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text 2017-10-18 16:30
Reading progress update: I've read 117 out of 191 pages.
Pietr Le Letton - Georges Simenon

Well, one thing is obvious: Simenon was writing for an audience that clearly had specific images in their mind whenever a Paris locale was invoked -- no need to go into great descriptive and atmospheric detail; mere name-dropping of the location was sufficient.  All of which is fine for today's readers as long as they are at least familiar with the present-day incarnations of these places (and possibly their history), or have seen period images, but which makes the novel somewhat inaccessible if you've never been to Paris nor have other ways of evoking the same sense of instant recognition that Simenon's contemporaneous audience would have had.  Which probably goes some way towards explaining (in addition to their several TV adaptations over the decades) why his books are still incredibly popular in Europe -- and not merely in France, either -- but somewhat less well known elsewhere.

 

Also, I note that Maigret is another one of the "great detectives" who didn't age in real time.  We're told at the beginning of "Pietr le Letton" that he was 45 years old in 1931, when this book was published, which would have made for retirement in the early 1950s.  Yet le commissaire Maigret was still investigating crimes in the early 1970s ...

 


36 Quai des Orfèvres, the police headquarters of Paris, then and now.  There's a neat blog page (in French) looking at the history of the place. (Note: Linked place names hereafter contain similar links to information found on the web.)

 


Simenon's "Majestic" is a luxury hotel in the vein of the Meurice (left) and the Georges V (right) (both photos from Wikipedia).  Its interior might well have looked like this:

... and we're told that it's on the Champs Elysées, which looked like this then:

 Maigret and the man he pursues take the train from, and arrive back in Paris at the Gare St. Lazare:

Maigret then follows his quarry on foot all the way from the Gare St. Lazare across the city centre to the Rue du Roi de Sicile, via Rue du 4 Septembre and Les Halles, which is easily a 50-minute walk. (NB: the police headquarters at 36 Quai des Orfèvres are on the southern bank of Île Notre Dame, just below Sainte Chapelle in the below map, in the direction of Pont Neuf):

Les Halles, the famous "Belly of Paris" epitomized in Émile Zola's novel of the same name -- razed in the 1970s and replaced by a forum, which in turn was replaced by a canopy roof in the 2000s:

 

The Rue du Roi de Sicile was part of the old Jewish quarter in the Marais (video on YouTube -- opens on BookLikes only in blog view, not in dashboard view):


Rue due Roi de Sicile (photos from Wikiwand)

... and elsewhere in the old Jewish quarter.

The Marais (which literally translates as "swamp" -- for a [geographical] reason) today is an area of bars and nightclubs, and in the early 2000s used to be one of the centres of the gay scene (don't know whether that's still the case).

As Simenon highlights, it is only a few hundred feet from the Rue de Rivoli, next to the Champs Elysées one of the most luxurious shopping miles of Paris -- in the 1930s, the contrast between the poverty of the Jewish quarter and the splendour of the Rue de Rivoli must have been staggering:

(Rue de Rivoli, then and now)

The evening of that same day, Maigret follows the American billionaire Mortimer-Levingston and his wife to the (théâtre du) Gymnase on Bd. Bonne Nouvelle (on the above map, the stretch between Bd. Haussmann and Bd. Saint-Martin) where they attend the performance of an opera. (Note: Today's incarnation of the Gymnase is a cabaret; it's still in the same building, but the shows presented are entirely different):
 

Afterwards, the billionaire couple proceed to a dance bar on (or near) the Rue la Fayette (bottom row: the same corner of Rue la Fayette, then and now -- photos from CParama / Le Métropolitain de Paris):
 

Bars in Montmartre, Montparnasse and Saint Germain des Près similar to what Simenon's Pickwick Bar would probably have been like (photos from various sources):
    

And, finally, a few images of Fécamp (Normandie), where Maigret follows the man identified as Pietr le Letton at the beginning of the book (right: an early 20th century painting of Fécamp harbour by Robert Antoine Pinchon; both images from Wikipedia):

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

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text 2017-10-16 09:10
Tannat & Tigus: Eh voilà ...

 

... it's here.  Even though the cat could hardly be bothered!

 

 

(This is the only photo I got out of him at all.  After that, he decided this was too stupid for words and hoofed it under my bed.)

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review 2017-10-09 05:59
The Secret Papers of Madame Olivetti by Annie Vanderbilt
The Secret Papers of Madame Olivetti - Annie Vanderbilt

Lily has come to southern France in search of a new perspective, hoping that the sun's soft rays and the fragrant sea breezes will provide a relaxing respite from the demands of her lively daughter and her family's Idaho cattle ranch. Two years after her husband's sudden death, in the house that's been in his family for generations, she finally finds some stolen weeks to make sense of the past. To Madame Olivetti, her cranky old manual typewriter, Lily entrusts all her secrets, pounding out the story of the men she loved, the betrayals she endured, the losses she still regrets. And with the companionship of Yves, the seductive handyman who comes by to make repairs, Lily comes closer to understanding her exhilarating past and to discovering she has a new story to tell, one about the delights of starting over.

Amazon.com

 

 

Needing a break from the demands of family and her cattle ranch business, Idaho widow Lily Crisp decides to take a vacation in the South of France. While settling in at La Pierre Rouge, the home she inherited after her husband's passing, Lily journals her French-inspired / influenced thoughts and experiences using an old typewriter she's dubbed "Madame Olivetti". It's through the "Madame Olivetti papers" that the reader also learns the story of not only Lily's relationship with her late husband (how they met, how their romance developed, struggles in later years, etc) but also her more recent bedroom escapades with a certain French hottie handyman by the name of Yves Lebrun. Yves arrives one day to start work on repairing the roof of La Pierre Rouge, but over time his down-to-earth perspective on things (once Lily deciphers it through his limited English) helps our girl unravel twisted up mysteries within her heart and mind... by way of her lower regions ;-)

 

While much of this novel comes off very fluffy and surface level, there is something to be said for the topics it quietly addresses: the struggles of rebuilding a life after a spouse of decades passes away, the tricky navigation of dating after the age of 40, the side eye a woman might get for being so bold as to date an obviously younger man (Lily writes of her annoyance at the looks she gets for being in the Over 50 crowd but still happily living as a woman a good 20 years younger). There's something here that could easily appeal to those who've had late in life romances themselves.  Though I'm years away from those years myself, I still found a portion of Lily's story relatable when she speaks of younger years, having had her heart shattered over a failed romance but how that pain eventually led her to discovering how to open her heart again, which in turn led her to meeting her then-future husband, Paul. My romance with my own husband unfolded in a  similar way, in that respect. I even found myself nodding in understanding to Lily writing of her first time sleeping with Paul: "a sexual exorcism of one ex-wife and an ex-lover." That sense of joy and even relief, when you get that inkling in your mind that maybe, just maybe, you got things right this time! 

 

"I think she fell in love with my love for her. I was pretty well gone and I made her feel like an infinitely fascinating woman -- which of course I thought she was."

~Paul

 

The slow build of Lily and Paul's relationship made for sweet reading. Author Annie Vanderbilt also writes in a layer of realism to Lily and Paul's later years that I could appreciate. Vanderbilt illustrates that sure, over years of being together, doldrums can set in, things can get predictable, which can sometimes lead people to make poor choices in their fervent attempts to shake things up in their lives. Even the most outwardly perfect couplings take dedicated work behind the scenes to hold that foundation together.

 

He kissed her lightly on the cheek , then turned and walked down the alleyway toward his car. It's over, she thought, it can get no worse. 

 

Blessedly, the future is all delusion. Only the past is known, and even then we tamper, we distort. But that moment she saw clearly: the heart's great pulse of desire, undiluted. Nothing more. So she watched him leave, and when he had left, she closed and latched the blue door behind her. 

 

All in all, some nice observances about long term (I'm talking decades here) relationships. The writing has a nice, easy flow and the contents within these "secret papers" will likely resonate, even if just a small bit, with a good many female readers... at least those past their freshman college years! 

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review 2017-09-13 13:57
Suite Française by Irène Némirovski
Suite Française - Irène Némirovsky,Sandra Smith

"War … yes, everyone knows what war is like. But occupation is more terrible because people get used to one another. We tell ourselves, 'They’re people just like us after all,' but they’re not at all the same."

 

Irène Némirovski — famed writer, Russian emigre, and woman of Jewish ancestry — in the midst of World War II, and in the hands of the third Reich, began writing a novel. She did not live to see the end of the war or the end of the novel, but what she did write of that novel is what we have here under the title Suite FrançaiseNémirovski's work stands out from World War II stories I have read throughout my life, in particular those popular in America: It is not about America and it is not about the fighting of the war. The focus here is on the French civilians living in the shadow of war, people trying to survive and continue their lives in a world turned upside down.

 

Némirovski planned to write five parts for her novel, but only produced the first two before she was captured. The story starts in (free) Paris as news arrives that the French army is in retreat and the war is coming. We follow a handful of French citizens trying evacuate the city — specifically the wealthy Péricand family, working class Jeanne and Maurice Michaud, their son Jean-Marie, the author Gabriel Corte, and the rich Charles Langelet. 

 

Suite Française contains a very human story about the common choices we rarely hear about in the accounts of war. The characters of this book are neither heroic nor villainous in any grand sense. They make small choices that can have big consequences. they are sometimes brave, sometimes cowardly, sometimes decent, often petty. In many cases there is no easy answer at all. The good guys don't always act good and the bad guys aren't always terrible.

 

In this way, Suite Française feels immediate in a way few war narratives do. The horror of the story is not how alien this world is, but how familiar. Their choices are our choices but heightened. What do you do when you see someone in need? What would you do to others to protect your family? Or just yourself? You wouldn't have to kill someone, just steal gas, or pack your fine linens and drive past a line of people fleeing on foot. And on the other side, acts of kindness like caring for a wounded soldier in your home or helping reconnect children and parents after a bombing. There are many common decisions that suddenly hold the power of life and death in wartime and Némirovski never lets us forget that imperfect humans are the ones having to make these decisions. 

 

When we move into the second part, "Dolce," things get even more confusing. Invasion has given way to occupation and we get a look through the experiences of two households, each forced to house a German officer. "Dolce" takes place mostly in the summer two years after the invasion. Life is not back to normal, but it looks much more like it. Old grievances are renewed, people bicker and gossip, and we are told, despite numerous proclamations of French solidarity, that the townsfolk were reporting their neighbors to the Germans from the very start. "If we'd taken them all seriously, everyone in the region would be in prison," the German officer says.

 

Meanwhile, the officers are gentlemanly, polite, kind even and they live in these homes for months, and politeness in return is compulsory. Over months grudge melts into kindness, respect and even affection (thus the epigraph to this essay). We know what the Nazis (as a whole) stood for, what they perpetrated against Jews and other minorities, but one person can be complicated, a soldier, we are reminded several times, does not set the policies. As an abstraction, years later, Nazi's appear as pure evil, but as individuals, in the houses of the protagonists, the image is less clear. In fact, Germans in this town act much like American soldiers later in the war. They give sweets to the kids, offer to help carry groceries, and pay well at the local shops. In this way, Suite Française reveals our humanity both in the capacity to transcend, and our weakness to, the worst parts of ourselves, and in this book it is hard to even know which parts those are.

 

The tension in "Dolce" seems to pull tighter and tighter until you can't stop reading. The friendship between Lucile and a German officer seems to draw inexorably toward disaster. Némirovski writes at her best at these moments when her characters are torn between what they want and what they know is right and even possible. Quiet, impossible feelings spring up between people despite themselves. It's not a naughty affair, but a tragic affection expressed through a song on the piano, a look at a ring, blanched faces, or a startle when the real world reinserts itself into a quiet moment on the lawn.

 

Suite Française feels defined almost as much by what is included as by what is not. Hitler is not mentioned at all until very near the end. Jews and concentration camps aren't mentioned at all. This feels very strange if you do not read the appendix that is included with Némirovski's diary entries about the book. I have often skipped afterwords and appendices in recent years, but since this novel was so conspicuously unfinished I decided to read them. Now I wonder at what more this book could have become. Némirovski kept the horrors to the margins while she told us when it must have seem that way to citizens. She invites us to feel as conflicted as many may have felt at the time — and from her notes it appears she too was sympathetic to individual soldiers — before dropping hard truths in the next sections. The reality of the Nazi rule would intrude disastrously on our protagonists and they would find themselves colliding in different ways, trying to survive the new, even more insidious threat of occupation. The final two sections of the novel she never even outlined; they would depend on the outcome of the war.

 

Unfortunately, Némirovski, and her story, in Auschwitz on August 17, 1942. What remains is written with a rare heart and clarity, untainted by nostalgia, parades, or narratives of heroes and villains. It's a story of ordinary people living in turbulent, dangerous times, and Suite Française is especially charming, and haunting, for that reason. 

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review 2017-09-12 01:45
The Little Red Wolf by Amelie Flechais
The Little Red Wolf - Amélie Fléchais,Andrea Colvin

Genre:  Drama / Fairy Tale / Retelling / Animals / Horror / France


Year Published: 2017


Year Read:  8/9/2017 

Publisher: Lion Forge

Source: eARC (NetGalley)

 

Red

I would like to thank NetGalley and Lion Forge for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Introduction: 

Now, I have been reading fairy tale retellings for many years and I had read retellings of stories like “Cinderella,” “The Three Little Pigs,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” So, imagine my surprise and delight in seeing this new retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” from NetGalley called “The Little Red Wolf” by Amélie Fléchais and I just had to pick this book up! After I read this book, I have to say that this was one of the most creative and heartbreaking retellings of “Little Red Riding Hood” I had ever read!

What is this story about? 

The story starts off with a family of wolves living in the roots of a tree and the smallest wolf in the family was called Little Red Wolf because he would wear a red cape all the time. One day, Little Red Wolf’s mother wanted him to take a nice plump rabbit to his grandmother, since his grandmother cannot hunt anymore due to her losing her teeth. But just before Little Red Wolf made his journey to his grandmother’s house, his mother warned him about a human hunter and his daughter and that he should stay away from them at all costs. As Little Red Wolf journeyed through the forest, he began to feel hungry and he started eating the rabbit that he was supposed to give to his grandmother piece by piece. When Little Red Wolf ate all of the rabbit, he began to cry since he was supposed to give that rabbit to his grandmother and he had no idea how he will get another rabbit to give to his grandmother. It was then that a little girl came up to Little Red Wolf and said that she could give him a rabbit if he followed her to her home.

Will this girl help Little Red Wolf get another rabbit for his grandmother or does she have some kind of malicious agenda for Little Red Wolf?

Read this book to find out!
 


What I loved about this story: 

Amélie Fléchais’ writing: Wow! Just…wow! I never would have thought that I would ever read a “Little Red Riding Hood” retelling told from the wolf’s perspective (even though I had read a parody book of the “Three Little Pigs” told from the wolf’s perspective called “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs”). Amélie Fléchais has done a fantastic job at retelling the classic “Little Red Riding Hood” story from the wolf’s point of view as the wolf presented here is shown as being more sympathetic than the hunter and the young girl compared to the original story and that is what made this such a unique and creative read for me! I like the fact that the wolf here is presented as a young cub who does not know about the dangers of being around a hunter and is actually innocent of any wrongdoing in this story (well, except for accidentally eating all of the rabbit he was supposed to give to his grandmother). I also loved the mysterious and intense atmosphere that Amélie Fléchais provided in this story as I was sitting on the edge of my seat trying to see if any horrible disaster will befall Little Red Wolf and how he would be able to handle himself (or who would help him out) if he got into such a scary and dangerous situation.

Amélie Fléchais’ artwork: Amélie Fléchais’ artwork is probably the highlight of this book as all the images are drawn in watercolor paintings, which makes the imagery so gorgeous to look at. I also loved the haunting feel that Amélie Fléchais shows in the artwork as the illustrations are mostly in dark colors and it gives the story a mysterious and eerie feel, especially during the scenes where Little Red Wolf gets lost in the forest. But, probably my most favorite image in this book was the image of Little Red Wolf himself as he is drawn in an extremely adorable manner as he has large puppy dog eyes and a small cute nose that really brings out his innocent and adorable nature.

Red

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story: 

For anyone who does not like scary moments in graphic novels or novels in general, there are some intense scenes in this book that might scare younger readers, such as Little Red Wolf getting lost in the forest and the danger of possibly encountering the huntsman and his daughter. 
Also, I felt that the ending was a bit too abrupt and I wished that more was explained about the revelation at the end, rather than just stopping the story as soon as the revelation was being made. All this just made me want to have a sequel to this story so that way, the ending would be made clearer to me than it is now and so that way we can have a more broader expansion on the characters themselves.

Final Thoughts: 

Overall, “The Little Red Wolf” is one retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” that you should definitely check out, especially if you enjoy hearing classic fairy tales being told from a different perspective! I would recommend this book to children ages six and up since the imagery might scare smaller children.

Review is also on: Rabbit Ears Book Blog

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