Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….Through the wattle fence Gregor saw Stepan getting ready. Aksinia, bedecked in a green woollen skirt, led out his horse. Stepan smilingly said something to her. Unhurriedly, in lordly fashion, he kissed his wife, and his arm lingered long around her shoulder. His sunburnt and work-stained hand showed coal-black against her white jacket. He stood with his back to Gregor; his stiff, clean-shaven neck, his broad, somewhat heavy shoulders, and (whenever he bent towards his wife) the twisted ends of his light-brown moustache were visible across the fence.
….Aksinia laughed at something and shook her head. Sitting as though rooted into the saddle, Stepan rode his black horse at a hurried walk through the gate, and Aksinia walked at his side, holding the stirrup, and looking up lovingly and thirstily into his eyes.
….With a long, unwinking stare Gregor watched them to the turn of the road.

* * * * * * * * *

….It was one of those dismal Berlin mornings, when the famous Berliner-luft seems not so much bracing as merely raw, the moisture stinging the face and hands like a thousand frozen needles. On the Potsdamer Chaussee, the spray from the wheels of the passing cars forced the few pedestrians close to the sides of the buildings. Watching them through the rain-flecked window, March imagined a city of blind men, feeling their way to work.
….It was all so normal. Later, that was what would strike him most. It was like having an accident: before it, nothing out of the ordinary; then the moment; and after it, a world that was changed forever. For there was nothing more routine than a body fished out of the Havel. It happened twice a month – derelicts and failed businessmen, reckless kids and lovelorn teenagers; accidents and suicides and murders; the desperate, the foolish, the sad.

* * * * * * * * *

….On April 2, 1917, Wilson called on Congress to declare war on Germany. Seven months later, Lenin struck at the heart of Russia’s post-czarist Provisional Government and imposed the world’s first one-party state dictatorship. The world would never be the same again, on both counts.
….One mission of this book, therefore, is to show how these two intellectuals and dreamers managed to achieve those two ends and, in the process, overthrow traditional standards of geopolitics and alter forever the distribution of world power. Indeed, the world that both sought to bring into being was one that would be dominated not by laws and institutions, but by ideals and ideologies. The great goal of future foreign policy for both the United States and the eventual Soviet Union would be, not to protect their own national interests as narrowly understood, as almost all nations understood foreign policy before 1917, but to make others see the world as they did. As the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote on the eve of the French Revolution, “Sometimes men must be forced to be free.” That was a challenge the French revolutionaries took on, with disastrous results for Europe. It was one Wilson and Lenin both accepted in 1917, with (one is forced to conclude) disastrous results for the entire world.

(Am I the only one who wants to argue individually with nearly every word of those paragraphs? Oh dear, this could be an exhausting read… 😉 )

* * * * * * * * *

….“For Joe?” said Mrs. Stevens placidly, her eye on the hat.
….Audrey nodded. She took a pin from her mouth, found a place in the hat for it, and said, “He likes a bit of pink.”
….“I don’t say I mind a bit of pink myself,” said her aunt. “Joe Turner isn’t the only one.”
….“It isn’t everybody’s colour,” said Audrey, holding the hat out at arm’s length, and regarding it thoughtfully. “Stylish, isn’t it?”
….“Oh, it’ll suit you all right, and it would have suited me at your age. A bit too dressy for me now, though wearing better than some other people, I daresay. I was never one to pretend to be what I wasn’t. If I’m fifty-five, I’m fifty-five – that’s what I say.”
….“Fifty-eight, isn’t it, auntie?”
….“I was just giving that as an example,” said Mrs. Stevens with great dignity.

* * * * * * * * *

….When I first got here I loved the landscape, the fertility and fecundity of it, the life it gave off. There were no bare places. Everything was shrouded in shoots and thorns and leaves; there were little paths running everywhere, made by animals or insects. The smells and colours were powerful. I used all my free time, hours and hours of it, to go off walking into the bush. I wanted to move closer to the lush heart of things. But over time what had compelled me most deeply began to show a different, hidden side. The vitality and heat became oppressive and somehow threatening. Nothing could be maintained here, nothing stayed the same. Metal started to corrode and rust, fabrics rotted, bright paint faded away. You could not clear a place in the forest and expect to find it again two weeks later.

* * * * * * * * *

So…are you tempted?

53 thoughts on “Bookish selfie…

  1. I wish someone would kiss me in an unhurried, lordly fashion as in the first excerpt! I like the writing style of Fatherland very much, I hope it lives up to it. Goodness – more Lenin. I suspect this one could be a bit of trial, judging by the bit here. I am loving the sound of The Red House Mystery – pink, hats and an auntie that sounds as if she has come from an Oscar Wilde play!

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    • I was thinking when I looked at this before posting it that it does look all full of doom and gloom this week, but actually most of them have been pretty enjoyable so far. But I’ll let you off this week then… 😉

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  2. I’m tempted by the Sholokhov, even with so many adjectives, I have read and enjoyed .Fatherland, 1917 looks hard work so not for me at the moment’. I’m off pink but prefer red, so mildly tempted by the Red House and I’m sure I have a copy of The Good Doctor somewhere – I’ll have to dig it out – a friend recommended it – but I haven’t read it yet.

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    • I’m really enjoying the Sholakhov, even though it’s pretty brutal. The writing’s great and the translation is much better than most translations from Russian I’ve read. 1917 is an easy read because he’s such a good writer, but unfortunately I’m disagreeing with almost everything he says so far! 😉 The Red House is lots of fun – I’ll definitely be recommending it! And I enjoyed The Good Doctor too. So even though a lot of these look quite gloomy, they’ve actually all been pretty enjoyable. 😀

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  3. I’m so glad you’re reading Fatherland, FictionFan. It’s one of those books that I’ve meant to read for such a long time, and just…haven’t. No particular reason, either – I really do want to read it. So I’ll be really interested in your thoughts on it. The Red House Mystery sounds great, too.

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    • I have so many of Harris’s books on my list, and I really want to read them all! This was a good’un – I’ll be recommending it. And I loved The Red House Mystery – delightfully light without sacrificing plot. A good week despite the depressing sounding quotes! 😀

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  4. What a great weeks reading – two of my favourite books “Quiet flows…” and Fatherland” and a good mystery. I’ll read the Herman, but I can feel my blood-pressure rising already!

    [ Nothing to do with books, but I have Important Cat News: Teddy has a girlfriend. Her name is Matilda, she is tiny (about Mimi-sized) ,black with a furry white tummy and she lives next door. She has been visiting us, and her Mum tells me Teddy has been visiting her, through their respective cat flaps. Matilda has a brother Leo, who rather disapproves of the whole affair. I came in the other day to find T. and M. rolling about in catnip, which they had managed to knock down, and sharing T’s favourite cuddly toy. I feel like a nervous Victorian mama, chaperoning a courting couple!]

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  5. The Red House Mystery looks like the cream of this crop, FF! Not sure I could get into any of the first three — good luck with that. (I’m taking a page out of Big Sister’s comment and letting you know Darling Doggie Dallas is on antibiotics for a skin infection … and he’s not one bit happy about my having to poke big pills down his throat!)

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    • I loved The Red House Mystery – the perfect antidote to all these other good but heavy reads! (Awww, poor Dallas! I hope he gets better soon! Ha – getting pets to take pills is not fun, is it? My heart sinks any time the vet mentions pills… 😉 )

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  6. I read The Red House Mystery last year and really enjoyed it. That particular quote was one of my favourites! I love Robert Harris’s books and will read Fatherland eventually, but I have one or two of his others to read first.

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    • Aha! I knew as I was typing that quote from The Red House Mystery that I’d seen it somewhere before and had a sneaking suspicion it might have been on your blog! In fact, I think it was your review that led me to put it on my wishlist. I loved it and am really sorry he didn’t write more of them. 😀 Fatherland is very good – but then Harris’s books always are! I still have a couple more of his on my TBR too…

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  7. I am so glad to say that you didn’t tempt me this week, FF! (Sigh of relief!) I’m trying to not add anything to my TBR list (currently 331) till I get a few read. Ha, we’ll see how long that lasts! 😉

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    • Two good choices! The Harris was very good, but then his books always are. The Red House Mystery was a little delight! The perfect antidote to all these heavy Russian tomes… 😀

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  8. I’m tempted by The Good Doctor – I keep seeing other bloggers go on about Damon Galgut and I want to join the party sometime. I hope you’ll be able to join in the praise!

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  9. And Quiet Flows the Don was on the family bookshelves when I was a child. The title was so evocative (especially as I did not know anything about what or where the Don was). Maybe it’s time to read it! And the Milne sounds like a very enjoyable read. I can still bring back some of the images from The Good Doctor which I read a few years back – it was an engaging read.

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    • I finished And Quiet Flows the Don yesterday and will be highly recommending it, although it has a lot of fairly horrific scenes of violence, both war and domestic violence, including rape. But it didn’t feel in any way gratuitous. The Milne was highly entertaining, and a lovely antidote to all the Russian horrors! I enjoyed The Good Doctor too – very Graham Greene-ish, I thought. So a good week all round!

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