Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Back Reviews Reel: April 2014

My reads of three years ago were quite diverse as regards the genre, while they were set in Europe – Albania and France – and the Americas – Brazil and the USA – respectively. I started into April 2014 with the coming-of-age classic The Three Marias by Brazilian author Rachel de Queiroz that was so daring when it came out in 1939 that it caused quite a scandal although by today’s standards it’s more than decent. The next book on my review list was the historical novel Broken April by contemporary Albanian writer Ismail Kadaré that brought me to the remote highlands of the Western Balkans in the 1920s where ancient rules still determined the lives of people and called for bloody family vendettas. To follow the awakening to true life of a fifty-year-old concierge in modern-day Paris who is the protagonist of The Elegance of the Hedgehog by French novelist Muriel Barbery was certainly more peaceful and philosophical. It’s one of my all-time favourites. Finally, I also read a satire that felt very topical although it first appeared in 1922, namely Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis who was the first US-American to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
- - - - - Brazilian coming-of-age classic The Three Marias by Rachel de Queiroz tells the story of the narrator-protagonist Maria Augusta, called Guta, and of her friends Maria José and Maria Glória. The austere and strictly regulated life in the Roman Catholic boarding school of Fortaleza weighs on Guta who is a sensitive and fearful child missing her carefree life in the country. But six years pass quickly and full of hope she and her two friends leave sheltered school life to cope with real life. Unlike many of her peers including Maria Glória she doesn’t marry young, but she convinces her father to allow her to return to Fortaleza where she still has friends to learn a profession. Before long she is a fully trained typist with a job… and free to discover the world and the ways of men.
»»» Read my long review

- - - - - historical novel Broken April by Ismail Kadaré takes the reader back into the Balkan past when blood feuds were still common in the remote highlands... less than a hundred years ago. Twenty-six-year-old Gjorg Berisha from an Albanian village lies in wait for Zef Kryeqyqe to take revenge for the death of his brother as the archaic rules of the Kanun require him to. He knows that after thirty days of respite during which he mustn’t be touched he’ll be the next in the row to be shot in the family vendetta of seventy years, unless he goes into hiding in one of the dark towers of refuge for the rest of his life. The soft-hearted young wife of a writer from Tirana on honeymoon knows nothing of the customs and takes pity on the men in the gloomy towers…
»»» Read my long review

- - - - - the French novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery fifty-year-old concierge Renée Michel hides not just her intelligence and wide knowledge but also her intellectual tastes behind the dull façade of a typical specimen of her profession. Five floors above her, lives twelve-year-old Paloma Josse who feels disgusted by the empty life to which she seems to be doomed simply because she belongs to the bourgeoisie. It's only thanks to the influence of a Japanese business man who moves into the house that Renée Michel gradually learns to live her true self. He takes the trouble to really get to know her and also Paloma Josse can’t help seeing that this concierge is different. The three make friends and page by page a happy ending announces itself, but...
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- - - - - in 1920, Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis, the US-American recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1930, shows a man in his mid-forties who has a good life in Floral Heights, a suburb of the fictitious Mid-Western city of Zenith with some 300,000 inhabitants. Sucessful middle-class business man and pillar of society, he always swims with the stream, does what is expected of him and willingly adopts public opinion as his own. But the rut of his conventional life weighs on him and he yearns for change as well as freedom. When he meets the attractive and refined widow Tanis Judique and his wife leaves for the East coast to visit her family, he seizes the opportunity to go a little “wild” and play around. His surroundings don’t understand and force him back onto his rut.
»»» Read my long review


  1. It is nice to look back and relive the books one read and how they affected us. The Elegance of the Hedgehog was a wonderful surprise for me. My review:

    1. Yes, it's nice to look back - especially when the books were so different and yet each a great pleasure like my reads of three years ago. The Elegance of the Hedgehog clearly was my favourite of the four, though.


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