Archive of September 2010

Thu 30 Sep

Suite Francais - the Nemirovsky story

It has been a month or more since this was the libraries book for the month.  The blog post made by our very conscientious and accurate librarian summarises things extremely well, though this is a book which was very popular several years ago and many readers may already be familiar with the story of how it came to be published and why that was so many years after it was written.  No doubt all of these things are part of the works appeal.

I have to be honest and say that although I was rereading "Republic of Love" at the time and really enjoying doing so I cannot say the same for "Suite Francais".  Whilst a few of the scenes in the book remained fresh in my mind they did not "hang together" as a story in the same way as Shields' work did for me.  I put this down to the quality of the writing, and sorry to say it but I'm not entirely sure Nemirovsky manages to hit a high enough note for me to enjoy rereading her work.

However I did enjoy finding out in more detail about how her granddaughter came to publish the novel her grandmother had written - that must have been thrilling for her and I'd love to find out more of how she felt in doing so.  For my part, were such a thing to happen to me, I would feel very much in the shadow of my relative and if I had any desires to write myself I am not sure I would welcome this.  Happily for Ms Nemirovsky's descendant I do not think this was the case for her.

As we said at the reading group- - we were all glad the book had come to publicationo and felt it was a story that should be told.

Thu 16 Sep

Chicago - and serial publication

A month or so ago I read "Chicago" by Alaa Al Aswany and I really enjoyed it.  Beyond the quality of the writing which was especially effective in characterisation I enjoyed learning a good deal more about the city and it's history in the opening part.  I had not realised how Chicago was affected by a fire early in it's history and lasting effect on the culture and particular pride of the fire service there in being able to handle fires, especially in the towers for which the city is famous.

This and the Muslim culture, reflected no doubt in large part from the author's own awareness and culture, resonated nicely with the modern world post 9/11 (which is topical now and was coming up at the time I read the book.

The plot and characters give particular insight to the politics of Muslims and what it is like to be a woman in that culture.  Relationships and their breakdown are explored with a degree of pathos quite unexpected.  There is a sad humour in the way one character handles a broken marriage made early in his life after leaving Egypt to make a new life - he relives his youth and even takes to wearing the clothes he had when he left, then going through a telephone directory to track down the love he left behind.  There are interesting insights into Egyptian expatriate life and the radical politics involved, which I had been completely unaware of - so ten out of ten to this book for showing me things I could learn from and broadening my horizons.

I was reminded of Armistead Maupin) the author who wrote a series of books set in San Fransisco popular during the nineties, especially amongst the gay community.  I have no idea if his books were serialised, but when I discovered that Alaa Al Aswany had written these and had them published in serial form I was completely unsurprised, having suspected as much when I read the novel.  Why is it that I invariably read these books in their complete form, and seldom am aware of their availability when they are being initially published as serials?  I wish I were it would be a new experience in reading!  Perhaps I shall seek one out soon, I feel there must be many published that way on the internet now.

Which brings me to the book recently selected by me at Reading Group - Phineas Finn ( by Anthony Trollope.  He is a more famous author who, like Dickens, published in his time in serial form.  I shall write of that soon, but the next post I make will be on "Suite Francais" which was the subject of the Reading Group this week.

PS having checked my wiki link for the author I was really quite surprised to discover the author is male!  Having commented on his insights into relationships and life as a muslim woman this is a credit to his skills and ability to write and characterise both men and women convincingly, I think.

Tue 7 Sep
A woman head back on a pillow gazes into her lovers eyes as he looks down (a still from the film version of the book)

One of the pleasures as I get older is that I find I can reread a book I have loved and enjoyed and, if it is good enough, I will get even more pleasure on the second time around.  I am not sure if this is a guaranteed result, I suspect rereading of "The Rachael Papers" for example would just make me cringe!

But this book by Carol Shields held unexpected delights.  There is an award for the worst sex writing in a novel, I forget when it is or how it is shortlisted (though that may appear on this blog somewhere in the past).  But if this novel had been published at the time it existed perhaps the scene I reread to my darling Fiancee the other night woudl qualify!  Not that the writing is bad, but the sex most definitely is!  It is in the passage where Tom Avery is listing things he will "never do again" and it itemizes an ex-partners prescriptive demands of him sexually to hilarious effect, all the more remarkable given Ms Shields feminist credentials and those of her other protagonist in the book, Fay the folkloreist!

Were it not for copyright I would list the passage here - go read it if you want a belly laugh or three!  I was even more shocked on adding the book to my reading list to see the cover I have shown, which features a still from the "recent major movie" made based upon the book.  I have certainly not seen the movie, but will be on the lookout for an audio described DVD of this post-haste!

(Should my darling wife-to-be read this perhaps she might find out and list it here in a comment?)

Sun 5 Sep

Get the Bones out of the Flesh!

My darling daughter was told of the engagement yesterday morning (the first to know!).

She has been a wonderful bag of excitement ever since and on top form.  As some might notice I think she has great potential as a creative person and (who knows) maybe even poetry.  Her first effort was very impressive to me, even though I am her Dad others have said as much.

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