The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

bookshelves: women, war, glbt, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, britain-england, historical-fiction, wwii

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: gift from my husband
Read in April, 2009
** spoiler alert ** I’ve just finished The Irresistible Inheritance Of Wilberforce A Novel in Four Vintages which was a story told backwards, and have opened this to find it is also a story told backwards to end at it’s beginning. Coincidences never happen in ones do they?

Opening sentence 1947, chapter 1: So this, said Kay to herself, is the sort of person you’ve become: a person whose clocks and wrist-watches have stopped, and who tells the time, instead, by the particular kind of cripple arriving at her landlord’s door.

There is a paragraph on page 99 that explains the retrogradation employed in this tale:

‘I go to the cinema,’ says Kay; ‘there’s nothing funny about that. Sometimes I sit through the films twice over. Sometimes I go in half-way through, and watch the second half first. I almost prefer them that way – people’s pasts, you know, being so much more interesting than their futures.’

It was also a pertinent point (page 320) to have Helen reading Frenchman’s Creek where the synopsis of that book is:

The Restoration Court knows Lady Dona St Columb to be ripe for any folly, any outrage that will alter the tedium of her days. But there is another, secret Dona who longs for a life of honest love — and sweetness, even if it is spiced with danger. It is this Dona who flees the stews of London for remote Navron, looking for peace of mind in its solitary woods and hidden creeks. She finds there the passion her spirit craves — in the love of a daring pirate hunted by all Cornwall, a Frenchman who, like Dona, would gamble his life for a moment’s joy.

The Whispering Muse by Sjón, Victoria Cribb (Translation)

Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb

Opening: I, Valdimar Haraldsson, was in my twenty seventh year when I embarked on the publication of a small journal devoted to my chief preoccupation, the link between fish consumption and the superiority of the Nordic race.

Thoughts on the opening: so, we have a elitist, narcissistic, dodgy narrator – I hope we get to witness the downfall of this Valdemort Valdimar.

Page 25: THAT MORNING the MS Elizabet Jung-Olsen had cruised into Fedafjord, one of those endless Norwegian fjords, and now lay moored in a small bay at the foot of a lofty mountain.

Page 32:

‘So the day the ship was deemed ready to launch, bright-eyed Athena descended to earth among the shipwrights and fitted in her prow a beam from the whispering oak of her father Zeus.’

As perceived by that opening declaration, Valimar cannot see beyond the mundane in the world, or higher than his own opinions, and misses something entirely wondrous. Like pearls before swine one of the greatest stories known to man unfolds before him, firsthand, via a shard of timber.

Oh, and those wanting a quick fix of Jason and the Argonauts, the full film is here.

Rating: five in the bullseye of fafnir

77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz

bookshelves: published-2011, autumn-2014, boo-scary, halloween-2014, tbr-busting-2014, fraudio, fantasy

Read from May 07, 2012 to October 19, 2014
rosado mp3

Description: Dean Koontz transcends all expectations as he takes readers on a gripping journey to a place where nightmare visions become real—and where a group of singular individuals hold the key to humanity’s destiny. Welcome to 77 Shadow Street.

Had this ‘onhold’ for so long I had to re-start from scratch.

This reads like a cross between House of Leaves and a Doctor Who episode where the Daleks are exhorting: “Exterminate! Exterminate!”

Baseline three star, supernaturally haunted-house fayre.

Don’t Point That Thing At Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli

bookshelves: published-1972, one-penny-wonder, paper-read, mystery-thriller, art-forms, amusing, cover-love, newtome-author, under-1000-ratings, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, adventure

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Clare
Read from September 25 to October 18, 2014
Front declaration:

The epigraphs are all by Robert Browning, except one, which is a palpable forgery.

This is not an autobiographical novel: it is about some other portly, dissolute, immoral and middle-aged art dealer. The rest of the characters are quite imaginary too, especially that Mrs. Spon, but most of the places are real.

Opening: When you burn an old carved and gilt picture frame it makes a muted hissing noise in the grate – a genteel fooh – and the gold leaf tints the flames a wonderful peacock blue-green. I was watching this effect smugly on Wednesday evening when Martland came to see me. He rang the bell three times very fast, an imperious man in a hurry.

You have to be in the right mood to get anything out of this outrageous skit. Subtle it is not. Luckily, I was up for some mayhem on this dreich, Russian subs in the Baltic, flooded roads, chicken breasts for dinner, day. I won’t be looking for another but am pleased to have had a look in on Bonfiglioli’s manic art world.

The Blue Room by Hanne Ørstavik

bookshelves: published-1999, translation, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, norway, autumn-2014, lifestyles-deathstyles, under-100-ratings, psychology, abandoned, next
Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: B O D Y
Read from June 09 to October 17, 2014

Description: A novel about a mother-daughter relationship that will send a chill down your spine.

Johanne is a young woman in her twenties who lives with her mother. When she falls in love with Ivar, she finally feels ready to leave home. The couple plan a trip to America. But the morning of her departure, Johanne wakes up to find the door locked. Can she overcome her fears? Will she shout for help? Will she climb out of her seventh floor window?

Can anyone who has read this explain just why there is that unconnected bottle up the bum underage Asian girl paragraph, and what it had to do with the story? I couldn’t happily carry on after that but suspect that fans of Elfriede Jelinek will now rush to buy a copy of this.

What a disparate series these Peirene shorts make, it appears that I either love them over the odds, **points at the three 4* items**, or detest them.

4* The Brothers
4* The Murder of Halland
WL Sea of Ink
4* The Next World Novella
1* Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman
1* The Blue Room

The Death of Sigmund Freud

Description: When Hitler invaded Vienna in March of 1938, Sigmund Freud, old and desperately ill, was among the city’s 175,000 Jews dreading Nazi occupation. The Nazis hated Sigmund Freud with a particular vehemence: they detested his “soul-destroying glorification of the instinctual life.” Here Mark Edmundson traces Hitler and Freud’s oddly converging lives, then zeroes in on Freud’s last two years, during which, with the help of Marie Bonaparte, he was at last rescued from Vienna and brought safely to London. There he was honored as he never had been during his long, controversial life. At the same time he endured the last of more than thirty operations for cancer of the jaw. Confronting certain death, Freud, in typical fashion, did not let fame make him complacent, but instead wrote his most provocative book, Moses and Monotheism, in which he questioned the legacy of the greatest Jewish leader. Focusing on Freud’s last two years, Edmundson is able to probe Freud’s ideas about death, and also about the human proclivity to embrace fascism in politics and fundamentalism in religion. Edmundson suggests new and important ways to view Freud’s legacy, at a time when these forces are once again shaping world events.

1/5 Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud is beset by illness, and the threat of Hitler invading Austria.

2/5 The Nazis enter Freud’s house, and he fears for his family as interrogations begin, read by Anton Lesser.

3/5 Freud faces more demands from the Nazis – can he escape to freedom before it’s too late.

4/5 Freud is installed in St John’s Wood in London, and Salvador Dali comes to tea.

5/5 Freud prepares for his final publishing success, and the return of a mortal foe – cancer. The great psychiatrist’s last years, read by Anton Lesser.

Subjectively and initially, I wanted to rant about how I would not have liked this human being, his conclusions, his arrogance or elitism, however it has got to be said this was a cracking bio. It was great to see those London days through the eyes of someone else’s writing and research, and I came away with much more understanding of the man and his ideas. I even want to read his Moses book, how about that for major flip-flopping!

This is excellent fayre.

Mother by Maxim Gorky

bookshelves: film-only, slavic, autumn-2012, published-1906, classic, autumn-2014, tbr-busting-2014, gutenberg-project, e-book

Read from September 02, 2012 to October 17, 2014
Portrait Of The Writer Maxim Gorky 1905 – Valentin Serov

Whilst I wasn’t struck by the film (details below the dotted line) I still wish to read the book, which just happens to be HERE on Gutenberg.

Opening: Every day the factory whistle bellowed forth its shrill, roaring, trembling noises into the smoke-begrimed and greasy atmosphere of the workingmen’s suburb; and obedient to the summons of the power of steam, people poured out of little gray houses into the street. With somber faces they hastened forward like frightened roaches, their muscles stiff from insufficient sleep. In the chill morning twilight they walked through the narrow, unpaved street to the tall stone cage that waited for them with cold assurance, illumining their muddy road with scores of greasy, yellow, square eyes. The mud plashed under their feet as if in mocking commiseration. Hoarse exclamations of sleepy voices were heard; irritated, peevish, abusive language rent the air with malice; and, to welcome the people, deafening sounds floated about—the heavy whir of machinery, the dissatisfied snort of steam. Stern and somber, the black chimneys stretched their huge, thick sticks high above the village.

Living a life like that for some fifty years, 
a workman died.

And so we are swiftly introduced to Michael Vlasov, who is described as:

gloomy, sullen man, with little eyes which looked at everybody from under his thick eyebrows suspiciously, with a mistrustful, evil smile. He was the best locksmith in the factory, and the strongest man in the village. But he was insolent and disrespectful toward the foreman and the superintendent, and therefore earned little; every holiday he beat somebody, and everyone disliked and feared him.

Sounds as if I am back with the Peaky Blinders!

After a week long in/out of this I can say that whilst pleased to have experienced his printed words I don’t think Gorky is a writer for me.


Mother (1926)

Vera Baranovskaya … Niovna-Vlasova, the Mother
Nikolai Batalov … Pavel Vlasov – the Son
Aleksandr Chistyakov … Vlasov – the Father
Anna Zemtsova … Anna – a Revolutionary Girl

The Film Version Of Gorki’s Great Story Of The 1905 Revolution:

The Black Hundred: ultra-nationalist movement in Russia in the early 20th century. They were a supporter of the House of Romanov and opposed any retreat from the autocracy of the reigning monarch. The Black Hundreds were also noted for extremist russocentric doctrines, xenophobia and anti-semitism (wiki)

The film version of this is not working for me. Maybe I’ll try the paper read at some point.