Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

Mrs Hemingway – Naomi Wood

Posted in Literary Fiction on April 19th, 2014 by admin – Be the first to comment

21131232Ernest Hemingway was “a man of many wives”, four, to be precise. Over the 40 years between his first wedding and his untimely death in 1961 he also accumulated a fair number of mistresses, such was his irresistible magnetism to both men and women. In this work of fiction, we meet his four dutiful wives, each one thinking she would last forever….until the next one came along.

I love reading about characters like Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds with their bohemian lifestyles and devil-may-care attitudes. Naomi Wood opens another window onto this avant-garde world where Hemingway’s women compete with each other for his affections. They are intelligent, modern women but when it comes to Ernest/Nesto they seem to fall into a Svengali-like trance and just roll over.

The novel is divided into four sections with each one devoted to a different wife, Hadley, Fife, Martha and Mary. The characters are well defined and realistic with their one major flaw being devotion to Ernest which allows them to overlook his personality defects. There is no villain of the piece – it would appear that Ernest is like a child in a sweet shop and unable to limit himself to one treat at a time.

The writing is beautiful, elegant and sparse. It’s very easy to visualise the different exotic settings as Ernest flits from the Antibes to Paris to Cuba to Key West. This is a gem of a story which I found very hard to put down – it will remain on the “keepers” shelf, a rare occurrence these days! Highly recommended.

Mrs Hemingway is published by Picador Books on 13th February 2014.

Hemingway’s Wives with Hadley top left

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Paris – Edward Rutherfurd

Posted in Historical Fiction on July 29th, 2013 by admin – 6 Comments

Competition Picture

Published
27/06/2013

Publisher
Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

Source
Amazon Vine

My Rating
A fantastique five stars!

 

I’ve only visited Paris three times and in very different circumstances – once as a 14 year old on a whistle-stop tour of Europe, then again as a university student when I was more interested in Pere Lachaise, Montparnasse and the Flea Markets and finally as a French teacher accompanying pupils on a trip which included Parc Asterix, Eurodisney and the Bateaux Mouches.  I’d love to go back but, in the meantime, I can satisfy my wanderlust with Edward Rutherfurd’s latest tome.

It’s a bit of a monster at 752 pages but this is the norm for Rutherfurd’s epic sagas of different geographical locations. This story revolves around 4 central families ;  the aristocratic de Cygnes, the bourgeois Blanchards, the working class Gascons and the revolutionary/socialist Le Sourds.  I gather that the author’s usual ‘formula’  is to relate epic stories spanning several centuries in a chronological fashion but Paris represents a break with this tradition as it begins in 1875 tending to stick with the events of  late 19th century to mid 20th century but also returns to other centuries beginning with the 13th when Paris intially became France’s first city.  Even though there is a family tree, I found it useful to compile my own diagram detailing family relationships in order to avoid confusion.

I can’t help admiring the author’s skill in structuring such a complex novel.  It’s as if the characters move around a giant chess board with Rutherfurd as Grandmaster!  Yes, there are major coincidences en route and a lot of suspension of disbelief required in certain sections but it really is a beautiful ode to the wonders of Paris and an excellent way to tread the streets of this beautiful city and trace its eventful history without leaving the comfort of your “fauteuil”!  I know it’s a weighty tome and some have recommended purchasing on Kindle to preserve one’s wrists but, if you can ‘bear’ it,  I think this is a book best read the traditional way where you can flick to and fro, reminding yourself of previous events/centuries and consulting the family tree.

A highly recommended easy, engaging read which has made me fall in love with Paris all over again.

Pere Lachaise cemetery
Including graves of Oscar Wilde, Moliere, LaFontaine, Bernhardt, Jim Morrison and the Communards’ Wall

Constructing La Tour Eiffel

You can find out more about Edward Rutherfurd and his other novels on his website here.

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The Memory of Lost Senses – Judith Kinghorn

Posted in Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction on April 29th, 2013 by admin – 2 Comments

The Memory of Lost Senses

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review (23 May 2013)
  • Source: Amazon Vine
  • My Rating: 4 stars

Having enjoyed Judith Kinghorn’s debut novel The Last Summer I eagerly  anticipated her second novel The Memory of Lost Senses published by Headline on 23rd May.  Whilst it is quite different, structurally, from her first novel, it retains that intensity, that evocative heart which characterised her first novel.

It’s a novel about first love, sacrifice, intrigue and in particular the role of memory in shaping and refashioning our lives.  The mysterious Countess at the centre of our story seems to have undergone a variety of metamorphises in the course of her eventful life – the exoticism of an expatriate lifestyle in Paris and Rome seems at odds with her final resting place, a sleepy Hampshire village.  Does anyone know the real woman?  Her closest friend, the novelist Sylvia,  feels snubbed when young Cecily Chadwick is drawn into the Countess’ confidence but  the long hot summer of 1911 takes its toll on the elderly lady’s memory or does she just want to forget the murkier scenes of her past?

The narrative takes a while to get going but do persevere and you are in for a treat.  The author has a wonderful sense of place – from the small-town feel of Rome in the mid 19th century to the intensity of village life in rural Hampshire in 1911 where everyone knows everyone else’s business.  Countess Cora is a fascinating creature with so many anecdotes to tell that it is difficult to tell the difference between truth and fiction.  Sylvia seems so lacklustre in comparison but you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of her!  Likewise, Cecily is not quite so demure as she first appears and her ambitions stretch way beyond the village boundaries. Yes, there are some male characters but the female of the species tends to dominate…

After a slightly shaky start, I was soon engrossed in the lives of these Edwardian ladies, swept along by the ebb and flow of Cora’s memories.  A very thoughtful, evocative story which would make a marvellous film as would its predecessor.

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