Sunday, 26 September 2010

Since coming back from France just over what now seems like a fortnight, but was only a week ago, I seem to have been to lots of bookish events, the first being a meeting of one of the reading groups I belong to. We discussed Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind, a novel set in Barcelona in the years just following the Spanish Civil War. This was a re-read for me, I first read it when it was a Richard and Judy choice about 5 years ago. Most if not all of us enjoyed it, although there were many different reasons for that enjoyment. I certainly found that a re-read made the cast of characters clearer, the layout of Barcelona more evident and the plot and sub-plots more obvious and I was generally more sympathetic to the themes of loss, betrayal, love and the importance of books.

The following evening I attended an author event at Shirley Library, Southampton with Patrick Hennessy whose book , The Junior Officers' Reading Club was in the bestseller lists. The evening had been won in a competition by Penguin Books by a local reading group nad was a great success. Patrick Hennessy was a good speaker and although I haven't yet read his book, it is on my To Be Read pile. Patrick writes about his experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan while serving as an officer in the Army.

The week was finished off by a talk by Sandra Cain of Southampton Solent University on Reading the Novel held by Southampton City Libraries and aimed at reading groups in the city. It is quite a while since I've attended a lecture like this so I found her talk refreshing; it contained ideas I'm reasonably familiar with, and also some newer ones about the construction of the novel. Her passion for novels, as a reader and a writer was very heartening.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Nicole Galland's The Revenge of the Rose is an unusual historical novel, which I chanced on while browsing in my local branch library, looking for a good holiday read. Although set in medieval times, it is definitely on the light side, with romance well to the fore rather than reality. The author says in her notes that she was more concerned with telling a story than historical accuracy, and the story she tells is a good page-turner. The main characters are Willem of Dole, a landless knight, his sister Lienor, their friend Jouglet, a minstrel, and Konrad, Holy Roman Emperor. The events take Willem and Jouglet to Konrad's summer camp, to various tournaments in which Willem excels, thus catching the eye of Konrad and becoming drawn into his company. Konrad is looking for a bride, but one who also has to meet the approval of his council, and Willem's sister Lienor is a prospective Empress. Meanwhile in a side plot, Konrad's steward Marcus has fallen in love with Imogen, Konrad's cousin. Willem's rise in fame brings the prospect that he may be affianced to Imogen, thereby shattering Marcus and Imogen's plans to marry. How all eventually ends happily is quite cleverly told, in a cheerful pacy style. Just right for a not too serious holiday read.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010


This last week here in the Auvergne has been beautiful, warm and sunny. I've managed a few swims in the Aqua Centre at Mauriac ( a fairly simple outdoor pool, heated) where if I go fairly early and join the other femmes d'un certain age, I have plenty of room to swim for an hour . Yesterday I had the pool almost to myself, partly because the weather had clouded over, although it was still fairly warm. however, the weather now is cool and very wet; it has poured with rain on and off the last couple of days. Our son has been staying here for a week, before heading off to cycle up Mont Ventoux in Provence next weekend with some cycling friends, and has done several cycle rides round the area, including up to the Pas du Peyrol, which is 1588 metres high., three times. He managed one ride last Saturday of 170 kilometres, about 100 miles and saw as much of the surrounding area in several hours as we have manged in the 3 years we've been coming here. However after a rather rainy day yesterday the sun came out in the evening briefly, rewarding us with a beautiful double rainbow.

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