Thought I’d take a break from my Italian photos indulgence streak and share something more bookish instead. Besides, I am really excited about this latest stash of bookish goodness that has just joined the stacks and just can’t wait to talk about them! 🙂 And just for the record…. I didn’t buy any books from my trip this time (how did that happen?!), so all these books here can probably be considered as quite, quite necessary in being part of the remedy for my ‘post holiday blues’. (There’s just no shortage of excuses for a book buying addict, is there?) :p
Anyway, my excitement for these books have more than overridden any guilt I may have for yet adding more to the numbers of TBR on my shelves and floors. So, here goes :
Memoirs of A Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir.
I have not read anything by de Beauvoir before and only knew that she was the author of an important book (The Second Sex) and that she was married to Jean-Paul Sartre. And I can’t even recall right now what it was that actually triggered my attention to this autobiography of hers, but having taken a look at it (by the way, I just love the black and white portrait on the cover, don’t you?) I am really looking forward to getting acquainted with this feisty French feminist.
Skylark by Dezso Kosztolanyi
I have read many good things about this one and have been keeping a lookout for it ever since.
“This alternately hilarious and melancholy classic of Hungarian literature plumbs the psyches of a husband and wife burdened with a homely daughter.” After sending off their “… unintelligent, unimaginative, unattractive, unmarried and overbearing” daughter to some relatives for a week, the parents get to rekindle their joy in living by eating out at restaurants, reconnecting with old friends, attending the theater etc. etc. “Then, Skylark is back. Is there a world beyond the daily grind and life’s creeping disappointments? Kosztolányi’s crystalline prose, perfect comic timing, and profound human sympathy conjure up a tantalizing beauty that lies on the far side of the irredeemably ordinary. To that extent, Skylark is nothing less than a magical book.”
William by E.H. Young
This has also been sitting on my wishlist for a long time now. Again, it was through the number of good reviews I had come across around the blogs that made me keep an eye out for this. So I’m rather glad to have gotten a copy of this at last, and in one of those lovely green VMC covers (almost pristine, too!).
And over here, three different books but with similar themes running through them – loneliness, solitude and grief. Books dealing with such themes have always had a special place in my heart. Somehow, I find myself rather drawn to such writings. Probably that has something to do with the fact that I have always considered myself a sort of loner by nature. So it kinda makes sense to want to read about how other loners (not necessarily by choice) deal with the same issues, I guess. I suppose that also helps to explain why I think I can appreciate Anita Brookner’s works, depressing as they may be. :p
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore
It was the title that first caught my attention. I thought it was very unusual to see the words ‘lonely’ and ‘passion’ put together. I knew nothing about the author (although he was shortlisted three times for the Booker Prize), but the storyline did appeal much to me.
“Judith Hearne is an unmarried woman of a certain age who has come down in society. She has few skills and is full of the prejudices and pieties of her genteel Belfast upbringing. But Judith has a secret life. And she is just one heartbreak away from revealing it to the world.” There’s something about unmarried women of a certain age that makes for some rather interesting reading, don’t you think? Okay, maybe it’s just me who’s the pervert here.
The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton
This is one that I am sure many of you are familiar with. I see quite a number of rave reviews about it on a good number of blogs around, and it is enough to convince me that this is a book I want to read. Reading this, helped too:”Recounting an epic battle of wills in the claustrophobic confines of the boarding house, Patrick Hamilton’s The Slaves of Solitude, with a delightfully improbable heroine, is one of the finest and funniest books ever written about the trials of a lonely heart.”
Besides, I rarely pass up on a book with ‘solitude’ in its title. Yeah, so now you know what’s the sure-fire way to sell me a book. 😉
Staying on Alone: Letters by Alice B. Toklas
“Gertrude died this afternoon. I am writing. Dearest love, Alice.”
That is the first letter collected in this volume of letters covering the two decades that Alice Toklas had lived on after the death of her lifelong companion, Gertrude Stein. It has been said that, if letter writing is a lost art, then this volume of letters is a measure of what has been lost. “On tissue thin paper in tiny, often undecipherable hand, Alice Toklas described her daily life in Paris in absorbing detail. Here are shrewd, witty observations on some of the most interesting artists, musicians, and writers of the twentieth century: Thornton Wilder, Carl Van Vechten, Edith Sitwell, Anita Loos, Cecil Beaton, Janet Flanner, Bennett Cerf, among others. There are stories about Picasso, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Cocteau, and Sartre – all revealing a sharp eye that was as much a part of Alice as her devotion to Gertrude and her passion for recipes and gardening.”
Having just finished reading her short collection of essays “Murder In the Kitchen” , which I had rather enjoyed, I am looking forward to reading more of Toklas’ writing. I quite like her unassuming dry wit and humour which comes through in her straightforward style of writing (as can be seen from the letter above). I have also started reading her memoir “What is Remembered” and it is interesting to read her account of the great San Francisco fire after the 1906 earthquake, as well as her first meetings and walks together with Gertrude Stein in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. I have yet to re-attempt reading any of Stein’s works after having been completely stumped by a short story of hers relating to some cows or something. :p
Moving on…. “The Very Rich Hours of Adrienne Monnier“.
If the name Adrienne Monnier doesn’t seem to ring any bells, maybe it would help if I were to mention Sylvia Beach as well? Monnier’s bookstore and lending library in the Rue de l’Odeon in 1920s Paris, was the inspiration and model for Beach to start her own English & American literature bookstore, the Shakespeare & Company, in Paris. “Adrienne Monnier had the modest goal of wanting to share her love of literature with the public. It was the first free-lending library in France, which enabled Monnier to reach people from all walks of life and turn them into readers. The small bookshop-library invited readers to browse through books spilling from the shelves propped against the walls, sit in one of the antique chairs scattered around a large wooden table, and study the many photographs and drawings that hung high and low.”
And in the words of a reviewer of this volume of essays, letters & reviews: “Through the writings, one gets to know Adrienne Monnier and her friends. She is a gourmand, a bookseller, a denizen of Paris, an art lover, a theatre-goer, and a friend. She will provide you with a view of Paris between the World Wars unlike any other.”
I am really looking forward to dipping into this one! I think it truly promises some very “rich hours” of reading, indeed. 😉
I had never heard of the term ‘miniaturist history’ before coming across Gillian Tindall’s works. And it was the cover of her “The House by the Thames …. and the people who lived there” that made me pull out the book from the bargain shelves at a local bookstore a couple of years ago. Much later, I picked up another book “The Fields Beneath” because its contents interested me much, without realizing that it was by the same writer. At that time, Tindall’s name had yet to register in me (since I had not read the first book which I had bought mainly for its lovely cover). When I finally made the connection later and realised that this is the kind of genre (miniaturist history) which Tindall is a master of, it was then that I began to actively seek out her books. Never mind the fact that I still have yet to read any of the ones I already owned. Somehow, that has never stopped me from being sure that I have to collect everything else written by a particular writer because I am sure that when I finally get down to reading them, I am bound to love it! Am I the only one who feels this way? 🙂
And so, the latest addition to join the collection is “The Man Who Drew London“. Isn’t that another one lovely cover?
“The seventeenth-century London Wenceslaus Hollar knew is now largely destroyed or buried. Yet its populous river, its timbered streets, fashionable ladies, old St Paul’s, the devestation of the Fire, the palace of Whitehall and the meadows of Islington live on for us in his etchings. Drawing on numerous sources, Gillian Tindall creates a montage of Hollar’s life and times and of the illustrious lives that touched his. It is a carefully researched factual account, but she has also employed her novelist’s skill to form an intricate whole – a life’s texture which is also an absorbing and occasionally tragic story.”
So, the question now is…. which Tindall should I ‘kindle’ first? 😉
Anyway, this has been fun!
Talking about books is always fun. I really hope there was at least something from the stack that has managed to pique your interest too, in some way or another.
I like the fun to be mutual. 🙂
And now if you don’t mind, it’ll be back to those Italian photos again…….