Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

Listen, nations! The revolution offers you peace. It will be accused of violating treaties. But of this it is proud. To break up the leagues of bloody predation is the greatest historic service. The Bolsheviks have dared to do it. They alone have dared. Pride surges up of its own accord. Eyes shine. All are on their feet. No one is smoking now. It seems as though no one breathes. The presidium, the delegates, the guests, the sentries, join in a hymn of insurrection and brotherhood. Suddenly, by common impulse – the story will soon be told by John Reed, observer and participant, chronicler and poet of the insurrection – “we found ourselves on our feet, mumbling together into the smooth lifting unison of the Internationale. A grizzled old soldier was sobbing like a child… The immense sound rolled through the hall, burst windows and doors and soared into the quiet sky.” Did it go altogether into the sky? Did it not go also to the autumn trenches, that hatch-work upon unhappy, crucified Europe, to her devastated cities and villages, to her mothers and wives in mourning? “Arise ye prisoners of starvation! Arise ye wretched of the earth!”

* * * * * * * * *

The sound of running footsteps made them all start. Then the refectory door opened and the round, freckled face of Sister Belinda appeared. She was breathing heavily, and her veil was crooked, showing short tufts of red hair sprouting around her glowing face like unruly weeds in a parched garden.

“Excuse me, Mother, Sisters,” she said. “But there is a police car waiting at the gate and what looks like the Black Maria behind it. Also, another car approaching from the farm and a uniformed constable coming in via the beach path. It would appear that the filth have us surrounded.”

* * * * * * * * *

The crying sounded even louder out of doors. It was as if all the pain in the world had found a voice. Yet had I known such pain was in the next room, and had it been dumb, I believe – I have thought since – I could have stood it well enough. It is when suffering finds a voice and sets our nerves quivering that this pity comes troubling us. But in spite of the brilliant sunlight and the green fans of the trees waving in the soothing sea-breeze, the world was a confusion, blurred with drifting black and red phantasms, until I was out of earshot of the house in the chequered wall.

* * * * * * * * *

The Utopians dress simply and without ostentation: their clothes are made of undyed wool like the habits of Carthusian monks. And their society is unashamedly patriarchal. Wives act as servants to their husbands, children to their parents, and the young to their elders. Women are treated ‘equally’, but in reality are governed by their husbands. They also work harder – More seems oblivious to this point – since their duties include cooking and childcare as well as manual labour. Even in Utopia, it seems, working women have two jobs.

 * * * * * * * * *

My friend Ellingham has persuaded me to reveal to the public the astounding features of the Reisby case. As a study in criminal aberration it is, he tells me, of particular interest, while in singularity of horror and in perversity of ingenious method it is probably unique.

* * * * * * * * *

I shared a compartment on the night train back with a father travelling to Petersburg with his daughter for her orthodonture work. She’d stumped half the dentists in Moscow, the father explained with obvious delight. The spotlight of paternal pride is fickle and faint, but when it shines on you with its full wattage, it’s as warm as a near sun. My little prodigy. Three drunks flicked over the cabin window. I wanted to be loved as much as he loved his daughter’s bad teeth.

“Go on, show him,” he urged. She gave a great yawn. Her open mouth was a dolomite cavern. Only divine intercession or satanic bargaining could save her.

“Just a little bit crooked,” I said, then gave a wide “Aah” of my own. “Mine are a little crooked too.”

“Mine are in a dental textbook,” she declared. She had me there. Wouldn’t have been older than twelve, and already she’d accomplished more in her life than I had. Rotten little over-achiever!

* * * * * * * * *

So…are you tempted?

49 thoughts on “Bookish selfie…

  1. The passage from the Russian one sort of makes me feel a bit revolutionary! I don’t like the nuns one – I certainly hope the filth have got them surrounded and lock them all up for a million years. The Anthony Marra one sounds brilliant – I love this excerpt here!

    • Me too! I really wanted to join in with the singing. Pity about the other 899 pages though – they dampened my ardour somewhat and turned me into a reactionary capitalist pig. 😉 Haha! I put that nun quote in just for you! You’d love Sister Belinda – she’s huge fun! I’m going to do my absolute best to twist your arm on this one – I reckon this could be the cure for your phobia… 😉 The Anthony Marra book is nothing short of stunning – it’s taking me ages because I’m listening to the audiobook, but every word is to be savoured…

      • I still think you are great, even if you are a reactionary capitalist pig 😉 Pigs are nice.
        Think I can be convinced on the nun one – it does seem like a good book. Not sure my nun phobia will ever be cured but… if there are no pictures of them… I might be okay… 😮
        I take it the Marra is available as a normal book? Really sounds like my sort of thing, this passage alone is spectacular. It will be an excuse to put off the bloody Sophie Hannah one even longer (yep – still not read it!)

        • Hahaha – but see when you say ‘Pigs are nice’ I know you’re thinking about sausages! No pictures, and only a couple of places where the nuns come over as super creepy… 😉 Yes, the Marra’s been out for a while, and one of my commenters recommended it, and then coincidentally I got offered the audiobook. It’s not all humour – it’s a real mix. Linked short stories about people from Siberia caught up in the war in Chechnya, but don’t let that put you off! The writing is stunning, and it’s actually had me crying at the beginning of a sentence and laughing at the end. The narration is fab too – it’s all done by Russians (or at least they sound Russian to me!)…

    • Haha! The nuns in this book are fab! She’s such a great writer when she’s on top form, as she is in this one! Moreau was unexpectedly fab too, though in an entirely different way…

  2. You’ve got some good ‘uns here, FictionFan. I’m especially drawn to the Rolls and, of course, the Bolton. I really like this creative approach to sharing your reading week, too. Fun and interesting!

    • Thanks, Margot – glad you’re enjoying it! It’s been an excellent week for reading – all good, and some great! The Bolton is fantastic, and I’m only about a third of the way through the Rolls, but enjoying it immensely.

    • Sharon Bolton is on top form in this one, and I’m enjoying Scarweather a lot too – hopefully I’ll be recommending both! Haha! The Marra is actually brilliant, and not at all about dentists really! Another one I’m thoroughly enjoying. I really liked the Wells too in the end, but it certainly has plenty of horrific stuff in it. I think it’s one to approach with caution…

    • Thank you! I’ve seen a few people do different things with quotes from what they’re reading, so I can’t claim complete originality, but it’s fun to do and hopefully gives people a flavour of the writing. Dead Woman Walking is brilliant – snap it up! And I’m enjoying Scarweather a lot too, but I’m still only about a thrid of the way through it…

    • The nuns are fab – Bolton’s great when she’s on top form, and she is in this one! Thoroughly enjoying Scarweather so far, but I’m still only about a thrid of the way through it…

  3. YES!! Several of these sound excellent to me, FF. How do you decide which one to read first?!? Something about that red-haired nun fascinates me; also, the little over-achiever in the last one and the one about the Utopians both sound good. What a delightful treat, having so many possibilities ahead of you!!

    • I always have three on the go – a factual, a fiction and a genre read – crime or sci-fi. So this week I finished three and started another three – that’s why there’s so many. 🙂 The nuns book is a great thriller – lots of fun, and highly recommended! And the Anthony Marra book is pretty stunning so far – a good week all round!

  4. I’m fascinated by Thomas More ever since doing Man for All Seasons at school and I was interested by the very different take Hilary Mantel had on him in her books so I’d definitely be interested in his biography.

    • Sadly I won’t be recommending this one – it’s incredibly slight and superficial. I believe Guy wrote a full bio of More years ago though, so I may try to fit it in sometime. He also wrote a well-regarded one about More’s daughter Margaret, which I’ve had on my wishlist for years…

  5. They are look /sound interesting to me – except the Bolton, not for me, I think – the Marra might just head the race, and it sounds as if you might have picked the best and most enticing quote from Leon, so, maybe I’ll stick at Marra (genuinely enticing) and Wells as a horrifying re-read. I MIGHT want to throw Utopia at the wall, but there is something lovely about the formality in writing on Scarsdale, so maybe when More makes me shout, I could restfully explore horror and ingenuity

    • I will be doing some severe arm-twisting on the Marra if necessary – it has the Fancifull name written all over it! Although this excerpt is humourous, and there is a lot of humour in it, it’s also very emotional and insightful, and the writing is stunning! I’m loving the narration too, but I know that’s not your thing. I was surprised at how much I liked Moreau in the end – the horrors are there for sure, but he doesn’t overdo them, and they’re a necessary part of the story. And again the little introduction in these Oxford World Classics is very good for putting them in context. The Scarweather one is also very good so far but I’m only about a third of the way through, so don’t want to totally recommend it yet…

  6. I’ve got the Sharon Bolton up next which I’I hugely excited for, especially as you’ve given in a covert thumbs up! Although I would never have picked it up I really enjoyed the quote from The Tsar of Love and Techno, perfect tone!

    • You are going to have such a treat reading Dead Woman Walking! It’s definitely going to make my end of the year awards – when she’s at her best, nobody can beat her! As for the Tsar, it’s a strange one – the blurb doesn’t do it justice but I’m going to have a lot of difficulty explaining just why it’s so special – it’s kinda unique. Fab writing… 😀

    • Thank you! I’d seen a few people do quotes posts of different kinds, and it seemed like fun, so I can’t claim total originality – but it’s lots of fun to do. I’m enjoying Scarweather a lot so far – about a third of the way through. Love the writing style – it’s that kinda old-fashioned feel, like Watson…

    • The Anthony Marra is wonderful – I’ll be trying to force everybody to read it. 😉 I love the British Library books – they’re variable in quality, of course, but they’re usually fun, and it’s intriguing to see how the genre developed over the years. Hope you enjoy the one on your list… 🙂

  7. I’m impressed by how many books you have on the go at one time, talk about multi-tasking! The Nuns appeal, after watching The Sound of Music a million years ago I’ve always believed them to be a resourceful bunch.

    • Ah, it’s not quite as bad as it looks! I usually read three at the same time – a factual, a fiction, and a genre read. This week I just happened to finsih three and start another three, which is why there are so many! The nuns are brilliant! Especially Sister Belinda, who’s my new heroine. I shall be gushing about this book when I get around to reviewing it… 😀

  8. I must not have hit “send” on my comment days earlier. But if I’ve repeated myself, apologies. Oddly, I am attracted to The Tsar and Love of Techno. Why? I ask myself….. It just sounds very interesting to me.

    • I checked spam but your comment wasn’t there – sometimes WP is weird! The Tsar of Love and Techno is absolutely brilliant – I’m loving every word of it. It’s taking me ages because I’m so slow with audiobooks, but the narration is wonderful too, so I don’t mind. I’ll be highly recommending it for sure… 😀

    • They’re so addictive, and the bad news is Scarweather was a lot of fun… I’m trying to resist adding more of them to my TBR though – I seem to be reading almost nothing else in crime fiction at the moment!

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