Harriet’s Summer Reading

 Posted by on September 26, 2012  Uncategorized
Sep 262012

Harriet is going to jump start things here by sharing with us some of her summer reading.

In One Person, John Irving

I did not catch the rhythm of this book at once, and maybe not at all. The language is partly difficult, and how the author tells the story is complex–meandering, passing people interconnecting and mentioning everything small, and “must be noticed” parts to be followed up sometime later in the thick book. Phew!

I chose the book because it is thick. I wanted a book that lasted. Well, it did last. But not in a very memorable way. I do not need to read this book again.

The story is educational in how it presents the political and moral conditions of society in the time the story takes place. And it is educational in ways I do not think I need details about, really. I do not like forensic reports in crime either, which requires a similar level of paying attention to detail. The book highlights something that is unimportant in some areas and in some countries.

However, I like the great theme and the huge aspect of love and friendship across gender, age, and personal differences that shine through in this book.

If you ask me if I want to join a fan club of this author, I will postpone my answer until further notice…

Oh, and the very depressed Norwegian character is not very common. We leave that mood to the Finnish people mostly. 😉

Jen’s Two Cents

I know the feeling of wanting books to linger, and I suppose I sometimes choose to tackle lengthy books at times when I have ample opportunity to read, but I can’t say I’ve ever chosen a book just because it’s thick. The long ones I undertake have something other than length to recommend them.

What if I selected a thick book and didn’t like it? I tend to slog my way through books I don’t like simply because it feels like a failure to not finish.

Does anyone else deliberately choose a book because it’s long?

Last Night in Twisted River, also by John Irving

This I liked very much when I read it earlier this spring. I like pioneering and stories of how people adapt to new situations forced upon them or due to their own incompetence, with severe consequences at times…if that make sense. Sometimes people are easy and simple and do things that have vast impact on their life. In this book it is like this in several ways.

It was a thick and good book.

Jen’s Two Cents

Oh, I like pioneering stories, too. And I like John Irving (The World According to Garp, A Prayer for Owen Meany). I will look for these two Irving books when I next go to town.

Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel, by Jeannette Walls

I liked the language at once–how the author caught my interest and curiosity with the first and the rest of her sentences.

I really wanted to know how these people and this feisty, brave woman worked hard, how she adjusted her life situation to improve her skills. Only in her teaching in the last year at work did she improve her skills and adapt. This weakness reflects only how it is to be human and is not a character fault by the author as such.

The book is set in the early times in the USA, and I find it very interesting.

The woman in the book is based on the grandmother of the author. I really like that the book is a story and not a biography/documentary. I like that the facts and the documentary parts are part of our old tradition of storytelling, you make sure that something is true, and you embellish it while telling.

In my opinion, the author writes descriptions that makes me smell the dry sand, the earth lacking water and the rain when it comes, and the trousers (unwashed jeans to make them more sustaining) were almost in my nose, but this was harder to imagine, really. She writes so well, I can see the people the character meets and how they react towards this strong and strange woman.

I wished this book was longer.

This woman can survive anything. I wish we had such role models today. Really!

Jen’s Two Cents

Description. As a writer, I consider description a personal weakness. It’s something I have to think about, and it’s often something that I add in revisions because it’s lacking in the rough draft. It doesn’t pour out of me as it does from some people.

In reading description, I find a little goes a long way. I remember early in my recreational-reading days (that would be my early twenties) being presented with a page-and-a-half of margin-to-margin description. I thought it was awful. My mind bolted around line three or four. It was from a book by an author of some prestige, and I wondered if I was alone in thinking it dreadful. It was the opening of the book, for goodness’s sake!

It was a sort of defining moment: A moment when I decided what kind of a reader I was. If I had been a kid presented with that as an early reading experience, I might have concluded that all books were like that and not at all for me.

I’m intrigued by the praise for the language. That, the time period, and the based-on-a-real-experience are all reasons I’ll add this to my To Be Read list, too.

Dark Matter, by Michelle Paver

First of all, this title seams wrong because the title in Norwegian, “Mørketid,” = polar night, or as we all use it when wintertime is long and daylight short: “The Dark time”. The English title seems a bit about something else. The cover is also better on the Norwegian book, seen from both the meaning of the title and as an artist.

Norwegian book cover for Dark MatterI like this book because it is about going out on an expedition and to Svalbard in the Arctic area. Every Norwegian goes on expeditions. It is odd if you do not have some heavy nature achievements on your CV (Curriculum Vitae)!

The book is quiet and written as if the author knows this experience in her own frozen fingers and bones. The theme about one little man in darkness is recognizable, but not so easily understood. We can look for monsters under our beds when we are children and know that the grownups will fix things if there really would have been monsters there… But how to be alone in this very cold and totally dark environment and not be affected by it somehow?

Would I go with my head in a bucket? Would I go crazy? Would I see visions and hallucinate? Would I survive as a person not affected at all by the vastness of being on my own and still not significant in the big picture? Would I survive by routines?

I know I will not go on such an expedition! I would rather walk in the mountains or forest and camp.
But the book is teasing me about what we, a great many of us, see as typically Norwegian. As an ordinary human, who will cope with such conditions?

Is it like climbing high mountains a bit lower than Mt. Everest: You really do not know in advance who would get mountain sickness and who will not be affected.

It is a small and quick read, but this book lasted longer than “In One Person.”

Jen’s Two Cents

I think Norwegians and Alaskans have similar views of and regard for outdoor adventures. And this sounds a bit like caretaking. ‘Nuff said. I’m sold.

Les Yeux Jaunes des Crocodiles (Le Livre De Poche) (French Edition), by Katherine Pancol

It is about people written in a French quirky manner that I like very much. It is both ordinary and not so at the same time. It is feeble and weak personalities and strong, mean ones.

The main character is a woman struggling with her life, with believing in herself, her inner self. And a lot of people around her make it hard to be her, and a few give her blooming possibilities.

I like the way the characters in the book are normal by way of being a bit odd and have secrets that are important to keep or not. I like the language. I also like that I get provoked by how some of the people interact or solve or don’t solve their problems. It is an advanced feel-good book, even though that is not giving the book really good credit. It is not a “kiosk book” as we tend to call easily-written literature, with lots of love and happiness and some conflicts. Not at all.

I hope she writes another book about this woman’s life and the confetti of people that surround her.

Jen’s Two Cents

WHAT???! You read in French, too?! Harriet, you are a language over-achiever. I think that’s way cool!

If there isn’t currently an English version–my quick search did not find one–I read that one is forthcoming.

So what did you read this summer that you really enjoyed? Harriet and I both want to know.

  6 Responses to “Harriet’s Summer Reading”

  1. Oh, no, No, no, I do not read books in French. Not yet:-) I only occasionaly read ” how to learn French” in French, studying grammar and learning new words.

    the book ” the yellow eyes of the croccodil” is written in a Frensh quirky manner/ style. This is different from quirky Brittan style!

    And she has written the book nb two ” the valse of the turtle” I think I glued an image of it to you, but I forgot to write about it. It follows book one directly, with just some heartbeets in time differnce. Cool.

    • So you read an English edition? When I looked this book up, I didn’t find an English edition. I found French and Bulgarian editions. Or perhaps I’m going nuts! I guess I need to look again.

      I’m curious how French-quirky differs from British-quirky. I’m pretty familiar with British-quirky, but not so much French-quirky. Do you have any other recommendations for French-quirky books?

      • Both the books are translated to Norwegian.

        Two more French authors:

        1* “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” [Paperback]Muriel Barbery (Author), Alison Anderson (Translator)
        This book Is to me a treasure, and it was a challenge to read. It has a great many referances to cultural differences that we do not have, but that I somehow recognonize when in Paris, France. Sort of. We have a prowerb: ” One should not judge the dog by its hair, or the tramp by his rags”. It summs it up. We see, but we do not observe. We see what we want to/ are used to see that confirms what we already think or belive. And surprises passes by because we are ignorant of them.

        The other great part in this book is the refernces to other books. It is of great importans for the elite to have red certain books and seen certain movies, theater opera and such. We even have a word for this: ” dannelse” and I did not find any translation for it in english. You go to school to learn a lot, and to broaden your horizon further, you read the rest of what is neccesary to be really educated. This book has books insde it, like the Russian Babouska doll.

        All in all it is about how to live a life that is your own without anybody interferinng or really knowing anything about it. It is about friendships. And it has quirky characters and way to do things.

      • 2*
        ” To Count Pigeons” by Marie-Sabine Roger
        I did not find an English version of this book.
        A young man meets an elderly lady. This meeting is an eye opener for both of them. This is a slow book, no action or car racing sceens. And yet something big is happening. And someone learns to read, and understand the meaning in the written words and the spoken ones. I do not remember if it is querky. But it is French. And heartwarming

  2. ” One should not judge the dog by its hair, or the tramp by his rags”

    …or a book by its cover. Fun!

    “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” is a great title.

    Yesterday, I ran into an interesting case of people recognizing only what confirms what they already know. We’re watching a Teaching Company course, “Chaos.” The phenomenon was “discovered” by a mathematician but ignored for seventy years because no one recognized the significance. It was too far out of the realm of what scientists knew and understood.

    I wonder what sorts of things I miss every day because I’m not looking more closely or thinking more openly.

    Is The Elegance of the Hedgehog fiction or nonfiction? It sounds like a nonfiction self-help or advice book. I tend to avoid those–I don’t like being told how to live–but I like the idea of that theme in fiction. Hmm. Funny! How’s that for an example of a closed mind?!

    To Count Pigeons: I am strongly in favor of “slow” books without action and car races but where big things happen. I like these kinds of movies, too. In fact, last night I finished just such a book. I will tell you about it in another post.

    • The Elegance of the Hedgehog Is a fiction, a story. Not at all a book about do this and be happy, live this way, eat this stuff and be helaty, think theese thoughts and be positive. Not at all.

      It is about people living in a fancy building with expencive apartments. On the ground floor the “keeper of the gate” lives. This is a low status occupation, and a person in such a job is not highly regarded, in France. Once a maid, always a maide. But this woman has her own life behind the walls, that she protects from the others.

      What I ment earlier, is that the template we regard things from, may not change if we do not obsereve more than we see, and open our minds to view things and people in other perspective. It is like Cindy Looper is singing: ” I see your tru colours shining through” ( spelling stumbeling alert!) that the people in the building are missing. The book is written in an intriquing way, I became interested and curiouse of this woman and her choises. The language and the way the story os written captured me as well. To be a thin book, I still think about it, a year after reading it :-) i whish I could tell stories this way

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