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Commentaires écrits par
Alfred J. Kwak

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par Colm Tóibín
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 6,01

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Searing tale about 1950s Ireland, 3 juin 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Brooklyn (Broché)
This book has perhaps been written with female readers in mind, rather than men. The author is male and a good writer, because what he has done is full of risks and pitfalls. He portrayed an unemployed Irish girl with a head for figures, her father deceased four years earlier, her three brothers having moved to Birmingham, there being no jobs in SE Ireland in the early 1950s. Thoughts, conventions, fears of what neighbors might think, 1950s brand names and business practices are superbly described.
Living with her mother and elder sister in a state of respectable poverty, Eilis Lacey (EL), is offered the chance of a lifetime by a visiting Irish priest to work in the US, in Brooklyn, NY, in a department store specialized in women's clothing.
Strict Irish conventions delay EL's ability to react to new situations and her own feelings. This becomes clear during her sea voyage to America, at work and the first months in the boardinghouse for single girls of Irish extraction in Brooklyn. Suffering badly from homesickness, the same priest who arranged for her to come here, arranges evening studies for her and involves her in parish Christmas dinners for the poor and invites her to attend fund-raising Friday night dance parties.
Now the book picks up pace. She meets Tony, a very good boy indeed. They plan a life together, but when fate strikes in Ireland. she has to return. And there she meets Jim again, a much-changed person...
Readers must take over and read and enjoy this book and decide, perhaps in book discussion meetings, what prevails, love or responsibility? What about the role of Eilis' mother? And is Eilis a naïve or a bad girl? Highly recommended.

Granta 110: Sex
Granta 110: Sex
par John Freeman
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 17,95

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Great collection of stories, 28 mai 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Granta 110: Sex (Broché)
This GRANTA issue caters to many tastes. “Tokyo Island” by the awesome Japanese woman novelist Natsuo Kirino evokes a fairy-tale world of two waves of shipwrecked people stranded on an unpopulated, lush tropical island. Kiyoko is the only female in a population of 30+ Japanese and Chinese men named Tokyoites and Hong Kongers. They don’t mix, divide the island between them and evolve in different directions, always with Kiyoko on their mind. Also a parable for Japan and China’s recent territorial disputes?
Strong eroticism is provided in a uniquely-structured declaration of love via a story by Emmanuel Carrère’s “This is For You”. The fictional author/journalist is a love-struck control freak who has been planning the publication of his ode to his loved one months ahead, to coincide with her traveling on a Saturday afternoon on a high speed train towards him, with her choosing “Le Monde” with its weekend edition (circulation 600.000) as her natural choice of entertainment during the journey… .
At least three stories deal with being gay, its discovery, full blast enjoyment and lonely aftermath. Alan Founds’ portrait of a moody, confused and nasty vicar in a London suburb is intriguing and perfectly written. For this straight reader, Mark Doty’s coming-out story ”The Unwriteable”, summarizes it all: the charm, glory, joy, fulfillment of gay-hood can never be conveyed through writing to non-gays.
Tom McCarthy’s story “The Spa” is more about constipation than sex. Its victim is a male English adolescent in an old Central European spa brimming with history, meeting a beautiful anemic girl of his own age… His and Mr. Founds’ story really evoke smells, sounds, images to an almost cinematographic degree. Not one rotten apple in this basket. Very rich volume, not to be missed.

My Mother's Lover
My Mother's Lover
Prix : EUR 11,59

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Super rich and memorable novella, 27 mai 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : My Mother's Lover (Format Kindle)
Powerfully written, colorful and lyrical novella describing an unrequited love story, contrasting deep poverty with stolidly guarded-wealth and status and highlighting an early passion for nascent 20th century classical music. It is also a tribute to mother Clara and her loved one, Edwin. It covers many decades. It is situated before and after 1929 and the here and now in Switzerland and Italy, with the historical founding father of mother Clara’s family a stowaway from Abyssinia. In 1929, rich family fortunes evaporated or halved in value, but the Swiss have always had - in good times and bad - plenty of business acumen and management skills.
The action hurtles along at breakneck speed, and I would be a spoiler if I went into further detail. Awesome powers of description. Cameo appearances of e.g. Béla Bartók and Benito Mussolini. Wonderful sketches of the Swiss and how they survived WW II. But the mother is the quirky, borderline hero of this fable about lions and dogs. This fabulous tribute is written by her only son. What about the father? He is mentioned only once in this tale, but Urs Widmer (1938-2014) of whose existence I was unaware until a few days ago, made him the subject of his next novella, “My Father’s Book”.
What a writer to create so much excitement, richness and enjoyment in so few pages! Reading groups will enjoy discussing mother Clara’s life and times.

par Philip Roth
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 6,00

1 internaute sur 1 a trouvé ce commentaire utile :
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Sensitive masterpiece about a forgotten era, 26 mai 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Indignation (Broché)
Late 19th and early 20th Jewish immigrants in the US worked long hours in physical jobs, hoping their children would do better thanks to education. This book is about the years 1950-1952 during the Korean War. From a young age Marcus Messner (MM) is a model son who helps his parents run a kosher butchery in Newark, NJ. He graduates with straight A’s from high school and helps his father in the shop until his departure to a nearby college. The signs were already there, but once MM has moved out his father is developing ever more irritating and intrusive bouts of anger at the world around him and anxiety about his only son's safety.
MM always has Korea on his mind: if he flunks he will be drafted and killed. Better to graduate with top marks and become an officer and improve his chance of survival. But his father’s frantic behavior prompts MM to move to a mediocre college in Ohio, where he does not always deal smartly with a series of new challenges and problems. Only two of the 15+ fraternities accept Jews, but he refuses to join the only Jewish one on campus, suspecting (rightly) his meddling father asked them to recruit him. When he joins later on, he will come to regret his decision…
Philip Roth became world famous with “Portnoy’s Complaint” (1969) and is today an institution among American literary writers. This short novel is often funny, often sad, always moving and a pleasure to read. Readers have to find out for themselves how MM will solve his different problems. Roth has written a domestic American history of an almost forgotten war. To recreate the atmosphere of the time, create a tense plot and a range of believable characters is a great achievement.

An Event in Autumn
An Event in Autumn
Prix : EUR 6,50

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Final closure, 7 mai 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : An Event in Autumn (Format Kindle)
This novella about Kurt Wallander (KW) is significant in two respects. First, time-wise it fits into the Wallander series, just ahead of “Troubled Man”, KW’s final case during which his struggle with Alzheimer became apparent. Here, KW shows signs of forgetfulness of the common kind, not really suggestive of dementia, but added together, a case can be made. KW’s thoughts are also more than ever occupied with the past and the future. He is unhappy with the now and frets about past mistakes, always in the personal domain, never as a professional. Looking forward, he dreads retirement without a job, real friends or female companion, but surely with a dog and hopefully in a cottage with a view of the sea. Inspecting a promising, vacant property by himself, he makes a horrible discovery…
Secondly, this volume contains a short afterword by Henning Mankell about his novella’s publishing history and a 14-page piece on how the series started and ended and what happened in between. Interesting..
Otherwise, a perfectly conducted and written police procedural of a case without precedent or record. Two key informants live where KW is determined not to end his days. Not to be missed by fans and reading clubs.

Black Sheep
Black Sheep
par Susan Hill
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 14,48

5.0 étoiles sur 5 About darkness and light, 6 mai 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Black Sheep (Relié)
“Black Sheep” is about honour and disgrace in a small, isolated pre-WW II British coal-mining community. Its overcrowded terraces house miners on changing shifts and their hard-working wives facing many tasks. No work alternatives for school leavers (14+), early marriage for girls. The novella’s focus is the Howker family of three miners, daughter Rose and kid brother Ted. Home worked like a machine when Ted was small.
But at 14, Ted decides not to descend into the pit of darkness with his classmates. Instead, he chooses for an outdoor life of light and open skies with a view on the world below, looking after hundreds of sheep. He was not the first to break with tradition: his silent, oldest brother Arthur gave up mining after an injury and one day disappeared forever…
Have read, enjoyed and reviewed five Susan Hill novellas and always felt her work had been rushed into print. But “Black Sheep” is a perfectly paced and a truly searing family drama. It contains notable characters like work-shy, God-fearing grandpa Reuben, struggling mother Evie, nasty son-in-law Charlie, and of course, lovely Rose and Ted himself. Sad story, sad ending.
Perfect for reading clubs to discuss e.g. coal miners and their culture, then and now or today’s relevance of capital punishment and the Old Testament.

Granta Issue 111: Going Back: Summer 2010
Granta Issue 111: Going Back: Summer 2010
par John Freeman
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 17,82

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Superb issue, 30 avril 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Granta Issue 111: Going Back: Summer 2010 (Broché)
This reader, proud owner of some 85 issues, is very happy with editions 110 and 111 of GRANTA, "Sex" and "Going Back". In the late 1980's, the Somali author Nuruddin Farah lent me issues of GRANTA when we were both working at the University of Khartoum, Sudan, and I have been addicted ever since. "Going Back" and its predecessor "Sex", published in Summer and Spring 2010, are a promising pair of magazines after a rather poor run of years during which I did not bother to buy every issue: Too many boy- and girlhood memories and few memorable reportages, with Wendell Steavenson on Iraq a rare exception.

The absolute highlight of "Going Back" is "The Book of the Dead". It is war correspondent Janine di Giovanni (JG)'s heart-rending account of her 2010 return to Sarajevo. JG suffered intense winter cold, deprivation of water, food, heating, and electricity in Sarajevo during the constant shelling by Serbs from hill tops and their sniping from buildings inside the city, which went on for more than 1.000 days. What a shame it was for this to occur and to last so long in Europe.
JG went back in 2010 to see how her former contacts had coped since. Terrible case stories about wrecked lives follow. Serbia dearly wishes to become part of the EU, but its brainwashed people (not its current government) is still in partial denial about the recent past, hiding its worst perpetrators. Janine's report alone justifies the cost of buying this issue. All the rest is a bonus.

But there is plenty more to enjoy. Hal Crowther (HC)'s essay "A Hundred Fears of Solitude" is awesome, brilliant and only mildly paranoid. HC appears to argue on my behalf why I have no mobile phone and am not on Facebook, YouTube, Linked In and other manifestations of what he calls the electronic bee-hive. What happens on these platforms is creating and maintaining an addiction to reaction without action, a total waste of time. HC's virulent essay accuses parents, companies and governments alike to have caused the creation of a new, fat, ignorant, educationally underachieving generation of new Americans (and soon Europeans, Asians and Africans). Everyone blindly promoted and embraced these new media in the name of progress and innovation. Well argued and documented in less than 20 pages.

Among other gems, a selection of love letters from a youngish Iris Murdoch to much older French author Raymond Queneau prompted this reader to do some research on the net about this rather ugly man-eater. Finally, Mark Twain has ruled a century from the grave. Only in 2010, 100 years after his death, was publication of his autobiography possible. This GRANTA issue provides a preview with Mark Twain's "The Farm".
Highly recommended as an alternative to wasting time on electronic media. Start your own collection of new or second-hand issues.

par Niall Leonard
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 10,04

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Juvenile British action Hero, 29 avril 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Shredder (Broché)
Eventful sequel to “Crusher”, a thriller I missed, in which Finn Maguire (FM, now 17) lost both his parents. Early chapters of “Incinerator” often hark back to this drama, because the police long suspected FM of his dad’s brutal killing. I admit that the many flashbacks made me very curious about “Crusher”, with Finn challenging London’s gangland for answers, and prevailing.
This volume portrays FM as dyslectic but quite smart and endowed (by nature and through relentless training) with a powerful physique and great endurance. He is also a promising boxer owning his own gym, advance-paid for by the promise of his forthcoming inheritance. When his lawyer absconds with his money, FM faces a black hole. Plus deep shame for failing to protect his poor and elderly Caribbean coach and business partner Delroy from all his. Now Finn and Delroy face severe sanctions from a powerful London loan shark... How will Finn extricate himself from his many problems? This genre of thriller is about fate striking innocent people, who react as best as they can against huge odds, which readers must enjoy for themselves.
Otherwise, Finn’s creator is a successful screenwriter. Why he wrote about Finn’s struggles in only 12 long chapters/322 pages is a mystery to me. With ever more people preferring their smart phone for solace and entertainment, many crime writers have given in to today’s shorter attention spans. Fast-paced thrillers with 8 or even 6-page chapters are the result.
Finally, “Incinerator” is marketed to the general public, not to urban juveniles not in school, work or in training. The author’s language use, choice of hero and realistic descriptions of miserable situations, suggests otherwise. And why not? Highly entertaining and likeable page turner.

Barracuda (English Edition)
Barracuda (English Edition)
Prix : EUR 6,49

1 internaute sur 1 a trouvé ce commentaire utile :
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Portrait of a devil as a young swimmer, 18 avril 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Barracuda (English Edition) (Format Kindle)
Sprawling and very eventful, often raw and shocking novel about relentless ambition and fear of failure. Also full of minor emotions like jealousy for richer class mates, shame of one’s parents and emerging, passionate or protective feelings about certain boys he meets when given the chance to attend an elite secondary on the strength of his swimming talent. Time wise the novel switches constantly and readers are given searing accounts of the formative events and incidents during different phases in the life of Daniel Kelly (DK), never chronologically, always via flashbacks of a younger DK by an older version of him. By following DK in this way from age 15 to 30, Christos Tziolkas (CT) has composed a literary thriller without a murder. But the threat of murder is ever present, throughout the book...
‘Barracuda’ is situated mainly in Melbourne, Australia, with intermezzos in Japan, Scotland and Hong Kong. CT describes Australia as a lonely continent crazy about sport because it doesn’t excel in much else. And as a former British colony where racism, xenophobia and class consciousness thrive as never before. DK’s dad is/was a long-distance trucker, his mother a hairdresser, working class. At his new school DK feels shunned, but continues to rise at 4.30 am for early training practise. His mum helps him in every possible way to accomplish his ultimate goal: winning gold for Australia in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. But fate rules otherwise and it transforms Danny into Dan, a quite different person. Or not?
Tziolkas is an excellent writer. His occasionally shocking ‘The Slap’ sold 1.2 m copies worldwide. This book may possibly attract fewer buyers/readers: (1) Domestic readers may take offense at his highly polemic portrayal of Australia, a rainbow nation of people with roots elsewhere. (2) Profane language use and descriptions of gay lovemaking may deter readers and libraries. (3) Few readers are likely to recommend it to friends and relatives, because of DK’s rather hateful personality and character. The way DK turns on his father late in the book, is unforgivable and evil.
This novel brims with ideas and feelings about love and hate, shame and remorse, taking charge or letting it all go. Kept me off the streets for a week. Almost a true masterpiece.

par Stephen McGeagh
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 11,37

4.0 étoiles sur 5 New twist to an ancient taboo, 8 avril 2015
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Habit (Broché)
The first 100 pages are full of morose, sometimes irritated descriptions in the I-form of the bleak lives of a number of characters in Manchester, UK, permanently on the dole like narrator Michael or doing poorly-paid work as his sister Manda. Background percolates slowly down, with Michael living with Dig, wearing black hoodies and bad at holding his drink (poor eater). Manda has scary mental episodes (their Mum’s were worse). They look after each other by phone and in person as best as they can.
By page 101, it has already happened, slowly but surely: Michael’s enticement, then recruitment by the girl Lee, who looks 12, into a new, darkening world. It concerns a historically and ethnographically well-documented worldwide taboo practice that is rarely breached nowadays. Practitioners caught today are judged criminally insane. But the massage parlour into which Lee lures Michael to become doorman, is far from lunatic. It is organised like any franchise, with a front and back office, staffed competently by devoted people.
Amazon reviewers praised SMG for his realistic portrayal of Manchester and/or for sticking to his guns as a debutant. I cannot judge the first, but fully endorse the second claim that SMG dances to his own drumbeat. Morality is absent in readers reviews. To succeed as a debut writer is hard. Hope his next book is as focused as this, which has given another, intriguing twist to a long-established literary and thriller subgenre.
A second reading enhances the book's initial impact. Given its length, not its content, well suited for reading clubs. Because what exactly happened and does the end mean? And why this title?

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