Delphine De Vigan: D’ après une histoire vraie

VIGAN 7779486905_la-romanciere-delphine-de-vigan-publie-d-apres-une-histoire-vraie-lors-de-la-rentree-litteraire-2015

  • Author: Delphine de Vigan
  • Title: D’ après une histoire vraie
  • Published: 2015
  • Trivia:  Delphine de Vigan was awarded the Prix Renaudot 2015.


  1. It is important  not reveal too much about the plot.
  2. De Vigan is about to start writing her next book.
  3. She is still riding high on the success of her last book in 2011:
  4. Rien ne s’ oppose à la nuit story about her relationship with her mother.
  5. She suffers from writer’s block and must meet the expectations of her readers.
  6. De Vigan meets a woman at a book signing.
  7. She will turn De Vigan’s  life and writing upside down.
  8. Strong point:
  9. De Vigan weaves a feeling of intrigue  and tension that keeps you reading.
  10. Strong point:  writing style:
  11. The story flowed, moved along without stumbling.
  12. It lead ever forward and drew me deeper into the plot.
  13. French was very easy to read.
  14. Last thoughts:
  15. I was so disappointed  that D’ après une histoire vraie
  16. did no make the shortlist Prix Goncourt 2015.
  17. This book deserved to be one of the last 4 books ‘en lice’.
  18. Delphine de Vigan has written yet another  ‘coup de coeur’ !

Feedback to Marina Sofia at Finding Time to Write:

  1. The book was captivating without out a doubt.
  2. Delphine de Vigan did such a good job with this book.
  3. There was intrigue but more importantly De Vigan’s opinions about writing:
  4. Demands of the public, the struggle with writer’s block and…
  5. The thin line between fiction and reality.
  6. Her first book was impressive b/c of her openness about her family history.
  7. This book was in a special way even better,
  8. …..she put so much thought into this work!

Feedback to Claire at Word by Word:

  1. De Vigan writes close to the bone.
  2. As I said the line between reality and fiction is very thin.
  3. This author has managed in the 2 books I have read by her to challenge the reader.
  4. …is this true or am I being swindled?
  5. We all love voyeurism and De Vigan uses this to draw the reader into her plot.
  6. Her book Rien ne s’oppose à la nuit was raw with emotion.
  7. This one is full on intrigue mixed with a snuff of ‘literary theory’.
  8. Sounds like a strange melange, but it works!

Score: 5


  • As @ReadEngDee says ‘she’s like a girlfriend in my head’.
  • Delphine de Vigan proves why she sells so many books “D’apres une historire vraie”
  • #CoupDeCoeur”
  • Mysterious friend L. ..she seems so innocent.
  • Delphine De Vigan knows how to capture the reader’s attention!
  • I detect the whiff of a
  • #Stalker
  • Les visages des filles de ma classe.
  • “Qui est ‘L.?”  D’après une histoire vraie’ (De Vigan).
  • What a storyteller! (affabulatrice)
  • #Intrigue
  • L.:  araignée qui aurait tissé sa toile (spin weaving its web).
  • L.: pieuvre aux multiples tentacules (octopus tightening its tentacles on Delphine)
  • #DénouementVIGAN d-apres-une-histoire-vraie-de-delphine-de-vigan



Posted by on November 23, 2015 in Uncategorized


Ce pays qui te ressemble


  • Author: Tobie Nathan (1948)
  • Title: Ce pays que te ressemble
  • Genre:  novel
  • Published: 2015
  • Table of contents:   535 pages
  • Theme: tension between social and family identity (Jew vs Arabs)
  • Trivia:  Shortlist the Prix Goncourt 2015
  • Trivia: Born in Cairo in 1948, the French Jewish author Tobie Nathan and his family were expelled from Egypt in 1957, during the anti-Jewish persecutions of the Nasser regime.

Narrator:  Zohar, the main character

Structure:  the book is divided into 3 parts:  1925 – 1942 – 1952


  1. Retraces the fate of Zohar (joy of joys), the son of Motty ‘the blind’ and Esther.
  2. Zohar is born out  the love of his parents and the magic of the Islamic sorcerer, Khadouja.
  3. She uses her enchantment to help the couple conceive after years of sterility.
  4. Zohar owes his life to his wet nurse, Jinane, who cares for this Jewish baby,
  5. …while nursing her own daughter, Masreya (the Egyptian).
  6. Two children are linked together by a mother’s milk.
  7. He is Jewish and she is an Arabic singer with an enchanting voice…they fall in love.
  8. But nothing stands in the way of history.
  9. Will these lovers be separated?
  10. How will their fates interact?
  11. Ce pays que te ressemble is also a history of Egypt at a very human level.
  12. …the power of King Farouk I, the fight with the British and General Rommel,
  13. …the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and the exile of the Jews out of Egypt.


  1. Nathan takes his time developing  the world in the Jewish quarter and its characters.
  2. The result is a book that is TOO long with at least 60 characters. (overwhelming)
  3. Characters simply wander and drift from point A and five hundred pages later to point B.
  4. The plot moves slowly  with several chapters that were anecdotal and boring.
  5. Part  1 (1925) is devoted to Esther, Motty, the childless couple and Jinane the mother of Masreya.
  6. This was the best part of the book….there after the narrative fizzled out.
  7. The descriptions of the Jewish quarter, opium dens, market places (souk) and 1940’s ‘belle époque’ Cairo
  8. could not save the book, in my opinion.
  9. I learned some Egyptian history but the writing style….peu deçu.

Score: 2

Tobie Nathan:









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Posted by on November 16, 2015 in Classic Books, Uncategorized


#AusReadingMonth: Australia Felix – Feedback for Read-a-long

AusReading Month coat of arms

  • Brona’s Books  is hosting a read-a-long for all three books of the trilogy:
  • Book I – Australia Felix – pg 3 -383   (380pgs)     1st -12th Nov
  • Book II – The Way Home – pg 387 – 657   (270pgs)     13th – 21st Nov
  • Book III – Ultima Thule – pg 661 – 941   (280pgs)     22nd- 30th Nov
  • I read  Australia Felix (book I).
  • Here  is my feedback to a few questions she created for the book:
  • Here is my review of Australia Felix


  1. I agree with Brona’s Books the following quote  is
  2. one of the best character sketches of Richard with a few quick strokes in the book:

“Wife, I’ve a grave suspicion!” said Mahony, and took her by the chin. “While I’ve sat here my head in the clouds, you’ve been worrying over ways and means, and over having such an unpractical old dreamer for a husband. Now, child, that won’t do. I didn’t marry to have my girl puzzling her little brains where her next day’s dinner was to come from. Away with you, to your stitching! Things will be all right, trust to me.”

References: Brona’s Books read The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka.

  1. This is a  new reference book for me.
  2. I found the preface of RM describing the  diggings one of the best parts of the book!
  3. What have you learnt about the Australian way of life and history during this reading?
  4. I knew NOTHING about the 1851 gold rush and the area of Ballarat…so I learned many new things.
  5. The gold digging scenes were only in the beginning….then it faded into the background.
  6. I must admit I’ve never read anything about the  gold rush in California USA.
  7. It is just a period in time that I’ve never found in the books I read.

What surprised me was the issue of infant mortality:

  1. I was amazed how quickly Polly bounced back from her loss of the baby.
  2. Richardson does not explore her deep, deep feelings at all.
  3. The sorrows in the (Agnes) Glendenning family were realistically described.
  4. This  this was a stark portrait of what loneliness and isolation can do to a person:
  5. “a veritable prisoner in this desert of paddocks (fenced area) with not a soul to speak to”

Displacement (internal and external) is a central theme. What or where is home?

  1. The answer to this question I thought was in the allusion by Horace:
  2. “Sky, not spirit, do they change, those who cross the sea.”
  3. Book I, epistle xi, line 27.

Is it fate or fortune at work in Mahony’s life?

  1. Fortune is unpredictable and fate happens.
  2. We all have to deal with it.
  3. But the interesting part is how does Richard Mahony do that?
  4. We will read further and find out!

What other issues or themes are explored by the author?

  1. Theme: “Sky, not spirit, do they change, those who cross the sea.”
  2. Wherever you are your struggles never change.
  3. Issue: Mahony wrestles  through dark moments and I think his lack of
  4. ‘trust in the Lord’ is one of the issues in the book.
  5. Mahony at times feels he has no way out.
  6. Solving the problem may seem impossible or close to impossible at this point.
  7. But now we have two more books to read to discover Mahony’s solution.

What are  the flaws in the writing?

  1. I think Richardson  missed a great opportunity:  the setting.
  2. The setting of Australia should have had a stronger
  3. emotional element tied into the main character,
  4. but Richardson just gave the reader very clichéd descriptions:
  5. “The sun was growing large in the western sky”.
  6. I’d rather read about the colors, the fire in the sky or
  7. a metaphor that would arouse my imagination!
  8. I agree with Brona’s Books review, Richardson is at times verbose.



Posted by on November 13, 2015 in Uncategorized


Du Maurier: The Rendezvous and Other Stories


  • Author: Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989)
  • Title: The Rendezvous and other stories
  • Genre: short stories
  • Published: 1994
  • Publisher: Orion, Hardcover, ISBN 9780575028456
  • Table of contents: 14 short stories
  • Trivia: Read this book for Women’s Classic Literature Challenge
  • #ccwomenclassics


  • Daphne du Maurier was born in London,
  • …the daughter of the famous actor-manager Sir Gerald du Maurier.
  • She began writing short stories and articles in 1928.
  • It was the novel  Rebecca (1938) that launched her  career.
  • This book has never been out of print.


  • The fourteen stories were written for magazines and are relatively short.
  • Several stories were written when she was under twenty-three, the rest between 1937-1947.

Three stories No Motive, Escort and  Split Second  deal with the harsh reality of death.

  1. No Motive =  an unexplained suicide of a young woman and the detective hired to search her background.
  2. Split Second and Escort are war stories:
  3. Split Second  = young woman comes home after a walk and finds her house full of strangers.
  4. Escort = merchant ship leaves Scandinavian port and encounters U-boats.
  5. The captain becomes unwell and the 2nd mate must take over.
  6. But help comes from a ‘supernatural element’!

The least successful stories were:

  1. Fairy Tale =  the story of a woman married to a gambler
  2. The Closing door = the story of a terminal illness and a girl’s insensitivity to it.

The most successful stories were:

  1. Leading Lady = beautiful woman’s manipulation of men
  2. Angels and Archangels = jealousy of the vicar for the more popular curate

The rest of the stories are:

  1. La Sainte-Vierge = easy betrayal of uneducated French wife
  2. The Lover = young man’s careless abuse of women
  3. Indiscretion = boss discovers his assistant has slept with his wife
  4. Panic = young woman enters into a tryst that goes all wrong
  5. The Supreme Artist = middle-age actor trying to hang on to his youth
  6. Adieu Sagesse = henpecked husband looking for a way out

The lead title is:

  1. The Rendezvous = middle age author pursuits a youthful shop assistant
  2. …who admires his work and  longs to meet him.

Questions:  “No Motive”

  1. First impressions while reading ? Du Maurier  ‘grabbed’
  2. my attention in the first few pages (suicide).
  3. How does it make you feel? I was sitting in the train and
  4. was so mesmerized by the book, didn’t even look outside during the trip!
  5. Did it fascinate you? Not the first time I read it,
  6. but the second time I noticed more detail and irony.
  7. What did you like? The chilling remarks made by
  8. Detective Black to draw comparisons between characters 
  9. Tom Smith and his nameless father.
  10. What was missing? I missed gestures that show the soul. Du Maurier uses clichés ,
  11. ….”lit cigarette, waved the waiter away, she leant forward intimately.”
  12. What was the writing style? This was a mystery that must be solved.
  13. Why did young Lady Farren commit suicide for not apparent reason?
  14. Du Maurier uses each discovery that Detective makes  to increase the tension.
  15. Mission accomplished!
  16. What was the general message in the story: Theme: harsh reality of death

What did I Like?


  1. Irony: Rev Warner cuts himself loose from his daughter who has had a
  2. severe mental shock and leaves her with a governess and flees to Canada.
  3. Ironically this seems like a very heartless this to do for a clergyman.
  4. Irony: Tom Smith responds to Detective:  Notice of me? he said.
  5. …’No why should she (Lady Farren)? I wasn’t anyone.”
  6. Ironically: Tom Smith is the most important character in the story
  7. Irony: Du Maurier mentions  seven times that Detective Black wanted to wait,
  8. check the facts, not tell a tale half-told, cautious, final, check and check again.
  9. He must have the truth.
  10. Ironically: Detective Black wants to protect Lady Mary Farren because she was a victim all her life.
  11. Now in death she should  rest in dignity.
  12. He finds that sometimes the truth is not important:
  13. “She was happy, contented, and, as you and everybody else knows,
  14. Sir John, she had led a blameless life.”

Dramatic irony:  (the reader knows more than the character, Lady Farren)

  • Lady Farren says nothing about the salesman
  • …(her son, but she doesn’t know it) but the butler does.
  • Butler: “No, sir, her Ladyship didn’t remark on him,
  • …but I’m sure she didn’t hear what I said, because she never answered me.”
  • Detective Black: ” What did you say?”
  • Butler: ” Proper little Carrots he is, and no mistake”.


  1. England,  London, Hampshire, Kent,
  2. England, Cornwall (Carnleath and Newquay)
  3. Switzerland, Lausanne


  1. Sir John Farren (…utterly distraught)
  2. Lady Mary Warner Farren  (“..she had the dumb sort of face that’s easy to fool.”)
  3. Rev. Henry Warner (“more likely to condemn than console”)
  4. Detective Black: ( “ check the facts, not tell a tale half-told, cautious, final, check and check again”)
  5. Miss Vera Marsh ( …tapped the sides of the wheeled chair in little nervous gesture”)
  6. Butler
  7. Old Harris (gardener at rectory)
  8. Mr Johnson rector St Bee’s School
  9. Matron Nursing Home
  10. Superintendent St Edmund’s Home
  11. Manager Garden Furniture company
  12. Tom Smith (red haired traveling salesman)
  • Epiphany for Lady Mary Farren:
  • “Proper little Carrots he is, and no mistake!”
  • Dilemma: 
  • Should Detective Black tell Sir John Farren the truth or
  • let him live on with the illusion that his wife
  • only had a sudden mental breakdown.
  • Solution: “Sir John, she had led a blameless life.”

Characters: touchy ‘ self-defense’

  1. “Why did people invariably lie when questioned about something else?”
  2. Unreliable reports from characters holding back information increases the suspense.
  3. Miss Marsh (lied about money she kept from Warner)
  4. Rev. Warner (lied about Mary’s trauma b/c of train accident),
  5. Mr Johnson (lied about no case of rheumatic fever at the school)
  6. Tom Smith (lied about the money he kept from Lady Farren’s check.


  1. Detective Black: “There are very few people in this world who haven’t got something to hide.”
  2. Tom: “No one’s ashamed till he’s caught out.”
  3. Tom: “` I see now that dodge (trick) didn’t work, he said.
  4. …”I’ll try something else next time.”
  5. Detective Black: “Try saving the world’
  6. (ref: to Mary’s thoughts that her baby boy was the Messiah
  7. (immaculate conception).


  1. There is always something  to unsettle the reader in Du Maurier’s stories.
  2. Unsettling:
    1. Comparison: (chilling) Tom tells Detective Black he kept the money
    2. …from sale 2 garden chairs b/c no one would know,
    3. …she’s (Lady Farren)  dead ‘easy done’!
    4. Detective Black has a sudden vision of boy’s ‘hopper’ father (traveller)
    5. …hiding behind lorry, smell of beer, shifty eyes with
    6. ….Tom’s mother  ‘easy done’. (takes advantage of teenage girl)
    7. Mary is a victim of both father and son.
  3. Twist and turns in the plot:
  4. information gleaned from church gardener,
  5. rector of the school  and matron of nursing home.
  6. This all adds to the suspense, shows human nature and
  7. …are they telling the truth?

Last thoughts:

  1. I was surprised how much Du Maurier manages to ‘put into a short story.!
  2. It was like reading a ‘mini-mystery book’.
  3. I will finish the rest of the stories this afternoon,
  4. …..and would always recommend Du Maurier!






Posted by on November 7, 2015 in Uncategorized


#AusReadingMonth @Brona68 “Australia Felix”


  • Author: Henry Handel Richardson
  • Genre: novel
  • Title:  Australia Felix (mentioned in John Turnham’s speech pg 255)
  • Felix: Latin for “happy” or “lucky”
  • Published: 1917
  • Table of Contents:  4 parts,  385 pages, 40 chapters
  • ThemeSky, not spirit, do they change, those who cross the sea. (Horace)
  • Trivia: Australia Felix is a novel by Henry Handel Richardson, the pseudonym used by Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson, (3 January 1870 – 20 March 1946) who was an Australian author.
  • Trivia: She took the name “Henry Handel” because at that time, many people did not take women’s writing seriously, so she used a male name.
  • Trivia: Australia Felix is without question Henry Handel Richardson’s most important work, and Richard Mahony, a complex portrayal of Richardson’s own father, is the first substantial character in Australian fiction.
  • Trivia:  I’m Reading this book for AusReadingMonth at Brona’s Books
  • Trivia: ( this was a puzzle!)
  • One old prospector says: “It’s Rooshia, that’s what it is”. (pg 12)
  • Richardson wrote this book in 1917 the year of the Russian Revolution.
  • It finally dawned on me….Rooshia – ‘ Russia ‘ ! (pg 12)

November 01 2015:

  1. This is going to be a challenge.
  2. This book is huge…. bigger than the bible!
  3. I am afraid I won’t remember anything I read .. by the time I finish.
  4. I have decided to use a new approach:  daily reading log.
  5. I will write  anything that pops into my head.

Questions I am going to answer in the review:

  1. Why read the preface (proem)?
  2. What did I learn from it?
  3. What are the new “Aussie’ words I found?
  4. What are some metaphors -similies -images with ‘real staying power’?
  5. What is the BEST  metaphor in the book?
  6. What is the turning point in the book?
  7. What is the moment of  ‘epiphany’  for Mahony?
  8. What are the differences b/t  H.H. Richardson and Ruth Park ( characterization)?
  9. What are the  differences b/t  Mahony and his wife  Polly?
  10. What impressed me most in Richardson’s writing style?
  11. What were the BEST chapters?
  12. What was the most important foreshadowing in the book?
  13. Which examples of irony did I find  in the story?
  14. Does the house in which a character lives reflect his/her personality or situation?
  15. How does Richardson use color in the book?
  16. What are the  ‘allusions’ that Richadson uses in the story?
  17. How did Richardson use music in the story?
  18. How did Richardson use literature in the story?
  19. How does Mahony change?
  20. What is Mahony’s character flaw?
  21. Does Richardson give  Mahony  ‘distinctly Irish characteristics?
  22. ( J. Joyce gave his characters in his books?)
  23. What is Mahony’s  Fate?
  24. What is the last allusion?

Why read the preface?

  1. In the preface Richardson describes the setting:
  2. Richardson  gives the reader a vivid description of the environment in the preface.
  3. You feel as if you are there in Ballarat Victoria Australia.
  4. Richardson creates interest and excitement by providing an unusual setting with tools and talk of gold-digging.
  5. I was going to skip it but am glad I did not.
  6. I was ready for chapter one with the ‘initiating’  event and could place the action in the landscape of ‘The Flat’.
  7. The writer continues to describe the  open roads, ridges and
  8. …bush country  around Warrenhiep and Buninyong as Mahony continues on his life’s journey.

What did I learn from it?

  1. Richard sets the scene.
  2. She gives a ‘birds eye view’ of the lands surrounding  Ballarat with its
  3. mountains Warrenhiep and Buninyong  where the prospectors are digging for gold.
  4. We read descriptions about the animals used, the diggers themselves,
  5. tools needed  and the sounds of gold-digging.
  6. Richardson then zooms in on ‘the Ballarat digger’,
  7. prisoner of the soil with an unquenchable hope working like navvies.” (pg 8)
  8. Gold: “metal in the dust fine as that brushed from a butterfly’s wing” or chubby nuggets
  9. “this dream it was of vast wealth got without exertion”. (pg 8)
  10. Richardson portrays the country around Ballarat  that they
  11. have so lightly invaded as an irresistible siren.
  12. “She held them captive without chains and ensorcelled without witchcraft.” (pg 9)

What are the new “Aussie’ words I found?

  1. ‘they had boiled a common billy‘ = to make tea together
  2. ‘nothing left to do but take his dish and turn fossicker’ = prospector
  3. ‘sat side-by-side under the scanty hair of  a she-oak = tree in Australia
  4. bushranger –  outlaw living in the bush
  5. expiree – convict whose term of sentence has expired
  6. shicer –  worthless person; swindler
  7. wattle – acacia shrubs bushes
  8. cabbage-tree and wideawake – soft felt hats with wide brims
  9. Aussie:  grass-tree – only grows in Australia! Fascinated that this tree depends on fire! (ironic). Bushfires blacken the trunks of grass trees, but don’t kill the plants. Like many species of eucalyptus trees, grass trees possess resinous leaves and exist in an intimate relationship with fire, depending on it for their survival. Flowering is stimulated by fire. (pg 25)
  10. Aussie: mopoke (Austral and NZ) a slow or lugubrious person
  11. Aussie: Running Postman and Scarlet Runner native  to Australia ( twining shrub);
  12. Aussie: Blue Gum: its scraggy top knot of leaves drooped and swayed in the wind, like the few long straggling hairs on an old man’s head. (small to medium-sized tree with rough bark)
  • Description of the area, people involved and sounds of gold-digging.
  • I would not have understood ‘ wind-sails’ without this picture.
  • They were used to ventilate the shafts.

wind sails gold Deep-sinking-685

George French Angas  (1822-1886) painted many scenes of gold digging in Australia.  (gold washing)

gold Angas painting Ophir-diggings-685w

Long Toms:                                                                                Puddling tubs:Puddling tub tool GOLD ill-036

1908, Nome, Alaska, USA --- Original caption: 1908-Nome, Alaska:Klondike Gold rush. Long Tom in operation, Nome, 1908. Photo, 1908. --- Image by © Corbis

1908, Nome, Alaska, USA — Original caption: 1908-Nome, Alaska:Klondike Gold rush. Long Tom in operation, Nome, 1908. Photo, 1908. — Image by © Corbis











What are some great metaphors -similes -images with ‘real staying power’?

  1. eyes glassy as marbles (pg 2)
  2. each lamp had a halo of foggy air (pg 3)
  3. embryo seaports were empty as though they were plague-ridden  (pg 4)
  4. water lay about in puddles thick and dark as coffee grinds (pg 6)
  5. there rose a blurred hum of sound as it were remained stationary above it, like a smoke-cloud (pg 6)
  6. spat in their horny palms and bent to crank  windlasses (winches) (pg 7)
  7. ..or drain a nose between two fingers (pg 7)
  8. chopping gravel into the puddling-tubs or Long Toms was like the scrunch of shingle under waves. (pg 7)
  9. shingle = small round pebbles on seashore
  10. Gold, more exquisite still as the daffodil yellow veining of bluish-white quartz (pg 8)

What is the BEST  metaphor in the book?

  1. John Turnham is compared to an electro-magnet.
  2. “…once he had drawn these lesser creatures after it,
  3. ….switched off the current and left them to their own devices.”

Narrative in a nutshell:

  1. Australia Felix is the story of Dr. Richard Townshend Mahony’s coming to
  2. …Australia from Ireland as a young man (1851) to seek his fortune.
  3. His hopes are dashed.
  4. He struggles to keep his head above water
  5. during years of store keeping in a gold-digging colony.
  6. He meets Mary Turnham(16 yr) and marries her.
  7. Times change and Mahony begins his medical practice again.
  8. He becomes one of the most skillful and prosperous doctors in Ballarat.
  9. Against the advice of every one he decides to sell his practice.
  10. He finds his vulgar environment and its people unbearable.
  11. Mahony sets sail with Mary to England.
  12. The next part of the trilogy will describe his English life.


  1. Part 1: Mahony is 28 yr storekeeper for 15 months. ( TL = 1-2 months, not sure)
  2. Part 2: Polly is 16 yr; domestic by Family Beamish; marries Mahony 30 yr. (TL = 2 years)
  3. Part 3: Polly is 18 yr.  Mahony 30 yr. (TL = 2 years)
  4. Part 4:  Polly is  24 yr. Mahony  36 yr. (skip 4 years between part 3-4)
  5. End:     Polly is  30 yr and Mahony 42 yr. (TL = 6 years)

Narrator: 3rd person(omniscient) who is not affected by the events in the story.

What is the turning point in the book?

  1. Part 1-4  chronological order with one or two flashbacks to childhood in Dublin.
  2. Part II  ch 8 TURNING POINT  in the book.
  3. Mahony’s decides  NOT to leave Ballarat
  4. …but to accept help and start his practice in Australia.
  5. LIFE EVENTS:  Richardson ends each part with ‘life events’:
    • Part 1 = marriage to Polly;
    • Part 2 = decision to return to the medical profession and remain in Ballarat;
    • Part 3 = investment in mining company earns RM a profit of 2000,– pound;
    • Part 4 = sell medical practice, all belonings and set sail for the ‘old country’.

What is the moment of  ‘epiphany’  for Mahony?

  1. James Joyce describes it in his book Stephen Hero:
  2. By an epiphany he meant ‘ a sudden spiritual manifestation,
  3. …whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself.
  4. Part 4 ch 3: Mahony meets the owner of a small chemist’s shop, Mr Tangye. (pg 288-294)
  5. Tangye is ‘the warning’ that was foreshadowed in the poem
  6. Lochiel’s Warning by Thomas Campbell  !! (pg 113)
  7. Mahony is despondent.
  8. Another example of the warning’ that was foreshadowed in the poem
  9. “…his restlessness, the spiritual malaise that encumbered him had been it mute form of protest.”
  10. “Did he go on turning a deaf ear to its  warnings….” (pg 360)

Strong  point:  sense of place 

  1. I liked Richardson’s  detailed descriptions of scenes of  ‘gold-digging’ (preface);
  2. sudden thundering storm (part III ch 8)
  3. busy election day in town (part III ch 11).
  4. She includes the fossickers, sounds of  digging and  tools that are used.
  5. The  the colors and sounds of the weather: fusillades of stinging hail-storms and
  6. …doors rattling loose like teeth in their sockets.
  7. The marching bands, fife and drums, straggling processions
  8. …dragging banners in the middle of noise-makers and schoolchildren.
  9. Part 4  all the descriptions (sense of place) were  just beautiful.
  10. Australia  home for Polly… but not for Richard.


 Weak point:   too many  characters –  counted more than 35- 40 !

  1. There are too many characters and subplots that detract from the main narrative.
  2. I felt overwhelmed. 
  3. Six subplots is too many for any length, unless your name is Stephen King.
  4. After part 2
  5. I decided to just concentrate on the major characters and
  6. …let the secondary ones just drift in one ear and out the other. 
  7. This helped me cope.
  8. subplot: John Turnham’s  (Polly’s eldest brother) rise to prominent place in society,  local politian, perfect wife, mischievous children. All is ruined by the death of his young wife Emma.
  9. subplot: Ned and Jerry Turnham ( Polly’s brothers) – one is lazy and wants to make a fortune without much physical exertion. Turns his site on investing in Gold digging companies.  Jerry is young and still trying to find his way.
  10. subplot: Sarah Turnham: (Polly’s sister) – flighty, kittenish, town-bred airs and “French” genteel elegance. She decides her name is too common and changes it from  Sarah –> Sara –> Zara!
  11. subplot: Family Beamish: (employs Polly as domestic) Mr + Mrs., Jinny, Tilly
  12. subplot: Family Ocock , Mr. Ocock and sons Henry, Tommy and Johnny
  13. subplot: Purdy and his pursuit of riches at the Ballarat site and Richard’s wife?
  14. subplot: Family Glendennings –  child abuse ( 9 yr old drinks!) –  Mr. G is alcoholic – Mrs  G.  having affair with H. Ocock

What are the differences between H.H. Richardson and Ruth Park (characterization)?

  1. I found Richardson  is not as creative as Ruth Park when it comes to characterization!
  2. I got a general idea about the character, watched his or her gestures and hoped that would be the best part of the book. Unfortunately, the writing did not live up to my expectations.
  3. Physical descriptions by Richardson are predictable where as Ruth park was creative!
  4. Nose: hooked nose, short straight nose
  5. Park: beaky nose, she had a nose within an ace of being a saddle; squatty nose, nose fair in the middle like a push-up button; (characters were alive!)  she blew her nose, he held his nose, kiss him red nose and all
  6. Mouth: large scarlet mouth; Johnny stood O-mouthed; (Chinaman) mouth stretched to a friendly grin; mouth was red as a rose;
  7. Park: greedy mouth, smile tweaked at her mouth, puckered  mouth, trembling mouth, mouth looked sulky and cross
  8. Eyes/eyebrows: dark eyes, black eyes, soft-brown eyes; raised eyebrows, (Trotty) saucer like blue eye
  9. Park: currant-eyed; eyes hard as diamonds, eyes were glazed and mad; sleepy eyes, showing the white of her eyes, eyes glistening, wide space between her eyebrows emphasized her slanting eyes, his eyebrows formed a line as forbidding as any seen on the battlefield (Wonderful)
  10. Teeth: small even teeth (Mrs Glendinning); large white teeth, kind to crack nuts with (Purdy)
  11. Park: teeth decayed, her front teeth missing, teeth too big for the tender, buck teeth, marble teeth, teeth like tiny shells tabacco-stained teeth, two dry shiny rabbit teeth (Wonderful!).
  12. Breasts:  no description found
  13. Park: little breasts like new potatoes
  14. Face: chubby face (Johnny); Ocock’s stony visage
  15. Park: iron face; ruddy face; face of terror; sour-faced; pearly face; puffy face; pinched face

What are the  differences between Mahony and his wife  Polly?


Part I ch 5:  being patronized by others

  • Mahony: He visits  the arrogant and condescending Henry Ocock:  “…he flashed back, declared hotly, it irked him to be kept waiting, darted an angry glance, wilful delay made his gorge rise, his irritation fell, he fumed in silence, his patience exhasted he burst out…”
  • Polly: “Either she was not conscious of her brother’s grossly patronizing (treat condescendingly)  air, or aware of it, did not resent it.” (part II ch 4) Polly: ” But she never knew when she was being patronized”

Part II ch 3: books

  • Mahony:”Books to Mahony were almost as necessary as bread.”
  • Polly : “…chapters were a sandy desert of words, all about people duller than any Polly had known alive […] she would heave a secret sigh–although she enjoyed sitting closely together with Richard…”

Part II ch 8:  privacy

  • Mahony: privacy is all important…A certain amount of privacy was as vital to him as sleep.”
  • Yet Polly…always welcomes people into the home! 

Part III ch 7:  sense of humor

  • Mahony: “Fun of a kind I won’t permit in my house”. (Purdy ‘s prank imitating prim and proper  Hempel)
  • Polly: “…in vain to keep a straight face, sat down and went off into a fit of stifled mirth…” “It’s only a bit of fun, Richard…”

Part IV ch IX:  tact

  • Mahony: “Once upon a time he had been noted for his tact; it is sad to see it leaving him in the lurch.”
  • Polly: “Several times of late she had been forced to step in and smooth out awkardnesses.”

What impressed me most in Richardson’s writing style?

  1. The book just did not capture my heart!
  2. Alliteration, use of color, personification were average
  3. I found only a few  really good metaphors!
  4. Mahony’ s struggle with religion popped up at intervals. (Part II  ch 8  – Part III  ch 3)
  5. Perhaps Richardson felt it important to include this side of her character,
  6. but I didn’t feel it enhanced the story.
  7. On the contrary, I felt the the drama deflate like a savory mock soufflé.
  8. Finally when  got to Part 4 I realized how important the ‘religious side of Mahony is for the book!
  9. Bravo, H.H. Richardson….now you HAVE  captured my heart.

Best chapters:    Part 4   ALL the chapters !    (very  powerful !) 

Foreshadowing:   There are many examples  but this is the most important one:

  1. Foreshadowing: Purdy: ” Just the same of Dick as ever!
  2. Blinder than any bat to all that doesn’t concern yourself.” (pg 271)
  3. ( Mahony can’t see how lucky he is with a wife like Mary)
  4. Revelation: Mahony: ” Yes, everything went to prove Purdy’s  unworthiness.
  5. Only he had been blind to the truth.
  6. And wrapped in his smug blindness he had given his false friend the run of his home…” ( pg 327)
  7. The saddest thing about betrayal,
  8. …it never comes from your enemies.
  9. Mahony is broken by this betrayal of friendship.



Which examples of irony did I find in the story?  ( these are just a few….!)

  • Irony:  Mahony finds Ned Turnham’s attitude:  “the calculating, youthful outlook was repugnant to Mahony….” .
  • Ironically he makes an offer to Ned to be his assistant in his store. Mahony is ‘calculating’ that “the overture was aimed, not at Ned in person but at Ned as Polly’s brother.” This decision would bring Mahony closer to Polly.
  • (Part I  ch 7)
  •  Irony: Mahony  ” He was not one of your born good Samaritans.” ” Besides, morally, to sustain and to forbear with, a fellow creature in misfortune, seemed to him as difficult and thankless a task as any required of one.”
  • Ironically –  Manhony is a doctor…..who is expected to help people.
  • (Part II  ch 5)
  • Irony: Polly:Infinite tact was essential, and a skin thick enough to stand snubs and rebuffs . But he smiled. ‘Or, my little wife’s inability to  recognize them.”
  • Ironically Mahony still thinks his little Polly is too forgiving – while in truth HE is not forgiving enough.
  • (Part II  ch 5)
  • Irony: “He re-lived those days when a skilfully handled case of placenta previa or a successful delivery in the fourth position.” 
  • Ironically although Mahony is educated in obstetrics, he was not able to save his wife’s baby.
  • (Part II  ch 8)
  • Irony: “Away with you, to your stitching. Things will be all right, trust to me.”
  • Ironically Mahony was loving at  the marriage proposal “ Please, God, you will never regret your choice.”  but if he does not change….and accept Polly as an equal he may loose her because his ‘traditionalist! pride’.
  • (Part III  ch 3)
  • (Part III  ch 6) 
  • Irony: Parson Mr. Long:  “…use your knowledge to help things on […]
  • …help him (Glendinning) “pop off the hooks”!
  • Ironically  a clergyman should try to save people instead of
  • …pushing them into an early grave!  Mr. Long remarks
  • ” Now, now doctor, only my fun!”..but there is always a little bit of truth behind ” just kidding” !
  • Irony: “He ( Mahony)  was invariably considerate of them (other people, like Old Jim), and treated them very generously with regard  to money.”
  • Ironically Polly sees that people react to her husband with criticism.
  • “And yet  for by some reason they felt injured him […]
  • …spoke of him with a kind of churlish resentment.” (Part IV  ch 4)
  • Irony: After a nocturnal conversation with Tangye, local chemist, Mahony finally realizes that
  • ” For such a touchy nature I’m extraordinarily obtuse where the feelings of others are concerned.” (pg 294).
  • Ironically when Mary tells Richard of Purdy’s  behavior towards her he is livid.
  • He is only concerned what people will  think….he has NOT ONCE  thought of Mary’s feelings! 
  • “But I  must say, […] I don’t think you feel a bit sorry for me. […]
  • ” The horridest part of what happened  was mine, not yours– and
  • I think you might show a little sympathy.” ( pg 321)

Does the house in which a character lives reflect his/her personality or situation?  (symbol)

  1. Mahony: He lived in one of the largest houses in the most exclusive square in Dublin (upper class) (part 1 ch 4)
  2. Mahony:  His tent-home had never seemed so comfortless”. (alone in Ballarat) (part 1 ch 7)
  3. Mahony: How truly ‘home’ the poor little gimcrack shanty had become to him, (after his marriage) (part II ch 3)
  4. Polly: “…is certain that not a house on the diggings could compare with theirs” (after her marriage) (part II ch 3)
  5. John: “Mahony turned the key in the door of the darkend house. But a couple of weeks ago […] a proud and happy home. Now it had no more virtue left in it than a crab’s empty shell.” (death of  Emma (part II ch 5)
  6. Mahony: “And the building of the fines mansion never gave half so much satisfaction as did that of this flimsy little wooden house…” (new job, town’s doctor)
  7. Glendinning: “… whitewashed walls were smoke tanned and dotted with a million fly specks, all four corners of the ceiling were festooned with cobwebs. (Glendinning’s somber mood, alcoholism) (part III ch 4)
  8. Purdy: He lived in a small common house in a side street. (lower class in Dublin). (part 1 ch 4)
  9. Glendinning: “…clouded by a knowledge of the sordid things  this material prosperity hid from view. A white sepulchre seemed to him now the richly appointed house,  […] a fair outside when all within was foul.” (child abuse, unhappy marriage, alcoholism)
  10. Mahony: “The new house stood in Webster Street. It was twice as large s the old one….”  (coming up in the world, business is good) (Part IV ch 1)
  11. Mahony: “The death of a loved human being could not, he thought, have been more painful to witness.”
  12. “Thus a home went to pieces; thus was a page of one’s life turned.”  (leaving Australia, going back to the old country) (Part IV ch XII)

How does Richardson use colors?

  • I tried try to find some great examples of color
  • …but  all is white, green, grey, black, blue, red, yellow.
  • I’m afraid  Ruth Park The Harp in the South  still keeps the award
  • ” best use of color in a book”.
  • Richardson did have some good colors:
  • clay-cald in ochre (burnt orange) and gamboge ( deep mustard yellow)
  • sluggish coffee colored river
  • sky streaked with crimson-madder (deep red, madder = English madder dyes)
  • burnt tabacco-brown
  • (Polly) crumpled rose-leaf of pink confusion
  1. cheeks scabby with yellow mud
  2. bare blue skies
  3. grey fog-mists sent up by the grey Thames
  4. lily-white hands
  5. (sky) drawn like a veil of blueness
  6. wattles bloomed their delirious yellow passion
  7. against grey-green foliage

What are the  ‘allusions’ that Richadson uses in the story?

  • Allusions  connect the text with the larger world.
  • Allusion: Dorcas: (Bible) a charitable woman of Joppa (Acts 9:36-42);
  • Allusion: Phoebus: Greek Mythology Apollo, the god of the sun.
  • Allusion: “O tempora o mores” is a sentence by Cicero.  It translates as Oh the times! Oh the customs!
  • Allusion: James Syme (1799 – 1870) pioneering Scottish surgeon. Prof of Clinical Surgery in Edinburgh University.
  • Allusion: Backdrop Crimean War (1853-1856) Duke of Newcastle laid siege Sevastopol Oct 1854.
  • Allusion: David Syme (1827 – 1908) was a Scottish-Australian newspaper proprietor of The Age and regarded as “the father of protection in Australia who had immense influence in  the Government of Victoria.
  • Allusion: Two painting in the new house “ Battle of Waterloo” and “Harvey discovering the circulation of blood.”
  • Alllusion: Horace:  – wonderful,  really expresses the ‘essence’  of the book!
    • Caelum, non animum mutant, qui trans mare currunt.
      • Sky, not spirit, do they change, those who cross the sea.
      • Book I, epistle xi, line 27.

How did Richardson use music in the story?

  1. Music:  Mahony  standing outside  all alone hears a fossicker singing….”Oft in the Stilly Night
  2. If you listen to the music NOW  while reading this….  you will hear  tone is melanchoy.
  3. A song someone would sing or hum when he was struggling with a ‘dark cloud of homesickness’.
  4. The lyrics and melody stirs up memories of childhood and departed friends.
  5. James Joyce used this song in his books “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man’ and “Finnegans Wake”.

How did Richardson use literature in the story?

  1. Richard wants to introduce Polly to literature.
  2. He reads her a poem: Lochiel’s Warning by Thomas Campbell (1777 – 1844) Scottish poet
  3. “Tis the sunset of life gives me mystical lore,
  4. And coming events cast their shadow before…” (pg 113)
  5. Why did Richardson choose this poem?
  6. I think she wants to use it as a foreshadowing.
  7. The poem is a dialogue between Lochiel (head of  Clan Cameron) and a wizard.
  8. The wizard  warns Lochiel  to beware the day […]
  9. …he sees a merciless sword waving…”
  10. Mahony may not listen to a warning.
  11. “…coming events cast their shadow before…”
  1. Richard again wants to share his love of book with Polly….but she is not ‘ the reading type’.
  2. Waverly (Sir Walter Scott):   (part II ch 3)
  3. “…chapters were a sandy desert of words,
  4. all about people duller than any Polly had known alive […]
  5. she would heave a secret sigh
  6. although she enjoyed sitting closely together with Richard…”

Mahony:    How will Mahony change?

  1. Mahony strives for extreme happiness (wife, good job and finances, comfortable environment).
  2. “When he much desired a thing his temperament knocked flat the hurdles of reason” (pg 63)
  3. He  needs to learn to be less rigid in this thinking.
  4. Learn to balance his emotions.
  5. CHANGE: Mahony does consider Polly’s situation when he promised not to argue with Mrs. Beamish while she attended to Polly’s last days of  pregnancy.
  6. But when Polly suggests to take action ( advertise his practice ) so they will have enough money for their debts…
  7. FLAWED: …he turns back to his ‘rigid tradtionalist’  way of thinking!


Mahony’s   character flaw:  black and white thinking:

  1. It robs him for balance in his life
  2. Mahony does not see that people are ‘gray’, no one is just good or bad.
  3. Mahony does not realize that he is never going to be everything he wants to be.
  4. We’re human, we’re imperfect.
  1. FLAWED: (pg 63)His first impressions of people […] were apt to be
  2. …either dead white or black as ink; the web of his mind took on no half tints.” 
  3. This implies just because something seems to be true doesn’t mean that it is true.
  4. FLAWED: ( pg 63): ” …he was impelled to slip a coin into the boy’s hand, with a murmured apology for the trouble he had put him to.” “…Ned’s manner of receiving and pocketing the money,
  5. …flashed the uncomfortable suspicion through the giver’s mind that
  6. …it had been looked for, expected. And this was the most unpleasant touch of all.”
  7. This is a typical ‘ judgement call’ that Mahony makes but does not have to be true about Ned!
  8. CHANGE: (pg 98)  “…a dismal suspicion entered Mahony’s mind and refused to be dislodged.
  9. But he did not breathe his doubts– for Polly’s sake“.
  10. CHANGE: (pg 144) ” One was forced almost against one’s will to listen to him (Ned) […]
  11. “…Mahony toned down his first sweeping judgement of his young relative.”
  1. FLAWED:Mahony wants to return to Engalnd, start a practice and have Polly follow later.
  2. FLAWED: Black and white thinking….we need money, I hate this place  therefore I will leave for England.
  3. CHANGE: “…in the course of the year he had learns to put considerable faith in Polly’s practical judgement“.
  4. Polly suggests he start a practice in Ballarat.
  5. It is a booming town now and will need a doctor who the people know.
  6. Mahony finally sees  the ” gray shading in the situation” !


  • Does Richardson give Mahony characteristics that make them ‘distinctly Irish’?
  • ….as  James Joyce did in his books?
  • “An Irishman, sir, in a country where the Irish have fallen, (part I ch 8)
  • …and not without reason, into general disrepute”
  •  “He had all the poor Irishman’s distrust of a gift;” (part II ch 7)
  •   “Oh, that infernal Irish pride…the Irish poverty. (part II ch 8)
  • It had chocke-dampened his youth, blighted the prospects of his sister.”
  •  “He ..threw up the sponge and bowed to circumstance“. (part II ch 8)
  • …It was a weakness in his blood–in the blood of his race
  •  “I don’t know now what evil genius prompted me  to take him in. [Long Jim] (part III ch 1)
  • I’m inclined to put it down to sheer dislike of botheration–Irish inertia... the curse of our race.”
  • ” Brought up in the cast iron mould of Irish Protestantism…” (part III ch 2)
  • “Some imp housed in him–some wayward, wilful, mocking Irish devil–bidding him hold back,
  • …remain cool, dry-eyed in face of others’ joys and pains.(Part 4 ch 7)
  • I’m a born grumbler, mavourneen,  I know…” From Irish mo mhuirnín my darling .
  • Mahony  must go back…. (black and white thinking… )
  • “Come Back to Erin Mavoureen”  
  • ( sung by Australian soprano, Nellie Melba, 1905)


Come Back to Erin Mavourneen

  • Come back to Erin, Mavourneen, Mavourneen,
  • Come back, Aroon, to the land of thy birth
  • Come with the shamrocks spring-time Mavourneen,
  • And its Killarney shall rig with our mirth,
  • Sure, when we lent ye to beautiful England,
  • Little we thought to the lone winter days,
  • Little we thought of the hush of the starling,
  • Over the mountain, the Bluffs and the Bays.
  • The come back to Erin, Mavourneen, Mavourneen,
  • Come back again to the land of thy birth,
  • Come back to Erin, Mavourneen, Mavourneen,
  • And its Killarney shall ring with our mirth.

What is Mahony’s  Fate?

  • But in the end….” another shabby trick of Fate had played Richard in NOT endowing him with
  • wordly wisdom and a healthy itch to succeed.
  • Instead of that he had been blessed with ideas and impulses
  • …..that stood directly in his way.” (part IV ch XI)

What is the last allusion?

  1. 1 Esdras 4:59
  2. Now when this young man was gone forth, he lifted up his face to heaven toward Jerusalem,
  3. and praised the King of heaven,
  4. And said, From thee cometh victory,
  5. …from thee cometh wisdom, and thine is the glory, and I am thy servant.


  1. When the plan does not work, than change the plan
  2. …..but not the goal!
  3. After reading the first book in the trilogy Australia Felix
  4. …I have decided not to continue with the next two books.
  5. I must take  a break and read another genre book.
  6. …or I won’t appreciate the rest of the trilogy.
  7. My goal was to read a book by an Australian writer:  mission accomplished.
  8. I read every sentence closely and it took me 2 weeks to read 385 pages.
  9. Mea culps, mea culpa, mea maxima  culpa,
  10. ...I confess I started the book in the last week of October!
  11. By doing so I wanted to give Brona’s Books  my best review of the year.
  12. In the beginning The Fortunes of Richard Mahony didn’t meet my expectations.
  13. It was good…but not great.
  14. Yet as I progressed….I saw the links, connections the deeper meanings.
  15. In the end I am convinced this trilogy deserves the accolade best Australian novel.

Last thoughts:

  1. Sometimes one writer’s strength (Ruth Park, characterization) is another’s weakness.
  2. Richardson outshines R. Park with her dialogue, allusions, sense of place and gestures.
  3. I enjoyed  Ruth Park’s The Harp in the South and
  4. Nevil Shute’s On The Beach  but
  5. ….The Fortunes of Richard Mahony was even better!
  6. This book is my ‘grande finale’  this year!
  7.  Richard Mahony:  “Man is not what he thinks he is…He is what he hides. (André Malraux)

Score 5:

Henry Handel Richardson lge_Henry_071224025439021_wideweb__300x300


  1. blamed jaw (blasted, confounded), nettled (annoyed), batherskite (foolish babbling, nonsense)
  2. bombast (language with little meaning), to espouse (to support), tantivy (full gallop), drayman (delivers for brewery)
  3. chandler (dealer of HH goods); surreptitiously (in secret); cormorant throats ( wide and greedy); to get spliced (to get married); reprobate (rascal); spalpeen (Irish) (rascal; captious (fault finding);
  4. stony-broke (peniless), pettifogger (inferior lawyer who deals with petty cases), gorge (throat) one’s gorge rises = be disgusted, suavely (eleganty, with charm), propitiate (to regain favor), vexatious (frustrating), dilate (to expand), libellous (containing words injurious to reputation, libel), aspersion (false accusation), urbane (polite, refined), limpish (clumsy or cumbersome), vagrom (archaic for vagrant) without aim or purpose;
  5. catchpenny (cheap), coquetry (flirtation); on the wane (in a state of decline); repartee (conversation marked by the exchange of witty retorts); swain (young male suitor or lover); levity (humor, merriment);
  6. doltish (stupid), boon (benefit), intractable (difficult to keep under control), to cudgel (to beat or strike), aplomb (self confidence). deference (submission)
  7. rataplan (he hooves of a galloping horse); techy (peevish; testy); idiosyncrasy (structural or behavioral characteristic); to dandle (to pamper).
  8. malodorous (having a bad odor; foul); pinchfist (a miser); birdlime (sticky substance that is smeared on branches or twigs to capture small birds);staunchly (firm and steadfast; loyal or true);
  9. dissevering (to separate; sever); brio (vigor; vivacity); deferential (courteous regard; respect); docilely (yelding to supervision, direction); to rankle (to feel or express irritation or resentment about something);
  10. kickshaws (trinkets); toper (drinker);
  11. gimcrack (cheap, badly made)
  12. duffer (incompetent or stupid person); sine qua non (essential element or condition); jack-o-lantern (misleading hope);
  13. braggadocio (swaggering, cocky manner); hangdog (shamefaced or guilty); spurious (not genuine); averse (reluctant).
  14. apostasy (abandonment of one’s principles, or a cause); incoporeal (Lacking material form or substance.)
  15. ferrety ( searching instensively); eidolon (unreal image; phantom; apparition)
  16. drugget ( coarse rug of this fabric); auriferous (containing gold)
  17. dimity (sheer, crisp cotton fabric with raised woven stripes or checks); blackguard ( unprincipled person; a scoundrel); paddocks (fenced area)
  18. discomfiture (frustration or disappointment)
  19. obsequiousness (fawning); chivy (harass);  huzza (cheer)
  • Slang:  Leary-cum-Fitz = vulgar minor actor, ( unimportant person, small fry)
  • Epithet disparaging allusion to an ethnic group) – Paddylander = Irishman


  1. dump of the dart (mud that must be washed)
  2. scrunch of shingle
  3. fierce yelping of dogs, mongrels yapped at
  4. friend and foe
  5. dewy-lipped, smutty- lashed
  6. blarney and bravos:
  7. present pitch of prosperity,
  8. fire and flame
  9. hoots and hisses
  10. sly and soundless whistle.
  11. squeaks and squeals;
  12. chase and capture;
  13. catchpenny coquetry;
  14. pipes and pouches
  15. big boiler in the yard belched clouds of steam;
  16. stony and savage;
  17. caustic chuckle;
  18. pishes and pshaws
  19. stick and stone;
  20. pride and pain;
  21. forcible feeble rebellion
  22. chink and crack;
  23. mutterings and mumblings of justice;
  24. sour and sorry incidents;
  25. festers in flesh;
  26. hotly and heavily 
  27. prim and proper
  28. cheer and console;
  29. humming and hawing; (2)
  30. fretting and fuming;
  31. subtly and slyly
  32. flushed and floundered
  33. plain and pokey
  34. prim and proper
  35. banged and battered
  36. toiled and moiled
  37. thick and thin
  38. boggled and botched

Posted by on November 5, 2015 in Uncategorized


Szymborska: Nobel Prize Literature 1996

szymborska tumblr_n0bctkcSSS1rfd7lko1_1280

  • Author: Wislawa Szymborska (1923 – 2012)
  • Title: Sounds, Feelings, Thoughts: Seventy Poems by Wislawa Szymborska
  • Genre:  poems
  • Published: 1981
  • Table of contents: 261 pages
  • Trivia: Wislawa Szymborskawas awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature 1996.
  • Trivia: I could stare at Szymborka’s photo for hours!
  • She looks like the cat that swallowed the canary.
  • A person who appears self-satisfied especially while concealing smth mischievous.


  1. I saw an interview with Szymborska and this is the still photo taken of it.
  2. She captured my heart with her ‘je m’en fiche’  ( dont’ give a damn)  attitude.
  3. With a cigarette in hand and  swirling a glass of wine  she commented on her life and poetry.
  4. When asked why she never published more than 350 poems? She answered:
  5. “I have a trash can in my home”.
  6. Her sense of humor and lack of pretentiousness, that is what attracted me to her work.

Two Monkeys Brueghel

  1. Subject:  enslavement
  2. I am not very good at interpeting poetry yet and needed to research this poem.
  3. Szymbroska links the ‘control’  of the two monkeys to her situation and  that of Brueghel.
  4. Brueghel painted this in 1562 while Spain dominated the two provinces The Spanish Netherlands.
  5. North: William of Orange became stadtholder of Holland, Utrecht and Zeeland.
  6. South: Count of Egmont took charge of Flanders and Artois.
  7. Symbols: Monkeys in chains is a symbol of repression and the
  8. ….background of Antwerp’s harbor is a symbol of freedom.
  9. Timeline: Szymborska wrote this poem in 1957 as a condemnation
  10. ….of the repressive atmosphere of the Stalinist period.
  11. Tone: is somber almost hopeless.
  12. Methaphor: “..beyond the window floats the sky and the sea splashes”
  13. …is a metaphor for freedom
  14. Imagery:  image of chained ‘animals’ looking out to the sea (freedom)
  15. …and not being able to free themselves.
  16. Speaker: The speaker in the poem is taking a final exam in
  17. “the History of Mankind” while the two monkeys look on.
  • “One monkey stares and listens with mocking disdain,
  • The other seems to be dreaming away–
  • But when it is clear I don’t know what to say
  • He prompts me with a gentle
  • Clinking of his chain.”
  1. Plot: words like “jingling chains,”  the speaker who ‘ stutters and flounders‘  or  the description of the monkey’s ‘ ironic smile or  dozing off ‘ creates sense that any resistance was useless.
  2. Reaction: Szymborska  made me feel emotional because these animals represent the people who have become unemotional and with no voice  under political repression. 
  3. I asked myself: ” What would it feel like… being bound in chains?




Two Monkeys by Brueghel
(trans. from the Polish by Magnus Kryski)

I keep dreaming of my graduation exam:
in a window sit two chained monkeys,
beyond the window floats the sky,
and the sea splashes.

I am taking an exam on the history of mankind:
I stammer and flounder.

One monkey, eyes fixed upon me, listens ironically,
the other seems to be dozing–
and when silence follows a question,
he prompts me
with a soft jingling of the chain.


  1. It is said Szymborska is the ‘Mozart of poetry” .
  2. Her words are at times humorous yet powerful.
  3. By the 1950’s the political climate in Poland had changed considerably.
  4. Poetry was to become an extension of state propaganda and
  5. …a reinforcement of the official ideology.
  6. Nobel winner Szymborska (literature) did not include her
  7. …Stalinist poetry in her collected editions, she was too embarrassed.
  8. This was an excellent book and I would recommend it wholeheartedly.
  9. Coup de coeur!

Score:  5 +++

szymborska 51I0l-kZhpL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_



Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Uncategorized


Bergson: Nobel Prize 1927 ‘Le Rire’

BB rire bergson le rire jou 004

  • Author: Henri Bergson (1859 – 1941)
  • Title: Le Rire
  • Genre:  Essay
  • Table of contents:  121 pages
  • Published: 1900
  • Trivia: Bergson was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature 1927


  1. This book contains three articles about what is comical.
  2. Bergson reveals how laughter is created, its variations and its moral and social roles.
  3. According to Bergson the fundamental source of comic is
  4. …the presence of inflexibility and rigidness in life.
  5. He used an example to explain this:
  6. A man walks, trips on a rock and falls.
  7. We do not laugh at him but his rigidity (mechanical).

What is the function of laughter?

  1. It makes us  feel good  and shows how ridiculous humans can be.
  2. Don’t take life or yourself  so seriously.

Essential source of  the comical:

  1. Slapstick:  is an elemental aspect of comedy.
  2. Bergson tells us that this mechanical movement is the ‘croûte’ (crust)
  3. …that covers the ‘vivante’ (living) (pg 83)
  4. Gestures: Bergson states that we should concentrate less on the action
  5. …and more on the gestures. (pg 147)
  6. An action is voluntary and conscious while a gesture escapes and  is automatic.
  7. The action gives us the entire person but the gesture expresses the isolated part of him.
  8. Bergson: (pg 148)
  9. “..dès que notre attention se portera sur le geste et
  10. …non pas sur l’ acte, nous serons dans la comédie.”

Strong point:

  • Bergson explains what we think is funny and why by using simple examples. ( toys).
  • The objects that give us the illusion of life but move mechanically.
  • What is fascinating is that Bergson applies all these ideas for example
  • classics written by Racine, Molière  and Cervantes.
  • Diable à ressort:
  • We push the clown in the box, close the lid, turn the crank and wait until the  clowns pops out. We laugh!
  • This is because we are fascinated by mechanical and the feeling of surprise we will feel.
  • Patin à ficelles:
  • Puppet appears to move  freely (mechanical) as if it is alive,
  • …but we enjoy knowing we are pulling the strings.  We laugh!
  • Boule de neige:
  • This toy reminds us of  images of childhood. We can roll the ball and watch what happens.
  • The movement (mechanical) of the snow in flurries and slowly falling makes us happy…and we laugh.

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Feedback:  question from Col at The Only Way is Reading

  1. Does he say perhaps why he thinks some of us laugh at things which others don’t find funny?
  2. On the third page of the first chapter (pg 65) Bergson tells us that all the
  3. definitions of laughter will not explain why one thing makes a person
  4. (you) shake and swell with laughter, while it leaves the other person (daughter) indifferent.
  5. Sorry, Bergson can’t help you in this matter.
  6. Bergson concentrates on techniques used in
  7. …comedies (Moliere, Racine, Labiche) that trigger laughter.
  8. Inversion: (monde renversé) a child ends up teaching the parents something.
  9. Contretemps: (awkward or difficult situation or mishap)
  10. 1e character has a ‘dubbel identity’ and becomes confidant of 2e character .
  11. 1e character learns how to counter attack every move that 2e character will make!
  12. According to Molière this move – counter-move in
  13. …’L’ Ecoles des Femmes’ was an hilarious situation.

Social Role:

  1. Laughter needs an echo. It needs people to react to the comical.
  2. When a group of people gather together and fix their attention on one comic…
  3. they subdue their emotions and become alert.
  4. The comical speaks only to the intellect.

Moral Role:

  1. Laughter lets us take a good look at our vices.
  2. When we see Harpagon in Molière’s  The Miser we laugh at his greedy actions.
  3. Harpagon wants to show us he can change but we know he never will and we laugh.
  4. Moliere does not want to complicate our vices….he wants to simplify them.
  5. We laugh at Harpagon and ourselves and should try better our vices.

Harpagon Jozef-Stražan-ako-Harpagon-z-inscenácie-Lakomec-pred-Bosákovou-bankou-v-Prešove1

The first law of laughter:

  1. The more natural the cause, the  funnier the comical effect will be.
  2. Don Quixote is one of the funniest characters in literature . Why?
  3. He reads books about knights-errant and chivalry.
  4. This is a simple and natural pastime.
  5. The result is comical because he believes himself  to be a
  6. ….knight and will follow the chilvalric code to the letter.
  7. His misadventures add more laughter because
  8. ….Don Quixote is funny and does not realize it himself!
  • 2 flocks of sheep = enemy armies
  • 2 Benedictine friars walking along a coach = abductors of ‘princess’ (passenger)  in diligence
  • Windmills = monstrous  giants


  1. Weak point: This was a difficult book  to read in French.
  2. I had to read sentences 3, 4 sometimes 5 times before I understood Bergson’s point.
  3. I knew any french book with a whiff of the philosophical would be a challenge, and it was.
  4. I choose  Le Rire  for my Read Nobel Winners challenge.
  5. Strong point: I am more aware of the essence comedy.

Score: 4



Posted by on October 18, 2015 in Uncategorized


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