The Man Booker Prize 2015


  • On 29 July 2015  nominations for The Man Booker Prize were announced.
  • I have attempted in the past to read some of the books, but have failed miserably.
  • My sincerest apologies to the last three winners: Richard Flanagan, Eleanor Catton und Hilary Mantel.
  • I have promised  Claire at Word by Word and my favorite Bookstore in The Netherlands  Boekhandel Stevens 
  • to read a shortlist compiled by my own intuition and give a brief impression of each book.
  • My  short reviews  will appear at the end of my vacation blog break before the final winner is declared.

My shortlist is:

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 2, 2015 in Uncategorized


Au Revoir #NeedVacation

keep reading clean later keep-reading

30 July:  Im Netz ist jeder Leser ein Kritiker

  1. I read this entire article in German. It took me hours to finish it…!
  2. Many interesting points were made and new German literary blogs introduced.
  3. Experienced professional book bloggers were very critical of  amateur  blogs.
  4. Wolfgang Tischer compared them to ‘nette Mädels die Bücher ganz toll finden’.
  5. They rehash the narrative and sum up by saying the main character didn’ t appeal to them.
  6. Even worse is the long and predictable trace of ‘followers with puppy-like devotion’ …
  7. …who place comments that have nothing to do with debate or polemic.
  8. Every one is just TOO friendly, sycophantic  and ‘kuschelig’  cozy!


  • Amateur bloggers are replacing the ‘professional review sections’.
  • They criticize literature and in their own right, are not qualified as ‘lettered’.
  • Sie haben zu weinig  Fachwissen ( knowledge)

Last thoughts:

  1. This  article was at times hard to digest….
  2. …but I must admit the points were well made.
  3. I am rethinking my blogging future.
  4. It is time to read, learn languages
  5. without feeling I must
  6. …add more critiques on the internet.
  7. I NEED a vacation !
  8. There will be no more REVIEWS from Nancy for a few weeks.
  9. I will keep the blog open.
  10. I will follow  other blogs.
  11. I will  keep track of my challenges and language learning
  12. Now it is time to say  ‘Au Revoir’, see you in September!

And  remember my motto….    ” keep reading and clean later !”


Posted by on July 30, 2015 in Uncategorized


Mistral: Nobel prize 1904 ‘Contes de Provence’

Arles Van-Gogh-Nuit-etoilee-au-dessus-du-Rhone-Arles-1888

Nuit étoilée au-dessus du Rhône, Arles, Provence  1888, Musée d’Orsay,

  • Author:  Frédéic Mistral  (1830- 1914)
  • Genre: fables d’animaux, facétieux (humorus),  galéjades (tall tales)
  • Title:  Contes de Provence
  • Table of Contents:  278 pages
  • Publication: 2009
  • Timeline:  stories written between 1860 – 1892
  • Setting: Provence, France


  • Mistral’s stories are rooted in the history, landscape and folklore of his beloved Provence.
  • He presents morals and everyday life lessons.
  • Mistral uses  pigs, chickens, cows, donkeys, rabbits, mice, cats
  • …and birds (passereau, chardonneret, merles, cigales, moineau)
  • …as his preferred  barnyard animals. No turtles or snakes!
  • Animal Fables included: wolf, grasshopper, flea, fox, louse, fly, ant,  cuckoo and lark (coquillade).
  • Mistral pokes fun at the church referring to bishops, le curé, nuns, Pope John XXII, the Trinity, God, St. Peter, St. John, The Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St.Christopher Père abbé.
  • People were  hen-pecked husbands, thieves, dishonest shopkeepers, millers and little old widows.
  • The stories contain  many rascals and simpletons:  abêti – butor – nigaud – garnement – capon – bélître – benêt – niais –  gueusot – gueux – coquin – poulisson.
  • Rarely is there a ‘finaud’  – a wily, clever fellow.

Contes merveilliux:

  •  Favette: (litte fava bean – favette)
  • The poor farmer with 14 children and a demanding wife  climbs on the beanstalk to reach Heaven’s Gate.
  • St. Peter searches in Heaven’s to find items that can help ‘le vieux’.
  • He finds the Last Supper’s tablecloth, the donkey that carried
  • …the Holy Family out of Egypt and St. Christopher’s walking stick.
  •  L’Homme Juste:
  • A young father searches far and wide for a godfather for his son.
  • Three candidates offer their services as the ‘ just man’.
  • They are  St. Peter, The Good Lord and Death.
  • Which one will the father choose and why?
  • Simple story with an important message.

Légendes Chrétiennes: 

  • Les Trois Moissonneurs:  ( three harvesters)
  • Incognito St. Peter, The Good Lord and St John offer to harvest the wheat for a farmer.
  • The harvest is gathered with divine help….
  • …but the miserly farmer is in for a surprise!
  • La Scie (the saw) –  St. Joseph was tormented by the devil.
  • Lucifer chipped the blades of his woodwork knives.
  • But St. Joseph remained calm.
  • He fastened the knife to a piece of wood and
  • …invented (with God’s help) a new tool… the saw!

Contes d’ Animaux:  Animals  speak, reason and demonstrate a moral lesson.

  • The fleas and the fox:
  • Pesky nuisances just want a place to loaf around on the fox’s fur.
  • The fox goes swimming and drowns all the fleas.
  • Moral: use simple ‘habitat modification’ to get rid of pests!
  • The fly and the ant:
  • Both creatures must cross a frozen river..
  • The fly can soar across, but the ant breaks his legs on the ice.
  • The ant complains but the ice says…I have a problem too!
  • The sun will melt me. The sun says the clouds will cover me.
  • The clouds say the wind will blow me.  And this continues on and on….
  • Moral: nothing lasts forever….time has wings.

Contes facétieux: 34    But how many did I actually like?

  • Weak point: Many stories centered around a play on words, proverbs or aphorisms
  • that were well known in the provençal dialect.
  • The footnotes do not give sufficient information about the ‘punch-line’.
  • Weak point: after reading 34 stories there were only 5 that I really enjoyed.
  • 15% pleasure (5 stories) 85% hard work ( 29  ‘ho-hum’  stories)


  1. The BEST story was:  ” Les Quatre Questions “
  2. If the local priest could answer the bishop’s four questions
  3. …then he would give le curé  1000 F to repair the church bell.

Questions: – The answers were hilarious!

  1. Where is the center of the earth?
  2. How much does the moon weigh?
  3. How much is the ‘bishop worth’ ?
  4. What is the bishop thinking?
  • Weak point: I only liked 2 of the 8 animal fables.
  • Animals give a writer so much opportunity to expose  human’s  flaws, foibles, and virtues…
  • …  while they speak and reason.
  • Mistral was not very imaginative.
  • I found the writing did not ‘sparkle‘. There was no real humor or irony.
  • Plan: read AEsop’s and La Fontaine’s Fables and compare them with Mistral.
  • Strong point: I did enjoy the ‘christian fables’.
  • ‘Le Seigneur’, St. Peter and St. John
  • …roam the earth trying to guide people to lead a good life.
  • Last thoughts:
  • All things considered
  • …the book was an expensive paperback and a big  disappointment.
  • Out of 57 stories I only really enjoyed 12  just 21% of the book! .
  • I would recommend you read  Lettres de mon Moulin by A. Daudet.
  • That book was entertaining, touched a ‘heart-string’ and had more depth than this one.
  • I’m putting  Contes de Provence  on the ‘unimpressed’  shelf.
  • Please remember, Contes de Provence is a work of literary art and….
  • ….how it impresses met says nothing about the work itself!

Score: 2

MISTRAL Mistral_Frederic600


    • Who was Mistral?
    • Mistral  was born in Maillane, Provence France  08 September 1830.
    • The son of son of wealthy landed farmers he was  named for the ‘ go-between’  Frederi who carried les billets doux between his parents while they were courting.
    • He studied in Nîmes and earned his law degree in Aix-en-Provence.
    • Which writers who influenced Mistral ?  Jean Roumanille was a teacher at Avignon who discovered the genius of  Mistral. Together, they aimed to restore the Provençal language
    • What is Mistral’s masterpiece? Mistral’s literary reputation rests on his long narrative poem, Mirèio, published in 1859. It  is a tragic love story, an folktale. Details of Provençal life are woven into the narrative.
    • Are there significant life experiences?
    • Mistral won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1904 sharing it with the Spanish playwright Echegaray.
    • He used his prize money to  move the musem he founded, Museum Arlatan, to its current location  in Laval-Castellane Place.
    • Personal life: In 1876, Mistral was married to a Burgundian woman, Marie-Louise Rivière (1857–1943). They had no children. The poet died on 25 March 1914 in Maillane, the same village where he was born.

Fréderic Mistral:

“When the Good Lord begins to doubt the world, he remembers that he created Provence”


Posted by on July 29, 2015 in Uncategorized


Q & A for Liebster Award

QUESTIONS saul-steinberg-question-marks2

  • I’m always humbled when nominated for anything!
  • Many thank to A Shorpshire Girl Reviews for the Liebster accolade.
  • Here are  some random facts and a list of questions I am to answer:

Random facts:

  1. I love  the French language:
  2. I read all 20 books in Rougon-Macquart series by Emile Zola  in French
  3. ….my greatest literary achievement!
  4. I hate doing house chores. (I believe in the the messiness of a life well-lived.)
  5. I’m addicted to running and fitness. ( I do it to keep my brain healthy)
  6. I have visited 27  countries. ( I hardly get on the train to Amsterdam.)
  7. I emigrated to The Netherlands. ( ..left USA  and never looked back)
  8. I speak 3 languages fluently, English, Dutch, Frisan.
  9. I read 5 languages English, Dutch, French, German and Frisian ( dialect in Friesland).
  10. I own 4 pairs of shoes, no handbags and wear Nike sportswear ( low-maintence girl)
  11. I biked to the top of Alpe d’ Huez. (never again!) took me 2 hours!
  12. I can play the piano.
  13. My favorite city is Paris.
  14. I just ate a small box of cookies while writing this blogpost….delicious!


  • What is the last hardback you bought?
  • Tennessee Williams – A Pilgrimage of the Flesh (03/03/2015)
  • What books are on your wish list?
  • Collected Short Stories of Jean Stafford (Pulitzer Prize 1970)
  • Underworld – D. DeLillo (Pulitzer finalist 1998)
  • Do you have any preference over book length?
  • I get discouraged on page 400 while reading a chunkster of 800 pages.
  • Pages 250 – 380 ideal length.
  • Do you have a specific organising system for your bookcase?
  • Pas de tout!  I enjoy a chaotic bookcase.
  • A person interrupts your reading what do you do?
  • Pause, lift head slowly, smile, answer eventual question…then ask them to get me a coffee.
  • A character is being irritating what do you do?
  • Applaud the writer for the strength of his/her creativity!
  • Any bookish peeves/pet hates? 
  • I will never never read horror, fantasy or Dame Barbara Cartland’s Pink Collection
  • What do you use for a bookmark?
  • An old credit card which I use to underline words as well.
  • What book-related place would you like to go to on holiday?
  • Provence, France – Arles, Aix-en-Provence related books:
  • Contes de Provence – F. Mistral, Lettres de mon moulin – A. Daudet and Letters of Vincent van Gogh
  • What do you drink while reading?
  • I love a cold Heineken after finishing a book in French! I deserve something special then!
  • Ideal place to read?
  • Long monastery table in front of firepace with room for my books, laptop, tankard of beer and cats!
  • …and a BIG  comfy chair  by the fire ( see 2nd foto)
  • View of the fireplace and 400 year old dining table in the Entrance Hall, which also served as Kitchen and Dining Room at Moseley Old Hall. The floor is of 19th century quarry tiles.
    View of the fireplace and 400 year old dining table in the Entrance Hall, which also served as Kitchen and Dining Room at Moseley Old Hall. The floor is of 19th century quarry tiles.
  • READING  CHAIRthelodge_fireside

Posted by on July 28, 2015 in Uncategorized


C. N. Adichie: That thing around your neck

Adichie 220px-TheThingAroundYourNeck

  1. Short stories often go under appreciated.
  2. But they represent an art form few authors truly master.
  3. Its raining ‘cats and dogs’.
  4. I have to travel on my bike and a  train to a grueling fitness training.
  5. I needed some distraction and decided to read  C. N. Adichie’s short stories:
  6. That Thing Around Your Neck. (2009)
  7. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian  writer.
  8. She has been called “the most prominent”  in a group  of critically acclaimed young  authors…
  9. …that  is succeeding in attracting a new generation of readers to African Literature.
  10. I haven’t read  her recent bestsellers, but will definitely put them  on my ‘to-read’ list.
  11. During the following weeks I’ll read a stories on the train – go to my fitness lesson –
  12. …then REREAD  the story on  the trip back home.

Cell One:

  • Strong point: Adichie is able to get to grips with emotions, themes and  plot in relatively few words.
  • Narrator:  Nnamabia’s sister who remains nameless
  • Main character: Nnamabia – 18 yr spoiled son of a professor at Univ. of  Nigeria Nsukka.
  • Parents: mother and father repeatedly turn a blind eye to Nnamabia’s antics: ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’

1. What does Adichie disclose about the  character of Nnamabia?

  • Adichie describes him with ” dramatic wounded eyes“,  “always defending himself“.
  • He wears a  mask to conceal his real feelings:
  • “I could not always tell form my brother’s gracious, smiling face what it was he really felt.
  • When Nnambia is asked if he is a member of a cult he answers brazenly : “of course not..” !

2. What was  the significant moment in the character’s life in the short story?

  • Nnamabia’s   character  changes  as C.S. Lewis said “ from the flippant to fierce”  at the end of the story.
  • Nnamabia is an example of the growth of a young man.
  • He changes from a spoiled, flippant, immature adolescent to a ‘Cell One’-adult, over the course of just a few days.
  • He is hideously ashamed of his past shenanigans:
  • …theft of library books, school exams and his  parents jewelry.
  • Nnamabia quickly realizes that coming to the defense of
  • …an old, innocent man in the jail is something any
  • …thinking human would do under those same circumstances.

3. Does Adichie  use imagery to invoke certain emotions?

  • I could only find three descriptions that jumped off the page for me:
  • Nnamabia sees a cult (gang) member sobbing in the jail cell.
  • Nnamabia feels disgust and disappointment
  • …”as if he had suddenly been made to see that the Incredible Hulk was really green paint“.
  • This image needs no explanation…you can just seet it! “…bumps of his face tipped with puss the color of cream“.
  • A stone is thrown at a windshield of a car “…the cracks had spread out like ripples of a frozen stream.”

4. Is there a common theme that acts as trigger, signifier of story?

Theme: respect and reputation

  • Nnamabia wants the respect of his peers by stealing and joining cults (gang) like all the boys are doing.
  • Ironically by  not doing what others are doing
  • …they are ignoring the plight of a 70 year old, innoccent, sick inmate…
  • …Nnamabia  earns the respect of his peers and parents by
  • losing his sense of ‘spoiled, arrogant, unfeeling’ self.
  • He is ready to help the old man
  • “I said the old man is innocent and ill…
  • They said I should shut up. I didn’t care. I didn’t shut up.
  • So they pulled me out and beat me.” (…in the dreaded Cell One.)


  • I have only read one story and will finish the book,
  • …but am sure Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie will not disappoint!
  • I enjoyed analysing a short story even more than a novel!
  • There are a few writers I want to read but must start with James Salter.
  • His short story collection: Last Night  and novel The Hunters  are on my to-read-list.

Score: 5


Adichie tumblr_m5la7jair11ryx9g7o1_1280


Posted by on July 27, 2015 in Uncategorized


Dumas Classic: Les Trois Mousquetaires

DUMAS cover e9f933f8390c6b327fabb1e2228ede2c

  • Author:  A. Dumas  (1802- 1870)
  • Genre: Historical roman
  • Title: Les Trois Mousquetaires
  • Table of Contents:  67 chapters, 533 pg
  • Publication: 1844
  • Timeline: 1625 – 1628
  • Setting: France (Paris, Anjou, La Rochelle, Meung, Armentières and Gascony region )
  • …England, Spain.
  • Themes: Loyalty, love, friendship, bravery, revenge, injustice


  • Young Gaston D’ Artagan and the three Musketeers Armais, Porthos and Athos roam from
  • seas to the battlefields, from masked balls to a remote convent, in order to
  • defend the honor of the Queen and the life of Constance Bonacieux, d’Artagnan’s true love.


  • The novel was shaped by Dumas’ s need to write it as a serial (feuillton).
  • The chapters end with a suspenseful event ‘a hook’ to keep the readers buying the next segment.
  • Dumas recaps in each chapter ( time, date, place of action) to jog the ‘feuillton’ reader’s memory
  • Narrator: third person direct revealing  for example the heroism of the musketeers and their lady loves.


  • Dumas does not penetrate deeply into the psychology of his characters.
  • Their circumstances change but their personalities do not.
  • Armais – handsome, skilled fighter, introvert, says very little yet displays inner strength.
  • Porthos – loud, vain, likes to brag; ready to fight to the death for his honor or friend’s safety.
  • D’ Artagan – full of spunk, young noble, brave and ambitious.
  • Athos – acerbic with a rough and bitter manner; highly intelligent and leader of the Musketeers.
  • Cardinal Richelieu – most powerful man in France – wicked; hates King Louis XIII; manipulative.
  • Milady: Richelieu ‘s accomplice, the magnetic Lady de Winter.
  • Servants:
  • Bazin (pious), Mousqueton (resourceful), Planchet (brave), Grimaud (quiet)


  1. Introduction to the heros.
  2. Intrigue at Louis XIII Court. (love letters, mouchoirs, rings, secret tatoo).
  3. Rivalries between Catholics vs Protestants.
  4. Femme fatale causes an assassination.
  5. Femme fatale’s intrigues are discovered.
  6. Death confessions of undying love.
  7. Justice is served.


    • King Louis XIII vs Cardinal Richelieu
    • King’s elite guard vs Cardinal’s elite guard
    • Milady vs Constance (both in love with D’ Artagnan)

Stylistic details:

  • The most striking difference I could see was the lack of full-page paragraphs with lengthy descriptions.
  • Dumas wrote in short sentences.
  • He  broke up his scenes into quick actions and stretches of fast dialogue.
  • The book reads very quickly like any modern “page-turner.”
  • La Tulipe Noire was written in the similar way.
  • Perhaps nice to know:  Dumas was not paid by word as Dickens was, but by sentence.


  1. This book had everything to make it a ‘blockbuster’  read in 1844.
  2. Action, fight scenes, villains, improbable plot twists, conspiracies, love triangles and last minute escapes!
  3. Dumas knew what the public wanted….’gossip’, intrigues about real people.
  4. He used historical events and characters like
  • Queen Anne of Austria
  • Louis XIII (her husband)
  • Cardinal Richelieu
  • British  navel officer  John Felton
  • Duke of Buckingham.

Last thoughts:

  • Strong point: Dumas writes like water flows…easily and without ripples.
  • Great French is when you forget you’re reading French.
  • Dumas’s style is French simply written with pages of fast moving to-the-point dialogue.
  • Cardinal Richelieu is up to his old tricks, Queen Ann pines for her lover the Duke of Buckingham and her jealous husband  King Louis XIII is clueless: soap opera à La Cour de la France.
  • Musketeers are loyal to each other but love a rollicking good time as well!
  • They gamble  and lose their saddles and horses in card games,
  • ….ensconce themselves in the wine cellars of the wayside inns,
  • ….and never have enough $$ in their pockets to pay their bills!
  • Weak point: Les Trois Mousquetaires is at times … #SlowGoing.
  • There are  67 chapters  and it  feels like a never ending story.
  • Dumas is long-winded and overwrites silly scenes with Musketeers acting more like Keystone Cops!
  • Strong point: Just when the reader (me) felt like giving up..the sinister Milady stepped into the spotlight.
  • Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned…Milady is livid after being ‘dumped’ by D’Artagnan!
  • Her revenge is palpable and she will do anything to have the hero D’ Artagnan killed
  • Strong point: The book captured my attention, had a half way dip but then galloped off to a wild ending.
  • The book has stood the test of time and is a great classic read!

Score: 4

DUMAS Alexander_Dumas_père-1855


    • Who was Dumas?
    • Dumas was born in Villers-Cotterêts, Picardy France  24 July 1802.
    • The son of a Creole general of the French Revolutionary armies
    • While still young, he began to write  plays,  light musical comedies and then historical plays.
    • Which writers who influenced  Dumas? Shakespeare, Scott, Von Schiller and Lord Byron.
    • What were is political affiliations?
    • A Republican who supported the ousting King Charles X 1830.
    • With the election of  Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte in 1851, Dumas fell from favor.
    • He left France and stayed in Belgium, Russia and Italy until 1864.
    • Are there significant life experiences?
    • Dumas was the most popular writer of his time.
    • He earned a fortune.
    • Yet he squandered it on wine, women and song.
    • When the creative inspiration ran out…
    • …he died in poverty on 05 December 1870.

Posted by on July 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Challenge

J J SEMPÉ CAT AND BOOKS 06f5aa87d147cdfc382c3eae44b8a65e

  • Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Challenge
  • Reading prize winner and/or finalist.
  • Goal: 12 books per year
  • Start: 01 August 2015
  • I love a challenge!

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is one of the seven American Pulitzer Prizes that are annually awarded for Letters, Drama, and Music. It recognizes distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life, published during the preceding calendar year. As the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel, it was one of the original Pulitzers, for the program was inaugurated in 1917 with seven prizes, four of which were awarded that year.[1] (No Novel prize was awarded, so it was inaugurated in 1918, in a sense).[2]

Finalists have been announced from 1980, ordinarily two others beside the winner.[2]


In 31 years under the “Novel” name, the prize was awarded 27 times; in its first 66 years to 2013 under the “Fiction” name, 59 times. No award has been given 11 times, including its first year 1917, and it has never been split.[2] Three writers have won two prizes each in the Fiction category: Booth Tarkington, William Faulkner, and John Updike.


Cleo  at Classics Carousel had a great question:

Have the books fallen into oblivion because they didn’t have the staying power of classics? Or is reading not as valued as it was and a cultural shift has allowed good books to fade away. I wonder ….

Reply: I think the answer is a bit of both in what you say. A book like The Corrections had the hype but was not worthy of even being considered for the Pulitzer. No classic qualities, at all!
All the King’s Men and The Stone Diaries are modern classics I enjoyed very much and would have missed had they not received the Pulitzer. The Magnificent Ambersons is considered a great classic. I read it and was not impressed. Reading, yes it has stiff competition these days due to the digital era. Children must be taught to stay with ‘reading’ and that is what parents must never forget

James  at James Reads Books ponders…..

It’s interesting reading your list here. Many excellent books, and quite a few that are all but forgotten these days. Really makes you think.

Reply: It is amazing how many good books fall between the cracks so soon. They are published, reviewed and at best honored with an award…then they land in the ‘closet of forgotten fiction’. Time to do some cleaning and dust off some great books.

MarinaSofia at Finding Time to Write mentions….

There are some books there that I cannot remember ever having read anything about (or their authors), while others are very well known indeed.

Reply: I’ve included the winner and/or finalists because I think ‘runners-up’ deserve just as much attention. Sometimes the judges miss the real winners….and these wonderful writers are denied the ‘spotlight’.
Challenges? Writing a book (you) is a something I will never start! Bravo!

Tj at My Bookstrings see some good books on the list…

Reply: The Nobel Prize is open to all nationalities. I am reading as many classics in French as I can.
It is time to read more fiction by American writers.
These authors put all their heart and soul into these books, win a Pulitzer and sometimes just fall of my radar. There are indeed some great choices on this list!










Entries from this point on include the finalists listed after the winner for each year.




Repeat winners

Three people have won the fiction Pulitzer twice, one nominally for the Novel and two for Fiction.

Ernest Hemingway was selected by the 1941 and 1953 juries, but the former was overturned and no 1941 award was given.[3]


Posted by on July 22, 2015 in Uncategorized


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