Helen read two books about Albania this month – Robert Carver’s ‘The Accursed Mountains’ about the writer’s adventurous journey through Albania after the collapse of Communism in 1991 and just before the country’s descent into anarchy in 1997 which was triggered by the collapse of fraudulent pyramid schemes. It is a fascinating read though jaw dropping at times to read how scathingly critical (and downright rude!) the author is about the Albanian character…..clearly he met very different people to us.
Carver’s book give some background on the mystifying world of Albanian blood feuds and the adherence to the medieval code of laws (the kanun) which underpins them.
The second book on Albania ‘Broken April’ by Ismail Kadare is a fictional account of a young man caught up in a blood feud. It’s a heartbreaking read.
Helen is currently reading ‘Stoner’ by John Williams.
On Audible she’s listening to ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’.
Stuart has read ‘March Violets’ by Philip Kerr, ‘The Man Who Smiled’ by Henning Mankell, ‘American Gods’ by Neil Gaiman, ‘Stalin’s Ghost’ by Martin Cruz Smith, ‘Saints of the Shadow Bible’ by Ian Rankin, ‘Three Stations’ by Martin Cruz Smith, ‘The Mission Song’ by John Le Carre, ‘The Swimmer’ by Joakim Zander, ‘The Almost Nearly Perfect People’ by Michael Booth and’Tokyo Station by Martin Cruz Smith.
He is currently juggle/ reading two books the non-fiction book ‘The Year of Living Danishly’ by Helen Russell and ‘The Mine’ by Antti Tuomainen
DVDs – We’ve now finished all of Homeland…season 6 was a bit slow to start but still delivered enough drama to make it a certainty that we will be watching season 7 whenever it’s made. We will miss Carrie in the meantime but her nightly spot has now been taken by the Danish family at the centre of ‘The Legacy’ which is proving very watchable.
Helen is currently reading ‘The Essex Serpent’ by Sarah Perry – just started it after finishing Sebastian Faulks ‘Where My Heart Used To Beat’ (readable but didn’t love it) and Sebastian Barry ‘Days Without End’ (absolutely loved this). Enjoyed ‘Istanbul Passage’ . The plot focussing on the immediate aftermath of WWII and how America and the Soviet Union tried to recruit Nazi scientists came to life when visiting the Dvna Missile Base in Lithuania. There on the wall in the museum was a photo of the Nazi rocket scientist Dr. Wernher von Braun recruited by the Americans under Operation Paperclip.
Stuart is currently reading ‘The Day of the Locust’ by Nathanael West. He has recently finished ‘Ordinary Thunderstorms’ by William Boyd (thumbs up), ‘I am Pilgrim’ by Terry Hayes (gripping page turner) ‘Norwegian Wood’ by Lars Mytting, ‘The Return of the Dancing Master’ by Henning Mankell, ‘The Riddle of the Sands’ by Erskine Childrers and ‘The Last 100 Days’ by Patrick McGuinness. The standout one for him was ‘Riddle of the Sands’.
DVDs – we are on series 5 of ‘Homeland’ and can’t not see this one out to see what happens to Carrie so are on the pre-order list for series 6 to get it delivered to us somehow somewhere.
Helen is currently reading the Joseph Kanon’s ‘Istanbul Passage’ .
Since the last update, she’s read ‘Somewhere Different’, written by ex-Sun photographer Duncan Ridgley who is the owner of ‘The Village Hotel’ in Breb with wife Penny. The book tells how they took their young family off travelling in search of ‘somewhere different’ to establish a holiday villa business. It ends just after the family were caught up in the tsunami in Sri Lanka. The whole book is hugely entertaining not least because of Duncan’s Sun-style admiration of a finely turned ankle but that last chapter in particular where he describes hour by hour how they got through the horrors of that day was jaw dropping. I’m looking forward to his next one to follow their story even though I sort of know how it turned out as we stayed in the Village Hotel in Romania.
And she’s read ‘The Ballroom Cafe’ by Ann O’Loughlin which was of particular interest as Helen went to journalism college with Ann in Dublin and she and her classmates are now awe-struck at Ann’s fantastic success with this book which she has now followed up with ‘The Judge’s Wife’ (still to read that) and apparently there’s a third at the proof stage. We all like to think we’ve a book in us and never manage to produce it….Ann’s gone ahead and done it. ‘The Ballroom Cafe’ is a good yarn where the central plot relates to the continually unfolding scandal in Ireland of the Church-run mother and baby homes where even in recent weeks the skeletons of babies have been found buried in mass graves.
…and has been listening to Edith Wharton’s ‘In Morocco’ on Audible. The author wrote the book after her visit there in 1918 when Morocco was a French protectorate.
Stuart is currently reading William Boyd’s ‘An Ice-cream War’
Since the last update he read ‘A Man called Ove’ by Frederik Backman, ‘The Killer is Dying’ by James Sallis, ‘His Bloody Project’ by Graeme Macrae Burnet , ‘Notes from an Exhibition’ by Patrick Gale, ‘Wolves Eat Dogs’ by Martin Cruz Smith and – not such a random choice when the Bulgaria house purchase is taken into account – ‘The Rocket Mass Heater Builder’s Guide’ by Erica and Ernie Wisner.
On Homeland Season 3 now – sooooo good. Bedtime in the van has never been so exciting.
Helen hadn’t realised that the Ferrante Neapolitan Trilogy wasn’t actually a trilogy and there was a fourth book. The realisation dawned when she reached the end of book 3 and said ‘whaaaat? what does she do now?’. By this time, she’d already decided on reading ‘Along the Enchanted Way’ by William Blacker, a really interesting true story about a young man who heads off into Romania post fall of the Berlin wall, immerses himself into the peasant rural life of the country, falls in love with a gypsy woman….we intend to follow up on his route (excluding love affair bit) when travelling in Romania very soon.
She also picked up the first of the Joseph Kanon books in the shared library and had a good stomp though page turner ‘The Good German’.
Following distraught googling about ‘what happens next’ in the Ferrante books, she’s discovered there is, in fact, a fourth book and is now happily back in Naples with Elena and Lina in ‘The Story of the Lost Child’ in both audible and written form.
Stuart has now read ‘Archangel’ by Gerald Seymour and ‘Depths’ by Henning Mankel. He’s now reading ‘Havana Bay’ by Martin Cruz Smith. Once he finishes that, he’s feeling he needs to pick up something worthy and not so readable.
Still on Homeland Season 1 – very happy that seasons 1-5 have been delivered to us personally by friends meeting us in Bulgaria. Plenty to be getting on with now.
11 April 2017
Stuart has been chewing books this week. He’s now reading ‘Red Square’ by Martin Cruz Smith and at the same time reading ‘Romania Explained to My Friends Abroad’ by Catalin Gruia in preparation for our trip there.
He’s finished ‘Where My Heart Used to Beat’ by Sebastian Faulks and ‘A Delicate Truth’ by John Le Carre, ‘Polar Star’ by Martin Cruz Smith and ‘Sweet Caress – the Many Lives of Amory Clay’ by William Boyd.
All very good reads – he sez. Not one for the verbose review.
Helen is now on the third of the Neapolitan Trilogy books ‘ Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay’ – engrossing stuff.
Hooray – we’ve finished GOT season 6. Stuart has resolved not to watch season 7 when it comes out. I probably won’t be able to resist. We are now on season 1 of Homeland. I’ve seen it already but getting Stuart hooked so we ship in the next series to keep us entertained for the next few months.
All recommendations for a decent box set which we can order and can collect in the coming weeks on various trips back to the UK and Ireland, please say.
3 April 2017
GOT is a bit like ‘The Bill’. At some point anyone who has an Equity card will get a look in. Bit of a surprise to see Lovejoy turn up in last night’s episode (especially as he’s the main man in Deadwood too) but he didn’t last long. Must have been a ‘good news bad news’ call from his agent…’and so the good news is GOT want you….the bad news is it’s just for 10 minutes.’
31 March 2017
This week Helen is now on the second in the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan trilogy ‘The Story of a New Name’. The voices from the Audible in book 1 are still in her head so she hasn’t bothered buying it this time. She’s actually reading real words and not knitting and is engrossed in the intertwined lives of Lila and Elena in Naples and would be thinking she doesn’t want this book to end except that she knows there’s the treat of a third book in store.
Stuart says The Birdwatcher is a good page turning lightweight novel – kept him interested. He read ‘Theatre of Fish – Travels through Newfoundland’ by John Gimlette. It’s a non-fiction book that will interest you if you are interested in Newfoundland history even if you’ve just read ‘The Shipping News’ (which is what prompted him to read it). He also read up John Le Carre’s ‘Tailor of Panama’. Loved that one. Good read, very interesting context.
He read ‘Los Alamos’ by Joseph Kanon and enjoyed that one, like every book by this author, and now he’s reading William Boyd’s ‘Sweet Caress’.
We are now on series 6 of ‘Game of Thrones‘ – so help me still manfully working our way through the episodes and still reeling from last night’s full frontal from a man worried he has genital warts….lordy we will be writing angry letters to the Times next. Probably in green ink.
Still cooking along with ‘Deadwood‘. Bit of a tearjerker last night but SPOILERALERT won’t say who died.
This week Helen has started reading (and now with Audible added, sometimes listening to ‘My Brilliant Friend’, the first of the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan trilogy. Early days but so far, so great, especially as we have recently been in Naples and the street names are still familiar.
Adding ‘Audible’ for the occasional Kindle book is really useful for van life as it means you can carry on with your book while cooking or knitting (that VW bed spread is taking an age). It was especially the perfect way to re-visit ‘Middlemarch’.
And Stuart has just started The Birdwatcher by William Shaw. It’s a detective story involving birds and the Kent coast. ..verdict to follow.
So help me we are still ploughing our way through an episode of Game of Thrones every night. ‘Ploughing?’ you might ask. And the response would be that the dialogue is twaddle, the sex scenes unbelievably gratuitous – like the writers are working their way through a checklist of set pieces designed to push the buttons of all tastes. But the worse part are the extended torture scenes which are nauseating. Why continue? Well we’re halfway through season 5 – we need to know if – *SPOILERALERT* – “the imp” comes out on top in the end, which he should as he’s by far the best actor in the whole cast and the only one you actually care about this far in.
My cooking companion box set just now is ‘Deadwood’. Ian McShane being very un-Lovejoy here. Skyler from ‘Breaking Bad’ and Jackie Sharp from ‘House of Cards’ looking very demure and different here in crinoline and hoops. My favourite character so far? Calamity Jane, bless her booze-raddled heart.
Back on the shelf….
And already so far, the books we’ve read- some individually, a few shared – are:
‘The Green Road’ by Anne Enright
The Good German – Joseph Kanon
Istanbul Passage – Joseph Kanon
Leaving Berlin – Joseph Kanon
A Place Called Winter – Patrick Gale
Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither – Sarah Baume
Kolymsky Heights – Lionel Davidson
Archangel – Robert Harris
Cecil Rhodes – Brian Roberts
Tales of Fishes – Zane Grey
Carol – Patricia Highsmith
Single & Single – John Le Carre
Burial Rites – Hannah Kent
The Life of Vivian Stanshall – Lucien Randall
Red Bones – Ann Cleeves
White Nights – Ann Cleeves
Raven Black – Ann Cleeves
The Survival of the Fittest – Pamela Hansford Johnson
Falling – Elizabeth Jane Howard
Valley of the Dolls – Jacqueline Susan
Memoirs of a Stalker – Thomas W Hodgkinson
Middlemarch – George Eliot – first read the book many moons ago but specifically bought the Audible function here to have a cooking/knitting companion – 32 hours of total listening pleasure here
The Road to Middlemarch – My Life with George Eliot – Rebecca Mead (the author is an English journalist who wrote for the New Yorker and in this book she interweaves references to her own life with background on George Eliot’s life. I really enjoyed it, especially for the insight into the bravely unconventional life of Eliot).
The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty – Sebastian Barry
The Lady in the the Van – Alan Bennett
Moth – James Sallis
The Long Legged Fly – James Sallis
Black Hornet – James Sallis
A Delicate Truth – John Le Carre
The Revenant – Michael Punk
Stoner – John Williams
That Old Ace in the Hole – Annie Proulx
A Good Man in Africa – William Boyd
Saints of the Shadow Bible (Inspector Rebus)
Apple Tree Yard – Louise Doughty
Excellent Women – Barbara Pym
An Impossible Marriage – Pamela Hansford Johnson
And DVDs watched ..[list in progress]
The Assassination of Richard Nixon
The Night Manager