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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Poems for the New Year

Here is some special poetry to see in the New Year! This is my personal favourite by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:
Ring Out, Wild Bells

Sunday, December 27, 2009

TBR Challenge

I am going to do MitzB's TBR 2010 Challenge .

My List of Twelve Books

A Castle in Tuscany: The Remarkable Life of Janet Ross by Sarah Benjamin

Wordsworth and Coleridge by Adam Sisman

Time Out: 1000 Books to Change Your Life

That Summer in Sicily by Marlena de Blasi

Katherine The Virgin Widow by Jean Plaidy

True Grace by Wendy Leigh

The Emperor and the Actress by Joan Haslip

The Golden Fleece by Bertita Harding

A Place in the World called Paris

I Remember St.Petersburg by E.M. Almedingen

Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopkik

The Party that Lasted 100 Days by Hilary and Mary Evans

I will put by Alternative List up soon!

I've made a mistake and the print has suddenly got much smaller. Help! I've read: Paris to the Moon, That Summer in Sicily, and Katherine: The Virgin Widow.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Candle for St.Jude by Rumer Godden. Chapter One

(I used this picture because it's in the Common Domain. I am going to look for one that is more suitable.)

An old coach house covered with wisteria, with its own theatre with red plush chairs and chandeliers, and a ballet school. This is the setting for Rumer Godden's novel.
The coach house in Anna Pavlova's old haunt, Hampstead, is almost a character in this novel. The struggles to keep the ballet school and theatre going will be a central theme. As Godden writes, 'A theatre is blooded in triumphs and tears.'

Madame Anna, the main character, runs the ballet school and theatre. She is a typical Russian ballet diva - vain and dominating but good-hearted. She surrounds herself with relics of her great career in the ballet, such as a chocolate box from the Tsar and an opal from the people of Sydney. These relics are 'personal memorials to be held in reverence and an incentive to faith.'

There are also the characters of Lion and Caroline, the premier stars of her theatre. We are only told a little bit about them, but we are told that Caroline's feelings are 'not exceptional' and Lion is not musical.

Miss Ilse, who was married to Madame's brother, and Mr.Felix are some of the other characters. They devote their lives to Madame but they are also strong characters.

NB: Read about Carnaval.

Unfortunately, I probably won't have time to go on with this book until after mid-March.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Candle for St.Jude by Rumer Godden

I am going to start my Rumer Godden retrospective with this book. I know that This House of Brede is the favourite of most people but I've always loved A Candle for St.Jude the best for some reason. I'll start reading my battered old copy soon.

Does anyone want to join the discussion? Are there any Rumer Godden fans about? I'm hoping to discuss the first three chapters by next week.

Art History Reading Challenge

I didn't get very far with the last one but I'm going to try again! I'm joining : Heidenkind's. I will probably start with Renoir's biography of his father.

I'd love to hear from others doing this challenge!

My theme for this challenge is the French Impressionists. That is just the way that it has worked out.

With Violets by Elizabeth Robards

This is a beautifully written novel about the ambitious, young woman artist, Berthe Morisot, and her love affair with Edouard Manet. The prose does descend into the 'purple' sometimes, I feel, and the dialogue is a bit contrived at times, but I enjoyed it very much.

The characterization is very good. Berthe is a very likeable young woman, torn between trying to please her mother who wants her to marry well, and her love for a married man. She is also an excellent artist.

Edouard Manet is also well-imagined. He is handsome and charming, but has a certain ruthlessness. I also liked the character of Degas, who seems to be either understanding or annoying because of his sarcasm.

The struggles of the Impressionists are interesting. Morisot is very determined to have her art respected, and this is always difficult for a new style of painting. Robards writes well about the problems that the Impressionists faced.

Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman

This is a luminous novel about the relationship between sisters, and art. Mary, an Impressionist artist, loved to paint her sister, Lydia. Chessman paints in words how both sisters feel and their moving relationship. This is a book that one could read many times.

The main problem with the book was that it was a bit hard to understand the relationships between the other family members. Lydia remembers her past and examines her life and the loss of her lover and brother. I wasn't quite sure how many brothers she had.

The Unknown Matisse by Hilary Spurling

This is a brilliant analysis of Henri Matisse's stubborn Northern character, his rebellion against his father, his rebellion against conformism, and his struggle to transform modern art into a glittering world of light and colour.

This biography is well-written and interesting. However, it's very long and detailed.

I only read three books for this challenge, and I was supposed to read six. I haven't done very well! However, I will probably read three more books about the Impressionists and post short reviews here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Books Read in December

I read quite a few books in October and November but I don't think that I can put them in order. I'm starting again now!

The Lost Art of Gratitude by Alexander McCall Smith

I love reading about the charming and philosophical Isabel. The third one in the series, this book includes all of the usual characters - Jamie, Cat, little Charlie, and Grace. Isabel is asked by Minty to help solve a problem and has to apply her detective skills and decide whether the rather hard-headed Minty is trustworthy or not. She is also required to meet her niece Cat's new boyfriend, a trapeze-artist. (!)

Alexander McCall Smith's gentle, Scottish novels evoke the misty, romantic setting of Edinburgh very well. They are also very amusing, although the ones set in Africa are probably funnier. I am attracted to cold, green locations, and I like the philosophical questions in these books so I prefer this series. I've only read the first one in the other series so I'm not sure about this, but I also prefer Isabel to Precious so far.

Londongrad by Mark Hollingsworth and Stewart Langsley

This is a long and complicated tale about the large influx of wealthy Russians into London and their surprising amount of power. It involves mysterious deaths, drawn-out legal battles and power struggles with Putin.

The most interesting part of the book is the account of Litvinenko's poisoning and its repercussions. The lack of democracy in Russia and the crises after the end of the Cold War are explained very well here.

I have to admit to enjoying reading about the excessive wealth of the oligarchs. Their art collections, London houses and country mansions are likely to make any reader envious and the authors get quite carried away when they describe it all!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rumer Godden Retrospective

I am going to read many of Rumer Godden's books again soon. She is one of my favourite writers and I want to read and discuss her books with interested readers.

Please join me!