I especially liked the language of the narration. I love the first half of the book, where everything was still anticipation. As the story unfolded itI especially liked the language of the narration. I love the first half of the book, where everything was still anticipation. As the story unfolded it lost some of its magic for me. However I was surprised at the end of the story by the Polish connection. I wonder where the author got the inspiration for the final scenes in the countryside in Poland and sculptures featured in the book. I'd be very interested in finding out more about that aspect. Also I was delighted to learn about the Polish soprano Marcella Sembrich who was quite known internationally. Went ahead and listened to some of the recordings on you tube. Oh the wonders of the internet. There was and is a great jazz scene in Poland and the music of Louis Armstrong has many many fans, perhaps that made the author to situate some action there. What a great adventure this book must have been for Esi Edugyan....more
This profound and beautifully written novel needs to be savoured slowly. It is not a fast read by any means, but if you are prepared to read and pauseThis profound and beautifully written novel needs to be savoured slowly. It is not a fast read by any means, but if you are prepared to read and pause frequently,this is a book for you. Of the two main protagonists telling their story in alternating voices, I found Rosanne's story more compelling. She is one of the most interesting characters I have encountered in a little while. At our book club meeting someone described her as otherworldly, perhaps an angel. This is because in spite of horrific events, Roseanne remains oddly happy with a great deal of humour, no hatred toward her tormentors, somewhat detached from the immediate, troubled world. In spite of being a historical novel of Ireland describing its most troubled times, it is also a deeply philosophical, spiritual, and a very quotable novel....more
This book sets the stage for the next book, a clever idea. In The Winter Palace we read about what went on before the relatively obscure German princeThis book sets the stage for the next book, a clever idea. In The Winter Palace we read about what went on before the relatively obscure German princess Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg transformed herself into the empress Catherine the Great.
I found it quite an intense story about what, we would call today, an abusive and toxic environment and women who found themselves living inside it. Sophie and everybody else is placed under the tyranny of empress Elizabeth, who is a cruel self centered ruler. Everybody is forced to live a double life, one in public and quite another one clandestinely. This type of living under constant terror is shared by the main protagonist of the story, fictional Barbara (in Polish) or Varvara (in Russian), who finds herself an orphan, a foreigner at the Russian court at the mercy of the empress Elizabeth. Both Sophie and Barbara become friends, or so it seems. Both have to deny or cover up their true feelings, have to make alliances and rid themselves of any scruples in order to survive.
The fictional main character is very skillfully placed within the historical context making the story interesting as well as educational. It's the best way to learn history, through the eyes of a very credible and very sympathetic character. I love reading about the minuscule details, descriptions of everyday life, food, fashion, occupations, behaviour of the protagonists, coming into close contact with the reality of Russia of the eighteen century.
The book is essentially dedicated to the seventeen years during which Sophie waited and learnt all she could in order to prepare herself for taking the throne. She also endured tremendous hardship in her personal life, having everybody who she loved taken away from her. She knew that her fortune depended completely on her strenght and proceeded with the iron will to will what she wanted. ...more
What can I say about Paris? I loved it. I was there once and absolutely love it. It is one of those cities so beautiful and so packed with history, arWhat can I say about Paris? I loved it. I was there once and absolutely love it. It is one of those cities so beautiful and so packed with history, art, culture, not to mention FOOD. Having visited Paris and France I finally understood why UNESCO declared French cuisine 'world intangible heritage’.
This book offers vignettes of Paris as experienced by and written about in both fiction and personal memoirs of many writers, such as: Gertrude Stein, Colette, Hans Christian Andersen, Marcel Proust, Julio Cortazar, George Orwell, Simone de Beauvoir, Honore de Balzac, Julian Barnes, Georges Perec, Irene Nemirovsky to name just a few. A lot more are represented in this book. The book is divided into nine chapters: "I love Paris"; "Le menu"; "Sex in the city"; "High hopes...and hard times"; "Location, location..."; "Parisians - famous and not so famous"; "Cities of the dead"; "Past tense"; "Living it up".
Being of Polish background I was amused to find out the origins of French croissant, apparently it came to France via Austria and Poland. It was the Austrian croissant that was hurriedly made at the siege of Vienna in 1683 by the Polish soldiers of king Sobieski to replace the bread that was missing and they called it the crescent the emblem of the Turks who they were fighting. (p.27)
It is a wonderful, impressive and very eclectic selection that mixes fiction with diaries etc. Take it with you or your next visit to Paris. You can start reading from anywhere and you can keep coming back to it. You will be delighted to find the voices of some of the great authors. It could be your complementary reading to the last Woody Allen's film "Midnight in Paris"....more