Archives de catégorie : author

what I have read : Isabel Allende : Ines of my soul

Atacama desert, Chile, 2018, Sylvie GE

Isabel Allende, Ines of my soul, Fourth Estate, 2006, 313 p. I found this book at the Nelson second hand book fair last year. This is the first book by Isabel Allende that I read. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised by her skill in telling this particular story. It remains to be seen if her other books are just as well written. I felt a real affection from Allende for Inès de Suarez, a seamstress born in Plasencia, Extramedura, Spain in 1507, who embarked for the New World at the age of thirty to join her husband, whom she never found. She instead became a conquistadora who was able to earn the respect of those she met. In 1538, she moved to Cuzco where, as a soldier’s widow, she received a piece of land and « Indians », as the natives of South America were called in those days. Shortly after, she met Pedro de Valdivia, the conquistador of Chile. She becomes his mistress and accompanies him in his long campaign of conquest.

Reading this book, I remembered the beautiful times I spent in South America. In fact, I would have liked to have read this book before travelling there, because Isabel Allende explains quite well the dynamic existing at the time, between the local populations and the Spaniards, the motivations of the conquistadores, their behavior towards « Indians « . One can feel the great respect she feels for the values ​​of the peoples of the territories where she lived, their absolute desire for freedom, their contempt for pain and death, their total incomprehension of the concept of land or human property, their understanding of nature, and many other things. She tells in details the story of Lautaro, of the Mapuche people who, according to what we know of him, would have been captured by the Spaniards when he was very young to take care of the stables and the horses of Valdivia. . After escaping, he led the charge with the Araucanians against the Spaniards. He later captured Valdivia, which he executed a month later. As for Inès Suarez, she was the mistress of Valdivia until the day he had to undergo a trial in Lima, at the end of which he agreed to drop Suarès (and find her a husband) in exchange for his own freedom. In 1549, Suarès married the captain of Valdivia, Rodrigo de Quiroga, with whom she then spent happy days devoting herself to charitable works until her death. We feel Isabel Allende’s affection for all the characters appearing in the 313 pages of her fictionalized story, but based on true documents, which she knows very well. I liked this book enough to make me want to go to the library to see if I could find another Allende book there.

Literary gossips

Botanical garden, Nelson 2021, Sylvie GE
I received two books as a gift, first the latest John Banville, April in Spain, in which the character of Quirke, part of the detective fiction series written by Banville under the assumed name Benjamin Black, returns with a new adventure in Spain. Reviews are generally good and the publication of this book prompted an interview with the rather elusive author. He said writers are monsters taking everything around them to write (okay enough with that), whatever needs to be done  for a good paragraph! He lives in his bubble away from controversy and praise towards him, in love with the silence created by the pandemic. The other book, ordered, but not yet arrived, the latest Jonathan Franzen. I had liked Correction very much, but hadn't read anything from him since. He too lives more or less isolated from the world, sharply criticized when he refused the invitation of Oprah Winfrey to appear on her bookclub (he was considered quite snobbish), which would have actually made him a lot of money. As for me, someone who loves birds as much as he does, cannot be that bad. At the moment, I am reading the lates Patricia Lockwood, who is on the shortlist for the booker prize (I got it from the library which, in itself, is a miracle). So far, I like what I read.  Finally, I have no idea how I came across this information about Lionel Shriver, whom I have spoken about twice on this blog (a book critical of the American healthcare system and another more or less about l 'money), which I like sometimes, for some reason, and sometimes not at all. In 2013, her exercise routine consisted of 130 push-ups, 500 sit-ups and 3,000 jumping jacks. This is how she ruined her knees among other things. I have to thank her for showing me what not to do.

What I have read (Crime and punishment)

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (his best-known book). A book that goes well with short and dark  winter days in  the Antipodes (434 pages of very small print, bought at the annual book fair in  Nelson). The title Journey to the End of Conscience, Guilt and Remorse would also suit this book very well. The story revolves around the main character, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikoff, a student who coldly murders the money-lender with whom he has dealt, but is  gripped with remorse afterwards. The remainder of the book is an unparalleled introspection of the human mind that has not aged in any way since its publication in 1866. After a certain number of pages, I had the impression that he had said everything there had to say on the matter and was wondering what was to come next, and that's what impressed me the most, he uses a seemingly minor detail or character that he introduced previously to resume his thinking and continue the examination from all possible angles of guilt, remorse and conscience in 19th century Russia. If the depths of the human soul seem universal, certain aspects of the behavior of the characters, on the other hand, seemed very different to me, in particular the sense of honor or the way of interacting and of gauging (or judging) each other the others, which portrays better the century and the country of the author. A very good reading choice for those who want to read a classic, but avoid it  if you want something light. It took me several weeks to read it, because of the heaviness of the reflexion (and also because I read less quickly in English).

what I have read

I  have  discovered this year ( totally banal)  is that the impression I get from reading a few paragraphs of a book varies greatly depending on my state of mind. Until  recently, I thought that the variation in my reactions (often initially negative, then positive) came from the evolution of my literary tastes (which became more refined over time, or at least that is what I thought), but I realized that it is simply the state of mind I am in when I read a few paragraphs from a book (usually from an author I know little or nothing about).

Toni Morrison. The bluest eyes. The story of a young black girl  dreaming  of having blue eyes, but also the history of an entire community. Published in 1970, Morrison’s first novel is a masterpiece, which has not aged a bit. The way in which she controls the narrative makes it  hard to believe it’s a first novel, . Of note is the documentary on Netflix, about Morrison, who was also the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. Just loved it !

Anne Enright. The Actress. Published in 2020, the Irish author’s latest book didn’t bring me as much joy as The Gathering  and The Green Road (winner of the Man Booker). In her latest book, she tells the story from the point of view of  an actress’ daughter, who is looking back at her flawed mother and the influence it had on her life. It is very well written and there are some moments of joy,  but I had a harder time getting interested in it. I usually find the Irish cultural context very interesting and, like many Irish authors, Enright  knows how to tell a story, but I prefer when she delves into family stories, where she is unbeatable.

Hilary Mantel. The Mirror and the Light. It is the third  installment of the trilogy about the life of Thomas Cromwell, published in 2020.  I thought this book,  that impressed me even  more than the first two would not only be in the running for this year’s Booker, but would win for the third time (which would have been unprecedented), but it did not happen. I read her latest book after reading  Giving up the ghost (2003), Mantel’s memoir. Is it the reason I had  the impression I was reading about Cromwell through a medium ? Maybe, but  it really felt  like I was being taken inside Cromwell’s head, and that’s her greatest talent.  Anyway, a masterpiece  again. It was her writing that fascinated me this time, rather than the character. I must admit, however,  that there was a little too much torture towards the end, which nonetheless   did not spoil my pleasure.

Ian McEwan. Solar . This is McEwan’s second or third book that I read, the one I remember is  Atonement, which became a film starring Keira Knightley  and James  McAvoy  (not as good as the book, but my male friends tell me it doesn’t matter because Knightley is soooo beautiful {difficult to say otherwise}) and  Amsterdam  (which I vaguely remember). According to The Guardian, McEwan specializes in one-dimensional, often scientific, characters. In this book published in 2010, the British author puts himself in the shoes of a man who obtained a Nobel Prize in Physics at a young age, which serves as a pretext to do almost nothing for  the rest of his life, except womanising, drinking and eating at the expenses of others. McEwan seems to take pleasure in portraying an abject and grotesque personality, describing at length  his concerns about chips and alcohol, in short, this book did not particularly interest me, although McEwan convincingly demonstrates  his understanding of physics (not enough to grab my attention). Luckily I bought this book at the used book fair!