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#Xmas 2021

  1. This is crazy!
  2. I just ordered a Xmas present for my friend in USA
  3. ….estimated time of delivery…22 Nov-08 Dec!!!
  4. Santa Claus better order dubble expresso’s if he is going to survive
  5. the supply chain delays or strikes by postal delivery companies!!
  6. 68 more #XmasShopping days left….

#Nobel Prize 2021 A. Gurnah


  • Historical novel which goes back to the times of the German and later British 
  • colonization of East-Africa, in particularly what is today known Tanzania.
  • Curious about Nobel Prize winner 2021
  • …I selected Gurnah’s newest book.
  • Not impressed…but the book was readable.
  • By the Sea is a book Gurnah is most remembered by.
  • I will read it and see if the author can prove to me
  • …that he is worthy of the Nobel.
  • I don’t always agree with the Swedish committee: 
  • 1929 Thomas Mann – political choice (Germany)
  • 2016 Bob Dylan, really?

#October 2021 update



  • 11 October 2021
  • Where have I been for the last 6 weeks?
  • …in the kitchen!!
  • After 6 weeks of cooking, tasting wine and living the high-life
  • I experienced many nights with
  • unrestful sleep and a constant feeling of tension.
  • My head told me if I keep this up…I will gain too much weight.
  • I had to face the facts that living and eating so precariously was not a good plan.
  • Yesterday, 10 October…I survived my first day of NO sugar, bread, dairy
  • (except my coffee creamer) and NO wine.
  • There is an eery feeling of joy this morning knowing I was strong
  • enough to stick to my plan.


  • Discipline has always been one of my strong points and I am determined to
  • follow through with this eating plan until my birthday,
  • when I will enjoy a well-deserved piece of cake!
  • 12 December….if Max Verstappen wins Formule 1 World Championship
  • ….time to break out the champagne and appetizers!
  • Christmas will be a gastronomical celebration with home-made
  • French onion soup and boeuf bourguignon stew (already in the freezer)
  • ….and plenty of delicious wines from France, Australia and South Africa!


  • So today I get back to my reading and make my
  • final list of books for #AusReadingMonth2021
  • hosted by @bronsbooks!
  • As usual I sign off with…
  • #NeedCoffee



#American Lit reading list

Kaaterskill Falls, Thomas Cole, 1826

  1. After 8 weeks of reading only French books….
  2. it is time to shift gears!
  3. Here is my reading list for the coming months:
  4. American Literature 1820-1920


Read: 10/30  update 10 September 2021


  • James Fenimore Cooper, The Pioneers (1823) – FINISHED!
  • Review
  •   Can you read J.F. Cooper for pleasure, is it possible?
  • Update: Reading a book list I never had a chance to study in college.
  • I’m determined to read the books any
  • college kid is required for a course in American Literature.
  • Good news: I’ve read 7/30 already so a bit of a kick start.
  • Bad news: James Fennimore Cooper’s book “The Pioneers” (1823)
  • with Natty Bumppo is driving me to drink!
  • The first 25 chapters are so difficult to get through
  • …character descriptions in excruciating detail, history, religion.
  • But just when you want to toss the book….it gets better!
  • Romance blooms, intrigue, secrets, concealed identity
  • …so don’t give up on this book!

2) William Apess, A Son of the Forest (1829) – NOT AVAILABLE
Impossible to find this book, not widely in print.

3) Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature” and Selected Essays (1836) – FINISHED!


I know this is a classic…but goodness, gracious
this was a disappointment.
Written in another age…for a different reading public
…the book is hard to digest in 21st C.
I did learn: Does a Transcendentalist believe in God?
They believe in the idea of a personal knowledge of God,
…. no intermediary (church) was needed for spiritual insight.
So I guess my time was not completely wasted….
Not conforming with the general opinions about this book….
(…Emerson would be so proud of me…)
and giving it only 2 stars.


4) Edgar Allan Poe, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838)
5) Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave(1845)
6) Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (1850)
7) Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)
8) Solomon Northup,12 Years a Slave (1853)
9) Herman Melville, Benito Cereno (1855)
10) Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855)
11) Rebecca Harding Davis, “Life in the Iron Mills” (1861)
12) Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)
13) Emily Dickinson, Selected Poems (1865)
14) Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
15) Maria Ruiz de Burton, The Squatter and the Don (1885)
16) William Dean Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885)
17) Henry James, The Bostonians (1886)
18) Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (1895)
19) Charles Chesnutt, The Conjure Woman (1899)
20) Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899)
21) Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (1900)
22) Pauline Hopkins, Contending Forces (1900)
23) Frank Norris, The Octopus: A Story of California (1901)
24) Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905)
25) Jack London, The Iron Heel (1908)
26) Gertrude Stein, Three Lives (1909)
27) Sui Sin Far, Mrs. Spring Fragrance (1912)
28) James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912)
29) Willa Cather, O Pioneers! (1913)
30) Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio (1919)


#French Delphine de Vigan

  • Author: Delphine de Vigan (1966)
  • Genre:  novel (pg 347)
  • Title:  Les enfants sont les rois
  • Published:  2021
  • #WITMonth
  • #WomenInTranslation


Quick scan:

  1. This is an account two children, Kimmy and Sammy, whose parents film and share
  2. every moment of their days on the internet.
  3. The parents are influencers who are  exploiting their children.
  4. Social media, You Tube channels and Instagram
  5. ….product placement is big business.
  6. Melanie en Bruno earn an enormous amount of money by advertising for brands
  7. …until the “fairy tale” comes to a shocking end.



  1. The deep sense of emptiness
  2. …in this family is overwhelming.
  3. The social media friends/community distributing
  4. “like”s and comments filled with
  5. “bisous d’étoiles” (see Google) seem
  6. more important to Melanie than her real family!
  7. I missed Ms. de Vigan’s sensitive writing style
  8. that was such a success in her book
  9. Rien ne s’oppose à la nuit (2011).
  10. Les enfants sont les rois is simply a factual statement of
  11. what is happening without any added value.
  12. Actually, nothing much really happens in the book!
  13. #Disappointed

#French Jean Roumain (Haiti)

  • Author: Jacques Roumain (1907-1945)
  • Genre:  novel (pg 210)
  • Title:  Gouverneurs de la rosée
  • Published:  1944
  • Trivia: On 18 August 1945  3 days after returning from Cuba
  • Jacques Roumain dies at the age of 37 years old.
  • Cause of death….unknown but it is whispered
  • …that he was poisoned by the powers that be.
  • #French
  • #SummerInOtherLanguages


  1. If book is on Edwidge Danticat’s top 10 list…time to read it!
  2. Gouverneurs de la rosée by Haitian writer Jacques Roumain.
  3. They say it’s a masterpiece!


Quick scan:

  1. The novel centers on Manuel, a Haitian peasant forced to find work
  2. at a U.S. sugar plantation. 
  3. Returning to Haiti, Manuel tried to i
  4. instill in his fellow peasants
  5. a sense of their role modern capitalism.
  6. They need only realize their own collective power
  7. to end their exploitation.
  8. Subplot:
  9. …Caribbean version of Romeo and Juliet
  10. …Manuel and Annaīse.



  1. This book is difficult to review.
  2. Weak point: pace
  3. Roumain opens the book with a lyrical snapshot
  4. of the flora and fauna of Haiti.
  5. Beautiful as it is….this continues in each chapter.
  6. I know more names for hillocks, shrubs, slopes, thistles
  7. …wood pigeons, pebbles, mango trees in French than is needed!
  8. Strong point: sense of place
  9. I’m sure this nostalgic look at Haiti had a purpose
  10. ….it was to help people who have left this Caribbean island
  11. …return home even if it is just in a book.
  12. Weak point: conflict
  13. A reader needs some action to push the story along.
  14. After 54% of the book we finally see a
  15. “forbidden” love story beginning
  16. ….and a quest that the main character intends to complete.
  17. Strong point: social commentary
  18. Jacques Roumain was a political activist.
  19. His participation in the resistance movement against the
  20. United States’ occupation, and most notably,
  21. his creation of the Haitian Communist Party.
  22. He was arrested and finally exiled
  23. Roumain laid bare many problems facing Haiti:
  24. deforestation, drought,
  25. tribalism (people are overly loyal to their own group)
  26. resource control by the elite class
  27. feeling of resignation in one’s fate
  28. …encouraged by religion and voodoo.


Last thoughts:

  • This is not a masterpiece that would sweep you off your feet
  • but a gentle, simple story about the resilience of a proud Haitian village.


  1. Sadly this book written in 1944 is visionary.
  2. Haiti has less than 1% of its original primary forest and is
  3. therefore among the most deforested countries in the world.
  4. In 1923 60% of the island was forests.
  5. Haiti’s literacy rate of about 61%.
  6. That is well below the 90% average literacy rate for
  7. Latin American and Caribbean countries.
  8. 2019: corruption, foreign mercenaries
  9. Two former Navy SEALs, a former Blackwater employee, and two Serbian mercenaries
  10. were tasked with protecting the former head of the National Lottery.
  11. He intended to transfer US$80 million from a PetroCaribe bank account
  12. to a bank account solely controlled by President Jovenel Moïse
  13. 2021: coup, assassination of the President Moïse.





#Non-fiction Has China Won?



  1. China is on its way to being number 1 superpower in the world.
  2. Forget the US president or Putin
  3. no world leader will have more influence
  4. on the future than Xi Jinping.
  5. America has a strong macho culture
  6. but it is the pragmatic China that is going to win!
  7. Mr. Muhbubani sketches the strategic steps and missteps
  8. that both America and China have made.
  9. The more I read about China….the more I admire
  10. its long-term plans,
  11. Chinese defense rationale (no stockpiles of nuclear weapons)
  12. and a meritocratic government which chooses only best and the brightest.


  1. Ch 3: KM is a Singaporean diplomat with a sense of humor.
  2. Laughing out loud when I read:
  3. ” …the world is genuinely shocked that America has elected a
  4. president who could not pass an Economics 101 undergraduate
  5. exam on international trade.”
  6. Trump presented to China a geopolitical gift b/c his
  7. decisions were erratic with NO long-term strategy.
  8. USA is a rogue superpower
  9. ….and China will become THE world leader!
  10. #MustRead

#French Rien où poser sa tête

  • Author: Françoise Frenkel
  • Genre:  memoir
  • Title:  Rien où poser sa tête
  • Published:  1945
  • #WITMonth
  • #WomenInTranslation
  • #SummerInOtherLanguages


  • Again, I was seduced by the cover and
  • …the English title A Bookstore in Berlin.
  • I remembered the old adage,
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • The book did have:
  • Strong point: conflict in the form of a harrowing journey
  • Strong point: structure chronological…very easy to follow
  • Strong point: universal theme persecution of ethnic group (Jews)
  • Weak point: as others have noted….the omission of any mention
  • of the author’s husband! That’s not something you would forget.
  • Weak point: Ms Frenkel is not a professional writer and it shows.
  • Weak point: the ‘hook’ in the first chapters, her bookstore in Berlin
  • …just disappeared.15% about the store 85 % about the author’s
  • journey through occupied France hoping to reach Switzerland.


  • Conclusion:
  • I was not swept away by a combination of great story and great writing
  • …but flattened by facts and the mediocre.
  • Recommendation: leave this book on the library shelf and do yourself
  • a favor and search for
  • A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary.
  • I read the French version….and it STILL lingers in my mind!
  • Une femme à Berlin

#Classic Mémoires d’Hadrien



  • I was a little disappointed with this book.
  • I had the impression I was reading pages from an
  • encyclopedia in the first person.
  • Strong point: I did learn a lot about Hadrian and the people around him.
  • Weak point: Most of my knowledge was gleaned from wikipedia!
  • Yourcenar’s writing style is dense and her rich
  • vocabulary weighted down the narrative.
  • I had to look up so many words.
  • I missed an easy reading flow I expected in a historical novel.
  • The book was a bit too philosophical for my taste.
  • Best chapter: unfortunately it was the last one
  • …so it took me 7 days to reach this point!
  • Hadrian feels his health is rapidly failing and he
  • walks the reader through his choices for succession
  • …and thoughts about his approaching death.
  • It was quite moving.
  • Will read M. Yourcenar again?
  • ….I think not, this was enough for me.



#Paris in July Fini!

Heading into the weekend….A French woman with her baguette and six bottles of wine, Paris, France, 1945. (Photo by Branson Decou)

  • Many thanks to Thyme for Tea for hosting
  • #ParisInJuly
  • To all the participants
  • ….I enjoyed
  • reading your posts!
  • See you all next year!

July 2021:

  1. La maison du chat qui pelote – H. Balzac (1830)  REVIEW
  2. La cagnotte – E. Labiche (1864)  REVIEW
  3. Pour une nuit d’amour – E. Zola (1880)  REVIEW
  4. Le Bourgeois gentilhomme – Molière (1670)  REVIEW
  5. J’Accuse – Émile Zola   REVIEW
  6. Âme brisée – A. Mizubayashi  REVIEW
  7. Charlotte – D. Foenkinos  REVIEW
  8. 4 French Films – REVIEW
  9. Le Dossier 113 – E. Gaboriau  REVIEW
  10. Une amie de la famille – J. Laclavetine  REVIEW
  11. La promesse de l’aube – Romain Gary  REVIEW
  12. Sign-up “Summer reading in other languages”
  13. Salammbô – G. Flaubert  REVIEW
  14. Henri Matisse: Rooms with a view – S. Blum  REVIEW