The Czar’s Madman by Jaan Kross

 

spotted on Nancy’s update

Translated by Anselm Hollo from the Finish edition by Ivo Iliste: so this is a translation of a translation uh-oh!

Estonia under Imperial Russia 1850

Opening: First, let me recall the occasion that impelled me to begin this journal.

Alexander I of Russia

Schlusselburg Fortress

The ‘Mad’ Tsar, Paul I

The translation is a bit ropey, however one becomes so engrossed in the story, that doesn’t seem to matter. Started to get well and truly fed up with the journal-keeping bro’ by page 100 or so.

Toyed between 3 and 4* and went for the lower because of the translation and that annoying brother. That said, I am pleased to have read another perspective on the era that leads up to the revolution.

Halfway To Hollywood: Diaries 1980 to 1988 (Palin Diaries, #2) by Michael Palin

bookshelves: summer-2014, nonfiction, amusing, epistolatory-diary-blog, published-2009, radio-4x

Read from July 22 to 28, 2014

 

R4x

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01q9d5c

After listening to the first book of his diaries, it is lovely that R4x is continuing on.

1/5 Recalling his frenetic 1980s, Michael Palin tells of Monty Python, challenging railway journeys and his daughter starting school.

2/5 Michael Palin recalls bedroom frolics in The Missionary and confusion at an ear specialist

3/5 Michael’s mum making it big in America, grappling with a pig in ‘A Private Function’ and a crucial meeting with George Harrison.

4/5 Recalling the 1980s, Michael Palin shares fond recollections of his sister Angela and the germ of A Fish Called Wanda.

5/5 Lots of kissing, the rushes look good, and a career swerve into world travel beckons. Michael Palin concludes his memoirs.

4* Around the World in 80 Days
3* Diaries: The Python Years, 1969-1979 (Palin Diaries, #1)
3* Pole to Pole
2* Hemingway’s Chair
3* Halfway To Hollywood: Diaries 1980 to 1988 (Palin Diaries, #2)
1* The Truth

Diaries: The Python Years, 1969-1979

bookshelves: radio-4x, summer-2014, published-2006, amusing, epistolatory-diary-blog, autobiography-memoir, britain-scotland, nonfiction

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from July 12 to 18, 2014

He has such a lovely face.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00n46wt

Description: “Michael Palin is not just one of Britain’s foremost comedy character actors, he also talks a lot. Yap, yap, yap he goes, all day long and through the night . . . then, some nights, when everyone else has gone to bed, he goes home and writes up a diary.” –John Cleese
“For Palin it has been one hell of a ride, but he seems to have maintained equilibrium all along the way. . . . In sum, it’s tempting to call him a Renaissance Man. But that, as any Pythonite would be quick to tell you, would be silly.” –Jonathan Yardley, “The Washington Post Book World”
Michael Palin has kept a diary since he was newly married in the late 1960s, when he was beginning to make a name for himself as a TV scriptwriter, and Monty Python was just around the corner.
This volume of his diaries reveals how Python emerged and triumphed, how he, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, the two Terrys–Jones and Gilliam–and Eric Idle came together and changed the face of British comedy. But this is but only part of Palin’s story. Here too is his growing family, his home in a north London Victorian terrace, his solo effort as an actor,” ” and his writing endeavours (often in partnership with Terry Jones) that produce “Ripping Yarns” and even a pantomime.
Meanwhile, Monty Python refuses to go away: his account of the making of both “The Holy Grail” and the “Life of Brian” movies are page-turners, and the sometimes extraordinary goings-on of the many powerful personalities who coalesced to form the Python team makes for funny and riveting reading.

Episode 1: The Monty Python star recalls the influential comedy troupe’s huge success in the 70s and the making of their first film.

2/5 Recalling the Python team’s success in America and the start of their own solo projects.

3/5 The comic actor and travel writer reflects on his relationship with his ailing dad.

4/5 The comic actor shares his surreal experience of guest hosting a big American TV show.

5/5 The actor and writer recalls how the influential comedy group reconvened in 1977.

Life in the Tomb by Stratis Myrivilis, Peter A. Bien

bookshelves: summer-2014, balkan, greece, wwi, epistolatory-diary-blog, under-500-ratings, published-1924, translation, war, radio-3

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from July 04 to 11, 2014

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b048bh41

Description: Life in the Tomb: A masterwork of Greek fiction, Life in the Tomb provides a different perspective on the anniversary of the Great War. This new dramatisation from leading playwright April De Angelis in her first radio dramatisation features an original score by award winning composer Errollyn Wallen.

Originally published as extracts in a national Greek newspaper, the book takes the form of a series of letters from a young soldier back to his girlfriend in Lesvos, as his platoon moves deeper into trench warfare. Myrivilis based the book on his own experience of fighting on the Macedonian front. The book is so honest about how appalling conditions were and how badly the army was managed that it was banned on publication.

Stratis Myrivilis’ book brilliantly captures a complex Southern European view of World War I. Our narrator meets a wide range of nationalities on his journey to the trenches. The incidents he describes are rich and often unexpected – the Macedonian family who care for him when wounded, the enemy soldier with the voice of an angel and the Chinese cart driver who helps him when lost. The narrator is moving, unwittingly, towards his own death, a tragic accident in the last days of the conflict.

Stratis Myrivilis was a prolific author, nominated by the Greek society of authors for the Nobel Prize in 1960.
April De Angelis is a leading playwright. She has been produced by the Royal Court, the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company and Hampstead Theatre. Recent productions include Playhouse Creatures at Chichester and Jumpy at The Duke of Yorks.
Errollyn Wallen is an award-winning composer and singer, whose work has been commissioned by the BBC, Brodksy Quartet and Royal Opera House amongst many others.
Overflow and notes:
Cast and crew:
Bouzouki and guitar player, Grant McFarlane Dowse
Violinist, Chris Elcombe
With thanks to Miranda Hinkley
Sound design, Eloise Whitmore
BA, Lucy Duffield
Executive producer, Joby Waldman
A Somethin’ Else production for BBC Radio 3.

A big thanks to Brazilliant for pointing me in this direction, I would have missed it.

For anyone following WWI centennial timeline, this is an important and gruelling inclusion.

The Private Journals of Edvard Munch: We Are Flames Which Pour Out of the Earth by Edvard Munch

Recommended for: Don, Laura, Susanna, Fionnuala
Read on May 29, 2014

Watch the Full Film (3:32:03)

La Belle Epoch Norwegian style.

From wiki: Hans Henrik Jæger (2 September 1854, Drammen, Norway – 8 February 1910, Oslo) was a Norwegian writer, philosopher and anarchist political activist who was part of the Oslo (then Kristiania) based bohemian group Kristianiabohêmen. He was prosecuted for his book Fra Kristiania-bohêmen and convicted to 60 days’ imprisonment in a supreme court ruling in 1886. He and other bohemians tried to live by the nine commandments Jæger had formulated in the Fra Kristiania-bohêmen.

The following year, he was forced to flee Norway. He had been sentenced to 150 more days in prison after the Norwegian government learned that he had sent 300 copies of Fra Kristiania-bohêmen to Sweden under the auspices of a volume of Christmas stories. He was a friend of Edvard Munch, and was the subject of one of Munch’s paintings.

And so to Paris…

And now Berlin, where he meets up with August Strindberg

Dagny Juel-Przybyszewska (8 June 1867 – 5 June 1901) was a Norwegian writer, famous for her liaisons with various prominent artists, and for the dramatic circumstances of her death. She was the model for some of Edvard Munch’s paintings. She had relationships with Munch and briefly with August Strindberg. In 1893, she married the Polish writer Stanisław Przybyszewski. Together they had two children. She was shot by a young lover in a hotel room in Tbilisi in 1901, three days before her thirty-fourth birthday. See also The Legs of Izolda Morgan

How I feel for you, Munch, what with your poor health and existential angst.

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

bookshelves: published-2014, net-galley, e-book, spring-2014, sci-fi, religion, christian, little-green-men, epistolatory-diary-blog, environmental-issues

Read from May 02 to 15, 2014


Crown Publishing. Hogarth,

Description: A monumental, genre-defying novel over ten years in the making, from the internationally bestselling author of The Crimson Petal and the White. The Book of Strange New Things tells the story of Peter Leigh, a devoted man of faith called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him literally light years away from his wife, Bea. Peter becomes immersed in the mysteries of an astonishing new environment and the ego-gratifying work of ministering to a native population hungry for the Bible–this “book of strange new things.” But he soon begins to receive increasingly desperate letters from home. North Korea is devastated by a typhoon; the Maldives are wiped out by a tsunami; England endures an earthquake, and Bea’s faith, once the guiding light of their lives, begins to falter.
A separation measured in galaxies, and defined both by one newly discovered world and another in a state of collapse, is threatened by an ever-widening gulf that is much less quantifiable. Peter’s and Bea’s trials lay bare a profound meditation on faith, love tested beyond endurance, and the responsibility we have to others.

Opening:

‘I was going to say something’, he said.
‘So say it’, she said.
He was quiet, keeping his eyes on the road. In the darkness of the city’s outskirts, there was nothing to see except the tail-lights of other cars in the distance, the endless unfurling roll of tarmac, the giant utilitarian fixtures of the motorway.

According to the advance blurb from Chicago Tribune this is ‘deliciously dirty’ so I’d better put on my splash mask.

When Peter signed up as inter-galactic missionary it was the kiss of death to planet Earth, or that is how Beatrice construed it.

The dual storyline is reconciled by letters of disintegrating communication between Bea and Peter, she dealing with climate change issues on earth, and he ministering to the indiginous population.

And hovering in the background is the disappearence of two men from the base, Kurtzberg and Tartaglione:

‘They didn’t vanish overnight. It was kinda gradual. They would come back to base less and less often. They became…distant. Didn’t want to stick around.’

For most of The Book of Strange New Things it felt like HEART OF DARKNESS IN SPAAAAACE, not least because one of the missing men was called Kurtzberg.

I don’t know which book that Chicago Tribune bod read; it couldn’t have been this one as this proved to be tame on all levels.

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Désirée by Annemarie Selinko

bookshelves: hardback, one-penny-wonder, paper-read, published-1953, spring-2014, tbr-busting-2014, sweden, napoleonic, france, revolution, epistolatory-diary-blog

Read from February 22 to March 10, 2014

 

Translated by Arnold Bender and E W Dickes. Bender and Dickes, eh?

My edition was published by the Reprint Society Ltd., by arrangement with William Heinemann Ltd. 1954.

The pages are tissue thin and the print is super small; the dust jacket is in good nick considering it is two years older than I am. Page count of my edition is 510.

TO THE MEMORY OF MY SISTER
LISOLETTE
HER JOYOUS SPIRIT
HER GREATNESS OF HEART

Opening: PART I
THE DAUGHTER OF A SILK MERCHANT OF MARSEILLES

MARSEILLES, at the beginning of Germinal, Year II (the end of March 1794 by Mama’s old-fashioned reckoning.)

I think a woman can get her way better with a man if she has a well-rounded figure. So I’ve decided to stuff four handkerchiefs into the front of my dress tomorrow; then I shall look really grown up. Actually I am grown up already, but nobody knows that, and I don’t altogether look it.

From the frontispiece by Nancy Mitford:

In 1823 Désirée went to Sweden for good and was crowned queen, though always keeping in the background of public life.

It took perserverance to get through the diary of a fourteen year old yet Selinko did a good job of character progression and we wound up with a sensible woman. Needless to say I found the Swedish connection very interesting. Whilst I could not recommend this to anyone, it was good to get it off the TBR Mountain.

6 likes

In the Blood by Lisa Unger

bookshelves: published-2014, e-book, mystery-thriller, winter-20132014, north-americas, dodgy-narrator, psychology, epistolatory-diary-blog, boo-scary, forest, newtome-author, mental-health, eye-scorcher, families, recreational-homicide, revenge, bullies, the-wrong-pyjamas, doo-lally

Read from January 19 to February 25, 2014

Description: LANA GRANGER LIVES A LIFE OF LIES. She has told so many lies about where she comes from and who she is that the truth is like a cloudy nightmare she can’t quite recall. About to graduate from college and with her trust fund almost tapped out, she takes a job babysitting a troubled boy named Luke. Expelled from schools all over the country, the manipulative young Luke is accustomed to control┬¡ling the people in his life. But, in Lana, he may have met his match. Or has Lana met hers?

Dedication:

For
Ocean Rae
I love you like the cherry blossom loves the wind

Opeing quote:

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?

William Blake, “The Tiger”

Opening to prologue: There are twelve slats of wood under my bed. I know this because I count them over and over.

Onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnineteneleventwelve

I whisper the numbers to myself and the sound of it comforts me as I’m sure a prayer would comfort someone who believes in God. It’s amazing how loud a whisper can be. Surrounded down there by the white glow of my bed skirt, the sound of my own voice in my ears, I can almost block out the screaming, the horrible keening. And then there’s the silence, which is so much worse.

Suspend your belief and scorch your eyeballs through this suspense novel. You’ll have everything sussed by the time the denoument comes in the book, however there were some taut moments.

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Rustication

books-with-a-passport, giftee, published-2013, architecture, author-love, britain-england, families, eye-scorcher, gothic, lifestyles-deathstyles, lit-richer, love, mystery-thriller, paper-read, period-piece, recreational-drugs, victoriana, archaeology, dodgy-narrator, betrayal, bettie-s-law-of-excitement-lost, bucolic-or-pastoral, bullies, casual-violence, doo-lally, epistolatory-diary-blog, gambling, gangsters, gorefest, medical-eew, mental-health, ouch, revenge, sleazy, suicide, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, washyourmouthout-language, winter-20132014

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Read from May 08, 2013 to January 26, 2014

 

Synopsis: Christmas 1863. Seventeen-year-old Richard Shenstone has been sent down from Cambridge under a cloud of suspicion. Addicted to opium and tormented by disturbing sexual desires, he finds temporary refuge in the creaking old mansion inhabited by his newly impoverished mother and his sister, Effie, whose behaviour grows increasingly bizarre. Threatening letters circulate among the locals, where almost anyone can be considered a suspect in a series of crimes and misdemeanours ranging from vivisection to murder. Fans of Charles Palliser’s books, as well as readers of Sarah Waters and Michel Faber, will delight in this, his first new novel in over ten years. Hailed for fiction that is “mesmerizing, meticulous” (Entertainment Weekly), Palliser confirms his reputation as “our leading contemporary Victorian novelist” (The Guardian).

Another blurb: Charles Palliser’s work has been hailed as “so compulsively absorbing that reality disappears” (New York Times). Since his extraordinary debut, The Quincunx, his works have sold over one million copies worldwide. With his new novel, Rustication, he returns to the town of Thurchester, which he evoked so hauntingly in The Unburied.

Rustication:

1. To go to or live in the country
2. Used at Oxford, Cambridge and Durham Universities to mean being sent down

Well, that was a tricksy tale, and the core of Rustication being small town maliciousness, ugly letters and heinous crimes redolent of that within ‘Arthur and George’. Not that I need to have a cast of adorables peopling my fiction, however it was odd that there was no-one at all here to cheer for, to get behind. A technically clever novel that was bereft of any heart.

NB – for those who have marked this as horror, it is not.
3* no more, no less

5* Quincunx
4* The Unburied
3* Rustication
3* Betrayals
1* The Sensationist

Any Human Heart

bookshelves: impac-longlist, booker-longlist, fraudio, published-2002, winter-20132014, tbr-busting-2014, spies, historical-fiction, lit-richer, lifestyles-deathstyles, art-forms, epistolatory-diary-blog, south-americas, uruguay, britain-england, cults-societies-brotherhoods, sport, gr-library, france, paris, oxford, glbt, spain, books-about-books-and-book-shops, norfolk, teh-brillianz, greece, adventure, cover-love, epic-proportions, eye-scorcher, london, madrid, war, wwii, lisbon, portugal, filthy-lucre, nassau, bahamas, switzerland, britain-scotland, iceland, suicide, teh-demon-booze, new-york, germany, picaresque, tongue-firmly-in-cheek, travel, edinburgh, those-autumn-years, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, washyourmouthout-language, north-americas, music, midlife-crisis, african-continent, afr-nigeria, skoolzy-stuff, dodgy-narrator, afr-somalia

Read from November 28, 2013 to January 16, 2014

Read by Mike Grady

From the description: The journals begin with Mountstuart’s boyhood in Montevideo, Uruguay, then move to Oxford in the 1920s and the publication of his first book, then on to Paris where he meets Joyce, Picasso, Hemingway, et al., and to Spain, where he covers the civil war. During World War II, we see him as an agent for naval intelligence, becoming embroiled in a murder scandal that involves the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The postwar years bring him to New York as an art dealer in the world of 1950s abstract expressionism, then on to West Africa, to London where he has a run-in with the Baader-Meinhof Gang, and, finally, to France where, in his old age, he acquires a measure of hard-won serenity. This is a moving, ambitious, and richly conceived novel that summons up the heroics and follies of twentieth-century life.

In the fashion of Zelig, Forrest Gump and the 100 year old man, Mountstuart is in all the right places meeting all the important people, however Any Human Heart is an absolute joy as Boyd’s writing leaves those also-rans in the starting gates.

Purringly enjoyed Logan’s slamming of the Bloomsbury set, that circle of spite who lived in squares and loved in triangles. Not sure about the portrayal of Duke and Duchess and for this reason I support a flawed, dodgy narrator scenario.

And that goodreads product description box – WTF! It is just a review filched over from Amazon book sales, with its inherent bias. Bad News! Check the product description elsewhere.

Born on April 20, 1893 in Barcelona, Joan Miró Ferra was a Spanish painter.

From wiki: Sir Harry Oakes, 1st Baronet (December 23, 1874 – July 7, 1943) was an American-born British Canadian gold mine owner, entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist. He earned his fortune in Canada and in the 1930s moved to the Bahamas for tax purposes, where he was murdered in 1943 in notorious circumstances. The cause of death and the details surrounding it have never been entirely determined, and have been the subject of several books and four films.

Have the TV miniseries to watch at some stage, however, for now, I will mull over the full life of Logan MS – I am in my weeds for you.

4* Restless
5* Any Human Heart – recommended
4* Brazzaville Beach
WL Waiting for Sunrise
3* Armadillo
AB Solo