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I'm Not Scared
I'm Not Scared
par Niccolo Ammaniti
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 10,61

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Dramatic masterpiece, 22 octobre 2012
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : I'm Not Scared (Broché)
Strong, emotionally harrowing drama situated in 1978 in rural Italy, told through the eyes of Michele (aged 9). He lives in a poor hamlet composed of four small houses and a country manor. He is one of six children always playing together. Their leader is dictatorial, a prosecutor and judge rolled into one, who meets out punishment with impunity. The youngest member of the posse is five, the oldest 11, two are girls. During a hot summer they discover an isolated, ruined house. Michele is ordered by the 11-year old dictator to examine the collapsed house from front to back. Michele is challenged physically and mentally... What he sees in a hole in the ground behind the ruin at a spot overgrown with bush and brambles, is something he cannot judge. He says nothing to the posse but sneaks away on his bike the next day to have another look. And then again, and again...
On almost every page, hero and raconteur Michele struggles against his many childhood fears, nightmares and tears, with conflicting loyalties and worries about the welfare of his adored mother, and finds solace and inspiration only in cartoon heroes. Niccolò Ammaniti is a superb storyteller and is at his best when he writes from the perspective of children: in `Steal you Away' (1999; tr. 2007), it is 12-year old Pietro, in his recent novella `Me and You' (2012), the severely self-centered and neurotic 14-year old Lorenzo surpasses himself.
Ammaniti masters several genres. His tragicomedies are well laid out and -written with plenty of atmosphere and good dialogues. But his serious dramas such as `Me and You' and this novel are my favorites. Brilliantly planned and written, leaving the reader space to enrich and interpret what is put on paper. This novel is also a real thriller with a dramatic ending. Highly recommended.


The Vows of Silence: Simon Serrailler Book 4
The Vows of Silence: Simon Serrailler Book 4
Prix : EUR 6,12

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4.0 étoiles sur 5 Poor police novel full of drama and emotion, 15 octobre 2012
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Vows of Silence: Simon Serrailler Book 4 (Format Kindle)
I only read three Gothic novellas by Susan Hill before this title. It is the fourth in a series of at least 8 thrillers starring Simon Serrailler(SS). He is a Detective Chief Superintendent in the UK, single, in his late 30s and one of a set of triplets. His brother works in Australia, his sister Cat(herine) is a family doctor like her husband Chris, in SS's fictive hometown Lafferton. They are very close. There was once a fourth, handicapped child. The mother of the triplets and the sister have passed on, their reserved father Richard, now in his mid 70's, is a retired medical consultant with a much younger, loveable lady friend, a fact SS finds hard to swallow.

This thriller is about one or two gunmen, using a handgun and a rifle, to kill women who appear about to be married, or are just married. But this profile is weak... It has several other story lines e.g. about how to care for terminal close ones or belief in or denial of God. A cast of characters struggles with such dilemmas and the emotions they evoke. The book starts with the memory of a 12-year old boy, allowed in freezing weather to join his dad for the first time on a hunting trip. Every five, six chapters, there is an update about him, or not?

This is a police procedural, an ongoing family novel and a love story about 4 people who lost their partners prematurely. And about other people who never won over the partner they pined for... It is very, very English with plenty of tea, toasted bread and Marmite, about working at the top of one's abilities with maturing children causing problems. Rich and thrilling book with 15+ deaths from various causes, despite Susan Hill's usual gaps and loose ends. A book women will appreciate more than men.


The Ridge
The Ridge
par Michael Koryta
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 36,48

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Ghost story in eastern Kentucky, 10 octobre 2012
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Ridge (Relié)
Slowly but surely MK captures readers' attention in this thriller about of a small eastern Kentucky town and its pre- and post-industrial secrets. The town is kept ticking because of its prestigious college, an old endowment from the county's oldest investor in mining and logging. But its 120+ year old, always profitable newspaper folds: its owners need cash to join the digital challenge. Veteran reporter Roy begins the day after his lay-off with what he thinks is his final investigation: he was phoned by Wyatt French, the town drunk who lives below a homemade, hilltop wooden lighthouse in the thick forest well outside town. He infuriated Roy by what he said about the death of his parents, back in 1965.
Deputy Sheriff Kimble also receives a call from this weirdo, who warns him to tread carefully with Jacqueline (who killed her husband and nearly killed Kimble). Kimble has a strange habit of visiting her in prison, and Wyatt's message puts him on edge. Will the reporter and the detective join forces? It takes 100 pages for the plot to thicken and the novel to really take off. Its ingredients are old, new and supernatural. The "old" goes back to the late 1880s when a crucial trestle, wooden railway bridge, was built to link up with the mine. Its workers fell ill, died, until a Faust-like stranger appeared, a curer...
The "new" and the "supernatural" angles include the introduction of 67 great cats to a newly-built Feral Rescue Centre near Wyatt's lighthouse and a purple light or flame causing road accidents and much else. A history, police procedural, love story, ghost story in one book, what more can one wish?


The Life of an Unknown Man
The Life of an Unknown Man
par Andreï Makine
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 22,64

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Warm tale from New Russia, 8 octobre 2012
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Life of an Unknown Man (Relié)
Have joyfully become addicted to AM and his books. This book is wonderful and words fail to sing its praises. I read Makine's works in a weird sequence. But a serene, stoical man or woman figures in many of his novels, who stand above or stay aloof from all the horrible, senseless violence of his native Russia. No writer can possibly summarize the collective suffering under the Czars, the Great War, the 1917 Revolution, the civil war in the 1920s and the murderous collectivization of agriculture. And of the purging campaigns of the 1930s, interrupted by WW II in which 20m Russians died, half of them soldiers.
Makine's mission appears to cover this era of terror, misrule and massive loss of life, in a series of books brimming with stunning personal anecdotes and stories. Thus far he has covered these years wonderfully. He may later dive deeper into the past, but is more likely to stick to the present state of his nation of birth, New Russia, the subject of this recent novel. I dare say it is another highlight in his writing career, linking the memory of the old SU Russia of Sjukov, a refugee from the 1980s, a not very successful Paris-based writer, with New Russia. His name is derived from `sjuk', "sad clown". When his young lover walks out on him, he flies, depressed and inspired by a Chekhov story about never-declared love, to St. Petersburg to look up his old flame Jana and declare to her his long-suppressed, eternal love...
He is warmly received by the constantly mobile-phoning businesswoman Jana and given a guest room in her almost finished luxury apartment, once the partitioned home of 26 people, "as full as a commuter train". An old man in a cubicle of a room, who cannot walk and does not speak, has delayed its completion. But he will be collected tomorrow and taken away...
What follows is fantastic, dreamlike, magical. The run-up was already empathic and endearing, but its finish is worth gold. Do not miss this book!


Memory Wall
Memory Wall
par Anthony Doerr
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 6,64

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Superb collection of six great, interconnected stories, 7 octobre 2012
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Memory Wall (Broché)
I dislike collections of short stories, but made an exception for this one. Only six stories on 242 pages is one reason, the powerful science- and SF-based title story another. Their wide scope in time and place is formidable: all stories deal with the universe of stars from which our earth once sprang, leaving us humans as a late and new, superior, created or evolved species to wonder about the origins of life and memories of ancient times in the form of e.g. stars, rivers, fossils or sturgeons. The stories are situated in South Africa, China, Korea, Lithuania and Germany, with links in some to mid-western US states. One stays in the US state of Wyoming altogether. Finally, the author has created a raft of loveable, struggling or doomed characters, whose fates are for readers to discover and enjoy or pity.
All stories deal with the concept of memory in an honest, exceptionally well-researched and emphatic manner. Anthony Doerr offers brilliant samples of his skills when writing about different aspects of and symbols for memory loss (Alzheimer) and memory regained in the first and last tale. The most heart-rending, but not completely hopeless story, is about mourning, confused 15-year old Allie from Kansas, recently orphaned and consigned to be cared for by her granddad in Lithuania, reliving her Kansas past and memories there, but also sticking to a miracle she witnessed in Lithuania and being ultimately vindicated. Each story contains one or more people like Allie, able to transcend the boundaries of memory to move to a higher level of insight.
Do not miss this exceptional collection!


Requiem for the East
Requiem for the East
par Andreï Makine
Edition : Broché

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Rich, well-told, but flawed quest for truth, 4 octobre 2012
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Requiem for the East (Broché)
Old and new historical untruths inspired Andreï Makine (AM) to write a portrait of the Soviet Union(SU) and Russia using the lives of a father, a son and a grandson, who knew each other briefly, if at all. The grandson is the narrator. In bits and pieces during the book, he owns up to have worked as a spy for his fatherland. A mysterious woman with silvery hair saved him as a toddler from a secluded hut in the Caucasus and placed him in an orphanage. As a schoolboy he visits her on Saturdays and she teaches him her language.
AM describes the horrors of his grandpa's civil war and the murderous agricultural reforms in the 1920s, and the terror of the 30s. And his dad's 4-year fight against the Nazis, which ended in ignominy. Having thwarted a rape committed by superiors, he is stripped of his medals and tossed into a death squad of 600 often unarmed men, ordered to win crucial terrain by attacking in human waves. He survives these suicidal assaults, but years after the Final Victory "was shot like a dog with machineguns". When the now 14-year old (grand)son hears this spat at him by peers, he wants an explanation from his silver-haired savior. And like Sherazade, she begins to tell him his history, slowly...
AM's portrayals of grandfather and son will surely evoke readers' emotions. The nameless (grand-)child's own life story is harder to bond with. From an inquisitive 14-year old he morphs into a doctor in Aden (South Yemen) who helps solve, thanks to his language skills, a hostage crisis with a French dimension. Since then, he and a mysterious older woman have worked undercover for the KGB in a number of Soviet satellites, tracing the sources of the illegal arms provided to rebel groups and documenting evidence of field testing by manufacturers. Until his mysterious lady partner vanishes. His search for the truth of her life and death is engaging, but not fully convincing. A stern editor could have worked miracles.
AM believes that today's media, PR experts and intelligentsia may be as adept and devious at distorting the truth as older propaganda warriors, and gives telling examples. Well, maybe. But espionage writing is not (yet) one of Andreï Makine's strengths.


Dreams of My Russian Summers
Dreams of My Russian Summers
par Andrei Makine
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 11,60

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Homage to Charlotte, a true living being, 29 septembre 2012
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Dreams of My Russian Summers (Broché)
Men play only cameo roles in this brilliant family novel situated in France, the Soviet Union and "new Russia". But is it a family novel? Once again, Makine's narrator is himself aged 14 or 15. It is a grand and moving tribute to his half French/half Russian grandmother Charlotte, born in 1903. She left Paris in 1922 to extricate her French mother from a Russia steeped in civil war. She never made it back to France. She buried her mother, married a Russian and followed him to his postings as a judge in remote parts of the SU. Despite mayhem and violence, she hung on to a case full of books, newspaper cuttings, photos about France. She survived the purges of the 1930s (he did not) and WW II, working as a nurse. Later she survived new purges working as a translator and librarian. And by being a kind older person of no importance.
Her grandson Alyosha and his sister live in an industrial town on the Volga river and spend their summers with Charlotte in a sleepy town whose few streets end in the steppe. They become fluent in French listening to her endless, magical tales about her youth there, and the content of the case. Recited poems, book chapters, stories, anecdotes and photographs imbibe the siblings with a new perspective on the their lives amidst pure Russians. Alyosha in particular sees the world through French eyes and suffers for this in school. At the age of 15, he has an identity crisis...
Again, is it a family novel? Read the last part (4/4) situated in Paris, where the exiled narrator receives a written message from Charlotte, 20 years after his last visit to her. This part is dramatic and tragic, containing a huge surprise. The book is full of brilliant and cruel French and Russian anecdotes and symbolism. Read it more than once to fully appreciate its richness.


Depths
Depths
par Henning Mankell
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 10,22

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Tale of doom and death foretold, 25 septembre 2012
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Depths (Broché)
This haunting psychological novel has 10 big and 206 smaller chapters and shows that Henning Mankell (HM) masters other genres beyond crime writing. It is also a historical novel that sheds light on Sweden's past of deep poverty and gross inequality, where beating children social inferiors or lower ranks was common, as everywhere else. This novel begins in 1937 when a speechless inmate escapes from an asylum. But she is soon found.
Then the narrative switches to 1914 and 1915 where it stays. The madwoman is the rich-born wife of Lars Tobiasson-Svartman (LTS), a Navy captain specialized in depth measurement along Sweden's complex east coast. His expertise is highly valued when the Great War breaks out: neutral Sweden urgently needs to update its old seamaps, some dating back to the 1840s, taking account of increased tonnages of merchant and navy vessels, to create new, safe and secret sailing routes.
From small chapter 3, HM depicts his main character LTS in words foreshadowing doom. Expert as he is in measuring depths between waterline and seabed, he lives in fear of his own depths of despair about his upbringing, his loveless marriage, his colleagues, his future. Expert as he is also in estimating horizontal distance, he has devoted a lifetime to keeping people at bay. No love or intimacy, no friendship, no trust. What emerges is a portrait of a dissembling man as black as his last name. With no chance of remission, the novel is a two-year long dream-ridden descent into lies, murder, lies and more lies...
HM expertly portrays LTS and the two women in his life, each bearing him a daughter called Laura. So is his writing about LTS' work routines and of winter on Sweden's many tiny islands and islets in the ice-covered Baltic Sea. Brr.


Once upon the River Love
Once upon the River Love
par Andrei Makine
Edition : Broché

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Coming of Age in Eastern Siberia, 25 septembre 2012
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Once upon the River Love (Broché)
This is an energetic, lyrical, superrich novel about three adolescents (Samurai, Utkin and Dmitri, the narrator) from a hamlet deep inside Eastern Siberia, situated near the Trans Siberian railway and the Amur, the mighty river separating Siberia from China. Andreï Makine (AM) deftly pictures how the pendulum of history, swinging from wars in the West to the East wreaked havoc in this remote region. It now has lots of elderly people and incomplete families. Its youngsters have scant knowledge of the outside world: their fate is to guard the work camp 20 km away or another state job, cut trees and move them, or illegally trap furry animals or pan for gold. Or leave.

AM describes the response of the trio (14, 15 years old) in 1972 or so, to a film starring French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo (JPB) in a double act: he is a struggling writer at the mercy of a devilish publisher and a womanizing spy and action hero. The film challenges all hopes and expectations implanted in the minds of Soviet citizens. The trio returns 16 times to analyze this miracle film, 31 km on foot with snowshoes in snow and ice and bitter cold. And back the next day in a winter that lasts 7 months. Each boy cherishes a different aspect of JPB: lover, warrior, writer. The film leaves no one in the district untouched; the unlikeliest people come from the Siberian taiga and the camp's watchtowers to view it, even the female school principal with her face like a padlocked door.

Lots of cross references, always a hallmark of good writing and plenty of relevant asides on nature's force and humanity's frailty. Endowed with lots of dreams, anecdotes and Siberian lore, the book spans two key years when the three boys come of age and begin to make choices. This was AM's third book and his breakthrough in his adopted homeland France.

Read this book! It is key to AM's entire oeuvre and one of his best and most enjoyable works.


The Woman Who Waited: A Novel
The Woman Who Waited: A Novel
par Andreï Makine
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 18,34

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Are Men drawn to Culture and Women to Nature?, 24 septembre 2012
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Woman Who Waited: A Novel (Relié)
In Andreï Makine's breakthrough third novel "Once upon the River Love", a lonely woman plays a cameo role. Each year since WW II when a river thawed deep inside Eastern Siberia, she awaited the arrival of the ferry, hoping her fiancé would step off and finally come home. She was considered crazy. But the old ferryman tells the narrator, then 15, that he saw her fiancé a year ago, in 1972 in the district capital, married with three children, rich and fat. "He just forgot about her". As a war hero he fell for someone else, just 30 km away from home. And no one ever told her...
The fate of its WW II soldiers has long been anathema in SU history and literature. Ten million died, countless others were maimed for life or sent to work camps because they had surrendered. Those who came home unscathed could find his fiancé or wife locked in another man's embrace. Does history not repeat itself over millennia?

AM revives the theme of the waiting woman in this great novel. It introduces Vera, rumoured to have been waiting for the return of her first love for 30 years: him 18, drafted in 1945 into a war that was almost won when she was 16. She is discovered in the summer and autumn of 1975 by a blasé, semi-dissident graduate of Leningrad University, hired to write a chapter on the dying folklore of her depopulated area near the White Sea in NW Russia for a planned jubilee book.
The nameless narrator (26) is a little disgusted with alternative urban lifestyles and has an open mind for what meets his eye: dying villages, no working economy, an ever-changing and harsher autumn climate, another secretive posse of blasé `dissidents', but most of all, Vera, now 47 and still stunningly beautiful, and an enigmatic and charismatic person. He becomes intrigued, then infatuated with her. Readers (m/f) have to follow his obsession without this reviewer's further guidance.
Great, short novel for reading groups, because lots of issues emerge about relations between males and females and about what in a person's or country's life is considered nature or culture. Rich novel with a satisfying ending. Highly recommended.


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