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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.

par Henning Mankell
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 14,20

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 19,10

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.

The Comfort Of Strangers
The Comfort Of Strangers
Prix : EUR 6,27

4.0 étoiles sur 5 "Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Stayin' Alive", 14 septembre 2012
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Comfort Of Strangers (Format Kindle)
Read Susan Hill's 2008 novella "The Venetian Mask", describes a newly-married couple that loses its way in Venice with fatal consequences for the bridegroom. Her book celebrated the mystery of Venice throughout, but was it scary?

Read Ian McEwan's 2nd novel (1981) and shiver! It deals with Mary and Colin on a weeks-long holiday in Venice. They have been a LAT-couple for 7 years, but are here and now inert, silent, unable to plan ahead or their daily lives: forgetting their city map, they lose their way every day. Written in a more languid voice than Susan Hill's, it is far more intrusive. Readers want to get a quick grip on a story, but McEwan does not allow this.

Divorced Mary has 2 children who stay with their dad in a UK commune. She acted in a now defunct woman's collective. Colin tried singing, then acting, no more about him or who paid the holiday, except that he looks cute. In my view, the couple is doomed from page 1. They do not act like normal tourists and fall prey to black-clad Robert, a guide, then owner of a basement gay bar with a jukebox emitting blue light. It blasts out again and again the same pumping, shrieking, sentimental song whose refrain of "Ha, ha, ha" is sung along loudly by the black-clad cruisers. Shortened by one `ha' for copyright reasons(?), the refrain and song must be the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive", a worldwide disco hit. And another clue about death foretold McEwan planted in his tale.

Read on to see how the trustful couple falls for the charms and fictions of Robert and his handicapped wife Caroline. It ends badly for the male hero (?) Colin, as in Susan Hill's book. Deep book that ends in blood and drama. Brr. On several counts, I rate McEwan's early story higher than Susan Hill's. Both books are rich in ideas and should be read more than once.

Gone Tomorrow: A Jack Reacher Novel
Gone Tomorrow: A Jack Reacher Novel
par Lee Child
Edition : Poche
Prix : EUR 8,01

1 internaute sur 1 a trouvé ce commentaire utile :
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Reacher on the war path in New York, 6 septembre 2012
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Gone Tomorrow: A Jack Reacher Novel (Poche)
Bloody thriller about Jack Reacher(JR), dream of many men and women, but for different reasons. He embodies what many men secretly like to be, a combination of Superman and not having a family with its obligations, strictures and routines: JR has no home or relatives and travels ultra light, with only his passport, ATM-card, some cash and a foldable toothbrush. No bag. No suitcase. Buys new set of clothes every few days. Pays no taxes. Women like him for his courteous, polite ways and occasional bursts of mutually agreed passion. Escape lit.
JR takes a nighttime subway train in NY. He spots a woman who raises all the red flags on an 11-point checklist for suicide bombers once developed in Israel. A very strong, dramatic start, because blood flows indeed, which he failed within a whisker to prevent. JR is questioned by the NYPD, then by a Federal agency working under post 9/11 rules. When set free he is accosted by a foursome in nice suits. For the third time that day he is asked, "Did she give you anything?"
But there are a few moments when LC appears to lose the plot. Or defies credibility. As always, JR relies on his hunting instincts, logical reasoning and brutal force. Quoting more than once from a famous Kipling poem, the book is instructive about the perils of waging war, declared or secret, in faraway lands. Such as Afghanistan in the early 1980s... Very well crafted and written, with great dialogue and intriguing tips about how and where to spend the night cheaply, or for free in NY. Interesting insights into the intense competition of agencies involved in homeland security and the scrutiny US politicians are subjected to.
To tell more would deprive fans and new readers of the joy and ingenuity of this book.

The Small Hand
The Small Hand
par Susan Hill
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 13,31

3.0 étoiles sur 5 The Ghost of the White House, 30 août 2012
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Small Hand (Relié)
Adam Snow is a dealer in antique and rare books. After visiting a client in the English countryside, he loses his way and ends up in front of a derelict country mansion surrounded by a huge, once beautifully landscaped, but now completely overgrown garden. Suddenly, he feels a small, invisible hand grasping his hand. Since this incident, Adam suffers bouts of fainting, panic attacks and hallucinations, which grow from bad to worse. Not in New York and other cities he visits professionally, but strangely, the little hand grasps his near running water or ponds, such as on the grounds of a remote abbey in France, which he did visit in a business capacity. And sometimes pulls him real hard... It affects Adam's state of mind with dreams turning into nightmares.
He never had mental problems before. But his older brother Hugo has. Adam tells him about his recent experiences and also tries to learn more about the history of the ruined mansion and park, which was known as the White House. The outcomes are for readers to enjoy.
Have some doubts about the genre and this little book. Because "The Small Hand" evokes so many clichés from a long tradition of ghost stories and Gothic novels. Such as losing one's way, heavy thunderstorms, ruins and eerie, overgrown gardens, sudden silences, and whether a person or an event is for real. And how it affects the main characters' sanity. Of course, the ending is not happy, but it provides some answers. Fairly entertaining. Should be read more than once.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich: (50th Anniversary Edition)
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich: (50th Anniversary Edition)
par Eric Bogosian
Edition : Poche
Prix : EUR 4,74

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Formidable Debut, 26 août 2012
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich: (50th Anniversary Edition) (Poche)
Dear The real author of this book is Alexander Solzhenitsyn, not this person with an Armenian name!

In 1962, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (1953-64) allowed this novella to appear. Other books by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (AS; 1918-2008) during the Brezhnev presidency (1964-92) had to be smuggled out. In 1970 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Today, old and new readers must admit this debut is a masterpiece based on first-hand experience. AS spent 8 years (1945-53) in labour camps and three more in internal exile. He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974.

What landed one in a labour camp for 10 or 25 years? AS was accused of criticizing Stalin. In this book, characters hail from every part of the SU. Their crimes? AS hardly bothers to explain, but paranoia played a key role: a Soviet liaison officer aboard a British cruiser for a month during WW II received a note of thanks by a British admiral: end of career, 10 years labour camp. Others escaped from German POW-camps and were branded traitors and spies. Some committed `economic' or `cultural' crimes. Or were Baptists, who received 25-year sentences for ignoring/challenging the Russian Orthodox church. AS commented: "They shed the hardships of camp life like water off a duck's back." [His main work "The Gulag Archipelago" is a massive study of why millions were whisked away to camps and how they were treated.]

In this awesome book AS describes a very cold day in a tightly-run camp in Northern Kazakhstan through the eyes of Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. The day starts at 5:00, ends at 23:00 hrs. Food rations depend on 20-man work teams meeting set targets. Collective survival strategies require trust and allegiances, punishment for slackers and traitors, and strategic leadership. They mesh to some degree with personal survival strategies. On, the day described work starts at -27 C, when 463 ill-fed and -clothed prisoners are searched, counted and walked to work. After noon, a balmy -19 C prompts an almost surreal bout of bricklaying by Shukhov and his team. Etc., etc. Read on and shiver. Not a word out of place.

Moscow to the End of the Line
Moscow to the End of the Line
par Venedikt Erofeev
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 15,91

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Lyrical Celebration of Alcoholism, 25 août 2012
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Moscow to the End of the Line (Broché)
Alcohol and literature sometimes go hand in hand. In this semi-personal account of the last day of his life, Venedict Erofeev (VE;1938-90) complains that whenever he wants to see the Kremlin, he ends up at the Kursk-railway station. Next he states that proper inebriation releases the best qualities in man: suddenly occurring new insights into religion, the classics of literature and international politics can enthrall, even hypnotize listeners. Until body and mind pass out, to wake up eons later with a Soviet-size hangover.

This novella is situated in a former paradise for alcoholics, the SU under Brezhnev, which had full employment, but also a poor alcohol-related work ethic and -forms of corruption. Serious addicts knew when outlets opened and closed. In lean times they concocted cocktails from unlikely ingredients (four toxic recipes provided).

VE's last day begins with a mega-hangover and a painfully slow, chaotic rush of last-minute purchases. Because for the past 3 years, VE (30) has taken the slow train from Moscow to Petushki (125 km), a journey from hell to heaven, to visit the love of his life and their small boy. After the first of many stops, VY embarks on hangover management, a heroic, daily struggle to keep the first maintenance dose down. It is, once again, succesful and VE is off for a new day of rising high spirits, ready to explain his vision of past, presence and future. It is for readers to savor what follows on the slow train to Petushki. Where VE will finally see the Kremlin...

Smartly plotted with brief chapters covering the legs of the train between stations. VE died from throat cancer a year after his book was finally published in his homeland. He wrote it during working hours in a cable workshop at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport in 1969. It was first published in Israel in 1975, then translated into other languages. Rich, dense and passionate book. Insightful, intriguing and worth reading again.

A Kind Man
A Kind Man
par Susan Hill
Edition : Relié

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Rich, sparsely written novella about life's big events, 23 août 2012
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : A Kind Man (Relié)
Read only 2 recent novellas before this third one, out of the 40-odd books Susan Hill (SH) has published so far, including an ongoing detective series. After this one, I will read more of her books. It is mostly told by Eve in a shy, introverted, tentative way. It takes time to gather pace, but readers learn all the more about living conditions, earnings and hopes in the small industrial English town where events will unfurl. When? The 1930s?

Eve is the older sister of Miriam, who bears child after child, six in all, and hates her life. Eve had a beautiful daughter, who died suddenly aged 3. She and her husband Tommy were shattered. But the pair remains totally devoted to each other, without talking much about the bereavement. When Tommy loses weight and appetite at age 31, the local doctor diagnoses him with advanced stomach cancer, but does not tell him. Instead, he gives him medicines and the advice to let Eve care for him, rather than subjecting himself to further research in hospital.

Early on, Tommy is described by Eve's mother as being decent, caring, clean, calm, loyal, sober, but having "no spark". Telling more would spoil the joy and pleasure for many readers. Just one more clue. Tommy has a miraculous remission and although decried as having no spark, he has mysteriously acquired a strange, fire-related talent...

Written in sparse UK-English prose, this wonderful little book deals with a dying man in a dying town full of hardship and poverty. It deals with good, bad and indifference, love and care and their opposites, gossip, generosity and different types of envy. Highly recommended for its re-reading potential. Reading groups will devour it.

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