Throwback Thursday: Painting as a Pastime by Winston S. Churchill

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for Throwback Thursday. It takes place on the Thursday before the first Saturday of every month (i.e., the Thursday before the monthly #6Degrees post). The idea is to highlight one of your previously published book reviews and then link back to Davida’s blog.

Today I’m looking back at my post on Painting as a Pastime by Winston S. Churchill. I first reviewed it on March 15, 2018.

My review begins:

I was delighted on Sunday when my son gave me Painting as a Pastime by Winston Churchill as a Mother’s Day present. I read it straight away and loved it. The cover shows Churchill’s painting of his home, Chartwell. Churchill was forty when he first started to paint at ‘a most trying time‘ in his life and art became his passion and an ‘astonishing and enriching experience‘.

Click here to read my full review

The next Throwback Thursday post is scheduled for June 2, 2022.

Adam Bede by George Eliot

I’ve finished reading the 50 books on my first Classics Club List, but there are two books I didn’t review immediately after I finished reading them, which means now I can only write short reviews as the details are no longer fresh in my mind. And that is difficult as they are both long novels.

The first is Adam Bede by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans). It was her first novel, published in 1859.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Synopsis

Carpenter Adam Bede is in love with the beautiful Hetty Sorrel, but unknown to him, he has a rival, in the local squire’s son Arthur Donnithorne. Hetty is soon attracted by Arthur’s seductive charm and they begin to meet in secret. The relationship is to have tragic consequences that reach far beyond the couple themselves, touching not just Adam Bede, but many others, not least, pious Methodist Preacher Dinah Morris. A tale of seduction, betrayal, love and deception, the plot of Adam Bede has the quality of an English folk song. Within the setting of Hayslope, a small, rural community, Eliot brilliantly creates a sense of earthy reality, making the landscape itself as vital a presence in the novel as that of her characters themselves. (Amazon)

This is a long and slow-moving novel set in the rural community of Hayslope, a fictional village, based on Ellastone in the West Midlands in 1799. Overall I liked the book, but not as much as I remember liking Middlemarch, which I read long before I began this blog, and Silas Marner (my review). As in those two books it took me a while to get used to George Eliot’s style of writing, with her long, long sentences – some so long I had forgotten how they had started, before I got to the end. But I liked the dialect used by the characters, according to their class, that helps identify their position within the village community.

They’re cur’ous talkers i’ this country, sir; the gentry’s hard work to hunderstand ’em. I was brought hup among the gentry, sir, ‘an’ got the turn o’ their tongue when I was a bye. Why, what do you think the folks here says for ‘hevn’t you?’ – the gentry, you know, says, ‘hevn’t you’ – well, the people about here says ‘hanna yey.’ It’s what they call the dileck as is spoke hereabout, sir. That’s what I’ve heared Squire Donnithorne say many a time; it’s the dileck, says he.’

It is about love, seduction, remorse, crime and religion. a study of early 19th century rural life and education. It emphasises the value of hard work; the power of love; and the consequences of bad behaviour. As the title indicates the main character is Adam Bede, a hard working young man, a carpenter, with a strong sense of right and wrong, strong and intelligent:

In his tall stalwartness Adam Bede was a Saxon, and justified his name; but the jet black hair, made the more noticeable by its contrast with the light paper cap, and the keen glance of the dark eyes that shone from under strongly marked, prominent and mobile eyebrows, indicated a mixture of Celtic blood. The face was large and roughly hewn, and when in repose had no other beauty than such as belongs to an expression of good-humoured honest intelligence.

The novel revolves around a love ‘rectangle’ – the beautiful but self-absorbed Hetty Sorrel; Captain Arthur Donnithorne, the young squire who seduces her; Adam Bede, her unacknowledged suitor; and Dinah Morris, Hetty’s cousin, a fervent, virtuous and beautiful Methodist lay preacher.

This short post doesn’t do justice to the novel. I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads when I read it in 2015, but I have started to re-read it and I am enjoying it. I think that this time round maybe l’ll change my rating to 4 stars …

~~~

The other book I have left to review is Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens – my post will follow next week.

One-Word Reviews for the Last Ten Books I Read.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

The topic this week is One-Word Reviews for the Last Ten Books I Read. I thought this would difficult because how can you sum up a book with just one word? You can’t, because there is so much more to say about a book. On the other hand, it’s good to try to define what a book is about – but not in just one word! There are so many layers and complications, sub-plots and twists and turns to a book to even try to sum it up in one sentence, let alone in one word!

Anyway, I’m not happy with the words I’ve chosen for these books – they fall far short … totally inadequate.

I’ve linked the book to my posts where I’ve written them for a more detailed account. I’m aiming to write reviews for the other three books.

  1. The Homecoming by Anna Enquist -heart-wrenching
  2. The Drowned City by K L Maitland – dark
  3. The Honourable Schoolboy by John Le Carré – spies
  4. Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo – tragic
  5. A Room With a View by E M Forster – satirical
  6. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – horrific
  7. Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter by Lizzie Pook – perilous
  8. My Evil Mother: a short story by Margaret Atwood – quirky
  9. Holy Island by L J Ross – disappointing
  10. Cécile is Dead by Georges Simenon – greed

Cécile is Dead by Georges Simenon

Cécile is Dead by Georges Simenon, translated by Anthea Bell, an Inspector Maigret novel.

Synopsis (Amazon)

Poor Cécile! And yet she was still young. Maigret had seen her papers: barely twenty-eight years old. But it would be difficult to look more like an old maid, to move less gracefully, in spite of the care she took to be friendly and pleasant. Those black dresses that she must make for herself from bad paper patterns, that ridiculous green hat!

In the dreary suburbs of Paris, the merciless greed of a seemingly respectable woman is unearthed by her long suffering niece, and Maigret discovers the far-reaching consequences of their actions.

This novel has been published in a previous translation as Maigret and the Spinster.


My thoughts:

This is one of the best Maigret books I’ve read – and it is complicated, remarkably so in a novella of just 151 pages. At first it seems quite straight forward. Cécile has been wanting to see Detective Chief Inspector Maigret for months, sitting patiently in the ‘Aquarium’, as the waiting room at the Police Judiciaire in Paris, is known. She was convinced that someone had been breaking into her aunt’s apartment. But no one takes her seriously and Maigret is always busy, until one day he decides to see her. But she had left the waiting room, so he goes to the apartment where she lives with her elderly aunt, Juliette Boynet, the owner of the apartment building. She wasn’t there, but her aunt was – lying dead on the floor, strangled. Cécile was missing and the title tells you why – she was indeed dead.

And from then on, the mystery became more complex, with several suspects with a variety of motives. Juliette was very wealthy, but also miserly. She had a large family, mostly estranged from her and at odds with each other. They all turn up for her funeral, arguing about who should take precedence in the funeral cortège, and about who should inherit her money and property.

Maigret has to sort it out in his own way – musing over the details and feeling bad that he hadn’t spoken to Cécile earlier, thinking her worry over an intruder who just moved things around the apartment without taking anything was trivial. We see more of how he thinks and works when later in the investigation he is accompanied by an American, a Mr Spencer Oates from the Institute of Criminology of Philadelphia, who had asked if he could study Maigret’s methods.

This is the second time I’ve read Cécile is Dead. I first read it in 2018, but didn’t write about it at that time. Reading it for the second time, I realised I had forgotten all the details – it was like reading a new book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is either the 20th or the 22nd Maigret novel – Amazon records it as the 20th, whereas Goodreads has it as the 22nd! Whichever it is, it is a good read.

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00SSKM6OC
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Penguin (4 Jun. 2015)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 151 pages
  • Source: I bought the e-book
  • My Rating: 4*

A Room with a View by E M Forster

A Room with a View by E M Forster is an early twentieth century comedy of manners, satirising the manners and social conventions of Vistorian/Edwardian society. It is Forster’s third novel, first published in 1908, a short novel of 161 pages and is light reading with some humorous dialogue.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Lucy has her rigid, middle-class life mapped out for her, until she visits Florence with her uptight cousin Charlotte, and finds her neatly ordered existence thrown off balance. Her eyes are opened by the unconventional characters she meets at the Pension Bertolini: flamboyant romantic novelist Eleanor Lavish, the Cockney Signora, curious Mr Emerson and, most of all, his passionate son George.

Lucy finds herself torn between the intensity of life in Italy and the repressed morals of Edwardian England, personified in her terminally dull fiancé Cecil Vyse. Will she ever learn to follow her own heart? (Goodreads)

My thoughts:

I enjoyed Forster’s A Passage to India years ago and was looking forward to reading A Room with a View. Overall I enjoyed it, although I was rather underwhelmed by it and even in parts bored, especially near the end of the book, where there are some philosophical paragraphs that left me thinking I didn’t really understand them. It is about a young woman, Lucy Honeychurch, and her journey to self-discovery as she breaks out of the restrained culture of Edwardian England. It’s also a romance. The writing is ambiguous at times, so that you have to read between the lines in places.

It begins in Florence where Lucy is staying at the Pensione Bertolini, with her older cousin and chaperone Charlotte Bartlett. At dinner, they were complaining that their rooms didn’t have views over the River Arno as they had been promised.They were rather taken aback by two other guests, a Mr Emerson and his son George who offered to swap rooms with them. The Emersons are not bound by the conventions of the day and Charlotte considers they are ill-bred. But Lucy is attracted by the Emersons’ free thinking ideas. They spend time in Florence visiting various locations including the Santa Croce church, the Piazza Della Signoria and the San Miniato church, with its beautiful facade, and take a trip into the hills. Lucy finds herself in a little open terrace, covered in violets:

From her feet the ground sloped sharply into view, and violets ran down in rivulets and streams and cataracts, irrigating the hillside with blue, eddying round the tree stems collecting into pools in the hollows, covering the grass with spots of azure foam.

And it is there on that terrace that she comes across George and she is shocked and delighted, I think, when he kisses her. Charlotte witnesses the scene and urges/persuades Lucy to move to Rome where she meets Cecil Vyse, a most boring and priggish young man, whom she knew in England. The second half of the book takes place in England at Lucy’s home at Windy Corner where we meet the rest of her family and Lucy has to decide between the insufferable Cecil and the unconventional George. Will she give into convention or will she choose George, despite opposition from her family?

E M Forster from Goodreads:

Edward Morgan Forster, generally published as E.M. Forster, was an novelist, essayist, and short story writer. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society. His humanistic impulse toward understanding and sympathy may be aptly summed up in the epigraph to his 1910 novel Howards End: “Only connect”.

He had five novels published in his lifetime, achieving his greatest success with A Passage to India (1924) which takes as its subject the relationship between East and West, seen through the lens of India in the later days of the British Raj.

Forster’s views as a secular humanist are at the heart of his work, which often depicts the pursuit of personal connections in spite of the restrictions of contemporary society. He is noted for his use of symbolism as a technique in his novels, and he has been criticised for his attachment to mysticism. His other works include Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), The Longest Journey (1907), A Room with a View (1908) and Maurice (1971), his posthumously published novel which tells of the coming of age of an explicitly gay male character.

A Room with a View was my Classics Club Spin book to read between 20th March and the 30th April. It is on my Classics Club list and it counts toward the Back to the Classics Challenge (as a 20th century classic).

Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter by Lizzie Pook

Mantle| 3 March 2022| 304 pages| e-book| Review copy| 3*

1886, BANNIN BAY, AUSTRALIA.

The Brightwell family has sailed from England to make their new home in Western Australia. Ten-year-old Eliza knows little of what awaits them on these shores beyond shining pearls and shells like soup plates – the things her father has promised will make their fortune.

~~~

Ten years later and Charles Brightwell, now the bay’s most prolific pearler, goes missing from his ship while out at sea. Whispers from the townsfolk suggest mutiny and murder, but headstrong Eliza, convinced there is more to the story, refuses to believe her father is dead, and it falls to her to ask the questions no one else dares consider.

But in a town teeming with corruption, prejudice and blackmail, Eliza soon learns that the truth can cost more than pearls, and she must decide just how much she is willing to pay – and how far she is willing to go – to find it . . .

My thoughts:

I knew about diving for pearls, but I knew nothing about pearlers – the pearl divers/the people who trade in pearls – so I thought Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter would be a good way to find out more about it. And it is – I learned a lot. It has a great sense of both time and place. Although Bannin Bay is a fictional town in Western Australia its geography is modelled on parts of the north-west Kimberley coast. Lizzie Pook’s research, which she details in her Historical and Cultural Note at the end of the book, is fascinating. Her descriptive writing is very good and I felt that I was transported back to 19th century Australia experiencing the sights and smells of the coastal town and witnessing the appalling abuse and violence dealt out to the aboriginals who were forced to become pearl divers.

And I was also convinced by the main characters, Eliza in particular who comes across as a determined young woman, not cowed into conforming with the behaviour expected of women in the local community. She does everything she can to find out what happened to Charles, her father when he doesn’t return with his ship, the White Starling. It seems he just disappeared and no one can tell her what happened to him. She finds his diary and realises that there must be a reason why he didn’t take it with him as he always did. It contains detailed information about shell-beds, stars, storms, sharks and life at sea, but she also finds a sheet of paper between its pages with a cryptic clue she is convinced will help her find him. The police assume he went overboard and arrest one of the aboriginal divers for his murder. But Eliza is convinced that he is not dead and helped by Axel Kramer, a German and a newcomer to Bannin Bay, she sets sail on his lugger, Moonlight to search for him.

The book starts slowly, building up a picture of the town, its inhabitants, and landscape, and builds to a crescendo as Eliza’s search takes a dramatic turn when the Moonlight is caught up in a terrible storm putting their lives in danger. I enjoyed the book, just as much for its historical detail and vivid descriptions of the landscape and wildlife, as for the mystery of Charles’ disappearance.




New Additions to BooksPlease

Yesterday we went Barter Books in Alnwick, my favourite bookshop (this is a secondhand bookshop where you can ‘swap’ books for credit that you can then use to get more books from the Barter Books shelves). It’s only the second time we’ve visited since January 2020 before the first lockdown.

It’s almost back to ‘normal’ now, so there was no queue to get in. Some people, but not all, were wearing face masks and it was busy, busier than I would have liked and in some sections such as crime fiction and paperback fiction in particular where the bookcases are close together, people were crowded together choosing books, so I didn’t linger, as I would normally do. Consequently I didn’t get any crime fiction books. I did manage to get three historical novels, seizing the opportunity when people had moved away.

I took back 18 books and brought home 6, so I’m still in credit:

The descriptions are from Amazon and from top to bottom the books are:

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker, the first book in the Troy series.

There was a woman at the heart of the Trojan War whose voice has been silent – until now. Discover the greatest Greek myth of all – retold by the witness that history forgot . . . Briseis was a queen until her city was destroyed. Now she is a slave to the man who butchered her husband and brothers. Trapped in a world defined by men, can she survive to become the author of her own story?

The King’s Witch – this is historian, Tracy Borman’s debut novel.

As she helps to nurse the dying Queen Elizabeth, Frances Gorges longs for the fields and ancient woods of her parents’ Hampshire estate, where she has learned to use the flowers and herbs to become a much-loved healer.

Frances is happy to stay in her beloved countryside when the new King arrives from Scotland, bringing change, fear and suspicion. His court may be shockingly decadent, but James’s religion is Puritan, intolerant of all the old ways; he has already put to death many men for treason and women for witchcraft.

So when her ambitious uncle forcibly brings Frances to court, she is trapped in a claustrophobic world of intrigue and betrayal – and a ready target for the twisted scheming of Lord Cecil, the King’s first minister. Surrounded by mortal dangers, Frances finds happiness only with the precocious young Princess Elizabeth, and Tom Wintour, the one courtier she can trust.

Nucleus by Roy Clemens – the second in the Tom Wilde series. I’ve already read book 1, Corpus and book 4, Hitler’s Secret.

June 1939. England is partying like there’s no tomorrow . . . but the good times won’t last. The Nazis have invaded Czechoslovakia, in Germany Jewish persecution is widespread and, closer to home, the IRA has embarked on a bombing campaign.

Perhaps most worryingly of all, in Germany Otto Hahn has produced man-made fission and an atomic device is now possible. German High Command knows Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory is also close, and when one of the Cavendish’s finest brains is murdered, Professor Tom Wilde is drawn into the investigation. In a conspiracy that stretches from Cambridge to Berlin, and from the US to Ireland, can he discover the truth before it’s too late?

The Sound of Laughter: the Autobiography of Peter Kay – this is my husband’s choice, but I like Peter Kay too, so I’ll probably read this one too.

Peter Kay’s unerring gift for observing the absurdities and eccentricities of family life has earned himself a widespread, everyman appeal. These vivid observations coupled with a kind of nostalgia that never fails to grab his audience’s shared understanding, have earned him comparisons with Alan Bennett and Ronnie Barker.

In his award winning TV series’ he creates worlds populated by degenerate, bitter, useless, endearing and always recognisable characters which have attracted a huge and loyal following.In many ways he’s an old fashioned kind of comedian and the scope and enormity of his fanbase reflects this. He doesn’t tell jokes about politics or sex, but rather rejoices in the far funnier areas of life: elderly relatives and answering machines, dads dancing badly at weddings, garlic bread and cheesecake, your mum’s HRT…

His autobiography is full of this kind of humour and nostalgia, beginning with Kay’s first ever driving lesson, taking him back through his Bolton childhood, the numerous jobs he held after school and leading up until the time he passed his driving test and found fame. 

And finally two books on painting – both to encourage me to actually do some painting, rather than just reading about it.

Painting with Acrylics by Jenny Rodwell – 27 Acrylics Painting Projects, Illustrated Step-By-Step With Advice on Materials and Techniques with demonstrations of how to paint a variety of project, such as landscapes, portraits and still life etc.

Paint and Draw with Tony Hart – I remember enjoying watching Tony Hart’s TV programmes. This book contains 50 projects in a variety of materials – oil, watercolour, acrylic, gouache, pastel, crayon and other material. It looks excellent.

Ten Books with Small Boats on the Covers

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

The topic this week is a cover freebie. Choose a particular item or design element and find 10 books with that thing on the cover! I’ve chosen books with small boats on the covers – a mix of books that I’ve read or are on my list of books to be read. Books marked with an asterisk are linked to my posts, the others are linked either to Amazon UK or Goodreads.

  1. *Secret River by Kate Grenville – historical fiction following William Thornhill from his childhood in the slums of London to Australia. He was a Thames waterman transported for stealing timber; his wife, Sal and child went with him and together they make a new life for themselves. It’s about struggle for survival as William is eventually pardoned and becomes a waterman on the Hawkesbury River and then a settler with his own land and servants.
  2. *The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver – narrated by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959, it is the story of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.
  3. The Island by Victoria Hislop – historical fiction inspired by a visit to Spinalonga, the abandoned Greek leprosy colony. A dramatic tale of four generations, illicit love, violence and leprosy, from the thirties, through the war, to the present day.
  4. Cartes Postales from Greece by Victoria Hislop – short stories – a mix of myths, legends and true stories, Greek history, culture, way of living, family relationships, traditions, customs … with photographs (black and white in my paperback copy) of the stunning Greek landscape.
  5. Recalled to Life by Reginald Hill – Dalziel and Pascoe crime fiction, a cold case investigation into a murder committed in 1963. The title and chapter headings are all from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
  6. The Floating Admiral by Members of the Detection Club – Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, G.K. Chesterton and nine other writers from the legendary Detection Club collaborate in this crime novel about an old sailor who lands a rowing boat containing a fresh corpse with a stab wound to the chest.
  7. *The Birdwatcher by William Shaw – set in Dungeness on the Kent coast. Police Sergeant William South (not a detective) is a birdwatcher a methodical and quiet man. His friend, a fellow birdwatcher, Bob Rayner has been brutally beaten to death. DS Alexandra Cupidi, a new CID officer, is leading the investigation and Shaw is reluctantly assigned to her team. 
  8. *The Painted Veil by W Somerest Maugham – set in 1920s London and China this novel is about Kitty and Walter Fane, a bacteriologist. When her husband discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to the heart of a cholera epidemic. Kitty is at first very bitter, miserable and lonely but her life is changed when she volunteers to help at the orphanage run by a group of French nuns.
  9. *Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Vanora Bennett – historical fiction about Sir Thomas More’s fall from Henry VIII’s favour and that of his adopted daughter Meg Giggs and her love for two men – John Clements, the family’s former tutor, and the painter, Hans Holbein. Bennett puts forward a theory about John Clements’ true identity drawn from an analysis and an interpretation of two paintings by Hans Holbein of the More family and also his painting, The Ambassadors
  10. Lindisfarne: the Cradle Island by Magnus Magnusson – nonfiction, telling the story of the island, also called Holy Island, its people and nature from the beginning to the present day, exploring the natural history and archaeology of the region. There are chapters on Roman Britain, the vikings, st Cuthbert, the Lindisfarne Gospels, the castle, the priory, the nature reserve and managing the wild.

Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo

I have an old hardback copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (first published in 1831) in a very small font, too small for my eyes to cope with these days and a 49p e-book that I downloaded years ago when first got a Kindle. But I didn’t start reading it until a few months ago when FictionFan mentioned she was intending to read it and hold a Review-Along on her blog. I knew next to nothing about the book, not having seen any of the many films or TV versions, but I had read Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables back in 2008 and enjoyed it very much. So, I had high expectations that I would enjoy this one too.

But when I began reading my e-bookI was so disappointed – I thought it was so boring and it was hard to read, the sentences stilted and stumbling and obtuse with no flow. I was tempted to abandon it, after all it is a long book, and there are plenty of other books I want to read. However, I persevered, thinking surely it would get better. It didn’t, so then I wondered if it was me or the translation and began to look for another edition and I ended up with the Oxford World Classics edition, translated and with an introduction by Alban Krailsheimer, Notre-Dame de Paris, which is so much better, so much easier to read!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The English title is so misleading – this book is not just about the hunchback Quasimodo, the bell-ringer of Notre-Dame, it is historical fiction on a grand scale, with a large cast of characters. It revolves around four main characters – the beautiful gypsy dancer, Esmeralda who fell hopelessly in love with the handsome womaniser, Captain Phoebus de Châteaupers, who has no intentions of marrying her. She in turn is loved by Frollo, the Archdeacon of Notre-Dame and by Quasimodo, the deformed and deaf bell-ringer of the cathedral of Notre-Dame.

But that is not all – it is also the story of the cathedral itself, Notre-Dame de Paris, and Hugo describes it at great length, focusing on the Gothic architectural elements of its structure, particularly its use of the pointed arch and including its flying buttresses, clerestory windows, and stained glass. He was a great advocate for the preservation of its Gothic architecture and was also extremely upset about the changes to the cathedral, the repairs and additions that had been done over the years. And it is not just the cathedral, Hugo also devotes many pages to describing Paris, seeing it from a bird’s eye view and also to the invention of the printing press and its effect on culture, described by Hugo as ‘the greatest event in history’. These digressions were not what I expected to read – I just wanted to get on with the story. I was impatient with the digressions, but looking back at Les Mis, that is exactly what he had done in that book too, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.

The story of the main characters’ relationships is told in a complicated way, going forward and backward in time, filling in the background of the characters, whilst revolving around the events of 1482, during the reign of Louis XI (who makes an appearance in the book). And it is melodramatic, playing on all our emotions. Quasimodo was so named because he was found, abandoned on Quasimodo Sunday (that is the second Sunday after Easter) when he was four years old. He was ‘adopted’ by the sinister Archdeacon, Claude Frollo, and grew up in the cathedral, isolated by his deafness caused by all the years he’d spent ringing the bells, and feared because of his hideous appearance.

This book has everything! It is by turns a farcical comedy, a tale of obsessions and unrequited passions, of love and lust, of a terrible miscarriage of justice, of outsiders, of violent mobs, of cruelty, arrogant men, silly women, of monsters, of alchemy, of intolerance, of prejudice, jealousy, fury, torture, corruption and above all of tragedy. And it has a cast of colourful and distinct characters, that I either despised, loved or hated, including Esmeralda’s little goat Djali, who could dance and do tricks and spells (I loved Djali). It is difficult for me to love the book and equally as hard to dislike it as a whole, set firmly in its medieval time frame, against the dramatic backdrop of the cathedral (even though I grew impatient with all the architectural details). But I was convinced by the end of the book that Hugo had successfully brought the place and the people of 1482 dramatically to life for me.

My apologies to FictionFan for being nearly a week late to her Review-Along and thanks for nudging me into reading Notre-Dame de Paris at long last. I am glad I read it even if I can’t give it more than 3 stars – I  liked it, a good, enjoyable book.

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: King Solomon’s Carpet by Barbara Vine

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I like the title of this Barbara Vine crime novel – King Solomon’s Carpet. It refers to the legend of King Solomon’s magic carpet of green silk which, as it could fly and brought everyone to their destination, is likened to the London Underground. This is one of my TBRs and it’s been sitting on my bookshelves for 12 years! It’s about time I read it …

The Book begins:

A great many things that other people did all the time she had never done. These were the ordinary things from which she had been protected by her money and her ill-health. She had never used an iron nor threaded a needle, been on a bus nor cooked a meal for other people, earned money, got up early because she had to, waited to see the doctor or stood in a queue.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice, where you grab a book and turn to page 56 (or 56% of an eBook), find one or more interesting sentences (no spoilers), and post them.

Page 56:

When the coffee came Tom said she could come and live at Cambridge School if she liked.

‘A school?’

‘It used to be. It’s just a house now where people rent rooms, only the rent’s very low. There’s a room free now Ollie’s going. I asked the man who owns it and he said you could have the Headmaster’s Study’.

Synopsis from Amazon UK:

Jarvis Stringer lives in a crumbling schoolhouse overlooking a tube line, compiling his obsessive, secret history of London’s Underground. His presence and his strange house draw a band of misfits into his orbit: young Alice, who has run away from her husband and baby; Tom, the busker who rescues her; truant Jasper who gets his kicks on the tube; and mysterious Axel, whose dark secret later casts a shadow over all of their lives.

Dispossessed and outcast, those who come to inhabit Jarvis’s schoolhouse are gradually brought closer together in violent and unforeseen ways by London’s forbidding and dangerous Undergound . . .

Barbara Vine: A pseudonym used by Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell created a third strand of writing with the publication of A Dark Adapted Eye under her pseudonym Barbara Vine in 1986. Books such as King Solomon’s Carpet, A Fatal Inversion and Anna’s Book (original UK title Asta’s Book) inhabit the same territory as her psychological crime novels while they further develop themes of family misunderstandings and the side effects of secrets kept and crimes done. Rendell is famous for her elegant prose and sharp insights into the human mind, as well as her ability to create cogent plots and characters. Rendell has also injected the social changes of the last 40 years into her work, bringing awareness to such issues as domestic violence and the change in the status of women. (Fantastic Fiction)