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Finding the Centre: Two Narratives
Finding the Centre: Two Narratives
par V. S. Naipaul
Edition : Broché

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Best introduction, 7 août 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Finding the Centre: Two Narratives (Broché)
V.S. Naipaul’s slim autobiographic 1984 volume is a precursor to his sprawling 380 pp. 1994 novel “A Way in the World”. It consists of an introduction and two essays about his ambition to become a writer and his search for an identity to infuse and inspire his writing, a starting perspective. His essay “Prologue to an Autobiography” beautifully captures every stage of his piecing together his own past and ancestry and the history of his multi-ethnic birthplace Trinidad, where slaves from Africa, then indentured labour from British India worked on sugar and cocoa plantations. And it was always close to Venezuela, adding another dimension. This essay is devastatingly honest, still feeling insecure after 12 novels and 12 works of non-fiction.
“The Crocodiles of Yamoussoukro”, situated in Cote d’Ivoire describes his visit to another facet of his past: many black Trinidadians hailed from areas like this. Would they be better off here and now? Do the Trinidad slaves’ old customs of witchcraft and poisoning, persist in their ancient homeland? How do women of West Indian origin fare when married to an African? What lures whites to live and work there? And so on. Naipaul presents Cote d’Ivoire as a rock of stability amidst chaos, brutality and stagnation elsewhere in the region. But he also questioned in 1984 its sustainability, and history has proven him right. This essay was, perhaps because of its weird cast of characters, more fictional than fact-based.
Finally, this frank pair of essays deserves 5 stars, one more than I gave the novel he wrote 10 years later. Found that repetitious, a re-hash of his earlier books and book characters vs. two real ones, Sir Walter Raleigh and Francisco de Miranda (a Venezuelan revolutionary who died in 1816). Both were portrayed rather poorly and at great length. Gave it 4 stars out of respect. Should have been 3 because of other swipes at his universe of the Other, which is immense.

The Portrait
The Portrait
Prix : EUR 5,25

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Among artists and critics, 3 août 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Portrait (Format Kindle)
First acquaintance with this author whose novel’s theme and style invoke John Banville’s sardonic and precisely-formulated novels about artsy subjects and -people. Here the focus is on the relationship over time between the self-exiled Scottish painter Henry MacAlpine and the powerful and feared London-based art critic William Nasmyth. After a gap of over four years they meet again—shortly before the outbreak of WW I—on a small island off the coast of Brittany, ostensibly for Nasmyth to be portrayed, again, by the artist. What follows upon his arrival is written down by the painter as a monologue, covering both their careers, some of their associates, the introduction of Post-Impressionism in London, etc., with rancour, tension and a sense of doom rising slowly.
Throughout the account of the days and weeks of sitting, model Nasmyth remains silent, frozen in the required position, not responding to his accuser...
Iain Pears is a keen observer of the art scene and art appreciation. Impressed how he pictured the artist’s poor and puritanical Scottish youth and apprenticeship and subsequent struggles in London to break through. And by his analysis, time and again, of the symbiotic relationship between artist and critic and the permutations of success and failure, incl. suicide. He has used a difficult and challenging format expertly, right to the dramatic ending. Style, background and pace are perfect.
This book contains no easy writing nor easy reading. It could perhaps also be read as a chimera, wet dream, revenge campaign of a madman, locked up safely, but given paper to write on. Or just imagining it all alone on his Breton inland. Surely a novel worth rereading.

The Patience Stone
The Patience Stone
par Atiq Rahimi
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 6,58

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Brilliant, 28 juillet 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Patience Stone (Broché)
The book title refers to the last of Allah’s 99 names, the Patient One, and to a magical black stone that will explode when all one’s sins have been confessed.
A woman nurses her shot and wounded, comatose man, father of her 2 daughters for 16 days, when her account begins, with eye drops, refilling a drip, cleaning him up and reciting (99 times per day) the 16th of Allah’s 99 names. In what follows, and amidst violence and intrusions, she tells her moribund man what she thinks of him. Feeling increasingly desponded and confused by her memories and the ongoing mayhem, she begins to accuse him, then confesses her own sins...
Powerful, authentic and dramatic novella about Afghanistan’ s Stone Age attitudes towards girls and women. It is an indictment of male incompetence, selfishness and stupidity. Ignorant men bad at sex become violent and warlike, against invaders, then among themselves, with no end in sight. All to prove they are men and protectors, but of who or what?
Excellent four-page introduction by Khaled Hosseini. This book won the 2008 Prix Goncourt, France’s top literary prize.

This House is Not for Sale
This House is Not for Sale
par E. C. Osondu
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 11,17

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Very readable & full of ideas, 27 juillet 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : This House is Not for Sale (Broché)
A novel or a collection of short stories? Each brief chapter is named after a person living in or associated with the Family House overseen by Grandpa, a Nigerian entrepreneur who puts its docile occupants to work for him. It is also a famous place of refuge for people who have failed in life. It reads like a fairy tale and contains many elements from Christianity, Islam and traditional beliefs. No character relies on just one belief system to explain death, infertility, sickness, or failure in business or love.
How and why it was built is described full of magic in Ch. 1. The overcrowded Family House and the street noise invoke VS Naipaul’s early novels and works of fellow African writers. Here, E. C.. Osondu, writing in basic English and in fewer words than others, appears to illustrate the Ten Commandments via hard luck stories. And each case story is judged upon by Grandpa and commented on by a chorus of street people like in Ancient Greek theatre, representing public opinion, gossip, persecution and defence. This stylistic inclusion adds an extra dimension to this attractive and challenging novel.
Challenging why? Some readers may find some casually-raised ideas rather more universal. A small example: Osondu describes the practise of appeasing a river goddess via a significant sacrifice before building a bridge. Ismail Kadare described how a human sacrifice in 13th century Albania was meant to guarantee durability. In Indonesia, bulls are sacrificed where earlier, e.g. on the Sumatran island of Nias and other locations, human sacrifices were common. On all three continents “for strength” of construction. Unpretentious and concise.

Sarah's Key
Sarah's Key
par Tatiana De Rosnay
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 11,19

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Timely masterpiece full of emotions, 20 juillet 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Sarah's Key (Broché)
It is quite fitting that this novel starts with a quotation from Irene Nemirovsky’s stunningly disquieting “Suite francaise” about the French army’s cowardice in 1940 and the nation’s widespread apathy, indifference and collaboration later on, esp. regarding its Jews. “Sarah’s Key” is a work of fiction based on facts: 76.000 French Jews were deported and never returned. The Nazi occupiers delegated much of the work to collaborating French authorities. French police played a key role, as did French concierges, bus and train drivers.
The story itself is a particularly dramatic case study and begins with a massive cliff-hanger that runs until halfway into the story. Events in 1942 are italicised, present-time events not, in brief chapters that converge beautifully. The other half concentrates on Julia, the novel’s US-born hero and her quest for more details about the drama that took place in 1942 in the Parisian apartment that came into her French in-law family’s possession soon after a dawn razzia in July 1942. Her reconstruction of events is plausible, but contains one seriously implausible fact or gap that even a seasoned author like Tatiana de Rosnay failed to solve or cover up. Attentive readers will spot it.
Otherwise, it is clearly a book targeting woman readers and female worries and concerns. It tries to bond with working women on both sides of the Atlantic and shuns few clichés re perfumes, sights and sounds of Paris and New York and its males.
Bought my home in Amsterdam in 1985. Until 1942, its neighbourhood was 66% Jewish. In the Netherlands 102.000 Jews were deported, much along the lines described above. I recently agreed to stick a poster with the personalia of the Jewish family who until the summer of 1942 owned or rented my home, to my front window on 4 May, the annual day to commemorate our war dead, for every passerby to see: they are Leizer Sonnenberg (b. Lancut, 8 July 1894), wife Dina Steiner: b. Rzeszow, 16 July 1900 and their children Rachela (1937), Lea (1930) and Toni (1924). Toni was born in Duisburg, Germany, his sisters in Amsterdam. The mother and children were all murdered in Auschwitz on 7 September 1942, most likely upon arrival. The father was killed on 11 February 1944. Michel and Sarah are well described and will be remembered. Please, say a little prayer too for Leizer, Dina and their kids.

A Way in the World: A Novel
A Way in the World: A Novel
Prix : EUR 9,02

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Ultra-rich & hard to summarize, 17 juillet 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : A Way in the World: A Novel (Format Kindle)
This novel retraces in a unique fashion the settlement history of Trinidad, starting with the aboriginal Caribs and Arawaks, but not chronologically. On top of describing Spanish- and British-led immigration of waves of black African slaves (and contract workers from the Indian subcontinent), VS Naipaul (VSN ) also discusses the fate of a few great-grandsons and -daughters who later left Trinidad to pursue a life elsewhere, like senior clerk Blair and the author himself.
Written aged 61 and first published in 1994, VSN reassesses the hopes, ambitions and mistakes of his early writing years. It produces a highly personal book written with zest and great enthusiasm, occasionally a bit shady, opinionated or nasty. It contains nine interdependent stories about Trinidad against the backdrop of the author’s own development in life. VSN has always been an acute observer of the impact of race on human relations. Every one of the stories deals with race and each of them is rich enough to deserve a review of its own.
This sprawling collection is beautifully written, at times overwritten because VSN is unstoppable when he gets going. Many of the stories refer vaguely to his earlier published works, but 3/9 stories are prototypes for books he never wrote. Are they more thrilling than the rest? The middle one is boring. They occupy lots of space and frustrate the flow VSN may have intended. Much of the book reads like true history, personal, Caribbean and African (Benin, Uganda). He presents four (4) key persons who helped shape his worldview and he gives them colourful biographies. Sir Walter Raleigh and the Venezuelan revolutionary Miranda are real, rather shifty historic characters, meticulously researched in archives and books. English author/advisor Foster Morris and peripatetic Caribbean revolutionary Lebrun are constructs, fruits of VSN’s imagination.
Does it matter? It is poetic license and why this work is advertised as a novel. Does it have flow and is it a pleasant read? No. It is super-rich in content, strange characters, dialogues, writing styles and descriptions of landscapes and weather, but unbalanced re lengths of chapters. Its longest—about Trinidad < ten years after Britain chased out the Spaniards—depicts the worst traits of Empire: penury, corruption, impunity, and intrigue and conspiracy from aristocratic French slave-owners exiled by the French Revolution, then from a slave uprising in Haiti. Perhaps its best and most disturbing chapter.
Found this a true challenge to review in so few words.

Passenger 23: An Audible Original Drama
Passenger 23: An Audible Original Drama
Proposé par Audible FR

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Scary and quasi-challenging an industry, 5 juillet 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Passenger 23: An Audible Original Drama (Téléchargement audio)
Fritzek’s scary novels deal with psychopaths long able to disguise their true nature. They are exceptionally well- plotted -paced, -researched and –written, and situated in Germany. This thriller starts in Berlin and quickly turns very international, to a mega cruise liner plying the oceans with many thousands of passengers and crew. With no law enforcement on board, but with lots of underpaid workers, carefully-operating thieves and other nasty guests, what other crimes can be perpetrated with impunity in international waters beyond the reach of mobile phones?
Read this and shiver.
This book’s hero is Martin Schwartz, a deeply-distressed Berlin undercover police detective whose wife and son disappeared five years earlier during a cruise on the ‘Sultan of the Seas’. Ever since, he is prepared to take risks well beyond standard German police protocols. When he receives an urgent call for help, he deserts his job without notice, flies out and books himself on board the very same mega cruise ship in Southampton, with New York as its destination.
Its relentless pace, constant (sub-)plot twists and brief chapters with cliff hangers will delight lovers of fear and horror, some quite disturbing indeed. Otherwise, I found the book’s characters unconvincing, alone or interacting; found it hard to bond with any of them. However, its background is superbly-realistic, based on websites following the cruise industry and law firms that thrive on its mistakes and mishaps. [Its content and fear of lawsuits may have scared EN language publishers from bringing out a paper version. I read it in book form in Dutch translation].
Fritzek’s imagination is boundless, his writing is inspired and rich, his discipline is iron and his helpers many, as always acknowledged and thanked in his trademark ebullient fashion.

The Fourth Deadly Sin
The Fourth Deadly Sin
Prix : EUR 5,90

1 internaute sur 1 a trouvé ce commentaire utile :
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Totally convincing, 1 juillet 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Fourth Deadly Sin (Format Kindle)
One Friday afternoon, a New York psychiatrist tells his psychologist wife to drive ahead to their weekend home, having a late appointment and joining her later in his own car. He never arrives, never even sets off: instead he is found dead in his office, killed with a hammer.
With four or five homicides a day, New York in the mid-1980s was far more violent than today, with the NYPD short of funding, struggling to create a more diverse force. Constant internal political infighting and outside interference prompted Edward X Delaney (EXD) to take early retirement. He is LS’ best ever book character, methodical, compassionate and a judge of character, consuming his creative sandwiches bent over the sink. In this book he is recalled to the NYPD as a consultant to prop up this sensitive murder investigation that was poorly conducted from the start and career-threatening for some senior police grandees.
EXD assembles a task force of two men he trusts, then six more men and women detectives to investigate the six likeliest clients prone to violence, according to the widow. Here I stop and hope today’s new readers will enjoy thrillers written before the age of mobile phones and internet. Excellent plot, some amazing detection and surveillance techniques, believable characters, authentic background and lots and lots of donkeywork. How to do a jigsaw puzzle? First find the four corner pieces, then sort out all pieces with a straight side to make a frame. Use the rest to fill it up. Says Edward X Delaney.
Possibly Lawrence Sanders’ best police procedural.

The Eighth Commandment
The Eighth Commandment
Prix : EUR 5,90

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Great entertainment, 27 juin 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Eighth Commandment (Format Kindle)
Delightful hunt for an ancient Greek coin worth perhaps 350.000 USD in 1988. Due for auction, it vanishes. Who to blame? Mary Lou aka Dunk, because she signed for it when it arrived in its box at the Manhattan auction house where she is the numismatic expert. The box was empty and Dunk is suspended without pay... To clear her name she starts an investigation alongside NYPD detective Al and insurance fraud ace Jack.
Have never read chick lit novels, but if this is an example, the genre has a future. It is very well written from the self-deprecating perspective of a determined beanstalk (six-two) formerly of Des Moines, Iowa, who is keen on telling her story, incl. what she wore of ate at many occasions. So does Jack Reacher, so what? But unlike him, she is quite forthcoming with brandnames too. Well-paced with 9 page chapters, this entertaining crime story puts many people on edge, resulting in three murders. Some strong characterization but Dunk herself is the book’s principal asset.

Tales of the Wolf
Tales of the Wolf
par Lawrence Sanders
Edition : Relié

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Amusing tales about a dirty-minded investigator, 23 juin 2016
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Tales of the Wolf (Relié)
This early (1968) work by Lawrence Sanders is a collection of insurance fraud cases investigated and solved by Wolf Lannihan, hard-drinking, smart and always armed. He works out of the Manhattan office of Triple I, a company headed by a retired USMC lt. general to which insurance companies turn when faced with large claims that do not appear entirely kosher, but cannot be invalidated by their own experts. Sanders had impressive forebears like Raymond Chandler, whose influence is clear, and unfortunately, Mickey Spillane, hugely popular in the 1950s, forgotten today.
Lawrence Sanders confirmed his writing talent again and again In later police procedurals and crime novels that sold tens of millions of copies. These stories/cases are well paced and expertly written. There is smart thinking, plenty of legwork, benefits gained from mainframe computers and statistics, lots of violence and intimations of sex. The tales of the wolf are perfect entertainment and good teaching material for aspirant claims investigators. Perfect early work? Perhaps. Why? Because in this day and age, one aspect of Wolfie back in 1968 is unacceptable: he leers at women and worse, touches them when possible and hello, they responded then and there as they never would today, in the office, homes, hotel rooms. Choose your own word for someone like him.
My paperback copy stems from 1988. Only a dumb publisher would reprint this book again without a cautioning foreword explaining that works of reflect reflect the age in which they were created.
PS: Lawrence Sanders (1920-98) has disowned this book later on. My 1986 copy of “The Fourth Deadly Sin” lists “The Anderson Tapes” (1968) as his debut. Wikipedia says it was published in 1970 and is silent about this book.

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