Archive for the ‘chat’ Category

This month’s 6 Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate, begins with a book club read from years ago, of which I remember not a word! I read a synopsis. Still nothing.   However, it appears that the novel, which contains many Mexican recipes, is also an ode to the love of food.  In that case …

… there’s nothing I love more than a German cake, but I always found that baking a German recipe in Scotland never truly worked. Classic German Baking has modified the recipes to American measures and ingredients, and they work perfectly, even on the other side of the Pond.  The crustless baked cheese cake is to die for ….

as is Kafka’s Lemon Drizzle Cake, albeit for completely different reasons!  It is presented in Tom Gauld’s Baking with Kafka.   So too is a Wolf Hall Activity Fun Book, which I would buy in a heartbeat, if ever one were to be produced.

Which brings me to Wolf Hall, surely the finest historical novel and Booker Winner ever (regardless of what happens next Tuesday).  As we know, it concerns Thomas Cromwell and his aiding and abetting, along with the Seymours, of  Henry VIII’s conquest of Anne Boleyn. Predators all, and the Seymour family seat, Wulfhall in Wiltshire,  could not have been more aptly named.

While on the subject of predatory buildings, there’s one in Daniel Kehlmann’s latest novella, You Should Have Left. I won’t say too much here, as I will be reviewing during German Literature Month.  I will say though that one protagonist has to make the ultimate sacrifice to enable others to escape.

Sydney Carton also did a far, far better thing than he had ever done before in Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. The setting of that novel, during the French Revolution, provides the link to the final book in this month’s chain.

Fittingly, for it is the centenary of the Russian Revolution, and that is the subject of China Miéville’s latest and my current read, simply entitled October.


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September Wrap-Up

It’s been a busy month – just not on the blog or in reading terms, comparatively speaking.  I’ve been travelling.  Actually I was only at home for seven days in September!  So, the fact that four books were read and five blog posts (excluding the August Wrap-Up) published should be regarded as a valiant effort!


Books Read September 2017

The two German translations at the bottom of the read-in-September pile  (Kruso, This House is Mine) provide clues as to where I’ve been spending my time. Reviews will appear during German Literature Month in November.

Spring Garden – Tomoka Shibasaki
Excavating Kafka – James Hawes  (Book of the Month – let not the paucity of competition fool you.  This is an astounding read!)

6 Degrees of Separation – From Wild Swans to Wives and Stunners
Announcing German Literature Month VII
A Literary Tour of Schleswig-Holstein: Lübeck amd The Buddenbrooks House

2017 Reading Statistics
YTD 77 Read, 8 Audio Books, 8 DNF
August 2017 4 Read

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Doesn’t time fly?  It seems only two minutes ago since we were celebrating GLM VI.  So quickly has this year gone, that I’ve still to create the GLM VI index.  (Which I will do sometime in October as I will be without wi-fi during the second half of September.) However, I digress, let’s get the flags out for GLM VII!

And start with some great news.

Caroline, who has had a recent struggle with her health, has recovered sufficiently to co-host with me once more.  So both our blogs, Beauty Is A Sleeping Cat and Lizzy’s Literary Life will be dedicated to German literature during November.

Will you be dusting down some neglected tomes from your bookshelves? Reading more from a favourite author or treating yourself to some newly translated works?  There’s a lot to celebrate in German Literature this year: the Theodor Storm bi-centennial, the Heinrich Böll centennial, the 3 German titles on the longlist for the inaugural Warwick Prize for Women in Translation.  It’s hard to know where to start, and impossible to fit it all in. So Caroline and I have decided to let you meander through the trails of German literature wherever and in whatever fashion you may wish (and perhaps, between us, we’ll cover it all.)

The whole month will be read as you please, with two readalongs for those who enjoy social reading.

On 15th November, the date of the Warwick Prize award, I will be discussing Yoko Tawada’s Memoirs of A Polar Bear.

On 29th November, Caroline will discuss Lion Feuchtwanger’s The Oppermanns as part of her War and Literature series.

There is no obligation to participate in the readalongs.  As ever,  the only rule for German Literature Month is to simply enjoy reading something originally written in German.  A novel, a play, a poem. Literary non-fiction, even.  Blog about it. Tweet about it. Review on goodreads or any other review site of your choice.  Just let the world know about the treasures to be found in German Literature (and let us know about it also on a special link that will be made available on November 1st).

In years past support for German Literature Month has been phenomenal, and the event is now a true highlight of our reading calendar.  Will GLM VII match its predecessors? It will if you join us.  Will you?

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Kate has opened this month’s journey with the bestselling Wild Swans by Jung Chang. Everyone was reading this in the 1990s – everyone except me, that is,

Neither have I read John Spurling’s The Ten Thousand Things – also set in China.  It won the Walter Scott Historical Fiction Prize in 2015, and is the only winner I have yet to read. I intend to do so before the end of this year.

Talking of completist reading, I have only one book remaining from this year’s Walter Scott Historical Fiction shortlist – Charlotte Hobson’s The Vanishing Futurist.

The thought of vanishing leads me to The Disappearances, an excellent young adult novel recently published by Pushkin Press, with one of the most beautiful covers of 2017.

I do love a beautiful book, and each year I make a point of determining the most beautiful book in the Edinburgh Book Festival Bookshop.  A copy of this year’s winner made its way home with me a fortnight ago. That would be The Sketchbook of Edinburgh.

Most of my book shopping is done in Edinburgh, and when I’m looking for something special – like a copy of the Moxon Tennyson – I head for the second-hand bookshop paradise in the West Port. The Pre-Raphaelite woodcuts are what make this edition so special. Here are a couple graced with the presence of the real Lizzie.

Lizzie was, of course, the original stunner, but there were others – Effi, Fanny, Jane, et al, and in Wives and Stunners, Henrietta Garnett, tells their stories.  Men may have created the most famous paintings, but where would they have been without their muses?

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August 2017 Wrap-Up


Books Read August 2017

August 2017 was a very busy month during which I attended 11 of the 17 days of Edinburgh Book Festival (should have been 12 but a puncture put paid to that), read 10 books (see footnote), listened to 2 audio books, and devised a #WITMonth 10 German Books you must read with Tony at Tony’s Reading List.  Interestingly my tweet for that became the most popular tweet I ever made!

It’s a wonder I blogged anything at all!  But I was very productive!

Women in Translation Month Posts
1) Summary of Books Read August 2016-July 2019 
2) 10 German Books You Must Read
3) Die My Love – Ariana Harwicz (Review.  Also for #spanishlitmonth)

Edinburgh International Book Festival Posts
4) The Martian Chronicles: Reading Workshop Review (This was July’s Book of the Month)
5) The Man Booker International Prize Edition Review of 3 events plus David Grossman’s A Horse Walks into a Bar.
6) The Post-Apocalyptic Edition Review of the event with Louise Welsh and Heinz Helle with thoughts on their novels No Dominion and Euphoria
7) The Shortest History of Germany Edition Review of James Hawes event and book of the same title.  (June’s Book of the Month)
8) The Borgias According to Sarah Dunant Review of my favourite event at this year’s festival and her two fantastic historical novels Blood and Beauty and In the Name of the Family.

Just Because
9) Six Degrees of Separation: From Pride and Prejudice to New Boy
10) The Disappearances – Emily Bain Murphy Review

I wish I could blog like this every month, but other things have a way of interfering sometimes.  (And September is most likely going to be the proof of that!)

August 2017 was a remarkable month in another way also.  For the first time this year, my book of the month was written by a woman! Though not the woman in translation. Ariana Harwicz’s novel is outstanding, but her novel was trumped by the sheer pleasure afforded me by Emily Bain Murphy’s young adult novel, The Disappearances.  It really was the book I had to force myself to put down!

2017 Reading Statistics
YTD 73 Read, 8 Audio Books, 8 DNF
August 2017 10 Read 2 Audio Books 1 DNF

Footnote: Yes, I know there are 11 books in the picture, but I actually listened to Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, whilst driving to and fron Edinburgh,

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I’ve had my eye on this game, hosted by Kate, for a while, never quite finding the time to join in until today.  The idea is to freely associate books based upon one common initial link.

1. Today’s starter for 10 is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, with Darcy perhaps the world’s most popular literary crush.  Not mine as it turns out because …

2. Prince Andrej from Tolstoy’s War and Peace is the man for me!

3. Andrej would be Andrew if he lived here in Scotland, and I’m spoilt for choice for the next book with so many Andrews to choose from.  Let’s go with the town, named after the Scottish patron saint, and The Book of St Andrews, an anthology that accompanies me whenever I visit.

4.  What do I think of whenever I think of St Andrews?  The two-mile long beach, the best bookshop in Scotland, or the bottle dungeon in the ruined castle, the horror of which haunts me,  and was so effectively captured in Belcampo’s short story Funeral Rights, contained in the Penguin Book of Dutch Short Stories.

5. I can’t mention Dutch Literature without thinking of W F Herman’s The Darkroom of Damocles, my favourite novel of all time. (Note to self – it is time for a reread.)

6. The sword of Damocles is an allusion to the ever-present threats to those in power. “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” as King Henry says in Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part Two.

7.  Which brings me rather neatly to my current read.  New Boy, the latest release in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, is Tracy Chevalier’s homage to Shakespeare’s Othello, another leader who discovered peril where he least expected it. There is also a circular link back to Pride and Prejudice.  Wasn’t Mr Bingley, once upon a time, the new boy on the block?

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You may have thought that July was a kind of inofficial German Literature Month given that my blogging consisted of reviews of 3 German novels, 1 Welsh novel set in Germany and one post about my recent literary tour of Schleswig-Holstein. It wasn’t meant to be that way but it’s what happens when I spend the first half of the month in Germany, and the second half of the month reviewing what I read and did there. So be it.

I do still have the second part of my literary tour of Schleswig-Holstein to report on, and there will be further German-lit posts during August, given that there are plenty of related events at this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival. (12 days and counting!) But my reading has moved on because, if everything goes to plan, I will be at the festival for 12 of the 17 days, and I have a lot of reading to complete before then.

The festival, already the largest in the world, is bigger and wider-ranging than ever this year. In fact, you could say it has gone global because you don’t have to be in Edinburgh to take part. The free online How to Read A Novel reading course that they are delivering in conjunction with Edinburgh University, using this year’s James Tait Black Award shortlist to investigate key blocks within modern fiction – plot, characterisation, dialogue, setting – is now up and running. I’m currently working my way through the first module and am finding it most illuminating. I’m pretty sure that you can still enrol if you wish to join in.

Books Read 2017

Books read July 2017

I’ve also started my reading for the festival, having read 4 novels in preparation. You can see these at the bottom of the Books Read in July pile above. 3 were fantastic, whereas I feel rather cool towards the fourth. Perhaps Jenny Erpenbeck will warm me towards Go Went Gone at her event on the 20th.

That I didn’t love Erpenbeck’s latest took me completely by surprise, as did the fact that I was mesmerised by Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, July’s Book of the Month, which left me breatheless at times. I don’t read much science-fiction but may well read more if the Bradbury is a marker of the quality to expect. I wouldn’t know where to start though, so please leave any recommendations you have in comments.

Anyway my book festival is opening with a workshop on the Bradbury and my review will follow that. My final read for the festival this year is likely to be Medea by Euripides – the trigger for that being David Vann’s latest novel. This is why I love the Edinburgh Book Festival – it expands my reading horizons; this year both in time and space. From Greece in the 5th century B.C to Mars in 2026. You can’t say farther than that.

I enjoyed July, and August will be another good month. But until then, here is this month’s blogging and reading statistics update:

Blog Posts
The Invention of Curried Sausage – Uwe Timm
The Aftermath – Rhydian Brook
The Murderer In Ruins / The Wolf Children – Cay Rademacher
A Literary Tour of Schleswig-Holstein (1): Husum

2017 Reading Statistics
Total YTD: 64 read, 6 audio books, 7 DNF
July 2017: 8 read, 1 DNF

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