Frere’s)

Fev 7, 11:31 pm

>34 dchaikin: I’m reading my third von Armin book now, Elizabeth and her German garden and my edition has a forward by Elizabeth Jane Howard which shines a light on Von Armin’s marriages. Her first marriage was seemingly happy, and husband Henning August von Arnim-Schlagenthin adored her. It was well after he died that she married Bertrand Russell’s brother, Frank Russell, and it was this second marriage that was the inspiration for Vera.

So now I’m back to the earlier book, Elizabeth and her German Garden and it’s all sweetness and light. Her references to the German husband as “The Man of Wrath” in the book is provably in jest, or that she couldn’t be bothered with his ridiculously long name.

Fev 8, 10:02 am

>35 kjuliff: Interesting that you are finding Elizabeth and Her German Garden "all sweetness and light".

I remember it as a constant struggle against the impositions of a rigid rural German society, against the head gardeners reluctant to implement any change she wanted, and as a constant struggle to find that time alone that she so desperately needed to write and read.
Then there were the constant setbacks in that garden, as she taught herself about the plant world and learned what could work and what would not. I did love her optimism about it though.

Also noting that her first husband was arrested and imprisoned for fraud. After his death, there was a three year affair with H G Wells before the Earl came along.

Fev 8, 11:37 am

>36 SassyLassy: I am only about a quarter way through Elizabeth. and her German Garden and so far I haven’t come across what you describe. Looks like I spoke too soon. Yes I knew about the affair with HG Wells but didn’t mention it in my post as I didn’t want to make the post too long.

Yes she wanted a rambling natural garden, but it was not only the rigid Germans who found it odd. E.M. Forster, who lived at the von Arnim estate when worked as a tutor to the her children, wrote that there was in fact not much of a garden, and wrote . "The German Garden itself ... did not make much impression”.

I don’t know much about Elizabeth’s first husband but according to Elizabeth Jane Howard he was very much in love with von Ardin throughout her marriage, and certainly for those times, whether in the UK or Germany von Armin had quite a lot of freedom, and lived a very privileged life.

Editado: Fev 8, 9:42 pm

Death in Syria

Death Is Hard Work
By Khaled Khalifa
Media: Audio
Reader: Neil Shah
Rating 3.5

This is a story of four family members who take a trip by car from Damascus to Anibiya, a small town a few hundred kilometers away.

The car’s occupants are three sibling and their father. The father has recently died. His cadavre is wrapped in a makeshift shroud. The body is being taken to Anibya for burial next to his wife as was his dying wish.

Thirty year’s ago a fourth sibling, a talented, smart independent young woman who, when her father arranged for her to marry a man she did not love, decided to die. On the wedding day in Anibiya, she climbed to the roof a building, looked down at the wedding party and burned herself to death.

Possibly it was because of guilt that father’s dying wish was that his body be buried in Anibiya. It was an impractical wish as to drive there from Damascus was extremely dangerous. But the brothers decided to go. The sister was not consulted.

It’s hot. It’s Syria. There are many official and unofficial road-blocks with stops between Damascus and Anibiya. The trip which is only a four hour drive in normal times, takes three days. The father’s dead body putrefies in stages, graphically told. There’s no A/C. The siblings can’t open the windows as they are scared of regime and rebel soldiers, and gangs. They are frequently held up at checkpoints. At one the two brothers are told to leave the car. The sister waits in the closed-window car for five hours with her father’s putrefying body. When the brothers return she is mute and remains so, forever.

This is a disturbing book in a bad way. It is an unpleasant read. Although it illustrates the meaningless of war, the method used, the long passages describing the decaying of the body did not seem to be there for any reason other than to engender horror. It was also a little disingenuous as it’s common knowledge that Islam requires bodies to be buried cleanly as soon as possible after death.

I was being generous with a rating of 3.

Fev 9, 10:13 am

>38 kjuliff: one to avoid.

Fev 9, 8:24 pm

>38 kjuliff: oye, decaying corpses. I had trouble How Much of These Hills is Gold because of long sections on a decaying body. It was disgusting, whatever their point was. Anyway, kudos for getting through it. I think i agree with baswood.

Fev 9, 10:09 pm

>40 dchaikin: I’m reading Wharton’s The Mother's Recompense now. From your list. Enjoying it immensely.

Fev 9, 10:19 pm

>41 kjuliff: ❤️ yay! I’m reading it with a group on Litsy. We discussed books i and ii on Feb 17.

Fev 10, 8:16 am

>40 dchaikin: Would Death is Hard Work be more interesting if you knew it was an adaptation of As I Lay Dying? I liked it well enough that I accidentally bought the book twice.

Fev 10, 8:30 am

>43 ELiz_M: Did it have graphic descriptions of the body decomposing over a period of four days? I looked up As I Lay Dying and read that the book also delves into at the lives of the people on the journey. Khalifa does that too - for the male occupants of the car. Female sibling Fatima though, seems to hardly to exist.

The danger and the frustration at the road-blocks are an essential part of Death is Hard Work, so while it may be loosely based on Faulkner’s novel, I don’t think the engendered horror would be the same.

Editado: Fev 10, 11:20 am

>41 kjuliff: How do I get the dchaikin list?

Editado: Fev 10, 12:17 pm

>45 JoeB1934: It’s on his thread. I looked at his one for the next few months. Go to his thread and scroll up a few pages - HERE.

Fev 10, 4:16 pm

Shared Headlines

The Years
By Annie Erneaux
Media: Audio
Reader: Anna Bentinck
Raiting: 4

A thoroughly enjoyable look-back at a French writer’s reactions to fifty years of sociopolitical landscapes.

Major and minor events, tastes and movements from the 1950s through the early twentieth century are chronicled by Erneaux from the point of view of her “circle”. Being born only half a decade after the writer, I’m assuming the circle is left-intellectual. The book is a mix of memoir and a personal account of history.

Throughout the book Erneaux uses “we” as the subject and the work is presented as a “collective memory” of the writer’s peers. As she is viewing the world through French eyes, some of the events she notes are local to the French. I recognized only a few of the politicians for example, the obvious de Gaulle, Mitterand, Chirac, Macron. Le Pen. But the bulk of the world news of the times was recognizable, as were the writer’s reactions to the events they described. The war with Algeria through the demonstrations of ‘68 to the destruction of the Twin Towers and the war in Iraq are recounted as if from a collective memory of a group of middle-class French. As well as world events, technological and social issues and tastes are recounted. From the inventions of the transistor radio to cell phones, the impacts are memorialized, as are very minor domestic trends, such as using salt to remove wine-stains from carpets.

The Years fitted well with my own understanding and recollections Of western history. The half decade age-difference did have a jarring effect in a couple of instances. The ‘68 student rebellion for example. I was still studying and Erneaux was married with at least one child. The demonstrations I remember differed from Erneaux’s as I felt dead center, while she reacted as a conventional married woman looking in at them, wishing she were a part. And of course she still uses the subject, “we”.

So while I enjoyed and related to the book, I would not expect everyone to identify with Eareaux’s “We”. Even so, it’s an interesting if not insightful look back at life in the second half of the twentieth century in France.


Fev 10, 6:40 pm

>47 kjuliff: I still haven't tackled Ernaux, although I mean to. I wonder which book I should choose as a first introduction to her writing? Maybe not this one?

Fev 10, 7:18 pm

>48 labfs39: I liked this one and intend to read more of Erneaux, despite my critical review. I still gave it a 4. It was really the use of “we” throughout - it’s a bit hard to describe and maybe something got lost in translation.

Personally I liked the book as I had/have similar world views to Erneaux, but it did niggle me the way it came across at times, as if everyone should have felt the way her circle felt. If I held more politically conservative views for example I might have felt excluded.

In Mcewan,s Lessons he also relates a similar world history mixed with his own perceptions and emotions. But he owns them as his own and not necessarily those of others. The Years sort of assumes you know modern French political history and hold similar world views.

I will be reading more. This one was an easy read for me and it did bring back memories, particularly 1980s on. I do recommend it.

Fev 10, 9:35 pm

>44 kjuliff: As I Lay Dying is essentially a comic novel. The major road block in it is the Mississippi River in flood. I’d find it very interesting to hear your thoughts on the two novels, as Death is Hard Work is now erased from my TBR (Thanks!) While there are numerous disasters, I don’t remember any graphic descriptions of decaying corpses, but it’s been awhile since I read it…

Fev 10, 9:40 pm

I have this one planned as my first by Erneaux. So I enjoyed your review and will prep myself for the collective we. I don’t typically include myself in a writer’s we, but I sometimes struggle with how impersonal it is. The run through history sounds fun.

Fev 10, 11:40 pm

>51 dchaikin: I just finished The Mother's Recompense which I understand you’ll be reading shortly. I really enjoyed it, especially as it turned out to be a bit of a page-turner.

Fev 11, 12:08 am

>50 dianelouise100: I think you’d remember them Cindy. The corpse is described in great detail in several stages of decomposition. Even writing this it’s all coming back to me. Terrible!

Fev 11, 12:36 am

>53 kjuliff: I apologize for the vagueness of the last sentence in Post#50. I should have written “While there are numerous disasters in As I Lay Dying, I don’t remember any graphic description of Addie’s decaying corpse…” You have spared me the reading of Death is Hard Work. I’m now thinking of rereading As I Lay Dying, though.

Fev 11, 9:51 am

>54 dianelouise100: Dan recommended that Faulkner to me, but it doesn’t appeal. I’ve now changed my mind about burials. Must inform my kids back in OZ.

Fev 11, 4:35 pm

>55 kjuliff: there’s a natural cemetary near me where they do green burials. https://destinationdestinymemorials.com/services/natural-burial/steelmantown-cem...

Fev 11, 4:36 pm

>56 dianeham: Good to know. I’ll keep it in mind!

Fev 11, 5:16 pm

Fabulous reviews. I'm also an Enchanted April fan, so enjoying your other reading around this author. I have in the back of my head an article I read in The Times last year about a female author being terribly mean in real life, and I keep think it was von Arnim but now I'm doubting my memory.

I've put Minor Detail on my wishlist.

Editado: Fev 12, 10:54 pm

The Man of Wrath

Elizabeth and her German Garden
By Elizabeth von Arnim
Media :Audio
Reader:: Yolande Bavaria
Rating: 4

This is the third and earliest of von Arnim’s books in my collection, and it like the others was a joy to read.

Unlike Vera which is also semi-autobiographical, this book tells of the happier marriage to a wealthy German who Elizabeth facetiously refers to as “The Man of Wrath”. Count Henning August von Arnim-Schlagenthin is portrayed as an old-fashioned boring Teuton, best ignored. And Elizabeth does her best to ignore him. She has her own way, by politely acting as if she does not even hear what he had to say, and spends her life planning and enjoying her garden in an old Pomeranian mansion.

Elizabeth and Henning have three children who are four, five and six in the book. Elizabeth calls them “babies” and refers to them by the names of the months they were born in.

Thus we have April Baby, May Baby and June Baby, Elizabeth talks about the babies in the same way as she talks about her flowers, flowers that take on childlike qualities. Bluebells peep cheekily through the snow. Petunias raise their quaint little heads in the morning.

A gardener plants the flowers. A governess looks after April Baby, May Baby and June Baby.

Elizabeth lives a life of privilege. She can do as she pleases, weather permitting. She’s a charming and witty young woman, who doesn’t tolerate fools gladly. And except for one close friend fools include her husband and most of the people she knows or whose paths cross hers.

The peasant are ignorant, less than animals and oh so annoying when they return to Russia in winter to see their families

Similar to Jane Austen’s Emma Elizabeth goes through life without a real care in the world. Unlike Emma though, Elizabeth is never sorry. Elizabeth has to be taken as one finds her. Any delving into the background of the social class structure of the time will be horrified to read of her referring to laborers as “menials”. I suggest the socially squeamish stay away. An LT member reviewing the book exclaimed, What a crock of über-privileged shit!

As for me I found I could suspend my politics and I loved both - Elizabeth and her German Garden.

Fev 12, 10:02 am

>47 kjuliff: The Years was my introduction to Annie Ernaux, and the one of hers that I liked the best. I am about 10 years younger than her, but most of the events she described really resonated with me, although of course there were lots of French events and references that were not familiar.

>53 kjuliff: I have just started The Mother's Recompense for the Litsy Wharton Buddy Read led by Dan. We are in our second year (I think), so at this point we've read a lot of Wharton, and there was only one I did not like (it was, in effect, war propaganda).

Fev 12, 10:07 am

>12 kjuliff: do you know if there is a bio of her?

Fev 12, 2:29 pm

>60 arubabookwoman: The Years is the only Erneaux book I’ve read. I looked at the others but none in particular caught my eye for the moment.

I have just finished The Mother’s Recompense and enjoyed it but felt it was a little melodramatic in parts.

>61 cindydavid4: A bio of Erneaux? - no I don’t know. It looks like most of her books are biographical to an extent and probably more personal than The Years which covers historical and social events, and her personal life is told from the point of view of here reactions to them. arubabookwoman will probably know.

Fev 12, 2:53 pm

>62 kjuliff: sorry I was replying to the wrong post; a bio for Von Armin

Fev 12, 2:58 pm

never mind I should have looked first

Elizabeth of the German Garden: A Literary Journey; a Biography of Elizabeth Von Arnim

Fev 12, 3:53 pm

>64 cindydavid4: Yes it’s called a biography but only covers the early part of her life. I don’t know is there’s a memoir after that, but you can get an idea of the middle part of her life from the fictional Vera that seems to be based on her miserable year or so of living with her second husband, the brother of Bertrand Russel. I don’t know if there’s a whole life biography but I’d be interested it there is. She certainly had a life after leaving him.

Editado: Fev 12, 7:13 pm

Maternal Melodrama

The Mother’s Recompense
By Edith Wharton
Narrator: Barbara Caruso
Rating 3.5

During the 1920s in America a young woman, Kate, falls for wealthy New Yorker, who turns out to be not according to her taste. The marriage produces a daughter they call Anne, but when Anne is still an infant Kate runs off in the middle of the night to be with a new lover. Anne is left to be raised by her father and after the his death lives alone, with her education and financial cares looked after by a family-appointed guardian. Kate and her new love travel from the marriage home on Fifth Avenue in New York to the French Riviera.

After a short while, Kate dumps her lover, and eventually meets a younger man called Chris, an American with an adventurous spirit who is good in bed. They have a few years of bliss and travel but being young Chris eventually tires of the older Kate and tells a fib - he says he has to return to New York but will be back. He never returns.

While Kate dreams hopefully and uselessly of his return she lives cheaply (by her standards) with her maid, in hotels on the French Riviera where rich Americans flock to what they call “American colonies”.There they pack their days with card playing, dinners, parties and visits from dignitaries, in order that they can forget about whatever past they have left.

Meanwhile the infant Anne has grown up and come of age. She has no memory of her mother Kate, but wants a mother. She’s living in the same Fifth Avenue mansion as the one Kate fled from 18 years ago. Her guardian turns out to be an old admirer of Kate ever since her New York days. He is all for Anne to reunite with her mother. He has been in love with Kate forever but his love has always been unrequited. Kate finds him a bore.

Anne telegraphs to Kate who is surprised to hear from the daughter who she was unable to even visit after she fled the mansion. Anne asks Kate to return. Kate does, happy to leave her shallow life.

The ingredients: A thityish man, sexy and adventurous, but poor
A woman in her fifties still good-looking but on a fixed income.
An adoring older New York gentleman who loves Kate
Anne, the ingenue who wants a mother.

The rest would require a very large spoiler alert, so I’ll leave the action there, but action there surely is.

The book is well-written, and it’s an enjoyable read. Will she or won’t she? Noting there are two she’s. There is a bit of a drift into melodrama, but what does it matter? The writing is good and we are kept interested.

Recommended for those not averse to melodrama.

Fev 12, 8:29 pm

>66 kjuliff: Good review. Wharton is a gap in my reading though, so this might not be the best one for me to start with.

Fev 12, 8:39 pm

that does look like fun, and it seems like Ive been reading more and more Wharton so I should take a look

just got Elizabeth of the German Garden – A Literary Journey: A biography of Elizabeth von Arnim on my kindle; hope this is good, Ill report back

Fev 12, 8:48 pm

>65 kjuliff: based on the review on Amazone It looks like its a lot more! Ill report back

Fev 12, 9:50 pm

>69 cindydavid4: but did you read my review here?

Editado: Fev 12, 10:03 pm

Mensagem removida pelo autor.

Fev 12, 10:05 pm

Catching up on your February reading: only two weeks in and you've read so widely and posted such wonderful reviews. Delighted to be able to read them, and especially all the Von Arnim books, as we were just talking about her on the Questions for Avid Readers thread. I particularly appreciated your review of Adania Shibli's Minor Detail.

Fev 12, 10:23 pm

>59 kjuliff: this was a lovely review. You have left me thinking I need to read von Arnim.

>52 kjuliff: A page turner?!

>66 kjuliff: thanks for no spoilers. I’m curious how it evolves. But now i keep highlighting lines. Love her prose.

Fev 12, 10:26 pm

>72 rv1988: Thanks for the compliment! I’ll have to catch up on Questions for Avid Readers. Glad you enjoy my reviews. It’s good to get feedback!

Fev 12, 10:37 pm

>58 AlisonY: Thanks Alison. I think many female writers can seem harsh. But many times it’s more in humor. This humor is sometimes taken at face values by American readers. Americans are so polite that one sometimes needs to be careful lest a remark made in jest is taken seriously. Especially if one is Irish or Australian. 😊

Fev 12, 10:42 pm

>73 dchaikin: Thanks Dan.
Yes I found The Mother’s Recompense to be a page turner in that I wanted to know what happened and to say anything more would be a spoiler.

Re von Armin I am sure you would love her and I’m a little surprised you haven’t already read any of her books. I write this because of what I understand to be your tastes in 20th C books. She’s such a lovely writer.

Fev 12, 11:08 pm

>67 valkyrdeath: Thanks! Wharton was a gap in mine too, till I was reminded of her by dchaikin . The first of her work I read recently (I read The Age of Innocence years ago, but that was all) was Roman Fever and Other Stories. I’m not really into short stories, but these were delightful. I recommend these as a Wharton 101 😊

Fev 12, 11:26 pm

>70 kjuliff: yes I did, this is a different book :) It covers her whole life and discusses all of her books. It starts with this

"so this is the story of how by the strangest of ironies, a woman whose books are so concerned with exploring identity has somehow lost hers. its the story of Mary Beaucamp, a courageous woman whose remarkable life spanned the turbulent years from the end of the 19 century until the end of you life in the 20th In the course of this narrative I will show that Mary assumed an identity parallel but not identical to her own when she wrote. Elizabeth is not a penname, but another creation; one who existed in the imagination of Mary...

Fev 13, 12:02 am

>78 cindydavid4: I see. We are talking of different books. Thanks for clarifying.

Fev 13, 12:15 am

any time :)

Fev 13, 9:54 am

Hi Kate - I haven't read either Erneaux or von Arnim and your comments really make me want to give both of these writers a try.

Fev 13, 10:14 am

>81 BLBera: Good to hear Beth. I was put on to them by other LT members. They are both really good writers. Glad you enjoyed the reviews.

Editado: Fev 13, 11:21 am

>47 kjuliff: Interesting that 'we' caused some disquiet. This is not evident in the original french which uses 'on' for much the time which can be translated into English as 'one' as it takes the third person singular.

Anyway glad you enjoyed the book

>59 kjuliff: I am not sure that everyone would agree, but yes I am prepared to 'suspend the politics sometimes'.

Fev 13, 11:33 am

>83 baswood: That is interesting that the translation to “we” in The Years being from the French “on” rather than “nous”. I would find that even more affronting to those of an opposite political bent, as to me “one thinks xxx” assumes that everyone thinks xxx, whereas “we think xxx” implies a subgroup of the population thinks xxx.

The “we” in The Years didn’t make me feel disquiet, but I could see that it might to people of a different political persuasion than that of Erneaux’s circle.

Fev 13, 12:40 pm

>83 baswood: I’ve thought some more about the translation of the French on to the English we, and now I think that it was the use of “we” that was disconcerting. After all, it is a personal history and I think this would be more obvios in the original French version. It’s unfortunate that the use of “one” instead of “we” would have sounded too formal in English. I can see why the translator went that way. But there’s really no English equivalent for the pronoun “on”.

Fev 13, 2:51 pm

>77 kjuliff: Thanks for the recommendation! It sounds perfect for me as I love a good short story, but it can be hard finding the actually good ones.

Fev 13, 3:02 pm

>82 kjuliff: We do hear about great new authors on LT, don't we? I have expanded my reading a lot since I started here.

Fev 13, 3:54 pm

>87 BLBera: Yes I’ve certainly expanded my reading since joining LT. I initially joined just to keep track of my own reading, but I’ve discovered many new writers since joining. I used to rely on a few friends with tastes similar to my own, and the Booker longlist. Now my reading is much more diverse.

Fev 14, 1:12 pm

I just finished The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld and am incapable of picking up another book. It’s a brilliant debut novel and I will review it once I’ve recovered.

Fev 14, 3:20 pm

>89 kjuliff: Ooh - a solid book hangover! I'm intrigued...

Fev 14, 4:23 pm

I made notes for my review. Here are some unedited scraps for you till I can write it.
you enter a world you don’t want to be in.
If anything is even partly normal we are jolted out of it by something some/horror words of horror
Glow in the light yellow stars, the Jews in the basement, Christmas decorations
Thou shalt not

Fev 14, 4:52 pm

>91 kjuliff: Even your scraps are intriguing!

Fev 14, 8:56 pm

Especially that scrap. (in >91 kjuliff: )

Fev 14, 10:55 pm

>93 dchaikin: >89 kjuliff: >90 AlisonY: Yes, I am still somewhat in that book and need to read something gentler. I think I’ll need a Wharton or a Von Arnim to recover.

But no need to wait for my review - you can get an excellent review from thorold HERE. We both had similar reactions. I read his review when I’d almost finished reading as I was in the state of emotional suspense and needed to pause. As a female I will have a slightly different take, but essentially we are on the same page.

BTW it’s free on Audible right now, but is not for the faint-hearted.

Fev 15, 8:36 am

Oooh - bleak and disturbing. Sounds right up my alley!

Editado: Fev 15, 11:04 pm

In the Mind of a Child

The Discomfort of Evening
By Marieke Lucas Rijneveld
Reader: Genevieve Gaunt
Rating: 4.5

It’s as if Rijneveld had to get it all out there before they forgot. The Discomfort of Evening draws upon many of Rijneveld‘s own experiences growing up on a bleak farm in the Netherlands around the turn of the century.

Jas is ten and her family is falling apart. The tight external structure of extreme religion is not enough to hold it together in the face of two tragic events in as many years. In fact regular visits of Church Elders and the extreme beliefs of the Dutch Reformed Church are stifling influences on the family. The parents distance themselves from each other and from the children. The.children are left in a vacuum. Schooling is intermittent. Jas is forced to fill in the gaps of the “why” of everything in order for her world to make sense.

From the accidental drowning of her older brother, the death of the farm cows who are euthanized due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, to witnessing the animal cruelty of her surviving brother, Jas has a mind full of explanations.

Told by her teacher to write a letter to Anne Frank, she’s confused. How can Anne read a letter? She finds out her birthday is the same date as Hitler’s (as is Rijneveld‘s) and fears she herself must be bad. She tells a Hitler joke at school, so off that it’s been excluded from the English translation.

At home at night she looks at the glow-in-the-light star stickers and peels one off and sticks it on her coat. She thinks there are Jews hiding in the basement and worries they aren’t getting enough food when her family falls on hard times after the cow disease.

She keeps toads under her desk hoping they will mate as this will mean her parents might and then her drowned brother will be replaced. She masturbates on her teddy bear and watches when her surviving brother does sexual acts with a coke can on her complicit younger sister. She tries to make sense of every little thing. She imagines teeth peeping up through the snow, teeth that have kept growing, the teeth of dead animals buried on the farm. Why would teeth not keep growing? she asks herself. When her drowned brother’s body is kept for days in a cooled coffin, she lifts the clear viewing lid to see if he’s warm. It’s Christmas time when he dies and the parents cancel Christmas. Her mother takes the Christmas decorations down and carries them to the basement where the Jews are living.

The paucity of Jax’s external life contrasts with her mind’s imaginative explanations. This juxtaposition of external and internal increases as the child Jas progresses though puberty where sexual ideation escalates.

The reader starts to enter Jan’s/ Rijneveld’s mind. If any thing even partly normal happens we are jolted out of it by something some horror. We enter a world we don’t want to be in.

Reading The Disturbance of Evening is an unnerving and enduring experience, but one I am honored that I was allowed into.

Fev 15, 9:24 pm

>96 kjuliff: that’s a lot of strange. Great review

Fev 15, 11:28 pm

>97 dchaikin: The Disturbances of Evening won the International Booker in 2020. There’s an interesting but old ártica about Rijneveld and this debut novel here. The writer is now known as Lucas Rijneveld and has recently published a third book (he has a book of poems) -a novel, My Heavenly Favorite.

Fev 15, 11:49 pm

>96 kjuliff: This sounds like such a difficult read. A great review by you.

Editado: Fev 16, 10:06 am

I just started the book Weyward by Emilie Hart and it occurs to me that it might be of interest to you. The author is British/Australian and a promo says

"Weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries, Emilia Hart's Weyward is an enthralling novel of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world."

Maybe a bit lighter reading than some of what you have been doing.

Fev 16, 4:27 pm

>100 JoeB1934: Thanks Joe but I’m not one for multi-generational novels. I am currently not reading anything as I’ve given up on two books in my tbr list and am just floundering around.

Fev 16, 4:29 pm

>99 rv1988: it was not so difficult as it was gripping. But it was disturbing. It’s a very honest book. I’ll definitely be reading her next one, available on audio in March.

Fev 16, 4:45 pm

>102 kjuliff: have you seen the Women’s Prize Nonfiction longlist? I added US audio options on the Just Lists thread.

Fev 16, 5:16 pm

>103 dchaikin: Yes I did look at that list. I didn’t get tempted by anything. I think I might get The Good Soldier. It has a good review from thorold who is always on the mark, no pun intended. I listened to a few pages. After a Rijneveld type of novel it’s hard going to get connected to another book.

Fev 16, 5:22 pm

>104 kjuliff: i must be more easily tempted. They all look promising to me. 🙂

Fev 16, 7:14 pm

>105 dchaikin: I’m not much into non-fiction, that’s all. I read some but right now in need a story.😊

Fev 17, 12:21 am


Fev 18, 10:40 am

>96 kjuliff: I bought this shortly after it won the International Booker (it must have been a cheap Kindle deal), and it has languished on my Kindle since. Your review compels me to get to it soon!

Fev 18, 11:17 am

>108 arubabookwoman: From what I know of your reading, I think you would like this book. Note also it is free for Audible members now.

Fev 18, 11:54 am

>96 kjuliff: Great comments, Kate. It sounds powerful. I know it's sometimes hard to settle on something to read after such an experience.

Fev 18, 12:00 pm

Loveless but not Bloodless

The Vegetarian
By Hans Kang
Media: Audio
Rating: N/A

I’m cataloging this book for reference rather than reviewing it. After reading the 2020 International Booker winner The Discomfort of Evening I checked other winners and saw that At Night All Blood is Black and Time Shelter were past winners, and although I couldn’t handle At Night All Blood is Black, I recognized it was well-written. Seemed to me that the International Booker judges are into dark, and I like dark so I looked for more.

I decided to give The Vegetarian a go. I had a feeling it’s be a dark read but as I’d been able to watch “Squid Game” I would be able to handle The Vegetarian.

I suspect this book might be readable in print, but in audio it just seemed sick. Blood doesn’t turn me on. Neither does an anorexic vegetarian woman who runs around her kitchen chucking the contents of her freezer all over the floor.

The book has chapters that alternate between the voices of husband and wife. The husband chose the wife because she was plain and he assumed he wouldn’t have to worry about her straying. I’m not sure why she chose him. I only know she had vivid dreams about blood. Nothing about the first three chapters grabbed me. Not the prose, not the characters, not the story if there was one. Life is short and is getting shorter. I gave up.

I think it might be a story of a marriage, loveless but not bloodless. But thankfully I’ll never know.

Fev 18, 12:07 pm

>111 kjuliff: I read this and semi-enjoyed it, but looking back at my review I did find it odd and dark and one I was glad to get to the end of. I think the bizarreness of it kept me hanging in there, but I can get why you bailed.

Editado: Fev 20, 3:04 pm

Norwegian Wood

By Knut Hamsun
Media: Audio
Narrator: Ed Blake
Rating: 3.5

It was hard to believe that this book was written in 1892. Certainly in style it’s ahead of its time. The depiction of the inner life of its characters, the stream of consciousness writing, the strange feelings we get of the troubled Camus-like anti-hero, are the most memorable features of this Norwegian novel.

Although written in the third person, Hansun drops into the mind of Nagel, the rebel without a cause who is the protagonist of this fascinating book.

The book starts with Nagel who| arrives unannounced at a Norwegian coastal town knowing no one, wearing a yellow suit and carrying a fur coat and a violin-less violin case. He takes a room at the local hotel and proceeds to embark upon some very unpredictable acts whose purposes are at odds with conventional society.

He takes pleasure in persuading people to act contravention to their own dispositions. He orders a new coat for the town jester, a cripple who ignorant villagers laugh at, calling him as “the midget”. He insists on buying an old worn-out chair from a poor widow for a price that exceeds her annual income. These people don’t want his money but Nagel wants them to go against their virtue of poverty to satisfy himself.

To Nigel money is no object and he throws it around hosting a “stag party” for the towns local dignitaries.

The dinner party scene was the highlight of the book. The town’s pastor, doctor, deputy and Negal sit around a table discussing world políticas. When thoroughly inebriated the move on to literature. Negal is contemptuous of Tolstoy, and Ibsen, calling them mediocre. He despises Marx, socialists and liberals, claiming the latter are makers of bureaucracies whose height of legislation is the setting up of a committee to improve the footwear of mailmen.

As the book progresses Nagel becomes manic, contradictory and irrational in his thought patterns. He confuses himself as his opposing desires clash. He proclaims his useless passion for the pastor’s blond-haired daughter and proposes to a poor gray-haired widow. When he falls down in his manic dementia the novel veers from the third person narrative to the stream of consciousness of Nagel’s mind.

Mysteries is a very intriguing book. I had to keep reminding myself that it was written in the 19th century. I had to google this writer, Knut Hamsun - I’d chanced upon the novel by accident. I needed to know more. This was when I was halfway through the book. I discovers he had, much later in life, praised Hitler. I almost stopped reading but continued to the end because I felt there must be some obscure reason. How could this be?

I ended up going with the Guardian reviewer in The Nazi novelist you should read -
I will not defend Hamsun's politics. He betrayed both his country and more importantly humanity in general and deserves every bit of the scorn that's been heaped upon him. Hamsun's writing, however, is another matter. Whether we like the man or not, it seems to me both foolish and pointless to continue ignoring the significance of Hamsun's work - if for no other reason than it's an important part of our literary evolution and denying this can do nothing but cloud our understanding of our ourselves as readers and writers.

I am both glad and ashamed that I finished this novel. Like the book’s main character, I’m holding two competing thoughts in my head. I can’t unread it. I thought the book was brilliant.

Fev 19, 4:06 pm

>113 kjuliff: Why is the title of another unrelated book Norwegian Wood above the cover?

Editado: Fev 19, 5:59 pm

>114 JoeB1934: That’s not the name of another book; that’s the title of the review - from a Beatles song. I like to give titles to my reviews.

Fev 19, 6:10 pm

>115 kjuliff: That is the name of a book which I have read by Murakami. But that is okay for a title if you like it!

Fev 19, 6:12 pm

>113 kjuliff: It just goes to show that you can't judge a book by its author.

Fev 19, 6:40 pm

>117 baswood: Ha! Apparently Norway is forgiving him There is now a museum dedicated to him, and a $20 mill statue depicting him, the King of Norway quoted him in a speech and several books based on him and/or his books Nevertheless there is no doubt that he was pro-Nazi, none at all.

“We can’t help loving him, though we have hated him all these years,” said Ingar Sletten Kolloen, author of “Dreamer & Dissenter,” a Hamsun biography. “That’s our Hamsun trauma. He’s a ghost that won’t stay in the grave.” - Walter Gibbs NT Times.

Fev 19, 6:50 pm

>116 JoeB1934: I think that book was written in the late 1980’s and would have also taken the title of the Beatles’ song of that name. As the title of my review it was not intended to refer to Haruki Murakami’s book.

Fev 20, 11:00 am

Turning Japanese

Convenience store woman
Sayaka Murata
Rating 3.5

Keiko is a worker at a convenience store. Well, more than a worker. Although only part time, her work defines her. Completely.

She uses the workers’ manual as her guide for living. It makes life easy. Everything is well-defined. How to greet customers, when to replenish supples, the roster. She eats the store food so not only her mind, but her body is made from convenience store. She lives for the convenience store, earring and sleeping adequately in order that she fulfill her role perfectly. Life is good.

The problem is that the rest of the world has expects something else from her. At 36, working part-time at a convenience store and unmarried does not fit Japan’s social expectations. an opportunity arises for Keiko to fix this.

She takes in a homeless man, Shiraha who regards her as old and too ugly for sex. Keiko is not phased. She is not interested in men or sex of any kind. She treats him as she would a pet. Her house is small and in the day Shiraha sits fully-clothed in the empty bath, playing with his phone. She brings him his food on a plate and he eats it in there.

Things are going well for Keiko. Her family and friends accept her, pleased that she has a man. But when her sister-in-law drops by and sees the living arrangements she’s horrified. Keiko is nonplussed. What’s she done wrong? She’s no longer perceived as single, and her part-time low-level job should now be acceptable seeing as she is living with a man. But it’s obviously not. She’s not accepted and has now no manual to instruct her.

Shiraha also has problems with the outside world. He wants to hide from everyone. He doesn’t want to abide by the social rules which he regards as no better than those of cavemen. Their worlds are falling apart. What can they do?

Convenience store woman is a delightful novella. Murata is able to combine pathos with humor. This situation is believable. It’s a parable, a take not just on Japanese life but on life everywhere. Perhaps Shiraha is right and we really haven’t advanced since the Stone Age.

Editado: Fev 20, 7:45 pm

I liked it till the end; then it sorta blew me away - what? But I appreciated the sentiment and understood what it meant.

Fev 20, 4:42 pm

>121 cindydavid4: Yes, I know what you mean about the end. I left it out in my review así don’t generally divulge the end if it’s not anticipated.

Fev 20, 7:45 pm

not saying what the end was, tho ill go ahead a put a spoiler on it

Fev 20, 10:07 pm

Two great reviews. Very interesting about Hamsun. I wonder if knowing that will impact whether i read him. I’ve thought about it.

Fev 21, 12:17 pm

Having just finished Earthlings I think I need a new collection, RBWIH - Read But Wish I HADN’T.

Fev 21, 3:16 pm

Stayin’ Alive

By Sayaka Murata
Media: Audio
Length: 7 hrs and 6 mins
Rating: 1

Unfortunately I read this book to the end. It starts off in the same vein as Convenience Store Woman, but very soon I realized I was in something rather horrible. It was on the edge of being discarded, but the horror grew slowly. Just bearable. Until i was thrown into something really very very sick.

Surely it could get no worse.

It did.

Fev 21, 9:20 pm

Well, good warning. Maybe another label: CU - can’t unread

Fev 21, 9:26 pm

or TAW tossed against wall

Editado: Fev 22, 12:18 am

Mensagem removida pelo autor.

Fev 22, 4:48 pm

Tuning Japanese by the Vapors - anyone remember that?

Fev 22, 4:51 pm

>130 baswood: Only just us old rebels I suppose :-(

Fev 23, 9:37 am

>130 baswood: how can anyone forget it

Editado: Ontem, 12:45 am

Not long till My Heavenly Favorite is out on Audible 3/5/24. Can’t wait. thorold says it’s darker and better than Rijneveld’s debut novel, The Discomfort of Evening. Hoping to finish Homegoing by then, and may sneak in In the Woods by Tana French for some light relief.

Ontem, 1:09 pm

Never Ending Story

By Yaa Gyasi
Read by: Dominic Hoffman
Length: 13 hrs and 11 mins

Homegoing tells multiple stories from over 300years of Ghanian history through the eyes of fourteen people over seven generations and two continents, Africa and America.

The fourteen individuals are presented one by one, alternating between each branch of a family that splits between two Ghanaian nations.

The links between generations form two single strands from the huge binary tree whose root starts with one man and his progeny - the half-sisters raised separately. Subsequent generations are followed, two from each branch chosen from maternal or paternal lines with no apparent pattern.

Each generation-2 sister is given half of a black stone that is meant to be passed down to their children for generations. How this happens isn’t really dealt with but it’s no surprise that at least one half survives whole for 300 years.

At about generation-4 I started to lose track of the two branches of the family but did try to follow the stone. Admittedly this lack of pattern as to which two sub-branches would be in the next two chapters made the book interesting. I was forced to concentrate. Who had the stone? Who married who in the previous generation? What happened to the other children? I never knew who would pop up in the next chapters.

To add to the morass, there are multiple time shifts per chapter. I started counting them for interest. In at least one chapter time shifts within a single paragraph. While listening to Ness reminisce about her life, time shifts from her “present” situation to her early childhood memories, both presented “in the moment”. Later in Harlem I was in an apartment with Willie and in the next sentence I’m with her and her father “H” from previous generation in Pratt City. Stories within stories ending in jumps to another story in another time and place.

But it’s not the time-shifts that are distracting, it the overuse of metaphors. There are paragraphs of them. I started seeing them multiply along with the expanding generation-tree. As Gyasi herself writes “The family is like the forest: if you are outside it is dense; if you are inside you see that each tree has its own position.”.

I could forgive the grating metaphors. However the book failed to grab me. Especially in the early slave scenes where descriptions didn’t capture the period or place adequately. Early descriptions such as that of life in the British slave dungeon lacked substance and I remained outside, never feeling that the events were real though knowing they were.

A mediocre novel, adequately written, worth the effort if you have the time and don’t mind a mountain of metaphors.

Ontem, 1:15 pm

nice collection

Ontem, 1:37 pm

>135 kjuliff: Remember trying to read this for a book group, and it was a DNF for me wanted to like it but it was just too much. I agree with your assessment

Ontem, 3:13 pm

>137 cindydavid4: I almost did a DNF but I became intrigued as to how Gyasi would handle the structure she’d set up.. Once I got a third of the way in I decided to stick it out. Had one of my holds had become available I would have, at minimum, paused Homegoing.

The writer didn’t capture Ghana for me, so I wasn't surprised when I found, after I’d finished that Gyasi left Ghana as an infant and has lived in America most of her life. But maybe she’s not very good at evoking atmosphere. Her descriptions of life in Harlem post the Great Migration also seemed lacking.