Tag Archive for France

Book Review: The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw

The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw

I saw The Young Lions mentioned on a list of great WWII books, and it definitely lives up to that label. It’s hard to summarize the book in a short review, especially since so much goes on in the book, but it is really quite good. The writing style makes everything quite vivid, and I had a hard time putting the book down, wanting to see what would happen to the several main characters as it went along. It intersperses three different men’s experiences during this time, showing the grim reality of war from the soldier’s point-of-view, and not just from one side or the other.

A movie version was made 10 years after the book came out, but it isn’t quite as grim as the book, and I’m not sure they got the casting right. I’ve only seen bits of it though, but the author didn’t like it, so that says a lot.

Book Review: In Chancery by John Galsworthy

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy A continuation of the Forsyte Chronicles, I think I liked this one a little bit less than The Man of Property, but it was still enjoyable. I missed some of the characters from the previous book, but there was still plenty of drama to keep things interesting. I do wish there were more of Irene’s perspective, rather than treating her as a thing of beauty and not a whole person (which I think was one of Virginia Woolf’s criticisms of these books).

This series continues to be a bit of a guilty pleasure, as it’s a rather richly done — and engrossing — soap opera. The historical tidbits interspersed throughout make it more interesting and help make the time period more vivid.

Book Review: The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett

The Old Wives' Tale by Arnold Bennett I’m not sure why I kept reading through to the end (or very near it). It was slightly interesting at first, but then it just dragged on…and on… and on. I hoped it would pick up or do something to redeem itself later on, but it never really did. I only wish I’d stopped reading earlier on…

Book Review: The Collected Stories by Heinrich Böll

The Collected Stories by Heinrich Böll A great collection of Heinrich Böll’s work, though with so many stories and novellas, it’s hard to comment on them here. His writing style is appealing, mostly clear and to the point, but with enough detail to paint a scene. The stories focusing on the war and just after seemed best to me; those touching upon religion and/or philosophy did not feel as compelling.

Book Review: Black Venus by James MacManus

Black Venus by James MacManus Boring and poorly written. So many predictable cliches, vague descriptions that beat around the bush, strange bits of innuendo, repetitive details about the characters, and what was with all the dull clothing descriptions? It felt like the author was playing with dolls, and the characters seemed just as real.

Book Review: The Breaking of Eggs by Jim Powell

The Breaking of Eggs by Jim Powell The Breaking of Eggs by Jim Powell follows the elderly Feliks Zhukovski, a Polish leftist who has made France is home, as he looks back on his life as a strong supporter of the Communists. He starts to feel like his life is unraveling, and he ends up really examining how his beliefs were built, and tries to justify them, despite all the Communists actually did in Eastern Europe.

Initially, I liked the story, but after awhile, it felt like there was a shift from showing the story to telling it, starting with a letter from Feliks long-lost mother. It just started feeling less compelling to me, and I started to lose interest. At the very end of the book, it felt like things were tied up too neatly, like a fairy tale ending had to be tacked on. It wasn’t very satisfying though, and felt too mushy, especially contrasted with the character Feliks had seemed to be throughout the rest of the book.

Book Review: 13, rue Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shapiro

13, rue Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shapiro I was a little apprehensive when I picked up 13, rue Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shapiro, due to the unique presentation of the book itself. Images of scanned photos, letters, and other ephemera are interspersed with the text, and on the last pages, there were special barcodes for use with a smartphone, which made me a bit wary. However, I decided to let it go and just take the book for what it was, and I’m glad I did.

The book is strange and unique and yet, it’s also interesting and exciting. We briefly learn about a collection of items left for American professor Trevor Stratton, who has just arrived in Paris to translate French poetry. As the book progresses, he gets drawn into this story and people behind this “documentation,” as he calls the items, and you feel yourself drawn in as well.

The story jumps between the Trevor’s perspective and that of Louise Brunet, the woman who owned the items Trevor is examining. The line between their worlds blurs more and more, and it helped to suspend disbelief, especially towards the end.

I will say that I was a little disappointed with the ending, especially after the build-up along the way. It just didn’t feel like the resolution was as weighty as the story that got you there. That said, I really enjoyed the book, as it kept me wondering what piece of the puzzle might be revealed next.

Book Review: Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey

Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey I’d seen mentions of Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey a few times last year, mostly related to it being nominated for a Booker Prize, which the author has won twice before. I finally got a hold of it at the library — it was surprisingly on the shelf, after having many holds placed on it — and found it to be an enjoyable book overall.

The book’s perspective switches between that of Parrot and Olivier, two men with have been on very different paths in life, but who find themselves thrown together on a voyage to America. Parrot, essentially orphaned as a child in England, has managed to travel to various parts of the world with a rogue Frenchman (often referred to as Monsieur), and has a talent for engraving. Olivier is a son of French nobles whose lives were very much affected by the Revolution, and yet still don’t care for the notion of democracy.

Olivier’s parents want to get Olivier away from growing problems in France, so he is sent to study and write about prisons in America, with Parrot as his servant/secretary. The book contrasts their perspectives on the things they counter on this trip, as well as the conflict between the two men.

I did like the changing perspective at first, to show how different Parrot and Olivier saw the world. I did lean towards Parrot’s side more and didn’t care as much for Olivier, who felt very strongly about classes and how a society should be.

However, some of the book was a bit jarring, like various flashbacks that would share something of the character’s past, but only in snippets. There were also a few instances where parts of the present jumped a bit, not fully explaining how something had happened.

Otherwise, I thought it was an interesting read, and the style and time period made me think of other books I enjoyed, like Heyday by Kurt Andersen or Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke.