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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Books Read in July

I will start with my beloved 'Russians',i.e. books related to Russia:

The Madonnas of Leningrad

;">The Madonnas of Leningrad</span> by Debra Dean: A haunting, moving novel which tells the story of Marina, who is struggling to help save the paintings at the Hermitage in Peter the Great's 'city of silver and gold'. She is helped by her friend to memorise the paintings in each room. The book is set during the terrible siege of Leningrad when millions died and people suffered with dreadful hunger and poverty. Many years later Marina is suffering from Alzheimer's disease and her daughter faces the heart-rending task of helping her. This is an unforgettable debut novel.

Pasternak: A Biography by Ronald Hingley

"You have invited me to my own execution," the great Russian writer said when he handed Dr.Zhivago to the publisher, Feltrinelli. He was not executed, but the account of his abuse by the government of the Soviet Union and even his fellow writers because of his Nobel Prize, is very sobering. He even suffered an almost-fat fatal illness and the stress probably killed him in the end.

This is an interesting biography but I found the beginning rather complicated and obscure because of its focus on criticism of Pasternak's early poetry.

The account of Pasternaks' love affairs, later writings and philosophy was much more enjoyable, although I still didn't find Hingley's style especially easy to read. I liked some of his writing so I will look for more books by him.

It doesn't shy away from Pasternak's less likeable qualities. His poor mistress, Olga, who was sent to a gulag because of her association with him, was naturally very keen to see him when she came out. He wasn't so eager because he thought that her time in jail would have turned her into a 'hag'! Pasternak also wanted his wife to look after any child he had with his mistress! Apparently his first wife was really dropped because she focused on her career as an artist and he wanted one who would concentrate on the housework.

Hingley does manage to make the reader empathise with Pasternak, in spite of all this, so one has to hand it to him.

I am struggling through The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky This has to be the most difficult book that I've ever read! It's not the writing that's hard; it is the volatility and complexity of the Russian characters. They're all quite mad, except for Alyosha, whose strength of character is very admirable! English literature was easy compared with these Russian novels!

The Art of Love by Elizabeth EdmondsonThis wasn't nearly as good as her last book, the very clever The Villa in Italy. Polly is a likeable heroine, however, and the book has an intriguing hero and an involving mystery. Coincidences seem to abound, unfortunately.

Governor Ramage, R.N. The Ramage novels are easier to read and understand than Patrick O'Brien's complicated series. This one involves an interesting court-martial, a suitably villianous enemy, and an exciting storm in the Caribbean. Ramage seems to be a bit of a womaniser but he has the charm to get away with it!<

Saturday, July 12, 2008

World Youth Day

A warm welcome to the Catholic pilgrims here for World Youth Day ! I hope that you have a great time.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Books Read in June

Pamela: In Her Own Right by Pamela Myer Warrender

Pamela was born into luxury and privilege at the tastefully furnished Heymount in Melbourne. In her younger days she modelled in Paris, mixed with the English aristocracy and worked for her family's famous department store, Myers. She married the son of an English lord.

Even though 'the rich are different', they also have their problems and Pamela's adult life was difficult. Her parents separated; the Myer childen had a fight against the fairness of their father's will; and her husband had problems with his businesses. She also suffered from a death in the family. It is interesting to see how resilient Pamela coped but the second half of the book is understandably miserable.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
(Contains Spoilers)

Like all Russian classics this is full of themes and layers so it can be read again and again. The tragic story of the complicated Anna, who ruins her life by her adultery with a younger officer, is compared with her brother's and sister-in-law's marriages. Levin, who takes the 'middle path' is the true hero of this wonderful book.

Unfortunately, I always find the sections about Levin's life on the farm rather dull, but the lyricism of most of the book makes up for this.

The BBC series, starring Nicola Paget, is excellent and really brings the novel to life for me.

Tara's Fortune by Geraldine O'Neill

A romantic epic and an easy read. I found this quite soothing after struggling through Anna again. It tells the story of the elegant and charming Tara and her likeable friend Biddy's relationships with their husbands and families. The problem is that it is pretty long, and I got a bit tired of it at times.

However, I am going to look for the next book in the series.