Let’s try again

So, from time to time I try to breathe new life into this blog. I thought it was going well in December, with the two part-summary of read books during the past year, but as you see I only wrote the first part. What happened? My master’s thesis happened (and is still happening), and general future angst and not-having-it-togetherness motivation-wise, vast procrastination and not wanting to do anything in my spare time that even remotely resembles a task (discovering netflix might also had something to do with it). So there…

However, I’m trying again, since I still read books and want to articulate the feelings they give, and I still like the idea of a book blog in order to train my English in a more casual way.

I actually have some bookish news, Sarah Waters visited my local library (!! more on that later) and I’ve joined an actual live book club here in Uppsala, for the first time in my life! We read one book every month, a book no one else has read before, and that the majority of us want to read or have no objection to read (so not necessarily books from your TBR-pile). I think I’m going elaborate on the pros and cons (for me) with a book club in a later post. I have read some good books too that I’ll be happy to write about, but until then I hope I’ll manage to be a bit more active on this blog :)

Books I managed to read in 2014

So, I haven’t been very active on this blog, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t manage to read a couple of books this year. I remember creating a Goodreads challenge on the beginning of the year where I sat the bar at 30 books to read this year – and I very soon thought that this was FAR too optimistic of me. And then I thought, when has reading ever been about numbers, I’m happy if I read TWO books that are great reading experiences!

But! Somehow this summer I got a lot of time to read, and read a wonderful amount of books in a short amount of time.

So here it goes, my year in books:

I started out with reading Anton DiSclafani’s The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, which I actually managed to write about, so I won’t sum it up here, I’m just going to say I liked it very much.

The next book I read was  The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson which I also managed to write about. (Yay!)

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I remember Anne Carson’s The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos as a beautiful collection of texts, about how the “I” of the book manages, despairs, and handles (and ultimately leaves) her life with “the husband”. He’s beautiful, she loves him, they talk all night, but he also disappears sometimes, he uses her texts, leaves her, comes back, everyday life is extremely difficult, and then they find their way back to each other only to let the vicious circle begin again. I don’t have the reading experience freshly in my memory anymore, I just know that I appreciated many of the “essays”, where most of them often had a poem-like quality to them (I would say that the whole book is one long poem, really), and had those moments that is what most often grips me in poems – glimpses of a state of mind where no boundaries exist, a sort of extatic feeling. (If I had the book here I could find a quote for you, but that’ll have to wait to another time).

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Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas and happy time of year everyone!

I keep coming back to this blog, despite the fact that I’ve barely read any books these past five months, but bare with me, bookish posts will come soon. Meanwhile I’m home celebrating christmas with my family, with good books and good films, I hope you have an enjoyable time too!

I’m back!

I have been busy with all sorts of things, and read a lot of great books and it is only lately I’ve realized that I… started this blog a couple of months ago that I was supposed to try and post about books in once in a while. I also realized I was missing this blog, and since my poor Swedish blog on blogspot has been infected with some kind of virus that I’ve no idea how to remove, this is the only blog I’ve got left. So I might as well take good care of it!

Some books I read this summer that had great impact on me were Cuckoo Song, Fly by Night, Twilight Robbery and Gullstruck Island by the wonderful Frances Hardinge, and also Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger. I’m hoping to be able to write more in depth about these books soon. Other great reading experiences were Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina (I fell in love with the world, the main character, the main character’s inner world (that is an own world to itself)… and the romance… and dear uncle Orma…*sigh*), Nina LaCour’s Everything leads to you, E. Lockhart’s We were Liars (stab my heart some more, will you), Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves, Erin Bow’s Plain Kate (I might reread this one soon, such an original story and such atmosphere!), Charlotte Rogan’s The Lifeboat and E.M Delafield’s Consequences (this one really broke my heart). I’ve also recently read and enjoyed The Paying Guests (after this, Tipping the Velvet and The Little Stranger I’m completely won over by Sarah Waters. I want to read all her books).

Right now I’m reading Dorothy Sayer’s  Strong Poison, which I’ve been wanting to read after Ana’s posts about her. I’ve got hooked on Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (also after Ana’s review – Yes, I’m seriously addicted to her fantastic tips and recommendations) so that’s what made me feel in the mood for a detective novel, and Sayers’ books felt like the obvious choice (Gaudy Night is already waiting on my nightstand, along with Have his Carcase).

I will soon blog about some recent book purchases that I’m looking forward to read, until then I leave you with some music by The Swingle Singers:

This and that

Sorry for the great pauses, but I’ve been very unfocused in my reading the last couple of weeks. As always, new titles I want to read come in a steady stream, and my bedside table is full of books yearning for my attention. Lately I’ve been wanting to read something fairly short so I have very conveniently landed in Anne Carsons The Beauty of the Husband which is absolutely beautiful. The language!! (And also with a lovely portrait of Keats on the cover on the Swedish edition). I hope I will have enough finished books soon to write some interesting reviews, until then I suggest you enjoy these lovely 18th century illustrations of the twelve months…!

A short update

I’m having a pause with The Lifeboat. I went to the library a couple of days ago, and wanted to write a post about how much I love the library, and post a picture of the books I loaned (Ivy Compton Burnett’s More Women Than Men, Marlen Haushofer’s The Wall and Elfriede Jelinek’s Princess Dramas).

But then I forgot all about it, and suddenly this wonderful book arrived

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Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. And I’ve only read the first page but I’m already in love. I’ve put it on my bedtable along with the other books, saving it for the right time to immerse myself in it…

The Journal of Anaïs Nin

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After my experience with LSD, a whole day and a whole night of overstimulation, restlessness and the most extreme fatigue, I felt as if my body had received near electrocution by too great a current of vibrations. It was not humanly bearable, the concentration of a thousand dreams into one, the total separation of one’s center, the total voyage into an atmosphere, a rhythm, a space not in harmony with one’s physical body. Yes, too strong a current. I think our dreams, reveries were meant to be absorbed organically and gradually, tempered by daylight, cushioned by humble occupations and drab interruptions. We have to have time to absorb these great charges of metaphysical energies, mix them with daily living, live them out, in a human gradation and human cellular development. A chemistry adapted to our human body: a dream, then awakening, then action, then contact with the earth, our own body.

The Journals of Anaïs Nin, Volume Six (p. 3).

It lasted one month

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I give up. I went into a local antiquarian bookshop today and came out with a biography on Anaïs Nin and one of her diaries (volume six, they didn’t have the others). While paying for the books I confessed: “I promised myself not to buy any more books, but then I came in here…” and the antiquarian remarked: “What an odd promise!”.

YES. This is what I’ve felt all along. I can’t possibly deprive myself of the pleasure that buying and owning books means to my insatiable, bibliophilic soul any longer.

Yes, bookpiles will probably take over my studentroom and seriously limit any space to move. I’ll probably die in a veritable town of bookskyscrapers. A beautiful prospect.

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Reading next…

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Despite being so completely charmed by the first pages of Forever Rose, I’ve also started reading Charlotte Rogan’s The Lifeboat. Since Forever Rose is the fifth book in the Casson Family-series, I want to wait with it until I can read all the books in order (and here I might break my buying-no-more-books-rule, since my local library doesn’t have the full series, and only a sadly tattered copy of Saffy’s Angel… and okay, all the books seem so good I want to own them…). 

I feel already very drawn into The Lifeboat, though it is as far from lovely and cosy you can get… I’m reminded of one great reading experience from last year, Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones, which is about an ex-nazi officer and the horrors he comitted in the war, and it was a fantastic book, but also soul-shattering hell, so not a book I will re-read anytime soon… I get the same feeling with The Lifeboat now, a similar one-person-narrative, a similar, very distinct voice that draws you in and makes you read on and on, even when you’re being confronted with the darkest parts of humanity in the process.

The Morning Gift

So, I read The Morning Gift this weekend. I’ve spent some weeks reading this book now (mostly in early mornings, when just taking up your most recent book is a great way to postpone the moment before you have to get up) and it has been both cosy and enjoyable, for the most part. But now that I’ve finished the book I feel a bit underwhelmed – I think it is mostly because of some tropes. But let me summarize the story first:

The plot is set in Vienna and London in the 1930’s. Ruth Berger leads a happy life in Vienna with her parents and relatives in a highly educated milieu. She lives in a rich world of books, the study of anthropology, music and is deeply in love with young pianist Heini who seems destined for a great career. Until the dreaded Anschluss. Both Ruth and her family are forced to leave Vienna, but some plans go wrong, and Ruth is accidentally left behind when her parents leave for London. Thanks to a family friend, Quin Somerville,  a marriage of convenience is arranged between him and Ruth, so that Ruth can leave for London, where the marriage is to be annulled once she is safe. In London we get to know the visitors and owners of a refugee café where the german refugees along with Ruth’s parents stay. When Quin and Ruth arrive in London, a lawyer is contacted to annull the marriage as agreed, Quin goes back to his job as a college professor and Ruth waits for her beloved Heini to arrive from Budapest. In the mean time she starts to work at the café, but it is not until she gets a place at the very college Quin is teaching that things start to get complicated…

I rooted for Quin and Ruth, and really fell for Ruth’s charming and warm character. I also loved her interest in zoology, the scenes in The Natural Museum in Vienna, and all the characters at the refugee café in Belsize park. Very often I felt it was a comforting and kind read, a book I enjoyed to return too.

What bothered me occasionally, is the characterization of Ruth, she came across as almost needlessly infantalized sometimes. In the book she is supposed to be 20 years old, her character is spontaneous, lively, happy and a bit hotheaded in a childlike way. I know this can have several reasons; I’m aware of the fact that, if we’re talking about realism, a 20-year-old in the 1930’s was most possibly a lot more naïve than the 20-year-olds of today, so that Ruth’s childlike nature, that she comes across as younger than her years can have som historical correctness. But I suspect it could also have something to do with certain gendered stereotypes when it comes to the portraying of young women in romantic stories. So I have some mixed feelings about it, because I still loved Ruth as a character,  the way she behaves and the joy she gives to other people, the sheer life-affirmation she communicates. I see how the childlike mannerisms are there for humour or as something to add to her charm, like when she plans to climb the Kanderspitze and swim the Varne to get to France. I should also add, that this doesn’t go uncommented in the book; Quin for example, lectures her for behaving like a ten-year-old, her friends point out that she behaves like a heroine from a Victorian novel, etc.

I also caught a passage where Quin watches her neck and discovers “those vulnerable hollows that prevent parents from murdering their young children.” I realize that this passage is here for both humour and charm, but the fact that this is a 20-year-old described like this, bringing the spectator’s, reader’s thoughts to a child, as described, just doesn’t really agree with me (that I’m myself close to her age might also have something to do with it). So, to sum it up, I realize how many of these charactheristics are part of what makes Ruth Ruth, and that all of them are presented in the book as humorous and/or charming elements. I just don’t like the bigger picture it creates, a picture that is far from unfamiliar; usually I’m particularly watchful when it comes to infantalizing or childlike characterizations of young women past the age of 18, because it is not an uncommon thing culturally (in literature and media), and to me it is a tiresome trope, furthering an excuse to not see women as potent adults.

I don’t want to judge too harshly though, there are several wonderful characters here, and Ruth is among them, but I just felt I needed to point out this particular aspect.

But apart from this, there were other things I liked, like how frigidity as a condition was dismissed, or how Ruth promises herself not to make a competition out of studying, her euphoria and sheer joy when hearing lectures and learning new things.

So, despite my irriation with some tropes (and here I don’t know if I’m only judging this particular work too hard, there are, after all, plenty of books out there having similar tropes, or infantalizing young female characters, and doing it worse), I still appreciated it as a kind and light read, and I’m curious to check out more books by Eva Ibbotson.

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P.S When I went to the library today and looked for Ibbotson-books I spotted Hilary McKay’s name and loaned Forever Rose, I just had to after reading some pages. This was an impulse-loan (I realized it is the fifth book in the series), but I really look forward to read all the books about the Casson Family now!