What I am reading: The Buried Giant

Some of you will have fine monuments by which the living may remember the evil done to you. Some of you will have only crude wooden crosses or painted rocks, while yet others of you must remain hidden in the shadows of history.

Imaginative, with allusions to King Arthur and fairy tales.

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What I am Reading: The Marriage of Opposites

index.jpgAlice Hoffman is one of my guilty pleasures; I fell in love with her writing when Practical Magic made the book lists. She has an easy story-telling style, and she makes it look effortless. Her stories range from light to heavy, but always seem to visit the theme of “what is a family?”

The Marriage of Opposites is ambitious. She follows a Jewish family in the 1800’s in St. Thomas, and yet the story is so much more: she has multiple doubles and patterns throughout – sister vs. sister, mother vs. daughter, child vs. parent, all set against a backdrop of the Caribbean and later the grays of Paris. At times, the story almost got away from her, but as she always loves to weave in magic and mythology, I found myself compelled. I truly enjoyed the perspectives and, as always, Hoffman’s writing.

Lines I enjoyed:

-Then I understood that when someone begins to tell you her story, you are entwined together. Perhaps even more so if the ending hasn’t been divulged.

-Then let us be among those who hope that the future will be less cruel than the past.

-I KNEW I MUST do all as I was told, yet something burned inside me, a seed of defiance that must have derived from a long-ago ancestor. Perhaps my mind was inflamed from the books I had read and the worlds I had imagined
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Author Study

I have decided to embark on a new project with one of my favorite colleagues, and thought I would share the results with you. I am an avid reader, and I want to study certain authors more closely; I often find the connections you can draw from biography, political climate and expression to be endlessly fascinating. Thus, I will select one author and read his/her works, as well as a biography (if it is available) and then discuss.

My favorite genre is Magical Realism, and I am lucky enough to teach a class at my university using Borges’ Garden of Forking Paths as a foundational text for discussion of the genre. To be clear, although many people believe the genre began in Latin America, this is not the case. Undoubtedly, though, the area has produced some of the greatest writers in the genre, and you cannot fully appreciate this without beginning with Borges. So, with new books in hand, and ready to reread some favorites, as well as discover some new, expect a post on Borges very soon.

 

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Travel: Sights around Montreal

Here are some of the curious sights we saw in beautiful Montreal.

Notre Dame

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Walking Around Old Montreal

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The Snobby British man

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The Snobby Frenchwoman

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Note the pig with the rake

Chinatown

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The Shopping District

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Interesting

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I highly doubt that’s delicious

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It’s a bird – it’s a plane – it’s Supersexe!

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Is this really a thing?

What we ate:

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This was a delicious cola

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Roasted Chicken and Cheese

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Veggie Panini with Brie on olive bread – divine

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Crepes – every.single.day.

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Travel: Quebec City

We took a charter bus from Montreal to Quebec City, and while efficient, I must say the three hour ride was one of the dullest I have ever seen. Nothing but plains and tiny little nondescript towns every hour or so.

That said, Quebec City itself was gorgeous, and our tour guide excellent. The city itself is fairly large, with some beautiful sites – namely the Citadel, Notre Dame des Victoires and Old Town, whose fortified walls still stand. The Petit Champlain district is one of the oldest shopping districts, and the streets were picturesque. If you are ever in the area, it is worth a day trip. We also got to stop off at Montmorency Falls which is taller than Niagra Falls by 100 feet. Everything was easily accessible by foot, and there was much to buy and eat.

What we ate:

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Duck Confit Salad – Delicious

 

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Cola with Maple Syrup – interesting

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We ate at Boreale – This was our view overlooking the oldest commercial street in Quebec

What we Saw:

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This incredible mural details Quebec’s history

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Inside Notre Dame des Victoires

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Inside The Fur Trapper Store

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I have no concept what this is supposed to be

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Say “Hello” to my little friend

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What I am Reading: A Hero of France

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This is not normally a novel I would pick up, but more on that in a moment. Alan Furst is a well-known espionage writer who writes exceptionally well about World War II and the occupation of France.This novel forces you to consider the occupation and what daily decisions people would have made – joining the Resistance or turning a blind eye.

The reason I read this is because it was the last book my favorite uncle read before he passed away from cancer. He was extremely well-read and traveled, and when I asked him who his favorite author was to read for an escape he mentioned Furst without hesitation.

My uncle had a variety of particular interests – formula one racing, the horsetrack, punk rock, politics, and anything to do with World War one and World War Two history. He had an incredible memory for detail, dates and names, and was the gatekeeper of what my grandfather (his father) experienced in the war during the Battle of Midway and Guadalcanal.Of all of the countries he visited, France was his favorite (with Singapore a close second).

He loved elegant watches, a neat scotch, and to smoke. I could never even began to tell how unique he was, and how much I miss him. One burden you never get over is that you have questions that will never be answered; mysteries never solved.

The only thing I could think to after his passing and the quiet settled was to pick up Furst’s A Hero of France and attempt to see things through my uncle’s eyes. The moment I began reading I understood – Furst’s protagonist Matthieu is so masculine – he is loyal, brave, and full of class. The writing itself was concise, and the plot air-tight. Overwrought sentimentality did not exist.Both the pace and the prose were perfect. His hyper masculinity reminds me of Fleming’s Bond in Casino Royale, yet Matthieu has more honor, and no misogynism.

If you are interested in World War II, and enjoy thrillers, I cannot recommend this enough. My next task is to read Midnight in Europe, my uncle’s favorite Furst novel.

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What I am reading: The Secret Language of Stones

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The Secret Language of Stones, by MJ Rose was surprisingly easy to get into. I found myself drawn to the plot almost instantly, even though the elements of the story itself defied belief. In essence, the story is about a young woman in World War one Paris, who has the ability to commune with the dead while grappling with survivor’s guilt.

What I really enjoyed about the story was how the main character, Opaline, was characterized – we experience World War I in Paris through her eyes, and the author did an excellent job ensuring that it was vivid and authentic.

Another interesting element, in addition to the horrors of war, was the use of Russian exiles as a subplot. I have not read much about the perspective of Russians on the outside looking in as their country collapses, and it was meaningful to consider.

The description and characterization were on point. However, the story did have some flaws in my opinion. I could have used less ghost sex scenes, personally, and I felt the villain of the story was a bit obvious. I also thought the ending really left too many unresolved questions, and felt that was a little frustrating and too convenient.

That said, I really enjoyed reading this book and found it to be a pleasant diversion. I would be open to reading more from MJ Rose.

Great lineWe’re made to love. Even if you think you can stop yourself from feeling, stop yourself from living, your emotions will find a way. They’ll trick you when you least expect it.

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