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Reading Ireland Month 2018


  • I love reading books by Australian authors
  • (#AusReadingMonth in November)
  • …but must return to Ireland.
  • March always feels special
  • …when my Burns-Houlihan
  • roots show and I celebrate St. Patrick’s day!
  • Now it is time to enjoy some great Irish authors.
  • Joining   Cathy@746books
  • She is hosting  and the
  • sign up post is here: Reading Ireland Month 2018
  • No one can tell a story like an Irishman!
  • #readireland18
  • #begorrathon18


My reading list:

Wounds – Fergal Keane (non-fiction)


I Found My Tribe – Ruth Fitzmaurice (non-fiction)


Midwinter Break – Bernard MacLaverty


The Break – Marian Keyes


The Third Policeman – Flann O’ Brian


Alice Trilogy – Tom Murphy (play)


The Ferryman – Jez Butterworth (play)


  • The Beauty Queen of  Leenane – Martin McDonagh 
  • Irish/British…dual citizenship! (play)








Borders….where the fabric is thin.


Writing style: Kassabova has succeeded in writing ‘travel literature’.
I felt was reading art instead of social commentary about the Balkan region (Bulgaria, border with Greece and Turkey.)


Strong point: Instead of repeating the politics of the region, Kassabova focused on understanding what happened to the people and their heritage.                                                                                       “Rumour remained the preferred currency.” (pg 53)


Angst an Architecture: Kassabova stops by a gangster-baroque villa. (pg 44). She meets a whisky sipping local pensioner, a man of leisure, ex- state security, trophy wife in bikini, expensive swiss watch and a …very menacing message. “ In the old days we had methods for the likes of you.” Progressives….who go around asking questions.


Green border: 1960-1989
Kassabova takes the reader into the Bulgarian green border of Strandja Forest. Many tried to escape from Warsaw Pact side (Bulgaria) to the …NATO side (Greece or Turkey) because this green border seemed easier to cross than the Berlin Wall. Many…never reached their destination.


Tone:  Book oozes dark, sinister, mysterious stories in hushed tones about what happened in the Balkans.

Voice: Kassabova lets her personality show between the lines. She is playful, cheeky, personal and inspiring and in my opinion very brave to start on this adventure!



  • Sometime I just read a book
  • …but this time I lived in the book….Border.
  • Absolutely wonderful…!



Victor Hugo vol 1 (1802-1851)



  1. I took me 3 weeks to read this book.
  2. I was exhasted when I reached pg 1159
  3. It felt like brushing my teeth, it became a daily habit.
  4. I jotted down some thoughts during my reading.
  5. It is impossible to give a review of the total book.
  6. I just cannot remember everything.
  7. I hope you can glean some information
  8. …from my notes that will  interest you.



Autobiographical: Hugo saturated all his works with memories, confidences and fragmented confessions. The author embedded characters/places in his poems and stories that were linked to his own name Hugo or people in his childhood.
There is secret code in Les Miserables that only Hugo and his long time lover Juliette Drouet would understand!

Notes: amazing family tree HUGO from father and mother’s side -ending with Hugo’s granddaughter Jeanne (1869-1941).Hovasse even includes the family tree of Victor Hugo’s (1802-1885) long time mistress Juliette Drouet (1806-1883)!

Notes: Some think Victor Hugo’s father was `not Leopold Sophie’s husband…but her lover General Victor Lahore! She asked him to be Hugo’s godfather and she named the baby after him! Hmmm.

Marriage of Hugo’a parents: Leopold and Sopie, was a train wreck!

Trivia: Tome IV, livre II, chapitre III. Il est intitulé “Apparition du père Mabeuf”
The character M. Mabeuf is a reference to a dictée that Victor Hugo  completed when he was 7 years old. He made just one mistake…he left the ‘O’ out of boeuf!  That simple incident found its way into one of the greatest novels written!

Trivia: The family life Valjean experienced rue Plumet resembles the 18 months that Hugo  spent in Feuillantines….this was the first time he  felt a loving family feeling….he was 7 yrs old.

Personage: Outlaw Jean Valjean is modeled on General Lahorie Victor Hugo’s godfather.

Spain: Victor Hugo’s  father was stationed in Spain (general) and Victor spoke better Spanish than French at the age of 10 yrs old.

LesMis: chapter 1817 -this is a list of ‘triva’ that occurred in 1817. The most important fact is left out. Victor Hugo  had entered a poem in the contest for Prix Poesie de L”Academie française…..and got an honourable mention. He was only 15 yrs but it was his official debut as a man of French Letters!

Quote: pg 210: Hugo’s advice: Live simply as other men…see what they see, feel what they feel and think a little more than they think!

Autobiographical:  Hugo was living on a very small budget 1822 and sharing a room with his cousin Aldolphe. Reading LesMis notice the Marius’s budget this describes the real situation of Hugo! Marius and Hugo both had only 2 suits!

Autobiographical: The  marriage of Marius and Cosette is a mixture of fact and fiction. The date of the marriage represents the first night with Juliet Drouet, VH’s long time lover, 16.02.1833.
The place of the wedding is not St. Suplice where VH and Adele were married….but Hugo  moved it to St. Paul where he beloved daughter Léopoldine married her husband.
The sudden departure of Valjean from the marriage celebration represents the break with Eugène, Hugo’s  brother, who was secretly in love with Adele himself.  The description of the marriage night in Les Mis is apparently not of Hugo’s actual wedding night (12 Oct 1822) but the first night with Julliet Drouet (16 Febr 1833). Ouch!

Reading plan: the book turns out to be more than a biography…it is a guide through the Romantic period…and brushing against the next movement that was a reaction to Romanticism….’Parnassianism’.
I found that some chapters were difficult to read because I did not know many poets mentioned.

Trivia: Victor Hugo preferred beer over wine!

LesMis: Fantine is born 2 days after Victor Hugo was elected to Academie française (1841). Hugo witnessed a young girl being harassed in the street…this became Fantine.
M. Madeleine = Victor Hugo. Hugo is now taking notes about ‘les temps présents’ to help his move from literature to politics.

Wedding: Victor Hugo’s daughter Léopoldinen married on 15 Febr 1843. The ceremony was moved 1 day forward as not to coincide with 10th anniversary the affair H had started with Juliette Drouet. Cosette’s wedding day DID correspond with 16 February and was a coded message to Hugo’s mistress Juliette. Cosette’s wedding gown is the description of the dress Léopoldine wore on her wedding day.

Note: I was surprised how quickly Hovasse handed the wedding and death of Hugo’s most beloved daughter. It was done in 3 pages!  Yet the reader is dragged through an ‘analyse extrêmement poussée’ (highly detailed) day to day description of 8 road trips!

Note: pg 948-952    1845: …very touching moments between Louis-Philippe (25 yrs older than VH) and the poet. Louis Philippe asked VH to linger after other guests left. LP spoke candidly and hoped VH would be a witness for history and reveal the man LP really was under the burden of the crown of France. Hugo wrote a condense version of these conversation is his chapter ‘Louis-Phillippe” in LesMis. (volume 4 ‘St Denis’, book 1 ch 3)



Updates Goodreads:


Massive biography and it is only vol 1 (1802-1851)..but is is so good!
It read like a novel!”


Victor Hugo ‘s writing is saturated with confidences and fragmented confessions. In 1871 after his exile Hugo visited many sites from his childhood. He was sad to see that only a patch of grass and a dilapidated section of a wall was left. “It was not worth looking at if not with the profound eye of memories”


#LesMisReadalong + reading biography of V. Hugo:
Victor experienced a sad childhood coping with a messy and bitter divorce of his parents. Hugo was sent to boarding school (imprisonment was more like it…) by his father. Education was strict but Victor still managed some ‘joie de vivre’ by memorizing 30-40 lines of Hoarce or Virgil each night and in the morning translated the verses into French.
He was just 13 yr.


#LesMisReadalong Poet friends (romantics, Royalists) A. Soumet, A. de Vigny turn a cold shoulder towards Hugo….as his political views dirft into liberalism. This hurts the sensitive Victor.


#LesMisReadalong – very little about personal life of Victor Hugo only a few pages about his wedding (12 Oct 1822), birth son (1823-1823) and joy when daughter Leopoldien is born and is healthy. The rest was about literary publications (la Muse Francaise) and other poets involved. Hugo attends coronation King Charles X in Reims. All in all…a lot of reading and found only 2 references to things in Les Mis.


#LesMisReadalong: Keep reading Les Mis daily chapter then…tackle the massive biography. Stats: 10 days, read 5 of 10 chapters, 380/1159 pages, Victor Hugo is 27 yr and just published his famous Odes and Ballads (1829) Expected more personal history but the emphasis is mostly on his writings, the Romantic movement and the other family, poets, publishers, illustrators and friends that swirl around Hugo. Exahusted.


#LesMisReadalong – Success has its dark side. VH is only 28 yrs old and his world is starting to crumble. Brouhaha about play Hermani (banned by Charles X), defied censure and the play is a hit. Unfortunately VH is blind and does not see his marriage weakening under the pressure of fame. The ultimate deception: does Adèle feel more than friendship for VH’s closest friend Saint-Beuve? VH is a genius but feels weak.


#LesMisReadalong – trivia about Victor Hugo
Crushing reviews of Notre-Dame de Paris (1831):
Stendhal thinks it is muck
Sainte-Beuve thinks it is not catholic enough.
Montelembert likes part about ND’s architecture….the rest, mèh!
Goethe thinks its is abominable…could hardly finish it.
Chateaubriand….no comment.
Oh, critics…..what do they know?
Notre-Dame de Parsis is still a classic!


#LesMisReadalong- trivia: Victor Hugo used the biography of his mistress (Juliette Drouet) as a basis for Fantine….both orphans at a young age, placed in the care of a convent..both had to a struggle to survive.
This book is more than a biography…it is a panoramic view of the literary world of Paris 1790-1885. Classicists – art for art’s sake VS Romantics – usefulness of art for political and social change.


#LesMisReadalong – Love affair with Juliette Drouet is dripping with passion. JD writes him every day…VH is not reading them as he used to. JD does not even come close to Mme Sévigné’s style. (dame des belle lettres 1626-1676). How many times can you say je t’adore? We get it!. The reader knows that VH will be starting his next romance with Leonie d’Aunet in 1837. VH is drawn to ladies like a moth to a flame!


#LesMisReadalong- VH travels with Juliette but he is always taking notes, making sketches of cathedrals, architecture, towers. Visits ‘bagne’ (prison) in Toulon and Brest leave lasting impressions that he used in Les Mis. VH is elected to Academie française and L’ Assemblée. Death of Balzac leaves VH stunned…(1850). Life is still complicated: VH has wife, 4 children 2 mistresses (Juleitte, Léonie) and muse, Louise.


#LesMisReadalong I needed some visual by Vincent Van Gogh to push me today. Starting the last 100 pages of Victor Hugo bio (very long book in French ) and I am determined to reach the finish line tonight! #NeedCoffee

Finally VH achieves his goal…be the next René Chateaubriand! RC was 32 years older than VH and his role model. RC was poet and given peerage in 1815. VH was poet and given peerage 1845. He entered the Higher Chamber as a pair de France, where he spoke against the death penalty and social injustice, and in favour of freedom of the press and self-government for Poland.

Looking ahead….Note: Vol 2 Book 6 ch 7   coded message and reference  to mistess Juliette Drouet
The names of Gauvain and Drouet are metioned.
Gauvain is Juliette’s family name and Drouet is the name she took for the theater. It is the name of a military uncle who adopted her at an early age.

Last chapters Whew: ..a lot of politics!  Thriling to read how Victor Hugo managed to escape Paris 05.02.1851 after coup’d’état with a price on his head of 25.000 francs!

…Victor is only 49 yr…ready to go into exile after coup d’état 02 December 1851. We still have a long way to go! But having witnessed the massacres on the barricades….Hugo is determined to write down all that he saw in Les Misérables!



Lemaitre: Couleurs de l’incendie



  1. Theme:   morality of revenge …when is revenge justified?
  2. Plot: Main character (Madeleine) has been wronged and becomes obsessed by revenge.
  3. Classic elements: disguise, deception and ‘framing’ victim with false evidence
  4. Arch-types:
  5. Madeline: The Mistreated Villain:
  6. A character who does things which the audience perceives as wicked,
  7. ….but only because he has been driven to them by the way she has been treated.
  8. Gustave: The Flawed Ruler:
  9. This powerful man with a flaw which causes his downfall.
  10. Paul: The Innocent Babe:
  11. The babe is often a victim of malignancy and
  12. …is the trigger for the revenge played out in the plot.
  13. M. Dupré: The Sidekick/The Clever ‘fixer’:
  14. The friend who helps main character carry out her Machiavellian plans.



  1. This book is the second in Lemaitre’s new trilogy.
  2. The first book Au revoir là-haut was  dazzling!
  3. The film version has just been nominated for 13 Caesars (French Oscars)
  4. If you haven’t read it….then put it on your TBR!
  5. With regards to Couleurs de l’incendie
  6. left me wanting.
  7. It was missing something:
  8. the magical, lyrical text (1st book ‘clever scam’)
  9. no dramatic dialogue:  heated rhythmic dispute to create a powerful effect.
  10. (1st book: Alfred and Edward were always arguing)
  11. In Couleurs de l’incendie …it was all ‘comme il faut’. 
  12. Lemaitre uses ‘breaking The fourth wall only a few times.
  13. This is the imaginary wall that separates
  14. …the readers from the characters in the story.
  15. Perhaps he could have done that more often to draw ‘this reader’
  16. into the book.
  17. I read this book,  but I was not ‘swept off my feet’ .
  18. I hope we will see more of his thrillers (polars) in the future.
  19. That is Pierre Lemaitre’s  strongest genre.


Last thoughts:

BOOK: disappointing:
ALTHOUGH TEMPTED – Bien que tentée
AFTER HAVING HEARD – après avoir entendu ( after hearing…)
A REVIEW – une critique littéraire,
A READING OF THE BOOK – la lecture de ce livre
FINALLY DISAPPOINTED ME – m’a finalement déçue

Rien à voir avec  (nothing like….)

Au-revoir là haut. Dommage !



The Path to Power


Robert Caro:

  1. Robert Allan Caro is an American journalist.
  2. Robert Caro writes biography with a free and loose hand.
  3. He transforms  biography into something new
  4. ….structured political opinion writing.
  5. He lived in the Texas Hill Country while writing The Path to Power.
  6. It covers Johnson’s youth.
  7. This epic biography is nearing its close. Slowly but surely.
  8. Mr. Caro ( 81 yr) said he had most of the research for the last volume.
  9. But “one more big thing” remains, he said: A trip to Vietnam.

Part 1:

LBJ is a stubborn child and teenager.
I had no idea what a rascal he was in his youth!
Finally he breaks and realizes….he will HAVE to go to college
if he ever wants to make something of himself!”

Part 2:

The LBJ of the college years would be the man who would become president.
He came out of the Hill Country of Texas.
It formed and shaped him….into a form so hard it would never change.

Part 3:

Lady Bird (wife) was LBJ’s most important political asset.

Parts 4-5-6:

I’m learning why LBJ became an important “mover and shaker” in Washington.
But he never would have risen politically without
the help of Speaker of the House…Sam Rayburn.



Johnson family favorite saying:
You can tell a man by his boots, …his hats and the horse he rides.
The lapel-grabbing, embracing, manipulating of men
the wheeling-and-dealing the genius for politics
all culminated in …not the desire to dominate
….but the NEED to dominate.
LBJ was sensitive to the slightest hint of criticism and had
the urge not just to defeat….but destroy.

This book after all these years acquires a warm patina with age.
I let my thoughts drift while reading about the personality of LBJ
…his boot licking, bullying and thirst for respect and power.

LBJ: “born politician…but at times all hat an no cattle!”
He was more image or projection than actual substance.

Does it remind you of someone currently in The White House?
#MustRead….even if you are not a history buff!





Poor beginnings …always in debt!
Strong relationship with his mother Rebekah


Rich family….money was no object
Rarely saw his mother…he did see a lot of the housekeeper.

LBJ – TRUMP….both

Craved power
Lacking political moral sensibility
Use of money to move the political world
Credibility gap… both men lied…incessantly!
Lack of embarrassment when proved they were lying
…they just didn’t care!
All encompassing personal ambition
…that made issues and scruples superfluous.






Psychanalyse de Victor Hugo


  • Author: Charles Baudouin (1893 – 1963) was a French-Swiss psychoanalyst
  • Title: Psychanalyse de Victor Hugo
  • Published1943 (original) later in Paris, Ed. Imago, 2008.
  • Trivia:  read for information to help me with  #LesMisReadalong
  • Trivia:  Monthy Reading Plan



  1. This book was written in 1943 yet it never felt dated.
  2. I read it just to discover more about Victor Hugo the man.
  3. The book concentrates on the images used in Hugo’s poems.
  4. The use of antithesis for example…
  5. lumière-ombre, bien-mal, naissance-mort, amour-haine.
  6. The book is not available in English….so I struggled in French.


The author explained many complexes that Hugo was struggling with:

  1. Oedipus – demanding exclusively the love of his mother
  2. Guilt – brother Eugène became insane on Hugo’s wedding day and never recovered .
  3. His brother was madly in love with Adèle Foucher as well.
  4. The Chase – (poursuite)
 Les Mis: Valjean, the outlaw
  5. …his fate (fatalité) purses him.
  6. Retreat – (retraite)
 flee from tyrannical father = outside world
  7. —> to mother = refuge
  8. Les Mis:  Valjean receives  refuge in a convent.
  9. Convent is a typical symbol of a retreat…a maternal aisle.


His exile on Jersey and Guernsey felt like a new freedom.

  1. Hugo was constantly trying to reach the unconscious mind.
  2. He built a special porch on his house to gaze into
  3. … the heavens, stars, cosmos and the sea.

Shadows and darkness permeate Hugo’s thoughts.

  1. He believed that the darkness, the night was the normal state of our lives.
  2. Daylight was only here because our planet was close to a star….the sun.
  3. Abyss (gouffre) is mentioned more than 40 x in Les Misérables.


There are a few symbols that might be used in Les Misérables…..

  1. Spiderweb – In Notre-Dame Follo watches the
  2. fly struggle with the spider.
  3. It represents man’s struggle with inescapable fate (l’araignée)
  4. Spider –  symbol of “La Mere terrible” who succeeds
  5. to imprison child in the chains  in her web.
  6. Birds – represent passionate, free search into doctrines (bird = ideas)
  7. Window – linked to the subconscious
  8. …a place where you can drift into your memories/thoughts.
  9. Cord (rope) – dropped into a well….feeling of mystery, anguish
  10. Hibou (owl) – represents skepticism
  11. Chavue-souris – (bat) represents atheism
  12. Deep well (puits) – eternal mystery
  13. “ Quel puits que le coeur humain…” pg 1265 Les Mis


Charles Baudouin


Là-bas, août est un mois d’automne




  1. It takes talent to write such a touching and subtle  debut novel.
  2. The book is inspired by  the life of
  3. …poet and photographer Gustave Roud. (1897-1976)
  4. He is one of Switzerland’s most accomplished poets.
  5. Pellegrino describes the ‘mouvement de va-et-vient’
  6. …the daily comings and goings
  7. …of two   60+’ers, brother and sister, Gustave and Madeleine.
  8. They have lived a solitary life on their family farm at Carrouge (canton Vaud).
  9. They both yearn to love and be loved each in their own way.
  10. Pellegrino has a keen eye for the micro cosmos of the garden.
  11. It is the world  that
  12. …reflects the changing seasons of  the character’s lives.
  13. Happy or sad, public or secret, healthy or weakening with age,
  14. …all is given the reader in an almost  poetic style.
  15. This style ‘la belle expression
  16. is an adornment and shield
  17. …it is like the enamel on a tooth.
  18. Bravo, Bruno Pellegrino!



The Glass Canoe



  1. The novel is about a man who spends his life at the pub…
  2. seeing the world through his beer glass – a glass canoe.
  3. The novel is told through the voice of Meat Man.


Title: The Glass Canoe (beer glass)

  • …the glass got bigger and bigger, we stepped into the
  • glass and claimed our freedom to float away.  (pg 114)

Best quote:    about gambling:

  • He went to the races looking for the golden fleece
  • …and got shorn.  (pg 74)


  • Beer tasted thick and nourishing…like roast beef! (pg 14)
  •  …the liquid golden god that spouted from taps.
  • …the god with no voice of his own spoken through us.
  • …we jumped into the froth of beer as if it was the spume of surf
  • …like delighted children. (pg 52)



  1. The bar  attracts the men…like moths to a flame.
  2. Barflys used to drink to erase their aches and tiredness.
  3. Now there are only a few of them left to do a hard day’s work
  4. ….they  drink to erase everything.
  5. This book is a collection of fragments that describe
  6. inner city larrikins who belong to a tribe.
  7. Their watering hole is the bar at the Southern Cross Hotel.
  8. There were high points:
  9. The Pub Widow, Mac the copper and Territorial Animal (Blackie the pub dog)
  10. There were low points:
  11. Liz the Large, Ronny and Prudence.
  12. My favorite barfly was ‘philosopher’ Alky Jack.
  13. He is the voice of the author himself, David Ireland.
  14. He comments …about being Australian, the Queen and politics.
  15. Queen: “She’s not a bad thing […] can really hold her grog as well” (pg 37)
  16. The book is full of bars, barflys, beer, broads and brawls.
  17. At the beginning I was drawn to the quirky characters
  18. …unfortunately the last 50% of the book felt like a punctured balloon.




RIP Ursula Le Guin

  • Author: Ursula Le Guin
  • Title:  The Left Hand of Darkness
  • Published: 1969
  • Genre:  SF novel
  • Trivia: List of Challenges 2018


Place:  planet Gethen is also called ‘Winter” (experiencing an ice age.)…in country of Karhide.

Main Characters:  

  1. Genly Ai:
  2. Young man from Terra, or Earth who has been in Karhide for 2 years.
  3. He is an envoy from the Ekumen organization of more than eighty worlds.
  4. He must convince the Gethenias to join
  5. …the alliance to improve trade and communication.
  6. King Argavan XV: 
  7. King in the country of  Karhide (planet Gethen) who is
  8. reluctant to acknowledge Genly Ai.
  9. Argavan does not want to discuss his diplomatic mission because
  10. admitting the existence of beings who have mastered travel and communications
  11. would diminish the king’s importance.
  12. Estraven:
  13. Ai is indebted to Estraven (PM in Karhide)  for having arranged an audience with the king.
  14. Estraven as being cold and aloof, and Ai   feels that, as Prime Minister, he should
  15. have done more to make the audience go more smoothly.


Important part of the narrative:

  1. The citizens of Karhide are  androgynes.
  2. People are neither “he” nor “she” until they enter kemmer, a state of fertility,
  3. lasting a few days a month, analogous to a woman’s cycle.
  4. Then, depending on the chemistry between partners….
  5. one will develop as a male, the other as a female.
  6. The same person can be a child-bearing mother to some children
  7. …and a father to others.
  8. No wonder Ai is confused…as I was.



  1. This book is considered a SF classic
  2. Le Guin was one of the first female writers who
  3. questioned gender roles in SF.
  4. The book combines political complexity and
  5. …groundbreaking approach to gender:
  6. people in society had no gender
  7. ….or  both genders!
  8. The book was good.
  9. …but I found  Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven and
  10. her novella Vaster Than Empires and More Slow.…better.
  11. It’s just my personal preference.
  12. The Left had of Darkness  is well worth your reading time.
  13. It was awarded the Nebula Award AND the Hugo Award in 1970



Towards Mellbreak



  1. I started this book this morning
  2. ….and could not stop reading.
  3. It is absolutely magnificent!
  4. Émouvant….touching,
  5. Livre très attachant,
  6. C’est touchant à l’extrème.
  7. C’est d’une puissance rare!
  8. ..pastoral tone of hardworking country folk
  9. working in the fells with their sheep.
  10. Esther and Harold meet and Harold says:
  11. ‘”She might be right. Might be a fit”
  12. Esther’s life is a challenge.
  13. She raises a family, helps run the farm and
  14. ….still cares for mother who is slipping into dementia.
  15. Aey, she just needs settled. Likes the old memories best….We all do”.
  16. One on the most touching quotes about Esther was:
  17. The soil looked like how she felt half-done, half-lived.
  18. Marie-Elsa Bragg has written a breathtaking story of
  19. …pastoral life, struggles to survive on a farm
  20. …and trying to find strength to battle personal demons.
  21. Towards Mellbreak  is the place  where Harold finds peace.

It’s a winner in my opinion!
@MarieElsaBragg  @ChattoBooks



Here are some other shortlisted books in this category: