Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder


Read by Danika Fairman

Description: In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell; shortly afterwards the two Germanies reunited and East Germany ceased to exist. In this book, Anna Funder tells extraordinary tales from the underbelly of the former East Germany, including the story of Miriam, who as a 16-year-old might have started World War III.

Read her two books the wrong way around. This non-fiction is superbly written, and she really does have stories that need relating to help us understand DDR because let’s face it, no matter how many time the history is read the subject remains hard to get one’s head around.

DDR was a paranoid place and awful things happened to ordinary people and Funder has pinned the subject matter smack, bang to the , erm, wall.

I mentioned that I read her books the wrong way around – ‘All that I Am’, a novel based on factual events, did not resound so well, maybe I am just a non-fiction kind of girl at heart.

Astounding read worth five checkpoint-charlies even though there are some flaws.

Surfy Googling yields some interesting piccies:

Alexanderplatz. We stayed in the Hotel up those stairs on the left, and that square was full of Christmas market. How it looks today:

Pigs Can Fly by Barry Cryer

bookshelves: spring-2014, published-2003, nonfiction, amusing, britain-england, biography, fraudio, under-50-ratings, tbr-busting-2014

Read on May 08, 2014


Read by the man himself. 1 hr 14 mins

Description: Throughout his career, Barry Cryer has collaborated with all the greats, such as Max Miller, Tony Hancock, Bob Hope, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, John Cleese, Kenny Everett, Tommy Cooper, Spike Milligan, Morecambe and Wise, and more. He has also collaboratively penned series like Hello Cheeky!, toured with Willie Rushton in their show Two Old Farts in the Night, and is a panellist on I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue. This is his collection of completely true apocryphal stories from these 50 years, packed with jokes, fascinating asides, and riveting portraits of the major figures in comedy.

A string of anecdotes in the after-dinner-speech style. Ooopins of name-dropping and shedfuls of irreverent finger-pokes.

Pompeii by Robert Harris

bookshelves: ancient-history, published-2003, spring-2010, italy, roman-civilisation, historical-fiction, conflagration

Read from April 26 to 29, 2010


** spoiler alert **

Description: Ancient Rome is the setting for the superb new novel from Robert Harris, author of the number one bestsellers Fatherland, Enigma and Archangel.

Where else to enjoy the last days of summer than on the beautiful Bay of Naples. All along the coast, the Roman Empire’s richest citizens are relaxing in their luxurious villas. The world’s largest navy lies peacefully at anchor in Misenum. The tourists are spending their money in the seaside resorts of Baiae, Herculaneum and Pompeii.

Only one man is worried. The engineer Marius Primus has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct that brings fresh water to a quarter of a million people in nine towns around the Bay. Springs are failing for the first time in generations. His predecessor has disappeared. And now there is a crisis on the Augusta’s sixty-mile main line — somewhere to the north of Pompeii, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. Marius — decent, practical, incorruptible — promises Pliny, the famous scholar who commands the navy, that he can repair the aqueduct before the reservoir runs dry. But as he heads out towards Vesuvius he is about to discover there are forces that even the world’s only superpower can’t control.

Bought at Rome airport March 2010 for M’s birthday. Discussion points that raised their heads during reading:

– plot spoilers for this story are everywhere
– when those plot spoilers are ignored, Iceland is reminding us very subtlety.
– M is getting frustrated at the countdown method of layout
– ‘Who in their right mind would climb up to look at what’s happening’

A pal sent through a jokey email on Friday written in pidgin swedish/icelandic.

Put 30 billion euros in the bin outside the Icelandic Embassy and we will turn off volcano. Not call Polis.

M’s verdict – he thought the facts about the volcanoes and the aqueducts were stunning, and the story surrounding the historical facts, exciting. He would give the overall result somewhere between a 3 and 4 star.

My Verdict – I liked it a little more and the descriptions of the eruption were staggering.

4* Fatherland
4* Pompeii
3* Imperium
2* The Ghost
4* Lustrum
3* Selling Hitler

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)

The Devil’s Music by Alan Plater

bookshelves: winter-20132014, britain-wales, published-2003, music, women, under-10-ratings, radio-4x, play-dramatisation, fradio, families, re-visit-2014

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Read from January 31 to February 01, 2014

Listen here

Thankee Laura!

1/3 When Megan keeps playing a mystery melody in rehearsals for a jazz festival, she turns musical detective. Stars Rakie Ayola.

2/3 The Great Pork Pie Mystery: Musical detective Megan’s mystery melody quest leads her to a 1920s Swansea tearoom. Stars Rakie Ayola and Margaret John.

3/3 Beacons: Musical detective Megan’s mystery melody quest comes full circle when she gets a surprise. Stars Rakie Ayola.

Brecon Jazz! ooo yeah, I have SO been there, portakabins notwithstanding and plastic pint glasses ‘n’ all! Also think I must of listened to this back in 03 as it is very familiar!