Back from Europe and recovering from the resultant massive cold that descended upon me. Saturday was the first day I could even look at book blogs and have them make any sense. With 578 blogs in my feeder to go through it took me a while. But here is what caught my interest out of the bunch:
Climates by Andre Maurois was reviewed by three bloggers: Guy Savage of His Futile Preoccupations; Teresa of Shelf Love; and Mary Whipple of Seeing the World Through Books. All three are bloggers I pay attention to and they have rarely steered me wrong. Maurois was born in 1885 in Normandy, France the son of a successful manufacturer. He is the author of several literary biographies as well as novels and other writings. Climates was originally published in 1928 and is the story of a man and his two marriages – the first with the imaginative, mercurial Odile who he adulated and the second with the more stable Isabelle who loves her husband while he tolerates her presence. The book is told in two parts, a letter from Phillipe Marcenat to his second wife detailing the story of his first marriage and the second is Isabelle’s letter to her husband. What initially caught my interest was Guy’s reference to Balzac biography by Maurois. Balzac is my favorite French author and I like him because of his ability to detail people’s emotions and interactions. Maurois sounds like he will provide the same.
One of the books my mom got for Christmas was Diana Athill’s memoir Somewhere Towards the End so when I saw a review of her book of short stories on Buried in Print, I sat up and took notice. The collection, A Midsummer Night in the Workhouse, contains stories originally published from the 1950′s to the 1970′s covering the experience of women from many different angles. Known more for her memoirs, Athill spent 50 years in the publishing industry in England working with many famous authors. Sandra writes in the review, “Reading Diana Athill is, for me, like having a cup of tea with a good friend at an old garden table with the first leaves of fall dropping softly and the sun warming the air just enough to keep you there the entire afternoon.”
Kimbofo of Reading Matters reviews Jane Harris’ first novel The Observations which was short-listed for The Orange Prize in 2007. Harris’ latest novel, Gillespie & I was longlisted for this year’s Orange Prize. The Observations is set in 19th century Scotland and the heroine is a 15 year-old Irish lass named Bessy Buckley. Bessy finds a new situation working for Arabella, who as part of her duties, asks her to keep a journal of her life. Bessy obviously has a back story and Arabella is obviously up to something as maid and mistress maneuver around each other.
One of my goals in going to Europe was to walk the labyrinth at the Chartres Cathedral. I knew it would be a long shot and I while I could not walk the one inside, I was able to walk the smaller one in the gardens outside. And underneath our hotel window I could see another labyrinth made of stones in an overgrown garden – alas, the hotel said the steps to the garden were too dangerous. So I was quite pleased to see that Carol Shield’s wrote a book about a labyrinth/maze creator reviewed at The Indextrious Reader . (This is where I cautiously admit I have never read The Stone Dairies, Shields’ more well known prize winning novel). Larry’s Party was written in 1997 and won the Orange prize that year. Larry is a florist who starts building a hedge maze in his yard. This leads to the dissolution of his first marriage and he moves to Chicago, becomes a professional maze builder, and marries again – a marriage that also fails. He ends up in Toronto with his sister and a new girlfriend and they throw a party attended by many people including his former wives. I have to add that I am also intrigued by Stone’s Swann: A Mystery.
It was the cover, displayed on The Mookse and the Gripes, that drew me to December by Alexander Kluge, Gerhard Richter, and translated by Martin Chalmers. The cover features one of Richter’s stunning black and white winter photographs. The book is a Calendar book with a story for each day of the month (as well “a short series of pieces about time and calendars” at the end) each accompanied by a photograph. This sounds like one of those books that are great to keep by the bedside dipping in and out of at leisure.
Finally, Conflower Books is collecting titles of books that suit a particular kind of weather such as The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. It is an interesting concept and a fascinating list to explore.
Happy Reading and best wishes for the New Year!