With this book I got into the head of Marie Antoinette. The author did all the research and based on the known facts delivered what she thought was goWith this book I got into the head of Marie Antoinette. The author did all the research and based on the known facts delivered what she thought was going on in Marie Antoinette's head. She convinced me. At the end of the book is a list of source material, "A Brief Timeline of Events" and an interesting conversation with the author. Don't skip this; it is really good.
The historical facts are clearly presented. You follow Marie from her coming to France as a naïve fourteen year old to her death at the guillotine. Toinette, as she is affectionately called by those close to her, has been maligned by history; I appreciated hearing a more balanced view. I empathized with her. I saw how she matured. I really did suffer with her when she couldn't become pregnant, through no fault of her own. That struggle felt very real to me, and when her husband, the Dauphin, finally did become aroused the author's lines beautifully portray the conception. You understood why before she had turned to gambling and frivolity.
Quite simply, I like the sensual writing. I like the clear presentation of the historical facts. Never are they boringly presented. I believe we see here Marie Antoinette's view of what happened around her in the years leading up to her death. For me, only through empathy with historical characters does history become meaningful.
After 20 pages: Some authors fit some readers. I very much like how this author writes. Mmm mmm, good stuff. I like the descriptive lines. I feel that I am in young Antoinette's head. I see her world from her point of view. This author studies the known facts and does not change them. Antoinette did not say, when told that the people of eighteenth century France were starving, "If they have no bread then let them eat cake!", and consequently that is not to be found in this book. What is found are the lines she did say. I have stupidly put off reading this book b/c royalty and historical fiction so often disappoint me. ...more
WOW - this is good! I just finished the episode in Venice 1609.
Now I have finished the book, and it definitely gets 5 stars. Wonderful storytelling aWOW - this is good! I just finished the episode in Venice 1609.
Now I have finished the book, and it definitely gets 5 stars. Wonderful storytelling and skillful interweaving of truth and fiction. Don't worry - at the end you know clearly what exactly is true and what is fiction. Just marvelous!...more
I thought I would really like this book, and yet I was quite disappointed. What wrecks the book is that everything is so dam depressing. Even acts ofI thought I would really like this book, and yet I was quite disappointed. What wrecks the book is that everything is so dam depressing. Even acts of courage and bravery are expressed in a depressing tone. You NEVER chuckle. At anything. What, is depression inherited in this family? Sorry, am I bgeing too brutal?! Or maybe it was an interesting life but the book is not well written. It certainly lacks something....more
This novel is about the relationships between women in a remote Austrian village. It starts before WW1 and continues through the 1970s. NO SPOILERS!!!
This novel is about the relationships between women in a remote Austrian village. It starts before WW1 and continues through the 1970s. The central theme is the women's lives and their relationships to each other, many of which were tied by family bonds: mothers, daughters, grandmothers, cousins, half-sisters and as the years pass great-great-grandchildren. As in any family there are the grumps, the beauties, the intellectuals and each is accepted for what they are. I, the reader, felt as an intruder. I never felt welcome inside the fold. The book made me a bit jealous of what these women could draw from each other. It made me feel lonely and uncomfortable.
It is a novel, although based on true stories the author was told when she spent several years in small western Austrian villages studying dialects. You do not learn much abou specific dialects. Family trees are provided at the back of the book to help you keep track of who is who. ...more
The last chapter was so perfect, so beautiful, so moving. You get into the heads of Vallie(the mistress), Gerti (the youngest sister) and Egon himselfThe last chapter was so perfect, so beautiful, so moving. You get into the heads of Vallie(the mistress), Gerti (the youngest sister) and Egon himself - the artist. You understand who he was and why he was the way he was. I would like to tell you more, but I do not want to wreck it for you. Another 5 star book. If you are moved by art - then read this book! I was going to read Girl with a Pearl Earring after this, but to do that would be unfair. I would compare the two, and I believe I would unfairly judge Chevalier's book. It cannhot be as good as this. I like getting into the heads of the main protagonists. Will Chevalier's book do that? I will read it soon, but not immediately. Oh also, note that I put Arrogance onto my "relationships shelf".
Through page 167: It is important to understand what Schiele was rebeling against, what was being taught at the art academies at this time. Three years befor Schiele was put in prison for 24 days on the charges of seduction of minors (but later changed to corruption of minors due to lack of evidence) he was following lectures at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. The professor says, as he points to the model, a nude young man with his back turned to the students: "Such perfect proportions. The eye follows the movement of light and shade. The human figure is most pleasing to us in its absolute symmetry - beauty depends on symmetry, just as truth depends on logic." The author continues: "But today a small group of students listen carefully - these are the youngsters, lead by Egon Schiele, who have been voicing increasingly hostile views, and now they sit with their arms folded in defiance." The students then protest by banging their fists on the wooden box chairs. The teacher, hysterically out of control, leaves the lecture hall and locks all the students inside. To understand Schiele you have to understand the straight-laced art he was being taught. To understand why the young girls enjoyed visiting Egon and his mistress in their little cottage of the village Neulengbach, you have to know that the girls were raised in a deprived, poor, extremely restrictive environment. They loved how Schiele encouraged them to dance and sing and somersault around the room, and his mistress shared the chocolates she herself adored with the kids.
Through page 140: The reader sits on sideline, watching and observing while Schiele destroys himself. He does nothing to save himself..... Such genius, such talent but no understanding for self preservation. Are the two noncompatible? If one has artistic talent and creativity is it impossible to be a little bit practical? I am wondering why the reader feels no revulsion for Schiele's extreme interest in young girls. Maybe b/c you look at each particular relationship separately and see what motivates the two individuals. Neither side is without guilt. Your knowledge prevents you from making hasty snap-judgements. Sure, you often feel that Schiele is acting so dam stupid, but you kind of understand and realize that simply was who he was. You also know what is false gossip. Concerning the author's writing style - it is magnificent. It is artistic in its own way, and blends well with the book's central theme, art. The author is adept in her ability to bring to life the personalities of Schiele and those close to him, particularly his mistress and his younger sister.
Through page 89: Having an artistic temperment must be both a gift and a terrible curse. I certainly don't have it! I can only read tp try and imagine what it might be like. Again - definitely a book for adults.
Through page 67: The writing is marvelous. I should copy a bit here, but I am too lazy. You have to relax and accept each UNchronoligical episode as it hits you. You come to understand Egon's very difficult childhoodn, his fear and his total lack of comprehension of what is happening around him. His father repeatedly destroyed Egon's artwork. As a small child, he could not understand his father's anger and unpredictable behavior. This fear remained with Egon as he grew older. Artistic, imaginative and creative qualities are an integral part of who Schiele was. These qualities produced his art and of course also made his life unconventional and often filled with controversy. The author is very good at letting the reader see through Egon's eyes - the beauty of a beetle, the impulsive need for play, the enjoyment our senses can give us. Knowing more about Schiele's life makes me appreciate his artwork even more than when I started.
Through page 57: Definitely a good pick, but sometimes I am confused about the role of the narrator. There are also shifts in time. I will quote library Journal b/c they express this much better than I do: "Diverse narrative voices and shifting chronological perspectives create a potentially confusing structure; yet this story is so intriguing, and Scott's richly textured style so mesmerizing....." the reader thoroughly enjoys themselves. It is good to like Schiele's art and be interested in knowing more about his short life.
I totally love Schiele as an artist. I have seen many of his pieces and although he is most known for his portraits he also does fabulous landscapes and village scenes. Firthermore tha author is suppose to be promising....more
If my own knowledge of history had been better I would have given it 5 stars....... Due to my ignorance, there were points where I was a bit lost. You learn not only about his travels and the landscape and the people he met on his journey, but also how history has formed all that he saw. He leaves from Holland, travels up the Rhine in Germany then down the Danube through Austria, Chezckolslovakia to Hungary - on foot, from December 1933 through March 1934. He is 19 years of age. You do run into the rumblings of the approaching war, but that is not the central focus. The focus is on art and literature and history and the people he met along the way. Both jails and mayors of the small villages and friends introduced by other friends offered him a bed and a meal. He stayed in beautiful castles along the Danube. He talked and talked with the people. You read this book and you want to do the same trip, but of course that is now impossible...... He does take one short trip on a barge and another trip by train with a friend to Prague. I particularly loved the intertwining description of the city, the art, the music and the history of this city. It would be worth it to pick up this book if you are only interested in reading the chapter on Prague!!!!
The writing style is fabulous. Here follows a quote after his stay in Prague when he was traveling near the Slvakian border to Hungary.
"My next call, only a few doors away, was a similar haunt of sawdust and spillt liquor and spit, but this time KRCMA was daubed over the window. All was Slav within. The tow-haired Slovaks drinking were dressed in conical fleece hats and patched sheepskin-jerkins with the matted wool turned inwards. They were shod canoe-shaped cowhide moccasins. Their shanks cross-gartered with uncured thongs, were bulbously swaddled in felt that could only be unwrapped in the spring. Swanp-and-conifer men they looked, with faces tundra-blank and eyes as blue and as vague as unmapped lakes which the plum-brandy was misting over. But they might just as well have been swallowing hydromel a thousand years ealier, before setting off to track the cloven spoor of the aurochs of a frozen Trans-Carpathian bog." (page 229-230)
In the chapter about Prague one finds the following text:
"The spires and towers recalled the earlier Prague of the Wenceslases and the Ottokars and the race of the Premysl kings, sprung from the fairy-tale marriage of Czech princess with a plough-boy encountered on the banks of the river. The Czechs have always looked back with longing to the reigns of the saintly sovereign and of his descendants and to the powerful and benevolent Charles IV - a golden age when Czech was the language of rulers and subjects, religious discord unknown and the rights of crown and nobles and commons and peasants all intact. These feelings gained strength during the Czech revival under the last hundred years of Habsburg ascendancy. Austrian rule fluctuated between unconvinced absolutism and liberalism soon repented and it was abetted by linguistic pressures, un timely inflexibility and all of the follies that assail declining empires, for knavery was not to blame. These ancient wrongs must have lost much of their bitterness in the baleful light of modern times when the when the only evidence to survive it is an heirloom of luminous architectural beauty." (page 149)
What I want to show by this quote is that the writing is very erudite. Be warned, the text isn't always light However there is so much that is just wonderful to experience through the accounts, reflections and diary notes. He is 19 when he travelled. He is a normal kid, drinking and seeing the towns and the world around him. The books are written many years after his travels. In the interim the author has matured and further increased his knowledge and ability to express himself. So the more knowledgeable and erudite the reader is himself, the more he will enjoy this book. It probably should be given five stars, but I gave it four. I am who I am. The four stars reflect how the book was perceived by me. ...more
I absolutely adored this book. My modem/computer was down this afternoon and so rather than looking at GR, it was just me and the book, anNo spoilers:
I absolutely adored this book. My modem/computer was down this afternoon and so rather than looking at GR, it was just me and the book, and Oscar of course. I love the book b/c although much is conjecture about the relationship between Gustav Klimt and Emilie Flöge, I totally believe the author's interpretation. There is a clear author's note. Emilie Flöge was the model for Klimt's painting The Kiss, and it was her name that he spoke when he died. Their relationship feels authentic. I enjoy the sexual energy and the capacity for violence so inherent to these two people. The book is full of emotional turmoil. Not only do you come to understand their personalities but you also understand the historical events they lived through. You learn about how Klimt went about painting, about Emilie's famous fashion salon, about Vienna and its beautiful streets and buildings such as the Secession, about Egon Schiele and Joseph Hoffmann and Berta Zuckerkandl and Carl Moll.... After reading this you really must read Arrogance, about Schiele. I loved that book too!
Through page 130: This is a love story. I like how love is depicted, boht emotionally and sexually. It is a sensual novel. I like the book very, very much. The author has drawn real live people. You get this on top of learning about Klimt as an artist.
Through page 65: This book is about Gustav Klimt and Emilie Flöge, the model who posed for Klimt's famous painting "The Kiss". She is telling her story as an older woman, looking back on her life. At 12 she was a sassy girl who knew what she liked and didn't like. Her upbringing was very constricted and ruled by propriety. She lived in Vienna. Vienna comes alive with all its past glory.
"The medieval cobbled streets and marzipan-colored buildings were magical, and the dimly-lit shops selling sheet music or crystal goblets were enchanted, but I didn't know it yet It was just the palce I lived I believed that all other cities, all other towns must be similar." (page 19)
The writing is very descriptive, not only of Vienna but also of people and the rules of society. She and her two other sisters must wear stiff lace collars that make it impossible to move their heads. Emilie manages to steal a dinner napkin so the lace wouldn't scratch her.... Anyhow she and her 3 year older sister, Helene, have decided that they wil sneak to Klimt's studio to be painted, after first swiping money for the street-cars from their oldest sister, Pauline. First the area in which the studio is located is described using smells, sights and sounds:
"It was a street where goods were unloaded from ships and put into wagons, where nets of fish were hauled into warehouses to be gutted and salted. You could have a horse's shoe repaired, or your own, a sail mended, or a cow butchered and divided into pieces. The air was oppressive with the smell of things that had been rotting in bins and had finally been exposed to the air."
"In the tenement next to Gustav's building an immigrant from Silesia and his wife had a bakery, and as we climbed the stairs the aroma of dough and hot oil mingled with the sharp, sweet smell of turpentine and the bitter one of iron. The stairs slanted toward the street and a few of them gave way when you stepped on them."
"The studio was cold, since the artists were consistently short of coal for the furnace, and bare, since all the chaors were piled in the center of the room to be used in a tableau. The floor was made of cement and had cracked in places. It was filthy with charcoal dust. Some of the pains in the tall windows were broken and cardboard had been taped over them. The glass looked thin and weak, too thin to keep the cold out."
"Gustav was different here. For one thing, he was wearing a robe instead of a suit...."
"'Do you ever clean up?' asked Helene wonderingly."
"'Why should we?' said Gustav. 'This place is empty. When it gets to dirty to work in we'll move upstairs.'"
"The idea couldn't have been more radical to us. So much of our lives were consumed with keeping things neat. I felt like throwing my coat onto the floor." (from pages 65-67)
Not only can the reader picture the place but also one comes to understand what moves the different characters. I cannot show this to you withour quoting and suoting and quoting, so trust me instead. I prefer this writing styyle to that I just encountered in Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet. And I enjoy the Emilie's spunk. ...more
Having recently completed Ali and Nino: A Love Story and having given it 5 stars, I wanted to know more about the author. The author Lev Nussimbaum, bHaving recently completed Ali and Nino: A Love Story and having given it 5 stars, I wanted to know more about the author. The author Lev Nussimbaum, born a Jew, used the pen name Kurban Said. Actually both this book and The Girl from the Golden Horn were registered under the author Elfriede Ehrenfels in the German Nazi document Deutscher Gesamkatalog for the years 1935-1939! Who was this guy?! Why all the different names? He left Judaism and converted to the Islamic faith. This was not motivated by the persecution of Jews under Hitler. He converted earlier. What motivated him? What life experiences formed him? You get all of this in this biography which is carefully researched by Tom Reiss. Basically Lev Nussimbaum continually reinvented himself, even when he was dieing at 36 years of age from Raynaud's disease.
However, this book is more centered on political science than this one man's life. Definitely more than half of this book is about political movements and history. I found the parts about Lev's youth in Baku, Azerbaijan, after the early exploitation of oil, the most colorful and wonderful. I had a harder time following the political topics. The more you know the easier it is to follow such topics. I have alot to learn. This book definitely taught me tons. You learn about how the Russian Revolution played out in the Caucasus, about the growth of fascism and communism and the effects this had on the people living not only in Europe but also Asia and the Near East. I knew little about Jewish Orientalists. Although I have studied the philosopher Buber, he and others like him were hoping that that Zionism would promote the oriental Jewish cause rather than just European Judaic problems. These issues affected who Lev Nussimbaum was as a person. He wrote 14 non-fiction books on political issues, one being a biography about Mussolini. He livesd 1905-1942. Born in Baku to a wealthy oil baron he escaped during the Russian Revolution via boat and camels to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Turkey and Italy. He lived in Germany and Austria. He had to escape again from the claws of Hitler. How? Well most often, by reinventing himself - over and over again! He lived in the thick of the Russian and European turmoil. For this reason history was a real part os what shaped him. To understand him you have to understand the history of his time. A fascinating life! The book never dragged, but at times it was very difficult to follow all the political twists and turns.
I have two complaints. There is no map in the book and SOMETIMES I think Tom Reiss goes too far in trying to pinpoint WHY Lev did what he did. Sometimes a thorough analysis of a painting just goes too far. Let it be. Let the readers draw their own conclusions. ...more
Four stars, and I will explain why. I totally enjoyed byself while reading this book. Nevertheless, much felt like fantasy. I don't like faNO 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)
Yes, this is a book of historical fiction. It is based on a true event in history:
“In 1551, King João III of Portugal gave Archduke Maximilian an unusYes, this is a book of historical fiction. It is based on a true event in history:
“In 1551, King João III of Portugal gave Archduke Maximilian an unusual wedding present: an elephant named Solomon. The elephant's journey from Lisbon to Vienna was witnessed and remarked upon by scholars, historians, and ordinary people.” , this being a direct quote from the book description.
And yet this book is primarily a book of humor. To be more explicit, it is a book of ironic satire. It is written with modern terminology. We are not to analyze the appropriateness of the terminology. These are NOT the expressions of the 1500s. They are not meant to be. Instead, we are meant to chuckle at the incongruence of our modern way of thinking and the historical events as they unfolded. It is very funny, and I praise Saramago for his ability to make me laugh. Read this book to laugh, not to learn of an historical event.
I chose to listen to this book because it does not employ the normal rules of punctuation. I do not like such writing. Paragraphs and rules of punctuation help a reader understand what is being said. Soooooo instead, I figured the narrator of this audio book could do the reading for me! I can just sit back and enjoy the content! If I had had to struggle through the reading myself, I am sure I would have given it less stars! The narrator was excellent. Her intonations were perfect. She has earned her money. It is worth paying a bit more for the audio version than struggling through the written, never ending sentences. That is what I think.
Do you want a sophisticated chuckle? Listen to this book. ...more
While I read this book I grappled with my lack of understanding. This is a book of historical fiction; I could not make up my mind if I wanted to learWhile I read this book I grappled with my lack of understanding. This is a book of historical fiction; I could not make up my mind if I wanted to learn the details about the life of Romani poet Papsuza (1910-1987), on which this book is loosely based, or whether I should just read the book for the delight of falling into the story. Only when I stopped trying to learn the factual details and let myself just plain enjoy the story did I enjoy the book. In the process I did learn very much about the Romani culture. I learned a bit about Papsuza too, but there are major differences between the main character in the novel, Zoli, and the real person Papsuza.
If I have any advice to give, it is to not demand complete understanding as you read this book. By the end you will understand. I was gripping after threads to master the subject. I was scared I would miss something and fail to understand. My advice: sit back, read the book, enjoy the sentences and do not worry if you do not understand everything. You will understand in the end. Many sentences can be interpreted in different ways. If you are looking for the truth, for the facts, you will surely be frustrated. I am giving this book four stars, because I love the writing. I love the message imparted by the book, and I did learned about Romani people, their hardships and lifestyle, with a focus on those living in Eastern Europe from the 30s through to the 21st Century.
This paragraph concerns the differences between Zoli’s life, the main character of this book and Papsuza. Papsuza was of Polish origin. Zoli was Slovakian. Romani women were not taught to read or write, but both Papsuza and Zoli could. However Zoli learned from her grandfather while Papsuza stole thing to trade them for lessons. The very biggest difference is that in real life Papsuza was interned in a mental institution and spent the end of her life, the last 34 years, all alone. McCann has changed that ending (view spoiler)[and has her marry a wonderful Italian man with whom she has a daughter (hide spoiler)].
I needed McCann’s ending. I am glad he changed it. This is not a book about one woman. It is about Eastern European Romani people and it is a book that poses philosophical questions. In the lines of the book you will find the statement: “Nothing is ever fully understood.” Zoli says this, and it is clearly evident in the whole way the book is written. Life is a constant struggle to understand, and so is the book. If you enjoy pondering philosophical issues and don’t mind the brain exercise necessary to figure out what is going on, then the book is for you. This is a central theme. Listen to what is said about Henri: ”He knew in advance all that is worth knowing.” This is not to be taken as a compliment. But then humor is thrown in: “I have gone through so many of them (boyfriends), maybe I should get an accountant.” Another theme that is returned to again and again is inferred in this sentence: “The river is not where it starts or it ends.” Sentences such as this are thrown at you. I say that river is life. You may interpret this differently.
In any case the writing is pure poetry – albeit free verse and unrhymed. Zoli speaks of gullible non-Romani: “You can make them swallow anything with enough sugar and tears. They will lick the tears and sugar and make of them a paste called sympathy.” Now cannot the Romani criticize us for once?! Or this: “Once I was guilty of thinking only good things happen. Then I was guilty of thinking they would never happen again. Now I wait and make no judgment. You ask me what I love....” Then the elderly Zoli names things so beautiful as fruit trees and walks, blue wool mittens, coffee, wind…..or a daughter’s first step.
Now I must mention what has bothered me. When I was stuck in the mode of trying to learn about the life of Papsuza, I was extremely annoyed about the confusion and lack of clear facts concerning the transition from the Fascist to Communist powers in Slovakia. I thought the sentences were not clear. I wanted more dates and clear facts. I thought I would not understand history! But the message of how the Romani people suffered and how their lives were lived does become clear without excessive dates and precise historical facts. You do get some. And in fact you do get the basics events of Papsuza’s life too! If you want more, look at this link: http://romani.uni-graz.at/rombase/cgi.... Look at her photo. She had an eye that “strayed”.
Another complaint I had was how the narration switched from third person to first and back and forth. This is confusing. Zoli is spoken of in third person and also in the first person. I very much preferred when she spoke in the first person. I disliked when I read that she did that and she did this, when I wanted to get inside her head. Later, when she does speak in first person, that the narrator of the audiobook (Nigel Carrington) was a man, was disturbing. This really threw me off ....until I got used to it. I panicked and thought: “Who is speaking?! This is some man! Oh gosh, I am totally lost.” The dates and places jump. There is a beginning section by a journalist that is further confusing. I warn you, this is a book that is scarily confusing until you just plain relax and listen/read. You do end up understanding. Don’t panic, as I did!
Originally I thought there was a conflict between the theme of the book and the writing style. But then when I got over my need to have full control and understanding of every sentence, when I let myself enjoy the words and philosophical questions, when I stopped demanding that I must learn some historical facts, that is when I realized I was totally enjoying myself. And I did learn a lot about Romani culture and suffering. About Papsuza too. I do highly recommend this book.
************** Well, having been blown away by this author's Let the Great World Spin, I must immediately read another. The difficulty was choosing. This or Dancer or another?
************** BEFORE READING: I might be annoyed by the mixture of fact and fiction. Maybe read instead: A False Dawn: Volume 16: My Life as a Gypsy Woman in Slovakia, which Christi told me about :0) ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
ETA: I changed this to two stars. For most of this book I struggled to keep turning the pages. I think it is wrong to judge an entire boNO SPOILERS!!!
ETA: I changed this to two stars. For most of this book I struggled to keep turning the pages. I think it is wrong to judge an entire book by the last 100 pages. Back to two stars, which reflects my feeling for the majority of the book. ********************************************* On completion: So how can I complain so much about a book and then give it 3 stars? (See ETA!) The answer is simple, this is how I felt when I finished the book. I have been discussing this book with Amy Henry. I have a link to her review in the comments below. If you are considering whether to read this book, I suggest you look at our dicussion under her review. She is the one that kept me reading the book when I was about to dump it. I am glad I didn't.
The ending is tremendous. Starting with part three and WW2, then when the reader follows the collection to Japan and finally the brief conclusion of the book, these last 100 odd pages are wonderful. Absolutely. After reading this book i really am not interested in just looking at a netsuke, but also in holding one or several. They are meant to be held. They are not fragile. WW2 and its impact on the family was dramatic and engaging. The character study of the individuals was well done in the latter part of the book. Life in Japan immediately after the war was fascinating. Learning about Iggy and Jiro and the trip to Odessa, all of this drew me in. I loved the thoughts on what we keep secret and what we reveal. I loved how the author made the collection accessible to his own children so the stories about each figure could commence once again.
Can a little more than the last 100 pages save a book? I am giving it three stars, because by the end I liked it a lot. I had planned on two stars, but have bumped it up to three. The book offered too much interesting information to only give one star. Although it was interesting, much of the book was not engaging, and that is why I was planning on two stars.
Through page 207: Yes, the book has definitely improved. About halway through, when the collection was given to Victor and his wife, living in Vienna, that is when the collection of "objects" came to life. The children in the family came to play with them and invent stories about them. They stopped being things; they became part of the familily's life. Then WW1 came and history was drawn into this family's life. Yes, I like the book now, but it has taken too dam long to get to this point! I really didn't like Charles. For him the netsuke was merely a collection of valuable objects.
Through page 157: The book begins to offer what I am looking for when Charles gives the collection to his cousin Victor as a wedding gift. The collection moves to Vienna. Here, in Vienna, the reader gets to meet a family with women and children. You learn of the summers spent in Kövecses, Czechoslovakia. It is amusing because Patrick Leigh Fermor stays with them at the summer house. I have read enjoyed Fermor's book on his travels acroos Europe by foot. (See A Time of Gifts ).There is, as before, a lot of description, now about Vienna rather than Paris.The reader gets not just a description of the architecture of the buildings and the layout of the streets, but also the whole lifestyle and culture of these cities at the end of the 19th century. Of course, anti-Semitism is rife. The prose is filled with detailed historical facts. Be aware oif this when you pick up the book.
Through page 90: I am having serious trouble with this book. Yesterday, I decided to dump it. Today I decided I will continue. Let me explain why. This book, so far, is like reading a dry art history book. The author has decided to investigate everything related to the netsuke collection which he has inherited. Everything. The collection was purchased in Paris by his great uncle Charles. In fact, he bought it in one go, not peice by piece. He wanted the "collection". I wanted to discover the personalities and traits of the people involved in the story. More than that, I want to discover what makes each of these characters tick. What I have learned about Charles is that he is an art critic, an art collector and he knew all the right people, although his Jewish heritage is beginning to cause troble. He was great friends with many of Impressionism's artists - Renoir, Sisley, Pissaro, Monet, Degas and Manet... Yes, and others. However the reader is told who painted what and who had an exhibition in the Salon and that the back of Charle's head is to be found in that painting..... The author practically attempts to find every painting in the room where Charles kept the netsuke collection. He states where the given painting is now located. He brings one netsuke, the hare with amber eyes, with him on all these searchings to reunite it with the things that had all been together in Charles showroom. I found these chapters extremely dry.
On one occasion I felt the author delivered what I was looking for. Charles bought Manet's painting of a bundle of asparagus on a table. You will recognize the painting when it is shown in the book. What is amusing and interesting, because it states something about the personality of Manet, is when Manet comes to Charles with another painting. This painting he gives to Charles. It is one asparagus stalk, and his comment is this one fell out on the way. It was dropped. I am not quoting, That is the gist. This is fun. This says something about Manet, who he was as a person. This is the kind of information I am looking for. Such information is presented, but not often enough.
So then I went and read the review of a GR freind who has read this book. She says the book will tell me about the personalities of the people involved. She says the book is not about a collection of objects but about the people tied to this collection. This is why I chose to read the book. I have read about 1/3 of the book. I think this should have been made evident by now, but I am willing to give it another chance. I do not doubt my friend's views. Maybe she simply reacts differently than I do. Maybe I simply have not read enough. We all are different; obviously, given all the rave reviews of this book, others feel differently. Some people like dry history books. Some people don't mind if it takes many pages to really get into a book, to discover what it is about. I hope by continuing I will come to like this book.
I forgot to mention that Proust most likely based his character Charles Swann on ....guess who? That is right - Charles Ephrussi!
Through 51 pages: At the top of this box it says: "What do I think?" Well, I am curious to now more about Japanese art. I love how the Japanese people value the beauty of every day articles. They make everything one uses, from toothpicks to wrapped presents to grillwork at the base of a tree worth looking at, looking at carefully because it is so beautiful. Then I am also interested in this wealthy Jewish family. It starts with Charles Ephrussi (1849-1905), born in Odessa. This family is on a par with the famed Rothschild family. They lived in Odessa, Paris, Vienna, Japan.... Right off the bat, I am a bit disgusted with the dilettante life of Charles. It is he who began the collection. It is all a bit too poshy for me, but the author, the great nephew of Charles, also questions the extravagant lifestyle. I will have to see how I react to the family members, but I am interested in the places, the history and beauty of the netsuke themselves. Art is something that should be felt - holding a perfect bowl, rolling the netsuke figure in your hand. The netsuke were used in Japan as toggles to fasten a bag onto the sash of clothing. These were begun in the Edo era. They were teeny statues to be used daily, to have near your body, to be felt, touched and pulled, and they had to be beautiful. It is good that I am reading this as a paperback because you must continually look at the family tree at the front of the book. There are photos interspersed throughout. I suggest you look at Wikipedia to see how beautiful these netsukes are! What daily utensil in Japan isn't beautiful, or well designed? And I think the story will be become suspenseful when the collection must be hidden during WW2. A maid plays a large role, but I do not know more than that. I have just begun. I just hope I do not feel antipathy for the family members. I hope I don't get annoyed by the teeny font in the book.....
And I am now adding an excerpt to show you how this author writes and what I mean about the poshy lifestyle:
Before the netsuke comes a collection of thirty-three black-and-gold lacquer boxes. It was a collection to place with Charle's other collections in his apartment at the Hôtel Ephrussi, something to sit next to his burgundy Renaissance hangings and his pale Donatello sculpture in marble. Charles and Louise put his collection together from Sichel's chaotic house of treasures. It was a stellar group of seventeenth-century lacquers, as good as any in Europe: to choose them they must have been regular visitors to Sichel's. And very pleasing for me as a potter, alongside these lacquers,Charles also had a sixteenth-century stoneware covered jar from Bizen, the Japanese pottery village in which I studied when I was seventeen, excited to finally get my passionate hands on those simple tactile tea-bowls.
In "Les Lacques Japonaise au Trocadero", a long essay published in the "Gazette" in 1878, Charles describes the five or six vitrines full of lacquer on exhibition at the Trocadéro in Paris. This is his fullest writing about Japanese art. As elsewhere, he is in turn academic (he is exercised about dating) , descriptive and ultimately lyrical about what he sees in front of him. (page 51)
For my tastes, Charlie is annoyingly uppity, covetous and an art critic to boot! I personally have a hard time reading critical essays on art. Art should emotionally move the observer. I do not want to be told what to think. The author, who inherited the collection, is a potter. He too know that art is felt, seen and even heard individually, one person at a time. In a garden you see and smell and hear the "garden". All of one's senses create a picture. However, the author has set out to discover the path the netsuke collection has taken. Here is where we must begin. ...more
This book includes the two books Survival in Auschwitz and The Reawakening by Primo Levi. The American and European publications have employed differeThis book includes the two books Survival in Auschwitz and The Reawakening by Primo Levi. The American and European publications have employed different titles. The book ends with an excellent "Afterword". This too is written by the author. I recommend this edition.
This book is quite different from other holocaust books, by its very lack of emotion. It is a clear statement of what exactly happened to the author, both in the camp (If This is a Man) and afterwards on his travels home to Turin, Italy (The Truce). In the "Afterword" the author answers questions that readers have repeatedly asked. His answers are clear, concise and right to the point. This is a perfect ending to the book since you see how the author reasons after living through the experiences described. He knew exactly where he stood on every question. His wisdom impressed me....more
This is a four star book. Recently another GR friend rated this with three stars, and to be honest, I was flabbergasted. "HOW CAN YOU NOTNO SPOILERS!!
This is a four star book. Recently another GR friend rated this with three stars, and to be honest, I was flabbergasted. "HOW CAN YOU NOT BE MOVED BY THIS BOOK?" zinged through my head?! I will try and explain without giving spoilers. First of all, if you are the kind of person, like me, that highly values straight talk, and talk that does not shy away from ANY subject - sex, love, cruelty, motherhood, lying, corruption, guilt and survival - then this is a book for you. Edith will say "Now remember this....." to jolt you. She will say "Now maybe you are questioning how I could ....." and then she explains so clearly and so succinctly that what before seemed strange is know dazzingly obvious. The fantastic prose hits you from the first page. Then as you get to know Edith/Grete you are drawn into her moral dilemas, the choices she made. When I picked up this book, honestly, I had a completely different view of Edith. I was a bit disgusted at the thought of a Jewish woman who survived the holocaust by marrying a Nazi officer..... I thought she was self-centered. Well, she isn't. Not at all. She is a wonderful, kind person who suffered terribly during the war. Terribly. She never lost her integrity. Never. You get completely the wrong idea of Edith by reading that title. The title IS perfect, but you have to read the book to understand. This book is about people and how we all react differently when shit hits the fan. You come to empathize with Chrstl, Elisabeth, Pepi, Werner, Doctor Maria Nierderall, Klothilde, and I shouldn't stop here b/c the list goes on and on. Not all of these people acted admirably, but what they did you come to understand. That is why I used the word empathy! This book focuses on how people behave and why they behave as they do, not delivered as a lecture, but simply by throwing a spotlight on them. This is a book about the holocaust, but don't think it is devoid of humor. I promise you, people are just so unbelievably funny! What they come up with is utterly amaing and absurdly funny and wonderful! Another very interesting issue is what Edith did with her education as a lawyer/ judge. How it meandered AFTER the war. To tell you would be a spoiler, but it is a very interesting point. How other Jews and Germans have reacted to Edith after the war is also revealing. I could go on and on. Instead - read the book.
Through page 153: Most people do not have the courage to be kind. Most often kindness doesn't demand courage, but sometimes it does; and then who is strong enough, brave enough to jeopardize their own security for another human being? Such people are to be found on BOTH sides of any conflict. In this case, some were Nazis others were gentiles and others Jews. Finally, someone, a complete stranger, a Nazi, reaches out and helps Edith - with explicit, exact instructions, devoid of emotion.
"He turned away. The interview was over. I had never listened so hard to anything in my life. Every word was printed on my mind."
"He did not wish me luck. He did not ask for money. He did not say good-bye. I never saw him again."
"He saved my life."
With these words you see how this author expresses herself in telling her story.
Through page 147: I like this book very much. Look at Edith's chin on the front cover. Look at her eyes. Her chin shows her relentless will to get through this mess. Her eves hold something back. Her strength is visible, but it is at the same time cautious. She is back in Vienna and alone. In all senses. She doesn't know where she can sleep or where she will get her next meal. People who were close to her are gone. And those who remain, like her boyfriend? Well read her tale. I have noted many sections that I should quote, but it is terribly difficult to pick just one. They show that she is a person like all the rest of us simply trying to get through this mess, at the same time retaining an ounce of integrity. This book shows how many different people behave when put in a "tight spot". Or should I say when stamped on? Each behaves differently, some better than others, but the focus is on each idividual behavior. Unpretentious writing from start to finish. You can relate to her thoughts and experiences
Through page 23: I love this, absolutely love this book. Why? Well it is all in the ability of the author to write anchanting prose. Very simple, very down-to-earth and with humor. The following lines are from page 9:
"have you heard that the Russians are cannibals? Have you heard that they eat their young?"
"And do you believe that?"
I took a chance. "Some people do, sir. But I think if the russians ate their babies, there would not be so many Russians as there apparently are."
He Laughed. He had warm humorous and a gentle manner. He even reminded me a little of my grandfather.....
This is a memoir about a Jewish woman who survived WW2. How? By being the wife of a Nazi officer!
Before starting: I Will return to reading about Armenia, but first this since Maude and I want to read a book together. :0) So many have siad this must be read. And I always love memoirs....more