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review 2019-03-24 18:24
An Armenian Sketchbook by Vasily Grossman
An Armenian Sketchbook - Vasily Grossman

This is a vivid little book, as much a platform for the author’s musings on a variety of subjects as it is a travelogue. Grossman was a Jewish writer in the Soviet Union who had just had his masterwork confiscated by the authorities, when he traveled to Armenia to work on a “translation” of an Armenian novel. (He was actually cleaning up a literal translation into literary Russian, and did not in fact speak Armenian at all.) This short book is more essay collection than straight travel narrative; Grossman reflects on the landscape, on various people he meets and experiences he has, and on aspects of life in general that interest him.

At the beginning I enjoyed this book, appreciating the immediacy of Grossman’s writing and the thought-provoking subjects he touches on, but I found myself losing patience as I went on, and ultimately this book fell on the back burner.

Here’s an example of one of the passages that struck me, from a section in which Grossman wonders why the view of a beautiful lake doesn’t strike a chord of wonder within him:

For a particular scene to enter into a person and become part of their soul, it is evidently not enough that the scene be beautiful. The person also has to have something clear and beautiful present inside them. It is like a moment of shared love, of communion, of true meeting between a human being and the outer world.

The world was beautiful on that day. And Lake Sevan is one of the most beautiful places on earth. But there was nothing clear or good about me – and I had heard too many stories about the Minutka restaurant. After listening to the story of the lovesick princess, I asked, “But where’s the restaurant?”

. . . .

Or was it the thousands of paintings I had seen? Were they what poisoned my encounter with the high-altitude lake? We always think of the artist’s role as entirely positive; we think that a work of art, if it is anything more than a hack job, brings us closer to nature, that it deepens and enriches our being. We think that a work of art is some kind of key. But perhaps it is not? Perhaps, having already seen a hundred images of Lake Sevan, I thought that this hundred-and-first image was just one more routine product from a member of the Artists’ Union.


And here’s a passage that made me want to roll my eyes, thinking that the author puts altogether too much faith in what his own feelings and perceptions can really reveal:

But I repeat: there are many ways through which one can recognize that someone believes in God. It is not just a matter of words, but also of tones of voice, of the construction of sentences, of the look in a person’s eyes, in their gate, in their manner of eating and drinking. Believers can be sensed – and I did not sense any in Armenia.

What I did see were people carrying out rites. I saw pagans in whose good and kind hearts lived a god of kindness.


Why Grossman would think he could recognize Christianity from a person’s gait and syntax, of all things, especially cross-culturally, and why he is so confident in this ability that he can declare a country devoid of real Christians, I have no idea.

At any rate, this is a well-written little book that ranges over a wide variety of topics. Ultimately, I’d have liked it better if it had contained more about Armenia and less of the author’s pontification. But I did learn more about the country than I knew before, which was not much. (Judging from the selection of books shelved on Goodreads as “Armenia” – almost none of which are set there – I had the vague impression that the country had come into being only after the Armenian genocide. As it turns out, it is an ancient country with a long history and unique language.)

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review 2019-03-23 23:11
A SCOTSMAN'S EXPERIENCES AS LIAISON OFFICER ABOARD A FREE FRENCH SUBMARINE AMID STORMY SEAS
The Skipper's Dog's Called Stalin (A Harry Gilmour Novel) - David Black

"THE SKIPPER'S DOG'S CALLED STALIN" is the second novel in the Harry Gilmour series, which highlights the lives of Allied submariners during the Second World War. 

In essence, the novel deals with the experiences Royal Navy Sub-Lieutenant Harry Gilmour had during the spring and summer of 1941 as a liaison officer aboard a Free French submarine, Radegonde. Gilmour, who could speak and comprehend French passably from his time at university, was charged - along with 2 Royal Navy sailors who were also detailed to serve under him (one was a Leading Telegraphist and the other a Leading Signalman) with keeping talbs on the commander and crew of Radegonde. What had begun as a wary relationship between Gilmour and his French counterparts gradually developed into one of trust and respect. A trust and respect that was gained from the various mine laying missions Radegonde carried out along the Norwegian coast. During one of those missions, one of the mines became fouled up and, at great risk to himself, Gilmour managed to resolve a sticky situation that could easily have destroyed Radegonde. 

Later in the novel, Radegonde is sent out to Halifax, Nova Scotia, with a party of French marines, whom it would go on to carry far out into the Atlantic to carry out a mission to the island of Martinique in the Caribbean (now under the control of Vichy France) whose prospects of success were extremely doubtful. Adventures abound and the reader will be amply rewarded with many thrilling, colorful, and dramatic actions as the novel reaches its denouement. 

I now look forward to reading the third novel of a series that superbly depicts the highs and lows of being a Royal Navy submariner in wartime. 

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text 2019-03-23 04:39
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text 2019-03-22 22:40
Around the World in 80 Books Mostly by Female Authors: Master Update Post

[World map created with Mapchart.net]

 

The aim: To diversify my reading and read as many books as possible (not necessarily 80) set in, and by authors from, countries all over the world.  Female authors preferred.  If a book is set in a location other than that of the author's nationality, it can apply to either (but not both).

 

On the map I'm only tracking new reads, not also rereads.

 

The Books:

Africa

Nigeria

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Purple Hibiscus (new)

 

Egypt

Elizabeth Peters: Crocodile on the Sandbank (new)

 

Zimbabwe

Alexandra Fuller: Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight (new)

 

 

 

 

Americas

USA

Michelle Obama: Becoming (new)

Mary Roberts Rinehart: The Red Lamp (new)

* Puerto Rico

Rosario Ferré: The House on the Lagoon (new)

 

Canada

Stef Penney: The Tenderness of Wolves (new)

 

Brazil

Clarice Lispector: The Hour of the Star (new)

 

 

 

 

 

Asia

China

Xinran: The Good Women of China (new)

 

Japan

Shizuko Natsuki: Murder at Mt. Fuji (new)

 

North Korea

Hyeonseo Lee: The Girl with Seven Names (new)

 

Sri Lanka

Michael Ondaatje: Anil's Ghost (new)

 

Turkey

Elif Shafak: Three Daughters of Eve (new)

 

 

 

 

 

Australia / Oceania

Australia

Joan Lindsay: Picnic at Hanging Rock (new)

 

New Zealand

Ngaio Marsh: Vintage Murder and Died in the Wool (both revisited on audio)

 

 

 

 

 

Europe

United Kingdom

Lorna Nicholl Morgan: Another Little Murder (new)

Stephen Fry, John Woolf, Nick Baker: Stephen Fry's Victorian Secrets (new)

P.D. James: A Taste for Death (revisited on audio)

Agatha Christie: The Big Four, Why Didn't They Ask Evans?, The Unexpected Guest, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and The Secret Adversary (all revisited on audio; The Unexpected Guest also in print); The Lost Plays: Butter in a Lordly Dish / Personal Call / Murder in the Mews (new)

Elizabeth Ferrars: Murder Among Friends (new)

Barbara Pym: Excellent Women (new)

Terry Pratchett: Equal Rites (revisited on audio)

Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler? (new)

Nicholas Blake: A Question of Proof (new)

Joy Ellis: The Murderer's Son (new)

Peter Grainger: An Accidental Death (new)

Elizabeth Gaskell: My Lady Ludlow (new)

Various Authors / Contributors: Agatha Christie Close Up: A Radio Investigation (new)

Virginia Woolf: The String Quartet (new)

John Buchan: The 39 Steps (revisited on audio)

Oscar Wilde: Lord Arthur Savile's Crime (new)

Ellis Peters: The Hermit of Eyton Forest (reread)

Patricia Wentworth: The Alington Inheritance, and The Gazebo (both new)

Dorothy L. Sayers: Whose Body? (reread)

Martin Fido: The World of Sherlock Holmes (new)

 

Ireland

Tana French: The Witch Elm (new)

 

Greece

Stephen Fry: Mythos (new)

Madeline Miller: Circe (new)

 

Sweden

Astrid Lindgren: Die Menschheit hat den Verstand verloren: Tagebücher 1939-1945 (A World Gone Mad: Diaries, 1939-45) (new)

 

France

Emmuska Orczy: The Elusive Pimpernel (new)

 

Croatia

Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express (revisited on audio)

(Note: Yugoslavia at the time of the writing -- but the action is set after the train has passed Vinkovci, aka "The Gateway to Croatia".)

 

 

 

 

 

The "Gender Wars" Stats:

Read to date, in 2019:

Books by female authors: 38

- new: 27

- rereads: 11

 

Books by male authors: 9

- new: 7

- rereads: 2

 

Books by F & M mixed teams / anthologies: 1

- new: 1

- rereads:

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review 2019-03-21 14:55
bloody loved this!
Her Lord of Death (A Mythic World Romance) - Kyla D. Knight
Independent reviewer for Archaeolibrarian, I was gifted my copy of this book. I'm not writing a blurby bit here, gonna jump straight in! I bloody loved this! So many layers, so much betrayal and back stabbing. Such pain for Acheron in his past, his present, and as he sees, his future. Kora is a woman he can never have, then he does, but still he can't. Cryptic, I know but I ain't doing spoilers! And so, so many plot twists, I did not see any of them coming at me! I loved that Acheron knew he was damaged, possibly beyond repair, but still he tries to make Kora see, to SEE that damage, in the only way he knows how: with violence. But KORA?? Kora SEES Acheron. She sees the man behind the rumours and whispers. She sees the man behind the scars, and finally, she SEES why Acheron does what he does to push her away and it makes her love him even more. She makes Acheron SEE, that there is more to life than pain. And when WE find out why? Well, lets just say I bawled my eyes out. You get hints and snippets as to why Acheron reacts the way he does, but you don't get the full picture. Oh you put the clues together well enough, but really? Not enough. Nowhere NEAR enough. After we get the full picture of what Acheron endured while in in Crete at the hands of Minos, it's a wonder the man is even sane! As Oz, Acheron's approximation of a best friend pointed out, he only had two years there, and Acheron had TEN years fighting for his life almost every day. Suffices to say, this carries some dark story lines, but to say what they are would be spoilers. If you want to know, please message me, I'll tell you. Some readers may have triggers. There is a little bit at the back of this, about how THIS book was Knight's first book, not Beautiful Beast. About how much of a battle Knight had with it. I'm so bloody glad she won that battle! It's also billed as A Mythic World Romance. No idea what comes next, but I really wanna read it! 5 stars **same worded review will appear elsewhere**

 

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