The Forged Coupon by Leo Tolstoy

bookshelves: autumn-2015, moidah, parable, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, philosophy, christian, published-1911, slavic

Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Don
Read from September 02 to 03, 2015
Wiki description: The story is divided into two parts. In Part I, schoolboy Mitya is in desperate need of money to repay a debt, but his father angrily denies him assistance. Dejected, under the instigation of a friend Makhin, Mitya simply changes a 2.50 rouble bond coupon to read 12.50 roubles, but this one evil deed sets off a chain of events that affects the lives of dozens of others, when his one falsehood indirectly causes a man to murder a woman at the end of Part I, and then seek redemption through religion in Part II.

Opening: FEDOR MIHAILOVICH SMOKOVNIKOV, the president of the local Income Tax Department, a man of unswerving honesty—and proud of it, too—a gloomy Liberal, a free-thinker, and an enemy to every manifestation of religious feeling, which he thought a relic of superstition, came home from his office feeling very much annoyed. The Governor of the province had sent him an extraordinarily stupid minute, almost assuming that his dealings had been dishonest.

Like a snowball rolling downhill or the domino effect, a larceny by a school boy sets off a chain of bad happenings. Robert Bresson used Part I as the basis for his last film, L’Argent (1983)…

3* The Forged Coupn
4* Anna Karenina
6* War and Peace
4* The Death of Ivan Ilych
2.5* The Kreutzer Sonata
3* Resurrection
2* The Cossacks
3* Family Happiness
3* The Sebastopol Sketches
TR What Men Live by and Other Tales
WL God Sees the Truth, but Waits
3* A Letter to a Hindu

Speaker of Mandarin by Ruth Rendell

bookshelves: autumn-2015, series, tbr-busting-2015, published-1983, mystery-thriller, china, ghosties-ghoulies, travel

Read from September 02 to 03, 2015

Read by……………… Michael Bryant
Total Runtime……… 5 Hours 52 Mins

Description: Chief Inspector Wexford is in China visiting ancient tombs and palaces with a group of British tourists. After their return to England, one of his fellow tourists is found murdered – a burglary it seems, but Wexford has other ideas. As he questions other members of the group, Wexford finds secrets of greed, treachery, theft, and adultery, leading the distressed inspector to ask not who is innocent, but who is least guilty . . .

I am hoping this is not the jumping the shark book, that it was a dire one-off, a tragic mistake. Only way to find out is to dive in to the next one.

3* From Doon With Death (Inspector Wexford, #1)
3* A New Lease of Death (Inspector Wexford, #2)
3* Wolf to the Slaughter (Inspector Wexford, #3)
2* The Best Man to Die (Inspector Wexford, #4)
3* A Guilty Thing Suprised #5
3* No More Dying Then (Inspector Wexford, #6)
3* Murder Being Once Done (Inspector Wexford, #7)
3* Some Lie and Some Die (Inspector Wexford, #8)
3* Shake Hands Forever (Inspector Wexford, #9)
3* A Sleeping Life (Inspector Wexford, #10)
3* Put on by Cunning (Inspector Wexford #11)
1* Speaker of Mandarin (Inspector Wexford, #12)

3* Not in the Flesh (Inspector Wexford, #21)
2* The Vault (Inspector Wexford, #23)

The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century by Ian Mortimer

Description: Imagine you could get into a time machine and travel back to the 14th century. This text sets out to explain what life was like in the most immediate way, through taking the reader to the Middle Ages, and showing everything from the horrors of leprosy and war to the ridiculous excesses of roasted larks and haute couture.

As Susanna mentions in her review, the clothing section was very interesting: knitting was not known in 14C.
Fully recommended.

3.5* The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England
4.5* The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England

Klingsor’s Last Summer by Hermann Hesse

Description: Written over the course of a few weeks in July and August 1919, it was published in December 1919 in the Deutsche Rundschau. It was later published (by Samuel Fischer) in a volume which included Kinderseele and Klein und Wagner. The story is an account of the final months of the life of Klingsor, a forty-two-year-old expressionist painter. A lover of poetry, a heavy drinker and a womanizer, he spends his final summer in southern Italy, torn between sensuality and spirituality and troubled by feelings of impending death.

Short stories:

A Child’s Heart
Klein and Wagner
Klingsor’s Last Summer

Most interesting of these three shorties was the middle one, ‘Klein and Wagner’, yet each were suffused in degrees of God, fate and destiny that renders his oeuvre somewhat dispensible nowadays.

Trivia: Li Po: 701–762: A Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty. He wandered the Yangtze Valley, was married four times and was friends with the poet Tu Fu.

4* The Glass Bead Game
TR Siddharta
3* Steppenwolf
3* Narcissus and Goldmund
CR Klingsor’s Last Summer

The Dust That Falls from Dreams: A Novel by Louis de Bernières

Description: In the brief golden years of King Edward VII’s reign, Rosie McCosh and her three sisters are growing up in an idyllic and eccentric household in Kent, with their ‘pals’ the Pitt boys on one side of the fence and the Pendennis boys on the other. But their days of childhood innocence and adventure are destined to be followed by the apocalypse that will overwhelm their world as they come to adulthood.

For Rosie, the path ahead is full of challenges: torn between her love for two young men, her sense of duty and her will to live her life to the full, she has to navigate her way through extraordinary times. Can she, and her sisters, build new lives out of the opportunities and devastations that follow the Great War?

Opening: This was the day that Daniel vaulted the wall. Not many weeks previously the tiny Queen had begun to lose her appetite. In Marseilles, President Kruger of South Africa, fleeing into exile laden with wealth stolen from his own people, raised the rabble to new frenzies of anti-Britishness, and hotels where British travellers were thought to be staying were besieged.

Coinciding with the hundred year day-by-day news alerts in my feeds this was a welcome fictional view, beautifully written and evocatively titled.

Of course this era is well-mined and exhaustively represented in all mediums, so one more would have to be a cut above and I believe de Berières offers up a compassionate, touching, epic storyline. The Dust that Falls from Dreams is daintier fayre than Follett’s trilogy (although I did love that) and not as twee as Upstairs, Downstairs or Downton Abbey (yes, I loved them too), it has its own niche.

3.5* The Dust That Falls from Dreams
3* Corelli’s Mandolin
4* Birds Without Wings
3* A Partisan’s Daughter
5* Notwithstanding

The Adventure of the Clapham Cook by Agatha Christie

bookshelves: autumn-2015, published-1923, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, mystery-thriller, under-100-ratings

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from August 27 to 31, 2015

Description: Hercule Poirot (formerly chief of the Belgian force, now private detective) would have preferred to spend the day attending to affairs of importance, trimming his moustache, applying pomade. But suddenly the case of a missing domestic fired the little man’s imagination.

Taken from Poirot’s Early Cases by Agatha Christie. Read by Nigel Stock
Producer Barbara Crowther
First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1974.

‘Poirot preserved an admirable gravity.’

Children Of The Arbat by Anatoli Rybakov

Description: On a street called the Arbat in Moscow’s intellectual and artistic center in the 1930s, Sasha, one of a group of idealistic young communists, is sentenced to three years in Siberia for publishing a newspaper.

Opening: Between Nikolsky and Denezhny streets (today they are called Plotnikov and Vesnin) stood the biggest apartment block in the Arbat – three eight-storey buildings, one close behind the other, the front one glazed with a facade of white tiles.

It is the early ’30s and we are introduced to a handful of late-teen residents, a circle of friends, and observe their interactions and ambitions. Foremost here are Sasha and Yuri.

This novel was suppressed by the Soviet Union for over twenty years.[..] The author was arrested and exiled to Siberia but was later ‘rehabilitated’ when he became a highly decorated tank commander in WWII.
Taken from the dust cover

The writing is a little choppy and I found keeping a notebook of the names helped a lot. Not a book to read in bed, this takes concentration and strong wrists – this is a brick in the hardback.

Decided against going with the rest of the trilogy, for now at least, and have my eyes fixed on Heavy Sand, a novel about Soviet Jews living in a Nazi occupied Ukranian village.

Originally a suburb where traders from the East would arrive with their caravans, in the 18th Century the Arbat became popular with Moscow’s intelligentsia and artistic community, who enjoyed frequenting the many cafes and taking strolls along the area’s mansion-lined boulevards. Pushkin himself lived here with his wife in house number 53 (the building has since been turned into a museum dedicated to the poet) and Tolstoy resided on the adjoining Kaloshin Lane. In fact Count Fyodor was said to have modelled his famous character Anna Karenina on Maria Gartung – Pushkin’s oldest daughter, who also lived nearby. Source

Children of the Arbat (Russian: Дети Арбата) is a novel by Anatoly Rybakov that recounts the era in the Soviet Union of the build-up to the Congress of the Victors, the early years of the second Five Year Plan and the (supposed) circumstances of the murder of Sergey Kirov prior to the beginning of the Great Purge.
wiki – sourced

This section is for interesting items found during my read-time to enable ‘light and well-meaning’ contrasts and comparisons *cough* within the intellectual and artistic communities today:

Russia political artist who faces jail for vandalism

Russia jails Ukraine director Sentsov on terror charges

Radical Moscow film festival cancelled in favour of Putin-backed replacement

Walls/barriers: Estonia in particular, yet the practice in general

Apropos of today’s russian tyrant: do you think the current n. korean tyrant wept when all that european cheese was destroyed?

Forbidden food and contraband clothes: the Russian sanctions quiz