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HTLAL Book Club 2015

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Ogrim
Heptaglot
Senior Member
France
Joined 2722 days ago

991 posts - 1893 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, English, Spanish, French, Romansh, German, Italian
Studies: Russian, Catalan, Latin, Greek, Romanian

 
 Message 49 of 69
19 January 2015 at 4:51pm | IP Logged 
I read less than I usually do over the holiday period because I wanted to spend as much time as possible studying Russian. However, when my brain was tired from reading Cyrillic I turned to some easy reading in English. An author called Sophie Hannah has written, with the permission of Agatha Christie's estate, a new Hercule Poirot mystery, the Monogram Murders. I am a fan of Agatha Christie, and I had some reservations about this book. Anyway, over at Goodreads I gave it a two-star rating, and this is my review of it (no spoilers don't worry):

I must admit I was a bit sceptical about a Poirot mystery written by somebody else than the great Agatha Christie, but I decided to give it a try. Now that I've finished it I've got mixed feelings about it, therefore the two stars. As other reviewers I found the Scotland Yard detective who tells the story totally pathetic, and besides he does not come through as a character you really believe in. He is bothered by a traumatic childhood experience, but it is very hard to see what the relevance of that is for the storyline. Apart from that, while the plot initially seems interesting and well thought out, I found that the solution at the end is far too complex and totally unrealistic. The scene where Poirot reveals the solution is a poor imitation of Christie's classic way of joining all potential suspects in one room with Poirot taking them and us closer to the truth step by step, and the way the suspects and the witnesses react does not come through as plausible. The only positive I can say about this book is that, from time to time, the style comes close to Christie's and the way Poirot acts and speaks corresponds more or less with the authentic Poirot we know from the Styles Mystery, Death on the Nile and all the other great books about the Belgian detective.

So unless you have read everything there is by Agatha Christie and crave for another Poirot story, I'd rather recommend you go back and read the original novels written by the great Dame of crime herself.


Edited by Ogrim on 19 January 2015 at 4:52pm

1 person has voted this message useful



Expugnator
Hexaglot
Senior Member
Brazil
Joined 3249 days ago

3335 posts - 4349 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, Norwegian, French, English, Italian, Papiamento
Studies: Mandarin, Georgian, Russian

 
 Message 50 of 69
19 January 2015 at 10:13pm | IP Logged 
@Ari, congratulations on reading Dom Casmurro! It is indeed a well-reputed novel, I'm happy to see it being mentioned here. To tell the truth, I'm not sure if I have read it in school time or only another one of Machado de Assis' novels. I have O Alienista scheduled to read in German, it was translated to the Irrenarzt.

Since I'm always reading with focus on learning and on the Super Challenge for most of my languages, I don't have much to report, because in my weaker languages I only manage to read 3-5 pages a day, and in my stronger ones I don't read longer because I have to save up time for the weaker ones. Yet I'd like to mention the Norwegian novel Mørketid - Uskyld for fall, by Salmund Kyviks, which describes the atmosphere of Norway before WWII.
2 persons have voted this message useful



eyðimörk
Triglot
Senior Member
France
goo.gl/aT4FY7
Joined 2182 days ago

490 posts - 1157 votes 
Speaks: Swedish*, English, French
Studies: Breton, Italian

 
 Message 51 of 69
23 February 2015 at 12:31pm | IP Logged 
Coucou! How is your reading going?

Over the weekend, I finished Raymond Radiguet's 20th century classic Le Diable au corps (The Devil in the Flesh). You can download a free Kindle version.


This book (and the subsequent films) has an interesting history of creating scandal upon scandal, but let's rather focus on the content, shall we? It is a love story of sorts, but it's a love story that explores wickedness and egoism as its main themes. The main character is an incredibly self-aware twit, who seems rather mature for his fifteen years at first, but later on is most definitely not. He falls in love with a young woman who is two years older than him and engaged, later married, to an utterly devoted handsome young man who is away fighting for France in World War I. The quote that says it all: « J'aime mieux, murmura-t-elle, être malheureuse avec toi qu'heureuse avec lui. » ("I prefer," she murmured "being unhappy with you over being happy with him.") It is not the kind of story that I usually read, but I was compelled to keep reading. The protagonist really drew me in.

It's definitely a book that I'd recommend. It's quite short and not particularly complicated linguistically, although you obviously have to deal with the passé simple and the occasional slightly unusual or outdated word (my new favourite is endimanché, "Sundayed up", i.e. "dressed in his Sunday best").

Coincidentally, I also read another love story recently so none of you are going to believe me when I say it's not my type of genre. It's not my fault, though, because this is another 20th century classic: Albert Cohen's Belle du Seigneur (Her Lover).


If I were to describe this book in one word, it'd be... long. Most editions are over a thousand pages, and it's largely because the author is prone to saying in two chapters what could be said in one page. That's because his characters are prone to internal waffling, which, sometimes at least, serves a purpose. Still, I could have lived without some of those pages.

As for the story? I was a little bit disappointed because every review I read made this out to be the great love story of the century, and that this novel was all there was to say about love. In reality, though, it's the story of the obsession between a spoiled brat of a woman-child and the misogynistic cynic who is drawn to her for her beauty despite thinking at every turn that she's vapid and annoying. I hated most of the characters (except for the Jewish uncle) and wanted to see them get together only because they deserved each other and deserved to make each other miserable.

On the other hand, though, it's an expertly written novel and the language is often beautiful. The characters are well-crafted. I enjoyed it. I would even recommend it, but to a reader who knows what they're getting into.
6 persons have voted this message useful



Cavesa
Triglot
Senior Member
Czech Republic
Joined 3092 days ago

3277 posts - 6777 votes 
Speaks: Czech*, FrenchC2, EnglishC1
Studies: Spanish, German, Italian

 
 Message 52 of 69
24 February 2015 at 2:33am | IP Logged 
Thanks for the warning, I see that going into love themed literature can be quite a
traumatising experience as well. I am not the right kind of reader for these two, I
suppose.

I've been reading and I had the luck to get an awesome combination.
First, still in 2014, I read Les Trois Musquetaires.

It was awesome, I loved it, I laughed often, I got sad when it ended (and how it ended
as the movie versions don't usually show all those bad ends). I love A.Dumas so much!
I've loved him since I read Le Compte Monte Cristo in Czech translation eleven years
ago. He has always been one of my motivations to learn French, as I've recently
realized.

I wholeheartedly recommend the book. Not only the story is an important part of
cultural horizon of most people with at least basic education (at least in Europe). It
is fun, the language is not hard and quite modern, considering how old is the book.

Second was a trilogy by Pierre Pevel, Les Lames du Cardinal (second part being
L'Alchimiste des Ombres and Le Dragon des Arcanes).

Pevel writes historical fantasy and he is great. I'd say he is much better than most
authors, including many more famous ones. He would probably be in the world top ten of
the genre, if he were anglophone, as those just get better marketing and larger
starting public.

This trilogy is basically a tribut to Dumas and his musqueteers, some of the old
characters even appear in the new trilogy. What is totally new are the dragons, trying
to get to power in whole world, and most importantly for the books in France.

The characters are well writen, the endings are not easily guessed, which is the most
common mistake made in the fantasy genre, lots of action, some humour, a bit of love,
lots of intrigues, just awesome.

Edited by Cavesa on 24 February 2015 at 2:34am

4 persons have voted this message useful



Ogrim
Heptaglot
Senior Member
France
Joined 2722 days ago

991 posts - 1893 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, English, Spanish, French, Romansh, German, Italian
Studies: Russian, Catalan, Latin, Greek, Romanian

 
 Message 53 of 69
09 March 2015 at 3:28pm | IP Logged 
I have of course heard about both Le Diable au corps and Belle du Seigneur but I have never got around to reading any of them. However, having had a two-week holiday I have had time to read plenty, and got through four and a half books in four different languages in those two weeks:

La carte et le territoire by Michel Houllebecq. He won the Prix Goncourt for this book, and I started reading it a couple of years ago but then for different reasons put it away. Now I took it up again and finished it. The thematic is typically "houllebecquien", the main character is a disillusioned, somewhat solitary artist who never seems to really enjoy life although he becomes famous and rich. However, what is peculiar is that Houllebecq puts himself as one of the characters in the book. I don't know whether the picture he paints of himself in the book is really true, and whether his life is as pathetic as he discribes it, but it makes for compelling reading. I won't tell what happens in the end in case someone plans to read it, just to say that the final part of the book is quite surprising, even distrubing, and it involves Houllebecq himself.

Nus duas by Leontina Lergier-Caviezel. This is a book in Romansh, and it is a story about friendship, betrayal and revenge. The narrator, one of the two women the title refers to, tells about growing up with her best friend, them being inseparable although quite different in character and upbringing. Their friendship comes to an abrupt end when (SPOILER ALERT) .... the friend sleeps with the narrator's boyfriend. In short, it is a rather banal story, but it is nicely told - and Ms. Lergier-Caviezel writes in elegant Sursilvan.

Den 13. disippel by Tom Egeland. I do sometimes read in Norwegian, and I just had to read this book. For those who don't know him: Tom Egeland is the author of a series of mystery thrillers with the albino archeologist Bjørn Beltø as the "hero". Think Dan Brown, but with better plots, better writing, better research and less "action style" prosa, and you will get an idea of how Egeland writes. The first book about Beltø, called "Sirkelens ende", has actually a lot of common with Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code", inasmuch as both speculates about the real nature and destiny of Jesus Christ, but Egeland actually wrote his book a year before the Da Vinci Code was published. Anyway, this fifth book about Beltø returns to some of the same questions, and with an intriguing plot reveals another great secret, hidden in a tomb in Israel which Israeli authorities have kept sealed off for half a century. In short, a great page-turner, if you like this kind of mystery literature.

Contre la pensée unique by Claude Hagège. This is an essay written by France's most well known linguist, and it basically is an attack on the "Anglo-Americanisation" of the world. M. Hagège stands in a tradition of linguistics which claims (to put it simply) that the language you use determines how you see the world, and he considers that the dominance of English in the world brings with it a certain ideology driven by a neo-liberal agenda. This in turn threatens the use of other languages, not least in certain domains like trade and science. I have read several of M. Hagège's books, and this is by far the most political and least "scientific". However, whether one agrees with the author or not, it is worth reading by anyone interested in questions related to language diversity and language dominance.

The "half book" I refer to is not really more than some twenty pages in Russian. I am reading intensively a book called Как жить с французом by Дарья Мийе, and it is the first "real" book in Russian that I am determined to get through. It is not a terribly exciting story, but it makes for good language practice, and I find it interesting to see what a Russian woman married to a French makes of this country and its people. It will take some time to get through it though, as I still need to look up a lot of words on almost every page, but by experience I know that this is how I best build my vocabulary, and therefore I should be able to read faster and faster as I progress through the book.

By the way, are any of you HTLAL "book club members" on Goodreads? If so, I would be happy to join up with you there. Send me a PM if you wish or alternatively search for me on Goodreads by my last name: Grimsmo.


5 persons have voted this message useful



Expugnator
Hexaglot
Senior Member
Brazil
Joined 3249 days ago

3335 posts - 4349 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, Norwegian, French, English, Italian, Papiamento
Studies: Mandarin, Georgian, Russian

 
 Message 54 of 69
09 March 2015 at 8:07pm | IP Logged 
Thank you for sharing your reads, Ogrim. And a Norwegian one! I'm currently reading Dan Brown in Chinese, so maybe I can try a better author in a language I'm better at. Btw, I tried to find you at Goodreads but didn't manage to.
1 person has voted this message useful



Ogrim
Heptaglot
Senior Member
France
Joined 2722 days ago

991 posts - 1893 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, English, Spanish, French, Romansh, German, Italian
Studies: Russian, Catalan, Latin, Greek, Romanian

 
 Message 55 of 69
10 March 2015 at 9:25am | IP Logged 
Expugnator, Dan Brown in Chinese, now that impresses me. Tom Egeland should definitely be something for you if you like "intelligent" adventure and mystery literature.

I am surprised you did not find me on Goodreads, but maybe if you try searching for Ogrimsmo instead you will be more successful. Apparently that is my username there, I do not visit that often, so far I've been using Goodreads more as a place to keep track of my readings, but I think it is a great site with a lot interesting stuff for literature lovers.

1 person has voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 4680 days ago

9753 posts - 15775 votes 
4 sounds
Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 
 Message 56 of 69
17 March 2015 at 10:41pm | IP Logged 
This is my goodreads page. Hmmm I definitely remember reading your review of the Poirot book but I can't find you on my friends list, nor in the search :/


1 person has voted this message useful



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