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Montarville reads categorically

2018 Category Challenge

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Edited: Dec 27, 2017, 10:13pm Top

There are three themes that I would like to explore in my reading this year, and they will be my personnal categories: women authors, Canadian literature, and literary journey.

I had a lot of fun playing BingoDog last year and it should be as much fun this year. I will also try to participate in the other cat challenges, mainly AlphaKit, RandomCat and maybe ColourCat.

I will also try to make a dent in my To Be Read. Every title marked ROOT (from the Read our own tomes group) will be a book bought or received before Christmas 2017.

Edited: Aug 19, 10:14am Top

Woman authors

I noticed that less than a quarter of the books I read in 2017 were written by women. I hope to reach at least 50% this year.

- Seven Fallen Feathers, Tanya Talaga
- Ainsi soit Olympe de Gouges, Benoîte Groult - ROOT
- Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jesmyn Ward
- Derniers témoins, Svetlana Aleksievic - ROOT
- Barracoon, The Story of the Last "Black Cargo", Zora Neale Hurston
- SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, Mary Beard

Edited: Jun 19, 6:46pm Top

Canadian Literature

Funnily enough, I know more about European literature than Canadian literature. The highlights of my reading year in 2017 were books written by Canadian authors, so I would like to explore this further in 2018. I hope to read a book for every province and territory.

Create Your Own Visited Provinces and Territories Map

Newfoundland and Labrador
- Mister Nightingale, Paul Bowdring

Prince Edward Island

Nova Scotia

New Brunswick

- Manikanetish, Naomi Fontaine

- The Whirlpool, Jane Urquhart

- Rue Deschambault, Gabrielle Roy

- The Englishman's Boy, Guy Vanderhaeghe


British Columbia
- Monkey Beach, Eden Robinson


Northwestern Territories


Edited: Mar 25, 1:54pm Top

Literary Journey

This is not so much a category as a fun way to chose books. I like to explore the world with books, but sometimes it is hard to choose a destination. So I will borrow an idea from The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel. Here is the adventure it proposes at page 160: "Choose a book from the bookshelf and commence reading. Continue reading until a foreign country is mentioned in the text. Then choose a second book until that's somehow related to that country and begin reading again. Repeat until you have either returned to your point of origin or have completed one circumnavigation of the globe."

I will adapt the game a little bit. I will not stop reading the book when a country is mentioned, I will read the whole book. Also, I might not wait for a country to pop up, cities or regions may send me to my next destination.

Create Your Own Visited Countries Map

My journey starts in Canada, with Jane Urquhart's The Whirlpool. Page 2: "The light, too, harsh and metallic, not at all like the golden Venice of summer."

L'amie prodigieuse, Elena Ferrante - ROOT
Page 162: "Quand tu as finis cette histoire de Bruges la morte, tu me dis si c'est bien, comme ça je la lirai peut-être moi auss!"

Pétronille, Amélie Nothomb
Page 7 (but really page 1): "À l'exemple des chamans amazoniens qui s'infligent des diètes cruelles avant de mâchouiller une plante inconnue dans le but d'en découvrir les pouvoirs, j'ai recours à la technique d'investigation la plus vieille du monde: j'ai jeûné."

Edited: Aug 19, 10:16am Top

6- The Whirlpool, Jane Urquhart
22- Mister Nightingale, Paul Bowdring
20- Monkey Beach, Eden Robinson
23- The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde - ROOT
24- Seven Fallen Feathers, Tanya Talaga
2- L'Ile du point Némo, Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès
4- L'amie prodigieuse, Elena Ferrante - ROOT
13 - Manikanetish, Naomi Fontaine (AlphaKit)
25 - Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward
14- Le Prince de Cochinchine, Jean-François Parot
7 - The Pianist, Wladyslaw Szpilman
19- The Englishman's Boy, Guy Vanderhaeghe
16- How Right You Are, Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse
15- La Dame au petit chien, Anton Tchékhov - ROOT
1- Derniers témoins, Svetlana Alexievitch - ROOT
8- Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo", Zora Neale Hurston
17 - SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

Edited: Aug 2, 9:57pm Top


Jan: V, M
- Mister Nightingale, by Paul Bowdring
- Monkey Beach, by Eden Robinson

Feb: P, J
- The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde - ROOT

Mar: F, I
- L'Ile du point Némo, by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès
- L'amie prodigieuse, Elena Ferrante
- Manikanetish, Naomi Fontaine

Apr: Y, U
May: Q, K

June: G, R
- Rue Deschambault, Gabrielle Roy
- Piano Notes, Charles Rosen
- Le Gendarme scalpé, Thierry Bourcy - ROOT
- The Englishman's Boy, Guy Vanderhaeghe

July: S, A
- Derniers témoins, Svetlana Alexievitch - ROOT

Aug: O, D
- The Orange Balloon Dog, Don Thompson

Sep: B, E
Oct: N, L
Nov: T, H
Dec: C, W
Year long: X, Z

Edited: Jul 3, 10:12pm Top

March: News related
- Seven Fallen Feathers, Tanya Talaga

July: Generations
- Derniers témoins, Svetlana Alexievitch - ROOT



Edited: Apr 14, 6:31pm Top


Les Traïtres, Thierry Bourcy - ROOT (it doesn't fit in any other category, so I'll just write it here)

Dec 28, 2017, 11:13am Top

Welcome and have fun exploring Canada and the world through your reading!

Dec 28, 2017, 12:41pm Top

Have fun exploring Canada. I have a Canadian friend who is always encouraging me to try more Canadian authors. Usually I pay little attention to the location from author comes from, but it can still be interesting. If you like paranormal themes, I know Kelley Armstrong is Canadian - also Tanya Huff for various levels of Fantasy. I read Anne of Green Gables this year and also loved it.

Dec 28, 2017, 2:32pm Top

>9 rabbitprincess: Thank you!

>10 ErinPaperbackstash: Thank you! I am not much into sf or fantasy, but I am a fan of Anne of Green Gables. By the time I was 12, I had read the whole series. I might go for another book by Lucy Maud Montgomery for the province of Prince-Edward-Island.

Dec 28, 2017, 4:29pm Top

Great theme! I'll be following your travel adventures!

Dec 29, 2017, 11:45am Top

Glad to see you back for another year! Good luck on your goals and 'travels' around Canada.

Jan 1, 8:37pm Top

>11 Montarville: If you haven't read the Emily books by L.M. Montgomery, they're pretty wonderful! Sometimes I even prefer them to the Anne books.

Jan 2, 10:07am Top

>14 christina_reads: I read the Emily books when I was 13 or 14, but I have not reread them since (as opposed to the Anne series that I have read and reread probably 25 times). I don't remember much of the story, but I remember very clearly that it was the first time ever a book made me cry. And not just a few tears. Niagara Falls of tears. I wonder if it would affect me as much if I reread them today.

Jan 2, 6:46pm Top

I always cry at the beginning of Emily of New Moon. Niagara Falls is a good description of it! So if I do a re-read I have to make sure to read that particular part of the book at home, rather than on the bus.

Jan 2, 10:00pm Top

I read the Emily books after the Anne ones as they were being reissued in the 1980s and 1990s.

Edited: Jan 3, 11:31am Top

I have finished my first book of the year: The Whirlpool, by Jane Urquhart. It is a historical novel, set in 1889 Niagara Falls, however it addresses timeless themes such as life and death (one of the protagonist is the undertaker's widow), nature's influence on humans, social conventions, etc. More than the themes or the characters, I think it is the "atmosphere" that will stay with me most.

As well as being my first stop of my tour of Canadian literature, it will also be the starting point of my literary journey. It didn't take many pages before a destination was mentioned. On the first page, there were gondolas and canals, and on the second page, the city was named: Venice. So next stop, Italy.

But before embarking on my literary journey, I will continue a little further on my tour of Canada, with books for Newfoundland and Saskatchewan, for the simple reason that I've already bought the books and they fit with the AlphaKit for January.

And the more people talk about the Emily books, the more I think they will be my choice to represent Prince Edward Island...

Jan 5, 12:57am Top

I love your plans for your 2018 reading and I am looking forward to seeing where your books take you. :)

Jan 5, 11:49pm Top

I love the maps to track your CanLit and Literary Journey reading! I look forward to following your "literary travel" reading.

Jan 20, 4:49pm Top

I finished a few days ago Mister Nightingale, by Paul Bowdring. It is part of my tour of Canada. The author lives in Newfoundland and the story is set in Newfoundland.

It was an enjoyable read. My one reserve is that, the narrator being a writer, there is a plethora of literary allusions and name-dropping of authors and books, and sometimes I felt like the author (not the narrator) was showing off a bit. As the saying goes in French: la culture, c'est comme la confiture, moins on en a, plus on l'étale. That being said, it makes for an excellent source of reading suggestions.

Jan 21, 4:55am Top

I'll make a note of that saying. So true.

Jan 21, 8:49am Top

I love that saying too!

Feb 1, 9:40pm Top

After visiting the Eastern most province, I crossed the entire country to visit British Columbia, with Monkey Beach, by Eden Robinson. The narrator is a young woman from Kitimaat Village, a First Nation (Haisla) reserve on the Northwest coast of British Columbia. In flashbacks, after learning that her brother is lost at sea, she revisits her childhood and teenage years.

She lives through some very difficult moments, but I don't think this is what I will remember. I will remember the characters, particularly Uncle Mick and Ma-ma-oo, and the landscapes. The author really made them come to life. So far, it is the best read of my Canadian tour.

And since the Douglas channel and water in general play a big role throughout, it fits very nicely in the "Pacific Ocean Related" square of the Bingo card.

Feb 14, 11:10pm Top

I have just finished me first ROOT of the year: The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. It's a classic, it's brilliant.

The book sat in my bookcase, unread, for over 15 years. I pulled it out because it fit the alphakit. It also is a fit for many of the bingo squares: long time tbr, written more than 100 years ago, name of famous person in the title... I have decided to place it in the 1001-book list square, because I think it is my only ROOT that fits that square.

Feb 16, 5:49pm Top

>25 Montarville: - So happy to see your exuberance for Dorian Gray! It is one of my favorite classic reads, although my all time favorite remains The Count of Monte Cristo.

Feb 16, 10:01pm Top

>26 lkernagh: I love The Count of Monte Cristo! It's one of my regular re-reads. I must have read it cover to cover two or three times, and some chapters I have read a dozen times at least.

Feb 20, 10:43am Top

>26 lkernagh: & >27 Montarville: - Love both of those books too. The Count of Monte Cristo and A Tale of Two Cities are always vying for the honor of my favorite book of all time.

Edited: Mar 6, 5:43pm Top

I am painfully poorly read when it comes to Canadian authors, so I'll be following along for BBs. :)

Edited: Mar 17, 3:35pm Top

I have filled two squares of my bingo card: Name of a famous person in the title, and Number in the title.

The first book I finished this month was L'Ile du point Némo (The Island of Point Nemo). It was, to say the least, a disappointment. It was vulgar and boring. Except for the fact that it fits nicely in the square "famous person in the title", it was a waste of time. The famous person in the title is of course Nemo. Not the cute fish from the Pixar movie, but the captain from Jules Vernes's 20 000 Leagues under the Sea.

The other book, Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga, was a much better time investment. I read it for the March Random Cat, news related book. It is about seven First Nations teenagers who died in Thunder Bay over ten years. They were coming from isolated communities in Northern Ontario to attend high school. And they died, hundreds of miles away from their home.

It is heartbreaking but it is an important read. Beacuse of the geographical distance, it is easy to ignore the difficulties faced by people living in these communities. Lack of housing, sometimes no running water, schools well below provincial standards... And when the teenagers leave their communities to get an education, they must overcome culture shock, home sickness, and worst of all racism. It is a difficult read, but every page of it is worth it.

Edited: Mar 25, 2:20pm Top

One of the letters for AlphaKit in March is F. I took this as the perfect opportunity to finish L'amie prodigieuse (My Brilliant Friend), by Elena Ferrante. I started to read it two summers ago. I think I was expecting too much from this book, having read so many rave reviews. I was a bit disappointed, so I put it aside when I was about half way through. Somehow, it stayed present in my mind. So, because of AlphaKit and because my next stop in my literary world tour was Italy, I picked it up again. I am very happy I did, because it was great. I gobbled the whole thing in two days. I will take a little time to digest it before I start the second one.

The first mention of a foreign country or city comes on page 162, where the city of Bruges, in Belgium, is mentionned (and it is mentionned only because it is the title of a book, not because the universe of the characters is expanding beyond Naples). So off to Belgium I was.

I chose a book by Amélie Nothomb, mainly because she is the only Belgian author that I know and because her books are widely available. Among the many books by her my local bookstore had, I chose Pétronille, because I had a doll called Pétronille when I was a kid. I had an ambivalent relationship with that doll. At first I hated that doll, but grew fond of it after a while (though it never became my favorite). The Pétronille of the book has quite a different effect on the narrator: it is friendship at first sight. A friendship based on sipping champagne. And like champagne, this book was quite refreshing.

Edited: Apr 14, 6:28pm Top

I have visited another province in my tour of Canada: Québec. I read Manikanetish, by Naomi Fontaine. It was published only a few months ago, so it is not translated in English. I hope it will be, it is very good.

The narrator is a young teacher of Innu origin (not to be confused with Inuit) who goes back to teach at the highschool of the village that she left at the age of 7. Life in this remote community is not easy, but the students have a wonderful spirit of resilience. As the relationship between the teacher and the students develop, we can see they are as much an influence on her as she is one on them. It's a great book.

Edited: May 28, 10:07pm Top

I didn't read much in April. I was bogged down by a few books that were not as interesting as I thought they would be. I did not finish them, so they are now ROOTs for a future year.

But in May, I did finish the following books:

Ainsi soit Olympe de Gouges, by Benoîte Groult, that I bought on a trip to Paris many years ago. Olympe de Gouges is one of the first feminist. She lived in 18th century France. When the Revolutionaries were drafting the Declaration of the Rights of Man, she was drafting one for women (of course, it wasn't adopted). She was also advocating for health care, abolition of slavery, the end of prison for debt... Her ideas were far too ahead of her time: she was guillotined in 1793.

From 18th century France, I moved to modern day Mississippi, with Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward. I really liked the author's style. I wanted to gobble the novel in a few days, but the poetry in the prose forced me to slow down, to take in every word. It is very good, I think it will stay with me for a long time.

Last week, I heard of the death of Jean-François Parot. He is the author of a mystery series set in 18th century France. I think the author originally planned to write a 25-book series. It appears the 14th, Le Prince de Cochinchine, will be the last one. It was the only one I hadn't read yet, so I went to the bookstore on Friday and bought it. I enjoyed as much as all the previous ones. I am sad to think that I will not have again the pleasure of going to the bookstore and find a new chapter in the adventures of Nicolas Le Floch.

May 29, 4:50am Top

I did not know about the death of Jean-François Parot. How sad!
I picked up the first and second of his Le Floch mysteries in Brittany a few years ago, but had almost forgotten I had them. I was reminded of them recently, because the first two have been translated into German and edited very handsomely with maps and glossaries. High time I picked them up!

May 29, 7:36am Top

>34 MissWatson: I think they are great. Well written and well researched. I hope you enjoy them.

Jun 10, 5:08pm Top

I have added another province to my tour of Canada: Manitoba. I treated myself with one of my favourite authors, Gabrielle Roy. Rue Deschambault, or Street of Riches in English, is based on the author's own childhood in a French-speaking suburb of Winnipeg. Each chapter reads like a short story, but they add up to portray the life of an average (i.e. far from rich) French Canadian family in early 20th century Manitoba. Like everything by Roy, the words are so well chosen, every character and every situation springs to life.

I also filled the autobiography square of the bingo card. I read The Pianist, Wladyslaw Szpilman's account of how he survived the Second World War. Heart wrenching.

Edited: Jun 19, 9:24pm Top

I have visited another province in my tour of Canada, Saskatchewan, with The Englishman's Boy, by Guy Vanderhaeghe. Most of the story is set in California, but the important part is set in Saskatchewan. And the author is from Saskatchewan.

There are two stories interwoven in this novel. The one set in California is about the movie world of the 1920's, and the one set in Saskatchewan is about events that happened in 50 years prior that are to be the basis of a movie supposedly "true to history". The events in question are quite horrible, and I knew that before I started to read the book. The closer I got to the dramatic climax, the more I wanted to close my eyes and just wait for that part to be over. But a book is not a movie, so I couldn't do that. Thankfully, the author is a good story teller who doesn't need to dwell on gory details to convey the full horror of a situation.

I also used the book to fill the "relative name in title" square of the Bingo card, though it is a bit of a stretch. In this case, the Englishman's boy is not the Englishman's son, just the hired help. But it could have been, so I say it fits.

Jun 19, 9:42pm Top

>37 Montarville: The TV adaptation was pretty good, too! Nicholas Campbell played Shorty McAdoo. And now I want to re-read the book...

Jun 20, 6:55am Top

>38 rabbitprincess: I didn't know it had been adapted for tv! I will try to check this out.

Edited: Jun 27, 7:17pm Top

I found How Right You Are, Jeeves in the sales bin of my local bookshop last Friday. I had a good time, but it's not the best: there is not enough Jeeves. It nevertheless fills very well the "humour" square of the bingo card.

Jun 29, 10:29pm Top

I have just finished Tchekhov's La Dame au petit chien (The Lady with a Little Dog) and two other short stories (L'Évêque and La Fiancée). This is the first Tchekhov I read. I think I will be reading more. I liked the characters, the depiction of ordinary life, and especially how seemingly insignificant events completely alter the lives of the characters.

It's a ROOT, so I am back on track with my objecive of one per month, and it fits the "written more than 100 years ago" square of the Bingo Card.

Edited: Jul 3, 10:30pm Top

Sometimes I wonder why I make myself read certain books. I have just finished Last Witnesses, by Svetlana Aleksievic, for the July Random Cat of getting to know other generations.

Ms Aleksievic interviewed many people about their childhood memories of World War II. I don't need to mention that not a single one of these memories is a happy one. War on the Eastern front was a savage thing, the horror of which has barely reached us in the Western World. Page after page, children seperated from their parents, starving, witnessing their families being shot or taken away in trucks, themselves being shot or sent to concentration camps, seing villages burned to the ground, joining fighting units or working in factories... I couldn't even cry. I was just stunned by the horror of it all.

It is both a great read and a horrible read. If you can stand the subject, I highly recommend it. I think it's one of these books that make you a slightly better person for having read it. It's not possible to know about what these children have gone through and remain indifferent to the plight of children in Syria or Yemen, or even those seperated from their parents at the US border (or in any other situation).

Jul 21, 8:24pm Top

>41 Montarville:
I haven't read Chekhov since college (although I think I've seen a play or two), but I do remember liking his writing a lot - need to reread!

Edited: Aug 2, 10:20pm Top

I have filled another square in the bingo card: a book published in 2018. Though it was published only this year, Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo" was written in 1927. That year, the author went to Alabama to interview the last survivor of the Clotilda cargo, the last ship to bring slaves to the United States directly from Africa. The most moving part is the first chapters, when Cudjo Lewis tells of his life in Africa and the raid on his town that made him a slave. It is a very compelling read. Very moving.

Afterwards, for a complete change in tone, I read something a lot less serious, though also non fiction: The Orange Balloon Dog, about the excesses of the world of modern art. The title refers to a sclupture by Jeff Koons, sold at auction for 52 million dollars in 2014. I bought that book at a museum's gift shop. I visited the museum for the art. What is made clear from the book is that the very rich people who buy art at auctions and such places buy the art as investment and for tax-saving purposes. It is not impossible that they might appreciate the art for what it is, but in most cases it is unlikely. They are buying a commodity and, especially, status.

Group: 2018 Category Challenge

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