It is January & thus it is Long-Awaited Reads Month

Due to some personal circumstances (which appear to be completely okay right now) I have not been very present in the blogging world. So, first things first: I wish you all a wonderful and very happy 2014! 

Being absent also meant that I never got to post about the beginning of Long-Awaited Reads Month. An event that is well under way, it already being the 11th of January.

LAR Button Final

As I wrote in an earlier post, the rules for this event are simply:

  1. Read books you’ve been excited to read for a long time but never seem to get to in January. You can do this exclusively for the whole month (my approach), you can do it for just one week, or you can simply try to get to one or two of these books in January. Your level of commitment is entirely up to you!
  2. If you’re taking part, you can come back to one of the posts about Long-Awaited Reads Month on the blogs of Ana or me and leave us a link to a LAR-related review; you’ll then be entered in a giveaway for a book you’ve always wanted to read that is up to $15/€11/£10 on BookDepository (open worldwide).
  3. If you want to talk about the event on Twitter, the hashtag is#LARMonth.
  4. Have fun!

Personally, I have not had a lot of time to read this month. However, I did finish Eva Ibbotson’s The Secret of Platform 13, and am currently in the middle of John Green’s Looking for Alaska and Frances Hardinge’s Fly By Night.

Have you read or started reading anything for Long-Awaited Reads Month yet? Are you enjoying it?

Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky

Suite FrancaiseSuite Francaise - Irène Némirovsky
Translated from the French by Sandra Smith
Chatto & Windus 2006 (French: 2004)
Buy: Amazon | Bookdepository *

I started reading Suite Francaise right about the time when the end of reading War and Peace was in sight. Moreover, I started it right after finishing that month’s  section. Hopefully this will explain why I chose to write about this novel for the War and Peace Carnival, besides the obvious, of course — the fact that it is consistently called Némirovsky’s War and Peace-like epos on the cover and the appendices.

Némirovsky’s Suite Francaise consists of two parts. The first, called Storm in June, follows a number of families and persons as they flee Paris on the eve of the German invasion. The second, ‘Dolce’, depicts live in a small village while it is occupied by Germans. Meant to be a novel of more parts, Némirovsky never got to finish it before she was transferred to a concentration camp by the Nazis. In published form, these two parts are followed by appendices containing her notes about the war and her ideas about Suite Francaise as well as her correspondence from 1936 until her deportation.

There is a certain feel to the novel that struck me as justifying the idea that Némirovsky was aiming to write a War and Peace of her time. I felt there were similarities in how Tolstoy and Némirovsky chose to depict the chaos and yet the familiarity of everyday life during war. How human natures will remain what they are, even if they are undergoing drastic changes at the same time. How people will make choices, one or the other, without knowing the outcome, but mostly trying to maintain a sense of normality. And how some might struggle to hold on to class and all that, even if that should hardly matter any more. (Btw, it certainly seemed that Némirovsky had more sympathy for the working classes than the richer persons she depicts, or was that just me?)

The difference perhaps being that whereas Tolstoy included a lot of battle scenes from the point of view of the army/soldiers, most of the fighting that we see in Suite Francaise is through regular characters. (with one scene with a boy who wants to join the army as an exception, perhaps?) I wonder if this is why I felt more instantly attached to the story and its characters in Suite Francaise compared to War and Peace. Or perhaps it was the length of the –unfinished– novel? Or maybe even the fact that the historical setting is more familiar to me? I do not mean to detract from either novel, it is simply that Suite Francaise was somehow easier to read for me.

There is one thing that frankly surprised me while reading Suite Francaise: the constant feeling that it was written as if the war was already over, as if the author already knew what things were going to happen. There was such a, I guess I could call it knowingness?, about the war. A familiarity combined with reflection that had me wondering repeatedly if perhaps I hadn’t gotten my facts straight, if perhaps Némirovsky did live until the end of the war and revised the novel afterwards. But alas, that was not the case, or we might have had a complete novel instead of a story in two parts. Either way, I think it was that tone that was part of the magic in Suite Francaise for me.

There is a lot more to say about Suite Francaise, but I am afraid that it has been a while since I read it, and that while I knew I was going to write about it in December — close to that time when I would have finished War and Peace – I forgot to make notes of all the other things I wished to say. This will have to do, until, perhaps, I reread it someday?

War and Peace CarnivalI read Suite Francaise as part of my Classics Club list. This post is part of the War and Peace Carnival

Other opinions on Suite Francaise may be found here.

* These are affiliate links. If you buy a product through either of them, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

War and Peace Carnival!

War and Peace Carnival

We made it through a year of War & Peace and we want to celebrate! This week, we hope you’ll post about something relating to War & Peace and the country it takes place in. This can be anything! You could make a Russian recipe, watch one of the movie versions of War & Peace and review it, review another Tolstoy book, review a Russian restaurant, read and review a nonfiction book that takes place during the time period, write a poem celebrating the fact that you finished (or couldn’t!) anything! We hope it will be a fun time!

If you post anything throughout the week, we’d love it if you shared the link to the post with us in the Mr Linky below. You can also add your final thoughts on the book to this Mr Linky.

We hope this will be a fun few days!

Merry Christmas!

I have been enjoying a quiet vacation for a week by now, meaning that I have been doing nothing, decorating the Christmas tree, and reading a few comfort books.

And now it is almost Christmas!

merry christmas

Merry Christmas! (with bears!)

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you have lovely days :-)

I shall be enjoying time with family and reading some more of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (first time reading this!).

Slam by Nick Hornby

Slam - Nick HornbySlam – Nick Hornby
Putnam, Penguin, 2007

Buy: Amazon | Bookdepository *

The first time my sister went to the US to visit her fiancé, she brought me back this hardcover edition of Nick Hornby’s SlamShe told me how she could not resist buying it given her surprise at books being available for that cheap and she knew I really enjoyed most of Hornby’s other books.

It took me a while to get to this one though. I think you have to be in the mood for a book by Hornby. If it is one of his great ones, he will make sure the book will have you happy and comfortable in no time, even if you didn’t feel all that well when you started reading. Yet, this is not true for all of his books. For example, I had a rather difficult time getting through A Long Way Down. As for Slam, well, it’s not that I struggled reading the book per se, but it definitely is not one of Hornby’s best.

To my mind, Slam was going to be about a boy who really liked skateboarding. A boy who talks to Tony Hawk when he feels his life has become a little muddled. And to some extend that’s true. Sam, the book’s protagonist, is a sixteen-year-old who is fond of skating, who does know Tony Hawk’s biography by heart — so much so that he can have virtual conversations with him asking his poster of Hawk stuff and Hawk answering within the bounds of what is written in his autobiography. The book goes along comfortably for a while, occasionally funny although not at Hornby’s best, as you follow Sam in his daily life, falling in love with a girl called Alicia.

And then this situation happens. I don’t know if it’s a spoiler really, as it is quite clear that something will come up from the very beginning, and it isn’t long until it becomes clear what that something is, but just in case you would consider it a spoiler, I am giving you this long introductory statement to make sure you have time to decide to look away — to decide not to read on beyond this point..

So, yes, Alicia becomes pregnant. And the book is basically about Sam’s efforts at coping, or really his failure to cope for a long while. It is interesting to me that I had never heard about this book being about teen pregnancy before, because really, it is the major theme of the novel. And it occuring as it does, in a book that I thought was going to be about skateboarding (silly me!), I think might be interpreted as the kind of slam against concrete that a discovery like that would have on the lives of sixteen-year-olds which is referenced in the title. In that respect, it seems right, in a way, that I didn’t know what this was going to be about going in.

It is not the fact that this book turned out to be about something different that made me feel a little let down in it. It is just that something constantly felt a little off while reading. Perhaps it is simply a weaker book by an author that has written some really entertaining and lovely ones? Perhaps his attempt to write for a YA audience just does not really sit well with his style? (I would say that all of his books would work for YA audiences, but somehow in this one the language seemed more deliberately simple which took away from the quality of the prose?) Or perhaps it is just that Sam, as a protagonist, was a tad bit much on the selfish side? Understandably so, perhaps, being 16 and dealing with pregnancy and a young child, but nevertheless, I think there might have been more development.

The book has its moments. It has its observations that ring very true. For example, I loved the bit where Sam observed how age does not seem set in stone, but instead seems to slip from one thing to the other, as the situation changes. There might be times when you feel 9, and others where you feel all mature and 25 — and this might change within days, or hours, or minutes. I also liked the pinpricks of critique about class consciousness. Overall, there is nothing really wrong with this book, and perhaps it is the fact that I enjoyed several of Hornby’s books better more than anything that made me like this book less somehow? I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this book was enjoyable, and fast to read, and funny in places, and sympathetic in its own right — but never seemed to become more than that?

Other Opinions: Rather a lot.

* These are affiliate links. If you buy a product through either of them, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.