Stalingrad – Vasily Grossman

In April 1942, Hitler and Mussolini plan the huge offensive on the Eastern Front that will culminate in the greatest battle in human history.

Hundreds of miles away, Pyotr Vavilov receives his call-up papers and spends a final night with his wife and children in the hut that is his home. As war approaches, the Shaposhnikov family gathers for a meal: despite her age, Alexandra will soon become a refugee; Tolya will enlist in the reserves; Vera, a nurse, will fall in love with a wounded pilot; and Viktor Shtrum will receive a letter from his doomed mother which will haunt him forever.

The war will consume the lives of a huge cast of characters – lives which express Grossman’s grand themes of the nation and the individual, nature’s beauty and war’s cruelty, love and separation.

Having recently gotten back into the habit of frequenting my local library, the first book I picked up was Vasily Grossman’s – Criminally – lesser known prelude to Life and Fate, both books together were intended to be the 20th century War and Peace and I have to say they lives up to that book’s impact and legacy.

This is a version of Grossman’s book isn’t quite the same as the Russian version entitled For a Just Cause, the translator Robert Chandler has readded in parts that were originally deleted in accordance with the Stalin government’s everchanging policies.  Whether this affects the pace of the book or not I loved every page of this story.

Weighing in at almost nine hundred pages this novel is a vast panorama of voices and stories and does a wonderful job of conveying the sense of dislocation, pain and horror of World War II but also sensitively paints pictures of the lives and loves of those people caught up in those monumental events. Continue reading “Stalingrad – Vasily Grossman”

What the…?

Being given some cash for my birthday (last December, this was) my eyes lit up at all the infinite options of what to spend it on.  It just so happened we had decided to take a Christmas Eve jaunt to Newstead Abbey, home of Lord Byron, so we were guaranteed a book section in the gift shop.

From previous visits I knew all the Wordsworth classics would be £2.50 so I blew some of the money on the below books, completely ignoring Byron in favour of a massive chunk of Charles Dickens, on a whim.

Fancy arrangement and photograph done by Crissy as my photos have a long history of looking awful.

As I was sorting which ones I wanted, it called to mind that episode of Doctor Who, where they meet Dickens and he ends up exclaiming, ‘What the Shakespeare!’, ending all the speculation on what people used to say before the well known phrase, ‘what the dickens?’.

I did get more books at a later date – and by other authors – but will leave that for the next post as I haven’t gotten around to badgering the wife to take an arty photo yet.

An Audio Christmas Present

In the spirit of the season, I am attempting to give, whilst being as cheap as I can possibly be as well, and who doesn’t love something free, literary, and quintessentially Christmassy?

If you’re not already, follow Liz, it won’t bother the bank balance but will tick the seasonal giving and receiving box nicely.

LEAPING LIFE

My gorgeous husband and I share many things in common but we have totally opposite views on books. While I sit surrounded by piles of books I am sure I will one day read, Stephen on the other hand has a handful of beloved titles that he has read many times and so knows with great depth and understanding.

One of his favourite annual traditions is to read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Sometimes it is just to himself. Sometimes it is a special treat for me to hear him read out loud while I sit knitting.

This year he has taken things to a new level. Stephen is an expert YouTuber and so has a range of high-quality recording and editing equipment. This has enabled him to produce a podcast version of A Christmas Carol which I am delighted to be able to share with you. This is…

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Bookending (the right one)

The other week I ended up in Scarthin bookshop, again in Derbyshire but this time in Cromford.  It’s been a long time since my last visit and a lot of new books seem to be creeping onto the shelves, taking over from the second hand variety, so that is something of a concern but there were bargains to be had, of course

Another Émile Zola book was first grabbed because it matched the two from last post, and L’Assommoir according to the introduction of La Bête Humaine,  is supposed to be the best novel of the twenty Rougon-Macquart novels.

A Fine Balance was one that hadn’t really come into my sphere of reading much but as Jilanne was enthusiastic about it, and for a couple of quid its certainly worth it.

Irene Nemirovsky is my favourite female author and finally finding The Misunderstanding after such a long time seeking it, meant I had to splurge on it, after years of hunting for it in various shops and countries. Continue reading “Bookending (the right one)”

Bookending (the left one)

As I am always slightly behind with my posting schedule – and I was out the other week in a bookshop for the first time – it makes sense to mention the last haul from October before I mention that one.

There is a wonderful OXFAM shop devoted to books in Belper, if ever you are that way on in Derbyshire it’s worth checking out.  I haven’t come away disappointed yet, except for how this photo turned out but I have no time to take a new one.

The quality of the authors speaks for itself, any quibbles with that statement, please let me know.  Having finished La Bête Humaine already, with a review in the process, my quest continues with this and Nana to read all twenty books in the Rougon-Macquart series.

I picked up Márquez because it’s Márquez and I’ve gone into numerous reviews of his quality works, with a few more to come.  I’ve read most of his output so anything outstanding is really a must. Continue reading “Bookending (the left one)”

The Other One Hundred

After yesterday’s post, it makes sense to add that the last few pages of The BBC Big Read book listed the books that didn’t make it into the top one hundred.  There are far too many Terry Pratchett and Jacqueline Wilson books for my liking, which underlines the major flaw in the survey.

There are some good quality books that didn’t make it, and plenty of choice for the book pile.  After the forty-three that I had read from the top one hundred, it’s even more dismaying to find that I have only read thirty-six of this offering, although I did start Moby Dick, and The Handmaid’s Tale but didn’t finish them.  I trust your scoring will put me to shame. Continue reading “The Other One Hundred”

The Big Read

Here’s a blast from the past!  In 2003 the BBC launched a survey to find the nation’s best loved book of all time.

Although the results are somewhat engaging, by allowing unlimited entries per author the final list clogs up a bit.  The rule of only one book per author in the top twenty-one places, which then went on to the final round of voting, balances this out a little. Below is the final order.

As a retrospective it makes for interesting reading, it’s not a surprise to see the Harry Potter books placing so highly (as well as Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials), although that probably speaks more for the demographic of voters and the HP phenomenon being at fever pitch at the time, perhaps.

Now is your turn to play along at home, how many of these have you read? I’ve finished the highlighted forty-three books, which is a bit disappointing, especially as I have owned plenty of the other books at times but never gotten around to reading them when they were within my grasp. Continue reading “The Big Read”

Morning Light Readings

Having various body parts hanging over the edge of the bed and being poked mercilessly for hours by a restless baby, not yet ready to settle in her own sleeping space, I finally gave up and shuffled wearily downstairs at 4am to read Émile Zola’s, La Bête Humaine.

Claude Monet, Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare, 1877,

Admittedly, that time of the morning is always pleasing once the mood improves enough to observe surroundings and to be in a position to appreciate the quiet, the chill that settles on bare arms, and, this morning, the fog, illuminated in the glow of the streetlamp, swirling in beguiling patterns.

There are white roses edging along our garden gate, some petals are strewn over the ground at the foot of the fence. This felt symbolic as the book I start is a tale of jealousy, passion, and murder. As the reading light illuminated the pages, I ventured to the soot covered French railways of the late 1800’s…

The unexpected joys of having a baby can prove to be a real bonus, although sleep would be satisfying one of these days.

Not Enough Women

Amelia always watches in fascination as I read, and then gets angry when she can’t turn the thick cardboard pages of her own books.  This got me thinking that much of the literature I read is by male authors, and in the future, I will be wanting to introduce Amelia to a good blend of both men and women.

Winter reading with Amelia, she made sure I was pronouncing all the words correctly.

As most of my readers are of the female variety, this is where your expertise would be greatly appreciated.  I would love some recommendations for good authors, especially beyond the women who wrote the classics.  I have a bit of list of books gathered already but would love to add to it and have a richer reading list.

I am already a huge fan of Virginia Woolf, Irène Némirovsky as well as the recently read Marguerite Yournecar, and Daphne Du Maurier, and plan to read some more Barbara Kingsolver, Dava Sobel, Eowyn Ivey, and Enid Blyton. Continue reading “Not Enough Women”

Token Book Haul

Being gifted some book tokens for my birthday, I naturally went to the nearest bookshop to grab some good books.  Sadly said shop was WH Smiths and despite a smattering of other genres, it largely focuses on bestseller ficton, which on the whole are usually a disappointing bunch.

The next day I found myself up at the High Peak Bookshop (and Café) which had a much better range of stock in, and I plumped for a number of genres I haven’t explored in a while, and endured lots of annoying people passing through my browsing eyeline.

Sci-fi is something rare for me to venture into although when I have dabbled, there have been some corkers namely Solaris and 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequels.  A story from titan H.G. Wells will surely live up to such names. The Elegant Universe was another choice to continue a ‘science’ theme.  There is something fascinating about the universe, it’s a majestic mystery and well worth the time to explore. Continue reading “Token Book Haul”

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