The Shadow of the Wind - Lucia Graves, Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Loads of people recommended the Shadow of the Wind to me, but when my former housemate Mariola bought it for me in England, I didn't read it immediately. School reading dominated my life at the moment and I really wanted to take some time to immerse myself in this novel's Barcelona. I felt like that was the best way to read it, like I owed that to the book somehow.

It is the first book I finished this summer as a real leisurely read. Engaging in the mystery and the excitement of the plot was great. It was scarier than I thought it would be! I'm terrible with scary stuff, I have too much imagination. However, the storyline revolved around more than its suspense. The characters were so lively and well-executed. I thought Daniel's father could have received more attention, but that said, Fermín, Carax, Nuria, Miquel, Jacinta.. all of these people were characters I came to appreciate immensely. I think I'll read this book again some day.

One minor thing for me is that I suspect the book is an even better read in Spanish. Sometimes it felt too coincidental that EVERYONE would start spilling a complete life story after being coaxed with flattery or money. That might be something more characteristic to Spanish culture than to English/Dutch culture, and so I think it would have made more sense in Spanish? I felt the same about the cursing. ^^

All in all, I'd really love to visit Barcelona again now. There's a walking tour in the back of the novel and my boyfriend and I have yet to decide where our holiday is going to take us.. so who knows? It might be destiny.

Choncey's well-written plea for shedding the Da Vinci Code in favour of some neglected greats this summer.

A Concise Companion to Contemporary British Fiction (Concise Companions to Literature and Culture)

A Concise Companion to Contemporary British Fiction - James English It was interesting to read about literature in a broader way for once. By that, I mean that realistic commercial aspects of publishing were considered, which shone new light on the published work itself. I found the articles quite difficult to get through at times, but it is an informative book nevertheless.

Bridge to Terabithia

Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson, Donna Diamond This book did move me and I liked how Jess' character developed towards the end.Nevertheless, I thought the writing style did not reflect the characters or their environment whatsoever.The book is written from Jess' point of view, but the writing style is extremely poetic. That just doesn't feel authentic at all, especially since Jess himself can't even spell right.Even though the beautiful writing did make the book more worthwhile, it clashed with its young protagonists. This made me feel Paterson's presence as writer of a fictional story, and that somewhat lessened the magic of it all for me. Nevertheless, lovely story to read.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight - I really needed some light reading after uni work and I'd heard good things about this book. A friend had heard me mention it and kindly lent it to me. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is a charming little story, but is not extraordinarily well-written or very much in-depth. Thankfully I wasn't looking for that, so I here choose to rate the book based on my reading experience. The story was somewhat emotionally effective in my case because my dad has, in fact, re-married, so I could see where Hadley was coming from. This and the cute love story make me glad I took some time to read it.

Magnetism (Penguin Great Loves)

Magnetism - F. Scott Fitzgerald Witty and well-written stories that truly display Fitzgerald charm and insight.

First Love

First Love - Ivan Turgenev, Isaiah Berlin A tale that unfolds the torturous circumstance of being in love with a popular and unattainable girl. The highlight of this little book for me was a certain passage near the ending that reflected on age:"…perhaps the whole secret of your enchantment lies not, indeed, in your power to do whatever you may will, but in your power to think that there is nothing you will not do". (page 101)It made me think of this John Green quote: "When adults say, "Teenagers think they are invincible" with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don't know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are."

The Invention of Dr Cake

The Invention Of Dr Cake - Andrew Motion I knew on page 53.This was a very interesting little book. At times, however, I really had to remind myself that Tabor is not Motion and that the whole story might be a complete fiction. I must say I am still not sure where this book stands in terms of historical accuracy. Regardless, I enjoyed the suspense and Tabor's description of Cake. The awe Tabor obviously feels in witnessing Cake's grand personality added a certain enchantment to his retellings that influenced my reading for the better.I do not think of this as a book that I will read over and over again, but I am very glad to have read it (not least for the questions it asks of biography and fiction as larger concepts). I recommend this short read to anyone with an interest in biography, the Romantic poets or any interest in language at all.

The White Tiger: A Novel

The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga Wow. I can't believe a murderer just won me over with his story?! I get that that is the trick the story plays on you, but.. it might have played me? I am glad of the insight into India's daily life, its incredible corruption and corruption as a practical concept that I got from this novel. All in all, the White Tiger was an exhilarating read with a strong message and a cleverly constructed narrative voice.

Arthur & George (Vintage 21st Anniv Editions)

Arthur & George - Julian Barnes Pretty great book, interesting introduction into the lives of Arthur & George (as the title might suggest it to be). I liked the juxtaposition between the characters and upbringings of the two men, and I also like how I only realised 'Arthur' was Arthur Conan Doyle, a well-known author who actually existed, turned into fiction here, on page 60. It was a nice surprise, because it makes you wonder what difference it made in your appreciation of the character whether you thought he ever existed in real life or not. Does it matter? Would I judge the actions of a fictional character more or less harshly? Would I be more invested the fate of a fictional or a real character more? Or might I be less apprehensive for someone like Arthur Conan Doyle, because I'm familiar with the image of himself he left.

On Beauty

On Beauty - Zadie Smith Oh man, what a book. It seems to be one story but it's so many more.

An Honourable Man

An Honourable Man - Gillian Slovo An enjoyable read. It was easy to become invested in the characters because of the way Slovo portrayed them. Nevertheless, she might have created a text too obviously artificial to still add something to the historical tradition it concerns itself with. The story seems to try to hard to make certain connections that aren't fully realistic.


The Master - Colm Tóibín 'The Master' is extraordinary in its being a work of fiction on a historical figure/author (that author being Henry James). I had close to no background knowledge about Henry James, even though I do own his 'the Portrait of a Lady' and know he wrote using extremely lengthy sentences - perhaps much like this one. I'm immensely enjoying a course on life-writing I am currently following. Mainly, I think that's because biography is such a psychologically intriguing form of history. This appreciation certainly amounted to a bigger appreciation of this novel. Friendships, events and character traits unrelated to my own or not especially spectacular gained my interest by contributing to the bigger picture I eventually formed of Henry James. As I mentioned in my reading update, the chronology/flashback structure Toíbín used felt problematic during my reading sometimes. However, it might finally offer the reader James' life in this less straightforward manner to represent with more sincerity the nature of 'a life' before it is written. All in all, I enjoyed reading this part fictional, part biographical account of Henry James and am looking forward to read some of his work. I am curious whether it will evoke the same image of its author for me as it did for Toíbín. Finally, I found the description of the London Review of Books a very fitting one: 'The Master gives us a genuine intimacy with one of the people who might have been Henry James.' This line struck me before I started reading and now that I have finished, I can wholeheartedly agree with its writer.

The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance

The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance - Edmund de Waal The Hare with Amber Eyes is one of the most original books I have ever read.It was a compulsory read for an auto/biography course I'm taking and I can see how it will spark intriguing discussion when we get to talking about it (if people dare speak up this time, that is..) It is hard to define what exactly the book is about. Its author - Edmund de Waal - has trouble categorising the book himself, admitting in the final pages that 'I no longer know if this book is about my family, or memory, or myself, or is still a book about small Japanese things' (342). My guess is that it was a little bit of all those things and it was absolutely fine by me.One of the most magnificent things about this book was, I found, how the scope of the story is so huge and intimately small at the same time. He follows the netsuke collection throughout history, simultaneously exploring the lives of ancestors who owned it. It was a pleasant surprise that he was apt, too, in transferring the greater artistic and political atmosphere at the time periods he touches upon. For someone who was largely oblivious of the specific history he discussed, I was able to envisage well many of the scenes he laid out in his book. I think that serves as a compliment to the author. :)De Waal's being an artist at heart felt essential to me, as in one of his latest travels he (perhaps unwittingly) contrasts himself against his fast-paced brother who noticed less the feel or detail of a room, for example. Edmund de Waal has a feel for describing the atmosphere of a Europe long gone and revokes it - or admits he cannot imagine it - in the sincerest way.I am quite sure I would not easily have chosen this book to read, had it not been compulsory. Whereas I am often frustrated by the limits to my knowledge, the Hare with Amber Eyes made me reconsider my interest in history in many of its forms. Art history, genealogical history and its psychological impact, as well as living in the Europe of the past, are all areas this book made me significantly more curious about and want to explore further.

The Help

The Help - Kathryn Stockett I felt like the last girl on earth still not having read this book, but I tried not to expect anything specific out of it.Nevertheless, I couldn't stop thinking how right they'd gotten the film. Besides minor plot disagreements between the two media, the spirit of each character was captured so well in the actresses they chose for Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter. The book, however, made those women dearer to me by the depth with which I felt they were written. What I have to say about them almost feels redundant, because it has probably been said a thousand times already, in a thousand other reviews of this great novel. Minny is hilarious and tragic at the same time. She sparks hope with her backtalking and made me laugh out loud with her comments on Celia. Yet her struggles at home portray the horrible fate of many mothers in her position at the time. Aibileen is just a precious human being and I completely got how she should be friends with Minny. I would want to protect her, too, and hurt anyone who tried to harm her more than she had already been harmed.Skeeter's strength and disregard for the conventions she was in (which conventions, in their turn, disregarded 1/2 of town) made me hope real stories like hers did happen. It also made me believe in strength even in circumstances that almost seem to make moving forward impossible.What more can I say? I laughed out loud, I cried out loud. It was good.

Just Kids

Just Kids - Patti Smith I love how this is a dual biography of sorts. Even though biography and autobiography should be regarded with a watchful eye because there are so many different ways truth can be manipulated, that didn't really preoccupy me while reading 'Just Kids'. In the epilogue, Patti Smith says that there are 'many stories I could yet write about Robert, about us' and thus addresses the multiplicity of any form of narrative truth. This confirmed my feeling that this is a book written by a great intellectual and artistic mind, even though she does not busy herself to show you that, at all. Robert is allegedly the genius in the book, but I think it's wonderful how much of Patti's own genius shines through in their interaction and in the magical way she wrote this book.The sad bit in reading this was my annoyance at myself for being oblivious to the majority of the names she mentions and not remembering them fast/well enough. Much of Patti and Robert's stories are significant meetings through quick association, logical social connection in 60s/70s NYC, but the speed at which influential names came at me startled me a bit and I often had to flip back a couple of pages to refamiliarise myself with people.All in all, I thought this was a lovely (auto)biography and particularly interesting in terms of it being a combination of self-writing and writing about one's very close companion. Patti moved with Robert through various stages of his life in a very natural way and the picture she paints of him is, while inevitably subjective, many-sided and magical.

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