Thursday, November 3, 2016

Recent Reading, Armchair Travel and Mystery Novels and Marriage . . .

I'm determined to post another Ferrante ReadAlong entry soon, but I've hardly been a monogamous reader -- and my travel status tends to encourage Vacation Reading. If the move into the year's darker days has you looking for comfortable armchair reading -- or if, in the southern hemisphere, you're looking for a book to enjoy in your hammock or on the beach, I've got a few titles that might satisfy:

For armchair travel, always a pleasure in my book (pun, ha! not intended!), you might enjoy Dianne Hales' La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language, particularly if you're interested in language-learning in general, in Italy and its language(s) in particular, and even more, if you find the history of a language fascinating, as I do. Hales' book wraps the history and culture of the Italian language up in a delightful memoir, although if you're looking for more personal anecdotes and fewer facts about opera or Italian literature, it might not be the travel memoir for you. But if you're looking for a fairly erudite, yet entertaining, visit to Italy with a sustained look at its history and culture, she throws in enough romance and gossip to make learning fun.

I know that many of you like to do your armchair-travelling via the mystery genre, and since we've already flown to Italy with Ms. Hales. . . . I borrowed Michael Dibdin's Vendetta from the bookshelves of the home we're renting in Bordeaux, and as soon as I was a chapter or two in, I wondered why I hadn't gobbled up all the Aurelio Zen mysteries back when I first came across them. I've read one or two, but I'm thinking now that I'll work my way through the backlist once I get home. The library is sure to have copies. Interesting, reading this title, first published in 1990, and noticing how quickly we've come to expect our fictional detectives to use a cellphone. Poor Aurelio gets himself into a situation which requires rescue, and he desperately needs a phone booth. . . That plot device wouldn't work anymore to generate tension, would it?
Zen is an intriguing character -- a bachelor at this point in the series, although that could change, he otherwise shares some traits with Donna Leon's Brunetti, and if he ever takes the train from Rome up to Venice, perhaps they might meet. I think they'd approve of each other.
I'd recommend this one, not only for the writing quality, the likeable character, and the entertaining plot, but also -- especially? -- because I loved walking the streets of Rome again with AZ.

And I still haven't made it to Venice, but I'm currently walking its streets with Commissario Brunetti, my hold on the series' seventh title, Noble Radiance, having come available at the Vancouver Public Library and technology miraculously delivering it to my iPad here in Bordeaux. Just getting started on this one. . .

Before that, my Hold on Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies worked its way to the top of the VPL list, and I downloaded and read that over several very pleasurable, lazy hours this past weekend.  I'm recommending this one quite highly -- it's engaging and entertaining at the level of what we used to consider bedside-table reading. But it's also very clever, flipping itself inside out at a certain point to reveal something very surprising about (a) marriage. And stylistically, it's a delight, full of surprises at so many levels, with brilliant imagery and sharp metaphors. Mostly, I love what it does to/with the notion of a conventional long-term marriage, lulling you into thinking one thing and then. . . But no, the second half of the book deserves to be approached without preconceptions. No spoilers. Let me know if you read it or if you've read it. This would be such a great Book Club choice -- I can imagine long, wine-fuelled discussions.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm heading back to Venice with a certain uxorious Commissioner (whom I've only just discovered has a beloved older brother). . . it's the only way I'm going to be able to ignore the loud growls from my tummy, being incited into howls by the kitchen fragrances of Pater's Boeuf Bourgignon, apparently not ready for another half hour . . .

Have you read any of these titles? Or could you recommend other related ones -- in the spirit of those bookstore signs that read "If you liked____________, you might also like____________"? Or perhaps just catch us up with what you've been reading since we last chatted.

15 comments:

  1. Brunetti and I are very old friends. What a wonderful series written by Donna Leon. I'm about to embark on her most recent. The atmosphere of Italy just oozes out of every word. As does the prosecco. Have you read the Sicilian detective by Andrea Camilleri. His books are gritty and fast paced. Quite different to Brunetti. Enjoy your holiday reading. I'm off to finish Peter Robinsons latest. When the music's over. It's excellent :) B

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really is a wonderful series Leon has written -- I feel fortunate to have come to them rather late, so that I still have a few thousand satisfying pages ahead. Yes, I've read Camilleri's mysteries, although only a few so far. And I've read all of Robinson, can't wait to pick up When the Music's Over!!

      Delete
  2. I met Lauren Groff last year at VIWF and read Fates and Furies last year in Oaxaca.
    Marriages can often be surprising. All of my reserves have come arrived at once but I am about to start Black Apple by Joan Crate. I saw Joan this year at the Writers' Festival. She taught Canadian Literature and Creative Writing Red Deer College. There are so many books to read!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, surprises are always possible when another person is concerned, and Groff makes it clear that can happen even with people we're sure we know. Next year's VIWF -- hope I'll be there!
      Haven't read anything by Crate for quite a long time -- hope you enjoy Black Apple

      Delete
  3. Funny, I just discovered Brunetti's brother as well, in The Girl of His Dreams. I am always excited to find a library copy of one of Leon's books with a map of Venice in it, and to that end borrowed Toni Sepeda's 'Brunetti's Venice: Walks with the City's Best-Loved Detective'. It is a series of maps with directions on walks interspersed with excerpts from the books.

    Ross King has a new book out on Monet and it seems Clemenceau figures in it quite prominently...art history and political history together...swoon! I might need to make a trip to the bookstore for this...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Synchronicity! Had you met him before (in the earlier Noble Radiance) and forgotten? or is this a first encounter because you skipped the earlier title? or just a meeting anew?
      I'll look for that book -- it would be fun, whenever I get to Venice, to follow Brunetti's footsteps.
      And oh, that Ross King is a must! Would make a great Christmas gift, wouldn't it? And it sounds as if it's right up your history-buff alley.

      Delete
    2. Georgia,if you're still looking for non-fiction history book-there is" Europe:The Struggle for Supremacy" by Brendon Simms. The review in the Guardian describes it" right-wing and wrong headed",but still...
      Just published here
      D.

      Delete
  4. I've read a few of the Zen books and also watched the 3-episode tv series, which I believe someone mentioned to you on your other blog. You simply MUST see it, it is absolutely gorgeous - Rome, settings, clothes, people, Rufus Sewell - all of it!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm going to find and watch this, for sure! Sounds rather sumptuous, perfect winter comfort viewing. . .

      Delete
  5. I adored Fates and Furies. And I have a stack of books I must plow through or lose them back to the stacks. I can't quite predict which pages will be turned first.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some of her sentences! And that wry, bracketed voice. And the images -- I was particularly struck by the image of the faces of friends and family coming into view of the grieving widow carp-like, mouths moving, then dropping back out of sight again...

      Delete
  6. I'm so glad that you've liked Fates and Furies!
    Just started Adicie's Americanah. I like it very much so far
    Dottoressa

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I found Americanah engaging, very thought-provoking, tough at times but very worth it. Hope you continue to like it.

      Delete
  7. Interesting. I did not like Fates and Furies one bit. The style seemed to distance the reader, or at least this one, terribly. Or maybe it's just my general trauma around long marriages...See, this is why I can never join book clubs;).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmmm, I suppose I felt somewhat distanced, but in a way that amused, for me, and as I said above, I was quite delighted, regularly, just to observe style and structure. The best book clubs accommodate -- thrive on, even -- dissension in the ranks!

      Delete