Tag Archives: non-fiction

French morals were shocking!

Mme de Pompadour by Nancy Mitford

Written in 1954 – and rather shocking in its time with its somewhat racy descriptions of life in France and mistresses and the arrangements that held between noble husbands and wives.

According to her biography she was born in 1904 and was educated at home and knew little except about French and riding. She was one of 6 society sisters with very distinctive personalities and views on life.  She managed a book shop and lived in Paris and Versailles – hence her extensive knowledge of the palace there.

During her lifetime she was a celebrated writer and journalist/columnist and her books sold extremely well.

But I personally did not find her style of writing one that I could get on with. I found that her content in this book focussed, for me, too much on etiquette within the Court and that her constant re-naming of people as they acquired new titles confused me. I could have kept a list of who was who but normally I don’t need to. If I need to, I find it spoils the joy of reading a story. I also found that she was not clear enough for me in the relationships people had with each other – if you put the book down you forgot so much that you needed to re-start the whole book…

Was Mme de Pompadour an interesting character? Probably. She certainly had a lot of prejudice from the Court to put up with being not from the nobility but trade. And she lost so many babies due to her hectic lifestyle as she needed to keep the King constantly amused. She was clearly intelligent and witty and inventive and might have been quite a powerhouse in modern life, but was very constrained of course by her time – and by being a mistress rather than a wife to the king. And she was rather pretty too with great clothes!

A portrait of the marquise de Pompadour

I also felt that the author indulged her own interests and was not writing for the average reader – she was writing for Society and those who were interested in these minutiae of life and I felt that it really was a good example of a book of its era.

I am going to quote from the book here which is something I don’t often do, but there were a number of statements which I felt were key illustrations of her own thought and way in which she viewed life.

In every satisfactory union, it was the man who kept the upper hand’

the men were properly exercised and properly fed; since man is, after all an animal, he can rather easily be happy under these circumstances.

Following this statement there is a whole age of rhapsody on the delights of hunting – ‘the relaxed nerves and physical well being’ that results ‘can never be forgotten’.

Whilst they clearly come from her personal background I find them strange to put into this book. They definitely don’t sit at all well with me!

1 star for this book.

Bits of me are falling apart – or not….

Author = William Leith

Dec 30, 2012  
3 of 5 stars false

bookshelves: f2f-book-club-reads

Read in October, 2012 — I own a copy – posted on GoodReads but not my blog – hence updating now.
An interesting book – possibly more for the ‘boys’ than the ‘girls’ as they may empathise more. The title sort of tells the story and we had hoped that it would be more humorous than it turned out to be.
That said, very interesting collection of random thoughts well written into a rather short story of his day or his current – rather depressing life.
You could argue that a; he deserves to fall apart after the life he has led b; that he really should go to a doctor as the bits that are falling apart could be serious – but c; he is a coward, and d; perhaps his health is so bad that he is going to die young so why bother?
Some people liked his writing style – the author is a journalist for several good newspapers and has published before.

Should you read this? Try a sample chapter or two to make up your own mind. It is probably quite good for a book group as it certainly provides lots of opportunity for discussion!

So only read this if you don’t mind being made somewhat depressed about the state of society and the world. And not if you are a hypochondriac – which of course, the author might be, but I doubt it. Certainly not an upbeat book!

Books read and still to read: reviews

Book reviews:

my grading system: 1* to 5*

1* Ok if you must and have nothing better to read

2* well there are better

2.5* readable and you might like this or you might be indifferent

3* this is quite good and probably worth following a series

4* now you should read this

5* rarely given as quite outstanding

‘Passions of the Dead’ by LJ Sellers.

I like these ‘fun’ lightweight crime/detective novels as a contrast to the more complex novels of authors such as Elizabeth George and Patricia Cornwell. There is not as much complexity in either the characterisation or the plot, but then I am paying either nothing a they are free Kindle books, or very little – I have a rule not to pay more than £2 for an author I do not know and respect as having something valuable to contribute to my library – which is quite extensive already…

That said, the series about Detective Jackson by LJ Sellers are quite well written and this particular novel had a good twist in the ending that I didn’t see coming. I do find it very difficult to imagine how life must be for Americans and me if I lived in the USA – due to the medical situation and lack of the NHS. We would have been bankrupted many years ago and  the issues that come from owing medical bills provides good fodder for authors including LJ Sellers in this story. It puts a lot of pressure on characters and gives the authors many twists to play with.

I have also just finished ‘Dying for Justice’ the previous in the series and I particularly like the character Lisa Evans – she shows promise. Clearly other readers thought this too as she has just been given her own novel – she is the main protagonist in ‘The Gauntlet Assassin’. It is a pity that the girlfriend Kera in the Detective Jackson novels seems to be about to be written off, she added a nice element to the characterisation of Jackson. Killing the coma victim was unnecessary I thought and the parents of Jackson needed more detailed exploration as to their reactions to the infidelity and subsequent pregnancy.

2.5 *

A much more serious book was the one I read for Book Club: ‘Address Unknown’ by Kressman Taylor. This has been called the best short story ever written and the ending – if you think through the implications – is horrific. The ending led to quite an intense discussion at book club – was it the right or moral thing to do? Knowing as the perpetrator did, what would happen because of his actions, even though he, himself was across the ocean from these actions.

The story is a set of letters written to each other by two friends. It was set in 1934 and written in 1938. When published in the US in 1938 it caused a storm. Within 10 days of [publication it had sold out and was picked up by Reader’s Digest to distribute. Although it was published in the UK in 1939, the start of the war meant that it was not generally read. It eventually came to Europe and the UK in 1999 and again was a best seller.

You can read this book in less than an hour but the story will live with you for a very long time and the moral question of the ending will make you think and question action and reaction and do the means justify the ends for quite some time.

Highly recommended. 5*

 

Also read: ‘Fallen’ by Karin Slaughter

This is a great contrast in terms of complexity of plot and characterisation and you can see why she is such a best selling author.  This another in the special agent Faith Mitchell series and she has moved on with a young baby and still working with Will Trent – who is dyslexic with some of the difficulties that this condition brings with it.

The surprise of course is cleverly brought to light and I certainly didn’t suspect it. Whilst a little bllod-thirsty and gun oriented for me, I still enjoyed the style of writing and the plot and found it difficult to put down. 4*

 

Still to read: new additions to the list!

I am a sucker for good bookshops especially second-hand as I can justify that the books are cheap and it is good recycling. So I bought some new books last week:

‘the Brutal Art’ by Jesse Kellerman – this was on the recommendation of Jackie – now who Jackie was I am not sure, but the book had a cardboard cover with her review on it – which said:

: Why – an investigation into four brutal murders 40 years old is linked to the discovery of some weird artwork. Who for – anyone who enjoyed The Interpretation of Murder.

Now as I like art and really enjoyed The Interpretation of Murder. It sold it to me.

Also Mum’s book: Faye Kellerman’s Hangman.

 

Finally my new Elizabeth George paperback arrived from Amazon: Believing the Lie.

So lots to read and then there’s the book club book:

‘Bits of Me are Falling Apart: Dark Thoughts from the Middle Years’ by William Leith

Oh well …