Not exactly an easy read, but mostly because Revaz manages to find the voice, the internal voice, of a Swiss farmer living with his wife Vulve in the high mountains.  This is not an easy life, with farm labour taking a toll on the whole family.  Paul, the rough farmer, decides to employ a Portuguese Labourer to help out during the Summer and Spring months – as soon as he arrives – behaviours adjust amongst this new triangle of adults stuck alone on the farm.

Revaz writing reflects the internal spoken monologue, always in the present tense, and always reacting to events and desires.  The only plans in Paul’s mind exist to ensure the survival of his herd of cows.  Even his own children are described only as bumbling insects who come to bother him around the dinner table.  Only the newly arrived Labourer can ingest a dose of warmth into Vulve’s harsh and abused life, and to help her through her illness.  Apparently this novel inspired a 2009 French film called Coeur Animal by Séverine Cornamusaz, which never really got a wide distribution.  If the film is anything like the book – it will be a tough 90 minutes to sit through.

Members of our little group are keen reviewers, and of course book lovers.  For those of you who don’t know his work, one of our star reviewers is Danny Yee and his Book Review site. I will highlight some of the reviews on his site for the various Novels on our List.

The first of these is this great review of Andric’s great Novel – The Chronicles of Travnik – have a look at it here:

Danny’s Review of Chronicles of Travnik

Great read. Far too many reviews on the Web. The best one is this link which explains all the mathematical puzzles in this book.

Mathematical Association review.

C’est une histoire de culs, or it is a new way to make meteorology sexy. This first novel from Audeguy takes you on several historical journey’s all related one way or another with the way science has perceived clouds. The entire story is held together by the library of a Paris based Japanese fashion designer called Akira Kumo (reminds me a lot of Kenzo) and his librarian Virginie. Of course, Kumo was a boy living in Hiroshima during WWII, and one of the few survivors of that other man-made cloud. Kumo is the narrator and tells many meteorological stories, such as Luke Howard’s discovery in the early 1800’s, as the creator of all the names we use to this day for all the clouds in the sky.

The novel also has a number of other meteo-trivia, such as the refusal of Napoleon to listen to his Chevalier warning him of the snow clouds over Moscow, just before making thousands of his own French soldiers perish in “La Marche en Avant” through the Russian winter, or the role of (a fictional?) Richard Abercrombie, a meteorologist of the 19th Century who unintentionally assisted the science for military commanders to send gas clouds killing thousands of soldiers in WWI Europe, and his travels around the world to lose himself in the perfect cloud of the mind through the prostitutes of South East Asia. These anecdotes do hold together. However, the story of Kumo’s librarian, Virginie, was a bit weak; and more explorations of Kumo’s motivations in collecting thousands of works on clouds would make the reader care a bit more about his untimely end.

Votes are now finalised – Thanks to all our voters.

We have the results on the proposal to add either one of the Harmony Silk Factory; To Live; or An Insular Possession to the List of Novels you might want to read in your life-time if you get half the chance:

Six voted for The Harmony Silk Factory,

One voted for To Live,

No one voted for an Insular Possession.

Based on these results, the novel by Tash Aw will join our List of Novels.

World Book Night Poll

World Book Night is due to kick-off on 5 March 2011 when a million books will be given away.

The Twenty Five books chosen by a committee of judges can be found if you follow the link below.  Check out the reviews if you don’t know these works :

World Book Night Titles.

I have looked at this list, and can confirm that we already have nine of these titles on our List of novels you might want to read in your life-time.

These are:

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon,
  • Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel García Márquez
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  • A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
  • Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
  • Northern Lights – Philip Pullman
  • All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark
  • Fingersmith – Sarah Waters

However, thirteen other Novels on the World Book Night list are not on our list.  Some of them seem to be worthy contenders.  Since, on this Blog we pride ourselves on allowing a democratic choice, I have organised the World Book Night Poll below.

Each visitor to this site has 10 votes to distribute to the list of 13 novels below.  You have until 5 March to make your selection.  The two titles with the most votes will be added to our List of Novels you might want to read in your life-time.

This poll is open to everyone – so please tell your friends and family – please feel free to comment once you’ve made your choice.

This poll is now closed.

My second Michon book devoured in one month. A completely different style to his biographical work, possibly because this Novel, made out of a series of vignettes on the small and insignificant lives of past acquaintances, was stranded together through autobiographical details on the authors love life and his encounters with drink and barbiturates.

Some of the vignette are quite funny, especially the story of the drunken womanising village priest, who spends his time falling off his mobylette after having a few too many in the café.

I felt it was a shame that one of Michon’s loves, the young woman called Marianne, who suffered his addictions was not entitled to a full vignette. Whereas other short lived love affair, such as with Claudette, ends up described in 54 pages of self-indulgent ruminations.

A Novel which was a pleasure to read, with some striking use of French style, but mixed with a few longueurs.

Through-out the year, I will add on this blog a number of reviews of the Novels you can find on the list.

We will start with Beck, an author born in Belgium, who lived in France and Switzerland. She was Gide’s secretary for a while and has a very simple – but engaging writing style.  She is worth reading at least once in your life-time.

An old retired lady is given a cat which she does not want. She soon realises that this is no ordinary cat. It speaks, has demands, wants to learn, but maintains her true feline nature. Others, mostly children, can hear her words. No one is surprised with this speaking cat in her village. Beatrix Beck delivers very wise comments about the changing nature of our society in this novella, and the telling modification of the French Language. The cat almost becomes her familiar as they both pine for real companionship.

I don’t believe this work has ever been translated into English. I’ve marked it down as one of the works I would like to translate one day. Beck is like a Budha figure of Belgium Literature, always concise, with an absolute minimal use of words to deliver a clear portrait of the life around her. Elle donne sa langue au chat.

Post-war Australia was a land of internecine wars of religion, between catholics and protestants, jews and anglicans, along with native Australians left on the side-lines to loose themselves in drink on the margins of the city.  A long forgotten time in Australia’s history.  In Patrick White’s tale, all main characters are outsiders, slowly decaying, as does the family estate “Xanadu” in which some of the story is set.  In the end Xanadu is destroyed by the demolition crews, only to be replaced by the fibro-homes of suburbia.  You would hope that this world would never exist again, but it is still uncomfortablly close to the surface of Australian society.

Difficult to slot this book into a category, it is a story, even a Novel, made up of fragments.  Just as the main character’s personality is made up of fragments remembered from his childhood during WWII in a Germany under Allied bombing, or from his time seeking refuge in Mexico, with a mother who turns out to be an adoptive parent, or with a fragment of a memory of a time when he could speak Icelandic as a child he.

Magnus is the name of a teddy bear, which he has carried around with him since childhood, only, to in the end becoming him and to taking on his name.  I did get the feeling that Sylvie Germain was a victim of what I call “how do you end a good story” syndrome. But otherwise this Novel is an easy read, if you are prepared in your mind to put all the fragments together.

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