#Ireland Louise Kennedy
by Louise Kennedy (no photo)
Finish date: March 2023
Genre: short stories (15)
Review: The End of the World is a Cul de Sac (ISBN: 9781526623270)
Good news: Ms Louise Kennedy brings the quality of short story writing to a new level!
Her eye for detail is meticulous…very precise even about trivial things!
When the author described a woman in her home doing the dishes…or ferreting in her make-up bag…I said: “I do that!” That is the strength of these stories…you are drawn in with bits and pieces of the narrative and you embrace them!
Good news: Louise Kennedy’s collection of short stories, The End of the World is a Cul de Sac, has won the John McGahern Prize for a debut book of Irish fiction published in 2021.
Good news: This collection is just the right length: 15 stories…reading time about 5 hours. I’ve learned a valuable lesson this year…NO more short story collection with 40 stories. It is just not doable…my eyes start to glaze over. When it comes to stories…less is more.
Personal: We all complain about not having enough time to tuck into a massive novel (600+ pages…).
Well the alternatives are novellas and short story collections. I don’t like to re-hash what I read but I like to give a short story collection a score. I enjoyed 10 of the 15 stories (67%). Selecting the story I like the best is difficult…there were so many….but I will mention 2: “Powder” (widow bringing her husband’s ashes back to Ireland) and “Garland Sunday” (family secrets revealed…)
PS: Top collections..so far are: Redeployment (P. Klay) – A Manual for Cleaning Women (L. Berlin) – Dark As Last Night (T. Birch) – Walk the Blue Fields (C. Keegan) -reviews are on page SHORT STORY WRITERS
#WW II Sorj Chalandon
Foto of Chalandon’s father….
by Sorj Chalandon (no photo)
Finished: March 2023
Genre: (WW II)
Review: Énfant de salaud (ISBN: 9782253936824)
Good news: Amazing story…Sorj Chalandon’s new novel tells how he finally discovers the true story of his father, at the same time as the trial of Klaus Barbie takes place. This shortlisted for the prestigious French literary Prix Goncourt 2021. I’m sure this book will be translated into English very soon!
Good news: The strength of this novel is to mix history with Chalandon’s father’s part in that trajectory in WW II France.
Good news: Writing style is very personal (father-son relationship) yet also informative (history). Asked by the newspaper Libération to report on the Klaus Barbie trial in May-July 1987, Sorj Chalandon puts into perspective his 1. father’s stories 2. his investigation of his father’s past during the war and 3. the course of the trial in which his father also attends.
Personal: I was fascinated by the story and especially elements of WWII that I did not know about. Most heartbreaking was….. The Gestapo, under the direction of the ‘Butcher of Lyon’ Klaus Barbie, entered the orphanage of Izieu in eastern France and forcibly removed the forty-four children and their seven supervisors, throwing the crying and terrified children on to the trucks. I read every single French word (…no matter how many times I had to consult a FR-ENG dictionary) mainly because of Chalandon’s approach to this book. He does not assume the position of the journalist when he retraces some episodes of this trial. Chalandon is closer to himself, listening to his feelings. Impressive was the way the author gives us his father’s reactions… his almost constant indifference to the testimonies of the victims. His father had more interest in Klaus Barbie (gazing at him with a hint of a smile) and his fascination for Jacques Vergès, a French-Algerian who was Barbie’s defence lawyer. My next book is Mémoires by Serge Karsfeld and his wife Beate Karlfeld…famous Nazi hunters. They finally tracked Barbie down in Bolivia and brought him to justice.
OMG…blown off bike in a terrible wind gust in The Netherlands!
Landed on my hand and sprained my wrist…thank God, no bones are broken.
Will be keeping right arm in sling for next 48 hrs – 72 hrs.
Complete rest so blogging is stopped for a week or two.
#Non-fiction WWII French Resistance
by Guillaume Pollack (no photo)
Finished: March 2023
Genre: non-fiction (WWII)
Review: L’armée du silence (ISBN: 9791021049413)
Good news: I learned about a hidden side of a war. World War II was fought behind enemy lines by an army of silence. I did not realise how many resistance networks that were created led by the secret services of Free France and the Allies.
These networks are major players in the final victory against Nazi and fascist oppression. I kept wondering how the “resistance” is organised in Ukraine? We know they are there….
Good news: Excellent book for my French vocabulary. I don’t read many French history based books but hope to try more in the future.
Bad news: Writing style: At times the book lists so many people in the resistance (my head was spinning!),…names, dates of birth, schools attended, places etc. that goes on and on. The book read rather like a text book. After 200 pages I had to figure a way to keep reading…which was difficult. I underlined every name on a page…then proceeded to read around them! I was never going to remember all who joined the resistance so I need to grasp the gist of their operations. It is not written in a very exciting or particularly elaborate language, but perhaps it is better for that. It tells the stories of the resistance in a very meticulous and chronological manner.
Personal: This book is for the die-hard aficionado who yearns for MORE details about WW II. L’armée du silence is the story of men and MANY women who almost always remained anonymous Their secrets and the identity of their agents have so far been kept in archives in France and abroad, recently opened. I was most impressed by the best known network “Alliance”, by Georges Loustaunau-Lacau double agent who managed to get appointed to Vichy France. He made many daring escapes, survived concentration camps and eventually elected to the French National Assembly in 1951. What a life!
#Ireland Short History of Irish Literature
A Short History of Irish literature: A backward look (1968)
Finished: March 2023
#Readingirelandmonth23 Challenge hosted by @746Books
Bad news: The book explains in chapters 1-7 the beginning of oral story telling in Ireland. It moves on to saga’s and Irish manuscripts provided my scribes in monasteries. All very basic…but does make the eyes glaze over once and a while. 800 AD was eve of the the first invasions by the vikings.
Within a few years all great monasteries were in ashes!
Good news: Push through ch 1 – 7 even if you have to skim them because Frank O’Connor has some great insights about modern Irish literature! He dissects segments of Ulysses ( worth reading) that were enlightening! There is so much in this Irish classic the reader misses without the guidance of an J. Joyce expert! Did you know each of the 18 episodes in the book is related to the corresponding episode of the Odyssey…AND also associated with an organ of the body and a colour?
Good news: This book is out of print and I ordered from second-hand dealer in UK. It was $$ (expensive)…but money WELL spent for a collection of O’Connor’s lectures given at Trinity University Dublin (1968).
Good news: Frank O’Connor is not only a literary critic. O’Connor was “doing for Ireland what Chekhov did for Russia”! His best short stories attain a distinct psychological and emotional richness. There is a fine short story prize given in his name each year in Cork. The prize was presented between 2005 and 2015. The prize amount was €25,000, making it one of the richest short-story collection prizes in the world. Unfortunately the prize was discontinued in 2016.
Personal: I’m always looking for books by great Irish authors who seem to have slipped between the cracks. Here are a few found in this book and plan to read: Asenath Nicholson, James Magan, James Stephens, Sean O’Casey, Liam O’ Flaherty, G.B. Shaw and Mary Lavin.
There are many great quotes from Irish poems and the final words of W.B. Yeats just struck a cord…
“Cast your mind on other days
That we in coming days may be
Still the indomitable Irishry.”
#Essays On Becoming an American Writer
Finish date: February 2023
Review: On Becoming an American Writer (ISBN: 9781567927481)
Good news: James McPherson was the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction…and you probably never heard of him. Now is your chance to discover this great writer! He went from segregated Savannah Georgia, to Harvard Law School to professor at the University of Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop. It is the number two university in USA for writing.
Bad news: The first 3 essays were interesting (black movement). The only objection is the scholarly tone. Not the best choices to “hook” the reader. I thought the book was going to be a soporific read…how wrong I was! I did not give up on the book…essays like Crabcakes, an essay about the comic Richard Pryor and the one that stole my heart was about his relationship with his daughter Rachel…brilliant! Just …keep reading!
Personal : This book is stunning! I did not want the book to end…so I put the author’s other books (memoir, short stories) and my reading wish list. So glad I finally got to meet James Alan McPherson! Professor McPherson was the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction with his short story collection Elbow Room (Little, Brown, 1977). In 1981 and he was among the first of MacArthur Scholars.
I guess the old saying goes
…just saving the best for last for #BlackHistoryMonth23.
This was an amazing collection of essays
to re-introduce us to James McPherson.
That is exactly what I said…but oh, was I impressed.
When a book lingers….even when trying to go to sleep
then I say: This writer is a keeper!
#2023 March Reading List
Shannon, County Clare
- Do Not Disturb – M. Wrong, 2021 (Rwanda) (NF)
- Floaters – Martin Espada – (Nat Book Award 2021) poetry
- On Becoming an American Writer – J. McPherson – REVIEW
- If Walls Could Speak – Moshe Safdie, 2022 – (NF)
- French Reading Challenge:
- Enfant de Salud – Sorj Chalandon, 2021 (novel) – READING
- L’Armée du silence – G. Pollack, 2022 (NF) – READING
- L’étranger – Albert Camus, 1942 (classic)
- L’art de perdre – Alice Zeniter, 2019 (novel)
- Miroir de nos peines – Pierre Lemaitre, 2020 (novel)
- #Readingirelandmonth23 Challenge hosted by @746Books
- Short History of Irish Literature – F. O’ Connor, 1968 Intro – REVIEW
- Molloy – Samuel Beckett, 1951 (novel)- Irish Classics
- Girl on an Altar – M. Carr, 2022 (play) Contemporary Irish
- The End of the World is a Cul de Sac – L. Kennedy, 2021 Short Story
- My Fourth Time, We Drowned – Sally Hayden, 2022 Non- Fiction
#Classic Journal of a Village Priest
Finish date: February 2023
Review: Journal d’un curé de campagne (ISBN: 9782253162865)
Good news: This is a classic novel by one of the last French novelist whose narratives are strongly influenced by the Catholic church. The author offers here the diary of a country priest. He seems a bit naive to me as Le curé is straight out of the seminary and has little knowledge of the customs of the world and sometimes becomes the laughing stock of others. But this all changes…..
Bad news: Pg 1-34 was difficult to get into this book…lots of ‘Catholic Church’ bashing. Need to improve my “clerical French vocabulary” Toute de suite! Just when I think I can follow the daily journal of the priest….suddenly another character goes off on a rant about the ancient world, the rich aristocrats, the poor working class and the ever powerful L’Église. These rants in the first 30 % of the book (pg 7-101) totals 53 pages!! If I am going to finish this book I will have to skim the future harangues!
Personal: With all the drama that happens in a rural village (and there is a lot!) …Georges Bernanos distilled his view of the Catholic Church in just one sentence (pg 166) that impacted me:
“Who are you (church) to judge the faults of others?” The story is told by the priests recounting of his experiences in his diary. He reflects upon them with hindsight. Le curé is treated with hatred by many of the villiagers. They see him as an an unwanted intrusion into their lives. As he feels himself to be an outcast by the townspeople, he increasingly relies on his faith for strength.
But even this begins to fade. This was a very powerful book…once I got past the “rants” in the first 25% of the book. Bernanos was awarded the Grand prix du roman de l’Académie française in 1936, the year it was published. Journal d’un curé de campagne is considered one of the masterpieces of 20th century French literature. The book is available in English translation and a good suggestion for the European Reading challenge!
#BlackHistoryMonth Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
Review: The Love Songs of W.E.B Du Bois (ISBN:9780008516482)
Good news: During 2023 I am going to concentrate on reducing the number of books on my Kindle. That is why I’m going to give ANY book on my TBR a chance. This looked like a good place to start for #BHM.
Bad news: This book is 300 pages too long… it sacrifices depth for breadth. I just could not finish it. So disappointed because I saw many rave reviews…(Oprah’s Book Club).
Personal: Undaunted by the introduction (HUGE family trees of several families)…I pushed on. While the first half of the book was interesting (1960s-1990s)… it became repetitious and felt like a long soap opera once the youngest (Ailey) was off to college. I made it to 50% mark…then was tired of the melodrama in the Garfield family (Coco, Lydia and Ailey). Lesson learned: Any book 800+ pages…I must read the reviews (score 2 and 1) before buying the book!! Once again…many people loved this book about a multigenerational Black American family…so you will have to read it for yourself and decide.
#BlackHistoryMonth A Knock At Midnight
by Brittany K. Barnett
Finish date: February 2023
Review: A Knock At Midnight (ISBN: 9781984825803)
Good News: It is important to keep reading racism in USA…and not only during #BlackHistoryMonth. This award winning attorney shares with the reader her childhood growing up in East Texas.
Her family was strong but it seems society was against them every step of the way.
Impressive to read how Brittany became the backbone of the family…helping a mother who has been incarcerated, caring for her younger sister, keeping up her grades….and eventually studying law.
Personal: This is the 5th book I’ve read about mass incarceration of Blacks in USA.
In the order of Best..to good: Blood in the Water (Heather Ann Thompson)…then The New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander) Just Mercy (B. Stevenson) followed by Halfway Home and A Knock at Midnight. All the books are eye-openers. Yet I feel…nothing seems to change in the USA legal system.