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Caroline's Quiet Corner 2019: Chapter 4

This is a continuation of the topic Caroline's Quiet Corner 2019: Chapter 3.

75 Books Challenge for 2019

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Aug 23, 2019, 10:45am Top

Simone de Beauvoir in her Paris apartment

Edited: Jan 1, 4:42pm Top

Read in 2019

The Red Notebook (Antoine Laurain) (01/01/19) (France) ****
Rooms of their Own (Nino Stratchey) (06/01/19) ****1/2
My Name is Asher Lev (Chaim Potok) (09/01/19) (AAC) (US)ROOT *****
The Gift of Asher Lev (Chaim Potok) (17/01/19) (AAC) (US) ****1/2
The Plot Against America (Philip Roth) (reread) (25/01/19) (US) ROOT (Book group)***
Thinking Like a Mountain (Robert Bateman) (25/01/19) (US) ****
Mr Darwin's Gardener (Kristina Carlson) (27/01/19) (Finland) *****
The Chosen (Chaim Potok) (01/02/19) (US) ****1/2
Quiet Girl in a Noisy World (Debbie Tung) (02/02/19) ****
Some Tame Gazelle (Barbara Pym) (LL) (03/02/19) ***1/2
The Library Book (Susan Orlean) (06/02/19) (US) ****
Book Love (Debbie Tung) (07/02/19) ****
Across the China Sea (Gaute Heivoll) (11/02/19) (Norway) ****1/2
Ghost Wall (Sarah Moss) (14/02/19) ****
A Beautiful Young Wife (Tommy Wieringa) (Holland) ****
The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde) (21/02/18) (ROOT) (Reread) ****1/2
Mothlight (Adam Scovell) (23/02/19) ***1/2
A Moveable Feast (Ernest Hemingway) (US) (reread) (01/03/19) ROOT *****
On Balance (Sinéad Morrissey) (Poetry) (Northern Ireland) (02/03/19) ****
Lord of the Butterflies (Andrea Gibson) (03/03/19) (US)(poetry) *****
The River (Jane Clarke) (22/03/19) (poetry) ROOT ***1/2
Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) (AAC) (23/03/19) ROOT ****1/2
Morality Play (Barry Unsworth) (29/03/19) ROOT ***1/2
Memories of the Future (Siri Hustvedt) (11/02/19) ****1/2
The Samurai's Garden (Gail Tsukiyama) (13/04/19) ****1/2
The Glass Woman (Caroline Lea) (19/04/19) ***1/2
The Trauma Cleaner (Sarah Krasnostein) (21/04/19) ****
Hag-Seed (Margaret Atwood) (25/04/19) ***1/2
From a Low and Quiet Sea (Donal Ryan) ****
Transcription (Kate Atkinson) (02/05/19) ****
Elegant Simplicity: The Art of Living Well (Satish Kumar) (07/05/19) ****
Kingfishers Catch Fire (Rumer Godden) (18/05/19) ****
One Matchless Time: A Life of William Faulkner (Jay Parini) (27/05/19) ROOT (AAC) ****1/2
Milton Place (Elizabeth de Waal) (28/05/19) ****
Aristotle's Way (Edith Hall) (02/06/19) ****
Frankissstein (Jeanette Winterson) (05/06/19) ****
Walking With the Wind (John Lewis) (21/06/19) ROOT *****
The House by the Loch (Kirsty Wark) (23/06/19) ****1/2
Travellers (Helon Habila) (27/06/19) ****1/2
The Diary of a Bookseller (Shaun Bythell) (30/06/19) ***1/2
Across That Bridge (John Lewis (01/07/19) ****1/2
Sleepless Nights (Elizabeth Hardwick) (03/07/19) ****1/2
When All is Said (Anne Griffin) (08/07/19) ****
The Power (Naomi Alderman) (17/07/19) ROOT ****
A Lowcountry Heart (Pat Conroy) (20/07/19) ***1/2
Sharp (Michelle Dean) (20/07/19) ****
Momento Mori (Muriel Spark) (22/07/19) ****
The Great Believers (Rebecca Makkai) (27/07/19) *****
The Little Book of David Bowie (David Bowie) (28/07/19) *****
Stop Being Reasonable: Six Stories of How We Really Change Our Minds (Eleanor Gordon-Smith) (28/07/19) ****1/2
The Easternmost House (Juliet Blaxland) (01/08/19) ***1/2
A Crisis of Brilliance (David Boyd Haycock) (08/08/19) ROOT ****1/2
The Train was on Time (Heinrich Böll) (10/08/19) ****
The Odyssey (Homer) trans Emily Wilson (15/08/19) ROOT *****
A Lesson Before Dying (Ernest J Gaines) (16/08/19) ***1/2
Becoming Beauvoir (Kate Kirkpatrick) (22/08/18) *****
The Prince of Tides (Pat Conroy) (08/09/19) ROOT ****1/2
Whose Story is This? (Rebecca Solnit) (17/09/19) ****
Stone's Fall (Iain Pears) (29/09/19) (ROOT) ***1/2
Flames (Robbie Arnott) (03/10/19) ***1/2
The Dutch House (Ann Patchett) (07/10/19) ****1/2
Alone Time (Stephanie Rosenbloom) (09/10/19) ****1/2
The Stranger Diaries (Elly Griffiths) (12/10/19) ***1/2
A Possible Life (Sebastian Faulks) (16/10/19) ***1/2
Killing Commendatore (Haruki Murakami (27/10/19) ****
How the World Thinks (Julian Baggini) (03/11/19) ****1/2
10 Minutes 38 seconds in this Strange World (Elif Shafak) (08/11/19) ****
Year of the Monkey (Patti Smith) (08/11/19) ****
Autumn (Ali Smith) (10/11/19) ****
Self-Portrait (Celia Paul) (12/11/19) ****1/2
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel (Alexander Chee) (17/11/19) ****
Meet me in Buenos Aires (Marlene Hobsbawn) (23/11/19) **1/2
The Good Immigrant (Various) (28/11/19) ***1/2
Housekeeping (Marilynne Robinson) (03/12/19) ****
The Woman Upstairs (Claire Messud) (07/12/19) ****1/2
The Nickel Boys (Colson Whitehead) (11/12/19) ****
Shelf Life (ed Alex Johnson) (13/12/19) ***
An American Marriage (Tayari Jones) (16/12/19) ****
Late Migrations (Margaret Renkl) (24/12/19) ****
The Great Gatsby (F Scott Fitzgerald) (31/12/19) (40th reread) *****

Total: 80

Non-Fiction: 29
Poetry: 3
Female: 42
Male: 33
F&M: 2
Gender Fluid: 1
GN: 2
ROOT: 16
London Library (LL): 1
Other loan: 3

Edited: Dec 31, 2019, 3:27pm Top

56. Becoming Beauvoir (Kate Kirkpatrick) (22/08/19) *****

I really enjoyed this new biography of Simone de Beauvoir. A lot of her letters and other papers have now been published (mostly in French of course) since the last biography, and this one is able to unravel some of the perceptions created by aspects of her life she wrote less in the public domain about, and perceptions caused outside France by bad or biased translations of her work. Unfortunately there is not an unmanipulated copy of The Second Sex in English yet. My 1970s copy had great chunks taken out, that affected the overall content, context and meaning. There were other problems with a later translation.

This biography is fascinating, and brings de Beauvoir to life more fully, warts and all. It also shows how her life was so overshadowed by her engagement with Sartre. In his obituaries, she is barely mentioned, in hers, he is mentioned almost to her exclusion, her death in some, almost an afterthought.

She has resonated with me since I was an older teenager and through my 20s, and I want to reread her again now.

Aug 23, 2019, 11:05am Top

Let's have some flowers:

By Rena Bierman

Aug 23, 2019, 11:10am Top

Afternoon tea...


Aug 23, 2019, 11:14am Top

A Stroll along the Seine...

Sigh, it's been a few years since I was last in Paris, maybe next year...

Aug 23, 2019, 11:18am Top

Just hanging a painting...

By Daniel Ablitt

Aug 23, 2019, 11:22am Top

Happy new thread - your decorating is top notch in my book.

Aug 23, 2019, 11:25am Top

Happy new one!

Aug 23, 2019, 11:37am Top

Happy new thread! I love the painting in no. 7. It's mysterious but there's something comforting about it too.

Aug 23, 2019, 12:40pm Top

>8 Oberon: >9 figsfromthistle: >10 Sakerfalcon: Thank you Erik, Figs and Claire. Good to see you stopping by.

Aug 23, 2019, 1:52pm Top

Happy new thread!

Aug 23, 2019, 3:20pm Top

Happy New Thread, Caroline. Lovely photos; I want to jump in and partake of that afternoon tea.

I haven’t read De Beauvoir or Sartre. What drew you in your 20s and now?

Aug 23, 2019, 3:44pm Top

Happy new thread, Caroline. I like the Beauvoir photo, but I miss the painting of Lyme.

>7 Caroline_McElwee: I love this one as well.

>5 Caroline_McElwee: My mouth is watering.

Edited: Aug 23, 2019, 4:16pm Top

Happy new thread, Caroline. I love >6 Caroline_McElwee: and >7 Caroline_McElwee:!

I haven't read de Beauvoir since my 20s. Eons ago

Edited: Aug 23, 2019, 10:21pm Top

>12 drneutron: thanks Jim, always good to see you peak around the door.

>13 jnwelch: That has a multitudinous answer Joe. I was always interested in philosophy and psychology, and of course Beauvoir was a rare female philosopher (I still have read little Arendt or Weil). She was still alive in my twenties. She lived in my favourite city of the time. In fact her penultimate apartment, I learned in this biography, was in a street I know well, near Norte Dame and Shakespeare and Co. But first and foremost, she spoke to me as an emerging (becoming) woman, about the kind of freedom I wanted, and on many levels have now, that at the time, there was no guarantee would be available. Though of course, her class made her version more bohemian maybe. But she never stopped asking questions about the place of women, the impacts of expectations on women, the capacities of women, how they lived and might live, through all the seasons of life. I nod a lot when I read her.

She was also very kind, especially, but not exclusively, to many women in her life, whilst acknowledging that some of her life choices had hurt people she knew and loved. She lived, but never believed she was perfect, or that perfection was necessary or possible.

The Mandarins will probably be my holiday reread next month. And I really hope a good translation of The Second Sex will happen in my life time, despite that even she believed she didn't get it all right, she would have changed some things. Then, who gets everything right?

Ha, you wish you'd never asked.

>14 BLBera: Glad you are enjoying >7 Caroline_McElwee: Beth.

>15 jessibud2: I love photos of writers in their homes/studys. I have a couple of volumes of such photos.

I only discovered Ablitt myself today Shelley, in a magazine that landed on the mat.

Aug 23, 2019, 6:03pm Top

Currently Reading Imperial Woman (Pearl S Buck).

Aug 23, 2019, 7:08pm Top

Happy new thread, Caroline!

>7 Caroline_McElwee: Lovely painting.

I never fot to Simone de Beauvoir, maybe I'll join you with The Mandarins.

Aug 23, 2019, 7:34pm Top

Happy Friday, Caroline. Happy New Thread. I know nothing about Simone de Beauvoir, so your review, sparked some interest. I have added it to the list.

>7 Caroline_McElwee: I LOVE this!!

Aug 23, 2019, 11:52pm Top

Happy new thread, Caroline.

>7 Caroline_McElwee: That is really lovely.

>1 Caroline_McElwee: It is about time I read something by Simone de Beauvoir

Have a wonderful weekend.

Aug 24, 2019, 6:56am Top

>7 Caroline_McElwee: I might snag this for my new topper, if that is okay?

Aug 24, 2019, 9:11am Top

>16 Caroline_McElwee: Ha! Very glad I asked. That makes a lot of sense. My philosophical bent has always been Eastern for some reason; even in college I was interested in Buddhism and Taoism and so on. You do remind me of the (usually) easier path for males; that situation is a bit better now, seems like.

Aug 24, 2019, 6:03pm Top

>18 FAMeulstee: I look forward to discussing it after Anita.

Glad everyone is loving >7 Caroline_McElwee:. Snag away >21 msf59: Mark.

>20 PaulCranswick: Good to see you drop by Paul. I'll be interested to hear what you think when you and >19 msf59: Mark get to Beauvoir.

>22 jnwelch: I too became interested in Buddhism early Joe. When I was 14 my RE teacher invited a Buddhist monk to do a meditation session in class. I've dipped in and out ever since. I'm a big appreciator of the Dalai Lama, despite a couple of resent gaffs about women. None of us are perfect.

Edited: Aug 25, 2019, 12:27am Top

Hi Caroline. Becoming Beauvoir sounds very interesting. I don't know a lot about her so this sounds like a good, deeper exploration of her life. Adding it to my wish list.

>16 Caroline_McElwee: I love that description of how/why Beauvoir captured your attention at a relatively young age.

And I want to return to Paris. :-)

Aug 25, 2019, 8:21am Top

I'm also interested in Becoming Beauvoir. I know about her of course but I've never read her writing or anything specifically about her.

Aug 25, 2019, 4:34pm Top

>23 Caroline_McElwee: Right, I heard about at least one Dalai Lama gaff about women - if the next one is female, she needs to be pretty, so people will listen? Something like that? You're right. even he isn't perfect. Reportedly, Buddha himself had to figure out that women could be Buddhas, too.

Aug 25, 2019, 5:00pm Top

>26 jnwelch: when I heard the gaff first, I thought it was a joke lost in translation, and at his own expense, not being pretty. But he seemed to make a bigger mess explaining it. Hey ho Joe.

I read the Bodhgaya Interviews every five or so years, I understand a little more each reading.

Aug 25, 2019, 7:54pm Top

Happy new thread Caroline. Loved looking through all your readings and ratings.

Aug 27, 2019, 12:33pm Top

>28 mdoris: Good to see you peaking round the door Mary.

Edited: Sep 8, 2019, 12:14pm Top

Currently Reading

I set Imperial Woman aside for now, wrong mood for historical novel.

Now well into Pat Conroy's The Prince of Tides, which has been on the shelf for years.

Aug 27, 2019, 12:37pm Top

>26 jnwelch: >27 Caroline_McElwee:

Dalai is also the only Buddhist I ever heard of who defends his friend, a Madison scientist, for using animal experimentation.

Aug 27, 2019, 1:35pm Top

>32 Caroline_McElwee: Well that's a hard one Maryanne. I would rather there was no animal testing, and I'm not actually sure it provides valid results in relation to humans, but as someone who needs medications, almost all of which will have required trials on animals, I don't feel I can be hypocritical. All I hope is that any testing and all care are humane.

Maybe with the advancement of AI, animal testing can be eventually obliterated, as technology could become more efficient in replicating human biological circumstances. I'm not a scientist, but there are massive advances possible with AI, as long as we put suitable protections in place.

Aug 29, 2019, 2:08pm Top

Happy new thread, Caroline!

Nice review of Becoming Beauvoir; I'll be on the lookout for it. I absolutely loved her travel book America Day By Day, which I last read well before I joined LT. I have a copy of The Mandarins and would love to read it ASAP, but I doubt that I'll have time to do so this year.

Aug 29, 2019, 5:13pm Top

Hi, Caroline. We're coming your way next week; I hope there's a chance to get together!

Edited: Aug 29, 2019, 5:45pm Top

>33 kidzdoc: Thanks Darryl, I need to get her American Travels book.

>34 jnwelch: Seeing you on 5th for quick supper, and the play The Secret River - looking forward to catching up with you and Debbi in real time again Joe, along with Darryl.

Aug 29, 2019, 6:05pm Top

>34 jnwelch:, >35 Caroline_McElwee: Should we make formal dinner plans for the 5th?

Aug 30, 2019, 2:04am Top

>36 kidzdoc: There is that restaurant behind the National theatre, ? Greens, I'll check.

Aug 30, 2019, 8:47am Top

>35 Caroline_McElwee: Perfect. I wish there was more, but it'll be great to see you and catch up.

Sep 1, 2019, 9:30pm Top

>35 Caroline_McElwee: Have fun with that meet-up!

Sep 4, 2019, 2:13pm Top

Caroline, thank you for educating me about Simone de Beauvoir. My library only has one book by her, A Very Easy Death, which I reserved. It will be a timely read for me. I was fascinated by the picture of her in her Paris apartment. So much detail. I especially loved the collage of photographs on the wall.

Speaking of detail, I love how you have created such a cozy atmosphere on your thread. A feast for the tummy and the eyes along with your list of excellent reading for the year. Nice job.

I look forward to hearing firsthand about tomorrow night's meetup. Lucky you!

Sep 5, 2019, 8:26am Top

>40 Donna828: Hi Donna, it is a great picture. I've not yet read A Very Easy Death but I'm putting it, and her book about the US, on the list.

Sadly I've had to duck out of this evening's gathering, as I'm suffering a bout of sciatica. Very disappointed not to be there. I'm only hoping I'll be well enough to travel to Prague on Monday.

Sep 5, 2019, 9:05am Top

Sorry to hear about the sciatica, Caroline. Hope you've a speedy recovery for your trip.

Sep 5, 2019, 10:21am Top

Hope you get well soon Caroline. What rotten timing.

Sep 5, 2019, 2:09pm Top

Ouch! Feel better soon, Caroline!

Sep 5, 2019, 7:48pm Top

Caroline fingers crossed for a speedy recovery and wishing you a wonderful trip to Prague.

Sep 5, 2019, 8:56pm Top

>41 Caroline_McElwee: Bummer. I hope you feel better quickly!

Sep 6, 2019, 3:28am Top

>42 charl08: >43 Sakerfalcon: >44 jessibud2: >45 mdoris: >46 EBT1002: Thanks Charlotte, Claire, Shelley, Mary and Ellen. I'm a lot better than I was, but with sciatica, it can come back suddenly. Based on how I feel today I should be able to travel on Monday. I hate airports though, with all the slogging around. Once I'm on the plane I'm happy.

Sep 6, 2019, 1:46pm Top

I hope the sciatica keeps away, Caroline.
Prague is a beautiful city, we went there for a short vacation in 1988. Seems like eons ago, as it was just a year before the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Sep 6, 2019, 7:53pm Top

Speedy recovery and safe travels, Caroline. How long will you be in Prague?

Sep 6, 2019, 8:34pm Top

Hope this weekend will see you fully recovered, Caroline.

How are you doing with The Prince of Tides?

Sep 7, 2019, 5:03am Top

>49 BLBera: I'll be there five days Beth. Based on how I feel this morning, I'll be fit to travel.

>50 PaulCranswick: I'm on the last 50 pages Paul, and it's been quite some ride.

Sep 7, 2019, 11:17am Top

Have a wonderful time, Caroline.

Edited: Nov 28, 2019, 7:43am Top

57. The Prince of Tides (Pat Conroy) (08/09/19) ****1/2

A wowzer of a novel, not least because so much of it is autobiographical. What a family the Wingo's are! Tom Wingo, teacher and sports coach, tells the story of his family to the psychologist who is treating his sister Savannah, in New York.

There are exceedingly violent episodes, but the novel is a page turner, often with beautiful phrasing, and Conroy writes beautifully about the natural world. You can smell and taste it.

I'm going to have to track down the film, but there is no way it can have captured the breadth of the book, but I'll be happy if it catches a little of its soul.

Edited: Sep 29, 2019, 2:00pm Top

Holiday Reading

Stone's Fall (Iain Pears)

This has been on my shelf for a while, I pulled it down when Malcolm Gladwell said in an interview it's the book he most often gifts.

The Bodhgaya Interviews (The Dalai Lama)

I read this about every five years, and understand a little more each time.

Sep 8, 2019, 12:56pm Top

Also reading ...

Whose Story is this? (Rebecca Solnit)

Sep 8, 2019, 2:03pm Top

Good for you for reading the Dalai Lama book every 5 years, Caroline. I'll have to take a look at that one.

What a shame that darn sciatica grabbed hold of you. You would've liked The Secret River. I hope you can do your trip to Prague!

Edited: Sep 8, 2019, 3:41pm Top

>56 jnwelch: I'm all packed and ready to go Joe. Sciatica is grumbling a bit, but after a good nights rest I should be OK. It doesn't bother me in bed thank heavens.

I've just booked to see the Man Booker shortlist read their work in October. What a line-up.

I'll be reporting from Prague. I'm staying at Frank Gehry's The Dancing House.


Sep 9, 2019, 2:51pm Top

Arrived safely in Prague.

Room service:

Sep 9, 2019, 3:31pm Top

Playwright and President Václav Havel's birth place, and the place he lived most of his life, is the slim building next to The Dancing House.

Sep 9, 2019, 6:59pm Top

Hi, Caroline. I hope you are having a wonderful time in Prague. Looks like a very interesting city. Enjoy! And hooray for The Prince of Tides. I am a fan of the book and the movie.

Edited: Sep 9, 2019, 8:19pm Top

So glad that you are feeling well enough to travel. Have a wonderful time!
I loved the riveting The Prince of Tides when I read it years ago.

Sep 10, 2019, 2:59am Top

Love the pictures, Caroline. What a beautiful city. I've not been for years, I'm sure it has changed a lot.

Sep 10, 2019, 7:26am Top

Wow, what an amazing hotel! And the food looks great too. Hope you have a wonderful time.

Edited: Sep 10, 2019, 7:51am Top

I have never been to Prague, myself, but from those I know who have, I have heard it's one of the most beautiful cities. Enjoy!

Sep 10, 2019, 10:03am Top

>60 msf59: >61 mdoris: Hi Mark and Mary. I very quickly got into The Prince of Tides, and read it in big bites.

>62 charl08: I am sure you would recognise most of it Charlotte. I love the decoration on many of the buildings.

>63 Sakerfalcon: As a Frank Gehry fan Claire, staying in one of his buildings is a dream.

>64 jessibud2: it's quite a compact city Shelley, but it will take more than one visit to do it justice.

More photos later.

Edited: Sep 10, 2019, 2:50pm Top

Yay for Prague! We're so glad you got to go, Caroline. Debbi asked that I send you her best.

That Frank Gehry design is wild! How is it inside? Do you have to wear unusually-shaped clothing and dance with the furniture?

You can come to Chicago and see the bandshell he designed there - how's that sound?

Did you ever get to his Guggenheim Bilbao Museum? I'm pretty sure Darryl did, the scoundrel. I'd like to see it, although the collection inside never gets talked about.

That food looks delish, too.

Edited: Sep 11, 2019, 6:33am Top

>66 jnwelch: I'm standing up for the collection in Bilbao, everyone told me it was disappointing, but there were three Van Goghs I'd never seen in the canvas, and would have happily had any on my wall. Anselm Keifers. And I was lucky that the Giacometti exhibition I missed in London, was there when I was last December. I think the Guggenheim's rotate parts of the collection. And the building.... so brilliant. One of my all time favourites. Make a trip next time you are based in London Joe. Hello back to Debbi.

Have you seen if there is anything you fancy on here during your stay, it's where I saw Andrea Gibson, great venue.


Sep 11, 2019, 4:33am Top

Hooray! I'm very glad that you felt well enough to go to Prague, Caroline. Have a great time there!

>58 Caroline_McElwee: Wow, what a trippy building! I first thought that my eyes were playing tricks on me.

>66 jnwelch: I did go to Bilbao, but strangely enough I didn't visit the Museo Guggenheim when I was there, due to bad weather (the city had strong thunderstorms on the day I planned to go). I did make it to the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao (the Fine Arts Museum of Bilbao), which was very good, with a café that served outstanding pintxos!

(Speaking of pintxos I found a pintxos bar in Soho yesterday between Greek Street, where I had dinner, and Dean Street, where the Soho Theatre is; I'll have to go there at least once before I leave next week.)

Sep 11, 2019, 7:15am Top

Yesterday I walked by the river to the Decorative Arts Museum, and saw two exhibitions: The Pleiad Glass https://en.upm.cz/pleiad-of-glass-1946-2019/
And The Mad Silkman, who worked with both Mattise and Picasso among others https://en.upm.cz/the-mad-silkman-zika-lida-ascher-textiles-and-fashion/ .

One of the Museum staircases.

Then lunch sitting outside their cafe, a lovely delicate Asian curry.

Then I visited the Jewish Museum and Old Cemetery, the latter a refuge for headstones over the past 500 years.

Even as recently as the 1980s headstones were broken up and made into cobbles that are now in Wenceslas Square.

In the museum itself are carved the names of all the Czechs, and others that lived here, who lost their lives in the Holocaust. Very moving. I spent my childhood watching the many documentaries with Pod, as people tried to understand what they had been through, starting with the series 'World at War'.

Back to the hotel for a rest, then out to hear a concert in the church by The Charles Bridge. Pacabel, Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi and others. Pews are not the most comfortable seats, I'd borrowed a pillow from the hotel which helped my back at least. Could have done without the aged British woman sitting behind me loudly humming along, I had to shush her in the end!


The sciatica is playing up a bit today, so I'm having a late start, I have my room with a view, and book, though I hope to go out shortly.

Sep 11, 2019, 7:33am Top

>69 Caroline_McElwee: Hope the late start does the trick. Love the photos. The textile exhibition looks very tempting - I would like to wear that purple coat (if I was feeling brave) - and their fabric patterns are beautiful. The photos of the designers are so glam, too. Was there much of a bookshop at either gallery?

Sep 11, 2019, 11:07am Top

Very envious of your Prague trip. It looks fantastic.

Sep 11, 2019, 11:09am Top

>70 charl08: I was disappointed Charlotte, no exhibition catalogues harrumph.

Yes, the late start helped. I'll write a little bit on my day later. I have a table in the hotel's Fred and Ginger restaurant for early supper at 6pm. So glad to be staying in the building tonight.

Sep 11, 2019, 11:10am Top

>71 Oberon: Thanks Erik. I'm barely scraping the surface this trip, but know I will revisit.

Sep 11, 2019, 2:22pm Top

I managed to get out this afternoon and headed across the Charles Bridge to The Franz Kafka Museum, which I enjoyed, especially the footage of the area of Prague he lived in from the early 20th Century, much still recognisable now.

This as one of two peeing men fountains outside the museum:

I loved all the little streets in the area.

The narrowest street in Prague.

They even have their own Shakespeare and Co. came out empty handed!

Afternoon refreshments at a Villa café in the park, the dessert was a stiff pistachio mousse.

The other gallery I planned to go to was having a refit, and it was quite a walk back to my hotel, so I sat by the river for a while, before heading back to my nest.

I had a reservation for supper in the Ginger and Fred restaurant at Dancing House. Lovely.

Pooped and chilling in my room now.

Sep 11, 2019, 2:25pm Top

>68 kidzdoc: Sorry, I forgot to wave back Darryl. Yes, I'm very pleased I got here in the end. Not done anywhere near as much as I'm used to, but still got enough of a flavour to know I'll come back.

Sep 11, 2019, 4:16pm Top

Beautiful photos, Caroline! This is one city I would LOVE to visit. So good that you are able to enjoy these gorgeous scenes and places and thanks for sharing them with us. Through one of my other interests, postcrossing (international postcard exchange), I know someone who lives in Prague and we have exchanged emails, letters and gifts over the last few years. Such a pretty city. I hope you are not overdoing it, in terms of your sciatica, and are able to fully enjoy everything. How long will you be there?

Edited: Sep 11, 2019, 4:26pm Top

>76 jessibud2: I'm not doing as much as I would Shelley, although even before I had to be careful as I have pins and plates in my right ankle and leg (very old injury). Sciatica wants me to move, ankle wants me not to move too much, let's make it a hat trick, torn ligaments in left arm hates handrails on the left agrrr ha. As one of my Canadian friends says 'we do, we go'.

Resting up this morning was a good choice, though I'm hoping for a good nights sleep tonight, and to not need to start too late tomorrow. It's my last full day here. I return home on Friday afternoon.

Lovely you have a friend here Shelley, I'm sure you will visit one day. It is such an aesthetically pleasing city.

Sep 11, 2019, 6:28pm Top

It is wonderful to look at your pictures. Thank you so much for sharing.

Edited: Sep 12, 2019, 9:25am Top

Love the photos, Caroline. I like the looks of that Ginger and Fred restaurant.

Sep 12, 2019, 11:39am Top

>78 mdoris: >79 jnwelch: lovely to have you on my shoulder Mary and Joe.

>79 jnwelch: the food was wonderful at the Ginger and Fred. In fact all the meals I've had were really nice, and didn't even have to seek out vege restaurants.

Sep 12, 2019, 12:15pm Top

Lovely pictures of your trip, Caroline. That mousse looks quite yummy, and the restaurant looks exquisite.

Sep 12, 2019, 12:23pm Top

Started the day with a wander around the Jewish Quarter, then on to the Convent of St Agnes. Very restful.

I snatched a quiet half an hour in the courtyard.

Then a lovely bowl of red lentil soup for lunch before heading to the most touristy place in the city, old town square and the famous clock.

I didn't stay long, I should add.

It seems I can't go anywhere without bumping into Vincent:

An advert for absinthe.

A quiet evening in now. I head to the airport about midday tomorrow.

Sep 12, 2019, 12:23pm Top

>81 NanaCC: The food has been lovely Coleen.

Sep 13, 2019, 6:31am Top

Now I really want to visit Prague, based on your photos and comments.

Sep 13, 2019, 6:55am Top

Fantastic photos of a beautiful city, Caroline. Nice to be taking the trip with you.

Sep 14, 2019, 12:40pm Top

>84 Sakerfalcon: It is a lovely city Claire, and I barely scratched the surface.

>85 msf59: Thanks Mark. I look forward to following your travels now.

Sep 14, 2019, 4:11pm Top

Thanks for all the pictures, Caroline, we would like to revisit Prague one day.

>74 Caroline_McElwee: I looked up the artist of Piss (the peeing men), it is by David Černý, there are many of his artworks in Prague.
So how did that happen? You coming out of a bookstore empty handed?

Sep 15, 2019, 11:18am Top

I love your Prague photos, Caroline. They bring back good memories. I must say, your food looks much better than what I ate while I was there!

I've read some Pears books that I liked, but haven't read Stone's Fall. I watch for your comments.

Sep 16, 2019, 6:48am Top

Lovely photos, Caroline. We want to get to Prague some day.

Sep 16, 2019, 4:58pm Top

Lovely pictures of Prague, Caroline. I've never been. Lucky Mr SandDune managed to get sent on a course there earlier in the year.

Sep 17, 2019, 9:33am Top

>87 FAMeulstee: I cannot say how I managed to come out empty handed Anita, except that I am overwhelmed with the books I have at the moment, and am trying hard not to add to many to them. This year I think I have bought less than a third of the books bought last year, and that is still too many!

>88 BLBera: the food was delicious Beth, but I didn't actually eat in the 'traditional' heavy on meat eateries, as a pescatarian, which probably made a difference. There is plenty of variety though.

>89 jnwelch: I am sure you would enjoy it Joe. I definitely plan a revisit.

>90 SandDune: Good to see you about Rhian. I enjoyed Prague very much. Did Mr Sandune get to see much of it, or was he tied to his lectures too much?

Edited: Sep 26, 2019, 6:12am Top

58. Whose Story is This? (Rebecca Solnit) (17/09/19) ****

As ever, Rebecca Solnit's essays are insightful and thought provoking. And I love her voice. Her acknowledgement of and generosity towards those who she has learned from or who have shared their stories with her. Her vast knowledge acrued over a lifetime of work, woven and interwoven into all her pieces. I always know I will return to her volumes.

Sep 19, 2019, 3:51am Top

Arrived at Broadstairs yesterday, a typical English seaside town. I stayed here once as a kid. This looks exactly as I remember, it opened in 1932:

I had rum and raisin with pistachio.

Sep 19, 2019, 7:14am Top

Ooh, sounds good. There is a lovely one in the Wirral which always has a queue outside every time I've been. (It is conveniently located at the end of a walk!)

Sep 19, 2019, 8:41am Top

Sep 19, 2019, 1:27pm Top

>91 Caroline_McElwee: He did get a little time to sightsee in the evening. I am currently at a conference in Nottingham, which is not so exciting!

Sep 21, 2019, 11:59am Top

>94 charl08: how considerate to be s conveniently situated Charlotte :-)

>95 BLBera: it was Beth, we made a revisit yesterday.

>96 SandDune: I think you got the short straw there Rhian.

Sep 21, 2019, 12:00pm Top

Home now, after a restful few days by the sea. Time, as ever, went far too quickly.

Edited: Sep 21, 2019, 2:25pm Top

>93 Caroline_McElwee:, Yum, is right!

Sep 22, 2019, 6:42am Top

>99 mdoris: We did make a revisit Mary.

Sep 22, 2019, 6:42am Top

Made me smile:

Sep 22, 2019, 6:48am Top

Sep 22, 2019, 7:59am Top

>101 Caroline_McElwee: Made me also smile, thanks :-)

Sep 23, 2019, 8:54am Top

Edited: Sep 25, 2019, 3:19pm Top

>101 Caroline_McElwee: Love that cartoon! And, as always, I love traveling vicariously with you.

Sep 26, 2019, 2:32pm Top

>101 Caroline_McElwee:, loved it! One of my fav. cartoon about book clubs is the cowboy one.

Sep 26, 2019, 5:30pm Top

>102 jessibud2: >103 FAMeulstee: >104 jnwelch: >105 laytonwoman3rd: >106 mdoris: I hope you remember to warm your hands now ladies!

>106 mdoris: Very funny Mary.

Edited: Sep 26, 2019, 5:32pm Top

Went to see Until the Flood, written and performed by Dale Orlandersmith, a series of monologues based on Interviews after the shooting and death of Michael Brown in 2014, in Missouri.

Many perspectives were hard to hear, in different ways. A fine performance.

Sep 27, 2019, 5:09am Top

Hi Caroline, completely gutted to have to only belatedly found your thread now for this year. Loads of interesting reviews and commentary. I'll have to remember to go searching for you outside of CR next year, but at least I'm hear for the last quarter now!

Sep 27, 2019, 6:33am Top

>101 Caroline_McElwee: >106 mdoris: LOL.

Happy Friday, Caroline. I hope you are having a good week. Reading any worthy poetry these days? The only Solnit I have read is Wanderlust, which I liked but did not love. I will have to try her again.

Edited: Sep 27, 2019, 7:32am Top

>109 AlisonY: Good to see you Alison.

>110 msf59: I'd probably recommend Hope in the Dark as the most political, I bought it for several friends it was so good. Published before the arrival of Trump, but very relevant stuff Mark.

I have been reading so little poetry lately, and I'm not sure why, but just started a volume by Duncan Mikhail In Her Feminine Sign, which I'll report on.

Sep 27, 2019, 8:52am Top

>108 Caroline_McElwee: Woo, I bet that was moving, Caroline. Good for you for taking it on. The problem here unfortunately continues . . .

Sep 28, 2019, 4:13pm Top

>112 jnwelch: it was Joe. Black neighbourhoods need to have majority black police, which would help a lot I'm sure. Though the problem is more complicated than that of course.

Sep 29, 2019, 10:23am Top

>108 Caroline_McElwee: This looks excellent, Caroline.

Love the cartoons about books!

It sounds like you had a wonderful break.

Sep 29, 2019, 2:04pm Top

59. Stone's Fall (Iain Pears) (29/09/19) (ROOT) ***1/2

An enjoyable romp, with some interesting twists and turns, but a secret I had actually guessed quite early on.

Edited: Oct 4, 2019, 10:39am Top

Currently Reading

Flames (Robbie Arnott)

Oct 2, 2019, 2:15pm Top

Love the ice cream shop in Broadstairs and I wonder how you enjoyed the rum raisin ice cream. I'm a vanilla gal and despite trying hard, I have never found one I like better but that's one I haven't come across.

Oct 2, 2019, 4:10pm Top

>117 VivienneR: Rum and raisin is a common flavour here Vivienne, that and pistachio are my favourites. Oh, and peanut butter, which I get at the cinema.

Oct 4, 2019, 5:11am Top

60. Flames (Robbie Arnott) (03/10/19) ***1/2

A debut novel from Tasmania, which was one of The Guardian's 'Not the Booker Prize' shortlist. I felt the puffs on the cover were a bit over the top. There were some real sparks in this novel (pun intended), but it didn't quite hit the mark. I also found the violence to wombats a bit distasteful! The natural world, the mythological aspects and traditional hunting methods at the beginning, were fascinating, even for me (see wombat comment).

I can't quite put my finger on what undermined this book, but I will be interested to see what Arnott does next.

Edited: Oct 7, 2019, 4:58pm Top

Currently Reading

The Dutch House (Ann Patchett)

Love the cover.

Oct 4, 2019, 7:34am Top

>120 Caroline_McElwee: I'm reading this right now as well! I'm probably 75-80% into it. Patchett is one of my favorite authors and I'm enjoying this one.

Oct 4, 2019, 12:02pm Top

>120 Caroline_McElwee: I love the cover on this one. It would prompt me to pick it up without knowing it was by Patchett.

Oct 4, 2019, 5:43pm Top

>120 Caroline_McElwee: Caroline I'm reading it too. I got hooked right away. I must have put my dibs in early for it at the library.

Oct 6, 2019, 11:09pm Top

>120 Caroline_McElwee: It is a nice cover, Caroline.

It has been a good year for covers IMO.

Sad to see Northern Irish poet Ciaran Carson has succumbed to cancer at 70. His work was innovative and important.

Oct 7, 2019, 2:28am Top

>123 mdoris: I'm almost at Part 3 Mary, I didn't have much reading time this weekend.

>124 PaulCranswick: im not actually sure I have read any of his work Paul, but 70 is too young for sure.

Edited: Oct 9, 2019, 3:24pm Top

61. The Dutch House (Ann Patchett) (07/10/19) ****1/2

I sank into this story of a house and family mostly told through the eyes of the younger son. The bond between himself and his sister, and the stories of those around them. For me, the story is about perspective. Everyone seeing everything from a different slant. Even when there is overlap, you discover there is also distance. It is also a book about the many and varied aspects of love.

Tonally the book is quiet, but there is power in what happens to these characters.

Oct 7, 2019, 6:01pm Top

>126 Caroline_McElwee: well stated, I like your take on it!

Oct 7, 2019, 6:47pm Top

Hooray, for The Dutch House. It is so nice to see so many of my book pals reading and enjoying this one. Are you a big Patchett fan, Caroline?

Oct 7, 2019, 10:35pm Top

>126 Caroline_McElwee: Caroline i really liked it too and your review summarized it so well. I wanted more when it was finished. I wanted to stay with the characters. She is such a good writer.

Oct 8, 2019, 3:18am Top

>126 Caroline_McElwee: I've had my eye on this one. From your review it sounds like something I'd enjoy.

Edited: Oct 8, 2019, 8:01am Top

>127 lauralkeet: Thanks Laura. I suspect I'm going to flesh it out a bit once I have had more time to digest.

>128 msf59: I've got other of her novels Mark, but have so far only read her essays, other than this novel.

>129 mdoris: Thanks Mary. I agree, I would have happily stayed with the characters. As I said to Laura above, I'm still thinking/digesting.

>130 AlisonY: I hope it does it for you Alison. Not everyone likes relatively plotless novels, but in the hands of a good writer they can be the best IMO. After all, much of our lives are plotless and subject to change.

Oct 8, 2019, 5:22pm Top

>131 Caroline_McElwee: I quite enjoy a plotless novel if it's done well, as you say. Sometimes it's more about the journey than the destination.

Edited: Oct 8, 2019, 11:27pm Top

I love your photos of Prague, Caroline (and I can't believe you left Shakespeare and Co. empty-handed!). I was in Krakow in 1981 and had plans to visit Prague and Vienna for the winter holidays. Martial Law intervened and I didn't get to make that trip. I still want very much to go to both cities.

>126 Caroline_McElwee: The Dutch House sounds good. I'm still ambivalent about Ann Patchett although I don't really know why. I loved Bel Canto and mostly loved State of Wonder. Commonwealth left me cold.

Edited: Oct 9, 2019, 3:44pm Top

62. Alone Time (Stephanie Rosenbloom) (09/10/19) ****1/2

I really enjoyed following Stephanie's alone time travels to Paris, Istanbul, Florence and New York (I've been to Paris many times, and Florence twice). A lot of nodding went on in regards to the joys and pleasures of travelling alone. I've been doing it for forty years. This is a great reminder of its benefits, and a wonderful inspiration for those of all ages who haven't yet given it a go.

The only thing that lost it half a star was the endless name checking of researchers and studies that confirmed what I already knew.

Edited: Oct 12, 2019, 5:51pm Top

Next up...

The Stranger Diaries (Elly Griffiths)

My sister loaned me this, so thought I'd slip it in next.

Oct 9, 2019, 3:39pm Top

>132 AlisonY: I also think it can be a mood thing too Alison.

>133 EBT1002: I hope you get to visit those three cities sometime Ellen, Laura did just that, just before my trip to Prague, we missed each other by days. Glad you enjoyed travelling on my shoulder.

Edited: Oct 9, 2019, 3:44pm Top

Hi, Caroline. I liked your comments about the Ann Patchett book, and agree with you about plotless novels. Alone Time sounds good, too.

Debbi and I hope to get to Prague for the first time next year.

P.S. She and I both enjoyed The Stranger Diaries.

Oct 10, 2019, 5:57am Top

>137 jnwelch: Is that instead of or in addition to Venice Joe?

Prague is aesthetically pleasing, and certainly a place I would like to revisit.

Venice is magical. I put off going for a long time as I didn't think it could live up to its image, but it did. Especially if you can arrive at dusk and take a vaparetto (public boat bus) to your hotel. It is a while since I have been, but going a couple of streets back from the main drag, you could get away from the mega crowds. I went in April and in November, so slightly off season, which also helped.

Oct 10, 2019, 7:01am Top

With this >134 Caroline_McElwee: and >138 Caroline_McElwee: I want to go to All the Places! I've still not been to Venice, it's on the bucket list though, so hopefully one day!

Oct 10, 2019, 11:53am Top

I’m glad that you enjoyed The Dutch House, Caroline. You’ve made me push it up the wishlist. And I’m not sure I knew that Elly Griffiths wrote other books than the Ruth Galloway series (which I love). I’m looking forward to your review.

Oct 10, 2019, 12:44pm Top

>138 Caroline_McElwee: I'm glad to report that visiting Prague is in addition to Venice. That's the plan, anyway. It's about 8 hours away by car, I'm told. Debbi has never been to Venice, and badly wants to get there before it disappears like Atlantis, so that's #1.

I went to Venice in my early (clueless) 20s as part of a trip with a pal, and I have a feeling I'll appreciate it a lot more now.

Oct 11, 2019, 8:56am Top

Hi Caroline - I'm not familiar with Rosenbloom, but it sounds like I should try her.

I'm looking forward to The Dutch House. Right now I'm reading and enjoying The Testaments.

Oct 11, 2019, 10:13pm Top

>138 Caroline_McElwee: Two of Yasmyne's favourite places - Venice and Prague. Lucky girl has already been to both whilst I have yet to visit either.

Will be reading some poetry this weekend. Have neglected it a bit this year.
I bought Wendy Cope's second collection Serious Concerns and always enjoy her pithy and, sometimes very clever, wordplay. I like that, unusually in these days of free form verse, her work invariably rhymes and is a pleasure to read out aloud. I will also read North of Boston by Robert Frost as the Nobel Prize was awarded this week (twice) and it usually makes me recall some of the greats amazingly overlooked by that eccentric Academy.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Oct 12, 2019, 4:50pm Top

Hello Caroline. Alone Time sounds rather charming. I'm quite content in my marriage but I do sometimes long for a bit more alone time. When I travel for work I almost always enjoy exploring wherever I am all by myself. Recent cities that I particularly enjoyed exploring alone are New Orleans (I so want to return to the Faulkner Bookshop) and Los Angeles.

Edited: Oct 12, 2019, 6:36pm Top

>139 charl08: I'm sure you will love it when you get there Charlotte.

>140 NanaCC: I hope The Dutch House hits the spot for you Coleen.

>141 jnwelch: Yay. Glad you are doing both Joe. It's about 16 years since I was last in Venice, that was my second visit. It is such an evocative place.

>142 BLBera: I want to reread The Handmaid's Tale before reading The Testaments, so that will probably fall into November reading Beth. I am going to hear the Booker shortlisted authors read from their works tomorrow evening.

>143 PaulCranswick: I've always enjoyed Wendy Cope's wry poems Paul. Her most recent volume is good too.

>144 EBT1002: I think everyone should have some time on their own Ellen. But then I'm an introvert, and so it is a natural state for me. Travelling alone does bring you different experiences, and gives you time to see things you might miss travelling with companions. That also includes talking to strangers. But then that happens to me in every day life anyway.

New Orleans is definitely a place I'd like to visit.

Edited: Oct 12, 2019, 6:04pm Top

63. The Stranger Diaries (Elly Griffiths) (12/10/19) ***1/2

I enjoyed this romp with a slightly gothic edge, though probably not as much as the Ruth Galloway novel I read of hers (I need to get back to those, and start from the beginning).

The three female voices telling the story didn't totally convince me, but I was engaged enough to keep turning the pages.

And I guessed who done it about 70% of the way through.

Oct 12, 2019, 6:14pm Top

On Thursday night I went to see the movie 'Judy' which I thought was very good. Pitched well. Not over done, but still incredibly sad; and the timing, with all the #MeToo focus now, about a woman so manipulated, from so young, by men in power.

I thought Renée Zellweger gave a fine performance.

Oct 12, 2019, 8:44pm Top

>147 Caroline_McElwee: - I am going to see it tomorrow afternoon, Caroline. Good to hear your positive review.

Edited: Oct 12, 2019, 10:21pm Top

>147 Caroline_McElwee: Oh, good reminder. I will see if it's showing in town here. I'm a fan of Renée Zellweger since "Chicago."

Oct 13, 2019, 3:31pm Top

Caroline, I just wanted to thank you for your earlier warbling about Simone de Beauvoir. I finally decided I would read her America Day by Day and wasn't disappointed. She writes very well and I enjoyed seeing my country through her French eyes. I loved all the little details she included.

I recently finished The Dutch House and agree with your assessment. It's one I will be thinking about for awhile, too. I sometimes like these quiet books with little plot more than a big blockbuster book with too many characters and plot points. They make me think which is good for the soul.

Glad to hear that Judy was a good movie. I have it on my agenda.

Oct 13, 2019, 3:34pm Top

>146 Caroline_McElwee: I think I liked this more than you did: I'm hoping it's the first in a new series!

Oct 13, 2019, 6:16pm Top

>150 Donna828: I added America Day by Day to my tbr mountain, and look forward to getting to it soon Donna. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I hope you will enjoy her other work too.

>151 charl08: I think most folk are with you Charlotte.

Oct 13, 2019, 6:23pm Top

I really enjoyed hearing the Booker shortlist nominees read from their work and answer questions. There was an incredible amount of love in the room for Margaret Atwood being there, at such a hard time in her life. I think everyone was holding her in their hearts. The wonderful classicist and writer Natalie Haynes was Mistress of Ceremonies. The shortlist was women heavy and diverse. Slowly, slowly.

The prize is announced tomorrow. It is the first year I haven't read any of the shortlist, but I have The Testaments which I'll read soon.

Oct 13, 2019, 7:28pm Top

>147 Caroline_McElwee: - Saw the film *Judy* this afternoon. I knew about Garland's addictions but had no idea she was so abused and manipulated as a child. Louis B Mayer was a monster and the most tragic thing is that she had no one to look out for her and protect her. No wonder she ended up as she did. Renee Zellweger did all her own singing in this film and she was excellent. It won't surprise me if she is nominated (and even wins) an Oscar for this. It was a well-done but devastatingly sad movie.

Oct 15, 2019, 9:02am Top

>153 Caroline_McElwee: That sounds marvellous. I really liked how Atwood pushed back at the question(er) about her husband at the questions after the win.

Oct 15, 2019, 3:06pm Top

I didn't hear what she said Charlotte.

Oct 15, 2019, 3:15pm Top

When asked about the recent death of her longtime partner, the Canadian author Graeme Gibson, Atwood responded: “Do you think that is in good taste? It is the best of times and it is the worst of times. If you’re really wondering what I am doing here, it is much better for me to be on the road right now, surrounded by lots of people and talking about other things.”

Oct 15, 2019, 3:19pm Top

>157 charl08: Good for her. Baah to the questioner. Thanks for the quote Charlotte. As I said, there was so much love in the room for her.

Oct 15, 2019, 6:03pm Top

>157 charl08: - In this day and age, when journalists and journalism are under such fire, you might think that they could be a little more intelligent. Exactly what sort of answer did that journalist expect from a question like that? I am not an Atwood fan at all, in fact, but good for her for snapping back, a totally appropriate response to a very insensitive and idiotic question.

And what are the odds that the questioner apologized, or even felt embarrassed? …...

Oct 15, 2019, 8:59pm Top

Caroline, you probably saw this on my thread but I highly recommend Girl, Woman, Other. I'm not yet halfway through it but it has been immediately engaging.

I also purchased a copy of The Dutch House today. I like your comment about it being "...about perspective. Everyone seeing everything from a different slant."

I'm hoping "Judy" comes to our little town so we can see it on the big screen.

Oct 15, 2019, 10:30pm Top

Caroline, I am missing from being kept up to date on what is new in poetry in the UK recently.

Saw Raymond Antrobus' award winning collection and rifled through most of it and it looks very good - can you recommend me anything else?

Edited: Oct 17, 2019, 12:43pm Top

64. A Possible Life (Sebastian Faulks) (16/10/19) ***1/2

Firstly, I should say that I love beautifully crafted short stories. But I hate to find I am reading short stories sold in the guise of a novel. Drives me crackers. When I'm in the mood for a novel, that's what I want. I read this book as it was on my reading group list. It is not a novel.

So, when I set my disappointment aside, I really liked three of the five stories, but because the first was my favourite... you get it...

The last was my least favourite, and was the longest, Sod's law.

If you like, and want to read short stories, these are well crafted, and I'm sure you will enjoy them.

Oct 17, 2019, 12:45pm Top

Currently Reading

Killing Commendatore (Haruki Murakami)

Oct 17, 2019, 12:51pm Top

>159 jessibud2: well it got the journo noticed Shelley, which no doubt was the point, but at what cost. Bad taste.

>160 EBT1002: I will definitely get to Girl, Woman, Other Ellen.

I hope you get to see 'Judy' too.

>161 PaulCranswick: I have to own I've not bought or read much UK poetry recently, except the new Alice Oswald, and Denise Riley's new Selected poems, so once I've read them, I will report Paul.

Oct 17, 2019, 1:55pm Top

>163 Caroline_McElwee: Huzzah!

>164 Caroline_McElwee: I'd be interested in your UK poetry recommendations even if they're not recent, Caroline. I don't know Denise Riley, so I'll look forward to your comments. Paul has recommended Alice Oswald's Memorial to me.

Oct 17, 2019, 3:33pm Top

>165 jnwelch: I can highly recommend Denise Riley's extraordinary collection on the grief of losing her son Say Something Back, Joe. A very moving collection, with still a whisper of humour in. She is not widely known, but once known, greatly admired. She writes with great rigour, lines of enduring moment.

Oct 17, 2019, 4:58pm Top

I try to buy the Forward prize collection every year - have found some great things there.

Oct 17, 2019, 7:28pm Top

>166 Caroline_McElwee:. Thanks, Caroline.

Oct 18, 2019, 4:40am Top

>167 charl08: Yes, I like the Forward Prize too Charlotte, though don't think I've got every year.

>168 jnwelch: Pleasure Joe, see Charlotte's recommendation too >167 charl08:.

Oct 18, 2019, 8:42am Top

>169 Caroline_McElwee: I was in a book club for a while at the Scottish Poetry Library, and they gave out free copies. I was hooked! (although I have also missed some years when the pennies were tight).

Oct 20, 2019, 10:12am Top

Lucky you, Caroline, to see the Booker SL nominees read and talk. You are great at taking advantage of the opportunities in your back yard, so to speak.

I've always wondered what journalists think when they ask about the death of a loved one. How do they think the bereaved feel?

"Judy" sounds good. I don't see many movies anymore, but I'll watch for that one.

Oct 23, 2019, 5:31pm Top

>170 charl08: that's what I call a great library Charlotte.

>171 BLBera: I am lucky Beth, but it is exhausting as living on the outskirts of London, I do a lot of commuting as most events are in the centre. Sometimes 90 minutes even after the rush hour. So I do less than I did when I was younger. I do have a passable cinema not too far away though.

Edited: Oct 23, 2019, 5:31pm Top

I smiled at this 'Quote of the Day' at the tube station this evening: 'A balanced diet is holding a bar of chocolate with both hands'.

Oct 24, 2019, 8:28am Top

>170 charl08: It's a lovely warm place, full of poetry enthusiasts. I miss it.

Oct 24, 2019, 12:00pm Top

Loved the balanced diet quote! Chocolate is the best!

Edited: Oct 24, 2019, 1:51pm Top

Even though I already have four editions of A Room of One's Own, and the Folio Society one with Vanessa Bell's illustrations can't be beat, I'll just have to add the new Persephone edition:


Oct 24, 2019, 2:31pm Top

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed A Room of One’s Own. I can understand collecting multiple copies of it. That Persephone edition looks good.

Oct 27, 2019, 6:44am Top

>176 Caroline_McElwee: Those endpapers! Swoon...

Edited: Oct 27, 2019, 7:39am Top

Happy Sunday, Caroline. I hope you are having a nice weekend. Are you enjoying Killing Commendatore? I was a bit disappointed in that one.

I am currently enjoying Ghost Wall. Are you familiar with this one?

Edited: Oct 27, 2019, 8:22am Top

>177 jnwelch: there are not a few books I have several editions of Joe, including The Great Gatsby and several f Virginia Woolfs books.

>178 charl08: they are lovely editions Charlotte.

>179 msf59: I'm actually enjoying Killing Commendatore Mark, I'll finish it today, though I've not really read many of his books.

I liked Ghost Wall but had some issues with it.

Oct 27, 2019, 6:01pm Top

>176 Caroline_McElwee: I just got the Persephone biannual through the post the other day, Caroline. Sigh - oh to own the majority of the titles.

Oct 27, 2019, 6:05pm Top

>181 AlisonY: I have a few of them Alison. The shop in Lambs Conduit Street is definitely worth a visit when you are next in London.

Edited: Oct 31, 2019, 8:09am Top

65. Killing Commendatore (Haruki Murakami (27/10/19) (****)

It is some years since I read a Murikami novel, though I own several, and they will be nudging up the pile.

I really enjoyed Killing Commendatore for all sorts of reasons. I love the fact that as a writer Murakami is trying to do so many things, but it doesn't feel like he is being a clever clogs. I love the surreal in his work, and in this novel the exploration of all kinds of creativity. I'm reasonably sure I missed some things, but it doesn't worry me as I know it will get a reread. There were certainly philosophical aspects I want to look at more fully.

Although some call his work experimental, in many respects he is also quite a traditional storyteller. There is a strong narrative voice.

I wonder whether he is telling us that three of his main characters are all aspects of himself, as all carry names beginning with M.

I really enjoyed the art aspect to this novel, and the thoughts on what makes a good representation of a subject, and how an artist captures that. It could apply to writing and music as well.

There are also a shed load of little details especially in relation to clothes: colours, texture, textiles. Which an artist (as his narrator is) may be more likely to notice perhaps. Somehow it embedded the characters being described.

Interesting New Yorker interview here:


Edited: Nov 4, 2019, 2:57pm Top

Just started ....

How the World Thinks (Julian Baggini)

Oct 28, 2019, 3:44am Top

>184 Caroline_McElwee: That's surely in the competition for most beautiful cover of the year, Caroline.

Oct 28, 2019, 6:27am Top

>185 charl08: It is, isn't it Charlotte.

Oct 28, 2019, 8:49am Top

Oh good, Caroline. I really enjoyed Killing Commendatore, too. Among many other things, I was intrigued by what he was saying/portraying about the creative process.

Oct 28, 2019, 10:53am Top

>187 jnwelch: Yes Joe. I love books that explore creativity too.

My review, and a link to an interview are in >183 Caroline_McElwee: now.

Oct 28, 2019, 12:39pm Top

Caroline have you ever read Elizabeth Gilbert's book about creativity Big Magic? I thought it was very interesting!

Oct 28, 2019, 12:49pm Top

>189 mdoris: I have a Kindle copy of it Mary, I'll nudge it up. That's the trouble with so many books... they get buried...

Oct 28, 2019, 9:03pm Top

Definitely know what you mean!

Oct 29, 2019, 2:00pm Top

I love that New Yorker interview with Murakami! I don't know how I missed it when it came out; maybe we were out of town. I've quoted it some over on my thread. Thanks so much for posting the link, Caroline. So he has both a prequel and sequel to 1Q84 in his mind, and we'll never see them? (He doesn't want to do the equivalent of Jurassic Park 4 or Die Hard 8). What a mind he has, and what a good time he obviously has while writing.

Edited: Oct 31, 2019, 7:31am Top

My 'not on a shelfie' chaos.

Oct 31, 2019, 8:07am Top

>192 jnwelch: I've not read 1Q84, would you recommend it Joe?

Oct 31, 2019, 8:27pm Top

>194 Caroline_McElwee:. Yes! 1Q84 should suit you well if you enjoyed Killing Commendatore. Another wild and thought-provoking ride with our friend Haruki.

Nov 1, 2019, 2:28am Top

>193 Caroline_McElwee: Ooh, lots of tempting things there Caroline. Ans I love the little van!

Nov 1, 2019, 12:45pm Top

>176 Caroline_McElwee: Hmm, my copy of the Persephone Biannually hasn't come. I'll have to pop into the shop and make sure I haven't dropped off the mailing list. And pick up a book or two, of course!

Nov 1, 2019, 4:52pm Top

>182 Caroline_McElwee: there's a Persephone shop? Oh my. That would be a nightmare / utter joy.

Noting the Murakami book. I've not managed to read anything by him yet. Any books I've read that have had an arty back story have been ones that have stuck in my head, so that sounds like a great read.

Nov 1, 2019, 5:37pm Top

>193 Caroline_McElwee: That is a big pile, Caroline, any plans to get them into some nice bookcases?

Nov 2, 2019, 8:37am Top

Hi Caroline -

>176 Caroline_McElwee: I might have to buy another copy of A Room of One's Own. It looks beautiful.

>183 Caroline_McElwee: The Murakami sounds interesting. The only one I have read is Kafka on the Shore, and as you say, I felt like I missed a lot, but I loved it. I will definitely search out this one.

>184 Caroline_McElwee: This looks intriguing. I'll watch for your comments.

>193 Caroline_McElwee: That is a big pile. I have some that are very similar.

Edited: Nov 2, 2019, 11:21am Top

>195 jnwelch: I'll add it to the list Joe.

>196 charl08: Zees is de problem, tooo much temptation Charlotte. I love interesting tins.

>197 Sakerfalcon: >198 AlisonY: I go about once a year to Persephone. Hope you get back on the list Claire. I'm sure you will love the pain Alison.

>199 FAMeulstee: I have lots of double banked bookshelf's Anita, I just have too many books for the size of my home. I fantasise about a home big enough, but sadly think culling will have to happen on a big scale over the next few years.

>200 BLBera: I'm really enjoying How the World Thinks Beth.

Edited: Nov 4, 2019, 3:11pm Top

66. How the World Thinks (Julian Baggini) (03/11/19) ****1/2

A wonderful volume of comparative philosophy, reminding us of culturally varied ways of perceiving the world, the differences and often the surprising similarities. Perfectly pitched for this moment in time when many wish to turn inwards and away from diversity and variety, and wallow in what are often inaccurate myths of 'better times' from the past.

I needed more concentration in the first few chapters, but I will certainly be returning to this volume, not least for the clarity of some of it's metaphors when describing quite complicated beliefs outside the Western cannon.

Nov 5, 2019, 6:31pm Top

>203 Caroline_McElwee:
Nothing like a list to get the reading and disagreeing juices flowing.

Like you, I’ve read a lot of these, which is good, I think. And some of them have moved me beyond belief.

Nov 5, 2019, 7:25pm Top

>203 Caroline_McElwee: Thank you. I love looking at lists of books.
>204 bohemima: Please share those that have "moved you beyond belief"!

Nov 7, 2019, 2:51pm Top

Caroline, thanks for sharing the list of "The Novels that Shaped Our World". I was particularly fascinated by the different topic headings.

I think the book on the list that "moved" me the most was Gilead. I thought the follow-up books by Robinson were also very well done.

Nov 7, 2019, 2:59pm Top

>24 EBT1002: >25 japaul22: >26 jnwelch: Yes I enjoyed the categories. It's a little different. I need to take another look and make a list of my own favourites on the list. Gilead would certainly be one.

If I remember rightly, Robinson will have a new novel out next year.

Nov 7, 2019, 4:52pm Top

>203 Caroline_McElwee: Nice to see City of Bohane on the list. My favourite book of last year.

Edited: Nov 8, 2019, 5:52pm Top

67. 10 Minutes 38 seconds in this Strange World (Elif Shafak) (08/11/19) ****

After I adjusted to the fact that it wasn't going to be as philosophical a novel as I expected, I really got into this novel with its quirky cast of characters living their lives in Istanbul. A cast of outcasts who have come together around Tequila Leila, whose memories are told in her final 10 minutes and 38 seconds.

Booker shortlisted novel 2019

Edited: Nov 8, 2019, 5:59pm Top

68. Year of the Monkey (Patti Smith) (08/11/19) ****

Another enjoyable memoir from Patti Smith, read in one sitting this evening. I like her voice. She is a pilgrimager. She loves people. Writing about 2015 as two of her friends, including Sam Shepard, are dying, she goes solo travelling and tells us of her thoughts and dreams and imaginings, and about the people she meets, as she approaches her 70th birthday.

Nov 8, 2019, 6:48pm Top

Happy Friday, Caroline. I also really enjoyed 10 Minutes 38 seconds. I want to read more of her work. I am also interested in this Patti Smith memoir. I loved Just Kids.

Nov 8, 2019, 8:32pm Top

>207 Caroline_McElwee: I sure hope you're right about M. Robinson having a new novel published soon. I love her fiction and thought Gilead was a very special book.

Nov 9, 2019, 2:24pm Top

Oh my goodness, Caroline, I just added several books to my WL.

I am a fan of Shafak, so I will definitely read that one. The Baggini also sounds like one to savor.

>203 Caroline_McElwee: I love this list; I've read a lot of them, but noted a couple I would like to read.

Edited: Nov 9, 2019, 6:23pm Top

>211 msf59: Her subsequent memoirs are maybe not quite as good as Just Kids Mark, but I still love them.

>212 mdoris: I saw her talk last year Mary, and she said she was working on another novel. What an extraordinary mind she is.

>213 BLBera: Always happy to oblige Beth.

Edited: Nov 9, 2019, 5:57pm Top

Went to hear Will Self read from and discuss his memoir about his youth and drug addiction.


Despite the subject, Self will never bore me. I read mostly early short stories, and some of his non-fiction. But I'm going to get to his more recent trilogy soon. I like a man who is not scared of language, he languishes in it, which sadly is what puts a lot of people off. He's got a great, deep voice too.

The book was included in the price of the ticket.

Edited: Nov 12, 2019, 5:38pm Top

69. Autumn (Ali Smith) (10/11/19) ****

Hmm, not sure why it took me so long to get to this, but I really enjoyed it. Love Elizabeth and Daniel. And saw a fascinating documentary about Pauline Boty a couple of years ago, no doubt stimulated by this novel.

I love the way the young Elizabeth is befriended/schooled by older neighbour Daniel, Mr Gluck, and fear such things are less common now, with suspicion about people's behaviour. He shapes the woman Elizabeth becomes.

The low rumble of impending Brexit doom starts, the novel was written the year of the referendum. The quartet being written in real time.

Off to start Winter now. Along with the autobiography of artist Celia Paul.

Nov 11, 2019, 11:48am Top

>216 Caroline_McElwee: Glad you found it, Caroline. I like Winter and Spring but I think this one remains my favourite. The friendship is lovely. Impatiently waiting for Summer...

Nov 11, 2019, 1:35pm Top

>217 charl08: I'm well into Winter Charlotte, but not quite enjoying it as much, which seems to be common, as is improvement again in Spring, which I'll probably save for that season.

Nov 11, 2019, 3:21pm Top

What a lot of good reading you've been doing, Caroline! I liked Autumn, too, and haven't read Winter yet. We've got the Elif Shafak book from our London visit, so I expect to read that one soon.

I've never read Patti Smith - it sounds like Just Kids is a good one to start with? I've never warmed up to Will Self's writing, for some reason, but I'm glad you enjoy him and that he performed well, with a great, deep voice.

Nov 11, 2019, 8:46pm Top

I also preferred Autumn to Winter although any Ali Smith is better than many by other writers... I haven't gotten to Spring yet.

Edited: Nov 15, 2019, 3:35am Top

70. Self-Portrait (Celia Paul) (12/11/19) ****1/2


A wonderful flavour of the life of artist Celia Paul. She has a quiet yet firm voice. She includes quotes from the Diaries of her youth, but does not judge that young woman. A young woman who stands in the shadow of a great man, Lucien Freud. A young woman who grows out of that shadow. They separate a few years after the birth of their son Freddie.

As well as sinking into Celia's voice and art, what surprised me was the relatively gentle portrait of Freud. Incapable of monogamy, (the last guess at potential children was in the thirties), but despite his lack of faithfulness, she portrays some vulnerability, and loyalty, and kindness. And they remained friends until his death.

Sisters in Mourning (for their mother)

The Bronte Parsonage

View from her fourth floor studio

I find this portrait of her mother, who she painted often, very touching.

She only paints people she knows and loves.

I love her muted palate.

Nov 13, 2019, 3:43pm Top

>219 jnwelch: I loved Just Kids Joe.

Will Self is an acquired taste me thinks. I liked his first short story collection The Quantity Theory of Insanity

>220 BLBera: I've read several of her books Beth. Some worked for me better than others, or some worked partially.

Nov 14, 2019, 7:28am Top

My copy of Bowie's book list arrived today, so you know what I will be glutting on over the next few days. I just marked up the contents page, I have read 26 and own another 16 of the list. I might make a project out of reading the rest next year.


Nov 14, 2019, 7:50am Top

>223 Caroline_McElwee: I'm quite tempted to do the same, Caroline, as I'm a huge Bowie fan anyway. However, I had a look at the list when it was in The Times magazine a few Saturdays ago, and a few of the books on the list I've read and hated, so I can't quite make up my mind if I'll go for it or not. I'm not very good at reading books I don't enjoy, no matter how important they might be.

Nov 14, 2019, 12:28pm Top

>224 AlisonY: What were the books you hated Alison? This list is apparently the books he felt were the most important books he had read, rather than his favourites apparently.

Nov 14, 2019, 1:52pm Top

>225 Caroline_McElwee: Despite being a big McEwan fan, I really didn't enjoy In Between the Sheets. Of course being a McEwan book it was well written, but the stories were completely out there. The story about a gorilla whose having a sexual affair with a woman will be forever imprinted on my mind for all the wrong reasons.

I also was hugely irritated by Kerouac's On the Road, which i felt was massively undeserving of it's plaudit. A Clockwork Orange I also just couldn't take to.

Mind you, Bowie's list is a very eclectic mix so there are plenty of other titles on there that I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy a lot more.

Nov 14, 2019, 4:49pm Top

Attempted theft from my favourite gallery:


Edited: Nov 14, 2019, 5:28pm Top

>221 Caroline_McElwee: Thanks for sharing the Celia Paul pictures, Caroline. Another painter I did know nothing about.

>227 Caroline_McElwee: Saw it on the news today.

Nov 15, 2019, 6:18pm Top

You continue to further my art education, Caroline, and I thank you for it. I hadn't know Celia Paul's work before, and now I must explore...that view from her studio is my favorite of those you've posted.

Nov 15, 2019, 6:45pm Top

>221 Caroline_McElwee: Those are beautiful, Caroline.

Nov 15, 2019, 8:57pm Top

>203 Caroline_McElwee: I have read 43 of the list. A few are series which I haven't finished (such as Discworld) so I didn't count them.

>215 Caroline_McElwee: Will Self is an interesting character isn't he?
That is good having the book included with the ticket.

Have a lovely weekend, Caroline.

Edited: Nov 17, 2019, 7:10am Top

>227 Caroline_McElwee: I thought they did very well to stop this - not exactly a place in the busy centre of things!

Nov 18, 2019, 11:24pm Top

Hi Caroline.

>176 Caroline_McElwee: I also have decided that I simply must have the Persephone edition of A Room of One's Own.

I'm glad you enjoyed Autumn by Ali Smith. I loved it. Winter is very different but I enjoyed that one as well.

Nov 19, 2019, 2:32pm Top

>226 AlisonY: I agree that is far from McEwan's strongest book Alison.

I think A Clockwork Orange is a masterpiece, but it's not a comfortable or particularly pleasurable read. It is years since I read it, so I wonder what I would feel now. I once started to change it into a play, but about 20% in someone else beat me to it.

>228 FAMeulstee: >229 laytonwoman3rd: >230 BLBera: Glad you liked them Anita, Linda and Beth. They really speak to me. That building is the British Museum Linda.

>231 PaulCranswick: Good to see you passing by Paul. I think that's the second time I got the book with the event ticket.

>232 charl08: I know Charlotte. But they do have some extraordinary paintings, and the Rembrandt's are gems. And they had some on loan too. Must get to see the exhibition when it reopens (it probably already has).

>233 EBT1002: I may acquire my copy on Friday Ellen. I need to get some birthday presents for my bro at the British Museum, and the shop isn't too far from there.

I expected Winter to follow on from Autumn and it doesn't, so I've set it aside for a couple of weeks, and will go back to it then.

Edited: Nov 21, 2019, 8:27am Top

71. How to Write an Autobiographical Novel (Alexander Chee) (17/11/19) ****

I'm a bit of an essay junky, I love them, and really enjoyed this set of autobiographical/literary essays. About life as a Korean American gay man, and a writer. The writing is good, hence I dropped his most recent novel into my shopping cart!

Edited: Nov 24, 2019, 3:32pm Top

72. Meet me in Buenos Aires (Marlene Hobsbawn) (23/11/19)**1/2

I was so disappointed in this short memoir. I'd read an interview with the author, which nudged me to get the book, but at least 50% if it was name checking famous or academic friends. And if she said 'and he/she became a friend for life' once more...

Marlene Hobsbawn was the wife of the historian Eric Hobsbawn, and clearly had a wonderful life within the academic and creative milieux. And the two were clearly a good fit.

A 'life' of her husband was published recently, and she assisted the biographer, but rather than providing a domestic companion volume, I felt this was much about what the biographer didn't want to include.

What is most annoying is there were a few fleeting moments that were fascinating, for example her journey toward becoming a music teacher. If only there had been more of those moments.

Published with the encouragement of friends, no one was brave enough to edit her, which is a shame.

Nov 23, 2019, 3:53pm Top

Just about to start...

Always Coming Home (Ursula K Le Guin)

Love the cover.

I saw a wonderful documentary about her this week, which got me clicking... to now I have read one novel, and several volumes of her essays. Some readings from this book, in the film, pushed it right up the pile.

Edited: Nov 23, 2019, 3:59pm Top

I went to see 'Harriet' today. How could I have managed to know so little about this extraordinary woman.

There were about 40 of us in the showing, and that rare thing now, applause at a movie, occurred at the end.

Ellen brought this movie to my attention, thank you E.

Nov 23, 2019, 4:18pm Top

>238 Caroline_McElwee: Great to hear, Caroline. I love it when a movie is good enough to get applauded at the end.

Nov 23, 2019, 4:25pm Top

>238 Caroline_McElwee: - I am hoping to go see it tomorrow or next week. I am also eager to see the new Tom Hanks film about Mr. Rogers.

Nov 23, 2019, 8:02pm Top

>237 Caroline_McElwee: I must read more by Ms Le Guin too, Caroline.

Have a great weekend.

Nov 24, 2019, 7:59am Top

Happy Sunday, Caroline. It looks like you have been busy with art, books and film. Glad you enjoyed Autumn. I did, as well, along with Winter. I like the moody art of Celia Paul. I also want to see the film, "Harriet". She is also featured in the novel, The Water Dancer, which I recently read and enjoyed.
I have never read Chee and How to Write an Autobiographical Novel sounds like a good one.

Nov 30, 2019, 2:57pm Top

>235 Caroline_McElwee: The Chee essays sound good, Caroline. I also love essays.

I am so sad I missed "Harriet" -- I so rarely go to movies. I'll have to wait to watch it streaming. :(

Dec 1, 2019, 4:20pm Top

>237 Caroline_McElwee: Oh, I am a big fan of Ursula K Le Guin--hope that is a good one!

And I think Harriet is still playing near me; I really need to go see it. Sounds excellent.

Dec 2, 2019, 4:32pm Top

73. The Good Immigrant (various, ed Nike's Shula) (28/11/19) ***1/2

Essays from a broad selection of immigrants with cultural heritage in Africa and all areas of Asia, most of whom were born in the UK. There wasn't much I didn't know about, but there were some interesting iterations of the various versions, but very few with much positive, forward facing thoughts. Also I think there was only one first generation immigrant.

I was a bit disappointed that the volume only looked at the lives of people of colour, as knowing several white immigrants, their experiences expand the concept of an immigrant. And skew the concept of white privilege.

What you can't doubt is the inner strength needed to set up a life, or live a life where you are not conceived of as being of the native host nation.

Edited: Dec 8, 2019, 4:50am Top

74. Housekeeping (Marilynne Robinson) (03/12/19) ****

An exceptional debut novel, as it was 30 years ago. Two sisters move from pillar to post after their mother’s possible suicide, initially in the care of their Grandmother, then of 2 of their grandmother’s sisters, and ultimately in the care of their mother’s sister Sylvie, a woman who has spent most of her life as a transitory person. After so much loss in their lives, the girls are unable to trust that Aunt Sylvie won’t disappear too and watch her every move. Heading into the shape-shifting time of adolescence to young womanhood, the girls themselves are in many ways ephemeral. Exploring and observing versions of themselves. Seeing themselves through the eyes of others, whilst dissolving themselves and reforming.

Robinson goes on to write the even more wonderful series of Gilead novels, and I suspect if I had read this novel before those, I may have been even more impressed with this one, which is so rich in its sense of place and of the capacity that some people have of flickering in and out of persona. Igniting and not quite blowing out.

Dec 7, 2019, 9:17pm Top

I plan to read Housekeeping too, if I get that far in December.

Have a lovely weekend, Caroline.

Dec 9, 2019, 7:01am Top

>247 PaulCranswick: Good to see you peeping round the door Paul.

I'm going to run this thread to the end of the year.

Edited: Dec 9, 2019, 11:16am Top

75. The Woman Upstairs (Claire Messud) (07/12/19) ****1/2

Nora is a junior school teacher who perceives herself as one of those unprepossessing ‘women upstairs’ that so many people know of, but don’t actually know. Reliable women who are in the background of more lively lives. All this changes for Nora when she meets the Shahids, a family who move to the States for a year, and whose lives she becomes involved with via their young son who joins her class. The novel is an exploration of heightened friendships that can occur in the lives of those who until then have felt themselves on the sidelines of life, never achieving their dreams/goals, but then find themselves swept up in an intense friendship that lifts them into another gulf stream of experience. How does that feel, how does it change them, who’s authenticity survives? Everyone will have had this experience whether as a young person or later in life, and Messud really captures this feeling of inside/outside/sparkling tenuous reality. It rarely lasts indefinitely, but is always a game changer.

Dec 9, 2019, 7:41am Top

>246 Caroline_McElwee: I was new to Marilynne Robinson this year and started with Housekeeping. I really enjoyed it, and when I next moved onto one of the Gilead books (albeit out of order - I started with Home), I was a little disappointed by comparison. Most people feel the Gilead books are the best of her work, and perhaps starting out of order affected what I thought of Home, but Housekeeping drew me in much more.

Dec 9, 2019, 9:51am Top

That's interesting Alison. I did read the Gilead books in order, and reread as each new volume came out, but she didn't mean them as a series, so it shouldn't matter what order you read them in. I'm looking forward to her new novel which hopefully will surface next year.

Dec 9, 2019, 10:48am Top

I loved Housekeeping, too, Caroline, and I'm so glad it went well for you. Very different from her Gilead books, but profoundly good in its own right.

I'm more of a fan of Lila than many 75ers, as far as I can tell. I loved getting that different perspective.

Dec 9, 2019, 11:10am Top

>252 jnwelch: I think I like each of them for their differences Joe. I bought Lila for more people than Gilead because it was marginally less literary perhaps. I know I will reread them all in time.

Dec 9, 2019, 11:47am Top

My best of year so far - hoping to add a couple more:

The Red Notebook (Antoine Laurain) (01/01/19) (France) ****
My Name is Asher Lev (Chaim Potok) (09/01/19) (AAC) (US)ROOT *****
The Gift of Asher Lev (Chaim Potok) (17/01/19) (AAC) (US) ****1/2
Mr Darwin's Gardener (Kristina Carlson) (27/01/19) (Finland) *****
Across the China Sea (Gaute Heivoll) (11/02/19) (Norway) ****1/2
Memories of the Future (Siri Hustvedt) (11/02/19) ****1/2
The Samurai's Garden (Gail Tsukiyama) (13/04/19) ****1/2
Frankissstein (Jeanette Winterson) (05/06/19) ****
Travellers (Helon Habila) (27/06/19) ****1/2
When All is Said (Anne Griffin) (08/07/19) ****
The Great Believers (Rebecca Makkai) (27/07/19) *****
The Prince of Tides (Pat Conroy) (08/09/19) ROOT ****1/2
Killing Commendatore (Haruki Murakami (27/10/19) ****
10 Minutes 38 seconds in this Strange World (Elif Shafak) (08/11/19) ****
Housekeeping (Marilynne Robinson) (03/12/19) ****
The Woman Upstairs (Claire Messud) (07/12/19) ****1/2

Rooms of their Own (Nino Stratchey) (06/01/19) ****1/2
The Library Book (Susan Orlean) (06/02/19) (US) ****
The Trauma Cleaner (Sarah Krasnostein) (21/04/19) ****
One Matchless Time: A Life of William Faulkner (Jay Parini) (27/05/19) ROOT (AAC) ****1/2
Walking With the Wind (John Lewis) (21/06/19) ROOT *****
Becoming Beauvoir (Kate Kirkpatrick) (22/08/18) *****
Alone Time (Stephanie Rosenbloom) (09/10/19) ****1/2
How the World Thinks (Julian Baggini) (03/11/19) ****1/2
Self-Portrait (Celia Paul) (12/11/19) ****1/2

Lord of the Butterflies (Andrea Gibson) (03/03/19) (US)(poetry) *****
The River (Jane Clarke) (22/03/19) (poetry) ROOT ***1/2

Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) (AAC) (23/03/19) ROOT ****1/2

The Odyssey (Homer) trans Emily Wilson (15/08/19) ROOT *****

(29 of 75 reads)

Dec 10, 2019, 3:55am Top

Noting Little Women - are you intending to catch the new movie when it's released? My 10 year old daughter hasn't read it yet, but I'm hoping she might enjoy it and be inspired to pick up the book which has been languishing in her bedroom for a year or more.

I think she finds the language a little tricky. I'm sure our generation where much more used to reading the different ages of literature than today's children.

Edited: Dec 10, 2019, 4:21am Top

Yes, Alison, I will go see the movie. I think you are right about older generations reading more broadly and not being put off by different writing styles. A movie is often a good route in for young folk. There have been some great movies of Shakespeare plays that have enticed younger folk to see the plays and read them.

Funny story, when I saw Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, at the end of the movie I desperately needed a pee, and under my breath was saying 'die Romeo, die'. I thought it was a fine film though.

Dec 10, 2019, 7:56am Top

Congrats on reading 75 books!

Dec 10, 2019, 8:34am Top

>256 Caroline_McElwee: - at the end of the movie I desperately needed a pee, and under my breath was saying 'die Romeo, die'. I thought it was a fine film though.

That made me giggle!

Dec 10, 2019, 10:39am Top

>255 AlisonY:, >256 Caroline_McElwee: I can attest to the value of the film as an entry point to the book. My daughter was 12 when I took her to see the 2005 P&P with Keira Knightley. She came home and immediately read the book, became a Jane Austen fan, and (maybe only tenuously related) studied English at uni and is now an entertainment writer. Incidentally as part of said job she saw an advanced screening of Little Women and ADORED it. I’m sure we’ll see it en famille over Christmas. I can’t wait.

Dec 10, 2019, 12:41pm Top

What a great list of favorites, Caroline. I'll have to follow up on Jane Clarke's The River. I've been terrible about NF this year. Not much called out to me for some reason.

Dec 10, 2019, 4:43pm Top

>259 lauralkeet: looking forward to it too. I'm up for reading it to my daughter if she enjoys the film but still feels a bit overwhelmed trying to read the book herself. it's a long time since I read it.

Edited: Dec 12, 2019, 7:49am Top

76. The Nickel Boys (Colson Whitehead) (11/12/19) ****

Another fine novel from Colson Whitehead. Despite the violence it contains, it is a very measured book. None of these young boys and men deserved the treatment they received. That any of them subsequently create a good life for themselves is a miracle. That none of them ever truly escape the treatment they received is unsurprising.

That I had a sense that something wasnt quite right with free Elwood, yet was still surprised at the reveal, says a lot for Whitehead's craft.

Edited: Dec 11, 2019, 7:28am Top

>257 figsfromthistle: Thanks Figs.

>258 jessibud2: tee hee.

>259 lauralkeet: I love when one medium sends you to another, or inspires another Laura.

>260 jnwelch: it's a quiet but beautiful volume Joe.

It's poetry I've not spent much time with in recent years, and I'm not sure why. I'm still buying it. I think it is because I feel it deserves more quality time than I can offer it right now.

>261 AlisonY: Fingers crossed Alison. It opens here Bxing Day.

Dec 11, 2019, 9:14am Top

>262 Caroline_McElwee: I agree with your spoilery thing. He got me with that one.

Dec 11, 2019, 12:42pm Top

I was also impressed with the spoilery thing. As I was reading I wondered "What's happening here? ".

Dec 12, 2019, 11:28am Top

>264 lauralkeet: >265 mdoris: Very well accomplished indeed.

Dec 12, 2019, 12:33pm Top

>262 Caroline_McElwee: I completely agree with your comment in the spoiler.

Dec 13, 2019, 4:36pm Top

>267 kidzdoc: I'm not surprised this book was a hit with you Darryl.

Edited: Dec 13, 2019, 4:41pm Top

77. Shelf Life (ed Alex Johnson) (13/12/19) ***

A disappointingly dry volume of bookish essays. How rare to be uninspired by such a volume, which normally I would gorge on with relish. Each writer has something to recommend him, but most have made a dirge out of their interest. The most lively aspect of this volume is its cover.

Walter Benjamin, Roosevelt and Bacon will be returned to. But where are the women? Not one included and perhaps three offered a mention.

Dec 13, 2019, 6:37pm Top

>269 Caroline_McElwee: Oh no! And the cover looks so promisingly lovely.

Dec 13, 2019, 6:54pm Top

>269 Caroline_McElwee: - Well, that's discouraging but thanks for the heads-up, in case I might see the book and be lured by the cover!

Dec 14, 2019, 12:21am Top

>238 Caroline_McElwee: I'm glad you went to see and enjoyed Harriett. I felt like learned a lot form the movie.

>262 Caroline_McElwee: I had the same experience you describe in your spoiler with The Nickel Boys. It was satisfying as a reader.

>254 Caroline_McElwee: Great list of best reads for the year. Among my shared favorites (though not all from this year for me) are The Great Believers, My Name is Asher Lev, When All Is Said, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds, and Housekeeping. I plan to take Frankissstein on vacation with me next week. Yay!

Edited: Dec 14, 2019, 5:08pm Top

Went to see 'Rembrandt's Light' at Dulwich Picture Gallery.

They had the loan of one of my favourite paintings, this tender image of Rembrandt's common law wife.

Dec 15, 2019, 6:23pm Top

>273 Caroline_McElwee: That is beautiful. And yes, tender. Perfect word for it.

Dec 15, 2019, 8:04pm Top

>254 Caroline_McElwee: Caroline, I will try to read Housekeeping this month and Frankissstein next month.

I have read and really enjoyed Prince of Tides and I also thought My Name is Asher Lev a very good novel.

Just finished reading Sidereal by Rachael Boast - I thought that her lyrical take on the constellations and waterways and frozen fields were strikingly things of beauty. Have you read anything by her?

Dec 16, 2019, 7:43am Top

>249 Caroline_McElwee: Congratulations on reaching 75, Caroline!

>246 Caroline_McElwee: Reading Gilead right now, I wish I could like it... :-(

Edited: Dec 16, 2019, 4:39pm Top

>274 EBT1002: I do love Rembrandt Ellen.

>275 PaulCranswick: Rachael Boast is new to me Paul, but she goes on the list.

>276 FAMeulstee: It happens Anita. Every now and then I don't get what the fuss is about. With Robinson, for me, it is the tone.

Dec 16, 2019, 4:45pm Top

78. An American Marriage (Tayari Jones) (16/12/19) ****

A fine, nuanced novel. My first of her work, but not my last.

Layers of family, and an unusual love triangle.

Dec 24, 2019, 2:46am Top

Or in other words, Happy Christmas! And have a great New Year as well.

Dec 24, 2019, 7:54am Top

^Have a great holiday season, Caroline. I love your best of the year list up there. Many fine gems. I need to start working on mine, since I finished off The Yellow House & American Dirt ,which will probably make the cut.

Edited: Dec 31, 2019, 6:28pm Top

79. Late Migrations (Margaret Renkl) ****

A leisurely walk through the joys and sorrows of Renkl's life. Her pleasure in the natural world, and her experience of loss. Not only does she give you a sense of place, as in the physical space she inhabits, but she offers a sense of place inside her experience. Not yet on a par to Annie Dillard, and to whom she has been compared, but still worthy of your time. Beautiful illustrations by her brother Billy, throughout.

My only quibble is not with the book, but that it is sometimes being described as a volume of essays, which it is not. It is a volume of biographical and autobiographical vignettes, and vignettes about nature. An essay is most commonly an exploration, often with digressions, sometimes biographical. It is generally a path to understanding, or failing to understand something. Though I've noticed that most recently it is being used as a kind of memoir form, which means I am disappointed if what I want to read are essays. It's like calling a volume of short stories a novel, because publishers don't think short stories sell. They end up disappointing many readers, who would enjoy the short stories if they were so described, but don't, because they were expecting a novel.

Dec 24, 2019, 9:26am Top

>279 SandDune: Thanks Rhian, and to you.

>280 msf59: Glad you enjoyed the list Mark. Hoping to squeeze a couple more in before year end. I'm almost through my 40th reread of The Great Gatsby! Love the owl.

Dec 24, 2019, 10:26am Top

>281 Caroline_McElwee: - Sounds like my kind of book. Thanks, Caroline, for putting this on my radar.

Dec 24, 2019, 1:05pm Top

>281 Caroline_McElwee: I'm also really tempted by this one. The cover is beautiful too.

Dec 24, 2019, 5:31pm Top

Merry Christmas, Caroline!

Edited: Dec 24, 2019, 6:15pm Top

Merry Christmas to all my visitors.

Dec 24, 2019, 9:29pm Top

>281 Caroline_McElwee: Excellent comments about essays, Caroline. Not every short piece of non-fiction writing is an essay. Sloppy labeling does do a disservice to the work, the author and the reader.

Dec 25, 2019, 1:54am Top

Merry Christmas, Caroline, from stormy Kauai!

Late Migrations sounds pretty wonderful.

Dec 25, 2019, 2:16pm Top

Merry Christmas Caroline and all the best in 2020!

Dec 25, 2019, 8:39pm Top

Thank you for keeping me company in 2019.......onward to 2020.

Dec 26, 2019, 1:04am Top

Merry Christmas, Caroline. And wishing you all the best in the New Year.

Dec 26, 2019, 7:33am Top

Thank you Ellen, Mary, Paul and Vivienne, lovely to have you peak round the door.

I've had a nice time with my brother and sister at my bro's, and tomorrow my sister drives us to her house in Shropshire for a few days. Not much reading getting done, but I'm enjoying James Wood's Selected essays Serious Noticing.

Dec 26, 2019, 7:51am Top

I’m glad to see that you had a good Christmas, Caroline, and I hope the weekend will be fun as well.

>281 Caroline_McElwee: Point well taken on the difference between memoir and essays. I love each genre, but not so much when I’m expecting one and get the other.

Dec 26, 2019, 11:56pm Top

Best wishes this holiday season!! See you in 2020!

Dec 27, 2019, 10:41am Top

>254 Caroline_McElwee: A great list, Caroline. The Great Believers and Frankissstein will make my list as well.

Happy holidays.

I was thinking of you as I just finished Optic Nerve, a book I think you might like. It's basically a narrator reminiscing about her life in terms of paintings she has been moved by.

Congrats on reaching 75! The Woman Upstairs sounds like a good one -- onto the list for 2020!

Dec 27, 2019, 5:26pm Top

>293 bohemima: >294 Berly: >295 BLBera: Thanks Gail, Kim and Beth.

>295 BLBera: I do have Optic Nerve Beth, I'll nudge it up. I think I started it a while ago, didn't get far as it didn't suit my mood.

Dec 28, 2019, 12:14pm Top

We went to Wightwick Manor today.

Dressed beautifully for Christmas.


Dec 28, 2019, 12:33pm Top

Great photos of Wightwick Manor, Caroline!

Dec 28, 2019, 12:35pm Top

>297 Caroline_McElwee: Lovely photos, Caroline.

>296 Caroline_McElwee: I can see how one must be in the right mood to appreciate Optic Nerve. Luckily, it worked for me.

Dec 29, 2019, 11:34am Top

>298 kidzdoc: >299 BLBera: Thanks Darryl and Beth.

Today we went to the ruins of Much Wenlock Priory.

The sun was in front of me, so gave me this moody photo at the same time as the other ones.

My sister moved to Shropshire this year, so we are exploring.

Dec 29, 2019, 11:52am Top

So beautiful!

Dec 29, 2019, 11:55am Top

Dec 29, 2019, 12:44pm Top

Wow, I love the photos, Caroline, and what cool places you're visiting. I have A Shropshire Lad on my tbr - should I read it? Wightwick Manor and Much Wenlock Priory look like just the kinds of places Debbi and I like to explore. Of course, the latter name has me wondering what Not Much Wenlock Priory looks like. :-)

I join Beth in endorsing Optic Nerve for you. When you're in the right mood, it sure seems like a Caroline book to me.

Dec 29, 2019, 3:01pm Top

>300 Caroline_McElwee: Lovely pictures, Caroline. That looks like a beautiful place to visit.

Dec 30, 2019, 7:16am Top

>300 Caroline_McElwee: It looks beautiful there, Caroline.

Dec 31, 2019, 4:11pm Top

>305 FAMeulstee: It is Anita. The village is very traditional country cottage too.

Dec 31, 2019, 4:11pm Top

Dec 31, 2019, 7:46pm Top

Another resolution is to keep up in 2020 with all my friends on LT. Happy New Year!

Edited: Jan 1, 7:27am Top

80. The Great Gatsby (F Scott Fitzgerald) (31/12/19) *****

My 40th reread. Say no more.

My brother bought me this edition in City Lights, San Francisco.

Jan 1, 7:28am Top

>308 PaulCranswick: And to you Paul.

Jan 4, 10:36am Top

Heading over to your 2020 thread, Caroline. But first, I have to say, there are books I have read multiple times (and stopped counting), but I'm fairly sure there is not one that I have read 40 times. Your championship of The Great Gatsby led me to re-read it a few years back (when I thought I was through with it), and I do have an appreciation for it now that was missing after my first exposure to it. So thank you, if I have not said it before.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2019

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