Monthly Archives: August 2013

Paris – Edward Rutherfurd

Paris - Edward Rutherfurd

Paris – Edward Rutherfurd

I was in Paris I had to buy this one!

Here is the blurb …

City of love. City of splendour. City of terror. City of dreams. Inspired by the haunting, passionate story of the city of lights, this epic novel weaves a gripping tale of four families across the centuries: from the lies that spawn the noble line of de Cygne to the revolutionary Le Sourds who seek their destruction; from the Blanchards whose bourgeois respectability offers scant protection against scandal to the hard-working Gascons and their soaring ambitions. Over hundreds of years, these four families are bound by forbidden loves and marriages of convenience; dogged by vengeance and murderous secrets; torn apart by the irreconcilable differences of birth and faith, and brought together by the tumultuous history of their city. Paris bursts to life in the intrigue, corruption and glory of its people. Beloved author of Sarum, London and New York, Edward Rutherfurd illuminates Paris as only he can: capturing the romance and everyday drama of the men and women who, in two thousand years, transformed a humble trading post on the muddy banks of the Seine into the most celebrated city in the world.

This novel provides a great overview of the history of Paris – I enjoyed using Google maps and seeing the relationship of places. I found the story quite compelling if somewhat contrived. Particularly the section set around World War 2 – you just know it is going to end badly for some of the characters. This novel is long, but I never found it slow or had to force myself to continue. It is an easy way of gaining a bit of historical knowledge and I recommend it to anyone interested in Paris or thinking about travelling to Paris.

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The Summer Without Men – Siri Hustvedt

The Summer Without Men - Siri

The Summer Without Men – Siri Hustvedt

I read this while in Paris (how exotic that sounds). I enjoyed it and will read more of Ms Hustvedt’s work. It was a slow moving story more about character development than plot.

Here is the description …

Mia Fredrickson, the wry, vituperative, tragic comic, poet narrator of The Summer Without Men, has been forced to reexamine her own life. One day, out of the blue, after thirty years of marriage, Mia’s husband, a renowned neuroscientist, asks her for a “pause.” This abrupt request sends her reeling and lands her in a psychiatric ward. The June following Mia’s release from the hospital, she returns to the prairie town of her childhood, where her mother lives in an old people’s home. Alone in a rented house, she rages and fumes and bemoans her sorry fate. Slowly, however, she is drawn into the lives of those around her—her mother and her close friends,”the Five Swans,” and her young neighbor with two small children and a loud angry husband—and the adolescent girls in her poetry workshop whose scheming and petty cruelty carry a threat all their own.
From the internationally bestselling author of What I Loved comes a provocative, witty, and revelatory novel about women and girls, love and marriage, and the age-old question of sameness and difference between the sexes.

This is a novel about women of all different ages: from Mia (our narrator), her mother and her mother’s friends, her daughter and the adolescent girls she teaches. I have to say, as a mother of girls, I loved the section where she got the girls to write from each others’ perspective.

Mia’s husband requests a pause (which turns out to be his lab partner!) and Mia spirals into a break down. After she leaves hospital (yes it was that kind of break down) she returns to her childhood town for the summer to teach poetry to a small group of girls. She plans to spend time with her aging mother – who lives in an old people’s home – and simply be. I am sure that sounds like a very simple story, but it is packed full of all sorts of fascinating bits: information on creative writing, how to read Jane Austen, the different stages in the lives of women. This novel is written for people who love to read. I know that sounds quite strange, but it conveys the joy (education, sense of connection, etc) that comes with reading.

More reviews …

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/mar/12/siri-hustvedt-summer-without-men-review

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/books/woman-back-from-nervous-breakdown/story-e6frg8nf-1226018180046

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Filed under Fiction, Recommended