The Kill (Les Rougon-Macquart, #2)

bookshelves: published-1872, winter-20132014, e-book, france, incest-agameforallthefamily, filthy-lucre, paris, series, architecture, families, lit-richer, classic, cover-love

Read from February 09 to 13, 2014

Recommended by Lisa Hill, Brazilliant, Wandaful etc etc

Description: The Kill (La Curée) is the second volume in Zola’s great cycle of twenty novels, Les Rougon-Macquart, and the first to establish Paris – the capital of modernity – as the centre of Zola’s narrative world. Conceived as a representation of the uncontrollable ‘appetites’ unleashed by the Second Empire (1852-70) and the transformation of the city by Baron Haussmann, the novel combines into a single, powerful vision the twin themes of lust for money and lust for pleasure. The all-pervading promiscuity of the new Paris is reflected in the dissolute and frenetic lives of an unscrupulous property speculator, Saccard, his neurotic wife Renée, and her dandified lover, Saccard’s son Maxime.

Is there a free download to be had? Sorted by the sleuthing skills of Wandaful:

Opening: On the way back, in the crush of carriages returning via the lakeshore, the calèche was obliged to slow to a walk. At one point the congestion became so bad that it was even forced to a stop.

As much as I like descriptive prose Zola’s version of that in this first chapter seems forced, self-conscious, even experimental, I hadn’t noticed this aspect before. However it turns out there was a very specific reason why these gardens were described at such length: (view spoiler)

When the revolting Aristide Saccard is looking down on Paris from a restaurant on the Heights of Montmatre and describes with a cutting motion the new layout, I envisage that this is just how Zola fore-planned his novels.

Looking forward to ‘The Masterpiece’ very much: The Masterpiece is the tragic story of Claude Lantier, an ambitious and talented young artist who has come from the provinces to conquer Paris but is conquered instead by the flaws of his own genius. Set in the 1860s and 1870s, it is the most autobiographical of the twenty novels in Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series. It provides a unique insight into Zola’s career as a writer and his relationship with Cezanne, a friend since their schooldays in Aix-en-Provence. It also presents a well-documented account of the turbulent Bohemian world in which the Impressionists came to prominence despite the conservatism of the Academy and the ridicule of the general public.


As always, introductions and forewords I leave to the end because they always kill off enjoyment of the personal research.

Georges-Eugène Haussmann, Baron Haussmann was the Prefect of the Seine Department in France, who was chosen by the Emperor Napoleon III to carry out a massive program of new boulevards, parks and public works in Paris, commonly called Haussmann’s renovation of Paris. Critics forced his resignation for extravagance, but his vision of the city still dominates Central Paris.

From page 14 of Painted Love: Prostitution in French Art of the Impressionist Era

‘ In a Figaro column, Zola claimed to find adultery rampant among all bourgeois women: “Among the bourgeoisie, a young girl is kept pure until her marriage; only after the marriage does the effect of her spoiled surroundings and poor education throw her into the arms of a love: it is not prostitution, it is adultery, the difference is only in the words.” ‘

Engrossing from start to finish but that last line was on a page by itself and the abruptness, the dismissal was very harsh. Seems that Zola doesn’t care for his characters, just uses them as examples and if the author doesn’t buy in, then how can the reader be expected to. For this reason my rating is somewhere in the realms of 3.75*

As a silly – have you seen James Joyce in this cover art:

The actual painting is by Gustave Caillebotte

4* Thérèse Raquin (1867)
TR The Fortune of the Rougons (1871)
3.75* La Curée (1872)
OH The Belly of Paris (1873)
WL Nana (1880)
4* The Ladies’ Paradise (1883)
5* Germinal (1885)

The plan is that I read all again in my rocking-chair days.


The Quick by Lauren Owen

bookshelves: currently-reading, net-galley, debut, e-book, victoriana, published-2014, cults-societies-brotherhoods, glbt, vampires, london, gothic, fantasy

Read from February 07 to 13, 2014


ARC received with thanks from Net Galley and Random House Publishing Group – Random House in exchange for an honest review.

The most mysterious gentlemen’s club in London. The Aegolius’s character and affairs are kept a profound secret, known only to its initiates.

From the description: London, 1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society, and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Unnerved, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine city that greets her, she uncovers a secret world at the margins populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of one of the country’s preeminent and mysterious institutions: The Aegolius Club, whose members include the most ambitious, and most dangerous, men in England.

The opening is so evocative: There were owls in the nursery when James was a boy.

Since 1830, the club’s address has been Ormond Yard, off St James’ Square.

Expect this to be seen looming large on the updates of paranormal readers after its publication in July 2014. As a debut novel this is good, however flawed. The beginning is slow, it takes such a long time for any significant plot to event the horizon, and the writing for the first 50 pages is pedestrian. However, it does settle down and even the writing starts to fly into what the author must have been capable of all the time. Don’t forget, I am reading an uncorrected proof so these things may all be sorted by the time it is in the public arena.

It would be unfair for me to give away anymore than what is in the description above, yet I will stress that this will be highly appealing to great swathes of readers.

As the blurbs imply, this is a good debut novel by Lauren Owen.

The Aegolius Club

LOOKSEE: I see there is a way to request a free copy of The Quick here


Painted Love: Prostitution in French Art of the Impressionist Era

bookshelves: winter-20132014, art-forms, published-2003, e-book, france, paris, nonfiction, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Eleni
Recommended for: 3Ms and friends
Read from February 10 to 11, 2014

Free download here

Dedication: FOR JAMES
and to the memory of

Opening: The existence of prostitution on a scale so widespread and obvious that it alarmed contemporaries was a distinctive and distinguishing feature of nineteenth-century Parisian culture.

Of course the temptation will be to fill up this thought-box with nowt but the scrumptious images and I promise not to spoil your future enjoyment, however there will be some that I can’t resist showing.

‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ by Picasso. And we know where those two heads come from, don’t we children. HAH, life is fun.

Extract from page 14:

In a Figaro column, Zola claimed to find adultery rampant among all bourgeois women: “Among the bourgeoisie, a young girl is kept pure until her marriage; only after the marriage does the effect of her spoiled surroundings and poor education throw her into the arms of a love: it is not prostitution, it is adultery, the difference is only in the words.

I find that quite poignant as I am also reading The Kill at the moment and the adultery is manifold, and where no physical outcome is apparent there is still the tension involved with wild flirtations and teasing more than some can mentally cope with.


What is this sleep thing people mention? I curled up with this book and immersed myself in Zola, Belle Epoque, suspicious professions, and the extraordinary tale of RollaAlfred de Musset, the picture, Henri Gervex and the censorious Beaux-Arts administration. I give you a taste of Henri Gervex:

Rolla 1878

A portrait of Marie Clotilde de Faret Legrand

La visite imprévue

La Toilette

Cafe Scene (1877)

Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess

bookshelves: booker-longlist, gr-library, vatican-city, italy, winter-20132014, published-1980, lit-richer, those-autumn-years, books-about-books-and-book-shops, glbt, religion, christian, catholic, malta, art-forms, dodgy-narrator, historical-masturbation, historical-fiction

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Read from February 02 to 10, 2014

Dedication: To Liana

Opening: It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.

William Foster Harpsichord

Chapter Four: ‘On the walls of my study I had a Willelm de Kooning female in mostly red crayon and one of the first sketches Picass had done for Les Demoseilles d’Avignon…’

Flaunt out O sea your separate flags of nations!
Flaunt out visible as ever the various ship-signals!
But do you reserve especially for yourself and for the soul of man one flag above all the rest,
A spiritual woven signal for all nations, emblem of man elate above death,
Token of all brave captains and all intrepid sailors and mates,
And all that went down doing their duty,
Reminiscent of them, twined from all intrepid captains young or old,
A pennant universal, subtly waving all time, o’er all brave sailors,
All seas, all ships.

Walt Whitman: I. A Song for all Seas, all Ships. Book XIII: Song of the Exposition

The fictional Pope Gregory XVII bears a certain resemblance to Pope Paul VI, what with the dates and the inclusion of Mussolini, that said however, all dates, and the characters peopling events, must be taken with a pinch of salt. One could go nuts trying to pin down a definitive, trust me. All further investigations either to blind alleys or to loose fits that are so baggy that one could be accused of making the scant facts fit the way this reader wants it to evolve.

Excellent language, as one would expect; this is one hell of a class act, however if you simply must have someone in a story to like, there will be disappointment. For all his arrogance, name-dropping and snobbery I came to have a soft spot for Mr Toomey in the same way the selfish, arrogant Charles Arrowby of Iris Murdoch’s ‘The Sea, The Sea’ got under my skin by the end.


Twilight of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Picasso, Stravinsky, Proust, Renault, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, and Their Friends through the Great War

bookshelves: published-2014, winter-20132014, net-galley, art-forms, e-book, history, nonfiction, paris, france, newtome-author

Read from February 03 to 09, 2014

ARC received with thanks from Net Galley and Rowman & Littlefield in exchange for an honest review.

From the description: In Twilight of the Belle Epoque, McAuliffe portrays Paris in full flower at the turn of the twentieth century, where creative dynamos such as Picasso, Matisse, Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel, Proust, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, and Isadora Duncan set their respective circles on fire with a barrage of revolutionary visions and discoveries. Such dramatic breakthroughs were not limited to the arts or sciences, as innovators and entrepreneurs such as Louis Renault, André Citroën, Paul Poiret, François Coty, and so many others—including those magnificent men and women in their flying machines—emphatically demonstrated. But all was not well in this world, remembered in hindsight as a golden age, and wrenching struggles between Church and state as well as between haves and have-nots shadowed these years, underscored by the ever-more-ominous drumbeat of the approaching Great War—a cataclysm that would test the mettle of the City of Light, even as it brutally brought the Belle Epoque to its close. Through rich illustrations and evocative narrative, McAuliffe brings this remarkable era from 1900 through World War I to vibrant life.

Dedication: In memory of my parents
Betty F Sperling and Godfrey Sperling Jnr.

Opening: Enter the King (1900): It was mid-October 1900 in the City of Light when Pablo Picasso arrived from Barcelona at Paris’s bustling new railroad station, the Gare D’Orsay. He was almost nineteen years old and filled with bravado. After all, the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris Exposition had included one of his paintings in its exibit. What a coup!

Moving sidewalk Paris Expo 1900 Edison

Thomas Edison’s L’ Exposition Universelle de 1900 à Paris

Alphonse Mucha was prescribed to take a bottle of champagne a day to cure his nicotine poisoning.

Castel Béranger by Hector Gruimard

A German cartoon from 1914 showing the lay of the political land as seen from the German perspective at the outbreak of World War One. As the text below the picture states, Germany and the Austro-Hungary Empire defend “blows from all sides”, particularly from the east in the form of a huge snarling Russian face. To the right of the image a banner declares that 10% of the proceeds of the map’s sale will go toward the Red Cross. The map is accompanied by a contemporary version of a French woodcut depicting a very different looking Europe of 1870.

The images are from the Berlin State Library and are featured as part of the wonderful new project from Europeana, “Europeana, 1914-18” , which is marking 100 years since the outbreak of WW1 with a remarkable pan-European pooling of material, from both individuals and institutions, relating to the “Great War”

Isadora Duncan the instigator of modern dance.

This is a lovely overview of the period and what a busy time it was with huge advancements in every sphere imaginable and I love some of the tongue-in-cheek comments about bizarre behaviours from Mary McAuliffe. The part I am loving best is the motor industry and the racing, all goggles, scarves strung out and dusterjackets swirling around the hairpin bends of the alps – it’s like ‘Top Gear, 1900 Style’.

There are moments where you know that a fact has been given before, and then there are carrots, however this is a very readable text and in no way a dry or scholarly in nature, rather this is warm, informative and wide in scope. A minor point: because of the differing industries and culture in question, not every segueway is a smooth one.

There will be many of us going day by day through the events and carnage of the Great War and this book is a part of that process.


The Stockholm Octavo

bookshelves: paper-read, historical-fiction, sweden, gambling, bedside, autumn-2013, stockholm, paris, spies, published-2012, amusing, france, summer-2013

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Jeanette (jema)
Read from August 13 to September 07, 2013

Dedication: For Erik

French/Swedish timelines 1770-1792


Arte et Marte(Art and War); Inscription over the entrance to Riddarhuset – The House of Nobles – in Stockholm

Chapter One: Stockholm 1789

Stockholm is called the Venice of the North, and with good reason. Travellers claim that it is just as complex, just as grand, and just as mysterious as its sister in the south.

A light-hearted and novel way to retell a significant piece of Swedish history. It is not essential to know this history before reading because it is all laid out rather well, however if the history is known there well be more ‘aaah’ moments in the reading.

Needless to say, this had all the right ingredients and I loved it; dare say that Engelmann may be contemplating a sequel, the historical backdrop for what happened next is just as scintillating a subject.


Gifted from Jeanette, and a lovely pack of tarot cards to go with it.

Thanks You J, A super gift. And of the postcards, Karin Boye is my favourite. There is such a lovely statue of her near the top of Avenyn, to the left as you climb up towards Poseidon.

Also, the photo; is that of sand dunes in Skellefteå? I see you have a swimming pool up there.

The Witness by Vivienne Franzmann

bookshelves: play-dramatisation, afr-rwanda, families, winter-20132014, radio-3, published-2012, lifestyles-deathstyles, fradio, holocaust-genocide

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Read from February 07 to 08, 2014


Description: In war-torn Rwanda, Alex is captured in an iconic photograph, then adopted by the man behind the lens. Years later, an old secret threatens to rip father and daughter apart. This frightening thriller explores modern morals and questions the role of journalism and our responsibility towards to the developing world.

The Music

This was a tough listen, I was cringing. Franzmann is amazing at bringing out media mentality.

Utterly Heartless and Gruelling – I couldn’t believe my ears, but then again, I could with bells on, the front interview with the author was very telling.

Listen here

Good Behaviour by Molly Keane

bookshelves: booker-longlist, winter-20132014, play-dramatisation, radio-4x, britain-ireland, period-piece, published-1981, lit-richer, classic, families, suicide, filthy-lucre

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from February 06 to 08, 2014


BBC description: Behind the gates of Temple Alice, the aristocratic Anglo-Irish St Charles family sinks into a state of decaying grace. To Aroon St Charles, the large and unlovely daughter of the house, the fierce forces of sex, money, jealousy, and love seem locked out by the ritual patterns of good behavior. But crumbling codes of conduct cannot hope to save the members of the St Charles family from their own unruly and inadmissible desires. This elegant and allusive novel, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, established Molly Keane as the natural successor to Jean Rhys.

I warmed up nicely to the storyline and especially liked the way things were by the end. Lovely, loved, Aroon!

Hedgehog in the Fog

bookshelves: film-only, published-1975, slavic, under-100-ratings, winter-20132014, kiddlewinks

Recommended for: For Esther; For Squirt xx
Read from February 07 to 08, 2014


Description: ‘Hedgehog in the Fog’ is an international bestseller which has already been published in many languages. The book is based on Francesca Yarbusova’s sketches to the award-winning animated film directed by Yuri Norstein. It is about the adventures of the philosophical little Hedgehog on his way to meet with his friend Bear. Along the way Hedgehog enters into a mysterious fog in which he encounters a horse, a dog, an owl, and a fish.

Film Only

Valley of the Dolls

bookshelves: radio-4x, recreational-drugs, spring-2012, classic, chick-lit, doo-lally, eye-scorcher, lifestyles-deathstyles, mental-health, north-americas, ouch, scary-clowns-circus-dolls, sleazy, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, re-visit-2014, play-dramatisation, women, winter-20132014, published-1966, new-york

Read from April 07, 1968 to February 07, 2014


** spoiler alert ** Description: Sex and drugs and shlock and more — Jacqueline Susann’s addictively entertaining trash classic about three showbiz girls clawing their way to the top and hitting bottom in New York City has it all. Though it’s inspired by Susann’s experience as a mid-century Broadway starlet who came heartbreakingly close to making it, but did not, and despite its reputation as THE roman á clef of the go-go 1960s, the novel turned out to be weirdly predictive of 1990s post-punk, post-feminist, post “riot grrrl” culture. Jackie Susann may not be a writer for the ages, but — alas! — she’s still a writer for our times.

Jacqueline Susann drama with Madeleine Potter.

1. Anne heads off to the dazzling lights of post-war New York in search of a career. Jacqueline Susann drama with Madeleine Potter.

2. One of New York’s richest men has proposed marriage to Anne.

3. Anne meets famous torch singer Helen, and Neely understudies the lead in a new musical.

4. Anne’s relationship with Lyon grows passionate, and Neely gets her big break.

5. Anne’s fallen for Lyon Burke, but her friendship with Helen is put to the test.

6. Set on showbiz careers in New York, Anne, Jennifer and Neely move in together. Jacqueline Susann drama with Barbara Barnes.

7. Jennifer is keen to marry Tony, and Lyon visits Anne’s family home in Lawrenceville.

8. New bride Jennifer visits Neely, who has become a big Hollywood star.

9. Jennifer is invited to star in French films and Anne gets work in the new medium – television.

10. Neely has won an Academy Award, but her second marriage is already on the rocks.

11. With Anne’s help Neely agrees to perform on TV, but this creates big problems.

12. Just as Jennifer finds love and happiness, tragedy strikes.

13. After the tragedy, Neely gets agitated and Anne gets a visit from an old flame.

14. Lyon is back and Anne still has feelings for him, despite being engaged to Kevin.

15. Betrayed by Neely and with Lyon becoming more distant, Anne turns to the dolls

This is just as bad as I remember it. Love me some trash. Isn’t it a shame that more of the rich and famous didn’t read this before their worlds imploded under their own addictions and vanity. Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson etc etc

Theme tune: Dionne Warwick