It’s been quite a while since I last finished a whole proper book, the last one being Miss Timmins’ School for Girls by Nayana Currimbhoy, which I did enjoy for the most parts of it (the boarding school setting, the coming of age tale, a murder mystery). I was just a bit let down with the last quarter of the book, especially with the character development of the main narrator of the story. Anyway, although it does look like I have nothing much to show for (in terms of completed books), I have however, been enjoying a very satisfying time dipping into a number of different (yet related in some ways) books at the same time.
I was really excited to dip into Women on the Left Bank and wasted no time diving into it. But I didn’t get very far into the first chapter before I was diverted to check out a Janet Flanner’s essay on Alice B. Toklas entitled Memory Is All, thanks to the thoughtful supply of notes included by the author in Women on the Left Bank. Flanner’s essay was a delight to read. It beautifully captured the poignancy of Toklas’s later existence after the death of Gertrude Stein, her companion for 38 years. It also has a mention about Toklas’s memoir What Is Remembered (which by the way, had just conveniently arrived in the mail during the week), so of course I had to take a look at that too, didn’t I?
I really do find the subject of Paris and the lives of the many women who decided to make the city a place where they re-define themselves and carve out the kind of lives and possibilities that they seek and long for, to be endlessly fascinating. And I am finding Lucinda Holdforth’s True Pleasures to be indeed, very pleasurable reading. I am very much looking forward to continue exploring Paris with Holdforth, as she takes me along the footsteps of Colette, Nancy Mitford, Edith Wharton, Marie Antoinette and Coco Channel (to name a few).
When I did finally manage to tear myself away from Paris and her women, I made a hop over to Italy. And who better to take me there than my favourite traveller, H. V. Morton. On the smattering of knowledge I’ve managed to glean from Morton’s A Traveller in Italy thus far, some of the more interesting facts include: that the Milanese walks twice as fast as the Romans and can tell a story or a piece of scandal without stopping or blocking the pavement; that Milan and Venice were well noted for their hairwashes, bleaches and dye during the Renaissance; and that a Scottish village exists in the Alps, north of Lake Maggiore where the men were found to be still wearing kilts up till the early 1900s. By the way, this was also a recent new arrival to the stacks, and I just love the shade of green that it’s in! Such a lovely used copy (almost pristine) and in a hard to find edition, too. Am so happy with this find. 🙂
And while I am still making my way through Italy, I also managed to pop my head into Elena Kostioukovitch’s Why Italians Love To Talk About Food and got myself better acquainted with the Tuscan landscape, its food and also its people. This is quite a lovely volume to dip into, if you are interested to learn more about the Italians and their food culture (with a bit of history as background), as it is attractively organized according to region and colourfully designed with illustrations, maps, menus and glossaries. There is also an interesting foreword by Umberto Eco, for whom Kostioukovitch is better known as the writer’s Russian translator.
Weaving in between my time spent with the women in Paris, and those spent on the Italians and their food, I did also manage to read a rather creepy short story by Daphne du Maurier, Don’t Look Now. It was my first taste of du Maurier’s short stories. I usually avoid horror stories at all cost, but I was curious to see what kind of horror du Maurier’s kind is so I decided to give it a try. I have only read Rebecca (which I had quite liked) prior to this, and I do have another collection of her short stories The Breaking Point, as well as a couple of her memoirs. I can’t say that I liked the nature of the story in Don’t Look Now (the ghost of a dead child following a couple’s visit to Venice) very much, but I did find the writing and the pace rather engaging. And since I have not been totally spooked out yet, I think I might just give her next creepy story another go. Let’s hope I don’t regret it. :p
Enough about me and my meandering kind of reading. What about you? What good stuff have you all been burying your noses into lately?
Do share. 😉