Archive for May, 2013

Spring is bursting out all over in the backyard. Himself’s flowering bonsai are gracing the back deck looking spectacular, the grass is green and lush, and the trees all leafed out. We are having somewhat cooler days here in the Hinterland after a week or so of beautiful sunshine but that is typical of our springs. Unfortunately health issues are bursting out all over as well. I am surprised at the number of cancers that have popped up with friends, family of friends, etc. all dealing with this issue. I needed a break from all the seriousness and started Barbara Pym’s An Unsuitable Attachment – such good light reading. My book group met and had an excellent discussion of My Name is Asher Lev. I also finished Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach. I found it okay, similar to Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. I did not know that Moggach also wrote The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as well as many other books that sound interesting (most of which are not yet available in the US). I have a third book going, The Forrests by Emily Perkins which I am enjoying a great deal.

Here is what caught my interest this week:

Vishy’s Blog has a wonderful review of Clare Morrall’s novel The Language of Others. I really enjoyed her first novel Astonishing Splashes of Colour which was shortlisted for the 2003 Booker Prize. Unfortunately The Language of Others is not yet available in the US but I see I can get her novel Natural Flights of the Human Mind is available.  Natural Flights is about Peter Straker, a man who lives on the coast of England alone with no neighbors talking to no one except the 78 people he was responsible for killing almost twenty-five years ago. Although it was ruled an accident, Peter is unsure of exactly what happened. His peace is first disturbed by a new neighbor and the approaching anniversary of  his “crime”. I found Morrall really good at getting inside people’s heads and then translating that to the reader.

My diet has changed once again and is even more restrictive so I think about food a lot. And then I saw a book on Alex in Leed’s blog that might indulge my fantasies while still protecting my health – then again it might be too much to read about what I can’t eat while I am still adjusting to what I can eat. Written by Niki Segnit, The Flavor Thesaurus: A Compendium of Pairings, Recipes and Ideas for the Creative Cook is an exploration of the world of flavor profiles covering 99 flavors group by similar tastes, with pairings as well as recipe suggestions and anecdotes.

Finally, Danielle of A Work in Progress has an interesting set of “Beach Reads” listed – that is books set by the sea rather than summer fluff writing. In another post she has a good list of soon-to-be published mysteries. There are additional books discussed in the comments as well. Becca (Becca’s Byline) talks about some of her favorite books that look at the mother/daughter relationship.


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It has been a hectic week at my mom’s. I was able to attend her morning book group, an experience I always enjoy. This book group doesn’t discuss a single book – instead each participant shares one book they read that month and if the book is available to share, a sign-up list is created and the books are passed around. It is a great way to find new books and this month the ladies were reading and sharing several good books. Youngest and I spent Thursday at two events for the Dalai Lama in Portland. The first was a interfaith symposium and the second was a talk by the Dalai Lama himself. It was very interesting – fascinating to see someone of his stature. He reminded me in many ways of the character Volya Rinpoche, in Roland Merullo’s novel, Breakfast with Buddha – there was the same fey pleasure in the simple things in life.

Youngest and I did a lot of book shopping visiting three stores in Salem and Powell’s City of Books on the way home this morning. He visited the political section and as my time was limited, I had to be very efficient in the fiction section. I did not get much reading done during the week as I was focused on the NY Times Book Reviews my mother saves for me. But I did finish two books on the ride home. I was a little unsure of The Translation of the Bones by Francesca Kay when I first started it but as I got deeper into the novel, I found it gaining a great deal of strength. The second book was I am the Clay by Chaim Potok.

Here is what caught my interest this week:

One of the things I wonder about writing is how an author who writes a highly successful first novel, ever get the courage to write the second. Chasing Bawa reviewes The Valley of Unknowing by Philip Sington which features such an author – living off the fame of his first novel for the next thirty years. He lives in East Berlin, too complacent to defect, and is just going along with the motions in live. When he is asked to review a manuscript, a “sequel” to his novel, he finds it is both excellent and written by his arch-rival, a young writer who delights in making fun of Krug. Complicating things, Krug falls in love with a young musician from the west who also happens to be involved with the rival. Bawa includes some quotes from the book in her review and they are worth checking out.

kimbofo briefly mentions another book centered around the literary scene, this one set in Belfast during the 1980’s. Jammy Dodger, by Kevin Smith, is the story of Artie Conville who runs a tax-subsidized poetry magazine. However, he and his fellow editor hit a snag when they run out of poetry and are in danger of losing their meal ticket. A scheme is hatched, girls are involved, and the publisher’s description also mentions a giant white rabbit. This one sounds funny and entertaining.

Also containing a literary background is The Whole Wide Beauty by actress Emily Woof. Katherine is the daughter of David Freeman, the director of a poetry foundation who has spent far more time at his work than with his family. Katherine is also feeling stuck in a conventional marriage dealing with husband and family rather than pursuing her passion of dancing. She complicates everyone’s live by falling in love with her father’s protege. Vishy’s Blog has a lengthy review of this book and includes several quotes including this one:

They probably took their dog on the same walk every afternoon. May imagined their lives, conventional, their marriage so faithful and unchallenging. They were perfectly moulded to each other, like two bowls on a kitchen shelf. She could never have chosen a life like theirs, but as she got in her car to drive to Carlisle, she wished for a small measure of their contentment.

Happy reading!



Finally, Stefanie of So Many Books has an interesting post on Gatsby Mania with some interesting links.

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The end of my week turned a tad to the chaotic side with lots of time spent with my friend who had some procedures done to prepare for her chemotherapy treatment. Youngest made it home only two hours late (he looks taller) and the dog was ecstatic and the cat decided the kid was only worth ignoring. Himself is also happy to have all his kids home and a very large amount of lasagne was both made and consumed. Sunday Youngest and I hopped into the car and drove to Oregon so he can make some arrangements for moving to Portland for the summer and so that he and I can see the Dalai Lama speak this Thursday – we are both very excited.

I did manage to make it through The Light of Amsterdam by David Park and I did not like it at all, in fact I was pretty disappointed by it. Many other readers have had a different experience so read Dove Grey’s review of the book before dismissing it completely. The other two books I finished were much better, so much better that I am really looking forward to reading both again: My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok and Testing the Current by William McPherson.

Here is what caught my interest this week:

If you are fond of short stories, Eve’s Alexandria reviews a collection by Australian Margo Lanagan called Black Juice (originally published in 2005). The collection itself is prizewinning as well as the story described by Eve in her review, Singing My Sister Down. While these stories are considered fantasy, they seem to be about the ordinary seen from a slightly fantastical perspective. Eve describes them as stories about communities or families and an individual’s actions in relation to these communities. I also like how Eve describes how the stories “get under your skin. They seem to slide in sideways, exploiting gaps you didn’t know you had, lodging themselves in the recesses of your mind.” And after reading the review, I can see how they would do that.

Another odd book that came to my attention through Stuck in a Book is Skylark by Dezso Kosztolanyi first published in 1924 and it is considered a Hungarian classic (Publisher’s Weekly). Set in the 1900’s, Skylark is the name of the daughter of a couple who live in a small town. The father is retired, the mother keeps house, and both of them are under the thrall of their daughter. She leaves her parents for a short time to visit relatives and with her absence, her parents rediscover themselves while at the same time, being inadequate to take care of themselves. The review has a quote from early in the novel which illustrates the subtle depth of the writing and explains, in part, why it is now on my list of books to read:

They had given her that name years ago, Skylark, many, many years ago, when she still sang.  Somehow the name had stuck, and she still wore it like an outgrown childhood dress.

It turns out that Margaret Atwood’s first novel is not Surfacing (1972). Instead it is The Edible Woman. Chrisbookarama reviews the book this week on her blog and it sounds like a very interesting read. Written in 1969, the book pre-dates much of the feminist movement, but Atwood uses identity, gender, roles, expectations (societal and personal), and satisfaction/dissatisfaction in the story of Marian McAlpin unhappy with her life and waiting for a proposal from her boyfriend to project her into the life she thinks she wants. However, when it happens she gradually finds food disgusting and wants to eat her own body. So Marion must hide all this from the world, try to survive, and figure out what she wants out of life. I happen to be on a very restricted diet and so food and what I can and cannot eat has been consuming a lot of my mental space so the use of a person’s relationship with food to explore that person’s psychology is very interesting to me. The fact that it is an early Atwood I haven’t read is icing on the cake.

I always wondered what it would be like to have an identical twin – how does it feel to look at yourself walking around and interacting with the world. Dorothy Baker had two twin daughters and her husband stated that her 1962 novel, Cassandra at the Wedding, was based on her twins. Violet, of Still Life with Books, describes the book in her review. Cassandra is a graduate student at Berkeley writing her thesis on contemporary French female novelists. She is also facing depression and alcoholism all of which is topped of by her impending existential crisis – her twin sister is getting married and moving away from her forever. Cassandra will do anything to stop this from happening, the question is will Judith, her twin, turn back to her sister or continue with the separation.

Finally, if you are a fan of Irish author Edna O’Brian, The Literate Housewife reviews her memoir, Country Girl.



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Sunday Caught My Interest will appear tomorrow.


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