2015 Reading Challenges–French Bingo and more

21 Jan

french-bingo-2015-logo2I’m delighted to join this reading challenge for 2015, hosted by Emma at Words and Peace. Here are some of the books I may include:

  1. Journeys Through France and Life by Glenda de Vaney (my review)
  2. To Dance with Kings by Rosalind Laker (set in court of Louis XIV)
  3. The Sharp Hook of Love by Sherry Jones (about Héloïse and Abélard)
  4. How Paris Became Paris by Joan De Jean
  5. The Vicomte de Bragelonne by Alexander Dumas (in the Musketeer series)
  6. Lev Gillet: ‘A Monk of the Eastern Church’ by Elisabeth Behr-Sigel

I’ll most likely add others during the year, especially as part of France Book Tours. I will post those reviews here on the Fictional 100 blog. Other brief reviews will appear on my Goodreads shelf.

Many of these books will also qualify for two challenges posted by The Introverted Reader: the 2015 Nonfiction Reading Challenge and the 2015 Books in Translation Reading Challenge.

Finally, these varied books on France, past and present, fiction and nonfiction, are also part of my ongoing participation in the Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge, hosted by Mom’s Small Victories, I’m Lost in Books, and Savvy Working Gal.

Travel-the-World-in-Books-Reading-Challenge 300x300

Review + Interview + Giveaway: “Journeys Through France and Life” by Glenda de Vaney

17 Jan

Journeys Through France and Life banner

My Review

This is an unusual memoir. It combines vivid travel writing spanning a lifetime of visits to France with an account of de Vaney’s personal journey of self-discovery in the midst of crisis. She endows her memoir with the instinctive pacing of a thriller, and I read it in just two sittings, driven by the suspense generated by the two intertwined crises she faced.

Trips to France run through the entire book, with colorful stories of meals eaten, places visited, and people encountered, but those incidents described in the second half of the book could not be more different from those in the first half, because of the shadow cast in the first half by her husband during two decades of marriage. As the author states, when living with an emotionally abusive, controlling mate, “losing my soul to someone else didn’t happen overnight, but little by little.” The cycle of his rages and withdrawal and her appeasement strategies was a pervasive feature of their relationship; month-long trips to France were also a fixture of their married life, and for a while, the shared enjoyment of experiencing new sights and tastes together or revisiting old favorites clouded the truth of their underlying disconnection and conflict. Over time, however, de Vaney realized what had been happening: “a marriage has to be made of something more than trips to France. The vacations had been a distraction, allowing us to paper over the truth of our relationship.” The breaking point came when Kyle, her son from her first marriage, suffered a severe episode of psychosis, which ultimately led to a diagnosis of schizophrenia, a psychiatric condition that doesn’t typically manifest until young adulthood. Her son needed her now; she would have to marshall all her strength to care for him and find the medical help he needed. A husband who thwarted these efforts was not merely a source of suffering to her, but presented an imminent danger to her son.

…now, there was much more at stake than just a dysfunctional marriage. The fate of my son hung in the balance. …The profound needs of my son overcame my fears and gave me the courage to do what I should have done years earlier.

She left with Kyle, and a new chapter of life began. Despite the urgent demands and challenges which she and her son faced, this second half of the book felt empowering because of her fierce love and determination to learn about her son’s illness and create the best life possible for both of them.

Treatment for schizophrenia combines powerful medications–which can be quite effective at relieving the most disturbing symptoms–with learning to adapt to the special stresses that can exacerbate illness. The family members must learn to adapt right along with the person coping with the illness. De Vaney tells the story of this dedicated learning process with tremendous heart and insight. Sticking with the medication, once it relieves overt symptoms, is the biggest challenge, because, as she describes, people with schizophrenia have a hard time grasping their need for medication and the dire consequences of stopping it. Nevertheless, she always respected her son’s personhood as much as she worried about him. I have never read a more sensitive account of the ups and downs of living with a beloved family member coping with mental illness. De Vaney is wonderful at showing Kyle’s experience, as she understands it; this is not a book framed solely around the trials of a caregiver–at every turn, she takes pains to describe what Kyle’s experience must be like, while at the same time respecting that no one but her son knows exactly how he feels.

Even when life is punctuated by such crises, at some point a certain degree of stability returns; when this happened for de Vaney, she began tentatively to ask herself, will I ever go to France again? Could I make the trip alone? Her account of her first trip back is not to be missed. It is more than just another travel experience but her first steps toward a new independent life and a different career. And, not to be overlooked, she had some fantastic meals!

…duck breasts with warm, sliced pears; vin moelleux, a sweet white wine; and crème brûlée. The caramelized brown sugar on top crackled as the spoon broke through it to the luscious custard beneath, made even more decadent with exquisite vanilla ice cream. …

Dinner that evening was scrumptious. The entrée was langoustine salad, then rumsteck with red onion compote for the main dish, a glass of red wine, and for dessert, brioche with apples, ice cream, and Calvados (a Normandy apple liqueur that scorches the throat taken straight, but tastes good in a sauce), then coffee with tiny pastries.

Somehow her sense of humor was given breathing room when she was traveling on her own. Flaps with people she met or faux pas of her own were funny but not demoralizing or shaming because, this time, she was the captain of her journey. Her spirit opened up and her faith in God blossomed as well, a welcome support in her life with Kyle and in her new photography business.

As she says, she doesn’t know how the story will end. I’d like to think that the garden she chose for her cover represents a place of hope and interior peace she has found.

De Vaney’s beautiful photos of châteaux and other landmarks are included throughout the book. My favorite was probably the one of the Château d’Ô reflected in its moat. You can see slide shows of her photography at her website under “Images of France.”

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Interview with Glenda de Vaney

Q1. Tell me about the cover image of a beautiful enclosed garden. I would love to know where it is and how you came to photograph it.

A. The cover photograph was taken at the Jardin du Manoir d’Eyrignac in the southwest of France. It is listed as one of the most beautiful gardens in France. I am always looking for a scene that I think will make a good photograph. I love this scene because it frames the Pavillon of Peace and the stone fence within the arched greenery. To me, it symbolizes a hidden treasure or the hidden truths of my story waiting to be discovered.

 

Q2. After 30 trips to France, where in France do you feel most at home – your “home away from home,” so to speak? Do you have a favorite town or region?

A. I never stay in one place longer than two or three nights – I am always on the move to the next thing, so I don’t really have a “home away from home.” But I do feel at home anywhere in France. I love all the different regions of France but, for this question, I asked myself, “If I could choose only one region for my last vacation to France, what would it be?” I decided it would be the Loire valley, because I love châteaux and this is where so many of them are located. It is also a green and beautiful area with many charming villages.

 

Q3. Your book recounts your own journey to find courage for a new life, but clearly you are writing about Kyle’s journey too, giving it voice. Your story bears witness to Kyle’s courage day by day. Is there anything further you’d like to add about that?

A. Kyle’s journey is really my journey too – to help him have the best life possible. I want so much for him to have a fuller life and to be in a place, mentally and emotionally, that will allow him to make it on his own after I’m gone. The longer he goes without another psychotic break, the better it bodes for him long term. Sometimes I feel as though he is walking a tightrope, that he could fall off at any time, and that I am on the tightrope with him. He could easily qualify for Social Security Income because of his disability and have more money, but he doesn’t apply for it. He wants to support himself as much as he can, so he doesn’t give up – he keeps working at his small eBay business doing the best he can.

 

Q4. Your bio mentions your volunteer work with the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) and your advocacy for those suffering from mental illness. What would you most like to say to parents whose children are facing similar struggles?

A. Two things: first, learn as much as possible about the illness. Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are very serious, complex, and mysterious illnesses. In order to provide the healthiest environment for their child, it is crucial that parents educate themselves about the illness. Attending Family-to-Family classes sponsored by NAMI is extremely helpful. Statistics have shown that the more knowledge and understanding the parents have, and the more support they provide, the better the outlook for their son or daughter. And, two, never give up hope.

 

Q5. Was the journey described in Chapter 22, “The Last Trip to France,” truly your last? Have you made any new travel plans since then? Do you have more writing projects in the works?

A. “The Last Trip to France” was not really my last. In spite of the many frustrations, I couldn’t give up something that has given me so much joy. The last words in the book, “Ce n’est pas fini” (it is not finished), were a clue. I made a trip in 2013, taking copies of my book to give as gifts to the hotels I wrote about. In 2014, for the first time in the sixteen years we’ve been together since his psychotic break, Kyle asked me not to go to France and to my family reunion because he did not feel he was well enough to be alone. I didn’t go. Depending on Kyle’s health, I am hoping to make a trip this year. As for future writing projects, I don’t have any plans at the moment but I am open to all possibilities.

 

My warmest thanks to Glenda de Vaney for her time in responding to my questions and for her candid, informative, and heartfelt answers. I hope she does continue to write in the future!

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Journeys Through France and Life

Journeys Through France and Life

[memoir]

by

Glenda de Vaney

 Release date: March 23, 201
at Journeys Press

296 pages

ISBN: 978-0615660875

Website | Goodreads

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SYNOPSIS

Month-long trips to France twice a year – that was the life! Until real life intervenes and everything changes. Come on a journey through France with the author and her husband, eating delicious cuisine, seeing fabulous sights, mixing it up with the French. Stay on the journey as a crisis reveals that her son from a previous marriage has schizophrenia, and that her husband is not only unsympathetic, but something more.

Travel with the author as she faces her fears, and finds a way back to her true self. Through her experience, others may find insight regarding dark corners of their own lives. She puts a human face on the stigmatized illness of schizophrenia, while sharing her love of France, where she finds frustration, humor, and joy.  [provided by the author]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Journeys Through France and Life - De VaneySmitten with France, Glenda de Vaney has traveled there over thirty times to photograph châteaux, gardens, villages and whatever is beautiful.  She presents slide shows on France and sells framed pictures. The author is a former volunteer for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and an advocate for those suffering from mental illness.  She is also an avid table tennis player who strikes fear in her opponents’ hearts, or at least wishes she did.  Glenda lives in a historic home in a suburb of San Diego with the younger of her two sons.

Visit her website.

Follow Glenda de Vaney on  Facebook

Buy the book | on  Amazon   | on Goodreads

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GIVEAWAY

 Click on Entry-Form to enter the giveaway:

Entry-Form

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway every day of the Tour
will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Giveaway open to US/Canada residents:
kindle copy of this book
4 winners

CLICK ON THE BANNER
TO READ OTHER REVIEWS, INTERVIEW AND EXCERPT

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Visit the other stops on this tour for more perspectives on this memoir of France and life!

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*Note*: I received an electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation, and the views expressed in my review are my own opinions.

Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge: Wrapping it all up with a bow!

7 Jan

christmas spirit reading challenge 2014Christmas season was even more fun and festive this year because of the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge, hosted by Michelle at her gorgeous blog, The Christmas Spirit, which makes life cheerier year-round, any time we need a little Christmas, as the Jerry Herman song says. I enjoyed her posts and guest posts on the theme of “Sharing the Joy: Christmas Around the World,” including Hungarian and Bohemian (by guest Caddy Rowland) customs of food, celebrating, and decorating.

For my participation in the Challenge, I read four books (and reviewed two):

  1. Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett (a well-written twist on A Christmas Carol, recommended to me by Michelle, who also reviewed it here).
  2. Moominland Midwinter, written and illustrated by Tove Jansson (a whimsical wisdom tale for both children and adults, counting towards my Northern Lights Reading Project).
  3. Scandinavian Christmas by Trine Hahnemann (a cookbook, also for Northern Lights).
  4. Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon (recommended to me by Sharon of Faith Hope and Cherrytea; it’s now my favorite of the Karon books I’ve read).

I didn’t do my usual re-read of Old Christmas, by Washington Irving, but I did pull the book off the shelf and savored once again the illustrations by Randolph Caldecott. I had hoped to finish Lakeshore Christmas by Susan Wiggs, but I’ve only just started it–something for next year’s Challenge!

As part of the Challenge, I watched (or should I say “binge-watched”) Christmas movies served up marathon-style on the Hallmark Channel during the month of December. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Fallen Angel (2003), starring Gary Sinise and Joely Richardson. Quietly beautiful story of two people who met as children and were destined to find each other again. This one got many viewings at my house.
  2. Christmas Cottage (2008), starring Marcia Gay Harden, Peter O’Toole, and Jared Padalecki. Early life and formative experiences of artist Thomas Kinkade.
  3. Christmas at Cartwright’s (2014), starring Alicia Witt, Gabriel Hogan, and Wallace Shawn. Alicia Witt is charmingly klutzy as a woman who becomes a department store Santa, and stumbles upon true love.
  4. The Christmas Ornament (2013), starring Kellie Martin and Cameron Mathison. Martin is wonderful as a widow who pushes away both Christmas and a new friendship with Mathison because of her loyalty to memory.
  5. The Nine Lives of Christmas (2014), starring Brandon Routh and Stephanie Bennett. Remember Superman Returns from 2006? Its star, Brandon Routh, plays a commitment-shy bachelor, but, hey, he’s on the Hallmark Channel during Christmas, so he’s sure to find lasting love!

As you can see, I had a lot of fun with the “Mistletoe” level of books read and the “Fa La La La La” (!) level of films watched.  I’ll be back for more next year!

The Ghost at Scrooge’s Door: “Jacob T. Marley” by R. William Bennett–A Review

18 Dec

Jacob T Marley cover

Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett. Shadow Mountain, 2011.

In this convincingly written pastiche of Charles Dickens’ classic novella A Christmas Carol, author R. William Bennett includes a Preface addressing his readers, whom he assumes are well acquainted with Dickens’ account of Scrooge’s visitations by three spirits on Christmas Eve, his repentance, and his chance to make amends and change his life. And why not? It is one of the most famous stories in the world, repeated, read, and watched on film by millions every year.  But Bennett wants to know more. He wants us to join him in inquiring further into the backstory of A Christmas Carol, in life and beyond. For him, it all boils down to one fundamental concern: “What of old Jacob?

Who was this man? Why was he so evil? Why did he in fact get to visit Scrooge and usher in the experience that changed first Ebenezer and then so many of our lives? Why did Scrooge get a final chance to change and not Jacob Marley?

Or did he?

Bennett’s novel offers answers to all these questions, and in the process considers the nature of redemption and forgiveness.  Can Scrooge be saved, and yet Marley suffer and rattle his heavy chains eternally, as Dickens implies? Perhaps everything is not as it seems.  An intriguing premise for a spinoff novel, but the success all depends on the quality of storytelling and control of language–Bennett rates highly on both counts.

The story is mapped out very well. First, it asks how did Marley become the man that he did. Unlike Scrooge, young Jacob Thelonius Marley is shown enjoying a happy childhood in a loving family.  This makes Marley, the wizened old miser, the merciless business partner of Scrooge, even more inexplicable. The author turns to the reader again, confiding that “we search for a particular event, the germination of a seed that, watered by some kind of cupidity, would take root in the pure-hearted young Jacob and find its flower in deceitful old Marley.”  He finds it in a particular incident in school when Marley’s pride and ambition are awakened by praise of his superiority in math and figures, without any tempering moral instruction.  That is the seed. The flowering comes when young Marley disowns the good example of an illustrious forebear, Thelonius Marley, whose sole distinction was an act of generosity and self-sacrifice. Jacob allows cynicism and calculation to replace his former admiration and he drops his own middle name honoring this kind man, finally expunging even the initial T., along with the memory of goodness it represented.  Is this really an explanation for Marley turning bad? Not exactly, because there is always a choice (that’s why this is a modern morality tale).  The rest of the novel plays out with close examination of Marley’s–and Scrooge’s–choices and their consequences.  The “Christmas magic” enters in when some of those choices lead to second chances.

Marley’s actions intersected with Scrooge’s life before they met because Marley was landlord to Scrooge’s sister Fan.  They met on the street during her funeral procession. But neither man would know of this connection until much later. As they saw it, a chance meeting had introduced each to his perfect associate in profit-seeking. Each man strengthened the worst qualities in the other, and their fortunes grew as their moral character withered: “For twenty-five years, the two men grew more mean, more selfish, and more aligned in their purpose.”

Were Scrooge and Marley friends? Marley did not think so, as he lay on his deathbed, and mutely received the cold, “perfunctory” visits from Scrooge each day. He could feel Scrooge’s impatience for him to depart so that Scrooge could get back to his own business. And yet–death is a crossroads, and no one can entirely predict how he might feel approaching the boundary that separates death from life.  Did Marley’s life pass before him in the long hours between Scrooge’s visits? Indeed. Marley saw the spirits of his wronged clients of a lifetime; he realized he had chosen to show them no mercy–it wasn’t inevitable. Perhaps even now he could muster the strength to say a few words to Scrooge. I won’t reveal those last words, but they have momentous consequences for the spirit of Jacob Marley.

Now the novel has arrived at the point where Dickens takes up the story.  As you might expect, Bennett will retell the crucial events from Marley’s perspective this time. Is the visit of Marley’s wailing, chain-rattling Ghost exactly what it seems to be? Perhaps there could be more to the story.  This time, Marley’s ghost will remain throughout, as an unseen witness to all that Scrooge sees when the three Ghosts of Christmas come to show him the hard truths of his past, present, and future and thereby awaken his remorse.  Marley can’t help but consider his own role in many of these events.  But will it be enough?  This book imagines some surprising twists that will affect the eternal fates of both Marley and Scrooge.

Like A Christmas Carol, Jacob T. Marley is a tale that examines the nature of redemption, forgiveness, and atonement, but Bennett’s book is more theological in its speculations and more overtly Christian in its symbolism than Dickens’ work. As pointed out recently by Michele Jacobsen of A Reader’s Respite (citing  Les Standiford, who wrote The Man Who Invented Christmas), the appearance of A Christmas Carol coincided with the beginnings of a shift toward a more secular society, one in which man had to depend on himself as much as on his Creator.  Scrooge’s path of redemption could be seen as consistent with that, although it clearly did not deny a supernatural world. As she puts it, “God was not being rejected, but man’s control over his destiny was gaining ground.” Scrooge’s choice one Christmas Eve has shaped our modern idea of Christmas.  Bennett’s book could be seen as an alternative interpretation of Scrooge’s choice and his salvation from that fearful afterlife so memorably presented to him by Jacob Marley’s ghost.

Related links:

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christmas spirit reading challenge 2014

Giveaway of The Fictional 100 — Indie and Small Press Author Blog Hop

5 Dec

blog-hop-51I am delighted to be participating in the Indie and Small Press Author Blog Hop, hosted by one of my favorite bloggers, Melissa of The Book Binder’s Daughter, and by Harry Patz, author of The Naive Guys. Melissa shows her dedication to fair-minded reviewing of indie and small press authors, day in and day out, with her consistently informative and thoughtful reviews of a refreshing variety of books. I always look forward to learning what’s been on her reading plate! I learned about Harry’s book through her blog and I was immediately interested in its inventive allusions to the Aeneid in a thoroughly modern coming-of-age story set in the 1990s.

******** Now for the Giveaway! ********

It is my special pleasure to offer 4 copies of my book THE FICTIONAL 100, 1 paperback and 3 e-copies in mobi (kindle) or epub format, as you wish. Here’s a little bit about the book and about me, in case you haven’t visited here before, and then below these, you will find the link to enter the Giveaway.

Synopsis

Some of the most influential and interesting people in the world are fictional. Sherlock Holmes, Huck Finn, Pinocchio, Anna Karenina, Cinderella, and Superman, to name a few, may not have walked the Earth (or flown, in Superman’s case), but they certainly stride into our lives. They influence us personally: as childhood friends, catalysts to our dreams, or even fantasy lovers.  Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa, for one, confessed to a lifelong passion for Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Characters can change the world. Witness the impact of Solzhenitsyn’s Ivan Denisovich, in exposing the conditions of the Soviet Gulag, or Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom, in arousing anti-slavery feeling in America. Words such as quixotic, oedipal, and herculean show how fictional characters permeate our language.

Although not of flesh and blood, fictional characters have a life and history of their own.  The Fictional 100 ranks the most influential fictional persons in world literature and legend, ranging from Shakespeare’s Hamlet [1] to Toni Morrison’s Beloved [100]. Each short, lively chapter traces a character’s origins, development, and varied incarnations in literature, art, music, and films.  From the brash Hercules to the troubled Holden Caulfield, from the misguided schemes of Emma Woodhouse to the menacing plots of Medea, from Don Juan to Don Quixote, The Fictional 100 runs the gamut of heroes and villains, young and old, saints and sinners.  It explores their deeper resonances and the diverse reasons for their enduring influence.

“A strongly recommended read and fine addition to any literary studies collection.” ~Midwest Book Review

ISBN: 978-1440154393

496 pages; illustrated

Paperback, ebook

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble

 About the Author

Lucy Pollard-Gott has a PhD in psychology from Princeton University, where she specialized in the psychology of the arts.  She has published her studies in literature, including articles on the structure of fairy tales, the psychology of readers’ interactions with fictional characters, and fractal structure in the poetry of Wallace Stevens.  She shares the latest news and reviews about the Fictional 100 characters, along with other books she’s reading, here at her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.  She especially likes to read what others are writing about books they like, stories that move them, or characters who have changed their lives.

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Please click Entry-Form to win a copy of THE FICTIONAL 100. This Giveaway will be open through December 12th. I will select winners on December 13th and notify the winners by email; winners will have 48 hours to respond.  Thank you for visiting this blog, and I encourage you to follow the link below to visit more stops on the hop!

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Click here to see the other authors and bloggers participating in this blog hop and offering great giveaways!

The Christmas Spirit Read-a-thon 2014 — What did I read?

2 Dec
Hosted by Michelle Miller of The True Book Addict at her lovely Seasons of Reading blog--thanks, Michelle!

Hosted by Michelle Miller of The True Book Addict at her lovely Seasons of Reading blog–thanks, Michelle!

Time to wrap it up! What did I read all week? Some things I had planned and a few things that I didn’t.

  1. Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson. I finished this one, my second Moomin book, and I’m more and more sure that these fanciful tales by Finnish-Swedish artist Jansson are utterly charming and rather profound. In this one, Moomintroll (the sweet son in the family) has unaccountably woken up during his winter hibernation. How he makes his way through winter and finds friends who love snow and wintry pursuits is the premise of this book, but Jansson is too wise a writer to let her characters discover winter without also discovering more about themselves.
  2. The House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker.  I finished this one too, and what a lovely read! It is a historical romance set in post-WWII Norway, and you can find my full review of this book at my other blog, Northern Lights Reading Project. I discovered this book while browsing my local library for one of Laker’s other books, The Venetian Mask, which I am reading for our Lit Collective theme of Venice. I have started The Venetian Mask too, and I’m liking it, but most of all, I am so glad I picked up Laker’s absorbing novel about a widowed war bride in Norway as well!
  3. Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett. I’m just getting started on this one.  I thought I would be focusing on it over the weekend, but I ended up staying in Norway a while longer. For the next leg of the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge (also hosted by Michelle Miller) I plan to hurry back to Victorian London to find out more about Ebeneezer Scrooge’s old business associate–his chain-rattling, ghostly conscience on one famous Christmas Eve. The book promises to reveal whether Jacob later found his own path to reforming his soul–I certainly hope so!  That would be a Christmas-spirited ending I could love.

The 5th Annual Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge

21 Nov

christmas spirit reading challenge 2014I’m full of cheer in anticipation of next week’s kickoff of the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge, graciously hosted by Michelle (alias The True Book Addict) at her beautiful blog page The Christmas Spirit. It’s decorated with gorgeous holiday images and even some tunes to play! So, do pay it a visit.

I’m planning to read four books (Mistletoe level):

  1. Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett.
  2. Scandinavian Christmas by Trine Hahnemann.
  3. Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson (who also illustrates).
  4. Old Christmas by Washington Irving, illus. Randolph Caldecott.

The novel about poor old Jacob T. Marley will give me a good reason to write something new about Scrooge and The Christmas Carol here this year.  My reviews for Scandinavian Christmas (a cookbook) and Moominland Midwinter (from Finland: a children’s book that adults love too!) will be over at my other blog, Northern Lights Reading Project. Old Christmas is just pure fun to re-read each year, with its descriptions of Christmas puddings, country dancing, and even a little romance in bloom at Bracebridge Hall, as gently satirized by Washington Irving, with the help of Caldecott’s masterful caricatures.

I’m sure I’ll be watching quite a few Christmas movies all during the challenge, since I already have a good head start with the Hallmark channel’s Christmas movie theme since the beginning of November. My favorite so far, and one that I’d never seen before, is called Fallen Angel (2003) starring Gary Sinise and Joely Richardson.

christmas spirit read-a-thon 2014The Challenge begins with the Christmas Spirit Read-a-thon. Its guidelines are a little different, so be sure to visit the Read-a-thon announcement for details.  Her biggest guideline is to HAVE FUN with it! I will!

Review and Giveaway: “100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go” by Marcia DeSanctis #FranceBT

27 Oct

100 Places banner100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go by Marcia DeSanctis, Traveler’s Tales. Palo Alto, CA: Solas House, Inc., 2014.

As you might imagine, I have a special place in my heart for lists of 100 anything, but a list of 100 places to visit in France easily floats toward the top of my list of lists. When they are recommended by accomplished travel writer Marcia DeSanctis, I know I will have a list, and a book, bristling with post-it notes and dotted with marginal exclamation points!

This is the guide to read before you pick up that other guidebook–the one with hotels and restaurants in tiny type–and to pack in your suitcase for the pure pleasure of it. Each of its hundred succinct chapters is enhanced with a small emblematic photo or drawing, but the real star is DeSanctis’s text: her warmly personal prose unites a keen knowledge of French lore with a wealth of travel experience and anecdote. She is a confident connoisseur, but never a stuffy one; she readily shares with the reader those occasions when she changed her mind about a sight or revised a preconception.

Her introduction sets the stage with her own history of loving France. It may have been a madeleine for Proust, but for DeSanctis, it was that first bite of croissant–even the American version that came as rolled-up dough in a can–that got her curious about France. Exploration of French books and music finally culminated in her first visit to Paris as a young adult, which sparked a sense of belonging and fit a piece into life’s puzzle for her:

Not just me, but every woman belonged in Paris, and to miss out meant missing out on life itself. France was not just my idea; it was a universal one, a rite of passage, the place we were where we could both escape ourselves and find the power and grace to be ourselves. It was one piffling ocean away, and returning there as soon as possible was the best reason I could think of to squirrel away my paycheck… (p. xvii)

She did save her paycheck, and returned again and again, meeting and marrying her husband, sometimes living there, and sometimes just making another pilgrimage to fulfill a particular longing. As she writes, “In France, we find what we are missing. This book contains 100 of those missing things.” The first 25 places are in Paris, and then she breaks out of the city to explore the rest of France. I will mention a few of the highlights for me, my own brief itinerary through the book.

  • Musée Édith Piaf, Paris (chapter 3). DeSanctis writes movingly of Piaf, the tiny woman with the ringing voice and the rolling rs, “an emblem of French identity and genius.” She highlights my favorite Piaf song, “Non, je ne regrette rien.” Somehow when Piaf sings it, in a key tuned to shake the soul, it affirms a human resilience beyond words, beyond the storms that tossed her.

  • The Perfect Lingerie, Paris (chapter 7). I don’t think I’ve read a review or a blurb of this book that didn’t take note of this memorable chapter! It encourages women to do something special for themselves, to visit Paris and shop–not extravagantly, but caringly–for themselves. This is only one of many chapters that are about a type of experience to be sought, with no particular address but many enticing suggestions of where to find it.
  • Church Music and Concerts, including at Sainte-Chapelle, Paris (chapter 8). Hearing the music of heaven at La Sainte-Chapelle combines experience with location in a perfect marriage. The rainbow-lit environment of the stained glass feeds the eyes as the concerts performed there feed the ears, the mind, and the soul. DeSanctis says it so well: “it is the kind of experience and balance we seek when we travel to Paris, the double sweep of lightness and meaning” (p. 24). I like very much how she broadens this choice to include opportunities to hear sacred music at any of a number of churches and abbeys.

I urge the traveler to experience a celebrated religious monument as more than a museum, and when on the street, to seek out the sounds. … the strains of music can unpack our sorrows or free our joys, cause us to examine the extent of our faith if that’s what surfaces, or just transport us through the force of its simple beauty. (p. 25)

  • My Restaurants, Pâtisseries, and Tea Salons, Paris (chapter 9). One can’t imagine travel in France without food being a five-star highlight, even if it is obtained at an unassuming brasserie on a hidden side street or at a little tucked-away tea shop. DeSanctis savors her food experiences and offers luscious descriptions of them throughout the book. In this wise chapter, she urges the woman traveling to keep a food itinerary, noting down for future reference those planned and unplanned stops for food and drink that yielded memorable tastes, sights, smells, and textures. Her idea of a typical diary entry is delightful: “It was here, on the corner of such-and-such, that I lit upon this perfect spot and ordered a café crème and tartes aux cerises and had one of the purest moments in my life” (p. 27). As for myself, I still recall the lobster poached in cream at Chez Albert, and, yes, I wrote about my ecstasy in a little travel journal, thirty-five years ago.
  • Héloïse and Abélard, Paris (chapter 13). I loved this blunt opening: “Paris is for lovers. It is also for their graves.” DeSanctis highlights the three cemeteries of Paris, and their famous inhabitants, but Héloïse and Abélard, re-interred (on orders from Empress Josephine) at Père Lachaise, are her primary focus of contemplation in this chapter.
  • The Shoah memorials at Paris and Drancy (chapter 17). In this important chapter, DeSanctis describes in detail the Wall of Names and other Shoah memorials in today’s France, which aim to confront the full historical record of the French collaboration during World War II and honor the memories of those who were deported and killed in the Holocaust.
  • Highlights of the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay (chapters 19 and 20). DeSanctis writes wonderfully about artworks that appreciate women as their subject or were actually created by women (such as the painters Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun and Berthe Morisot), and she proposes “12 + 1” highlights of painting, sculpture, and other objets d’art at each of these two legendary palaces of art. Get ready to circle and star these for your next visit, or just look for them online until you can see them in person (the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay have excellent websites to browse).
  • Lake Annecy (chapter 37). DeSanctis titles this chapter “The Turquoise Waters of the Haute-Savoie.” That really says it all. A few years ago, I had the joy of tagging along to a physics conference held at the Priory in Talloires, on the other end of the lake from the city of Annecy. I brought books with me but the impossibly beautiful view was very distracting. The lake was a boaters’ paradise, and every morning hang gliders sailed off the mountain in the background. Here are two of my photos of the place.
  • Vézelay (chapter 73). On that same trip, we rented a car and meandered through Burgundy and Champagne, making a special point to divert our route to Vézelay to see its magnificent basilica atop a hill. When I took the exterior photo, the façade was being cleaned and repaired, hence the scaffolding. Inside, the extraordinary nave with its striped Romanesque arches was flooded with light from the lovely apse, with its fascinating ambulatory chapels honoring Christ, Mary, and various saints.

    As DeSanctis describes so well in her chapter, Vézelay was a focal point in the life of 12th-century Europe. With its reputed relics of Sainte Marie-Madeleine (Magdalen) and its pivotal location, it became a gateway to the west and starting point on one of the four pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Campostela in Galicia. It was also the sight at which Bernard de Clairvaux preached one Easter (1146) to an overflow crowd, spilling out from the church onto the hillside. His words roused many in the assembly, including Louis VII and his queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, to take the cross for the Second Crusade, but this fruitless slaughter left an ambivalent taste on the tongues of historians, faced with evaluating this contradictory saint, the “Mellifluous Doctor” who wrote so eloquently about love of God and man.

Oh, I must stop now and leave readers to discover on their own such wonders as the Bayeux Tapestry (“the greatest storyboard ever made,” she calls it), the beaches of Normandy (to “remember the fallen”), Chamonix (which figures as one setting in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein), or Aix-en-Provence (as seen through the eyes and bons mots of M. F. K. Fisher).   I will simply conclude with DeSanctis’s own statement of one of her chief aims as a traveler, from her chapter on the glorious cathedral of Amiens:

In travel, I like to seek context–fictional, real or otherwise–for my surroundings. I like to find a memory, even someone else’s, to unearth, as a focus that prevents me from being a mere outsider… (p. 375)

She succeeds admirably in this aim, conjuring for the reader a delectable wealth of associations for each landmark, or landmark experience, she describes. DeSanctis presents a way of traveling through her 100 Places in France that is comforting, enlightening, and refreshing, and I recommend most highly making the reading journey alongside her.

***************************************************

Author Marcia DeSanctis

on Tour

October 27-November 5, 2014

with

100 Places cover

100 Places in France
Every Woman Should Go

[travel essays]

Release date: October 21, 2014
at Travelers’ Tales

380 pages

ISBN: 978-1609520823

***

SYNOPSIS

Told in a series of stylish, original essays, 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go is for the serious Francophile, for the woman dreaming of a trip to Paris, and for those who love crisp stories well-told. Like all great travel writing, this volume goes beyond the guidebook and offers insight not only about where to go but why to go there. Combining advice, memoir and meditations on the glories of traveling through France, this book is the must-have in your carry-on when flying to Paris.

Award-winning writer Marcia DeSanctis draws on years of travels and living in France to lead you through vineyards, architectural treasures, fabled gardens and contemplative hikes from Biarritz to Deauville, Antibes to the French Alps. These 100 entries capture art, history, food, fresh air and style and along the way, she tells the stories of fascinating women who changed the country’s destiny. Ride a white horse in the Camargue, find Paris’ hidden museums, try thalassotherapy in St. Malo, and buy raspberries at Nice’s Cour Saleya market. From sexy to literary, spiritual to simply gorgeous, 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go is an indispensable companion for the smart and curious traveler to France. [provided by the author]

***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Photo credit: Ron Haviv

Photo credit: Ron Haviv

Marcia DeSanctis is a former television news producer for Barbara Walters, NBC and CBS News.
She has written essays and articles for numerous publications including Vogue, Marie Claire, Town & Country, O the Oprah Magazine, Departures, and The New York Times Magazine.
Her essays have been widely anthologized and she is the recipient of three Lowell Thomas Awards for excellence in travel journalism, as well as a Solas Award for best travel writing.
She holds a degree from Princeton University in Slavic Languages and Literature and a Masters in Foreign Policy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Visit her website. Follow her on Facebook, and Twitter

Buy the book: Amazon, upcoming on Travelers’ Tales.

***

CLICK ON THE BANNER
TO READ OTHER REVIEWS, INTERVIEW, EXCERPT

100 Places banner******

Enter the giveaway here:

Entry-Form

1 US resident
will win a print copy of this book

You will be invited to follow each participant on Twitter;
they are listed in the entry form, as options for additional entries
.

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour
will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

*Note*: I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation, and the views expressed in my review are my own opinions.

Review: Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales — #Diversiverse

27 Sep
MandelaPbk.indd

Cover illustration by Natalie Hinrichsen.

 

Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales. Foreword by Nelson Mandela. Various authors and illustrators. W. W. Norton, 2002. (also available as an Audiobook)

This review supports the #Diversiverse Challenge (by Aarti Chapati at BookLust) to promote a more diverse universe of reading and reviewing. It is also part of my series on beautiful book illustrations, in story collections for children and adults.

Diversiverse -- amdu200clean

 

When I first discovered this book, about ten years ago, I was very excited, not only because it is a beautiful book inspired by Nelson Mandela’s love of African folktales, but also because it has a new story about Hlakanyana, a character I had written about in The Fictional 100 (chapter 39).  Hlakanyana is a Trickster character who is important in the folktales of the Zulu and Xhosa people of South Africa.  Of the 32 stories collected in Mandela’s book, many of them are from the countries of southern Africa, but Nigeria, Morocco, Gabon, Central African Republic, Kenya, Tanzania, and the Congo are also represented with stories.  The book opens with a map showing the geographical distribution of the tales.

 

Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales, Map by Abdul Amien. (Digital image by Secrets of a Happy Childhood)

Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales, Map by Abdul Amien. (Digital image from Secrets of a Happy Childhood

 

These stories are brief yet still “rich with the gritty essence of Africa” (as Mandela writes in his Foreword).  Many are Trickster tales, irresistible in the ingenious way they both flout and reinforce social customs.  There are human tricksters, like Hlakanyana and Sankhambi, and animal tricksters, like Hare, Jackal, and Spider.  Some animals are not tricksters at all, but have other recurring symbolic roles (the regal Lion and mysterious Snake are examples).

The history of these tales is long and varied.  Every retelling of a folktale is unique–a new story–and Mandela is sensitive to the way these stories have evolved in the minds and words of different storytellers:

Because a story is a story; and you may tell it as your imagination and your being and your environment dictate; and if your story grows wings and becomes the property of others, you may not hold it back. One day it will return to you, enriched by new details and with a new voice.

Many voices are included in this collection (for a total of 19 authors), along with the imaginations of many illustrators (19 artists).  One blogger who reviewed this book (Moni Dani, Secrets of a Happy Childhood) noticed that, while all but one of the illustrators are South African, their styles are generally not traditional and exemplify the diversity of modern trends in African art.  Thus, Mandela’s collection is an exciting pairing, she finds, of authentic, traditionally told tales with a very contemporary type of visual art.  Let’s jump in and look at a few of them!

“The Enchanting Song of the Magical Bird” (recorded over a century ago by Pastor Julius Oelke in Tanganyika–now Tanzania; translated by Darrel Bristow-Bovey) is the book’s first story. It begins, “One day, a strange bird arrived in a small village that nestled among low hills.  From that moment on, nothing was safe.”  The giant bird swooped in and devoured all the crops in the fields and in the granaries. Even the animals–sheep, goats, and chickens–began to disappear. It hid in an old yellowwood tree when it wasn’t plundering the villagers’ food supply. They decided that the tree must be chopped down, and perhaps then the frightening bird would leave their village.  But whenever the men tried to chop the trunk of the tree, they heard “the honey-sweet song” of the bird, and they were transfixed. They couldn’t continue and gave up the attempt. (The description reminded me of Odysseus’ men rapt by the song of the Sirens.) They tried many times, but the entrancing song of the bird or the sight of its beautiful plumage stopped them every time. At last, the headman had the idea to send the village children to do the job, because, “Children hear truly and their eyes are clear.”  Amazingly, the children were not swayed by the charms of the bird, and they felled the tree, whose branches crushed the bird and killed it. This haunting story is so different from what I expected–the opposite of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, for example, where the children are led away by the charming Piper’s song.  Instead, the children’s innocence allows them to discern the evil hiding under the false appearance, the honey-sweet song and iridescent feathers.  And now for its beautiful illustration:

 

"The Enchanting Song of the Magical Bird," illustration by Piet Grobler.

“The Enchanting Song of the Magical Bird,” illustration by Piet Grobler.

 

“The Message” (Nama people, Zimbabwe; from Grandma Rachel Eises, as told to George Weideman; translated by Leila Latimer) is a story of miscommunication, teaching how death came into the world. It begins:

This is the story of Full Moon, Tick, and Hare, and the message that Moon sent to the people a long, long time ago.

This was no ordinary message! Indeed, it was a most important message. Because, you see, Moon does not really die. She comes back again, as we see each time at full moon. And Moon wanted the people to know this truth: “Just as I die and come alive again, so you also shall die and live again.”

Moon gave the message to Tick to give to the people in the kraal (an encampment of huts for a clan). First, Tick jumped onto the feathers of a sand grouse who flew away, so Tick did not deliver his joyful news to the people, some of whom were now sick and dying–he could hear their crying by the campfires. Then he jumped into the fur of a gemsbok (a gazelle), but it jumped swiftly away from the kraal. At last, Tick faithfully delivered the message to Hare, but Hare was, well, hare-brained and forgot the message, telling the people instead, “Just as I die and remain dead, so shall you die and perish.”  The sickest man in the village died that day. Moon was angry at Hare and threw a piece of burned log at its face; hare threw it back at the face of the moon, which now bears the dusty color of the ashes.

 

"The Message," illustrated by Robert Hichens.

“The Message,” illustrated by Robert Hichens.

 

“The Snake Chief” (Zulu; from Miriam Majola, as told to Diana Pitcher) is a beautiful story about the magic flowing from a mother and daughter’s love for each other. It begins: “Nandi was very poor. Her husband was dead and she had no sons to herd cattle and only one daughter to help in the fields.” One day Nandi went as usual to gather berries from the umdoni trees; she sold these berries to get food for herself and her daughter, but this day Snake was there at the tree, eating the berries. Nandi objected that he had stolen her berries and she would have nothing to trade for meat to eat. Snake did not threaten her, but merely struck a bargain. He asked, “What will you give me in exchange for the umdoni berries? If I fill your basket, will you give me your daughter?” Surprisingly, Nandi agreed, thinking she could elude the Snake by taking a circuitous route home. But no!–Snake soon appeared to claim the daughter, as promised. Nandi cried and objected, but her daughter honored her mother’s promise and welcomed the Snake, finding him food and caring for him. In the morning when Nandi woke, she found not Snake but in his place a handsome young man, likely a chief’s son, who would stay with them, herd cattle, and make their lives better as a faithful son-in-law. Love between daughter and mother, and the daughter’s kindness, had undone the enchantment on the young man.  This is a beautiful variation of the “animal groom” motif, known worldwide. The French story of “Beauty and the Beast” is another famous example, but in “The Snake Chief” it was the girl’s mother who made the bargain with the beast by taking berries, instead of a father who was caught taking a single red rose.  In both stories, family life was reinforced because parental love was transformed into stable marital love and the generations could move on in harmony.  I love the sweet illustration for this tale: the Snake coils around the scene of the loving couple like a picture frame, while mother Nandi looks on proudly.

 

"The Snake Chief," illustrated by Baba Afrika.

“The Snake Chief,” illustrated by Baba Afrika.

 

“How Hlakanyana Outwitted the Monster” (Zulu and other Nguni folklore; retold by Jack Cope) is a sequel to the story I retold in my Fictional 100 chapter about his outrageous misdeeds in his village.  This story tells another incident after he fled the angry villagers, and begins:

Hlakanyana had left his mother and run away from home because the warriors were hunting for him.  He walked along on his journey over the earth, but he had nothing to make music with and nothing happy to sing about. He was very tired and very hungry.

Trickster characters are always ravenously hungry, prey to their own unbridled appetites, and this is exactly what gets them into so much trouble! First, he catches a hare and cooks him, then makes a flute from the hare’s shinbone, because he loves to make up songs.  So far, no problem, but strangeness lays ahead for him. He encounters a clay monster on the ground, with grass growing on one side of his body (eek!)–the monster is eating a fresh loaf of bread and Hlakanyana manages to steal it.  The monster gets up and chases him into a hole under a tree, but Hlakanyana is clever and tricks the creature into letting go of his leg, making him think it is a tree root he has grasped. The illustration shows that Hlakanyana is no average naughty boy, but a mythic creature himself. To me, this story suggests a lesson about not being rapacious with the Earth, but sometimes letting it rest and keep its fruits, the grain so necessary for bread and for life.

 

"How Hlakanyana Outwitted the Monster," illustration by Neels Britz.

“How Hlakanyana Outwitted the Monster,” illustration by Neels Britz.

 

Oh, there are so many stories–about tree wives and wolf queens, and so much more. But I will stop now and just hope you will pick up this book for yourself, or enjoy the all-star Audiobook (described below).

  • Hlakanyana ranks 39th on the Fictional 100. On his page you will find some further information about him.

Related links:

I’m also counting this book toward my participation in the Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge.

Travel-the-World-in-Books-Reading-Challenge 300x300

 

Love and War: “Lies Told in Silence” by M. K. Tod–Review and Giveaway #franceBT

20 Sep

Lies Told in Silence bannerLies Told in Silence cover

Lies Told in Silence by M. K. Tod. Tod Publishing, 2014.

Near the end of Lies Told in Silence, M. K. Tod’s beautifully rendered story of a French family during World War I, her main character, Hélène Noisette, wonders to herself: “Is it the things you choose or the things you don’t choose that make your life?” In any novel about war, this has to be one of the central questions. It could just as well be asked by Natasha Rostova in War and Peace or Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. Events people didn’t choose came to their doorstep, and character was shaped by the will to retain the power of choice in the face of those events and to exercise it wisely. Choices, very much limited by circumstance, present themselves like a great divide–life could diverge this way or that–and Hélène had to confront many such fateful choices. Tod shows them to us with sensitivity and respect for all her characters’ humanity.

The book opens in May 1914, when Hélène’s father, Henri, who works in the War Ministry in Paris, determines that it is no longer safe for his family to remain in Paris. Unwillingly, 16-year-old Hélène must move out of the city with her mother Lise, and her younger brother Jean. Her older brother, Guy, stays with his father in Paris to attend military school and prepare for the war. Mother, daughter, son, and Henri’s mother, Mariele, settle in the small town of Beaufort, northeast of Paris, at a family home once belonging to Henri’s sister. Neither Lise nor Hélène have been emotionally close to Mariele (Grandmère) up to this time, so it is an uneasy household at best. Hélène is miserable; she misses the excitement and variety of her life in Paris–her friends, her school–and thinks:

How can Grandmère be so content? Doesn’t she miss her friends and the theatre and the beautiful shops of Paris? Here we are stuck in a tiny backwater because Papa is worried about something that may never happen.

That was in June. By August, war had broken out in Europe and everything changed. It became clear that while Paris was threatened, Beaufort might be in the line of fire too. It seemed that Germany planned to march north through Belgium and then invade France from there. But all the family could do was stay put and wait, and learn to adapt to life in wartime, its shortages, and the need to be more self-sufficient if they were cut off from supplies and the resources of normal daily life. Something shifted for Hélène; she understood that if she wished to be more grownup she would need to start helping her mother and grandmother, learn the skills of life most needed in the situation they were caught in, and take her share of responsibility for boosting their morale. Months and years passed, and Hélène did indeed grow up:

All the vestiges of girlhood were gone. She no longer dawdled along the road or sighed over fashion magazines or complained about her lot in life. She read the newspaper with care and wrote articulate letters to her father and brother. She learned the difference between German, French and British planes so she could recognize any that flew near the house, knew how to bottle and pickle, when to prune their vegetables and how to repair the outside pump. … Hélène was busy all day and wore a look of quiet authority and purpose.

Most important, the women in the neat house in Beaufort came to rely on each other, seek each other’s counsel, and share the immense challenges of living. Tod’s novel is ultimately a love story, and it begins here, with the unshakable love that grows between Hélène, her mother, and her grandmother.

One day they can hear a repetitive sound that they realize must be artillery fire. It is undeniable what is happening, but Hélène cannot help but think, “No…war is for history books, not for us to experience firsthand. It’s for faraway places known only on maps.” But the war will approach them very closely indeed. Canadian troops will be stationed near them, making preparations and then fighting the battle to take Vimy Ridge. Hélène will meet a Canadian soldier named Edward Jamieson and discover the intensity of love in wartime. She will have to face the deep anxiety over the absent loved one’s safety, compounded by worry about whether love itself can survive the rigors of war.

The_Battle_of_Vimy_Ridge--Richard_Jack

The Battle of Vimy Ridge by Richard Jack. 1918. Library and Archives Canada (copyrighted).

The rest of the book tells their story, and I won’t reveal much more about it. I do want to say, however, that Tod uses letters very effectively throughout the book: between the Hélène and Edward, between Lise and Henri (another love story!), and between Guy and his parents, after he joins the army. We who are so used to instant communication by many means can only imagine how desperately people waited for those letters, with some news of their loved ones’ situation, physical well-being, and state of mind. In wartime, all communication, by whatever means, is threatened, and Tod makes this precious, fragile link between her characters stand out in many heart-rending moments.

Tod has a clear, flowing writing style; her prose spins out in a rolling, companionable way with just enough added description to create a sense of immediacy for the reader–so important to the success of any historical fiction. I found the setting of Beaufort natural and convincing, precisely because it was revealed in the daily activities of Lise, Hélène, Grandmère, and Jean–I felt I knew their clean and serviceable house, with its attic retreat for Hélène; the places in town and in the countryside they visited; and the townspeople they met. I was surprised to learn in the author’s note that “Beaufort” was a fictional town, because it seemed very real to me, and I was ready to add it to my next itinerary for a visit to France! The closest I might come would be Vimy, which is in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, on the border with Belgium. Here is a picture of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, dedicated in 1944.

Vimy Memorial

Field Marshal Montgomery visits the Canadian First World War memorial at Vimy Ridge, 8 September 1944

This novel was a five-star read for me, and I highly recommend it!

****************************************************

Lies Told In Silence

[historical fiction]

 Release date: end of July 2014
at Tod Publishing

367 pages

ISBN: 978-0 991967025

***

SYNOPSIS

In May 1914, Helene Noisette’s father believes war is imminent. Convinced Germany will head straight for Paris, he sends his wife, daughter, mother and younger son to Beaufort, a small village in northern France. But when war erupts a few months later, the German army invades neutral Belgium with the intent of sweeping south towards Paris. And by the end of September, Beaufort is less than twenty miles from the front.

During the years that follow, with the rumbling of guns ever present in the distance, three generations of women come together to cope with deprivation, constant fear and the dreadful impacts of war. In 1917, Helene falls in love with a young Canadian soldier who was wounded in the battle of Vimy Ridge.

But war has a way of separating lovers and families, of twisting promises and dashing hopes, and of turning the naïve and innocent into the jaded and war-weary. As the months pass, Helene is forced to reconcile dreams for the future with harsh reality.

Lies Told in Silence examines love and loss, duty and sacrifice, and the unexpected consequences of lies. [provided by the author]

ABOUT THE AUTHORLies Told - M. K. Tod

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction featuring WWI and WWII. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED, was selected as Indie Editor’s Choice by the Historical Novel Society.

In addition to her writing, Mary maintains the blog www.awriterofhistory.com  where she talks about reading and writing historical fiction.

She has also conducted two well-regarded historical fiction reader surveys and in her spare time reviews books for the Historical Novel Society.

M.K. Tod is delighted to hear from readers at mktod at bell dot net.

Visit her blog

Follow her on FacebookTwitterGoodreads

*****************

I am pleased to include the following **GIVEAWAY** of Lies Told in Silence. To Enter the drawing, click on the entry form below. There will be 9 winners of an e-book (mobi or epub). This giveaway is open internationally.

*****************

Lies Told in Silence bannerI encourage you to visit France Book Tours to find other stops–and more reviews by many delightful bloggers–on this book tour!

*Note*: I received an electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation, and the views expressed in my review are my own opinions.

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