Among the books that I read, are also (and mercifully) books that are not related to travel writing. Unless you follow me on Goodreads, you don't get to find out that these lovelies have been part of my life! So here's a 2017 wrap-up, with my Goodreads ratings (1 to 5 ★). The "Aloud" (🗣) icon marks books that my wife and I have been reading to each other at tea time (a habit we cherish). Happy reading!
Parmi les livres que je lis ne figurent pas uniquement (et heureusement) des récits de voyage. A moins que vous ne me suiviez sur Goodreads, rien ne vous indique que ces petits chéris ont fait partie de ma vie ! Alors voici un résumé pour 2017, avec mes évaluations Goodreads (1 à 5 ★). L'icône "Voix Haute" (🗣) indique les livres que ma femme et moi nous nous sommes lus à voix haute, à l'heure du thé (une habitude qui nous est chère). Bonnes lectures !
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimée Bender • 4★
I grabbed this book off the shelves of a second-hand bookshop in Kyoto. It flew back to France with me and has been waiting for years on my shelves to be read. In my ignorance, I had never heard of Aimee Bender and I had absolutely no clue about the story told in the book. So I finally read it, just for the hell of it, with no expectations.
It turned out to be a beautiful surprise. That book is odd, the story is odd. Oddness sewn to unexpectedness, by way of a stunning, stunning prose. Bender is a very talented writer and I got lost and entranced and thoughful as I turned those pages that didn't make a lot of sense, and yet that did, a lot.
A tale about doubt, fear, anger, happiness, lust, amazement, nostalgia, greed, sadness, hope, that I didn't think could be told between the covers of one single book.
Le Vieux qui ne voulait pas fêter son Anniversaire, par Jonas Jonasson • 2★
Rabbit-Proof Fence, by Doris Pilkington • 4★
This book is not a novel nor a fancy travel book that will make you wish you had booked those plane tickets to Australia. It is an account, a testimony. It tells the true story of Molly, Daisy and Gracie, three semi-Aboriginal girls in the early 1930s who trekked for 9 weeks through the Western Australian outback to go back to their families. Like so many “half-caste” children at the time (Aboriginals fathered by White men), they had been taken away by force from their families and deported hundreds of kilometers south to a “Native settlement”, a school for half-caste children. It was really more a concentration camp, where they were forced to give up their Native ways and languages, learn English and basic skills that would in time make them an obedient, assimilated workforce. Despite the threat of having their head shaved, their body punished and being locked up in a cell, they escaped, unaware that they were then a thousand kilometers away from their home.
Doris Pilkington has gathered archives and the memories of her mother and aunts, the heroines of this story. She weaves them into a linear, relentless, vivid piece of writing. As for myself, I had my jaws clenched tight through many pages. That trek through the outback with the girls gave me ample time to reflect upon the horrors of White colonialism, its brutality and its hypocrisy. Many times I wanted to be there, sitting with the girls in the red sand of the bush, and tell them: “I am sorry.”
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary ann Shaffer • 4★
It was the end of the afternoon, and I was getting back home from work. I picked up this book from the “English Language” stall of my local second-hand bookshop. My first thought: Yet another book marketers marketed for what they think is “All Women” — namely a book with a fluffy ribbon on the cover and a corny title like “The single moms’ knitting club” or “the Tuesday night secret baking society”.
Little did I know that this book was the bestseller that started that trend, and quite unwillingly. I was reluctant, but the unexpected epistolary format of the novel tickled my curiosity. I clenched my jaws, prepared for disaster, and gave a few euros to the bookseller.
At that moment, I needed something light, witty, that made me travel in space and time, and learn a few things about a part of the world I had never visited. I also wanted to discover a new author, if possible female, that I could add to my bookshelf. And it worked. I just got caught in the story, learned something I didn’t know about WWII, and fell in love with the author. For you must not be mistaken: some readers will find the book too witty, others too light, and others not sophisticated enough. But what this book really is, is an ode to story-telling and book-reading. The true concluding chapters of the story lie in the Acknowlegments written by Mary Ann Shaffer herself, and the Afterword written by Annie Barrows after her aunt’s death.
If someday you, man or woman, stumble upon this epistolary novel with its corny red ribbon on the cover, just give yourself some slack, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and start reading.
🌺 (The fluffly pink flower on the photograph above is intended for the marketers,
so that they get a hint at my gender.) 🌺
Le Monde de Sophie, par Jostein Gaarder • 4★ • 🗣
Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami • 3★
It is the first time I find myself unable to rate a book, and almost unable to say if I liked it or not. And in a way, something tells me that this is what Haruki Murakami intended. I read through this utter nonsense, because I couldn't stop reading. I cared for characters I really didn't care about, I understood events I really didn't understand a thing about, I liked an end that I really didn't like at all.
I wanted to rate it 2 stars, when I really wanted to rate it 4 stars; and then I wanted to rate it 4 stars, when I really wanted to rate it 2 stars. So in the end I screamed with frustration, rolled on the floor, and clicked 3 stars.
The most objective thing I can say, is that the style is great, the themes addressed are universal, and the story is compelling (don't ask me why). Well done, Murakami. I'll read more of you soon, even if I really don't want to read more of you, nor soon nor later. Love, Carrie.
Dictionnaire des Idées Reçues, par Gustave Flaubert • 3★
Roverandom, BY / par J.R.R. Tolkien • 2★ • 🗣
Nice tale, surprising, unusual. The French version and some lack of literary knowledge probably made me miss a lot of Tolkien's references and lowered their impact. Still an interesting and funny tale to read to children.
Joli conte, surprenant, original. La traduction française et un manque de connaissances littéraires de ma part m'ont probablement fait passer à côté de nombreuses références utilisées par Tolkien, réduisant ainsi leur impact. Encore aujourd'hui, une histoire intéressante et amusante à lire aux enfants.
Elizabeth is Missing, by Emma Healey • 5★
A Room with a View, by E.M. Forster • 4★
When for the first time in my life I was put on a sick leave, the question of "What To Read?" diligently came to mind. And almost immediately, the piles of to-read books in our apartment overwhelmed me. Then one morning, with a familiar smile, my wife pushed a tiny package across our desk. I opened it, and looked at the pretty cover that read “A Room with a View”, by E.M. Forster. “It’s your sick-leave present”, my wife said.
I had never read anything by E.M. Forster. When you think about it, he is one of those authors that you should read, but haven’t. He is that author you know you’ll read someday — like Joyce, or Tolstoï. "A classic", is what I expected: a woman named Lucy goes to Italy, which turns her world upside down, and there she is, stuck between the prospect of a conventional marriage and the possibility of an inappropriate relationship. That storyline would fit on the back of a postage stamp, and I was afraid I would be reading that book half a century too late to be interested.
Boy, was I surprised.
The storyline doesn’t really matter. What matters is what Forster has to say about love, conservatism, and what we today call “gender equality”. The style is surprisingly modern, easy to read, and incredibly witty. I burst out laughing many times, and also reflected upon my own existence, the choices I’ve made, the fears that we all feel at the prospect of actually living our lives. Yes: “A Room With a View” is a comedy about life.
If the back cover is to be believed, someone at The Times said E.M Forster “says, and even more implies, things that no other novelist does.” Well, I wouldn’t be that extreme. But it is true that E.M. Forster is that kind of novelist. I was moved by his wit, his humor, his incredible empathy toward women, his treatment of the way men and society (still) treat them. I appreciated the complexity of his characters, the subtlety with which his criticism of society and sexism is also expressed through irony and macho punchlines, and the way he is also critical of women, who can be the fiercest ennemies of their own sex.
“A Room with a View” is a bewildering piece of literature, right to the final appendix. I already know there will be long-term consequences on my mind. But the immediate result of that experience is that I plan yet another, overwhelming pile of to-read books in our apartment — all by E.M. Forster.
Currently Reading • Lectures en cours
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