Having just finished That Summer in Sicily: A Love Story, I have to add another by this author. This is the first of a trilogy about her marriage with...moreHaving just finished That Summer in Sicily: A Love Story, I have to add another by this author. This is the first of a trilogy about her marriage with Venetian. I chose this over Amandine: A Novel b/c I believe when authors stick to what lies close to their heart, that is when they write best! But Amandine looks interesting too, so I am a bit undecisive..... I am wondering of this is a typical love story or forigner getting use to a new culture book. You know like the Peter Mayle books. And is there too much emphasis on culinary themes? I hope I don't get drowned with recipes. The text-check was appealing, and I know I like the writing style, but the story behind That Summer in Sicily was so very good. Better subject matter than this I bekieve.(less)
I am recommending this book to anyone interested in the political agitators that sought to fight the Nazis. I consider it one of the better books writ...moreI am recommending this book to anyone interested in the political agitators that sought to fight the Nazis. I consider it one of the better books written on the subject. It begins and ends with transcripts of the author‘s diary entries. The first date from June 1940 to April 1941, ending two days before the author’s interrogation by the Gestapo. The final diary transcripts date from April 1945, four years later, after American liberation. The intervening section was written immediately after the war. It covers her imprisonment, trial, deportation to Germany and life as a slave worker, classified as a political criminal. The book was first published in 1946 and it was one of the first of its kind. Its immediacy, the author’s candor and rambunctious spirit shine throughout. This is a remarkable book. The author has something vital to tell us and she does it with precision, candor, spirit and humor.
Humor in a book detailing the life in labor camps? Yes, biting humor! Humor, when the situation is as bad as it is, almost hurts. I get back from the factory after a truly grueling night, prostrated with exhaustion. I am going to sleep like a log, I know. But then I see my bunk is already occupied. I start to make a fuss, but a plaintive voice beneath my blankets soon pulls me up short: ‘Oh please, please, don’t be angry. I haven’t got lice and I haven’t made your bed dirty. ‘
I discover this is the new regulation. For lack of space, the day shift and the night shift will take turns to sleep in the same bunks. From now on we will find our bunks already warmed for us. How delightful. (page 151)
I marked line after line that I wanted to quote, but I simply cannot put them all here. One example will have to suffice.
Agnès Humbert (Oct 12, 1894 – Sept 19, 1963) was a mature woman of forty-six at the date of her first diary entries. She had a solid political background. An art historian, she is articulate, well-educated, committed and passionate. As a member of the fledgling French Resistance, as one with vivid war experiences of life in labor camps and as one there in the confusion of the war’s aftermath, she describes it all, simply and powerfully. She experienced it all, and she has a remarkable writing ability. All parts are written in the first person present tense. This was one of the most difficult war books I have ever read, difficult simply because she makes it so very real and she makes the reader care.
ETA: I should perhaps add that the book has a well written Afterward. I read it in fact both before and again after finishing the book. You get additional information about the author. It is written by Julien Blanc. There are also photos and extensive notes. (less)
I did not like this at all. It was mean. It was nasty. Sardonic humor. Here we have a guy, The language is detailed and descriptive, but about events...moreI did not like this at all. It was mean. It was nasty. Sardonic humor. Here we have a guy, The language is detailed and descriptive, but about events or people you either don't know about or couldn't care less about. Much of the time I was totally bored. I don't like the narrator of the story or how the author used this narrative technique. The only one I cared a bit about was Pnin, no one else. And it killed me to see how he was spoken of, laughed at and ostracized. No thank you. I am not reading another Nabokov. Forget it. Often the big, famous authors let me down. Maybe I have not adequately comprehended the snide irony displayed in this book. (less)
Finished: This book has the momentum of a huge wave. It builds slowly but by the end it crashes down on the shore with a tremendous thunder...moreNO SPOILERS
Finished: This book has the momentum of a huge wave. It builds slowly but by the end it crashes down on the shore with a tremendous thunder that shakes you. I did not think the beginning very well prtrayed the relationship between Claude and Camille, but as you follow the story an understnading of their life, their troubles, their sorrows and their advances become real. At the end the tragedy of their life comes crashing down on you. At the beginning I was not entralled by the author's prose, but by the end I felt I had learned so very much about Claude and Camille, about their life and about who they were inside the skin and bones. I had no idea this this was the story of the person who had created the water lilies that I love so much. Anybody who is curious to know why Monet was almost obsessed with painting water lilies should read this book. The book offers a possible answer. The historical events of the times are also woven into the story. You get history - the Prussian French War of 1870, the growth of the Impressionist movement - an intimate knowledge of the lives and struggles of these artists and an understanding of Claude and Camille's love and life. If you are crazy about Monet's water lilies then you must read this book. I am prettyy darned sure you will be surprised at what you find out. There is an author's note at the end, but nevertheless I do end up with some unanswered questions.... of which one is REALLY bothering me! Due to that question not being answered I am giving this book three rather than four stars. There should have been pictures in the book! Although I loved the artists' quotes beginning each chapter, they should have been intertwined into the story. Thank you Laura for sending the book to me. I am very glad I read it!!! Every time I look at one of Monet's paintings I wil appreciate it even more than I had before.
OK, I have only just begun: I have only read 25 pages. It is easy reading. Each chapter is dated. You SEE what Monet sees as he looks out at the Normandy landscapes after quickly discarding caricatures, the art form so popular in Paris of the 1860s. There are family disputes, and maybe he will be inducted into the French army stationed in Algiers. Wow, what timing for me! I just finished The Lovers of Algeria: A Novel. I don't know, maybe he will not go there, but his father and aunt have no intention of paying to avoid this. And Monet has no intention of working in his fathers nautical shop. Ha, as usual, a little blackmail is often common in such happy families. Or shall we politely call it "methods of persuasion"?! Studying in Paris, he has already met the other young painters of the day - Renoir, Cezanne, Manet and Pissaro too. Chapters begin with delightful quotes of these artists. Renoir has said: "When I've painted a woman's bottom so that I want to touch it, then the painting is finished." (page 19)
I really do want to read this book! I have received it as a passport book from Laura. After reading it , I will send it to Virginie. Thank you Laura!!! (less)
Four stars, and I will explain why. I totally enjoyed byself while reading this book. Nevertheless, much felt like fantasy. I don't like fa...moreNO SPOILERS
Four stars, and I will explain why. I totally enjoyed byself while reading this book. Nevertheless, much felt like fantasy. I don't like fantasy - so why did I enjoy this book so much? Well, I did. I cannot explain it other than saying it moved me and the descriptions were vivid and the horror bits were truly horrid and I also frequently laughed out loud. I believe if there had been an author's note clearly explaining what was fact and what was fiction I may have given it 5 stars. I am the reviewer; I need an author's note. I need to KNOW for sure what is what. Then I could have sat back and enjoyed both parts, the fact and the fiction. Without the author's note I was continually wondering is this fact, is that fiction? In the end it feels more like fantasy simply because I cannot know for sure. I need to know. That is who I am! I will definitely read the next book as soon as it comes out!!!
Through page 462:Here I am again with another quote:
"You've been called a God, a warrior believed to have fallen from the heavens, but now as you stand before me I see you are not immortal, but a vulnerable human man. The scars frightened me not becuase I find them grotesque, but because I know you can be hurt, each one, a reminder you can be killed."
Yes , it is very smaltzy. The two quotes here are very different. You see you laugh and you get all sentimental and remember the horror bits. You get a wide range of emotions.
Through page 353: Some of the lines are just too funny!!! Like this one on page 353:
"I liked you better when you didn't speak," I snapped.
The guy Amara is speaking of rarely opens his mouth. When he does maybe he can spit out tops 20 words! This guy isn't to be played with. Who is he? Sir Draco Lorant, one of the five that made up "the infamous Black Quintet, the most feared and vicious squad of commanders ever to reign over the Holy Roman emperor and Hungary". Amara said this to him! What just happened is totally hysterical, but you will have to read the book to find out.
Through oage 322: I must add - don't go near this book if you cannot take horror stories. Everybody looks at book ratings and they think, wow, everyone likes that! I will too. That isn't always true. Each reader has to acknowledge their own preferences. We don't all enjoy the same things. You can't expect a dictionary to be a love story. Me, I am thoroughly engroseed in this book. Yeah terrible things happen, but in fact although this is historical fiction, the time line and the events that ensued and all of Elizabeth's family relations are true. These happenings are not fictitious. I asked the author, Charlie Courtland. I had to know! Let's put it this way - Elizabeth had a temper!
Through page 305: What I find most amazing is my empathy for the characters. Elizabeth, she is something else. There is no controlling her. Her behavior, even as a child is consistent with her behavior as she matured. How much is heredity and how much environment? An interesting question! First I felt terribly sorry for her but then my head kicks in and sometimes I am so shocked by her behavior. Nevertheless, her actions when put in juxtaposition with the social codes and mores of the times, although violent and morally wrong don't seem THAT weird. OK, her actions are bad but not unbelievable! The whole threat of Turkish invasion hangs over you. The castles up in the mountains filled with both splendor and horror engulf the reader. I simply adore it, and I am kind of surprised b/c I am so carried away by "the story". It MUST be the writing that catches me. Why these two girls, Elizabeth and Amara, act as they do keeps my head churning. They are little kids!!! That is another explanation.
What else? I love the depiction of the clothes and magnificence of the castles and at the same time there is a pressing gloom. The reader gets thrown around, and that is good. The first view of Francis, Elizabeth's betrothed, is wonderful. I mean this guy is great. And yet nothing works out, but you have a mixture of love and hate for the guy! The characters are NOT made of cardboard. Each is a lovely misture of good and bad and some horrible mixed in too!
There are some typos. How do they happen? How can "your" and "you're" be interchanged? I am having a hard time understanding this. Anybody know how such happens?
And I have been thinking about the title..... Dandelions in the Garden. Yes, these girls have been judged as weeds! Or is there more? I like it when a book gets me to ponder different ideas!
There are no maps, but this really isn't a problem since the text clearly explains where the villages and castles are located. I just use an atlas. However, neither is there an author's note at the end. I need to know what is fact and what is fiction. I love it all, but I like to know!
Through page 134:I really am enjoying my time with this book. It begins by introducing the readers to Elizabeth Bathory's lady in waiting, Amara Borbala. The two women are about the same age. We first meet Amara when she is elderly, in her 60s, and she is looking back on her life, listening to the gossip at a coffee house in Vienna. The gossip is rife with talk of her former patroness, Elizabeth Bathory, aka the Blood Countess. Amara realizes she is one of the few who can really know the truth about Elizabeth Bathory. Was she the demon all believed her to be? And why was she who she was? Amara, in her old age, is a busy-body and kind of bored, but underneath she is sharp and feisty and truly wants to do what is right. She wants to make sure that the same errors are not repeated again. That is why she writes the story. It is very important that the auhor makes the readers like Amara because the story will be told by her. If we don't like her, don't trust her, why should we believe what she says about Elizabeth. The author suceeds with this wonderfully. The author has also already made the readers feel a tension of horror. Bad stuff is going to happen. You get spooked. The underlying tension draws you in.
The following expresses a major question which I have concerning this book. I can already feel a compassion for Elizabeth. The manner in which this girl has been treated is utterly deplorable. In addition, her character is not that of a weak damsel. She challenges all that is wrong. She simply is that kind of person. Nobody gives her any moral support. But here is my question - if you are treated like shit, do you then have the right to give shit back? Of course not! NEVERTHELESS, the author is making me side with Elizabeth. I find this rather amazing. My head says - no, you cannot behave despicably simply because you have been mistreated! Yet my heart is thumping for Elizabeth to get even with the horrid people surrounding her. How can the author make me feel compassion for such a person as the Blood Countess?! But so far, that is exactly what the author is suceeding with. I am rooting for Elizabeth!
I should also add that the author's description of the place and era is superbe. The manners of the aristocracy, clothing and the ruggedness of the Hungarian landscape are vividly brought to life. The tension between the Hungarians, Austrian and the "horrible" Turks hightens the entire feeling of gloom and terror, creating a feeling of imminent danger.
Jagged pieces of ice surfaced over the rapid current of the Danube. Foan bubbled at the breaks and ripples. At first glance I did not see her. I squinted through the mist rising from the river, finally spotting Elizabeth standing on a rocky ledge above the shore. She climbed up the face and stood eyes fixed on the town of sarvar. Her red gown turned burgundy from dampness clinging to her legs as the wind pushed against her. Elizabeth's black hair caught in current whipped around in a mass of tangled strings.
My Mama use to say something about the wind in spring - that it was relentless. She'd say the wind conjured spirits in this land.... Currents licked and snatched at the lands vulnerable parts, carving and scarring the crags and basins below. Airs flowing down from the CarpathianMountains carried with it pessimistic attitudes and aroused impulses in those living along the danube River. Armies rode on them, pushed against and resisted from one day to the next, year after year fueled by greed and religious supremacy and often clashing in a violent whirl. Mama told me the people in this land are unique because a deep-seated determination festers in each of our bellies, the culprit being a consistent threat of mortal danger.
There you have a glimpse of the writing styyle. I find it dramatic and engaging, but there are a few to many typos. All in all, I am thorughly enjoying myself. It is FUN to curl up with this book! I guess the reason for this is the writing style; you are physically drawn in.
I am a little scared..... will this wonderful reading experience fizzle out? That happened to me recently, and it makes me nervous to even open my mouth. But hey, it is the whole reading experience from page one to the final sentence that is important. It is NOT just how the book is all tied up at the end that determines how you judge a book; the PASSAGE THROUGH the book should be fun. This is exactly that. :0)
This book was amazing - so it gets five stars! The writing style was both informative and magnificently vivid. The reader sees Spain at the end of the...moreThis book was amazing - so it gets five stars! The writing style was both informative and magnificently vivid. The reader sees Spain at the end of the 1400s during the Spanish Inquisition. You see it, you feel it and you smell it. The colors, the smells, the textures, the grit the sounds, both the beauty and the wretchedness - they are all there. The horrors of the Inquisition are made so real that it becomes very hard to even read...... That IS how it was. I don't want a fairy tale picture of it. The facts of history were well incorporated into the story line. The connection between Christopher Columbus' voyage and the Inquisition, that both were a result of the political and religious controversies of the era, is fascinating. Any questions the reader may have about what is true and what is fiction are clearly explained in the author's not at the end. Not only was the text descriptive and informative, but also philosophically engaging:
"Unification meant no doubt, no dissent, no debate. It meant forgetting. It meant obliteration.It also meant that the class of people who posed questions - scholars, astronomers, cartographers, secret agnostics - would not return."
This was after the expulsion of all Jews from the country, and after the fall of the Muslim Kingdom of Granda. I particularly liked that the wisdom and tolerance of the Muslim community were accurately portrayd.
Although this book was about a horrific period of man's history, the reader is not left in despair. There is hope. All is not gloomy!
I must also add that what I was so sure would happen at the end, well it happened, or rather almost happened, but then it didn't. The book's ending was much better, more realistic, more nuanced than what I had imagined. An absolutely excellent novel! This book puts you in another era and it teaches you.
Through page 230: I am a ball, my emotions bounce up and down :0] I am enthralled again. In retrospect I think I was having a hard time reading about the gruesome details of the Inquisition. I tell myself, don't get so upset - but I can't help it. I have also read the author's note which is superlative. The main religious characters are real. Even Columbus' role is probable. You learn alot, both historical facts and how life would have represented itself at this time. Have you ever heard of the Toledoth Yeshu document? This plays a central role in the novel. I still think I know where the plot is heading - but Lauren told me I would be surprised. This doesn't bother me any more.
Through page 176: I think I know what is annoying the hell out of me. Religious hypocrisy! Go ahead, do whatever you want, murder somebody. If you just really are sorry and regret what you did, oh well then you are forgiven! I don't buy that.
Through page 168: I don't quite know what I am complaining about, but I am not as involved in the story as I was before. The description of life for the Jews, conversos, Muslims and Christians continues to be interesting, but the plot is the central focus. Unfortunately I think I know exactly where it is headed. In real life, do we know where we are headed? No way! It is the surprises that hit you, that make life so unbelievable Or maybe we are too busy to stop and think where we are headed.This feels like a novel. Yes a good novel, but still a novel. It IS a novel so what am I complaining about....... OR MAYBE READING ABOUT WHAT TRANSPIRED DUING THE SPANISH INQUISIION is just extremely disturbing, and the whole thing upsets me. What is done in the name of religion is horrendous! To deal with this I MUST distance myself from the book. I think that is what is going on here.
Through page 58: I am totally engrossed. The plot is excellent. Secret purses are exchanged, dangerous, clandestine meetings are discovered and the danger threatening Jews and conversos is vividly portrayed as the Inquisitor General Tomas de Torquemada's power and influence over Queen Isabel grows.
Through page 30: The first thing that hits me is the prose style. I like it. The characters and where they live is captivatingly described. The setting is Spain at the end of the 1400s - the Spanish Inquisition, Christopher Columbus and the life of the conversos. Many of the Jews have gathered to the south, living with the more tolerant Muslim people in the dwindling Kingdom of Granada.
Judithe and her younger brother Yossi live in this Jewish community.
"When Judith was Levi's age (11)and Yossi was eight they had slipped out of the Jewish quarter together, into the Arab city, so contrastingly alive with horses, jugglers, water bearers, blue-veiled women and wealthy foreigners in plum- and saffron-colored robes. They peeked inside a mosque, where prostrate men prayed. They listened to the ballad of a troubadour who claimed to have sailed to the far edge of the world, a place utterly magical. They lost each other in the crowd at the souk, where a Malagan farmer proudly encouraged Judith to taste his dried fruits, nuts and breads."
"Passing the moss-covered fountain in her courtyard, they entered the main room of her (Judith's) dwelling.......Judith had installed the floor herself, colored tiles in comple geometrical patterns - polygons interlaced with circles, surrounded by rectangles, with abstract leaf- and tear-like shapes scattered throughout. A rug, woven in the Atlas Mountains, lay near the brass table. She had painted the low beams of her ceiling in ocher, asparagus green, and pear yellow. She fell onto a round leather cushion....."
Such ceramic artistry remains to this day. I can draw a vivid picture of where I am.
The book has a map, and there is an author's not at the end, but I haven't read it yet.:0)
I think everybody should read this book. When I began it I warned others that it is about rape in wartime. And that is true. Any subject in a good aut...moreI think everybody should read this book. When I began it I warned others that it is about rape in wartime. And that is true. Any subject in a good author’s hands can be worth reading. It is the ability of the author to make that subject comprehensible to readers that distinguishes a good author. We know now who the anonymous writer of these diaries was. Her name is Marta Hillers. The German writer Kurt Marek was responsible for the initial publication of the book in 1954, in the United States. The author was anonymous. Only later was it published in Germany. Only after her death in 2003 was it revealed who the writer was.
The book is based on the author’s diary accounts from the 20th of April to the 22nd of June 1945. It gives us a personal account of one woman’s experiences when the Red army occupied Berlin. Her story lets us understand what she and those around her experienced. What they lived through.
When I read this book I thought: I am being shown a world that I could never, ever imagine. It was beyond belief. The horror of it! Fear. Hunger. Being alone, completely alone. And it is hard to imagine that people can act as they do. It is important to read this book. We must acknowledge how people can behave. Yes, you and I can behave so deplorably too.
So then you will think, why should I read this? Why should I put myself through this? We must understand in our gut what has happened. A book like this makes us aware both in our head and in our stomach, both with clear thoughts and powerful emotions what another human being has experienced. And why is this important? It is important since it teaches us to not judge others. Before judging another you must put yourself in their shoes. This author has let us walk in her shoes. And the writing shows us how we human beings behave.
Yes, this book is about rape, but it is also about survival. It is about hunger too. The book begins with hunger and ends with hunger. How many of us reading this book has any real comprehension of being HUNGRY? Can we come to understand what we might do, what choices we might make if we were hungry as she was? You will understand her choices when you read this book. I will say it outright: in an effort to survive this woman realized that she needed to find a Russian that would provide her with food and safety. One’s chances of not being raped were minimal. If you are going to be raped anyway, why not make sure you get food in the bargain? By aligning yourself with a Russian of higher rank you could perhaps have him protect you from indiscriminate raping. But to understand the world she was living in you must read her words. When this book came out it was the women who were accused of bad behavior. The author was a survivor. I respect this woman. She was a journalist. She was well educated. She had traveled through Europe. She knew Russian. All of this is evident in her diary writing. She used her head and she survived. How can you look down on such a person? How can you criticize her if you have no idea what she has experienced?
You can only understand her choices by following her diary writings.
And the ending…. When her boyfriend comes back he doesn’t understand her actions. He too thinks she has degraded herself. We do not know if eventually they can bridge this incomprehension of what each has experienced in the war. I was so happy before her boyfriend came back. She had survived. I was so dam proud of her. I was crushed by his incomprehension. If he had read the book, he would maybe understand what she had gone through. If you read the book you will understand what she went through. If you read the book you will not judge others too quickly. I don’t think this book is terribly sad or depressing. I am so happy she survived. Dam, she is some strong woman, this author, Marta Hillers. She has let us see what happened to her. I admire her for surviving. I am so very glad she shared her experiences with us. I thoroughly understand her wish that the book have an anonymous author while she lived.
One does not read this book to find out if her boyfriend comes back. For this reason I do not think my telling you this is a “spoiler”. Only those of you wanting to understand another human being should bother to read this book. You have to want to get into their being. You have to want to become them in an effort to understand them and what they lived through.
There is a little boy at the end of the book who sees an old horse pulling a cart. He turns to his mother and says, “Mutti, can we eat the horse?” Earlier in the book another horse was still moving when he was cut into by hungry Berliners. Have you ever been that hungry? Do you have any idea how their world was? Do you want to understand their world? Read the book.
Be very careful before you judge another human being’s behavior.
I must add this. Although the subject matter is not light, the way the author expresses herself will make you smile. She calls herself the “automatic walking machine”, as she trudges to work….. This author can write. I wish I could copy parts of the book to show you, but I cannot use both Vocatex and Zoomtex at the same time. I need Vocatex to read the book and Zoomtex to write my review. When I am writing the review, I cannot read the book – so no quotes! This is so annoying to me. (less)
4 stars An excellent introduction to children about World War II. It is written from the perspective of a Jewish 10-year old from Vilna. Vilnius, as it...more4 stars An excellent introduction to children about World War II. It is written from the perspective of a Jewish 10-year old from Vilna. Vilnius, as it is called today, is now the capital of Lithuania. In 1941 it was part of Poland. The book is an autobiographical account of the author's childhood in Siberia.
I was impressed by the amount of history incorporated into this slim book: deportation of the Jews to Siberia, three years spent in a small village on the Russian steppes, the events of the war in Russia and finally "Polish" repatriation. It is all written tastefully for the ears of young readers. It is exciting: It is about getting friends, winning a school contest and a Siberian snowstorm. If focuses upon those themes that are of interest to young children: familial bonds and how they change as we grow older and become more independent, school and getting friends, clothes and hairstyles and how to "fit in", learning a foreign language, discovering literature and intellectual awareness, becoming one of a group, seeking acceptance and quite simply growing up...and that first boyfriend too. The book states what happens in the war but its main perspective is a child's life during that war. The events are related honestly; you don't always get the boyfriend you heart is set on or win the contest, do you?
The book radiates optimism and human resilience, but never is the truth shied from. Two examples: after the war, when the Jews returned, again in cattle cars, they are denounced. Even after the war, the Jews are not welcome! The second example is a woman in the Siberian camp who never had to work; it remained a mystery as to how she got food. An adult may guess why, but that is not discussed. Nothing is misrepresented, but neither are the details sordidly portrayed. The facts are stated and the story continues.
The language used by the author is simple, but actually beautiful in all its simplicity. Try this sentence: "Grandmother and I had this in common, we were 'very' people - either very sad or very gay, with nothing in between." (page 71) The story is exciting and there is humor.
I think it is wrong to state that this book is for adults. It isn't; its prime audience is children of about ten years of age. It is written for them and it is written beautifully. It is not overloaded with historical facts and dates or gruesome details. Why shouldn't a book be written just for this age group?! It is lovely and educational at the same time. (less)
If you have visited Renoir's beautiful country house and garden at Cagnes-Sur-Mer well then you will love this book b/c all the photos will return you...moreIf you have visited Renoir's beautiful country house and garden at Cagnes-Sur-Mer well then you will love this book b/c all the photos will return you to that place. Gorgeous!!! It is on the French Riviera but not right on the coast, so it is NOT situated among all the passé touristic hotels and beach resorts. It is the trees by the house and the poppies and the stunted olive orchardtrees that I love. Also near the Grimaldi museum-château! If you get a chance, don't miss this corner hidden away from the bustling touristic hot-spots (which leave me totally cold).(less)
I am impressed. I never thought this book would be as lovely as Girl with a Pearl Earring: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...! First let me just...moreI am impressed. I never thought this book would be as lovely as Girl with a Pearl Earring: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...! First let me just explain that this is a book of historical fiction. In the Museé National du Moyen-Age we can today see the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. They are six tapestries, each representing one of our five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, taste and the sixth, that one is known as Á Mon Seul Désir, for these words are found woven there. In English the translation would be: my one, sole desire. Think about those words in conjunction with the theme of the other tapestries and imagine what they might mean. In any case, the tapestries and this book must be about seduction. Or is it about forgoing sensual pleasures? One cannot see if the women is putting in or taking out the jewels.
Little is known of these wool and silk tapestries except that they were woven at the end of the 1400s, probably in Flanders. They were commissioned by the Le Visté family, since the banner is visible in all six of the tapestries. Tracy Chevalier weaves a credible story about these tapestries: Jean Le Visté, a fifteenth-century nobleman, close to the French King Charles VII, commissions Nicolas des Innocents, a talented miniaturist, tantalized by the charms of several beautiful women - maids, ladies-in-waiting and even Jean Le Visté’s daughter and wife, too. The tapestries are woven in Brussels by the renown weaver Georges de la Chapelle. The story captures the lives and times of noblemen and the guilds’ craftsmen living in Brussels and Paris at the end of the 1400s.
Tracy Chevalier, the author, has done her homework. She knows these cities, the craftsmen and these times – down to the smallest details. She knows that in Brussels it is the early summer sun that shines the hottest:
I sat back on my heels and raised my face to the sun. Early summer is good for sun, as it is directly overhead for longer during the day. I have always loved heat, though not from the fire. Fires scare me. I have singed my skirts too often by the fire.
‘Will you pick me a strawberry, Mademoiselle?’ Nicolas asked. ‘I have a thirst.’
‘They’re not ripe yet,’ I snapped. I had meant to sound pleasant but he made me feel strange. And he was talking too loudly. People often do when they discover I am blind….. (pages 110-111: a short interchange of words between Nicolas and Aliénor de la Chapelle, the pretty, but blind daughter of Geroges de la Chapelle)
Already we know by 100 pages that Nicolas has impregnated a maid in Paris, been under a table doing naughty things with fourteen-year-old Claude, the daughter of Jean Le Visté, and flirted with her mother, Geneviève de Nanterre. What more mischief and indeed with whom will we find Nicolas? Each character has a clear identity. There is rivalry between mother and daughter; there is jealousy and love too. Each of the women came alive. There is Aliénor the blind girl. There is Christine du Sablon, the wife of Georges and mother of Aliénor. Each of the women and also the men relate the events. Different chapters relate different characters’ thoughts. Each of the individuals has a different perspective. Each has their own problems, personality and standing and thus they cannot have the same view. I loved the blind girl’s thoughts. I also appreciated the two different mother daughter relationships. For me, there was a lot to consider. I love the playful seduction scenes. I love the authenticity of the descriptions. I know Brussels and the author describes the city perfectly. The details are interwoven into the tale of families. There is a wife that has given birth to only three daughters, and that is quite a failing when it is a son that is needed to carry on the family name. This novel is about not only the tapestries but also about women, several very different women. So while we learn history about these tapestries and times we also delve into familiar family relationships. The book is about rivalry between mothers and daughters, lost love between a husband and wife and about the life of women as they age. What makes it wonderful to read is the author’s ability to evoke different places and characters convincingly. (less)
Finished: I am glad that is over! I think I chuckled maybe once. The prose was stilted. I have never run into such a bunch of miserable souls. A huge...moreFinished: I am glad that is over! I think I chuckled maybe once. The prose was stilted. I have never run into such a bunch of miserable souls. A huge disappointment. I absolutely adored this author's book Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Through page 183: Ahhhh, I am laughing. The two main woman characters are jealous of each other, and it's quite amusing. Of course a man is invoved. Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot are two real people and the two central characters of the book. The story is told alternately through their voices. The problem has been that Elizabeth has been so dammed level-headed that its been driving me niuts. A little jealousy is good for them. They finally feel like real people! Better late than never!
Through page 175: Half way through the book and finally something exciting has occurred. I will not say what! Much of the book is about the religious consequences of fossil discovery. If fossils were in fact the remains of animals that no longer existed, this implied that God had made animals that were not perfect. Furthermore the creation of the earth as described in the bible had to be questioned. Such religious consequences and the proper place of women in socity are the two main themes. All is very well depicted, but now, after 175 pages, this is the first time my heart has been beating rapidly. It is only now for the first time that I am emotionaly moved.
Through page 105: Well written, but sorry, it is not grabbing me! It is rich in period detail and gives a good description of social mores of provincial life in a small English resort town at the beginning of the 1800s. So why don't I like it more? I don't know!