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Nathalie (Deern) reads in 2017 - Part 2

This is a continuation of the topic Nathalie (Deern) reads in 2017.

This topic was continued by Nathalie (Deern) reads in 2017 - Autumn and Winter.

75 Books Challenge for 2017

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Edited: Jun 8, 2017, 7:03am Top

I had my doubts I'd even get to a part 2 this year, but here it is. Welcome everyone! :)

Maybe I should have called this thread "Nathalie has her head in the clouds and not in the books as she should"?

When I looked out of my window this morning, the clouds were totally orange in a clear blue sky. Of course by the time I had my found my phone and my way on my balcony, the orange had already faded, and I couldn't get that floodlight post out of the way:

Edited: May 31, 2017, 6:44am Top

Oh dear, I'm really down to just one stat list?

Books read in 2017:

Reviewed on this thread:

Edited: Oct 9, 2017, 5:49am Top

Read and sometimes reviewed in my last thread http://www.librarything.com/topic/245294#6062796

Books read in 2017:

1. The China Study by T. Colin Campbell - Audio - 4.8 stars
2. The Empress and the Cake by Linda Stift - Kindle - 3.2 stars
3. A Plant-Based Life my Micaela Cook Karlsen - Audio - 3.5 stars
4. e. : a novel by Matt Beaumont - Kindle - 4 stars
5. The e before Christmas by Matt Beaumont - paper book - 4 stars
6. E Squared by Matt Beaumont - Kindle - 3.5 stars
7. Becoming the Narcissist's Nightmare by Shahida Arabi - Audio - 5 stars
8. Wilt by Tom Sharpe (3 stars)
9. Il Porto Delle Nebbie by Georges Simenon (3 stars)

10. Mad Cowboy by Howard F. Lyman (4 stars)
11. The Dalai Lama's Cat by David Michie (4.5 stars)
12. The Dalai Lama's Cat and the Art of Purring by David Michie (3.5 stars)
13. The Dalai Lama's Cat and the Power of Meow by Dacid Michie (3 stars)
14. The Book of Joy by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama and Douglas Carlton Abrams (5 stars)
15. Bringing Home the Dharma by Jack Kornfield (4 stars)

16. L'impiccato di Saint-Pholien by Georges Simenon (3 stars)
17. Just William by Richard Crompton (4 stars)
18. Kindness, Clarity and Insight by HH the Dalai Lama (3.5 stars)
19. 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (4.25 stars)
20. The Hypnotic Gastric Band by Paul McKenna (NR)
21. Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher (4 stars)
22. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (4 stars)

23. Hotzenplotz by Ottfried Preussler (5 stars)
24. Neues vom Räuber Hotzenplotz by Ottfried Preussler (5 stars)
25. Hotzenplotz 3 by Ottfried Preussler (5 stars)
26. Me, Myself and Us by Brian R. Little (4 stars)
27. War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans (4 stars)
28.-34. various St. Clare books by Enid Blyton (NR)
35. A Supposedly Fun Thing by David Foster Wallace (4.5 stars)

36. The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer by Jennifer Lynch (3 stars)
37. Sie dürfen sich jetzt küssen by Ralf König (4 stars)

38. ? by Ralf König (3 stars)
39. ?? by Ralf König (3 stars)
40. The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost (4.5 stars)
41. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (4 stars)

42. Carol by Patricia Highsmith (3.5 stars)
43. Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith (4.5 stars)
44. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (4.5 stars)
45. Broken River by Robert Lennon (3.5 stars)
46. Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith (2.8 stars)
47. Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch - 3.5 stars
48. Ripley's Game by Patricia Highsmith (3.2 stars)
49. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (3 stars)
50. Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner (4 stars)
51. Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (3.5 stars)
52. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (4.5 stars)

53. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (3.8 stars)
54. Reservoir 13 by Don McGregor
55. In a German Pension by Catherine Mansfield (4 stars)
56. David Lynch: The Man From Another Place by Dennis Lim (4.5 stars, audio)
57. History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (3 stars)
58. Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (4.8 stars)
59. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (4.5 stars)

60. Man nennt mich Bummi
61. Was ist mit Bummi los?
62. Bummi und Fiete by Martha Schlinkert
63. Swing Time by Zadie Smith (4 stars)
64. Elmet by Fiona Mozley (3.5 stars)

65. Autumn by Ali Smith (5 stars)
66. Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge (5 stars)
67. When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro (4.5 stars)

Currently reading:
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
G: A Novel by John Berger

Edited: May 31, 2017, 6:44am Top

Or 3, but this is the last one in case I do any challenges this year (as if...)

May 31, 2017, 7:45am Top

Happy new thread, Nathalie!
>3 Deern: Well, you never know.... ;-)

May 31, 2017, 8:56am Top

>5 FAMeulstee: Thank you Anita! :)
Well, the Booker LL isn't too far away anymore, I fear...

May 31, 2017, 3:38pm Top

Happy new thread!

Edited: May 31, 2017, 3:45pm Top

Happy new thread.

>6 Deern: Yay! Looking forward to it... (fingers crossed nothing like Eileen again though.)

Jun 2, 2017, 5:29pm Top

Happy new thread, Nathalie!

Jun 2, 2017, 5:35pm Top

Happy new thread, dear Nathalie.

Jun 2, 2017, 10:10pm Top

Thinking of you dear Natalie.

Jun 4, 2017, 2:46pm Top

Happy new thread, Nathalie. I hope everything is ok at your place. Wishing you a wonderful upcoming week.

Edited: Jun 4, 2017, 5:00pm Top

Happy New Thread, Nathalie! I'm glad to be getting in at the beginning.
Catching up with you on your old thread, I'm compelled to say that I'm a salad lover although it's getting too hot here for salad greens to grow now and an old TP fan from those years ago. I don't have access to the new ones yet, but I expect they'll all eventually come to me.

Jun 4, 2017, 9:02pm Top

Happy new thread Nathalie. Congrats on making it to thread 2, lol. You may have fewer threads than me, but you've read a lot more books! I think I'm on 6 for this year! :o

Jun 5, 2017, 4:47pm Top

Glad to see you here!

Edited: Jun 7, 2017, 3:33am Top

Hi Jim, Charlotte, Darryl, Paul, Linda, Barbara, Peggy, Rachel, Lucy, thank you so much for visiting!

I had a very quiet very long and rainy weekend. Used it for throwing out several boxes of things that moved with me last year but which I never looked at, among them many old videos and DVDs. Did several meditation sessions and journaling which wasn't always easy and last not least watched my way through all of the second season of Twin Peaks. It totally has me in its grasp again, and by now I'm really happy David Lynch gave us his vision and didn't give in to fans' expectations. This series 3 is becoming an epic work and I'm looking forward to the day when it's complete and I can binge-rewatch the whole thing. For those interested - it is absolutely essential to watch and enjoy the old series and the movie in all their utter weirdness. There are many clues hidden and it will put you in the right mood for much more weirdness. Many people complain about pointless, drawn-out scenes, but those have always been there, we all just forgot them and mainly remember the highlights, the coffee and the cherry pie.

The self-work has for now got me into quite a stable and interesting mental/emotional place. I wrote on my last thread that the repetition of my hospital stay in February (same type of surgery, same calendar week, same room, same thoughts post-op) has made me realize that I didn't follow up 2 years ago on the ideas that arose and I committed to do better this time. So if it's some kind of "spirituality" that's meant for me (I still so dislike the word, am I turning hippie for real??), then be it.
I'm feeling some interesting shifts in the way I look at things/ situations, it's fascinating and I hope it continues. It makes me much less vulnerable in my daily life, i.e. work and I've been getting closer to a couple of people. When you're for whatever reason buried in your misery and consider taking "alternative action" to escape that situation and improve your life, the main concern is "how can this change help me/ how can it fill that hole/ how can it make me feel complete". As you're concentrating on that lack while doing new things, you remain in that misery, at least partly, as it's all about yourself, even if you do things for others. I also always shied back from all the creative things, automatically thinking "not good enough", "people will laugh", "I'll fail and lose face". Now for the first time I'm thinking "but how about if I don't do it for myself, but just for others/ how can I be of real service to others", and suddenly the failing fears disappear. It's less important what those actions do for me.
For most of you this might be self-evident, but if you have a narcissistic personality structure, whatever you're doing, you're hoping it will get you also some positive feedback from the outside, and the thought of negative reactions can paralyze you. It's a long way to go, but I'm (mostly) looking forward to it now. Unless it's one of those days when the fears take over, so I won't be writing only happy stuff in the future. :)

Yesterday for example I understood that I can release all my worries about my parents that have been overwhelming me lately. I can be there for them when they need me, but I can demand a stop to their endless lamenting about one another. And wherever they move, and if they find friends there and if they will be happier there is nothing I can influence. It was an incredible relief realizing that this is not for me to worry about. Guess it's similar to letting go off the worries about your kids when they leave home. :)

Edited: Jun 9, 2017, 2:52am Top

Wow, British voters, wow! :)
(I can carry Twin Peaks obsession into current politics, you see..)

Jun 9, 2017, 6:57am Top

In this year of re-reads of childrens' books and comics, here's another one:

37. Sie dürfen sich jetzt küssen (You can kiss now) by Ralf König

I'm a big fan of the more relistic "gay comix" by Ralf König (compared to his takes on theater plays or Greek mythology, those are just not for me). I stumbled over my collection last weekend when sorting out things for my landlady's attic. She is now re-reading all of them, I read just this one where the famous couple Konrad and Paul after 15 (or 17?) years together finally decide to tie the knot. It's set and was published shortly after gay "registrated partnership" was legalized in Germany, so err... a while ago. The usual chaos ensues with friends and relatives reacting this or that way, and of course Paul falls for a beautiful 19year old Turkish weed dealer, and it's all graphic as ever.

I haven't bought any of those in years and saw there have been some new ones, the latest to be published later in June with both Konrad and Paul in their late 40s, facing all the problems the decline of hormones brings... They're all in my Amazon basket now, can't wait! :)

Rating: 4 stars

Jun 9, 2017, 7:53am Top

Sounds good Nathalie. I have just ordered some books - an Alexie, some poetry and non-fiction and a work book and am eagerly awaiting the postman.

Jun 11, 2017, 3:17am Top

Wishing a good friend a splendid weekend.

Jun 12, 2017, 2:43am Top

>19 charl08: I didn't order mine yet, I'm waiting for the publishing date of the last one. And then I think I shouldn't have those sent to the office, in case anyone accidentally opens the packs... :))
I hope yours arrived in the meantime and you're already enjoying them.

>20 PaulCranswick: I had a splendid weekend, thank you Paul - I wish you the best of weeks!! :)

Edited: Jun 12, 2017, 8:03am Top

38. The Universe has your back / 39. May Cause Miracles / 40. Spirit Junkie all by Gabrielle Bernstein

I always say I don’t read, but I have been slow-listening to 2 audios and made my way through a 42-day spiritual self-help book. They’re all by the same author, so I’m reviewing them together.

It would be easy to write something biting (and probably funny) about Gabrielle Bernstein, but I won’t do that. Publishing houses have to market you in some way to make you distinct from all the others, and so she became something like the “glam-chick” of modern spirituality (following the path of A Course in Miracles/ACIM like Tolle). I guess she didn’t mind, as she used to fill the role of “glamorous party girl” before she changed course, and she certainly finds an audience to whom Tolle, Hay and all the others might appeal less and who still are searching for something to relieve the pain of life. My impression is however that she now might have too much pressure on herself with a book every year, conferences, teachings, the website with all the videos and quite a greedy audience (myself included) who want moremoremore and require much spiritual handholding.

If I got Tolle, Singer, Hay, Bernstein herself and what I read of ACIM so far right, getting rid of your ego-created personality is what will lead to serenity. Contrary to the others, it feels for me like all the egos around her (her publishers/ management and the audience) have created a persona GB that is limiting her and that she has outgrown, yet has to serve.

I read her Du bist Dein Guru/ Miracles Now in German maybe 2 years ago. It’s 108 exercises for a “miracle-filled” life. Miracles are nothing else than shifts in perception that allow us to step out of our ego-induced pain and see the world (and other people) in a different way – not as someone/ something that will add to us or take from us, but as “one” with us. We are complete and with/ without that element we’ll be just as complete. A miracle is the disappearance of a separating element, it isn’t walking on water or do “yogic flying” or whatever that contradicts the laws of physics.

That exercise book was great and my edition is full of highlights and post-its, but it lacked a base. I should have read May Caus Miracles/MCM first.This time around I started with The Universe Has Your Back which of course was an audible recommendation. It’s her latest book and predictably it tells the story of how she fell off the spiritual train (had a panic attack) and got back on (by surrendering more). That’s the problem – how can you sell more books if you have already written your testimonial (Spirit Junkie), the course book (MCM), the exercises to the course book, etc? You have a relapse and get better. But how often can you do this?

Anyway – I liked the book, it has some great and important chapters (mainly 5 and 6), and it lead me right to MCM which I read and worked on over the last 42 days. This one IS great! There’s much journaling, and when I reread the entries of the first week yesterday I saw some progress. I bought the accompanying meditation package from her website to help the daily exercises, and that was a mistake. It’s incomplete, the names of the meditations don’t fit those of the book chapters and the organ-like music was weird for my ears.

Shortly before finishing that one, I bought the audio of Spirit Junkie where she tells all about her own conversion, including drug addiction and relationship obsessions. I enjoyed most of it, with the exception of the quite unnecessary overblown last chapter where she tells the reader how perfect her life now is (if you read the latest one with the relapses first, you know she wasn’t there yet back then).

The strength of her books is the connection to RL. Where Tolle, Singer and Hay are miles above the ordinary lives of everyone else, all our search for "the one", the perfect job, the issues with friends, the question of starting a family, emotional eating, GB offers some experience from her own life we can all relate to. She openly tells how her insecurity and need for external acknowledgement lead to drug addiction which switched into food addiction, then romance addiction until she finally understood (and got her own self-help coach on the way) that no external element would ever fill that hole in her soul. So she became a "Spirit Junkie" instead.*

Ratings: 3.5/ 4.5/ 4.25

* I read through a bit of her blog this weekend and peoples' comments. There really is a danger in that Spirit Junkie thing in that it takes the place that food/drugs/ romance had before and we're not really doing the work.
I started - not even half- but maybe quarter-heartedly - my journey maybe 15 years ago with those "make a wish"/ "The Secret" books. I also did quite a good 40 days course then, but didn't really "get it". I started yoga, tried meditation, but stopped again, restarted... somehow it was never right, because I had clear ideas of what I wanted delivered by God/ the universe, and I just didn't get those things.
I believe that many of her followers mainly hear the "make a wish and wait and look for signs" message from GB's books as well. you have no idea - or maybe you have - where I found "signs" back then. :)

In the end, all the Tolles, Hays, GBs, etc tell you the same thing - accept reality and let go of the ego's guidance. Forgive everyone, including yourself. Be grateful for what life offers you. Be open to all possibilities instead of staring just at one point and waiting for life to happen there.

Jun 12, 2017, 3:39am Top

So my weekend: I had considered going to Germany to see my parents in Bavaria, but I decided to wait till next weekend when I can also take the Friday off. So instead I went and bought plants for my small balcony. I got a small pink oleander and something called east-Frisean sage (nice lilac flowers) and then some herbs: basil, sage, lavender and lemon thyme. I already had mint, rosmary and origano, so I have quite the little herb garden now.

Yesterday was perfect weather, so I went hiking with Chrystle and Floh. We went up the Vigiljoch with a cablecar walked up to an inn and had some delicious food. I had a salad and fried cheese dumplings, she had the Kaiserschmarren, and we also had some wine and schnaps. :)
I hugged a tree, and that was before the alcohol...

Oh, I almost forgot: my parents said they found "their" house! I still have to hear the details, but they saw houses with an agency on Saturday and fell much in love with one. They also met the owners and they liked each other very much. :D

Jun 12, 2017, 3:59am Top

>23 Deern: Must have been a good day when you were hugging trees stone cold sober!

Good news on your parents and their house hunting.

Jun 12, 2017, 7:10am Top

Your hiking trip sounds lovely, and I like the sound of your balcony garden. Do you have lots of plans for cooking with the herbs? I mean well in this direction but have not managed to pick up and use the salad veg I've planted (so far).

Hope that your parents house comes through - sounds like they are excited?

Edited: Jun 12, 2017, 10:38am Top

>24 PaulCranswick: It was! Possibly I was a bit overcome with yesterday's last exercise of the 42-day program: "celebrating life"! :)

>25 charl08: I just plan to throw them on wherever I think they might fit. I'm not used to put herbs on salad (although that would be the German way with dill, parsley, chives). I prefer the classical olive oil/ apple or balsamic vinegar/ salt/pepper and instead add fruit and different veg to the salad. I'm seeing a possibility for ratatouille this week which would be thyme and rosmary I guess and maybe some fresh basil. And then I bought some ravioli with ricotta/lemon/mint filling which might go well with some more fresh mint and lemon thyme.
I also love aromatizing drinking water with herbs in summer. I put it in the fridge and then use it to add to cold herbal tea or also to white wine.

And my parents seemed really excited, I should hear more tonight.

Edit: just talked to them: 104 m², will be free in September, near Chiemsee (a lake in Bavaria famous for the castel Herrenchiemsee on a small Island, built by Ludwig II - the guy who also had Neuschwanstein built which is the original Disney Castle). The rent is okay, and only "good and quiet people" there. I better hide my fat pink highlight in a chignon next weekend and stay away from the trees. :)

Jun 12, 2017, 7:45am Top

Sounds like a perfect day, Nathalie! I'm loving your balcony garden, and you inspire me to add to my herb collection. We used to have so many, but now it's just rosemary, mint, basil, and garlic chives.
I like to hear about the increasingly good place where you are putting your center! Love to you!

Jun 12, 2017, 9:11am Top

>27 LizzieD: I'll have to see how long my plants survive. It's a very sunny place, so I fear the basil will die on me soon. I was also warned that the oleanders aren't happy as pot plants. Well...:)

The funny thing is that as soon as you stop worrying about things you can't influence (like my parents and their moving) and your mind has relaxed a bit, a part of it starts screaming "BORING!" and goes looking for drama. It's like the ego (or whatever) thinks something is not right when there's no serious worrying about work tasks, money, parents, romance... There's suddenly so much "free thinking space" and you don't know what to do with it. This has in the past always been the point when I started looking for new things to worry about. :)

Jun 18, 2017, 8:32am Top

Catching up, Nathalie, appreciating your assessments of the books you are reading, what works and what doesn't, what seems maybe a bit superficial, what is profound but impossible to do! Very amused by your insight in >28 Deern:. It is so easy to think, "If only I simplified by . . . " without realizing you will just fill up the space with something else! I seem to get very little "done" in a day, and yet they go by quickly.

Jun 20, 2017, 5:07am Top

Your parents new place sounds good, I remember how happy I was when my parents found a nice appartment over 5 years ago!
Will they be closer to you there?

Oleanders are good pot plants, they just want rather large pots ;-)
I had one for years and it grew almost 2 meters tall, not sure if your balcony can handle that. They need a frost-free place in winter. I love the smell of their flowers.

Jun 21, 2017, 8:12am Top

>29 sibyx: You're right, it also happens when you clear stuff away in the house, why should it be different in the head? :)

>30 FAMeulstee: Much closer, via motorway it's 275km compared to 760!
Yes, I already notice I should have bought a larger pot for the poor oleander. And it drinks like crazy. I'll need a real big watering can.

Jun 21, 2017, 8:18am Top

I’m back from my 3-day weekend in Bavaria which was followed by another 2 long work days in the 4°C warehouse (new software release, more tests to come next week). Bavaria was lovely! We were hit by a surprising spell of cold there for all three days which meant no boat trips, but also better sleep. Now I’m back in the heat – and my parents said the heat has returned to Germany as well – and I’m suffering as everyone. The heat wave seems to be all over Europe if not all over the Northern hemisphere? They already said this year might beat 2003, I hope not. We’re getting water problems already and households are asked to save water. Looking at how water from the valley has been wasted all winter for fake snow on the local slopes and how it has been poured incessantly on the apple trees in wet April and May even while it was raining, for now I’m not yet cutting down on showers. I should add that Merano isn’t a skiing destination, so it’s not like tourism and hundreds of businesses depended on those slopes. This happens elsewhere in South Tyrol while tourists come here from late March to December for hiking and relaxing.

Well, instead of complaining about water regulations I should probably write about the house search in Bavaria… It’s a super-lovely region and I really can see my parents there. They already feel quite at home and they already had two favorite bars/ cafés in the next bigger town, Rosenheim. They really did their homework and presented it all to me.

But of course they argued about houses, turned against the "perfect one" and returned home without a decision. They’ll however place another ad in a local newspaper, this was also the advice of some local people we asked. I don’t see my parents in a bigger condo with noisy neighbors. A house with 2-3 parties and a garden would be perfect for them.

Oh, I’m doing some real reading now! I started watching the Truman Capote movie on Sky last week and then thought it might be better to first read In Cold Blood, so that’s what I’m doing now. A slow read for me, but quite gripping, I wish I had more time. I finished 3 more Ralf Königs, they all weren't among his best.

The warehouse work in combination with the heat outside isn’t doing me much good, I can't concentrate well in the evenings and make very slow progress on the Capote. On Monday I was so dizzy that I fell down the office stairs, luckily I just got some bruises, nothing broken. We have a small shop here from which I borrowed some ice packs, the swellings are gone already, now the colors will come. :)

I made some pics of Chiemsee, will upload them later via iPhone and then post. 

Jun 26, 2017, 11:05pm Top

Take care of yourself, Nathalie! I don't like the sound of that dizziness (and I'm sure that you didn't either).

Jul 1, 2017, 8:15am Top

Greetings, Nathalie! Thanks for visiting my thread whilst I was out and about in Europe. No where near Italy, unfortunately! Hope your summer is going well!

Jul 2, 2017, 4:30am Top

Hope you are having a lovely weekend, dear lady.

Jul 5, 2017, 10:44pm Top

Nathalie? Let us hear from you, please.

Edited: Jul 7, 2017, 3:15pm Top

Hi Nathalie, hope you are feeling OK. So warm here! Waiting for it to break with a storm. Any thoughts on the booker longlist? Due at the end of the month.

Jul 7, 2017, 9:59am Top

Checking in, Nathalie, wondering how and where you are. Hoping all is well.

I was so excited when I read your parents liked a house, but then . . . sigh.

Jul 8, 2017, 6:57am Top

Thinking of you, Nathalie, I hope all is well.

Jul 12, 2017, 11:41am Top

Giving another life sign before submerging again for another 2 weeks or so. Actually, I have been pushing this post around for days and never got to finishing it or putting in what I wanted to write. Very very VERY busy at work, caught a bad cold thanks to sleeping in the draft (under an open window) without a blanket, and off to Germany tomorrow very early for a wedding on Friday and a couple of days with my parents.

This Tursday - Wednesday Thing will be my first week of vacation since Christmas, and it has been the busiest year since I moved here. Yes, it’s worse than last year and the year before. Incredible! 

I managed to read a couple of books, even a 1,001 among them, the first in far more than a year. As always in summer I feel much attracted to crime and horror, so I’m also re-reading some Highsmith and just started a Guardian recommendation, Broken River which is GREAT despite some weird writing and (I fear) it might not have a happy ending.

Of course still immersed in all things “Twin Peaks” and binge-watched some “Fargo” as well last Sunday when it was raining. Sky has finally added their boxed sets to my subscription, so I just started the second series and downloaded my first ever episode of the “Sopranos”. Still no interest in GoT at all however.

Otherwise I'm half-creative. If I could draw comics I'd start a book on the absurdities of every-day life here in "paradise" as it seems for the tourists. Really, I should write it all down. :)
(I'd include tire-kicking parents as a recurring theme. Haven't heard of any progress re. a house near Chiemsee and am determined not to ask)

Jul 12, 2017, 11:47am Top

Hi Peggy, Lynda, Paul, Charlotte, Lucy and Anita, I'm so sorry I made you worry!!! The dizziness is gone, the bruises are healed, I only walk the stairs holding on to the handrails, ridiculous as it might look!

I'm just totally overworked and tired. And pale despite all that sun as it's far too hot most of the time to go outside. And in the evenings the clouds are there and we get thunderstorms. At least we got enough water again now. One of the thunderstorms destroyed my phone/ internet line for almost a week, but it has been repaired.

Yes, surprisingly I'm awaiting the Booker list, although it also scares me. Can I do it this year???? For the first time I'm hoping for fluff. :/

Jul 13, 2017, 2:45pm Top

I am happy to see a message from you, Nathalie, I was a bit worried and even looked up your mobile numbers.
Sorry it is so busy at work.

Edited: Jul 21, 2017, 1:48am Top

I forgot in which order I read, so here’s just a rough list:

38. and 39. Forgot the titles by Ralf König
2 more Ralf König comic books. Okay, there were 3, but I count them as 2 to make up for their shortness. Nice, but far from the older ones. Although the last one where Konrad and Paul hit old age started out great, but as it ends with them in a pensioner’s home I fear there will be no sequels. :((

Rating: 3 stars

40.The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost
Mark Frost’s new Twin Peaks book that certainly interests no-one but obsessive me. Loved it, but I could only read it once the series was half over and there was enough familiar stuff. First tried it pre-show, but then didn’t know what to do with all the old Lewis & Clarke history and all the stories about UFOs and the atomic bomb.
Rating: very personal 4.5 stars (0.5 star omitted because it’s partly written in the voice of Major Briggs and he doesn’t mention the kidnapping by Wyndham Earle (spelling?) in series 2)

41. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
The first 1,001 in AGES! Read it after downloading the Capote movie on Sky. Actually, I thought it was great, but really a little bit too long. Once the killers had been caught and confessed it went on forever. Of course Truman Capote’s close relationship to the guys played a role, he couldn’t let it go, but knowing how it would end that second part felt too drawn-out. In direct comparison with To Kill a Mocking Bird, Harper Lee’s book for me is far above. I watched the movie after finishing the book and would have liked it better without the knowledge of the book. So all I saw were the many differences.
Rating: 4 stars

I also downloaded Carol and thought I should first read the book and this started a Patricia Highsmith July for me.

42. Carol by Patricia Highsmith
Hm. TG those times are (mostly) over in the West. As usual the characters weren't particularly likeable and the plot really took its time, but the part when they’re on the road, followed by the detective, made up for it. And the totally unexpected ending, thank you for that PH! 
Rating: 4 stars

43. Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith
The first Highsmith I ever read and the one I reread most often. Not terribly popular, but there’s something in it that makes me come back to it. The normalcy, I guess.It’s not so over the top as the Ripleys - it could happen in your neighbor's house. I never got why Vic and Melinda didn’t divorce, but then several years ago the marriage of some friends of my parents ended in murder and suicide and despite all the arguments and crisis we had never seen that coming. So yes, it can actually happen in your neighbor's home. Not my last read I guess...
Rating: 4.5 stars

44. The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
I tried to reread Strangers on a Train but couldn’t yet as I remembered despising the bad guy (Bruno?) so much. So I returned to Tom Ripley and Dickie Greenleaf and Marge and Mongibello, and now I want to rewatch the movie. Quite a different plot with some extra twists and turns that annoyed me back then, but it captured the atmosphere really well.
I found some old highlights in my Kindle edition when Tom muses over his narcissistic nature and added a bookmark this time. This is so well observed, the desire for a new start (again and again), the mirroring in another person that feels like love, then the disgust when the other person is “suddenly” different. That difference is felt as very painful, in Tom’s case clearly life-threatening, so that killing Dickie is the only way out. Great book!
Rating: 4.5 stars

45. Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith
For the first time I read one of the sequels. I listened to it during my drive back home. I quite enjoyed the first half, but then it started feeling just very very confused and blurry and why that detailed description of his disposal of a body that was a suicide?!? And with detailed I mean detailed like texture when half-burned and jaw-bones and stufff... I always thought PH was above those things. Also, the murder is such a “normal” one, with such a classic motive. I’m determined to read/ listen to the remaining books and I hope Tom will return to murders that fit his special character a bit better.
Rating: 2.8 stars

46. Broken River by Robert Lennon - BIG SPOILERS
Praised by the Guardian, I had to get and read this one immediately. The first half is great, the second half isn’t and the ending is a bit better than I had feared. The writing is a bit strange. At times it felt almost unreadable for me – very short sentences with too many adverbs emphasized by commas (commata?) – and at times I thought it was brilliant. The plot doesn’t make much sense – a couple is killed near their house, their daughter escapes, the house falls to ruin. Years later a sculptor, his writer wife and their 12year-old daughter move in – to finish a book/ save the marriage/ grow up in solitude. Mother and daughter get obsessed by the murders and activate an old online forum. This – and here’s the big logical gap – is noticed by one of the killers who for no reason whatsoever then re-activates his ragingly mad and violent old chum of whom he’s terrified and whom he never wanted to see again (why should he do that???). And then there’s a spiritual presence in the house and then later also around, an observer of the first killings and now of the new events. This non-character had some real philosophical potential which somehow went to nothing later.
Rating: 3.5 stars

Jul 20, 2017, 9:15am Top

>42 FAMeulstee: Hi Anita, I'm sorry I caused all those worries. I know how it feels when an LT friend just disappears and I didn't want to do that yet again. And then somehow 2 or 3 weeks go by like *click*... This is a strange year, and so far it has been racing by.

Both my friend's wedding and my stay with my parents were just lovely! I wish there wasn't that agonizingly long drive. There are so many road works now (the longest site has 17 kms) that I had to drive during the night. I'm glad I'm still able to do that.

The wedding was in a lovely country estate, and as the weather (just so) held, the ceremony was done under a huge weeping willow. Everyone cried, the couple looked so happy and in love. She is one of my oldest friends from my old job, so I also met some more ex-colleagues during the party who I hadn't seen in 8 years. I don't remember ever having had that much fun during a wedding although it was the first one where I went alone. The embarrassing bit of course was the throwing of the bouquet. Fortunately there were some unmarried (though "partnered and familied") women eager to catch it, otherwise we'd have been just in two, hiding from those flowers. :/

My dad is so much better, and sadly he totally fell back into his old behaviors. I don't know how a doctor can tell a still obese man that he lost too much weight too quickly and encourage him to gain some back. He's almost back to 100kgs. His breakfast (we went to a café on Saturday when I arrived from the Friday wedding that was farther South) was an omelette of 4 eggs with cheese and bacon, accompanied by 4 small sausages. My mum and I shared one omelette without anything and a fruit salad and we were both full. Right now I'm still happy he's got his appetite back, but I wish he was more responsible.

On Sunday we drove to Limburg (not the one in the NL) where I hadn't been in 20 years and visited the old town. On Monday I went to see my aunt Karin in the morning, and in the afternoon we picked up my grandma for coffee/cake and a later BBQ and then my friend Annette joined us. On Tuesday we just went to Wiesbaden again for some shopping - and that was it. Now I'm back to the office and the next disasters.

Jul 20, 2017, 9:23am Top

Really loading some pics now, but starting with this one, taken in Castle Firmian on the 8th:

Reinhold Messner - I'm sure you know him, the first one to climb all 8K mountains and without extra oxygene, he was all over the news in the late 70s - has opened a chain of "Mountain Museums" all over South Tyrol. I've only been to 2 of them, Firmian near Bolzano and Juval in the Venosta valley. They have different themes, though Firmian as the biggest one has a bit of everything. Many Himalayan/ Tibetan artefacts and more general "mountain stuff" like paintings.
I'm in red, then clockwise there's Nicole, a yoga friend from Switzerland, and my friends Sarah and Astrid. We all met in Positano 2 years ago.
From Firmain we went to the Lago di Caldaro for an ice cream and some swimming - it was so hot that day!

Jul 20, 2017, 10:23am Top

Ew... all the Limburg pics are grey - it was a grey day, I must see if I can change them a bit. So for now a bit of wedding with as few guest faces as possible:

A small part of the estate, just the bit where we later had champagne and cake:

My eternal problem that those pics are sideways only and exclusively here - the wedding tree:

Every newlywed couple in Germany has to saw through a block of Wood with a blunt old saw before the party begins:

The happy couple preparing to cut the cake:

There was also a macaron cake, but it wasn't very popular (I at least had two):

This was at 1 am when I was back in the hotel and noticed I hadn't any pics of myself (I always duck when I see a camera), just as a reminder of my dress and hair:

Okay, there were 3 pics of me and the bride, but they're ugly! I had my hair and make-up done at Ilka's own hairdresser. The hair was great, but the make-up made me look so fierce! I'm happy brows are finally back in fashion, but mine don't need emphasizing! It wasn't bad in the mirror at the hairdresser's at all, but on the pics! Now I'm scared of the official ones! :o

Jul 20, 2017, 4:27pm Top

What lovely pictures, Nathalie. That tree is awesome and totally worth going through contortions to see properly. I'm so glad the visit with your parents went well. I do understand the absences this year because I am doing the same thing. The main thing is that we keep coming back!

Jul 20, 2017, 4:54pm Top

Love the pictures, looks like a lovely break.

I'd never heard of the sawing tradition before, fascinating. I love the cake pictures as well - have sent the macaroon one to my friend who is trying to choose hers for upcoming wedding. It looks so pretty!

Jul 21, 2017, 2:05am Top

>47 Donna828: Hi and thank you, Donna! Yes, that tree was incredible and I was so glad it didn't start raining and the ceremony didn't have to be moved inside. I arrived already on Thursday and met Ilka for a coffee as we hadn't seen each other for 7 years and had much catching-up to do. She took me to the estate to hang up her bridal gown into the dressing room, so I saw the tree "pre-wedding" and prayed for dry weather. On Friday at 2pm the churchbells around started ringing and her dad lead her from the little house where she got dressed over the meadow towards the tree, there was music playing and really everyone was in tears. *happy sigh*

>48 charl08: It's a nice tradition, but it can take forever if the block of wood is too thick. :)
When there's a public church wedding, the neighbor children usually lock the gate to the churchyard with ropes and the groom (or best man) has to throw coins until they open it again.

This was Ilka's second wedding and as she's Catholic they couldn't go to church. The civil part of the ceremony was done by the mayor and then they had a free preacher, a Catholic ex-priest who'd left his "job" to get married. Her son from the first marriage was all involved and called forward to be included in the blessing. The happiest and "freest" ceremony I've ever witnessed.

Jul 21, 2017, 8:43am Top

Started Ripley #3 Ripley's Game and Lucy's #75, Das geheime Leben der Bäume (The Hidden Life of Trees) by Peter Wohlleben, hoping this will prepare my brain for at least some Bookers. Actually, I'm scared of them this year and don't feel at all prepared to face a mixed bag like last year with no real highlights.

The weather here is terribly humid and hot (about 35°C) with cloudy sky and frequent showers. I'm so tired I fell asleep during lunch break, just for about 5 minutes, but still.... Can't wait to get home in 3 hours and collapse on my bed.

Jul 21, 2017, 3:02pm Top

Thanks for the pictures, Nathalie, the wedding looks great and so do you.

I requested the Dutch translation of Das geheime Leben der Bäume at the library.
We are better treated with the weather, there was one hot (29C) day, and now slowly getting back to 20-22C in the next week.

Jul 21, 2017, 10:49pm Top

I'm sorry that you're continuing to be tired, Nathalie, but I'm happy that you had such a lovely time at the wedding and in the days surrounding it. As usual, I think you look lovely!
Did I read too quickly? Why do German couples saw a log in two before the wedding ceremony?
(I love all the trees and would certainly have done my part to cut down the macaron one!)
I'm amazed that you're reading as all of this stuff goes on. Good for you!

Jul 22, 2017, 7:13am Top

>51 FAMeulstee:, >52 LizzieD: Hi Anita and Peggy! :)
No need to be worried about my tiredness, it's the weather. As most women I'm almost always feeling too cold or too hot with maybe a range of 2-3 degrees where I feel fine (I'd say a nice sunny day by the sea with a light breeze, 25-28 degrees), and outside of that I'll complain loudly and either sweat or shiver. But hot and humid really wears me down. I could sleep constantly and it often makes me feel nauseous as well, so I avoid going out. I also hate AC air, so in the office it's a continuous switching on/off.

I guess the sawing is done to "practice for the obstacles and difficulties that the couple will master only by working together". It's fun to watch if the log isn't too thick. These two clearly had practiced before, they were really fast and the saw didn't get stuck.

I had a dark pink and a blue macaron, they were very sweet, but delicious. Germans love their afternoon coffee with big pieces of cakes though, but I would have thought the kids would go for the macarons. There was also streusel, cheesecakes, chocolate cakes, black forest cake, etc.

I'm 20% into the tree book and now feel bad about wood furniture and floors. Poor trees! :/

Jul 22, 2017, 10:36am Top

I fanally found my way back at your place, Nathalie. Wishing you a fabulous weekend. Thanks so much for sharing the photos.

Jul 24, 2017, 4:37am Top

Two more recaps:

47. Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch

I totally forgot I also read this one back in June. Why did I read it? Because someone on a Twin Peaks forum suggested it might help in “understanding” it some more – as if understanding was ever an option.

Although I’m in doubt about transcendental meditation (or better the big business it has become), I love how Lynch uses meditation to add to his creativity. It helps him "descend into a vast ocean filled with ideas like fish", and the deeper he dives, the bigger the fish he’ll catch.
And now at least I got an idea what the endless violet sea is I saw in episodes 3 and 8. Yes, I’m TP obsessed as ever. And I’m trying to get used to the thought that after the worst cliffhanger ever 25 years ago, this time it will all just end with everyone arriving at that secret place, entering some cave and that’s it and we won’t get a single answer, but we’ll have had a hell of a ride.
I still haven’t seen a single DL movie except for “Fire Walk With Me” although I got some DVDs now. Somehow I’m scared that the TP magic might be lost. But maybe I should trust him more. His visual art has spoken to me since the camera followed that telephone cable, ending in the receiver that had fallen to the floor from where the screams of Laura Palmer’s mother could be heard in the very first episode 26 years ago. I was always in it more for the atmosphere and the feelings it caused in me than for the logic of the plot.

Anyway – this really isn’t a must, but it’s interesting and a quick read. Rating: 3.5 stars

48. Ripley’s Game by Patricia Highsmith - SPOILER WARNING

I think I’m done with Ripley and Highsmith for this summer although I was planning to read all 5. I liked it much better than the second book, but near the end this one also fell apart and ended free of all logic. At least the murder motif was more in Ripley's narcissistic character. Feeling slighted by a new casual acquaintance, Jonathan Levanny, Ripley takes revenge by suggesting him as a potential killer to his dubious criminal contact Reeves. Reeves wants two Mafia men eliminated (why??) and wants Tom Ripley to do the job. Tom declines politely, but brings the totally harmless Jonathan into the game. Jonathan suffers from leukemia and Tom starts the rumor he might not have to live much longer to get him into a position where his own life is of less value and the compensation payment for the family seems tempting. Of course everything doesn’t go smooth and Tom has to help out. This was all well written and not unconvincing, and even the first part of the mafia revenge was believable (which again made me wonder WTH anyone hanging on to their lives would start a war with the mafia for no convincing reason). But the last 15% were just crazy and made no sense at all, even if you take into consideration that Highsmith might not have had a high opinion of the French police. You know Ripley will escape again as there are two more books to come, but like that??

Rating: 3.2 stars

Jul 24, 2017, 4:47am Top

>54 Ameise1: Thank you for the lovely sunflower, Barbara! Have a great week! :)

I looked through my list of unread Booker winners and got G. A Novel by John Berger and Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner as they both seemed easy enough reads. I'm considering ignoring this year's LL and instead read a couple of past winners, those should at least be half-good, right?

I took a walk yesterday up to Merano 2000, the Merano ski arena where in summer there are many hiking trails and where it's much cooler than in the valley. The first part of the walk was nice as ever and I noticed I'm looking at trees in a different way now. :)
And then I saw they are building another slope! Merano has had no snow the last two winters and even up there it's often too warm for the artificial snow, and instead of looking for alternatives, they build another slope?!? It's really not like tourism here depends on the ski-ing (we are a warm hiking area), it's mainly locals and the odd wellness tourists who book a combined package with one day of ski-ing. So lots of trees are gone, the second part of the walk is one big building site smelling of clay and concrete, all hikers are angry and the price for the lifts will increase even more. *sigh* We don't learn!

Jul 24, 2017, 5:13am Top

I love skiing but I never can understand why they build slopes at places where snow is missing every year more. So I fully underszand your disappointment.

Edited: Jul 24, 2017, 5:35am Top

>57 Ameise1: I'm not against skiing in general, it just makes no sense here. We are less than an hour drive away from Schnalstal and max 1.5 hrs from the famous areas in the dolomites (Dolomiti Superski) with many more small nice slopes nearby, like Ultental (20 mins drive), that are less exposed to the sun. Merano 2000 is more like a family area for the locals where you can also hike with snow boots (when there's snow) or do sleigh rides or just sit and enjoy the sun. But some years ago they substituted the old big lift with what was then I think the second biggest one in Europe (seriously - why?!?) and it seems they need more ski tourists from outside to make it pay. Though I believe even the new racing slope won't draw the tourists away from the other areas. And here you pay just as much for lift cards, lessons, equipment, etc.

Just talked to a colleague and she gave me some more hiking suggestions for the other side of that mountain where they're not building. I'll try those during the next weeks. I love walking up in the mountain forests in summer, it smells so good and there are so many flowers and still wild strawberries.

Jul 24, 2017, 5:51am Top

Fully agreed. There are lots of ski destinations in your neighbourhood.
Hiking in the mountains is always a pleasure. Enjoy it.

Jul 24, 2017, 3:39pm Top

Nice wedding photos, Nathalie!

The Booker Prize longlist will be announced on Thursday. I'm optimistic to see what it offers, and I'll almost certainly follow it closely again this year. How about you?

Jul 24, 2017, 8:21pm Top

So happy you are enjoying the Wohlleben. I keep thinking about trees all being intertwined and busy chatting, albeit v.e.r.y. s.l.o.w.l.y. underground.

I haven't read any Ripleys. I think I must!

Jul 25, 2017, 2:43am Top

>59 Ameise1: I will, hoping for good weather on Sunday. :)

>60 kidzdoc: I fear I will, Darryl, though I'm determined not to spend any nice summer weekends this year inside reading just to get through the list. I prepared my Booker thread yesterday by adding "2017:" to all my lists and I'm preparing my numbed brain by reading two older Booker winners. I looked through my old reviews on the Booker thread and I really hope for another 2014 quality-wise. Not sure I can read through another list as last year's.

>61 sibyx: The writing (in German) is quite cheesy with all the Baumkinder (tree children) and die Kleinen (the little ones), but it's totally fascinating. I wish I had read it a bit earlier, as the forest near my parents' place is mainly beech trees which we don't have here at all.
Re. the Ripleys: the first one is really good imo, but I think I could have lived without the sequels and won't read #4 and 5 anytime soon. In the first one the atmosphere of 1960s Italy and the lives of the rich American expats play a big role for me.

Jul 25, 2017, 9:59am Top

Awesome pics, Nathalie! I'm so glad you had a good time! Is there no train to take you from point A to point B? Would be so much nicer than night driving through construction. blah!

Jul 25, 2017, 11:24am Top

>63 Carmenere: Thank you Lynda! I checked the trains and the flights, but both would have cost me twice as much and then my dad would have had to pick me up and drive me around as train connections between their place and the wedding location are complicated, especially when travelling with bigger luggage.

49. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

I re-read this mini-novella during my lunch break today, just because someone on a TP Forum had noted that by now we've seen two hallways with yellow wallpaper in houses where something violent happened and that maybe this might be a homage by David Lynch to this book. Yes, it has come this far. I'm so frustrated with having to wait another week for the next episode that I'll read anything anyone on some forum says might be relevant. Oh, and imo it isn't relevant at all and also on my second read it is way too short to even start to creep me out.

Rating: 3 stars

Jul 27, 2017, 2:00am Top

Here we are:

4 3 2 1: A Novel by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland) (Faber & Faber)
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) (Canongate)
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) (4th Estate)
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton)
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury)
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan) (Bloomsbury)
Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet)

I had set my alarm clock to 1am, but of course the Booker page had not published the list yet and the Guardian page refused to open, so I checked LT and saw that Darryl had already posted the list at 1:02 am!! :))

After some posting, some reading and much downloading (2 or 3 bought, samples of the others), I tried to get back to sleep, but right then someone started cutting down trees! Okay, I guess it was the trees near the train line which they can't cut well at daytime, but still - Motor saw noise at 2:00 am is dead annoying! So I read more of Hotel du Lac and finally fell asleep by 4am with one more hour left. :/

Anyway, of the longlist I've read and liked the Auster and totally loved the Ali Smith and am much looking forward to the others. And SO relieved to have the Auster tome out of the way!
Hoping the Booker obsession will balance out the Twin Peaks obsession a bit. Or they will go hand in hand and I'll be a red-eyed zombie in 6 weeks.

Jul 27, 2017, 3:02am Top

Interesting to see the list Natalie, thanks for posting it.

Almost half women (sarcastic cheer from me). I liked Swing Time and loved Autumn. Days without end worked for me but there was some criticism from folk far more knowledgeable about US history and geography than me.

Hoping the twin (bad pun) obsession lets you have some sleep.

Edited: Jul 27, 2017, 12:23pm Top

50. Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner (Booker winner 1984)

This is not a happy book and it isn’t a book for the young. For most of the time, while quite enjoying it, I was wondering how it could ever have won the Booker, it was so "unremarkably nice". The last part made it a bit clearer and then I guess it just wasn’t a great year – I haven’t read or heard of any of the shortlisted books.

Edith, a woman “in disgrace” arrives in Switzerland in the half-empty Hotel du Lac where she is to spend some time after a still unknown “scandal”, until society has forgiven her. She is a writer of romance novels, and during her last lunch with her publisher she develops an interesting idea about the hare and the tortoise. In her novels, she says, the tortoise always wins the prize – the eligible bachelor, while in real life of course the hare is winning. But hares are too busy living to read, and so her books are a consolation and branch of hope to the tortoises. She herself is seen as a tortoise, 39 years old, unmarried, and not very attractive, everyone seems to know what she should ideally do (marry, and anyone) before it is too late.

In the hotel Edith makes the acquaintance of several lonely women travelers and of Mr Neville, a “man with delicate ankles” (this would be about the last thing I’d see as attractive in a man). The women befriend Edith, using her however mainly as an echo wall. There’s something sinister about Mr Neville who seems to look right through her and he surprises her with a suggestion.

The writing was beautiful, the atmosphere came over as lonely and sad and isolated and yet calm as it was meant to be. Atumn in life and autumn in the surroundings. I was wondering about the setting re. time. Women wear pants, color TVs can be ordered for the rooms, but everyone’s view on what a woman should do with her life are almost Victorian. Also, the “scandal” and public outrage for what Edith had done seemed totally exaggerated. Yet color TV in Switzerland hints to the 70s at worst.

Rating: 4 stars

Something personal that contains bigger spoilers: Of course the book resonated with me. The “old maid”, the various “bad guys” in her life, the general aimlessness, the subdued behavior when confronted with happy extroverts. I found it interesting that despite my dislike for delicate ankles in men, I felt attracted to Mr Neville exactly because he was what he was - a guy not to be trusted, with a hidden agenda and a well-covered disdain for women. And I knew from the first mention what the closing door in the mornings meant – I know my Nevilles too well. At one point Edith asks him if he’s a sadist, and he smiles and just answers that his ex-wife accused him of that. I learned to listen to what “certain” men say very early, they usually give you the full truth and won’t remember it later. Or tell you you imagined it and are unreasonable, like all women. *
I was very happy with the ending. Thanks “universe” or whatever for this book!

*I discussed the book with my therapist today and said "see - no progress!", and she just answered "where do you always find those books?!?". I thought I'd better not answer with "the universe puts them in my way". Should add that "I just read that interesting book" is a given in nearly every session. But I'm down to 1 session per month.

Edited: Jul 27, 2017, 4:54am Top

>66 charl08: I have to admit that I never cared about the diversity issue in candidate lists or in my general reading. Non-Western names often are unclear, and I also almost never look at author's pics, thanks to all the Kindle reading. I often don't know whether I'm reading a male or a female author. Maybe I should pay more attention?
Looking at my stats I read more male than female authors, but that's mainly because in my first years here I read my way through the 1,001s classics, and the few Austens, Brontes and Eliot couldn't keep up with all the male writers quantity-wise (quality is a different question of course).

I'm much looking forward to the list, hoping for some "experimental" and challenging candidates, no fluff and not too many conventional

Edit: Adding that I just started Days Without End.

Jul 27, 2017, 7:34am Top

>68 Deern: I think once I started looking at the numbers by gender, it became really shocking to me (I had assumed that I was reading roughly equal numbers, I wasn't). It's not something I would say anyone 'should' do (reading is supposed to be fun, right?) but I've found it helps me with my overpowering wishlists (which book to choose when there are far too many to choose from). I still end up reading plenty of male authors despite that, and British authors still predominate.

I've not come across Reservoir 13 or Elmet before.

Jul 27, 2017, 9:33am Top

>65 Deern: Only 6 are available in Dutch translation, so I better wait for the winner. And I continue to read previous winners, at the moment I am reading The Finkler question.

>67 Deern: I have read Hotel du Lac, shortly after it won the Booker. All I remember is that I didn't like it back then. Maybe I would like it better now.

Jul 27, 2017, 10:45am Top

>70 FAMeulstee: Maybe you would. It would have bored me 30 years ago, I probably wouldn't have finished it. Well, now it resonated with me, but it made me sad and I wonder if that's so much better? :)

>69 charl08: I'll try to avoid spoilers for the 11 I don't know which is difficult as this year's list has books that have been around for several months and some big names. I was just pleasantly surprised that Days Without End starts a bit like a cowboy novel.

Jul 27, 2017, 11:03am Top

>65 Deern: Hahaha, The first thing I did this morning was check the Booker list but that was 8am my time which would be about 1 or 2pm your time and way way after you discovered the longlist. I was able to place 9 of them on hold at my local library Squeel!!

I own Hotel du Lac and it's lined up to be read soon. fingers crossed.

Edited: Jul 28, 2017, 11:08am Top

>72 Carmenere: Darryl posted the planned time of the announcement in the Booker Group, and then of course it became a mini-challenge. Normally I wouldn't have checked before noon. Happy Booker reading to you! :D

51. Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (2017 Booker LL 3/13)

Just finished my first unread Booker. Everyone says we have a strong list this year, so I'll be careful with predictions. Last year it would have been a safe candidate for the SL.

My usual historical fiction annoyance made an appearance, but I told myself to calm down and accept that it's fiction after all. I thought the Civil War part was the strongest bit, but overall it was so packed with terrible events that it felt too much for me. You know that feeling when you look at the remaining pages /% and think "oh dear, there's still room for at least two more dramatic turns, couldn't it please instead end right here and now?" It helped that the half-slang writing gave the whole thing such a light-heartedness, it reminded me a bit of Huckleberry Finn. The language was an element I didn’t like much in the first half, but it helped me enormously in the second part when I was actually hoping the narrator would finally jump off some cliff to end all the suffering.

Oh – the plot. It’s about a young Irish boy who's escaped the potato famine and made it to the USA via Canada. He meets his friend for life, John Cole, and together they earn their first money by acting as dancer girls in a saloon in a miners’ town. When they start growing beards and looking too male, they sign up for the army and are sent to some terrible missions even before the Civil War starts. I liked it that a typical drama trap was avoided and a character I was sure would be sacrificed made it through the story.

This was an original and – except for the detailed violence – easy-to-read take on that period of history and I would have rated it a little higher, had there been maybe one massacre/ revenge act less.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Jul 28, 2017, 11:22am Top

Good morning, Nathalie! I saw Lincoln in Bardo on your list and looked for your review but couldn't find it. Did I miss it?

Jul 28, 2017, 11:40am Top

>74 brodiew2: Hello Brodie, no you didn't miss it, I haven't read it yet, I only got the sample. I'm going to read it in the next weeks as I'm going through the Booker longlist.

Jul 30, 2017, 2:48am Top

>74 brodiew2: I saw your comment as a sign that I should read that book next, and I did so yesterday. I totally love it, though it will be a difficult review to write (earliest tomorrow when I have my office keyboard). I might write the whole thing in spoiler tags as I think at least 50% of the fun I had with it was from not having the faintest idea what it was about and how it would be structured. Finding my way in it, wondering what it all meant, interpreting certain "influences", it was like stepping into a dark room and feeling my way around while knowing I was safe. Great book! :)

Started Swing Time late last night which I guess won't be such a fast read.

Jul 30, 2017, 3:23am Top

Happy Sunday, Nathalie. I've read Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scriptures five years ago and liked it very much. I suppose I should read another one of him.

Jul 30, 2017, 4:05am Top

>76 Deern: Looking forward to your views on this one as I am not so patiently waiting for this one from the library!

Edited: Jul 31, 2017, 7:19am Top

>77 Ameise1: Happy week, Barbara! I've read somewhere that this one is very different from his others stylistically, as it's written in slang. I don't know it, as I haven't read any of his other books.

>78 charl08: Hm.... but I don't want to spoil anything for this one. :)
I assume some readers might totally dislike it and I think if I'd have read it at some other point in my life I might have reacted totally differently. It touches almost exclusively sad themes but does so in an entertaining way that makes it stand out from the usual Booker suffer fests (2015 was extreme in that respect).

I quite like the Zadie Smith book, but it makes me fall asleep within minutes of picking it up! Happened twice since I started it on Saturday. But yesterday wasn't a great reading day anyway, as I was preparing for this year's obsession #1, the latest - 12th already - episode of Twin Peaks, by watching two hour-long David Lynch videos on film making and meditation on YT.

Then I watched a couple of shorter docus on Sky Arte on Picasso, Renoir, van Gogh and Monet, then one longer one on Laurel and Hardy. Then we had another thunderstorm and I went upstairs to calm Büsi down.

Karin and Giuliano went away for the weekend, so I was once again cat-sitting. We decided since last time that he can also stay at their place if he feels more comfortable there. With the strong wind the shutters upstairs were opening and closing with loud noises and he was in a panic. So I went upstairs and read him some Zadie Smith, some Secret Life of Trees and some poetry from that book I found on Charlotte's thread (forgot author name and book title). After a bit he emerged from his hiding place and let me scratch his head and back for a while, then he went back to sleep.

Mood-wise I had a bad weekend. I always fall into that depressive summer-low, and as those moods are always influenced by my books I should be careful with what I'm reading right now, even if it means I don't get through the LL in time. I just feel so stuck. Stuck in a good place, I admit, but still stuck. Or trapped? It all seems so pointless... It's not that I feel lonely, last week was extremely active socially (for me), I met people outside work on 5 of the 7 days. Maybe it was too much?
Maybe it was also the humid weather pressing down on me. Saturday night around 2am we had a hailstorm, then another thunderstorm last night. My poor flowers look terrible.

Jul 31, 2017, 7:02am Top

ooh, intriguing comments re Lincoln. I'm still be not-patient. I saw a copy of the Underground Railroad in paperback over the weekend and nearly got that one too.
Hope the cat has a better day today - not sure I'd like the sound of all those shutters either, sounds very creepy! Hope you have a better day too. I met up with an old friend yesterday and am feeling quite lazy by comparison.

Edited: Jul 31, 2017, 9:02am Top

Obsessions or How I make a Booker review all about Twin Peaks *sigh*

I’ve been a spoiler person for all my life – 3 examples:
• I read who’d die in Harry Potter 6 on the way from the shelf to the cash register after having waited in the queue for the early opening on publishing date
• I didn’t watch “The Sixth Sense” before someone had finally told me the twist
• The same went for “Kill Bill 2", I wouldn't see it unless I knew how and when everyone would die

Actually, (and here we are!) I blame “Twin Peaks” season two and the last scene in the last episode. This freaked me out in such a way that I never ever wanted to be that terribly surprised again. So like with “Westworld” and basically everything (even “Friends” and “SatC”) since the early 90s, when the new series started, I never watched the episodes without first having seen a couple of recaps (which, in case of episode 3 and my emetophobia wasn't a bad decision). But then came episode 8, and I’d pay some money if I could watch it again unspoiled. What an experience it must have been, and now I can never have it!

So now I’m setting my alarm clock to 4am every Monday – and from next week on to 2am – and watch the latest episode in real-time. The experience is SO much better! And so for this year’s Booker I decided not even to read the blurbs for the books that are new to me.

And in case of Lincoln in the Bardo this was a great decision, and the rating might be at least half a star lower if I had known more about it beforehand. So I’m hiding everything interesting in spoiler tags and you can decide how much you want to know, okay? I’ll still try to avoid as much as possible, I guess there are countless reviews out there that will give you a plot overview if that’s what you want.

52. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2017 Booker LL 4/13)

Negative things that could possibly be said about this book:
• It is sometimes quite vulgar
• It is full of pathos (I understand that “pathetic” has a different, more negative meaning?). You could also say it doesn’t avoid kitsch.
• It (almost) rides a great idea to death more than once and I half-skimmed the odd chapter. You could also say a couple of “characters” and a couple of newspaper/ book quotes too many
• The plot’s logic doesn’t always make sense ( why do children suffer more? What about those diamond halls, what about hell?)
• The final conclusion is dubious (and cost it half a star, I’m a pacifist)

Good things:
• I haven’t read anything similar, so for me it was an original take on the extremely serious themes (death of a child, mourning a beloved person in general, slavery/ racism, the justification of war).
• I loved the different voices and their stories
• I liked how new themes were woven in whenever I was getting a bit tired
• As I said earlier, I loved being unprepared and feeling around in that setting, basically just like “the boy” for whom everything is new.
• I liked the short chapters and the switches from more linear narration to short quotes to voices.
• The basic idea is totally transferrable into the here and now. BIG SPOILER This deals with souls that can’t give up life although their bodies are dead. They hang on to the idea to return to their old lives better and worthier people “if only…”. And that applies too well to life situations, and I guess this is what made me so sad yesterday. You can hold on to something, an idea, a person, a self-image, during life and doing so, you miss life, the time that was given to you. It’s not just the question of accepting death, but also to accept this very situation in life and finally give up the idea that something that’s lost could still be saved and make you or others happy.

I read this almost in one go and I’d be happy if it made the SL – however I doubt it. We had “fun” last year with the Beatty book, so probably we’re back to a serious SL in 2017?
Rating: 4.5 stars

Aug 1, 2017, 7:21am Top

I put Swing Time aside for a bit and instead started reading Exit West and Solar Bones. I might save ST and the Roy book for last as I've already seen reviews for those. I'm still very slow reading the Trees book, finding I like it even more in shorter bits. I started testreading "Anna" by Niccolò Ammaniti in Italian as it was recommended in the Guardian this week and I haven't read anything in Italian for ages. So for now the reading funk seems to be over, I hope it takes a long break.

Aug 1, 2017, 7:53pm Top

>81 Deern: Hi, Nathalie, my name is Michael - I don't think I've posted on your thread before, but I empathized with your story about self-spoiling. Many years ago, the ending of a book by John Crowley, an author I loved broke my heart so totally that I was unsure that I could read his next one. Eventually, I did - and without peeking - but I was on a-tremble the whole time, waiting for the hammer to fall.

But it is worth taking the risk, isn't it?

Aug 2, 2017, 8:48am Top

>83 majleavy: Hi Michael, thank you for visiting and posting! :)
Yes, it's a thing about having control about one's emotions and avoid the extremes, especially if (like me) you tend to get totally lost in a story/atmosphere of a book or movie and develop a very clear idea of how it must end. To say I was devastated after that episode would be an understatement, my worldview had been shaken (there was no hope for the world left, evil had taken over) and I went through a short phase of paranoia. Okay, I was about 26 years younger then. :)
But I never watched another David Lynch movie nor re-watched TP until very recently.

And yes, I start believing that it is worth the risk. :))

Aug 2, 2017, 8:52am Top

53. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid- contains SPOILERS(2017 Booker LL 5/13)

This was a surprisingly quick and quite easy read. It also turned out to be quite a different plot from what I was made to expect after the first couple of chapters. Actually I’m not sure if the author really got to where he wanted to go with this book, the second half seems very inspired, but also a bit rushed and blurry.

The book starts with a love story between two young people in an unnamed big Middle-Eastern city at the beginning of a Civil War. Of course Damascus springs to mind, but overall names are left out and also certain expressions like “extremist” or “Islamist”. The attackers with strong minds on how a beard must look like or what a woman should wear are just “militia”. The beginning is slow and bittersweet and I felt like being there, but once the first bombs fell, I was propelled out, a visitor seeing the events almost on fast-forward on a TV screen. Very much happens in just a couple of chapters and the characters’ feelings almost disappear. Then comes the next stage – the escape. The author avoided describing the existing escape routes and instead developed the charming idea of “doors”. Doors open into safe places, and only then did I understand earlier chapters where anywhere in the world people suddenly slip out of mysterious doors and disappear into the night. Sayeed and Nadia pay a lot of money and make it through one of the few remaining doors outside, landing in Mykonos where they spent some time in a refugee camp. From that point on, the plot moves into the unreal. Through yet another secret door they make it to London, to a huge mansion in Kensington, and it seems that doors all over the world lead there, as the mansion and the whole neighborhood are soon flooded by refugees from the Middle-East and Africa. Hamid mixes a bit of Brexit angst into his plot at that point, but towards the end his idea becomes visionary in a more positive way. However, the whole thing also becomes more abstract and conflict-evasive, and I felt he didn’t dare writing where he wanted to lead it ( BIG SPOILER basically a world without borders – nations, gender, religion, sexuality – where people organize themselves, the natives help the migrants and in the end (50 years later) it is implied the world as we know it has become permeable in all directions). I just wish he had taken a bit more time to work this all out, and maybe also a couple of more pages.

Rating: 3.8 stars

Aug 2, 2017, 2:01pm Top

>84 Deern: Intense! But TP was a compelling experience, for sure.

Edited: Aug 9, 2017, 3:38am Top

>86 majleavy: Yes, and worst of all it was before internet and forums where you could share those feelings. No-one I knew watched it and I was totally alone with my anxiety. Much easier nowadays... :)

I started Reservoir 13 now. Solar Bones with its 1-sentence-stream-of-consciousness might be a long read. It hasn't yet become interesting enough to be happily picked up. I understand that the building/ banking crisis in Ireland has left big scars, but since I follow the Booker it seems to be the one and only theme Irish candidates deal with. Oh - Sebastian Barry is Irish, isn't he? Then he's the exception, but his book is historical fiction.
I test-read all the other available ones and my early impression is that I got the best ones first. None of them excites me so far. But we'll see.... :)

Aug 6, 2017, 1:55am Top

See that you have made a strong start on the Booker longlist, Nathalie, with three down already and Saunders as your frontrunner.

Have a lovely weekend. I have been having a bit of a tough time of it lately but am struggling on as they say. xx

Edited: Aug 6, 2017, 5:12am Top

Happy Sunday, Nathalie.

Aug 7, 2017, 6:54am Top

Just fly-by checking in . I'd blame my extended absence on my recent holiday but I can't really get away with that as I've been awol long before! Trying to keep more up to date now. Hope all is okay.

Aug 7, 2017, 7:03am Top

54. Reservoir 13 by Don McGregor - not entirely spoiler-free (Booker 2017 LL 6/13)

This was a new-for-me take on a mystery and another good read which I’d possibly see on the shortlist. The story starts in a small town in wherever is that region in the UK where there are lots of moors and where tourists come for hiking. Around the town there are 13 artificial water reservoirs where once stood villages, and there’s lots of nature.

Some day between Christmas and New Year, a 13 year old girl goes missing. Her name is Rebecca or Becky or Bex (this and a description of her are repeated often throughout the book). She’s the daughter of a tourist couple, and a big search starts that involves many of the townspeople. Chapter one then begins with New Year’s eve/ day, starting the first of 13 years/chapters, separated in 12 paragraphs each for the months. This is a bit like someone had installed cameras on 50 places in and around town (wildlife included) and had taken daily snapshots of which he’d then collected and assembled the most interesting ones. The readers follow a number of citizens (plus the foxes and the dogs and the pheasants and the badgers) through the seasons of 13 years. Sometimes we take a closer look and read an actual conversation, sometimes it’s just a glance. Sometimes I got emotionally involved, but most often not very much, however enough to look forward to the next month or the next year when there was a cliffhanger situation, like the physical abuse in a family (will the victim take some action?) or the question if a couple will get through the stress of raising twins. I mostly loved watching the numerous kids grow up, dogs getting older and the changes of the seasons which differed from year to year. Watching the ageing of adult characters was sometimes sad when it lead to an increasing loneliness, however there were cases when it also lead to new ways of life. In the beginning I often thought “I wish those people would gossip less/ worry less about gossip and talk more”, but this is a typical element of village/ small town life.

The missing girl is always in the background, she is remembered often in thoughts or gossip or the story turns up in the news again when new hints are found, but will there be a conclusion?

I really enjoyed this book and thought it was original, but as someone else said in a review, it’s not a style I’d like to read frequently. It worked very well here.

Rating: 4 stars

Edited: Aug 7, 2017, 8:02am Top

I totally misjudged the weather this weekend. We had another bad storm on Friday night and there was still thunder in the morning, so I decided to stay home on Saturday to do all the household stuff. That was a bad decision as it turned out to be the hottest day yet. I stayed inside with the shutters closed, sweating, drinking lots of water with lemon, too paralyzed by the heat to get my car and drive up some mountain later in the day. Sunday started identically after yet another storm, so up the mountain I drove very early and just made it to the first of 4 planned mountain inns, when the next storm broke loose. So I stayed there, waiting it out with several German tourists who also hadn’t believed the forecast and then rushed back as fast as my hiking sandals(!) and the slippery ground allowed. I was totally drenched within minutes, and when the thunderstorm turned around and came back I was a bit scared with my bare and wet feet and my metal walking sticks. Anyway – back home I drove and had to stay in yet again as it rained heavily through the day. Do I have to mention that today I see perfect cloudless blue mountain weather through my office window?

So I binge-watched some more culture on Sky Arte, this time docus on Woody Allen, Orson Welles, Amy Whinehouse. Sadly no docus this weekend on impressionist or other painting. This morning I set my alarm clock to 2am to see the latest TP episode live. *sigh* Just 5 more episodes to go and then that was it. Still hoping for answers, but more and more coming to terms with the idea of a worse cliffhanger than last time. I don’t mind, it’s the best I’ve seen on TV, and the weekly frustration when yet again nothing much happens (and rewatching each episode 5 times looking for clues) is part of it.

>88 PaulCranswick: Hi Paul, I wish you a pleasant week! I'm not totally up-to-date with your threads (once again), but the last I read a couple of weeks ago had sounded better. Sadly I continue being luckless in my lottery endeavours... :(
Re. the Booker: I actually read 6, but 2 of them pre-LL, among them the Ali Smith book which is my clear favorite. It's a good year so far (still, 2014 was a stand-out LL for me though I really disliked the winner and most of the SL)

>89 Ameise1: Happy week, Barbara! :)

>90 BekkaJo: Lovely to see you, Bekka! Everything's fine here except for the yearly "summer-blues". I'll check on your thread soon to see how your new job is going.

Aug 7, 2017, 8:32am Top

OMG, I just started reading In A German Pension by Katherine Mansfield and just 5 pages in I want to crawl under my desk to hide my embarrassment. I remember I read the first chapter "Deutsche beim Fleisch" ("Germans at Meat") once in German at school and it sounded very strange then. It's much stranger now and totally cringe-worthy! Waaaah! :D

About the possibility of an invasion:
"Don't be afraid", Herr Hoffmann said. "We don't want England. If we did we would have had her long ago. We really do not want you."

And what they eat! Bread soup(?), then veal and potatoes and sauerkraut, then beef and spinach, then stewed fruit and then cake with whipped cream, and that's just lunch?? And it's supposed to be a cure - against what?!? Too low cholesterol?? If it continues like this it might be my book of the year!

Aug 8, 2017, 9:36am Top

>92 Deern: I thought of you, Nathalie, when I saw about the bad weather in your region on the news. I am sorry you ended up in it. I hope you didn't catch a cold.

Aug 8, 2017, 9:59am Top

Loved Lincoln in the Bardo - what a great read! I'm kind of coming round to the inclusion of the US in the competition, based on this. My copy was so pretty, I was tempted to go get my own copy once the library copy goes back. Trying to resist.

Hope you get some more manageable temperatures.

Aug 9, 2017, 9:39am Top

>94 FAMeulstee: We were lucky in Merano, we only had the "normal" thunderstorms so far this year (though nightly now), but you're right, the part of Südtirol that's more in the east (Pustertal) was hit very hard on Sunday.

>95 charl08: Happy that you loved it as well! :)
As usual, I'm quite limited to the Kindle with the Booker list and never get my hands on pretty copies. Yes, I could order, but it'd take forever and would cost more, as the books would come via Germany.

Very busy at work, we're getting a new phone system, so reading has slowed down again a bit. Can't wait for the weekend, hoping to get through the Mansfield (which doesn't continue as funny as it started...) and 1-2 Bookers this week and I'd love to have another try with La Tregua/ The Truce after seeing a Primo Levi docu last week. The first time around I gave up on it as my Italian wasn't as strong yet and I had to return it to the library. Now I bought it for the Kindle.

Aug 9, 2017, 12:08pm Top

Oh I would love to read Levi in the original Italian. Maybe in another life, Nathalie! Want to do a joint read? Carsten was talking about Levi too, not sure if you saw that. I was thinking about picking up The Periodic Table, but I have a few of his, including The Truce. Nothing formal, just commenting on it on our threads. And no pressure, either.

Re Lincoln - I kind of loved the idea that the politician was occupied by someone else at the end, and his memory of slavery changed his mind to make the civil war about freedom and emancipation. Kind of a metaphor - maybe - for seeing someone else's perspective. I'm not sure. The humour of being stuck in the position of your death also was a great touch, I thought (that's not a spoiler is it?)

Edited: Aug 11, 2017, 1:52am Top

>97 charl08: I'd LOVE to do that! I haven't participated in a group read or tutored read in years. I only read If this is a man and now learned it forms a trilogy with the truce and The Drowned and the Saved. I think I also own the Periodic Table book.

Aug 10, 2017, 8:40am Top

Great! I'll have a root around and see what I can lay my hands on. Hopefully at least one!

Aug 10, 2017, 2:45pm Top

>98 Deern: I have the trilogy together in one book, so I might join.
Your touchstone for "The truce" is wrong, this is the one: The truce .

Aug 11, 2017, 1:52am Top

>99 charl08: Yay, I'm looking Forward to it! :)

>100 FAMeulstee: Thank you - I noticed and corrected it in one place and forgot the other.
It would be lovely if you could join in! :)

Aug 11, 2017, 1:59am Top

55. In A German Pension by Katherine Mansfield

This book starts out so hilariously funny with the chapter “Germans at Meat” that it was unlikely it would stay on that level. It didn’t, it is such a strange mix of short stories. They are all good, but I’m a bit disappointed as I’d hoped for a good laugh all through and not so much sadness. All 13 stories are set in Germany pre WWI, about half of them (the funnier ones) are first person scenes, as Mansfield experienced them during her stay in a spa town. The others in contrast are often heartbreakingly tragic and show situations of utter poverty and often violent misogyny.

The language is interesting, mostly written in a German sounding English, which in reality in most cases doesn’t mirror our structuring of phrases (but I guess then it would become unreadable). I guess the last names were often invented to be tongue breakers or remind of something ghastly, I never encountered any of them in real life. And all the “Herrgott”, “Ach Gott”, “o weh” aren’t really used in that way either, but I agree they make for an even more German atmosphere.

Mansfield observations are sharp and often true, but I must read one of her other books to see if she generally describes people in society as one-dimensional, often dumb, either too stiff or too shrill, or if that is just her look on the poor ( truly one-dimensional, dumb, stiff/shrill), but in a condescending way very well-meaning Germans she met in her pension.

We Germans really have no issues speaking about our physical ailments to people we hardly know, we simply aren’t much ashamed of our bodies and how they work. You could also say our “Kreislauf” (circulation) is “our weather”. (So don’t be surprised if a German gives you a long and complicated answer to your “how are you today”?). Mansfield is clearly prudish in that respect and usually tries to avert the subject before things become too detailed.

Reading those spa scenes often made me laugh and cringe at the same time. And then of course there’s the meat-eating in chapter 1, but a vegetarian in the 1910s can’t have had it too easy in the UK either. The (rich) Germans Mansfield meets are extremely pretentious and self-confident in their national identity and they don’t hide it. They pity her for being “the little English one”, but openly so. She just smiles politely, doesn’t answer back, turns to her room and makes fun of them. :)

Rating: 4 stars

Aug 12, 2017, 5:45am Top

Just stopping by to wish you a lovely weekend dear, Nathalie.

Edited: Aug 14, 2017, 10:05am Top

>103 PaulCranswick: Thank you! Wishing you the very best of weeks, {{{Paul}}}!!!


I’m in a Booker funk. After having testread almost all the remaining books, there’s none left that calls me. Not even the Zadie Smith book, and certainly not History of Wolves of which I read a meagre 5% this last weekend. Instead I fueled my current obsession by listening to the full almost 7 hours of Dennis Lim’s David Lynch – The Man from another Place which made me accept the idea of a series 3 with either no conclusion or another terrible one. :)

And I continued my current cultural streak by watching some more docus on Sky Arte and spending hours(!) with my e-piano which I hadn’t touched in years. One of the docus was about Hitchcock and Truffaut, and now I want to see some Hitchcock movies and our /&!%/&=? library is closed for 2 weeks! :(

Re. reading: it’s not like I don’t want to read, but I want something inspiring, and I fear I read the best of the Booker candidates already. I would much rather start with the Levis or read a Murakami, something for my brain and my mind. Maybe I should reread the Ali Smith and be done with this year's LL....

Aug 14, 2017, 9:53am Top

Dear Nathalie, read what you want to read! No worries!!!!
I'm not getting to a page very often these days, but I am enjoying the books I have going when I do sit down for a few minutes. My latest obsession is getting a copy of Queen of Bebop, the first adequate bio of Sarah Vaughan, my jazz-voice goddess.

Aug 15, 2017, 11:30am Top

Finished HoW after 9 days. Really disliked it, more than last year's Eileen it first reminded me of. It gets my "3 stars because not badly written although not at all my book" rating.

>105 LizzieD: Hi Peggy, you're right, but since I started with the Bookers I've been a completist. Still don't want to give up on the list after one bad-for-me book, but I'll better not read the Roy next.

I never had a sense for jazz, probably because I don't know a single person in my personal life who ever listened to it. Sometimes I realize that I come from a "dull" background and the only area I ever tried to make up for it was literature. My youngest aunt Karin said recently "can you imagine that my brothers and sister grew up in the 60s and didn't even own a single record by the Beatles or the Stones?"

So.... what would be a good test-listen when I want to know if I have an ear for it? :)

Aug 15, 2017, 11:36am Top

Catching up with you after what feels like an endless absence! Enjoyed your reviews of Bardo through Mansfield (I've read plenty but not that one) and also your . . .(resigned) responses . . . to the realities (sort of) of Twin Peaks.

Also your account of being caught out in the storm!

Mansfield is always sharp, but maybe not always that ruthless.

Aug 16, 2017, 3:29am Top

>107 sibyx: I'll try another Mansfield soon, there's one called Bliss I saw on Amazon today, what a nice title! :)

56. David Lynch: The Man From Another Place by Dennis Lim

Trying to keep this one short: audio book, almost 7 hours, nicely narrated, very entertaining. Each chapter describing a part of DL’s life (early years pre-movies, then a chapter for each film, one for TP seasons 1+2 and one for transcendental meditation). The important things I took from it:
• Not to expect a happy outcome for the running season 3 of TP, it will either be terrible or infuriatingly open-ended
• If you want to understand more of the new series and (like me) haven’t seen any of the older movies, this book will help you very much in seeing and understanding connections to earlier works and the overall DL cosmos
• Most important for me: DL is a synesthete and this is how his art works. My form is the most common one, seeing letters/ numbers in certain colors. Lynch however associates sounds with colors, emotions, tactile things. It was mentioned only once explicitly, but it opened a new door for my understanding.
I really enjoyed this listen and found it creatively inspiring.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Aug 16, 2017, 3:33am Top

57. History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (2017 Booker LL 7/13)

Here is this year’s first Booker candidate I totally disliked. It’s hard to explain that feeling, as the book isn’t badly written or offensive. Generally, it’s a book I don’t really see on the list as I don’t think it does anything new. It’s a coming-of-age story, it’s another teenager growing up in some remote place, this time in Minnesota. Her parents are ex hippies, she spent her first years in a commune before it broke up, and now they live in a kind of cabin in the woods by one of the lakes, in poverty and without any friends. Winters are endless and cold, summers are endless and unbearably hot. There’s much description of nature, but in a way I found either boring or extremely uninviting. Actually, I found much of the book very, very boring, even when about one third in finally something happens and Madeleine, called Linda, befriends the new neighbors, a woman and her 4year old son Paul, later also the husband Leo. Something isn’t right (of course), but the glimpses of the future we get from time to time often have nothing to do with the events of that summer. Maybe the main issue of the book is just something I don’t “get”.

Big spoiler: So if the law in the US basically tells you you can do with your child what you want as long as you believe it’s right, because religious freedom protects you, why have a trial at all? To make sure you reallyreallyreally believed in whatever, and when the jury is convinced of that then it’s fine and you can go home?!?
As you know I’m playing around with modern spirituality a bit, and yes – illness as a result of some “false belief” isn’t new to me. I don’t like the general idea as it establishes the illness-as-punishment theory. I’m convinced that lasting negative emotions like resentment can worsen an existing condition or contribute to something like high blood pressure, etc., but I don’t believe they cause it. And all books I’ve read in that area (with the exception of the Louise Hays) also clearly say “when something manifests in your body as an illness, seek all the medical help you can get and additionally try to heal your mind”. None of them encourages you to try self-healing or get healthy by ignoring your body. The body is “a vehicle”, but you have to take care of it, listen to its signals and get treatment when needed. Maybe they learned from the past or fear legal problems.

No matter what, I was bored and annoyed through most of my read and I felt like the book was sucking all energy out of me. Linda’s head was quite a dull place to be in.

Rating: those 3 stars I give when a book technically wasn’t bad but I didn’t like it and don’t want my personal dislike to influence the general ratings too much

Aug 16, 2017, 5:13am Top

Oh no, that sounds like an unhappy reading experience! I think I liked it more than you though not by much. I found the references to the bad thing annoying rather than tension building.

Aug 16, 2017, 7:24am Top

>110 charl08: I just checked your review - so it was a first novel, as I thought. Maybe they should have put a first novel on the LL that wouldn't start out like one of last year's first novels (Eileen, lonely teenage girl outsider with no friends until "someone" turns up and "things" happen).

Edited: Aug 16, 2017, 7:28am Top

>111 Deern: I (deleted hated, thought disliked) "really didn't understand the hype for" Eileen. I thought this one wasn't quite so willfully using shock tactics (all that dirt and 'bad habits'), and it was a more interesting idea what should people (bystanders) do when faced with such religious belief, and what might they do . But I'm not sure this was a particularly nuanced way of looking at that. But at least she tried.

ETA 'at least she tried'. Oof. That sounds terribly patronising!

Aug 16, 2017, 8:36am Top

Maybe you should give the Not the Booker Prize list from the Guardian a go? I've not read any on it myself, just came across it on the Guardian Books page - the list this year is;

Not Thomas by Sara Gethin (Honno Press)

Dark Chapter by Winnie M Li (Legend Press)

Man With a Seagull on His Head by Harriet Paige (Bluemoose Books)

The Threat Level Remains Severe by Rowena Macdonald (Aardvark Bureau)

The Ludlow Ladies’ Society by Ann O’Loughlin (Black and White Publishing)

All the entries are voted in by readers.

Aug 16, 2017, 9:57am Top

>112 charl08: You're right, not a single shock element, although Linda didn't seem very clean either. Eileen was explained to me in the Booker group as errr... was it modern gothic or was it noir (my memory)? Which doesn't improve my impression of it at all. And I remember that "twist" that led to nothing...

Here with Linda we don't really have a 100% reliable narrator (she's switching between "I should have known" and "how could I have known" all the time), but she didn't leave the impression of someone to take "real" action in any situation, maybe because of her upbringing and her general distrust. I guess even if the ongoings had been less subtle (let's say open physical abuse), I doubt she would have done anything. Even in the most critical situation in the drugstore she wasn't able to just say "those pills aren't for me, they're for someone who has a high fever". No, she grabs the useless aspirin and some other stuff and walks away and feels she's done something. Linda was a bystander and I guess remained one all her life. That's no criticism, I guess I'd be one in her place, I totally lack courage and determination. But I have parents/relatives/ friends I would have been able to confide in. So I didn't know if it was about "being a bystander" or about her general total lack of social and comunication skills. I thought she was attracted by signs of affection (she wasn't used to) and wanted her part in it, almost stalking both Patra and that Grierson teacher. Maybe that was the saddest and truest part. Writing this I actually feel better about the book now.

>113 BekkaJo: Hi Bekka, I saw the list, but tbh I think I'll read something safe and classic as soon as I'm done with those 13 Bookers. Last year I bought three of the NTB shortlist, found 2 unreadable and fortunately the one I read and loved won in the end.

I read an article of why the Booker isn't good for authors in the Guardian today and immediately downloaded a Virgina Woolf Essay mentioned there. Here's the link: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/16/booker-prize-bad-for-writing-alternative-celebrate-literature

Edited: Aug 17, 2017, 11:59am Top

58. Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (Booker 2017 LL 8/13)

Warning: it is impossible to review this book completely without spoilers (except for saying “GREAT – read it!”), so please decide yourself if you want to continue here. Spoilers are relatively small though

This is a phantastic and courageous book, and on so many levels. The author used the Antigone drama as a scaffolding for her plot which is set in today’s London within a community of British citizens with Pakistani roots (there's a reason for this complicated expression which I won't give here). The book is divided into 5 chapters for the 5 main characters, but the story is moved forward almost without repetitions of Scenes, so it's not 5 viewpoints on the same story and it doesn't get boring for a second.

We start with Isma, a 28 year-old woman who’s held in the interrogation room at Heathrow airport while on her way to the US where she plans to finish her studies. Many years ago she had to interrupt those studies when her mother died and she had to bring up her twin siblings, Aneeka and Parvaiz, much younger than her. We don’t kow yet why she is held for interrogation, this will be explained later in the chapter. Finally in the US, she makes the acquaintance of Eamonn, a fellow Brit with a Pakistani-rooted father and an American mother. His father has just been elected Home Secretary, and he takes a strong stance against “Un-British” elements and isn't terribly popular among the Muslim community. The second chapter sees Eamonn, returned to the UK, where he meets Isma’s beautiful younger sister Aneeka and falls in love with her on the spot. There is some secret around her brother. The later chapters concentrate on that brother, Parvaiz, and are set in the past before Isma’s departure for the States and during her absence. When his chapter ends we turn to Aneeka and finally to the Home Secretary.

My first impressions of the book were good, but not great. It all seemed too obvious, and also the book itself seemed just published in time for the Booker. By the middle of the Parvaiz chapter I was annoyed. But then after all that careful preparation the book takes a turn into full-blown drama, but also into full-blown honesty. The characters are exaggerated, after all this is the analogy of a Greek drama. Love, loss, hatred, grief, desperate loneliness – everything is extreme and you can almost see all the shrill colors and hear the sounds and the wailing of some Background choir. But just below the theatrical surface there’s all the real human dilemma of the world. And the conclusion of the book is that no, sadly there are no easy answers at all.

I must re-read the Ali Smith to see if I have a new favorite. But this book would be a great winner and deserves a big readership.

Rating: 4.8 (5) stars

Aug 17, 2017, 3:40pm Top

OK. Re Home Fires I'll come back when I've decided whether to read it or not!

4.8 seems like a good sign though.

I think your point re the History of Wolves makes so much sense - her own family background was key. She (the author)
could have explored that a bit more - or maybe the point was that she was happier in the commune that what happened after? And the community didn't approve there but did precious little to help her? I don't know.

Edited: Aug 18, 2017, 4:45am Top

>116 charl08: More HoW spoilers coming: I don't think she felt better in the comune where adults were just "legs in jeans or skirts". My impression was that she'd grown up without love from her parents and when she noticed love/affection/interest in others she wanted to be close to both the subject (Mr Grierson/Patra) and the object (Lilly/ Paul), to understand it and also hoping to get something of it for herself without having to ask. Add puberty into it and that she somehow confuses sexuality and even abuse with "love", i.e. something she wants. Quite a sad story.

Started The Ministry of Utmost Happiness last night, but that doesn't mean I'll finish it next, by now all remaining 5 Bookers are started and paused between 5 and 10%.

Personal stuff:
I'm in a very confused state of mind today and can hardly concentrate on work. There's a mix of Charlottesville/ Darryl's posts/ a conversation I had with a colleague after reading Darryl's posts/ "Home Fire" which deals very directly with terrorism and ISIS, coming home to the Barcelona news, waking up with the Cambril news (yes, for once I switched on the news channel) and reading additional stuff on the newsticker: young man stabbed to death in disco in Jesolo, guy killed and dismembered his sister somewhere else in Italy, an Italian couple telling a pregnant Senegalese woman she has to get an abortion because she's black (WTF?!?!?), and that the UK said sí/yes to free people movement (which I don't find anywhere in the Guardian) and the latest i***tic Trump tweet about dipping bullets in pigs' blood. Oh, and the Germans and French now want to pay for weapons and troops in the Sahara to keep all the Africans from moving North, because more weapons are always the way to go and will make our export balances look even better, now that the car industry is in a crisis. Sometimes I understand that people would like to return to the state of the 80s with less news, closed borders, clearly defined "enemies" (cold war) and the promise that every new generation willl have a better life. That's why my parents are reacting so badly right now, the promises they have been given have lost all their value, they feel betrayed and want to withdraw back into a world of pretended safety. They are over 70, maybe they can. But I have no idea how to confront this "new" world that is so different from what we were made to believe in and how to contribute to turn it into something better without giving in to hatred and fear.

Aug 18, 2017, 3:06am Top

I have a similair same state of mind, Nathalie, and sometimes wish to see only "nice" news.
I think the only way to keep people from migrating, both within the EU and from Africa, is to make their living standard over there better.

Btw your spoiler within the spoiler doesn't work, I had to look into the source to see what you said there.

Edited: Aug 18, 2017, 11:29am Top

>118 FAMeulstee: Interesting, in the preview it worked fine, and I even thought "yay, we can have spoilers in spoilers". I removed it now.

Yes to what you say, of course, but that would mean we'd have to stop sending them all our overproduction and supporting their often (insert negative adjective here) governments/ warlords, etc. by selling them weapons. Somehow "we" (the North/West) had an interest in getting ex 3rd-world-countries in Asia all industrialized as a cheap production place for our consumer goods where worker's rights, environmental concerns and safety regulations are negotiable (to what extent that really helped the individual is another discussion I don't want to start), but Africa has remained that continent from which we take natural resources and where we dump what we don't want (used fridges, frozen chickens, old clothes we donate and which the mafia resells there, etc.). For a long time I thought our politicians had made some cynical calculation how many migrants the EU can take in silently every year while still having a surplus (or whatever the important figure is) with Africa. They did arrive in 1000s for many years (in Italy only) and were mostly, again silently, swallowed by more or less legal organizations, sent into organized begging, farm work all over Southern Europe, fake handbag selling, prostitution... That balance seems to shift lately since they arrive in 100,000s. It's horrendous, and now the only political solution in sight is sending troops into the desert? I'm still a supporter of the EU (I was taught not to believe in nationalism), but they aren't great in finding (and selling) humanitarian solutions that for a change might not bring them financial growth.

It's not so much about the "nice" news I'd like to see, it's that there are all those smart comments by experts who analyze everything but never tell us what we as individuals realistically can do except for signing petitions on change.org or participate in a march (I've never seen a march against anything where I live). Oh, and pray of course....

Edited to rant/despair some more... :(

Aug 18, 2017, 8:27am Top

I think a bunch of us here are suffering from the same mental state. I'm still trying to wrap my head around this stuff too.

Aug 18, 2017, 11:03am Top

>120 drneutron: Thank you Jim. The one thing I did today was finally requesting my ballot papers from Germany for postal voting in September, so at least I'll balance out one of those AfD votes.

Aug 18, 2017, 11:46am Top

To get back to books - I just noticed that I had almost 30 books on "currently reading" status and most of them are in fact unfinished. This must have happened during those countless reading funks in the last 3 years, as I usually finish a book or rarely abandon one completely, they shouldn't stay half-read for years! So after those Bookers there will be much to tidy up! It's an interesting mix I'm actually looking forward to.

In 20 minutes my week of holidays starts and I can't wait to get home. I hope I'll be able to break out of my lethargy (= my yearly summer sadness) and do some hiking next week!

Aug 31, 2017, 9:24am Top

30 books in your 'currently reading' column. I work hard to keep that one current since it turns up on my home page . . . plus when I decide to put a book down "for awhile" I take it off as I have learned I will never finish it.

I value your insights and comments about matters in Europe -- you are on the spot and you pay attention and somehow it reaches me better than reading about it in an article.

Hope you find something fun to read!

Aug 31, 2017, 12:27pm Top

Hope you had a good break Nathalie.

Edited: Sep 1, 2017, 11:32am Top

I'm reading the reports about Houston and it seems unbelievable and apocalyptic (and now Myanmar as well)! I hope everyone here is allright? Going to visit some threads now to check up on friends.


>123 sibyx: I realized in the meantime that I've given some of those books away, so I must update the stats again, clearly under 30 now. :)
Thank you, I'm trying not to get too frustrated and discouraged by it all right now.

>124 charl08: It was wonderful, thank you! :)


I want to give an update before falling into the next maybe internet-free weekend (storms announced). I had a LOVELY week off and did lots of hiking. Also took many pics and still hope to get some of them posted eventually. I felt a connection to the place here I thought I had lost years ago - the "Trees" book which I still haven't finished is certainly playing a role. :)
This week I got the usual post-vacation punishment in form of much extra work and very long hours.
I managed to finish the Arundhati Roy book and liked it very much against all my expectations, but that is where my reading ended for now. The remaining candidates don't call me (if any, the Zadie Smith a bit), and my mind is so busy with other things.
Okay, Twin Peaks finale next Monday - I will doubtlessly not be functioning then for a week or so. The last couple of episodes were outstanding, but no way will there be a conclusion in the finale.

Much more important is however that MY PARENTS SOLD THEIR HOUSE!!!
And they have to be out on OCTOBER 31st!!
And they DON'T HAVE A NEW PLACE yet!! :O

I never thought they were risktakers, but here you are! :))))
I've already decided with them on the phone which of their books they should keep, which ones I'll get and which ones can ge given away. I need new shelves, but there are now free walls left, *help*!

So there will be much to organize and I will travel to Germany once or twice before they move to help packing and to say goodbye to the place where I grew up and to all the friends and neighbors there. What a strange feeling having to say "I wish you a good life" to someone who was somehow always around, while not actively playing a role in your life, knowing you'll most probably never see them again.

I received my ballot papers and mail-voted yesterday, after consulting the so-called Wahl-O-Mat, a questionaire that asks your opinion on a number of political questions and then compares your answers to party programs. I got the strongest consensus with the Piratenpartei, but voting for them would be throwing my vote away, they'll never make it over the 5% hurdle. So I voted for the next strongest option, the Greens, and I'm glad to say that the AFD was the party I was least conform with. Not 100% happy with any of the others either, but how any German could consider voting for a party that wants to eliminate Holocaust remembrance from the national culture is beyond me. I believe the remembrance of historical atrocities against humanity should be part of every country's culture, involved or not, what is history good for if not to learn from it and to improve as society and as humans?

Still watching art docus in my free time when it's not the umpteenth rerun of something TP. Sadly my e-piano playing has come to a halt. I overdid, overstrained my wrist and am in some pain now. Much computer/keyboard work this week didn't help. I'm annoyed, I was so ambitious and relaxed with the piano from the moment my parents had sold the real piano (it made me sad, but it made no sense moving it to Merano). This also means no yoga for a bit. :(

Sep 1, 2017, 8:24am Top

59. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (Booker 2017 LL #9/13)

I finished this one early last week and took too much time to write the review. I forgot ALL the names and some of the plot. But I liked it much more than I had expected and I think I liked it more than her previous Booker Winner The God of Small Things. This might partly be because back then I read several similar books on India in a short period, while now it has been several years since my last encounter with “Indian magical realism” and so I could fully enjoy it again. I thought the writing was beautiful, and I didn’t mind the fragmented plot that only comes completely together in the end. There are connections throughout between the parts, I have read many books that were much more confusing. Yes, there is almost unbearably much violence. “Almost”, because the MR style wraps it in a beautifully embroidered blanket. Which isn’t bad, as this way the reader can digest more of it than in a more factually written book as 2015’s The Year of the Runaways or 2014’s The Lives of Others (which I thought were both great books).

Personally I don’t have anything against the author as I don’t know anything about her. I’m going to read up on wiki to see why so much of the negative criticism was directed at her person and less at the book, but I didn’t want to do that prior to reading. What I take from the novel is that she quite equally accuses all politicians/ parties and all religious groups of violence and manipulation, it didn’t feel one-sided. From Home Fire I took that there are no simple answers, from this book I take that sometimes, sadly, there are no answers at all. People just do all that, and yet small places and short moments of happiness can be found.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Sep 1, 2017, 5:03pm Top

>125 Deern: That is great news, Nathalie, that your parents sold their house! Is their "perfect house" in Bavaria still available?

Sorry you overdid with your wrist, I hope it is back in shape soon.

Sep 1, 2017, 11:01pm Top

Congratulations to your parents on selling their house! Maybe this is the beginning of some happy excitement for them.
I wish you well in your bittersweet helping them move and saying good-by to your childhood home.
I loved The God of Small Things. Her writing blew me away. I look forward to *Ministry* when I eventually get a copy.
I'm sorry about your wrist. You want to take care of it as I'm sure you know and are doing.

Sep 1, 2017, 11:24pm Top

Well done on blowing through the Booker Prize longlist, Nathalie! I hope to make a dent in it over the next two months. I'm halfway through Reservoir 13, which I'm enjoying so far.

Edited: Sep 2, 2017, 4:50am Top

>127 FAMeulstee: Haha, that perfect house became total "lacking everything" for my mum when my dad showed too much enthusiasm. Quite a pity because it was really nice (I saw it that one weekend when I met them in Bavaria).

>128 LizzieD: Right now they feel like they've lost their mind and don't know how to get everything organized and packed. I think they'll hire a moving company for the worst, after all they got much more money for the house than expected (yay!)

>129 kidzdoc: The ones I read were all great except for one, but I'll not stress myself with the remaining ones this year

Just adding sth about the house and the wrist (thank you all for the good wishes).

With many Americans (military) returning to the Wiesbaden region, prices have gone up, even in such remote places as my parents' village. The agent set a price much higher than what they originally thought they might get - after all it's a village with no supermarket, bakery, gas station or doctor or school, you need car/bus for everything. The house itself is in top condition. They had about 10 people looking at the house within 3 weeks and one couple had the money ready and bought it without negotiations! It was a complete surprise!

Wrist: I 'm not a beginner in my head, but after so many years my hands are piano beginners again and I shouldn't have started with the ambitious stuff where I have to spread my fingers all the time! Well... :/

Happy Weekend everyone! It's cold here suddenly!

Sep 2, 2017, 10:35am Top

Parents just called from Bavaria, where they'll be house-hunting for another week. They saw one place today, and my dad was all "a dream house in a dream place" and my mum in the background was "well, it's quite nice". :D
They won't take it as it has no storage rooms or basement and it's in a more remote village than their old house.
I'll meet them there next weekend.

Sep 2, 2017, 2:34pm Top

Wow, your parents are really moving! I had the idea they might never actually let go of the old place.

I hope your wrists feel less painful. It had never occurred to me that piano playing muscles need building up, but of course, that makes sense. I haven't played for years, I picked up an electric keyboard but just don't like the sound in the same way. Although being able to plug in headphones is a major plus for the neighbours in my case.

I have been shopping today. Despite the fact I left the house only going for clothes for my holiday, and determined not to buy books, we passed a charity shop and I could not resist. Argh. Also picked up some stamp ink for the volunteering. I can only imagine how messy that's going to get next week!

Sep 3, 2017, 2:34am Top

>132 charl08: Yes, it's actually totally encouraging seeing them finally literally "make a move" in their lives. Over the years my dad had so many great job offers, most of which would have meant moving somewhere else, twice even a different country. He never could let go, both were totally stuck in their ways. I hope and pray that their health will allow them many more years to enjoy their lives and make new experiences. Also hoping that, once moved, they'll not just sit around, compare and regret.

I found out about the wrist thing when it was already too late, by googling "wrist pain from piano playing". I bought the e-piano a couple of years ago here in Merano, it's a Yamaha and it was quite an investment for me. I'm sad about the "real" one that's gone now, but in the end I would never have been able to play it as freely as in my parents' house, it also needed a bit more space (mainly depth, as the e-piano has all the keys and is as large as a real one). Only 2 weeks ago I noticed I can switch the sound to harpsichord, keyboard or organ as well and had some fun with that, but in the end I'm playing on the "grand piano" function that sounds good on the headphones.

Edited: Sep 4, 2017, 8:15am Top

4:17 am and I'm digesting the TP finale. no plot details, but still a spoiler H*** S***! People on the forums going crazy, I honestly hope DL will survive this unharmed, I fear he'll be getting threats, people are so angry, and we know how angry people react nowadays. Btw exaggerated extreme anger/rage in "normal" people has been a big theme in this series 3, guess he knew what he was doing. I'm half disappointed, too (would have liked to know more about at least one beloved character's fate), but the other half thinks it's totally hilarious. Laughing hysterically at 4am in the morning. I thought I had planned for all hit-me-over-the-head endings, but not for that one! :D
I''ll remain in the "artistic masterpiece" part of the audience
Compared to 26 or so years ago, I feel much better despite another cliffhanger ending and thousands of open questions and hope I'll be able to get back to books some time this week.
Prepared for the big event by rewatching the other 16 episodes, some scenes of the old series + all of FWWM and went to the modern art museum in Bolzano yesterday to get into the mood. Whatever the plot was, this experience has re-opened the "culture channels" in my brain after a long time, also for music.
And I now got a filter coffee machine in my office. :)

Edit: reddit has calmed down a bit, or maybe the angry ones have all disappeared and I'm reading first "masterpiece" reviews. Oh, what great experience that show has been - and how I hope there won't be any sequels now, my nerves are done with it! As is my stomach, black coffee and pie on Monday mornings between 2 and 3am can't be healthy. :)

Sep 4, 2017, 6:25pm Top

What great news about your parents. So great that they will get more than they ever expected! Let us hope they will have fun looking and will find somewhere new and wonderful to live.

Sep 9, 2017, 9:57am Top

Hope you have a great weekend with your parents, Nathalie. xx

Sep 11, 2017, 7:26am Top

>135 sibyx:, >136 PaulCranswick: I am very confused after the weekend with my parents. So much so that I'm kind of doubting reality or my (and their) handling of life.

No - they had the perfect appartment, key already in their hands. Given that my dad is always over-enthusiastic and my mum always over-critical, I had no expectations. But the place was perfect and I would have rented it on the spot. Last floor, 120m², 2 bedrooms, high ceilings, 2 private balconies (not shared with other parties), garage, extra parking space, lift, extra room for washer/dryer, 2 barrier-free bathrooms, in their budget and free already. The other parties are people of their age, no kids in the house, view on the castle from all windows, close to restaurants and shops.

My mum is opting for a place that costs more, has less space, has just one balcony seperated from the neighbor's one by a matted glass wall, bigger house, in construction for at least 3 more months (you don't know who will be moving in and you'll have noise for months and might run into the usual quality problems with new houses), "because it's a little closer to the shops". A little = like 100m closer. They'll have to find someplace furnished - and quickly - to bridge those remaining months. Given their general inflexibility this is a nightmare.

She absolutely refuses the other place, mainly (I know her) because my dad loved it so much. He - still after so many years not knowing how she functions - gave her a list of arguments for the one, against the other, which hardened her even more. She is now doubting their move to Bavaria alltogether, talks about the North Sea again, my dad is doubting the marriage. This isn't exaggerated, they haven't taken an important decision together in decades and the situation now brings up all kinds of issues (I had feared that early on) and they fight it out this way. I don't remember my mum ever saying yes to anything important. She waits it out finding faults with all options, then my dad decides, then she complains for the next couple of decades.

I'm considering moving to the other end of the world. Where will they have me?

Other current nightmares: my work. Hours hours hours and lots of stress ==> for what? There is no contribution to anything "good in the world" in the work that I do, it's totally empty, a waste of nerves for nothing much. I was promised assistance a year ago and no-one was hired, it's just getting more work and more pressure.

I'm having my 8th anniversary in Merano on Wednesday, and right now I can't say I'll have #9 next year. It's not that it was all bad, it was somehow all extremely important, even the real bad stuff like the company fail and the breakup, and I'm grateful for every bit. But in the last couple of days I've been feeling so empty, like I need to open a new chapter. Not so much speaking about ego-pushing outward elements, it's more like spiritually/ mind-wise there's nothing left to expect from this place, it has taught me what I had to be taught and now I have to move on.

Sorry for the whining, maybe it's just the pain of ageing. :(

Sep 11, 2017, 7:43am Top

Oh, I'm sorry to hear about all your stresses - they can be such an emotional drain. I hope your parents are able to work it out in a way that makes them both happy - whatever happens.

I feel the same way about my work sometimes, only I'm working with patients, so at least I have that feeling of accomplishing something important.

Sep 11, 2017, 8:16am Top

>138 The_Hibernator: Thank you! And you're right - if my work at least had some positive impact on the lives of others, above the usual "be a good colleage and contribute to a good atmosphere at work" that applies to all jobs... I've always been dedicated to my work, and if there was a glimpse of hope that all the effort would lead to something, I was in. But this is regularly working 10-12 hrs into empty space.

My parents (better:my family) has issues that go very deep, and I know way too much about both of them and their wounds and tactics. As a kid I was hoping for a seperation, now I'm quite convinced both my parents would have just chosen new and similar partners to repeat their patterns. Now that they're over 70 I hope they'll stay together, also for the very egoistic reason that otherwise I'll feel responsible for each of them and their emotional wellbeing. But they'd have to finally draw a line and see this as a new start and not as an occasion for payback.

Sep 11, 2017, 3:01pm Top

So sorry to read about the troubles with and between your parents, Natalie, probably extra hard as you are an only child.
I also hoped my parents would divorce, when I was younger and still living with them. Of course they never did, even fighting eachother becomes a habit. It took years before they found an appartment that could stand my mothers critical eye. They even changed the kitchen for her, as she refused live with an all white kitchen. It is sad she is the one who had to go to a nursing home a few months back...

Sep 11, 2017, 11:18pm Top

Dear Nathalie, you are dealing with a LOT. I wish you deep, cleansing breaths - physical, emotional, and spiritual. What your parents will do, they will do. You tend to your own well-being so that you can continue to be valuable and useful, which you are. That's my wish.

Sep 12, 2017, 12:25am Top

Hey Nathalie, hope that your parents are able to resolve the situation with their move.

I also hope that the right new opportunity comes up if that is what you decide to do. (I don't think you were whining at all!)

Sep 12, 2017, 2:32am Top

>140 FAMeulstee: This sounds very similar, Anita, I am sorry you had to go through all this! Yes, those kitches that have to be in a specific way and then are never cooked in...
As an only child you're drawn in, then each one tries to get you on their side, except for the rare occasions when they're suddenly bonding against you. I love my parents very much and in the last couple of years since moving here I forgave them (there was much to forgive, they basically spoiled the idea of loving relationships and family for me), and I'm mostly successful in staying loving and neutral and not taking sides anymore. But this last weekend was harsh and came on top of a rough week.

>141 LizzieD: Thank you so much Peggy, I'll do that, and I'll continue with my meditation that also helps a lot. Often things happen for a reason, and last night I wondered if the whole Bavaria thing isn't for them, but for me? It was a surprise for me how much I liked the place, maybe I should take from it that there are other great welcoming places to live and work and that I'm free to leave here whenever something new opens up for me.

>142 charl08: Thank you Charlotte! Well, they'll have to find a solution eventually, or they'll be carried out on November 1st. :)

Sep 12, 2017, 6:16am Top

On a more fun note, my parents brought me two big bags of book, most of them the remaining better childrens' books and some fairy tales. Quite old editions of Johanna Spyri's Heidi and Gritli among them. I reread 3 books of the German "Bummi" series over the weekend and felt quite transported back to the times when my parents were arguing and I was reading in my room. :)
I had totally forgotten that I used to draw in my books wherever I found space, usually scenes from what I had just been reading which shows how much the plots impressed me. All scenes quite recognizable.

Sep 12, 2017, 10:44am Top

Not exactly Bookers... :)

60. Man nennt mich Bummi
61. Was ist mit Bummi los?
62. Bummi und Fiete all by Martha Schlinkert

These are the first 3 of a 10 books series about the childhood of Maria Angelika Fröhlich, nicknamed Bummi. They’re set in the late 60s/ early 70s in a typical German village in the Northwest. Families have several children, dad goes to work, mum does the housework, the kids try to get through high school (first generation clearly) and play outside in the fields and do little jobs for their pocket money. There are pets, milk has to be taken from the farm in a can, cakes are special birthday treats. Seen through today’s eyes, Bummi’s family would be considered poor, but they are a normal average family in their time. The kids are good-natured and not spoiled, there’s the occasional “bad boy” in the streets, usually a poor neglected child who is never severely punished but often helped by well-meaning people. Bummi isn’t your typical girl, she runs around bare-footed and in old lederhosen and climbs trees instead of wearing dresses and playing with dolls. In the later books, Bummi tries and fails at grammar school, her older sister makes the Abitur (high school exam) and immediately gets married and starts a family, because this was the way to go, and Bummi becomes a children’s nurse. This isn’t sugary-girly as the much earlier popular “Nesthaekchen” series by Else Ury, or “Forster’s Pucki” by Magda Trott, there isn’t any nationalistic “heimat” feeling hidden. It’s instead a refreshingly normal series of books that reads surprisingly modern almost 40 years later.

No rating

Sep 12, 2017, 2:06pm Top

>143 Deern: It was mainly in the last years, when all my siblings had moved out and I was the last one left. Indeed the kitchen was/is rarely used... I did forgive my parents, but now my remaining sister plays the role my mother used to play :'(

>144 Deern: & >145 Deern: Books are always good, glad to see you enjoyed some of them!

Sep 13, 2017, 7:42am Top

Hi Nathalie! I've finally had the chance to catch up on you thread. I thoroughly enjoyed your thoughtful remarks on the Booker nominees. I think I tend to be too flippant when I write my reviews in order to get them down quickly but yours are REALLY deep and thought provoking.

Did you know the short list was revealed today?

Congrats and good luck with your parents big move!

Sep 13, 2017, 9:36am Top

>146 FAMeulstee: {{{Anita}}}

>147 Carmenere: Thank you, I always worry they're tedious to read. I didn't notice anything flippant about yours though, love them, and the pictures always give me such a great connection!

*sigh* the shortlist.... Well, I only read 9 1/2 from the LL so far and I liked them all. There's only one unread one on the SL (Elmet), and yet I'm disappointed. As usual, with the exception of the Ali Smith book for me, the most courageous books were left out. I liked what Reservoir 13 did with the novel form, and I loved what Home Fire did by forcing us into the head of a terrorist. I feared that it could only be either HF or Exit West and the latter is great, but less passionate and less confrontational. And then we always book a spot for the growing pains of some neglected teenager, or so it seems. I liked History of Wolves better after my discussion here with Charlotte, but still in a year like 2017 I believe there were better candidates for the SL.

This morning I felt sure Ali Smith would be the winner, but now I'm tending more towards Mohsin Hamid. Maybe Autumn is a bit too anti-Brexit in the current atmosphere and they might wait out the whole series.

Almost forgot - here's the list:

4321 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (UK-Pakistan) (Hamish Hamilton)
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)

Edited: Sep 13, 2017, 1:07pm Top

This had been my ranking so far:

1. Autumn by Ali Smith - 5 stars
Read almost a year ago and needs a re-read. Appealed to me on what I call "the art level" of my brain, not the rational part, like Virginia Woolf books and David Lynch films, I don't even remember the plot, I was somewhere else, and I loved it.

2. Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie - 4.8 (5) stars
Totally unexpected favorite, it broke all my (strong) inner resistance, read it in one day. Politically courageous!

3. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
I just love good magical realism, and here it's mixed with so much cruel truth. The book makes me think of a beautifully gold-embroidered blanket spread over a maimed body.

4. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders - 4.5 stars
This was fun although it felt like it should have been less fun with such serious subjects. I almost felt guilty.

5. 4 3 2 1 A Novel by Paul Auster - 4.3 stars
Long and good and full of variations and vast and boring and too alike. Conflicting feelings throughout my read, but then I like my Bookers to be a bit demanding.

6. Reservoir 13 by Don McGregor - 4 stars
Just great! Not a style I ever need to read again, but this first time it was original and beautiful.

7. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid - 3.8 stars
2 great halves that didn't really fit together.

8. Days without End by Sebastian Barry - 3.5 stars
A bit like The North Water last year - entertaining, adventurous, for me maybe one dramatic twist too many. Can't judge the language as I was fighting with the slang, but native speakers loved it.

9. History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund - 3 stars
There is much depth beyond the shallow-looking surface, and for me it wasn't in the religious/ cultish upbringing, but in the alienation from love. A good debut, but compared to the other books on the list I read so far it lacked something.

Sep 13, 2017, 4:02pm Top

Oh no I was really hoping the Auster wouldn't make it any further. I bet it wins.

I've got Exit West out from the library but am going to have to be quick about it. I thought the panel was an interesting group: have gone to look up The Enchanter: Nabakov and Hapiness and ended up downloading a sample.

And yay Autumn! I so want this to win...

Sep 14, 2017, 10:23am Top

>150 charl08: Exit West was one of my one-day reads. Swing Time however takes longer than Auster's now. I like it very much, but it wants to be read slowly with lots of interruptions. None of the other 3 calls me and I started/testread them all weeks ago, I fear they will be quite a drag...

Everything speaks for Autumn (it's time for a UK winner/female/AS' 4th nomination), but then again it's part of a quartet and they might wait it out and also be Brexit-tired. While I liked Exit West I thought it avoids the most difficult/controversial part by - spoiler as you haven't read it yet - drifting towards the utopean. .

Edited: Sep 15, 2017, 12:02pm Top

63. Swing Time by Zadie Smith (Booker 2017 LL 10/13)

I like being challenged by books and I really like Zadie Smith although (or because?) her books are what we call a “Kopfgeburt” in German, a “head birth”, i.e. something is all good and smart and right and logical, but lacks the spark or passion that makes you read on and on late at night.

Basically there are two main story threads and the narration jumps (too) frequently between both which makes for a stumbling read: the nameless narrator’s childhood and youth with her friend Tracy, much of which is spent with dancing lessons and watching Fred Astaire movies, and her life as a young adult and personal assistant of international pop star Aimée who’s modelled on Madonna. ZS was influenced by the Ferrante books, and similar to Lenu and Lila, our narrator (ON) and Tracy seem two sides of one coin or mirror images. Both from mixed marriages (Tracy with a white mother and ON with a white father), growing up in the same neighborhood. Tracey is talented and determined but lacks the stable familiar background while ON with a strong and smart mother and better opportunities doesn’t know what to do with her life. As luck changes for ON with her first job in media, so it changes for Tracy for the worse.

Many chapters of the adult years are located in West Africa (I guess the Gambia?) where Aimée founds a girls’ school. I liked those chapters very much, they are achingly honest, and they can’t leave the reader with much optimism, which maybe explains why so many readers prefer the first part set in London. We don’t really want to know when our good intentions towards other countries/cultures/ people bear different fruits than those we had in mind for them. The development of the Hawa character left me very sad.

I was disappointed with the ending and wished ON had handled that situation a bit more maturely. However this is a good and important book, maybe more ambitious than ZS’s older ones, looking at the Africa chapters and Tracy's later life. Just don’t expect a quick or easy or fun read. It's not devastatingly sad either, it's more a "smart blandness" which is better than it sounds. :)
(Jahrestage by Uwe Johnson was 1,000 pages of "smart blandness" I rated with 5 stars some years ago)

Rating: 4 stars

Sep 15, 2017, 12:19pm Top

Great review Nathalie. I nodded along with chunks of the West Africa section, often with embarrassed recognition. (Not that I hung out with an Australian pop legend who bore a strong resemblance to Madonna...

I love that there is a word for a head birth book! Brilliant.

Sep 15, 2017, 12:24pm Top

I love that too -- a new way of describing a certain kind of book!

Sep 16, 2017, 8:55pm Top

>137 Deern: Your comments on your parents inability to agree resonated very much with me, Nathalie, and frankly had me asking myself how Hani and I will be in similar circumstances let's say 15 years hence. I shudder to think that we would probably replicate your parents!

Impressed that you have 10 of the longlist done already and that your present pick is still in the hunt!

Have a lovely weekend, dear lady.

Sep 18, 2017, 12:31pm Top

>153 charl08: Yes, I love a good head birth book once in a while, but I need breaks in between. Absolutely can't get into Elmet now, or any of the other 2.

>154 sibyx: Thomas Mann's books are mostly head births as well, especially The Magic Mountain. You feel a bit smarter afterwards, but tired as well. :) I believe ZS's book would have been a much more fluent read without the time jumps. Or with longer chapters.

>155 PaulCranswick: I'll be sending you a PN, Paul. There are things about my parents I don't want to post in the open. Wishing you a lovely week!!

Didn't read anything this weekend, despite the terrible cold and rainy weather. Instead I ate junk food, played some stupid games on the iPad (search games, puzzles, escape games), rewatched some DVDs and fell asleep over a weird cartoon movie I found on Sky, about hot dogs and other foods in a supermarket, I thought it was something harmless for kids. I woke up to dubious noises, and the hot dog sausages were having an orgy with the hot dog buns, and bananas and other fruit and I believe mustard were participating as well... WTH?!? When I fell asleep they had been dancing happily and singing about wanting to be put in a trolley and then that? Help! :o

Oh dear.... next Sunday we'll have the elections in Germany and I fear the AFD will get many more votes than the surveys predict (far-right voters usually don't admit it when asked). Merkel will win, but it will be interesting what coalition she will go for, she might need more than one other party this time.

Sep 18, 2017, 12:51pm Top

Just checking in, Nathalie. Glad to see that you're well. I spend WAY too much time playing stupid games on my Fire. They have my number, and it's a low one.
Love "Head Birth."

Sep 18, 2017, 2:55pm Top

Just wached the "food p**n" movie completely without falling asleep :D
It really starts with a Disney-like song and ends with a very explicit orgy and a massacre, but there's some plot in between and not all bad and greatly animated and some famous actors doing the voices, "Sausage Party".

>157 LizzieD: Number? Do you play online with others? I only do those free one-person puzzle games, I know next to nothing, as usual :)

Sep 18, 2017, 5:07pm Top

Nathalie, I love the description of a "head birth" book and think it is spot on for Swing Time. I read it for my book group and almost didn't finish in time because it was so putdownable! I do like Zadie Smith's writing and also loved the bits set in Africa. It made for a good discussion book, but it is my least favorite of the four of hers that I have read. White Teeth probably will remain my favorite.

Sorry your parents are acting up. I hope I never give my children such grief. Have you told them how sad you are because of their actions…or inactions? They may not realize what an impact they are having on you.

Sep 21, 2017, 7:33am Top

>159 Donna828: I'll have to read WT in English one day, but I even loved it in translation.

Re. my parents: I don't do that anymore, most of the time I now manage well. I talked to a friend here, and she said "whatever they decide and if they end up living under a bridge - you can't decide for them". It's a bit like roles reversed I guess. :)


Time for more parents' news:
- they've decided for the "in construction" place my mum wants (contracts will be signed once the completion date is set, but it's official)
- they found an in-between place near their old house and rented it starting Oct 1st
- they start moving clothes and stuff there early in October
- they already got boxes, packing material and a small container for the stuff that goes into storage like books
- they don't want me to come and help (I think they even already gave the bed sofa away), so on my visit in July I might have seen my childhood home for the last time :(

Other stuff:
Did I ever mention that my favorite aunt Karin and her husband have finally sold their villa about 2 months ago and also still haven't found a new object and have to be out on October 1st? It runs in the family! Anyway, they were after the same in-between place as my parents, but fortunately decided for another place where their cat and dog are more welcome.

And I believe I didn't mention that my grandmother has moved to an old people's home? She lived with my uncle, and usually when he was on holiday, she went to Karin. Now with Karin and my parents moving out there was nowhere to go and so she agreed to go to the home for a month, very reluctantly. Now she's so happy she doesn't want to go home anymore. She was always a solitary person, but now she has lots of friends, watches her soaps with others in the common room although she has her own telly, is totally happy with the food, has been to a fashion show...

I realized that part of my "blues" lately came because my roots are breaking away, the home/ village that were home for me and also my grandma's house where I often spent weeks in summer are both disappearing from my life. I feel better now, things are changing, and it's fine. It just feels very strange, especially as I never started an own family, am single, have no siblings and often still feel a stranger in Merano. It was a bout of anxiety and probably a normal reaction.

Reading: None.

Other obsessions: just received my amazon order with all Lynch available on DVD, even the very early short films ("Six Men Getting Sick" will need some courage), I even got the "Industrial Symphony". "The Art Life" is great, I have that on almost weekly rotation on my Sky box. (Re. Sky - I know many are critical about it. My alternative is free Italian TV, much of it still Berlusconi-owned and totally stupid and misogynistic. So if Murdoch gives me some great culture channels and the odd US "Hell's Kitchen" episode when I need it - and the much better Italian equivalent with Carlo Cracco - he can have my money).

Work is still too much, this week I'll also have to come in on Saturday for a meeting.

At least the sun is out after a week of rain and very cold winds. But looking at the world I'll try not to (seriously) complain about the weather ever again.

Sep 21, 2017, 10:23am Top

That is a lot going on in your family, Nathalie!
I am glad your parents made a desicion, even if it involves 2 moves.

I only remember two David Lynch movies I have seen: Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart, and of course the Twin Peaks movie Fire walk with me. I hope you have fun with all the Lynch!

Sep 21, 2017, 12:24pm Top

>161 FAMeulstee: Not sure about the "fun". :)) After seeing "The Art Life" I can't wait to watch "Eraserhead" and the early mini movies where much painting was mixed in. I heard that "The Elephant Man" and "The Straight Story" will be easy on the mind, but I'm quite scared of the others, especially "Lost Highway" and "Inland Empire". I saw 5 mins of the latter last week and switched it off again, deciding for a nightmare-free sleep. :)

Too much excel work currently for evening reading, so for now I'm back with my TV it seems.

Edited: Sep 22, 2017, 9:27am Top

Following the Guardian's live coverage of Theresa May's crucial Brexit speech in Florence. In a disused abandoned police barrack. With (I believe) only local Italian politicians present. On a Friday at 3pm, when those still working are digesting a rich lunch and are not exactly alert. Love the forum comments, mainly asking why she isn't doing that speech somewhere in the UK. :)
Opened the Repubblica home page to find no mention of her.

Sep 22, 2017, 10:39am Top

#160 Sorry to hear about all the upheaval - it must be very strange (and disconcerting) with everything changing so much. Positivity seems the right way though - I guess it's a clearing away of the past, holding on to the good and letting the bad wash away?

Lovely news about your Gran. My husbands Nan has been very much the same - she loves her home. Unfortunately we went through the opposite with my Nana.

Sep 22, 2017, 8:35pm Top

Nathalie, I do hope that the forthcoming weekend will be both pleasant and restful for you. Tribulations continue in my own household as Hani and I seem determined to keep shredding each other and then trying to patch ourselves back. I go between hope and despair with such rapid fluidity these days that it is dizzying.

Hope to see your reading move forwards too. xx

>163 Deern: Theresa May is in an invidious position. Not fully supported by her own party. Not fully supported by the country. A lukewarm Remainer previously and now trying to be a Brexiteer quite unconvincingly. This is not going to end well!

Sep 24, 2017, 10:58am Top

>164 BekkaJo: My other grandma would never have stayed in a home if not for her very bad health in her last year.
This one has always loved comfort, and while she was still quite independent - doing her own washing and cooking- she now happily plans her 4 meals a day a week in advance and even ordered shower assistance for the first time and liked it. She loves getting her washed and ironed clothes back from the laundry. Of course this means she'll quickly get more sedentary and more fragile, but she's almost 94 now, so it will happen eventually and we're relieved she'll have medical assistance at hand if she needs it. She's fainted once recently in her house, and fortunately my uncle had checked in on her in time. That scared her very much.

Sep 24, 2017, 11:09am Top

>165 PaulCranswick: Restful it wasn't as I had to work yesterday (meeting with the warehouse people and my boss). On Friday my boss had another let's call it "choleric episode" that made me once again doubt my future here. I hadn't done anything, he was angry with someone else and I caught part of it. Anyway, by yesterday he had calmed down again and the meeting went very well.

Last night then my young colleague and friend Evi called me because her boyfriend had broken up with her. She was in shock and shaking, she came to my place and we drank some tea and talked. The problem is, in RL as well, that while you understand the feelings the other person goes through, there aren't any really helpful words to say. I said a lot of things, probably most of them stupid, because I didn't want to just say the usual "heads up, it'll get sorted out, he'll come back" stuff. I doubt that what I did say was any better.
I could write half a novel about my current idea of relationships and my idea of what might be going on in Hani right now and what might help, but then it might as well not help at all. I'm so sorry that there isn't really anything I can do, in both cases, except for lending an ear/ a reading eye whenever needed.
Sending hugs and at least some positive energy.

Sep 24, 2017, 11:27am Top

I finished Elmet and started rereading Autumn which so far I love as much as last year. I still have two longlisted Bookers to read, the Railroad and the one with just one sentence. The second part of Elmet reminded me a bit of last year's "Not the Booker" winner The Summer that melted everything in its sheer force in the last chapters, I believe it's called New Gothic style? The plot that was needed to bring that force in however was quite weak and predictable. The writing was beautiful, but the second half of the story was really violent in a way I can't handle well (think Mr Pip or Little Bee. If it hadn't been a Booker candidate, I might have dropped it.

Sep 24, 2017, 11:48am Top

>167 Deern: Ups and downs between us as per the normal parcours just now. Hani is going to the UK this next week and seems a tad disbelieving with my assurances that I shall be here waiting for her when she gets back! Thank you always for the listening and non-judgmental ear, Nathalie. xx

Sep 24, 2017, 12:26pm Top

>169 PaulCranswick: Actually, this sounds quite good. Distance may help and finding home again when returning... As always I wish you all the best!

Edited: Sep 24, 2017, 12:46pm Top

*sigh* stupid AFD misusing the national anthem in their victory feeling. 13.5%, maybe more! I'm glad I have no more German TV channels, will avoid the news for a couple of days alltoghether until things are normal again and some other news is more important. I voted Greens although not a general fan, but according to the Wahl-o-mat their party program went best with my values. They seem to be in parliament again, so at least the vote wasn't lost. Pirates scored higher, but that would have been my vote in the bin. Couldn't vote CDU with the more radical party members waiting in the wings behind Merkel, SPD has lost all profile, FDP is neoliberal and nothing else and Die Linke is a party of dreamers except for Wagenknecht.

Sep 25, 2017, 6:50am Top

>171 Deern: Looking back at recent elections through Europe, the German election wasn't disastrous ;-)
Now we have to see if Merkel is able to find a stable coalition...

Sep 25, 2017, 7:08am Top

64. Elmet by Fiona Mozley - CONTAINS SPOILERS (Booker 2017 11/13)
Done with the short list, yay! Two more longlisted books to go which both absolutely don’t call me, so for now I’m rereading Ali Smith’s Autumn where once again I stumble over the question why a country like Britain can’t have registered addresses and identity cards like so many other countries when passports are voluntary and so often photo IDs are required.

But anyway, this is about Elmet. First of all: it’s a very interesting debut and I can see why it was listed although it started out as just another coming-of-age-in-remote-place-with-no-friends-and-strange-parents story of which we already had History of Wolves (why is that one shortlisted again?).

The writing is beautiful and manages to make you doubt the time setting. So much man and nature, at times it feels like reading something medieval. But then jeeps are mentioned and phones and we’re clearly at the very least in the 80s or maybe 90s. Don’t think we’re in the now though or are there still public phone booths in Wales? The narrator is very young Daniel who might be 14, who moves with his father “Daddy” and his older sister Cathy (16?) into the nothing – they claim a piece of land in the woods that many years ago used to belong to his (disappeared) mother. With their bare hands they build a hut, they lay traps for animals and hunt birds with a bow. Daddy, a tree of a man, used to earn his life with illegal fights and money squeezing, and he’s still very strong. Cathy seems to have inherited his physical strength and tendency for violence despite her frail-looking body, while Daniel follows his mother’s genes and is overall more sensitive. The kids don’t attend school but receive some private tuition from Vivien, an old friend of their mother’s where Daniel for the first time learns the comforts of a real home with soft chairs and heating. All would have been well, had the (evil!) landowner Price who years ago also bought this part of land from Daniel’s and Cathy’s mother, not turned up with his two (evil!) young sons to claim his legal rights and to get “Daddy” to work for him again. (Actually, I absolutely didn’t get why “Daddy” who knows Price very well, absolutely had to get that part of land, knowing his wife had sold it legally and what was to be expected of Price. “It feels right” isn’t really convincing, especially as he did it to grant his children a “safe home”.)

Actually, most of the plot is totally predictable, also because the chapters are preceded by Daniel’s stream of consciousness narration set in some later time when he’s on the road, looking for his sister. There’s growing dread, things won’t end well and they’re likely to end in total violence. For me, in the second half there came the point when I would have dropped the book if it hadn’t been a Booker. My mind begged me to please make it not witness what was to come, reminding me of the agony after reading Mr. Pip and Little Bee. I turned to skim reading and made it through it. I was very shaken for half of Sunday, but maybe it helped that the characters here “had it coming”, unlike the victims in the other two books.

This will certainly be among the Booker candidates I won’t forget, but I don’t think I’ll ever touch it again.

Rating: 3.5 stars. 4 for the forceful writing, 2.5 for the plot that had to be bent several times

Edited: Sep 25, 2017, 8:11am Top

>172 FAMeulstee: Ha - "strong and stable" it won't be, but certainly interesting! :)

There are many issues, the main one maybe the CDU's Bavarian sister party CSU. Merkel's CDU doesn't exist in Bavaria, and maybe it would be better if they finally got a divorce and both parties would be available everywhere. The CSU has moved so much towards the AFD that they could merge by now and no-one would notice.

One of their projects in the last years was the lovely road toll that's to come which was originally planned only for foreigners as a revenge act for toll in Austria, Italy and elsewhere. That's CSU for you. Another one is extra money for mothers to stay at home and not return to work the first couple of years, the so-called "Herd-Prämie" (which keeps the women in the kitchen). They usually get the agricultural ministery which is against the consumers and all for the agricultural industry. The last minister concentrated on useful stuff like making sure plant-based products weren't called "vegan sausage", "vegan burger", "almond milk", while having no issues at all with factory farming or whatever poison it is now in the eggs.

You see, I love them! Even in my most conservative years I wouldn't have voted for the CSU had I moved to Bavaria!
Anyway, I can't see those guys form a government with the Greens.

As for the FDP, they used to be social-liberal in the many years under Genscher when they were forming governments with the SPD and later with Kohl's CDU. They were great, I voted for them quite often. They took a complete turn towards neo-liberalism later, totally lost the social component and are now only a party for the business. They were voted out of parliament in 2015 as a punishment for being invisible during their coalition with Merkel's CDU.

Basically "the CDU's "big loss" isn't so big, they profited massively from disappointed FDP voters in 2015, and now many voters returned to FDP, not wanting to go for AFD. But anyway, a neo-liberal FDP, keen to "show teeth" and not terribly European, won't make many concessions to the Greens either.

The Greens are forever quarreling and not sure if they want to be totally left-wing or organic-conservative. I like them as outsiders, but I doubt they'd get anything useful done in a Jamaica coalition. However I like the idea of a foreign minister with Turkish roots who wouldn't be welcome at all in Turkey. Erdogan hates Özdemir and called him a "terrorist".

AFD had its first scandal already this morning when their most popular leader who has won a direct mandate left the fraction because the party has turned "too extremist". Lots of disappointed voters already who insult her on social media.
Edit: in the meantime the AFD in one of the smaller states starts breaking up into two fractions. Interesting.

Sep 25, 2017, 9:00am Top

I mainly like Merkel in international politics, I would never vote CDU if I lived in Germany. I never completely understood the CDU / CSU construction. Only that the CSU is Bavarian and far more right-wing. The agricultural department was for years in CDA (Dutch CSU) hands with similair issues, but here they are much smaller now, and haven't been in governement in the past years. They might get back in when our new government (elections were in March) finally gets together: on second try 4 parties, so they need much time.

If the Greens get in, it would be great fun if Özdemir became minister. I think Merkel would like that ;-)

Edited: Sep 26, 2017, 5:24pm Top

Hey Nathalie, great to read the political discussion. We got lots of 'Germans don't have much choice ' and 'Germans are shocked by the success of the AFD' on the tv soundbites but not much careful discussion of the regional breakdown. I certainly trust Merkel more than our current lot here, who seem to be specialising in antagonizing the European debate, rather than trying to negotiate.

Sep 26, 2017, 11:21pm Top

>167 Deern: You have A LOT going on, Nathalie. I'll only comment on your boss. In my first job my boss would say on Friday afternoon, "Lots of people don't like what's going on with you, and I'll talk to you on Monday." I'd stew and cry and fret all weekend. On Monday he'd say, "Oh, I'm sorry I upset you Friday. People are happy. Everything is fine. I was just worried about something else." I took that for a whole year before I got out and went back to school. Courage to you! At least you have enough insight to see that you're really not the problem!

Edited: Sep 27, 2017, 6:53am Top

>176 charl08: To my annoyance the newspapers here concentrate almost completely on the AFD and forums are full of comments where readers say "hey - you over-exposed them all through the campaign and basically got them there, now could you please do your job and concentrate on the important political work again?"

>175 FAMeulstee: I'd say CDU is far left from conservative parties in most other countries. AFD was founded as a party to the right from CDU, but wasn't nationalistic at all in their beginnings. The founders left soon when they noticed what it turned into. And now the next generation of leaders is leaving again because it's turned too far right for them as well.

>177 LizzieD: Oh how terrible! This sounds way worse than my boss, as he'd tell you right here and now. That is torture, and you took the right step.

I re-listened to my favorite Singer chapter yesterday about "leaning into the edges". Confrontations with my boss are part of those edges where life turns very uncomfortable. I don't want to say I want to get used to it, but I need to learn some resilience, as those people are everywhere. Each of those episodes is still way too stressful for me. I want to be able to shrug it off and still go and have my lunch break or leave at a normal hour. Here in Italy you have so many rights as an employee, and after one of his episodes I joined the local union 2 years ago. (Unions are quite a normal thing here).

Useless rant about nothing really:
Looking through the Guardian I saw a recap of the latest "Bake Off" (which I hope will be at some point shown in Italy despite changing channel in the UK). I was reminded of the latest episode of the quite different "Bake Off Italia" I saw last Saturday and got angry again. In the British version I always got the impression that most of the results are edible and will be eaten - taken home for families, eaten by the crew, be distributed I don't know where and how. The results in Italy are often such a horrible mess that they can only be thrown away.

This week they had the "Divine Comedy" as a theme, "Hell" was a Baked Alaska (that hopelessly melted away before they could be eaten, but at least they were small). "Purgatory", the technical challenge, was a 9-tier(purgatory has only 7 circles, but hey - no-one reads the book anyway, not even the Italians!) cream cake that had to be made in 3 hours, totally impossible. No supports allowed for the tiers, just warm sponge cake on cream on warm sponge cake on cream. Of course the stuff was just sliding off, falling to the floor, was halted/ slid back on and patted with bare hands, and the result were I believe 12 large lopsided heaps of wasted ingredients. Vegan/vegetarian or not, and maybe I'm a humorless git (can women be gits? What's the equivalent?) I saw those bowls of eggs on the counters when they started and was sorry for the chickens. And for the people who can hardly afford their grocery shopping.
"Paradise" were Angel cakes, but I didn't really watch anymore at that point. In Master Chef Italy this year the candidates had to take all their unused ingredients home, I saw similar things in other cooking shows and from other countries (Spain!). I mean - if it had been in a later round, but with 12 candidates? So sad! :/

Sep 28, 2017, 4:06am Top

Oh dear, lots going on here.
Hi Nathalie, I just sent you a PM.

Edited: Sep 29, 2017, 8:14am Top

Continuing to contribute useless stuff, but it's my thread and I'm not reading books I could review, so...

I probably won't get to 75, as yesterday I ordered the Nintendo mini SNES. I've thrown out the original thing with many games (cartridges! Do you remember those??) maybe 5 years ago, and here I am in my non-endig bout of strange nostalgia and basically re-buy it, it has 21 games pre-installed and costs only 79 EUR. So I fear I'll be in Hyrule, Donkey Kong's Jungle and Super Mario Country and who knows where else in the next weeks, but not in reality or at least with my head in a smart book. Well, if the Nintendo makes me stop eating German junk food I'd normally not touch, I'll at least stop gaining weight. I don't know how long that stupid pseudo-homesickness escapism continues, but for now I can't help it. :/

Sep 29, 2017, 8:38am Top

I have the NES Classic - my son got it for me last Christmas and have been reliving my early adulthood with Galaga and the original Link and Super Mario Bros. His first console was the Super NES, so I think we're going to try to get the SNES Classic - though I suppose I ought to go ahead and get it before they're sold out!

Sep 29, 2017, 11:10am Top

The Bake Off sounds hilarious, really!

Ah, your parents. I don't blame you for feeling homesick, it's not pseudo. I have dreams and yearnings to walk around the rooms of houses I inhabited as a child--all but one house that was important to me in my childhood and adolescence is out of the family or destroyed now.

My husband and I did so much therapy in the early years of our marriage that we became quite aware not only of our own boundaries and needs and issues but extremely respectful of each other's strengths and weaknesses. There is never one day when either of us can say, "Now, I know we will be married and content to the very end." Things keep changing in small ways, and there is always the chance something big will happen that changes everything. Respect of difference, maintaining personal boundaries, a sense of humor and perspective, and coming up with ways to diffuse and forgive small disagreements, seem to be the most crucial pieces of sustaining a (fulfilling) long-term relationship.

Well that sounds preachy, doesn't it? I feel grateful that we were able to figure out early on what worked for us, regardless of societal pressures. Deep tracks, ruts really, can be laid down early that are virtually impossible to change. We spend more time apart than most couples and it wasn't easy--we could feel people wondering and criticizing. Now I could care less, it works, we're happy. We're also pretty good at leaving each other alone within the house. But we also have things we do together (a long walk every day we can).

Oct 1, 2017, 10:00am Top

>182 sibyx: That is excellent advice Lucy. It fits into my own situation too actually.

Have a great Sunday, Nathalie.

Oct 2, 2017, 7:44am Top

65. Autumn by Ali Smith (Booker 2017 LL reread)

I finally finished my reread of this short book. What can I say? Still 5 stars, still my absolute favorite, still inspiring, even more relevant than when I first read it, as since we got Trump and Brexit is stuck and yesterday we had Catalonia.
Beautiful writing and composing, it's really painting/ collage-making with words, and there isn't a bit I don't like or where I wouldn't rest a little longer. This is a book that encourages the reader to "think" differently, in " " because it appeals to different parts of the brain (my impression). If you're open for yourself, for the countless bits and pieces and weirdnesses that are usually suppressed once you're out of childhood, you'll automatically be open for others and their lifestyles. When 101 year old Daniel comes back into Elizabeth's life after a long break, she rediscovers forgotten parts of herself and starts also seeing her mother in a different light. I can't wait for "Winter".

Rating: 5 stars

Edited: Oct 2, 2017, 12:06pm Top

>181 drneutron: Ha, another fan! :D The SNES classic mini arrived today, can't wait to get home! There's Zelda A Link to the Past on it (my all time favorite!), Super Mario World, Secret of Mana, Yoshi's Island (an acquired taste I'd say), Final Fantasy III, Donkey Kong Country and many more.

I have some Mario and Zelda NES games that were converted for the GB Advance, but never got into them as you lose your lives so quickly. I'll try again with the first Zelda though.

I started with the SNES in I believe 1993 and since then bought most of the systems (console and handheld) just to have the latest Zelda/ Mario. I didn't get the Switch though. 380 EUR is way too much money and of the many games I own I only ever finished 2. :))
The newer systems made for great games, but I found I prefer the linear worlds of the earlier generations. Can't do Jump&Runs in 3D. :(

Edited: Oct 2, 2017, 12:07pm Top

>182 sibyx: Yesterday's Bake Off was better, they only had to bake 1 pizza each and most looked delicious. And some chocolate pistacchio cantuccini and a Pandoro (yeast cake a bit like a sweet brioche, eaten around Christmas, for me the most sinful thing on earth, they're like cushions you can eat, all comfort!).

I'm happy for you and your husband, you're very wise people! In my experience it's rare that people are willing to really work on themselves and the relationship early on (or later on...). I mostly see/hear a lack of self-awareness and am getting a bit tired of the eternal "if she only/ if he only.... MY life would be oh so wonderful!". That would also be my parents.
What you describe is what I was striving for in my last relationship in the first year, but the guy (9 years older than me!) was still looking for lasting romantic love and total perfect unity. So of course I was never "good enough" and totally lost my confidence. I was at my most vulnerable when he predictably left me.

Right now I feel increasingly well again on my own, and I believe that unless I find someone who's mature not just in years I'd rather stay single. I read in one of my better spiritual self-help books that most people expect a partner to "save them from the world", so everything is good when they're together. I have that desire in me as well, but if I can avoid it, I never want to throw that pressure onto another person again or be their saviour and lose myself in the process. Better feel whole yourself and have the partner as a loved and respected companion, if possible different enough to challenge my own ways from time to time.

>183 PaulCranswick: A great week to you, Paul! :))

Oct 2, 2017, 4:42pm Top

I hope your week started off well, Nathalie.

Edited: Oct 3, 2017, 4:27am Top

>187 Ameise1: Well, it started with my new/old Nintendo, so yay! :) And somehow autumn weather makes me happier, don't know what it is every single year that I feel so low in summer and seem to wake up as soon as the days get shorter. Maybe because I'm winter-born, or are there other excuses? :)

Found out today from my colleague Sharon that I bought the English SNES Version. She has the Italian one with about 50% different games. She has "Earthworm Jim"! I embarrassingly failed last night on the first level of some Kirby game and the first level of "Super Ghouls and Ghosts" (both not present in the IT version, both new to me). But my first levels of Zelda I could play while asleep. Also it was fun how the fingers/brain immediately adapted to the old controllers.

Oct 3, 2017, 5:52am Top

>65 Deern: That is pretty impressive re-reading a book that is less than a year old. I hope she wins the prize to be honest.

Oct 3, 2017, 6:10am Top

>65 Deern: I wanted to see if I still like it above the others - and then it's quite short. Wouldn't re-read the Auster! :)
Autumn is such a smart, well-composed book, it feels like it had years of careful editing. And she must have had both Brexit versions at least partly prepared, and those scenes don't feel like last-minute patches at all.

Given the recent events I feel like I should continue my 25% read and then paused Another Day in the Death of America. I found it emotionally difficult, but it wants to be read now.

Oct 3, 2017, 8:58am Top

>188 Deern: I have the same, Nathalie, I re-wake after summer is over. Last two summers have been bearable, since we have AC now upstairs. Winter born might be it, I was born in one of the the coldest winters of the 20th century ;-)

Oct 3, 2017, 11:44am Top

>191 FAMeulstee: Yes, most people get active in summer, happily go out in the evenings, etc. I get real sluggish, could lie in my bed all day and eat only certain foods. In the warmer summers I don't cook at all. This year at least for the first time I really wanted a big salad on most days. Usually it's melon, bread and cheese and cookies for weeks. And every small event feels like it's too much for me.

I like my theory, though it was contradicted by an ex-boyfriend with the same birthday who hated winter and always wanted to travel to places with tropical climate.

Oct 4, 2017, 3:16am Top

I was really tempted to buy the new lovely Autumn in paperback, and will reread before the second one comes out. I think if she sticks to the Brexit theme there will be lots of material.

Sitting in the shade at present (with my book) I would definitely support the winter baby theory!

Oct 5, 2017, 2:40am Top

*wanders through, puts Autumn on the TBR list and toddles off again*

Oct 5, 2017, 9:17am Top

Re the summer doldrums -- I've always been that way too. My silly theory is that I am the opposite of people with the winter version of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and that Too Much Sun makes me overstimulated--so I'm either jittery (and indecisive) and eventually fatigued. When I was a child I used to pull the curtains in my room and make it dark. My daughter does this too, I expect she has some of the same problem. I treat myself more kindly in the summer. Or try to.

Oct 6, 2017, 2:00am Top

>193 charl08: I guess she will, at least partly, and there was much left open. It's early spring in SA now, isn't it? Must be lovely! :)

>194 BekkaJo: *waves at Bekka*
I remember you not enjoying Virginia Woolf very much, and both authors put me in a similar "strange meditative state" while reading. But the first chapter is extreme enough, you'll probably know after a couple of pages if you like it or not.

>195 sibyx: it's a good therory! Now I'm wondering if the sun makes me overstimulated first, but I fear it makes me lazy immediately. :)
It's not that I don't like the warmth/ sometimes heat. I love sitting on the balcony with a book, taking in my natural vitamin D. It just turns me inactive, and maybe it's the inactivity that after the first couple of summer weeks leads me to my summer depression, usually by July.

The overall happiness around me I can't connect with might play a role as well, in summer I feel like an outsider. We have "long Tuesdays" all summer in Merano, the shops stay open until 10pm, there are bands, and "everyone" comes and meets for drinks, etc. I hardly make it there once or twice a season, under "pressure" from friends, I sit around and hate it. In winter however with the Christmas markets and masses of tourists I'm out whenever possible, loving it.

Interesting how it runs in the family!

Oct 6, 2017, 3:09am Top

*takes Autumn off the TBR list...*

Woolf is my nemesis. Well... actually these days less so. Now it's all about the Henry James hatred ;)

Edited: Oct 7, 2017, 12:35am Top

>197 BekkaJo: I loved my first Henry James (Portrait of a Lady), from then on it got so much worse/ maybe better say harder to read his books that I don't think I'll get back to him any time soon.

Thinking about the Ishiguros I read so far.... I'm among the not so many who loved The Buried Giant, such a strong, sad ending. I'm not a fantasy fan, maybe that's why his take appealed to me.
There aren't many books where I developed as much inner resistance while enjoying the writing as happened with Never Let Me go. Maybe it's due for a reread.
Remains of the Day is so perfect and well-balanced in my memory that I'd rather not touch it again.
I don't remember that much about The Artist of the Floating World except for its similarities with RotD.
I don't remember anything about The Pale View of Hills, maybe because it was an audio and for whatever reason I found it hard to follow. I should retry eye-reading it.
I got The Unconsoled on my shelf and just downloaded When We Were Orphans.
Those last 2 Bookers will have to wait a bit longer.

Oct 6, 2017, 5:40am Top

The Unconsoled is a very different piece of work from the others (though I haven't read When we were orphans or the Buried Giant). It takes some getting into. I really didn't like it when I was reading it - but it's stayed with me very clearly. One I may revisit at some point.

Edited: Oct 6, 2017, 10:06am Top

66. Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge

I started this book a couple of months ago after seeing the Guardian review. While I thought it was great, it was also very hard to process given the topic, and I put it on hold about 25% in. Took it up again now after the Vegas shooting, determined to get through it this time.

The author is a black British journalist, which is important as it explains the reluctance of some of the families to talk to him while it made it easier for others to open up. He’s been living in New York and Chicago with his American wife and children for 12 years and returned to Britain when he felt his family might be safer there. He researched the deaths of US children (under 19) by shootings and found out that an average of 7 kids is killed daily in the US that way – and he already excluded suicide. Deaths are gang-related or all kinds of accidents – like playing around at a friend’s house with loaded weapons openly accessible, wearing the wrong color of hoodie in the wrong neighborhood or simply being the unfortunate one to open the door to a guy who wants to shoot your mother.

He took a period of 24 hours on a Saturday, November 23rd 2013, to protocol every single one of the 10 deaths that happened that day to children under 19. He takes a close look at the backgrounds – family, church, school, friends, neighborhood – and the picture that develops is of such sadness and hopelessness that at times it can make you doubt the world altogether.

This isn’t a book against guns or the second amendment of the American constitution in general. The Michigan chapter shows (and it was interesting for me) that hunting has its justification in a country as vast with so much wildlife. I doubt though that guns for 8year olds and hunting classes for children have a justification (I believe here you have to be of age or at least 16 and you need a license ), but the extreme use of weapons as it is today can’t have been in the minds of those writing the law before 1800. Younge's aim was "to put a human face--a child's face--on the collateral damage of gun violence in the U.S." In many cases he can't offer any answers, the situations are so complicated that you just feel the pressure of resignation.

The saddest bit was when some parent said that as a working class black family in a poor neighborhood, the possibility that you might have to bury one of your kids after a shooting is always looming. Another one was the mother who preferred her son to be in prison where at least he wouldn’t be shot.

Rating: 5 stars. I really learned a lot that puts the usual “Americans and their weapons mania” you read in forums after yet another shooting into a new context. No easy solution here, a very honest and a very, very sad book.

Oct 6, 2017, 8:04am Top

>199 BekkaJo: I still remember your comments then and I am much looking forward to reading that one (especially after having read a forum comment comparing it to David Lynch's movies). For now, to get into the mood, I started When we were Orphans.

Oct 8, 2017, 11:22pm Top

>198 Deern: "Remains of the Day is so perfect and well-balanced in my memory that I'd rather not touch it again."

This. Exactly this.

Oct 9, 2017, 12:44am Top

>200 Deern: I admired this book although like you I took it in chunks, as it's hard going. I was so stuck by how lucky I as not to grow up in one of those scary places where so many have illegal guns - but also the awful accidents from 'hunting' guns not being locked away from children.

Wishing you a not too stressful week.

Oct 9, 2017, 3:20am Top

>202 richardderus: Hi Richard, good to see you here! :) Yes, there are 5 star reads you can revisit anytime, but RotD is different. I don't even think I'd find flaws in it on a second read. It's more like a beautiful still lake which I don't want to disturb. Better just look at it from afar and enjoy the reflections of the sky and the clouds on its surface.

>203 charl08: And not just children.... Many many years ago (almost 40 now) we moved from a rented appartment to our own house in the same village. Friends of my parents helped with the furniture and boxes, and then 2 friends of my dad found his (registered) hunting rifle in a wardrobe, played around and thank God the shot went into the floor and not into the guy's foot! (My dad owns a "small weapon licence for hunting guns" and back then you didn't have to put them into a locked cabinet. Now this is law and he recently officially turned his rifle in to the authorities as he doesn't want to move it to Bavaria and re-register it there. He hasn't been hunting in decades anyway.).
So, it's not just kids who can't be trusted with loaded guns in a house.

I did some reading this weekend, ignoring the sunshine: finished When Were Orphans and started directly with The Unconsoled which so far is as uncomfortable as expected, but in a different way. I didn't read reviews yet to get my own impressions, right now it feels much like Kafka's Der Prozess/The Trial and it makes me very nervous.

When I needed a break I stared at my shelves and fished out two other of my many unreads: Elena Ferrante's Days of Abandonment in Italian and Zadie Smith's book of essays Changing my Mind. Half into the first chapter of the latter I downloaded Their Eyes Were Watching God, I fear each chapter of that Smith book will bring me a BB. I pre-ordered Ali Smith's "Winter" which will be published Nov 1, so for now I'm quite set with books.

Edited: Oct 9, 2017, 7:22am Top

This review took a turn while being written and I decided to leave it all in. Sorry for the extreme length!

67. When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro

I made a mistake by reading a Guardian Ishiguro Nobel Prize praise too many, where it is said that his narrators are usually unreliable. So I started this book, distrusting almost everything the narrator Christopher Banks tells us. In the end my own theory of what had really happened back in Shanghai in 1915 or with Christopher since was so overblown that the real ending felt a bit like a let-down.

This was the first Ishiguro book I read that felt like a mixed bag. I was surprised when I saw on wiki yesterday that it was published 5 years after The Unconsoled, I thought it might have been an exercise for the latter, the way it turns from a classic British detective story set between the wars into the Kafkaesque labyrinthine Shanghai part.

The story is seperated into several parts which are divided by months, years, sometimes decades, and in most cases we don’t learn much about the time in between. The first part is set in London, in 1923. Young Christopher Banks has just finished his education and moved into his first lodgings. He’s eager to be introduced into society and to make contacts among the rich and famous who might one day need his services as a private detective. Banks, we learn soon, is an orphan. He lost his parents when he was a child, back in Shanghai, where he was born. The circumstances of their disappearances are unclear, he tries to recall early memories, making it his mission to resolve that dubious case one day. However, it is early hinted that his memories can’t be trusted. Whenever he meets old acquaintances from school or elsewhere, his recollections of his own personality back then clash with their stories, and he reacts with impatience and rage. He sees himself as open-minded and fun-loving, when everyone else recalls him being morose and unhappy. There’s also mention of him having been the frequent victim of pranks and bullying, another thing he can’t admit to himself. He reacts surprised when people meet him with coldness in situations where he expected affection and warmth.

In the second half, Banks – now a successful detective – returns to Shanghai in 1937, where the narration abruptly changes style. The international community welcomes and celebrates him like a long-awaited savior, while ridiculous obstacles are being put into the way of his investigations. Reading this part was like staring at a surreal painting while suffering from a fever. Theory spoiler I actually thought he’d wake up in a madhouse where he’d spent the last couple of decades. The resolution is terrible, but not as bad as could have been expected after the earlier chaos, and the last chapter, set in 1957, has its feet firmly back in reality.

This is what I originally wanted to write:
I enjoyed very much how Christopher’s mostly positive memories started being contradicted by other witnesses, how the “classic British detective story” turned a bit uncomfortable. I also quite liked the Shanghai part and the sober ending, however I didn’t much like all three of them together. Maybe I would have minded less with another author, but Ishiguro’s books, while always unsettling and sad, were (as far as I remember) always held together quite firmly by the style chosen on the outset. Here, the frame breaks apart and is not really patched together again.

And this is what came to my mind while writing it:
Ishiguro’s main theme in his books is how we have built a theory for our lives, the world around us, that makes us feel as comfortable as possible, that makes us function without any greater crisis. Then “something grave” happens and for a moment we have to face a reality, about the world and ourselves, we can’t cope with. The whole building around us crumbles to pieces. Ishiguro’s heroes usually aren’t able to face that reality, they withdraw behind another hastily built-up wall and try to regain their composure (as we all do in RL most of the time). Usually he gets there without changing style within a book, here however he tries just that to give the process more emphasis. We get the firm building “Christopher Banks, future private detective” in the first chapter, and soon see the first cracks evolve, but cracks small enough we can still weave them into the detective story without losing hold. And then, in Shanghai, it all comes tumbling down, the story we thought we were in is being shaken like a dice cup, with us inside. We lose all orientation, try in vain to hold onto something familiar, and then we’re kicked out and are down on the floor, along with Christopher, and we are told the truth. And then, we deal with the truth.
Okay, changed my mind. It’s a masterpiece! Have to reconsider the rating.

Oct 9, 2017, 6:00am Top

Great review Nathalie. Sitting in a cafe with two groups of men discussing "business " and wondering what their theories of their lives are. This is a great people watching prompt, I think!

I need to look back at which books of Ishiguro's I've read and which still to pick up.

Oct 9, 2017, 11:03am Top

Good review, Nathalie, makes me want to read the book. But I had just decided to start with his first novel A pale view of hills.

Oct 9, 2017, 9:07pm Top

>200 Deern: Really fine review.

And again >205 Deern: I enjoyed watching you work out what you thought of the Ishiguro -- this happens to me often! Interestingly, I rarely think less of a book, usually more, by the time I'm done.

Oct 9, 2017, 11:08pm Top

Hi, Nathalie. Thanks for your stellar review! I'm off to see what Ishiguro I actually own. I won't read one now, but I'll keep him in mind.

Oct 10, 2017, 2:30am Top

>206 charl08:, >207 FAMeulstee:, >208 sibyx:, >209 LizzieD: Thank you all! I was considering rewriting it, but then I thought I might later want to reread how those thoughts developed and how things we read play into each other. In this case, I read a couple of Guardian Ishiguro comments. One lead to an older review of Remains of the Day, written by Salman Rushdie. He mentioned the whole "thought construction crumbling to pieces, being rebuilt in haste to get through life somehow", and this is something you find in many spiriual books. My much-read Singer The Untethered Soul uses this very analogy a lot and it has helped me much. That review gave me a different idea about Ishiguro's books, before that I never knew why they stayed with me so long and intensely. So with that spiritual stuff in mind I wondered why the stylistic breaks irked me so. Given that Ishiguro maybe is the least sloppy writer at present and each books must have had years of editing, it must have been intentional. Why would he do that? Why does he want to make us uncomfortable? Don't know if my theory is right, but it's one possible explanation.

>206 charl08: And did you find out something or were they all basically saying "more money for me"? :)

>207 FAMeulstee: I'll reread that one very soon as well!

>208 sibyx: Hm, for me there are such and such books. Many are closed and done with, even 5 stars. Following Richard's earlier comment I thought of other 5star books I wouldn't reread - Of Human Bondage would be one. Perfect read, closed, done.
RotD's butler (name?) however stays with me, I just don't want to reawaken his sadness by rereading his story. Sounds silly, I know. I want him to have his peace.

>209 LizzieD: Most of them aren't long reads, I guess The Unconsoled (what an uncomfortable, strangely irritating book so far!) is the exception.

Edited: Oct 10, 2017, 8:10am Top

Just booked train tickets, will visit my parents (in their intermediate home) from October 21st to 28th, say goodbye to the house, help moving (furniture will be moved out and into storage on the 25th) and visit my grandma who(m?) I won't see this Christmas for the first time ever.

My parents are coming to Merano in December, they booked a small holiday appartment yesterday and will stay for 3 weeks, over Christmas, New Year and my birthday. So, mountain Christmas for the first time, I hope it will be lovely! :)

I'm 14% into The Unconsoled now, and so much of it is almost exactly like the Shanghai parts (events and memories) in When We Were Orphans, it's quite unsettling. The whole "someone arrives and is seen as a saviour" thing; places that are nearby, but then you walk forever through alleys that force you to walk sideways and yet you never arrive; parents not talking and children believing it's their fault because parents are disappointed... the same never-ending bad dream in two different books. Maybe they aren't meant to be read one after the other?

Oct 10, 2017, 1:34pm Top

I am glad you get the chance to say goodbye to the house of your youth, Nathalie.

Edited: Oct 16, 2017, 7:16am Top

>212 FAMeulstee: I already dreamed of it last night, it will be sad, but I'm glad I'll be able to be there a last time.

Over-reading currently. I need this control list for myself, or some more books will end on hold:

- The Unconsoled, will take a while
- VMWare for Dummies for work, slow going
- A Gentleman in Moscow
- Days of abandonment, very painful and therefore slow as well
- Changing my mind - essays by Zadie Smith, only started. It's mostly about books I haven't read, so will lead to more BB
- Deepak Choprah 20hr collection of talks on audio for my walks
- still in the first half The Hidden Life of Trees which is lovely, but doesn't exactly scream "Read me NOW!"
- dito G A Novel, early Booker winner
Already looking forward to 2x9-10 hrs of train rides.

Oct 11, 2017, 6:16pm Top

>205 Deern: I don't think a good, careful, meaningful review needs an apology for being too long! It was very well said.

Oct 12, 2017, 3:37am Top

>213 Deern: I'm having exactly the same issue. My thoughts and ideas seem all scattered (it might be the run up to NaNoWriMo or might just be me cracking up) but I currently have about 12 things on the go. Too many - I'm starting to get confused!

Oct 12, 2017, 6:59am Top

>214 richardderus: Thank you Richard. I often wish I could write short concise reviews or posts like others. But I'm just as long-winded in German and in my e-mails, maybe sometimes simply because I don't want to stop writing. :)

>215 BekkaJo: Oh dear, it's close to NaNoWriMo yet again! I always wanted to participate, but I doubt I'll get there this year.
Yes, I'm way below 33% in all my books, I don't make any progress anywhere.

Edited: Oct 12, 2017, 7:16am Top

It's mid-October and summer has come back with a heat wave. At least the mornings are cold and fresh, so I started my 40 minute walks to the office and back again and hope I can do them through winter like last year. And I'm getting interested in cooking again and yesterday made a recipe from the Guardian that's so good I have to share it: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/sep/30/mouth-numbing-noodles-chilli-oil-red-cabbage-recipe-sichuan-peppercorns-meera-sodha-vegan. It looks like in the pic and they aren't really mouth-numbing, but spicy and fresh and just super-yummy. I reduced the garlic to 2 cloves cut in halves (not minced) and fished most of it out of the oil before adding the chili mixture.
And I'll make another one this weekend, already got the ingredients and the beans are soaking in the fridge: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/07/aubergine-black-eyed-bean-dill-curry-recipe-vegan-meera-sodha
At my parents it'll be bread and cheese 3 times a day, so I better stock up on those vitamins now.

Oct 12, 2017, 7:48am Top

Ooooh spicy peanutty noodles. Yes please!

Edited: Oct 12, 2017, 11:00am Top

>218 BekkaJo: And it was quick! Though I had lots of dirty pots and other dishes to clean (and no dishwasher anymore since moving). :)

Forgot to add earlier: no peanut butter (yet) to be found around here, I had some older but still fine peanut cream and chopped some peanuts. Used less of the cream and sesame oil for the noodles than the recipe requires (I don't digest fats well) and used the Italian trick of adding some pasta water to the mix as they do with pesto and other concentrated sauces.

Oct 15, 2017, 1:30am Top

Made the eggplant recipe yesterday, and it was quick, easy and super-yummy as well. Should we have a New Year's party or a joint birthday party here in the house (my family will be here and Karin's family from Switzerland might be here as well), I'd make both recipes. They're vegan, but totally "neutral" and could also easily go as a meat side dish.

It's so hot here, I hate it, it gives me a headache and I feel like a water barrel, losing all energy again. I hope Barbara's forecast was right and it will cool down over the week. Don't need snow, but we'll hit 30C today. I went out with short sleeves, no jacket, open shoes yesterday morning.

Got to 50% of The Unconsoled, enjoying it, but I wish he hadn't reused so many ideas in *Orphans*.
Mostly done with the Ferrante and I want it over. Great book, but so much bitterness and pain, it throws me 2.5 years back, bringing it all up again.

Oct 15, 2017, 2:11am Top

>205 Deern: Great review, Nathalie. xx

Oct 15, 2017, 4:34am Top

>217 Deern: Looks good Nathalie. Had an amazing fish curry last night but want to try more veggie recipes too.

(Why no peanut butter?)

Oct 15, 2017, 9:58am Top

>221 PaulCranswick: Thank you Paul :)

>222 charl08: You don't find it everywhere in Germany either, and it really doesn't fit Italian tastes at all. :)
I tried it several times over the decades, but like it only in Asian cooking and some cakes when it isn't dominant. However on sandwiches with bananas or strawberry jam, I just don't enjoy it at all.

Did the most amazing 3hr walk early this morning, then returned home and hid from the sun. Took lots of pics. Those colors everywhere! Will try and open a new thread tomorrow and post some.

Have a great Sunday everyone!

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2017

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