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Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts

Monday, 15 May 2017

EDIE An American Biography by Jean Stein edited with George Plimpton (1982)


Born into a wealthy New England family. Edie Sedgwick became, in the 1960s, both an emblem of, and a memorial to, the doomed world spawned by Andy Warhol. Edie was outrageous, vulnerable and strikingly beautiful. Her childhood was dominated by a brutal but glamorous father. Fleeing to New York, she became an instant celebrity, known to everyone in the literary, artistic and fashionable worlds of the day. She was Warhol’s twin soul, his creature, the superstar of his films and, finally, the victim of a life which he created for her. Edie is an American fable on an epic scale - the story of a short, crowded and vivid life which is also the story of a decade.


Author: Jean Stein is an American author born into a Jewish family in 1934 in Los Angeles, California. Jean has worked as an editor for a number of magazines, including “The Paris Review” and “Esquire”. She is co-author, with George Plimpton, of “American Journey: The Times of Robert Kennedy” and in 1990 she became the editor of the literary journal “Grand Street”, until it ceased publication in 2004. It was described by The New York Times as “one of the most revered literary magazines of the postwar era”.

Author: George Plimpton was born on March 18, 1927 in New York City and he died in September 2003 at 76 years. George was an author, an actor and a literary patron. In 1953 he co-founded “The Paris Review” and published many books, including “Truman Capote” and “The Bogey Man”, to name but a few.


My thoughts: I’m so excited to talk to you about Edie, I mean about a book devoted to her short, intense and chaotic life. In the life of Edie there has been worldwide success and fatal degradation. Even though Edie was surrounded by a huge group of friends, acquaintances and members of her large family, she felt alone and unloved.

Edie was the muse of the great artist Andy Warhol - a character I call opportunist and who was described as a manipulator by many members of The Factory.
The Factory was an artists’ studio opened by Andy Warhol in 1964 and located in New York. It was used for the production of Warhol’s pop art works, the making of films and concerts and many party celebrations were held there too.

Returning to Edie, she felt a great emptiness in her life which drove her to get lost in the world of the night: alcohol, parties and drugs, lots of hard drugs. She died prematurely at the age of 28 years from an overdose of barbiturates. Strangely, Edie always knew she wouldn’t live long, according to her close friends. A gipsy, she said, read her palm and told her she had a short lifeline.

Edie had loneliness as an enemy. That came from her childhood as one of many offspring of one of the most prestigious rich and successful old American families: the Minturns, the Forests, the Sedgwicks.

She grew up with her many siblings on the family ranch where she never really felt at home. As a young teenager she was interned in an institution for anorexia. There were rumours of incest involving her father. The family lived in a closed circle, and always displayed a happy air, a facade. Knowing the self destructive fate reserved for some members of Edie’s family, one understands that there was a great lack of love.

In short, (if not I will write a thousand pages... hahaha...), I would say that this book is very rich in details of the American society of the sixties. We also learn about pop culture. This richly documented biography tells us historical facts about the USA, since Edie’s family was strongly linked to the history of the United States of America.
It is written in a pertinent and sincere way with the intervention and testimonies of people who worked at the Factory and members of her family, including a historian.

Edie moved me: a shy, generous, naive girl, very intelligent and gifted in the arts and terribly touching with huge black eyes and a bewitching regard... that’s how I perceive her. In addition to being the greatest model of all time, Edie created, rather than followed fashion. Her trademarks: dark eye make-up, large earrings, black opaque tights, a touch of glitter and all that enhanced by her natural grace. Her full name was Edith Minturn Sedgwick, she was born in Santa Barbara on April 20, 1943 and died on November 15, 1971.

It goes without saying that I loved this book, which is more than just a biography. I read it twice in August 2007 and 2012. “When we love, we don’t count” as we say over here!


Monday, 8 May 2017

Where to stay in Lucerne? The Hotel Lucerne, Autograph Collection

The Hotel Lucerne, a member of the Autograph Collection, is one of those dream hotels…a perfect location in front of a gorgeous little park, totally stunning design and service with the finest attention to detail. It is a hotel that had been on my wish list for a long time and I was excited to be staying there on our long weekend in Lucerne.

As soon as we entered the hotel we were greeted by the welcoming and ever so friendly manager and his staff. After a quick check-in, I took a look around and photographed the bar and restaurant before going up to our room on the 5th floor.

Even though the bar and restaurant areas were sublime, I won’t lie to you, we preferred to take our meals, including our breakfast, outside at different renowned restaurants, just to mix with the locals.

There is one bar, The Lounge, which was designed with even the smallest detail in mind by the French architect Jean Nouvel. The customers are locals who meet up with friends and chill out or tourists (guests of the hotel), who just come to relax in comfortable plush chairs listening to pleasant music till late into the night...

There is one restaurant, Bam Bou, which serves French-Mediterranean and gastronomic cuisine with views on an open kitchen (for those who enjoy seeing chefs in action...).



Jean Nouvel designed the hotel and specifically much of its furniture, such as the bedroom decoration items, desks, beds, bedside tables, armchairs and chairs. In contrast to the opulent ceilings, the furnishings of the rooms are suave and minimalist.

There are 30 rooms and suites at the hotel and each room has a unique decor and atmosphere which makes it special. The large, fascinating presentation of various film scenes on the ceilings and walls of the suites and studios generates a sensual atmosphere. Each of its rooms has a very large image covering a wall or ceiling, depicting a scene taken from films by Fellini, Almodovar....A DVD of the film in question is thoughtfully placed near the TV.  

Our Deluxe Studio was spacious with a beautiful open plan design, calming dark and neutral tones with some touches of strong colours and lots of comfy places to lounge around. Our photo ceiling was “Ai no corrida” by Nagisa Oshima – “Ureshii... Sonnani shitara... Atashi ...”

One of the things that really set The Lucerne Hotel apart was the very fine attention to detail both before our arrival and throughout our stay. There were magazines for us to read and we had plentiful supplies of various sorts of tea and coffee (with a Nespresso machine), water, fruit and chocolates. In addition there was a well filled mini bar with nuts, snacks, biscuits, juices and alcoholic drinks.


And let’s not forget the must in any hotel bedroom: a super bed and pillow to give you the ultimate comfort.  In front of the bed there was a flat screen TV with all the international channels....just in case you need to come back to reality and check on the news around the globe.


The large white ultra-modern bathroom was decorated with fresh orchids and a plant brunch. There were two sinks, a glass shower and a separate bath.



There were all sorts of cute little extras, amenities and gorgeous toiletries. I fell in love with the shower gel and body lotion...they smelled heavenly. I asked the staff for more of these products and was given a generous supply with a smile. The level of service was incredible!


Molton Brown, London’s bath, body & beauty products.

We loved the wide window that revealed impressive, illuminated scenes outside. We enjoyed the views of the park and the old town from inside the window. It was perfect to relax with a cup of tea in total calm, enjoying the beauty of the town.

This is truly one of most spectacular small boutique hotels I’ve visited in recent years. It has won a slew of awards...and I understand why.

The Hotel Lucerne, Autograph Collection
Sempacherstrasse 14
CH-6002 Lucerne
Switzerland
Tel.: +41 41 226 86 86

It goes without saying that this post is not sponsored, like all my blog posts. It’s just me sharing tips... You are welcome!

Monday, 1 May 2017

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (2014)


There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed…

On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Only later does Johannes appear and present her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways…
Nelly is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household, but as she uncovers its secrets she realises the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?

Author: Jessie Burton was born 1982 and is an English author and actress. She has so far published two novels, The Miniaturist and The Muse. Jessie Burton  graduated from the University of Oxford. She has worked as a PA in the City of London and she lives in South-East London.

My thoughts: I read this historical fiction novel a couple of months ago. Indeed,   I literally devoured its 424 pages…I loved this story immensely.

First of all, I had been attracted by the cover of the book and, after reading the summary on the back, I really wanted to read it because the place and the period interest me.

The Miniaturist is a very good historical novel that cleverly combines intrigue with particular destinies and the history of a society and an era. I would say that this novel is ambitious. I really enjoyed being immersed in the golden age of Amsterdam: the prosperity of the city and the Dutch East India Company, the unlimited enrichment of the merchants. Puritanism dominates the city and obliges everyone to hide feelings and to guard against any misconduct. People have to keep their secrets closely to themselves. In reading this book I often had in mind the paintings of Vermeer, which I admire so much.

This fictional novel tells the story of Petronella Oortman, aka Nella. Nella is an open-minded girl and with an imaginative and dreamy disposition.
In 1686 Petronella Oortman has just married. She is only 18 years old and her husband is the handsome and rich merchant Johannes Brandt, an important man in the commercial community and 39 years old.
She arrives alone at her new home and is greeted coldly by Marin, the sister of her husband. Marin is a prude, a rigid old maid who has no intention of leaving the running of the house to Nella. In this house there are only two servants, which is surprising for that of rich man such as Johannes. There is Cornelia, the insolent and familiar servant, and Otto, a black man, a former slave “saved” by Johannes.

Nella becomes quickly bored. She is lonely, unoccupied and ignored by her husband, except when the latter offers her an extraordinary gift: a miniature house that is a faithful recreation of their opulent home on the banks of the Herengracht.
Marin gives her a book/guide where all the shops in Amsterdam are listed so that Nella can order items to furnish her miniature house. Nella orders three small objects from a miniaturist. They are perfect reproductions, but soon more objects arrive without having been ordered and their precision seems to show that the one who manufactures them knows the house and even the secrets of its occupants. The miniaturist finally becomes an obsession for Nella.
The bonds between Marin, Nella and the two servants will become closer, the women will have to face the events that trouble the household with strength. How will everyone turn out? More dignified or meaner and baser?


Monday, 17 April 2017

The Breakdown by B A Paris (2017)

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside - the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.
But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.
The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt. Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

Author: B.A. Paris is from a Franco/Irish background and was born in 1958. She was brought up in England and moved to France when she was 21. She spent some years working as a trader in an international bank before re-training as a teacher and setting up a language school with her husband. They still live in France and have five daughters. Her first novel “Behind Closed Doors” was published in 2016 and became a tremendous bestseller.

My thoughts: After I finished “The Breakdown” I immediately purchased her first novel “Behind Closed Doors” - I had enjoyed reading this psychological thriller so much. I am pleased to say that I have also enjoyed reading “Behind Closed Doors”, which I will review in due course.
I ordered The Breakdown in mid-March in the original English version. As soon as I received it from Payot bookstore in Geneva, I started reading it and I finished all 415 pages that same weekend. This book was a real great surprise: I knew it to be good, but I wasn’t expecting it to be extraordinary, which it certainly turned out to be.
To summarise it, without giving away too much of the plot, it’s the story of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s the story of a split-second decision taken by Cass, the main character, which has such a devastating impact on her life.
It relates the consequences of her decision not to stop to help that motorist she came across in an isolated place in the woods, not far from her cottage, that Friday night at eleven thirty.
Gradually, Cass learns that she knew Jane Walters, the victim who was brutally murdered. Cass had made her acquaintance just a few weeks before and they had begun a good friendship. That shakes Cass. Her previously peaceful and happy life, a life without drama at the side of her loving husband (they have been married for a year) and in the company her childhood friend, Rachel, who is like a sister to her, is turned upside down. Cass starts undergo many things that have suddenly caught up with her and throw her off-balance.
Cass starts to have memory lapses and she feels the threat of dementia hanging over her: ten years before her mother died, she was diagnosed with dementia and Cass fears it is hereditary.
I will stop here and tell you that if you like very well written psychological thrillers and a well developed and consistent story, without descending into clichés and improbable plot twists, you will love this book.

Monday, 3 April 2017

The People of the Abyss by Jack London (1903)


The People of the Abyss is a narrative about life in the East End of London in 1902. Jack London wrote this first-hand account by living in the East End (including the Whitechapel District) for several months, sometimes staying in workhouses or sleeping on the streets. The conditions he experienced and wrote about were the same as those endured by an estimated 500,000 of the contemporary London poor.

Author: Jack London was born on January 12, 1876 in San Francisco. After his birth, his mother turned him over to an ex-slave, who raised him through his infancy. She remained a major maternal figure throughout his life. London was passionate about socialism and workers’ rights.  He wrote several powerful works. He was one of the first writers to earn worldwide celebrity and a large fortune from his writing alone. London died young, at the age of 40.

My thoughts: I came across this masterpiece in 2008 while watching a TV documentary about the Victorian era. I immediately wanted to read London’s non-fiction novel. I nevertheless had to wait over a month, as no bookstore in Geneva had it in stock. I enjoyed reading it and was impressed by London’s courage to disguise himself as a tramp for three months roaming the slums of London. He writes about the economic degradation of the poor and homeless on the streets of London, people who have been exploited by imperialism and capitalism. Jack London felt motivated to write about those men and women in order to give a voice to the ignored masses, because the stories of the rich, powerful and fashionable filled the pages of newspapers and novels. In these pages, we take an in depth look into the lives of those unfortunate families. Let me tell you that I adored this book but that I wouldn’t read it twice. I still have in mind their chaotic and hard lives and I found them particularly brave.
This is a kind of report and, despite the very harsh conditions of the life of its protagonists, there is always a bit of hope and light. This is perhaps why these people are doing their best to have a better life, even if, in the end, only a few of them succeed.

Monday, 13 March 2017

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (2007)


It is July 1962. Edward and Florence, young innocents married that morning, arrive at a hotel on the Dorset coast. At dinner in their rooms they struggle to suppress their private fears of the wedding night to come…

Author: Ian McEwan is an English novelist, born in Aldershot, Hampshire, on 21 June 1948. His father was a working-class Scotsman who had worked his way up through the army to the rank of major. He spent much of his childhood in East Asia, Germany and North Africa, where his father was posted. His family returned to England when he was twelve. He was educated at Woolverstone Hall School, the University of Sussex, receiving his degree in English literature in 1970 and the University of East Anglia, where he undertook a master’s degree in literature. The Times featured him on its list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”, and in 2008, The Daily Telegraph ranked him number 19 in their list of “The 100 most powerful people in British culture”

My thoughts: I read this book at the end of January (it had been on my shelf for a decade). I read it in four days. It’s a small book of 166 pages. The keyword of this novel is nostalgia: it is an irresistible mixture of innocence and sensuality. I loved the effective use of flashbacks throughout the disastrous wedding night to show both of the key characters’ different upbringings. I liked the insightful development of the two characters, which I found touching.

This is the story of an unexpected encounter of two very young people (both 22 years old). Edward Mayhew earned a degree in History and comes from a modest family. Florence Ponting comes from a wealthy family, she’s beautiful, and is the principal player in a string quartet - she intends to pursue her classical music career.
After their splendid wedding in July 1962, they drive to a hotel on the Dorset coast to spend their honeymoon. On their wedding night Florence, although deeply in love with Edward, apprehends having sexual intercourse with him. She needs to overcome some issues to make this marriage work. Walking out on Chesil Beach, Dorset, they are about to find out things concerning each other that the stifling society of 1962 has prevented them from learning before. Now, is their honeymoon night to be a total disaster and ruin their marriage?


Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Wuthering Heights by Emily Jane Brontë (1847)


Wuthering Heights is the wild and passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine’s father. After Mr Earnshaw’s death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine’s brother Hindley. Wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, he leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries. The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex structure, the evocative descriptions of the lonely moorland setting and the poetic grandeur of vision combine to make this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature.

Author: Emily Jane Brontë was born on July 30, 1818 in the village of Thornton. She was the fifth of six children of an Irish priest of the Church of England. She lost her mother as a child. Emily had a strong personality, she was independent and loved solitude and was very attracted to the supernatural. As children, the Brontë sisters had creative games and as they grew up this evolved into a ritual, with each of them taking care of their respective novel every evening. This is how Emily Brontë wrote her first and only novel “Wuthering Heights”, published under the male pseudonym Ellis Bell. She died shortly afterwards of tuberculosis at the age of 30 years.

My thoughts: I read this great novel just before Christmas and I loved it. I came across a brilliant review of it looking at Brian’s “Babbling books” blog and felt intrigued by this classic masterpiece.

From the start, we are immersed in an oppressive atmosphere, whether as a result of the nature of the surroundings or because of the characters and the feelings they exhibit. The novel begins with the narrator, Mr. Lockwood. He visits Heathcliff in his imposing home, Wuthering Heights, in order to rent Thrushcross Grange, of which Heathcliff is the owner. From there, we begin to be introduced to each of the characters. Just like Mr. Lockwood, we are curious to comprehend Heathcliff, his history and that of those around him.
Mrs. Dean, the housekeeper at Thrushcross, tells Mr. Lockwood the history of Heathcliff’s life. Heathcliff was a small boy when he was rescued from famine and poverty by Mr. Earnshaw during a visit to Liverpool. The latter took Heathcliff, aged six, to his home as a “gift” for his two children, Catherine and Hindley. At the beginning Heathcliff was badly accepted by Catherine and Hindley. But little by little, Catherine and the adopted “poor” boy Heathcliff became friends and accomplices. But this was not the case with Hindley, who humiliated Heathcliff. When they grow up, Catherine and Heathcliff fall in love, but, alas, Catherine opted for a marriage of reason, in order to eventually help find a good social status for Heathcliff.  The latter was shattered to overhear unflattering half confidences concerning him that Catherine shared with their maid, Mrs. Dean (aka Nelly). On a whim, he disappeared and upon his return several years later he was rich, resentful and determined to make everyone pay for the hurt he had suffered.
Towards the end of the book, it is Mr. Lockwood who tells us the saga of this family and its descendants. We learn what fate was reserved for Heathcliff, his nephews and his son.

We are caught in a spider’s web, trapped, like these characters. The heaviness of the atmosphere is suffocating. The life of these characters is a combination of circumstances, a vicious circle. Their strings are pulled by a manipulative and abusive man, a man of few feelings, Heathcliff. It is with these simple words that I summarise this masterpiece. It is brilliantly written with elegance and a touch of black British humour. When I think that it was a young writer who wrote it, I am amazed by her ability to describe the human soul so accurately, in all its psychological ambivalence. I have to admit that this is not an easy read.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

The Outsider by Albert Camus (1942)


“When the bell rang again and the door of the box opened, it was the silence of the room that rose towards me, the silence, and this singular sensation that I had when I noticed that the young journalist had averted his eyes. I did not look towards Mary. I did not have the time because the president told me in a bizarre way that I would have my head cut off in a public place in the name of the French people...”

Author: Albert Camus was a French writer and philosopher born on November 7, 1913 in Mondovi in Algeria. The second child of a modest family, he never knew his father, who died during the First World War. His mother, of Spanish origin, was half deaf and almost illiterate. Camus was marked by the disadvantaged environment in which he lived with his mother and brother. He discovered a passion for writing which helped him to fill the emptiness in his life. The Outsider was Albert Camus’s first novel.  Camus enjoyed great success as a writer and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957. In January 1960, at the age of 46, he was killed in a car accident in the company of his editor friend Michel Gallimard.

My thoughts: Anyone who has read this book will remember the famous opening lines of Camus’s novel. They set the tone for what will follow:

“Aujourd'hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas.”
Strangely this sentence does not sound extraordinary in English
“My mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know.”

This is the first book that I read this year, in January. I loved each of its 183 pages. I found it easy to read and very entertaining and I highly recommend it to you. The main character, “l'Etranger”, alias Meursault, is a young man who lives in insensitivity and indifference. He is not very talkative and mixes little with society, so he is “foreign” to the world which surrounds him.

Meursault (the narrator) receives a telegram announcing the death of his mother. He immediately takes two days leave and leaves Algiers in the direction of Marengo (80km away) to attend his mother’s funeral. She lived in one of the old peoples’ homes in that town. Back in Algiers, he meets Marie Cardona, a former work colleague, who will become his mistress. Meursault strikes up a friendship with his next-door neighbour, Raymond. The latter had been in a fight with the brother of his mistress because he suspects her of cheating on him. He therefore asks Meursault to help him to write a letter to avenge himself.

Invited by Raymond to spend a Sunday in his seaside hut, Meursault goes there with Marie. Two Arabs, one of whom is the brother of Raymond’s mistress, are looking for a fight on the beach, but nothing occurs. A little later Meursault sees the Arabs again and he kills one (by accident) with Raymond’s pistol. He is arrested, tried, and condemned to death.

The novel is structured in two parts. The first traces the daily life of Meursault after he learns of the death of his mother until the he commits the murder on the beach. The second part describes his life in prison and the phases of his trial until his death sentence.

In this story we meet funny, strange and endearing characters. Marie Cardona who is the mistress of Meursault. Raymond Sintès who is the best friend of Meursault and also his next door neighbour. The elderly Salamano the second neighbour on Meursault’s landing, who has lived with his dog for eight years. Céleste who is the owner of the restaurant where Meursault eats. Emmanuel who is the colleague with whom Meursault often eats. Perez who is the only man who cried upon the death of Meursault’s mother and who becomes a witness at the trial of the man who had not mourned the death of his own mother. 


Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Death at the Priory by James Ruddick (2001)


It took three tortured days in 1876 for Charles Bravo to die. Six doctors, including Queen Victoria’s physician, had attempted to save him from the poison that burned its way through his body. The subsequent police investigation revealed a surprising number of people who harboured a grudge against the young barrister - just six months married - and who had both the means and motive to kill him. The dramatic inquest that followed was covered in sensational detail by the press. Yet, in the end, no-one was ever convicted of Charles Bravo’s murder.
James Ruddick arrived at the scene of the crime over a century later to find the mystery still unexplained. Drawing on new evidence, his brilliant conclusion finally and emphatically solves one of the most famous murders in British criminal history.

Author: James Ruddick is a journalist and television researcher. He is the author of several books including “Lord Lucan: What Really Happened”. “Death at the Priory” was nominated for a Non-Fiction Edgar Award in the US.

My thoughts: I read this non-fiction book in May 2012 and in November 2014 and again last December. I loved this book very much because I have always been attracted to the Victorian era. This is not just a thrilling investigation story, we also learn a great deal about how life was for men and women in Victorian Britain. This is the story of their private lives and the traditions in British society. The book reads like a dramatic love affair intermingled with detective work. I really liked the meticulous research.

It is the true story of Florence Campbell, a wealthy young woman unhappy in love. She was married twice to men who did not suit her. After becoming the young widow of the handsome, alcoholic and much courted Captain Alexander Ricardo, she embarked upon a long love affair with Dr James Gully. Florence met the brilliant and eminent Dr James Gully, 30 years her senior, at Hydro, a high-class sanatorium in Malvern, the Worcestershire spa town on the Welsh borders. She went there for a while - alone - to figure out what to do with her unhappy and abusive marriage to Alexander Ricardo. This “cure” was a typical Victorian compromise to find a solution to marital issues. Her unhappy marriage to Alexandre Ricardo had come to an end and she desperately wanted to file for divorce, an unpopular procedure in Victorian society.

Dr Gully brought her the love, tenderness and support she so badly needed. But their love affair became known and both were rejected by the prudish society of the time. To be accepted again in high society and to regain a social life, she sought a husband and met a young barrister, Charles Bravo, whom she married. Her new husband was a brutal, cold, calculating and opportunistic man. Sadly, the marriage was a very unhappy one right from the start. Six months after their marriage, Charles died in atrocious suffering due to poisoning.

Two senior detectives from Scotland Yard were assigned to investigate Charles Bravo’s homicide. They narrowed their inquiries to a handful of suspects all of whom had the opportunity to administer the poison. There was Charles’s Bravo wife, the beautiful and wealthy Florence. There was the couple’s housekeeper, and Florence’s long-time companion, Mrs Jane Cox, who had faced dismissal at Bravo’s hands. There was also Dr James Gully, Florence’s lover and one of the most prominent physicians of the period. He bore a grudge against Bravo for stealing his mistress. Or perhaps the other servants?
After five weeks of inquiry, the jury announced that there was insufficient evidence to name Bravo’s murderer and all the suspects were duly acquitted.

Thanks to the investigation of the author James Ruddick, one can see more clearly. But do not count on me to give you the outcome, otherwise it will spoil the pleasure of discovering the story...and, believe me, this easily approachable book is well worth reading.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Black Love by Dominique Noguez (1997)


“I had never looked at her eyes so closely before. They were of a dark brown, almost as dark as the pupils. I could not write that I looked into the depth of the eyes, because those eyes had no depth. They were only a black, desperately opaque surface, inhuman eyes, of a bird of prey or a lynx, with the hardness of marble or a meteorite, eyes which looked at me but did not see me, which did not love me, which would never love me, which neither love nor would ever love anybody, eyes from another world.”

Author: Dominique Noguez was born on September 12, 1942 in Bolbec. He is a French writer. He has been awarded several literary prizes: 
1995: Roger Nimier prize for "Les Martagons"
1997: Femina prize for "Amour noir" (the subject book)
2013: Jean-Jacques Rousseau prize for "Une année qui commence bien"

My thoughts: I remember as if it was yesterday how I was absorbed by reading this book. I could not put it down and in the early hours of the morning I had devoured it. It is a story of passion and unrequited love. It traces the tormented life of a man fighting for the woman he loves. He hopes to see his love reciprocated... This story takes place in Biarritz, in the French Basque Country. While writing these lines and flipping through this book again I was smitten by a terrible desire to re-read it. If you enjoy (dramatic) love stories, you will adore this novel.


Monday, 9 January 2017

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)


“Thus, neither of us is alive when the reader opens this book. But while the blood still throbs through my writing hand, you are still as much part of blessed matter as I am, and I can still talk to you from here to Alaska. Be true to your Dick. Do not let other fellows touch you. Do not talk to strangers. I hope you will love your baby. I hope it will be a boy. That husband of yours, I hope, will always treat you well, because otherwise my specter shall come at him, like black smoke, like a demented giant, and pull him apart nerve by nerve. And do not pity C. Q. One had to choose between him and H.H., and one wanted H.H. to exist at least a couple of months longer, so as to have him make you live in the minds of later generations. I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.” Vladimir Nabokov

Author: Vladimir Nabokov was born on April 23, 1899, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Nabokov household was trilingual, and, as a child, Nabokov was already reading novels in French, English and Russian. As a young man, he studied Slavic and Romance languages at Trinity College, Cambridge, taking his honours degree in 1922. Nabokov became a refugee in 1940, when he was forced to leave France for the United States. There he taught at Wellesley, Harvard and Cornell. He also gave up writing in Russian and began composing fiction in English. Vladimir Nabokov died in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1977.

My thoughts: Lolita is synonymous with controversy. Even more than sixty years later, it’s still a standout novel, playfully perverse in form as well as in content: an unmistakable masterpiece. This is the kind of creative work of a great writer that I personally adore. I love Vladimir’s fluid writing and his elegance. Passages from the book remain engraved in my mind. That said, I have friends who didn’t like it at all or who flatly refused to read it…
I thought very carefully before posting this book review for fear of shocking my readers, but then I remembered that one of the things I promise to myself is to only post things I truly love. This is my space, part of my world and all the things I adore… I am very fond of Russian authors although I don’t know many of them. My favorite novels were written by the greatest Russian authors and I am deeply fond of their culture.

Here an extract from the book

 “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo.Lee.Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.” Vladimir Nabokov


Monday, 26 December 2016

Author Margarida Rebelo Pinto

The second author I would like to recommend to you for December is Margarida Rebelo Pinto, little known abroad, but famous in Portugal.


Margarida Rebelo Pinto was born in Lisbon in June 1965. She obtained her Master’s degree in Modern Literature. She started work as a journalist and wrote articles for very celebrated magazines and newspapers, such as Elle, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and Vogue. Margarida Rebelo Pinto is Portugal’s current best-selling author. She was named one of the 25 most influential women in Portuguese contemporary society. She has a son. She loves tea and long walks.

Margarida, writes about love and women in today’s society. This is the topic of all of her novels. Her books are romantic, sincere, nostalgic, funny and easy to read. Her intuitive analyses of behaviour and relationships between men and women are accusatory.  She excels at writing about generations of Old Portuguese families and reflects on the evolution of Portuguese society: the good and the bad things in it.


Margarida has her detractors, who do not consider her as a “real” writer. But the reading public has had its say... Yes, her books are best sellers in Portugal and are widely sold in Spain, Brazil, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Lithuania. Her novels move people, they bring something into their lives. What determines the value of a writer? In my eyes, her (or his) universe, her own talented written skills and style, her passion to take us on an extraordinary journey... As I said in my “About Me” page, I have no training in this field, but I can’t live without books. They fulfil me and I am willing to read a book as long as the writing is engaging.

The first time I came across one of Margarida’s books was in June 2006 while on vacation in Lisbon. I remember it as if it was yesterday. I was at FNAC and found a book that looked like a diary, so cute... I started reading it and couldn’t put it down. Within minutes I felt my heart beating faster and tears coming to my eyes. The book was “Diário da tua Ausência” (in English Diary of your absence), a beautifully written story about a break-up, the end of a love affair. It drove me into all the feelings you go through when you lose the person you love (sadness, despair, loneliness, anger, resilience and acceptance). I have read it four times since then.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Author Jorge Amado

In  December, I have decided not to write any book reviews, but instead to help you discover and recommend to you two great writers. Here is the first one, Jorge Amado.


Jorge Amado was born on August 12, 1912 in Ilhéus, Bahia, whose society he portrays in acclaimed novels such as Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon. His father was a cocoa planter and his first novel, Cacao, published when he was nineteen, is a plea for social justice for the workers on the cocoa estates south of Bahia. The theme of class struggle continued to dominate his novels in the 1930s and 40s, but with the 50s and Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon (1958), the political emphasis gave way to a lighter, more novelistic approach. It was in this novel, published in the United States when Amado was fifty and enthusiastically received in some fourteen countries, that he first explored the rich literary vein pursued in Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands. Jorge Amado died in 2001.


Jorge Amado has been called “one of the greatest writers...also the most entertaining”. I totally agree with that. In fact, he is one of my preferred writers. I laugh so much when I read his books that people around me think I’m mad. He is the only author I know who has the ability to make the most dramatic and sad situation seem funny, even anecdotal. In his books, he describes a group of characters that are linked in some way to each other. He has great attention to detail for each of the characters, he even gives them nicknames. These multiple characters come to life and create a community or a town. We get carried away by their lives, their world.