Book review: The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant


The Boston Girl: A NovelThe Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this book as a digital ARC from the publisher through Net Galley in return for an honest review.

This is the story of Addie Baum who describes her family story in Boston in the beginning of the 20th century.

The way the immigrants lived in the North End showing its multicultural neighborhood is very well described by the author. The inexperience of her parents in raising their children is also point out by the narrator itself (Addie).

Addie portrays her life in the period of 1915 to 1985 in order to answer her granddaughter’s question: “How did you get to be the woman you are today?”

By telling her story Addie shows how her rebel spirit gave her some hints in order to find her own destiny. She starts to work in a shirt factory and then she accepted a job in a local newspaper, despite the opinion of her parents. She then started to write her own column in this new job.

The author describes also very briefly how the population cope with the flu epidemic which killed a lot of people, including children and old-aged people; how the Americans who stayed at home faced the Great War’s effects by making clothes to the Army. Other important facts are also mentioned, such as the Depression, the Second World War and the Prohibition as well as the feminist movement.

The intertwining of Addie’s life with a historical background makes this book quite appealing, showing the life a young woman who always wanted to be independent. The difficulties of adapting of the immigrants and they way they accepted (or not) a different and unfamiliar culture is the central point of this book.

An interesting link North End History: Our Jewish Heritage describes the Jewish neighborhood in North End – Boston in the end of the 19th century and in the beginning of the 20th century.

Book review: Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín


Nora Webster: A NovelNora Webster: A Novel by Colm Tóibín

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book as a digital ARC from the publisher through Net Galley in return for an honest review.

This is the story of Nora, who became widow when she was forty years old and how she struggled to raise her four children without money.

By telling Nora’s story, the author magnificently describes the ordinary life of an Irish town in the late 1960s. Moreover to face her grief, Nora becomes mad by the neighbours’ condolences from which she tries to escape in order to regain her own life.

It seems that the author put some auto-biographical facts of his life in one of Nora’s son, Donal, an incommunicative boy who stammers and sees the world through his own camera.

Even if this is my first book I’ve read by Colm Toibin, I really like it. His prose flows naturally and the reader get emotionally involved with the main characters.

4* Nora Webster
TBR Brooklyn
TBR The Master
TBR The Testament of Mary
TBR The Heather Blazing

Book review: Lamentation by C.J. Sansom


LamentationLamentation by C.J. Sansom

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Page 12:

“So this was Anne Askew, who had left her husband in Lincolnshire to come and preach in London, and said the consecrated wafer was no more than a piece of bread, which would go mouldy like any other if left in a box.”

Internet Shakespeare Editions: Anne Askew’s Examinations defies the constraints of gender and hierarchy, and attempts to expose patriarchal insecurity surrounding female involvement in traditionally male religious subjects.


Anne Askew burned at the stake. The image is provided by permission of the British Library.

Page 40:

“I come from Whitehall Palace, from her majesty the Queen. She begs you to see her.” “Begs?’ I answered in surprise. Queens do not beg.”

Page 48:

Detail from The Family of Henry VIII, c. 1545. Unknown artist, after Holbein. Hampton Court Palace. © The Royal Collection.

Page 69:

Copy of Katherine’s text, Lamentations of a Sinner, published in 1547 with her signature.

More details are provided by Internet Shakespeare Editions.

In Lamentation of a Sinner, Parr follows a pattern of confession and repentance, all the while stressing the importance of Christian Scripture, an emphasis which marks her work as a Reformation text:

When I consider (in the bethinking of mine evil and wretched and former life) mine obstinate, stony, and untractible heart to have so much exceeded in evilness that it hath not only neglected — yea condemned and despised — God’s holy precepts and commandments, but also embraced, received, and esteemed vain, foolish, and feigned trifles, I am (partly by the hate I owe to sin, whom I am content to edify even with the example of my own shame) forced and constrained with my heart and words to confess and declare to my creator, and how beneficial, merciful, and gentle he hath been always to me his creature, being such a miserable, wretched sinner.

page 179:

“McKendrick, the Scottish soldier. Curdy, the candlemaker. Vandersteyn, the Dutch trader. Religious radicals, meeting for potentially dangerous discussions. Possibly sacramentarians , or even Anabaptists. And somehow, the Lamentation had come into Greening’s hands.”

Even if the main plot is centered on the search of Catherine Parr’s stolen manuscript, the death of Anne Askew is also investigated by Matthew Shardlake since she was the only woman recorded to have been tortured in the Tower of London. As Queen Catherine, she also wrote a “dangerous” manuscript – The Examinations.

As the previous books of this series, the author intertwines into the narrative very accurate historical facts thus given more realistic aspects even if we are dealing with a fiction book. The historical characters are quite well-known to the readers but they come to life in the hands of CJ Sansom.

Matthew Shardlake series:
4* Dissolution
5* Revelation
4* Sovereign
4* Dark Fire
5* Lamentation
TBR Heartstone

5* Winter in Madrid
TBR Dominion

Book review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah


The NightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book as a digital ARC from the publisher through Net Galley in return for an honest review.

This is the story of two sisters – Isabelle and Viann Rossingol – and how they survived during the Nazi occupation of France.

The story begins in 1995 in United States when an elderly woman is preparing her trip to France, together with her son, in order to attend an invitation of some kind of homage from World War II.

The widowed father of the two sisters is still coping with the consequences of the Great War and by the loss of his wife. He fells unable to raise his daughters which makes Isabelle and Viann take their destiny in their own hands.

Isabelle is sent to private schools from where she as always spelled due to her excess of sincerity. Her sister Viann moves to a small town in France get married but her husband is soon sent to the Front, leaving her alone at home with her daughter Sophie.

Due to her rebellious behavior she then starts her involvement with the French Resistance by helping the Allied fliers to cross the Spanish border through the Pyrenees mountains, the so-called the Nightingale escape route. By this time, she becomes closer to her father without knowing at a first moment that he was also behind the Resistance movement.

In the meantime time, Viann is obliged to receive in her house a Nazi officer which was common during World War II.

In order to avoid spoilers I’ll stop my review here.

This my first book written by Kristin Hannah I’ve ever read.

The author described quite well how the French population faced the lack of fuel and food, specially during the hard winters. The Jewish segregation is also described, starting by sending first only the Jews which were not born in France and later on it became a general rule adopted by the Vichy government.

The story is fast-paced, the author made a lot of research work since these routes through the Pyrenees were the only route of escape for the French and Allied rebels.

A great book not only about the World War II in France but also by the description of how the French Resistance attended to the calls from General De Gaulle in order to save France from the Nazis.

Book review: Christmas Mysteries by Various authors


Christmas MysteriesChristmas Mysteries by Various

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received this book as a digital ARC from the publisher through Net Galley in return for an honest review.

This book is comprised by 25 excerpts based ob Christmas themed mysteries written by very well-known writers, such as Charlotte MacLeod, Lawrence Sanders, Ellery Queen, Jane Haddam, William Bernhardt, Stuart Palmer, Jane Dentinger, William L. DeAndrea, Jane Langton, Gillian White, Dorothy L. Sayers, Loren D. Estleman, and Patricia Wentworth.

The idea behind is quite interesting but only from the publisher’s point of view.

How was that?

By reading the excerpts, the reader has only a vague idea of each book itself, a quite different approach of making use of an abridged version.

Contents:

Cold Light by John Harvey

Night of Reunion by Michael Allegretto

Winter of Frozen Dreams by Karl Harter

The Shepherd by Frederick Forsyth

A Stillness in Bethlehem by Jane Haddam

Murder Goes Mumming by Charlotte MacLeod

The Convivial Codfish by Charlotte MacLeod

The Memorial Hall Murder by Jane Langton

Postmark Murder by Mignon G. Eberhart

The Glass Highway by Loren D. Estleman

Salamander by J. Robert Janes

The Scarred Man by Andrew Klavan

A Crossworder’s Delight by Nero Blanc

A Crossworder’s Gift by Nero Blanc

A Crossworder’s Holiday by Nero Blanc

Wrapped Up in Crosswords by Nero Blanc

Rest You Merry by Charlotte MacLeod

The Fourth Deadly Sin by Lawrence Sanders

The Egyptian Cross Mystery by Ellery Queen

Not a Creature was Stirring by Jane Haddam

The Midnight Before Christmas by William Bernhardt

Omit Flowers by Stuart Palmer

Killed on the Ice by William L. DeAndrea

The Shortest Day by Jane Langton

The Sleeper by Gillian White

Book review: The White Lioness by Henning Mankell


The White Lioness (Wallander #3)The White Lioness by Henning Mankell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the third book of the Wallander series.

The plot is around an execution-style murder of a Swedish housewife. This apparent simple investigation unmasks a murder plot against President De Klerk and the future South-african president Nelson Mandela. A ex-KGB agent together with a mercenary south-african will be responsible for such political outrage.

As usual, Inspector Wallander gives his own personal way in this crime investigation.

The book’s tittle refers to an albino lioness and its real meaning is given below:

Page 383:

He was thinking about the white lioness. A symbol of Africa, he thought. The animal at rest, the calm before it gets to its feet and musters all its strength. The beast of prey one cannot afford to wound, but which has to be killed if it starts to attack.

A movie was made based on this book: The White Lioness (1996).

And Keneth Branagah played the role of Kurt Wallander in BBC Series – The White Lioness (2015).

Book review: Joseph Balsamo by Alexandre Dumas


Joseph BalsamoJoseph Balsamo by Alexandre Dumas

Joseph Balsamo I

The original French text is available at La Bibliothèque électronique du Québec.

La série « Mémoires d’un médecin » comprend les romans suivants :
Joseph Balsamo (4 volumes)
Le collier de la reine (3 volumes)
Ange Pitou (2 volumes)
La comtesse de Charny (4 volumes)
Le Chevalier de Maison Rouge.

Publié de 1846 à 1848, elle traite des dernières années du règne de Louis XV et des prémices de la Révolution.
Édition de référence : Éditions Rencontre, 1964.

Opening lines:
Sur la rive gauche du Rhin, à quelques lieues de la ville impériale de Worms, vers l’endroit où prend sa source la petite rivière de Selz, commencent les premiers chaînons de plusieurs montagnes dont les croupes hérissées paraissent s’enfuir vers le nord, comme un troupeau de buffles effrayés qui disparaîtrait dans la brume.

From Dumas site:

roman/novel, pub:1846-1848, action:1770-1774

Marie Antoinette arrives in Paris, carrying in her wake “man of the people” Steven Gilbert and the aristocratic Andrée de Taverney (later Comtesse de Charney) and Philip de Taverney (later Chevalier de Maison Rouge). The magus Joseph Balsamo bends his efforts to the destruction of the monarchy. Features Jean Jacques Rousseau and briefly Jean Paul Marat as characters.

Joseph Balsamo II

The original French text is available at La Bibliothèque électronique du Québec.

Opening lines:
Il eût été de mauvais goût que Mme Du Barry partît de son appartement de Versailles pour se rendre à la grande salle des présentations.

This is the second volume of the series “Memoir d’un Medicin.”

In this volume the famous character of the French philosophe Jean-Jacques Rousseau has an important role in the plot: Gilbert met him while he was preparing his manuscript “Reveries du Promeneur Solitaire.”

Another historical character also shows up – Jean-Paul Marat:
“Un nom obscur, monsieur, le nom d’un homme modeste qui voue sa vie à l’étude, en attendant qu’il puisse, comme vous, la vouer au bonheur de l’humanité : je me nomme Jean-Paul Marat.”

Some references to Voltaire are also made by the author.

The sequel of this book is Joseph Balsamo III.

Joseph Balsamo III
The original French text is available at La Bibliothèque électronique du Québec.

Opening lines;
Le lendemain, la rumeur était grande à Versailles. Les gens ne s’abordaient qu’avec des signes mystérieux et des poignées de main significatives, ou bien avec des croisements de bras et des regards au ciel, qui témoignaient de leur douleur et de leur surprise.

In this volume, the dangerous friendship between Balsamo and Jean-Paul Marat become more reckless:

“Les Parlements usent du seul droit qu’ils aient, l’inertie: les voilà qui cessent de fonctionner. Dans un corps bien organisé, comme doit être un État de premier ordre, la paralysie d’un organe essentiel est mortelle; or, le Parlement est au corps social ce que l’estomac est au corps humain ; les Parlements n’opérant plus, le peuple, ces entrailles de l’État, ne travaillera et, par conséquent, ne paiera plus ; et l’or, c’est-à- dire le sang, leur fera défaut.”

Marat also likes to question some of points of views made by Jean-Jacques Rousseau:

“– Vos livres ! s’écria Marat, ils sont sublimes, d’accord ; mais ce sont des utopies ; vous êtes utile au même point de vue que Pythagore, que Solon et que Cicéron le sophiste. Vous indiquez le bien, mais un bien artificiel, insaisissable, inaccessible ; vous ressemblez à celui qui voudrait nourrir une foule affamée avec des bulles d’air plus ou moins irisées par le soleil.”

Some points of view made by Marat:

“Renversons la garde, nous arriverons jusqu’à l’idole; frappons d’abord les sentinelles, nous frapperons ensuite le chef. Aux courtisans, aux nobles, aux aristocrates, la première attaque ; aux rois la dernière. Comptez les têtes privilégiées : deux cent mille à peine ; promenez-vous, une baguette tranchante à la main, dans ce beau jardin qu’on nomme la France et abattez ces deux cent mille têtes comme Tarquin faisait des pavots du Latium, et tout sera dit ; et vous n’aurez plus que deux puissances en face l’une de l’autre, peuple et royauté.”

“Un jour, dit Marat, qui croyait prendre le maître en faiblesse, un jour quelque philanthrope s’occupera de la mort comme les autres s’occupent de la vie, trouvera une machine qui détachera ainsi la tête d’un seul coup, et qui rendra l’anéantissement instantané, ce que ne fait aucun des autres genres de mort; la roue, l’écartèlement et la pendaison sont des supplices appartenant à des peuples barbares et non à des peuples civilisés. Une nation éclairée comme la France doit punir, et non se venger ; car la société qui roue, qui pend ou qui écartèle, se venge du criminel par la souffrance avant de le punir par la mort ; ce qui est trop de moitié, à mon avis.”

The sequel of this book is Joseph Balsamo IV.

Joseph Balsamo IV

In this final volume the destinies of Andree and her brother Philippe de Taverney takes a disgraceful development.

By the end of the book, Louis XV dies and the dauphins take their place in there French history. This event is close observed by the critics of the “ancient regime” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Jean-Paul Marat.

A movie was made based on this book: Joseph Balsamo (1973), directed by Andre Hubenelle, with Jean Marais acting as Balsamo.

The second book of this series is The Queen’s Necklace.