HHhH by Laurent Binet

Is it insulting to turn a real person into a character in a book? The nature of historical fiction and the inherent trustworthiness of it is foregrounded in HHhH by Laurent Binet.  Mr. Binet wants to tell the story of two men, Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík,  who carried out an assassination attempt on the life of Reinhard Heydrich, second in command of the Nazi SS … Continue reading HHhH by Laurent Binet

Sunday Ramble and Two Books I Didn’t Like. Sorry.

Visited the local Friends of the Library book sale yesterday, in the rain, where C.J. and I managed to spend much more than we intended.  He got several art books and a couple of books full of house plans while I nearly completed my Jane Austen collection. Can you name the book I still have to find. I’ve decided it’s a good time to re-read all … Continue reading Sunday Ramble and Two Books I Didn’t Like. Sorry.

A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse

This is the most pornographic book I’ve read all year. My definition of pornography is probably different from yours.  Pornography offers its viewers a fantasy depiction of something they cannot have, usually a sexual fantasy.  At some point in life, one finds  that Playboy, or Blueboy, or whatever, has been largely replaced with Architectural Digest– pictures of beautiful people give way to pictures of beautiful … Continue reading A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse

Murder in Memoriam by Didier Daeninckx

On October 17, 1961, thousands of Algerians took to the streets of Paris in a peaceful demonstration against a curfew that had been imposed only on them.  At the time, Algeria was engaged in a struggle for Independence from France which had long held the nation as a colony. The demonstrators were met with extreme violence from the police who opened fire on them without … Continue reading Murder in Memoriam by Didier Daeninckx

Maigret in New York by Georges Simenon

The trouble with Maigret in New York is clearly stated in the title. Inspector Maigret should stay in France, preferable in Paris.  I suppose over the course of 75 novels Maigret was bound to leave the country at least once, but I much prefer him when he is at home. Certain books are associated with certain places–that becomes part of the fun, maybe part of the … Continue reading Maigret in New York by Georges Simenon

Memory: A Novel by Philippe Grimbert

A young boy, an only child, believes he has an older brother.  He carries on imagined discussions with his brother, building him into a real person.  One day he finds an old plush toy, a dog, in his family’s attic. A man meets the love of his life on his wedding day. He manages to keep this secret from his wife, even though the woman … Continue reading Memory: A Novel by Philippe Grimbert

Two Award Winners I Didn’t Finish

Two days after I gave up on Paul Beatty’s satirical novel The Sellout, it won the Mann-Booker Prize, the first American novel to do so. My general rule of thumb is that the books on the long list that don’t win the Man Booker Prize are generally much better reads than the winner is. I have not read the rest of the long list, so I can’t … Continue reading Two Award Winners I Didn’t Finish

Topology of a Phantom City by Alain Robbe-Grillet

I love this book. I’m not sure what it’s about. But I do  have five theories. Theory #1:  A murder has taken place.  The narrator describes the crime scene like a detective who does not know which bit of evidence will prove relevant.  So the detective/narrator writes everything down without filtering his senses or his thoughts.  The result appears random the way notes often do. … Continue reading Topology of a Phantom City by Alain Robbe-Grillet

The Vagabond by Collete

Colette’s The Vagabond tells a story of backstage life in the music halls of turn of the century Paris.  The narrator/heroine has left a failed marriage and career as a novelist to earn a living performing two shows a night as an actress in French pantomime. The Vagabond works as a backstage novel and as a source of insight into the its author, Colette.  Because … Continue reading The Vagabond by Collete

Les Enfants Terribles by Jean Cocteau Translated by Rosamond Lehmann

I confess.  I didn’t get it. If you want some kind of reasonable analysis of Jean Cocteau’s classic 1929 novel Les Enfants Terribles you’ll have to look elsewhere.  I’m sure you’ll be able to find lots of intelligent commentary out there, but you’ll find none here. I read the whole thing, which I thought would be a quicker read at just over 130 pages. But it … Continue reading Les Enfants Terribles by Jean Cocteau Translated by Rosamond Lehmann

The Princess of Cleves by Madame de Lafayette

The Princess of Cleves by Madame de Lafayette is a 350-year-old piece of historical fiction. Does that qualify as a sub-genre of sorts?  Historical historical fiction? Written in the 1670’s by a member of the French court, The Princess of Cleves describes the romance between its title character and a man who is not her husband, set in the court of Henri II, some 100 … Continue reading The Princess of Cleves by Madame de Lafayette

Jealously by Alain Robbe-Grillet

A man suspects his wife is having an affair with his neighbor.  He searches  for proof, for clues, playing the same sequence of events over and over in his mind looking for signs.  When did it begin?  Do they suspect he knows?  How far will the affair go? Alain Robbe-Grillet’s short novel, Jealousy, covers familiar territory– a married woman’s indiscretion with her married neighbor.  But … Continue reading Jealously by Alain Robbe-Grillet