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Rediscovered Russian modernism @ShinyNewBooks

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I wanted to share with you my latest review over at Shiny New Books; I seem to have developed a reputation as their Russian specialist, as once again I’m considering a lost classic from that country!

Tynianov’s book is an intriguing one which doesn’t seem to have been fully translated in the past. A historical novel, which tells of the death of the famous Russian writer Griboyedov, it’s a complex and multilayered book. I *did* have some reservations, particularly about the lack of notation and supporting material, but nevertheless it’s an interesting read. You can check out my full review over on Shiny!

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Rebuilding the Parisian Landscape @ShinyNewBooks @HoZ_Books

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It’s probably been fairly noticeable over the past year or so that I’ve developed quite an interest in the French Revolution (as well as the side aspect of iconoclasm during that conflict…); so when the opportunity arose to review a new book from Head of Zeus about the reconstruction of Paris during the 1800s, I was of course very interested indeed….

“City of Light” by Rupert Christiansen is a beautiful hardback book, lavishly illustrated and full of fascinating information about the knocking down of the mediaeval street plan and the building of the boulevards in Paris. It also puts the changes very firmly in context, clarifying much of what can be a very complex period of French history. The book raises a number of issues, and it struck a number of nerves with me. I find myself very conflicted about the amount of razing to the ground and rebuilding that happens nowadays, particularly when it’s done with little regard for the humans that have to live and work in the areas concerned.

By http://www.geographicus.com/mm5/cartographers/ [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

And the changes taking place around Charing Cross Road and Soho in London I actually find really upsetting. When I first started visiting the area in the late 1970s/early 1980s, there were so many parts that had been unchanged for decades; you could wander down a little side street and find a cafe with 1950s formica tables and small glass coffee cups and saucers; and it was easy (and entertaining!) to get lost in the back streets of Soho. However, so much of that character has been knocked out of the area in the name of progress; and when I met up with my brother (plus Middle child and Partner) in January, he was cursing the gentrification of Soho, and how difficult it was for us just to find a damn pub to grab a quick drink in… I know where he’s coming from!

So this is a book that looks at a historical landmark that is still very relevant to what’s happening around us today. My review is at Shiny here, so please do pop over and have a look.

 

Exploring Zoshchenko’s wonderful Russian satire @ColumbiaUP @shinynewbooks #zoshchenko #borisdralyuk

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I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to review some wonderful volumes in the Columbia University Press Russian Library over the past year or so for Shiny New Books; and I’m delighted that my review of a very special book is up today over at Shiny!

Mikhail Zoshchenko is one of Russia’s best-loved satirists; his “Scenes from a Bathhouse” is probably the title most known in English (and I do have a copy somewhere in the stacks…). “Sentimental Tales” is a newly selected and translated collection of linked tales, rendered beautifully in English by Boris Dralyuk, and it’s a real treat.

The Russian Library books are beautiful to look at and contain some marvellous gems – although I think this might be the jewel in the crown so far! You can read my review on Shiny here, and I can’t recommend this one enough! 🙂

An exploration of memory – @OneworldNews @shinynewbooks

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Well, you know me – I can’t resist a chunky piece of Russian fiction, old or new; so when I had the chance to review a new volume for Shiny New Books I really couldn’t resist!

The Aviator by Eugene Vodolazkin, translated by Lisa Hayden and published by Oneworld, is a marvellous new book that is eminently readable and utterly memorable whilst taking on big topics like the tricks of memory, survival in the harshest conditions and the compromises we make in order to make life bearable. It also has much to say about the endurance of love as well as humankind’s cruelty to itself, and it’s a stunning read.

So this is another new book I can’t recommend highly enough – check out my review on Shiny here, and if you’re going to read this (and I really urge you to do so), try not to find out too much about the plot in advance… 😁

 

Rediscovering Julian Barnes – #manbooker50 @shiny new books

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There’s been a lot of publicity about the celebration of 50 years of the (Man) Booker prize, and the lovely Shiny New Books is focusing on each of the winners during this week. Today sees the site covering the final decade of books, with capsule reviews by a number of bloggers, and I was pleased to join in with my thoughts of “The Sense of an Ending” by Julian Barnes.

Despite having had the book on my shelves for years (after a fortuitous charity shop find) I’d never actually got round to reading it. Which was a bit silly, really, because I read his work in the 1980s and loved it, but I’d kind of lose touch with him. However, my Eldest Child rated the book very highly, and when I enjoyed Barnes’ “The Noise of Time” so much recently, it definitely seemed the right time to reconnect with the author. So when the SNB editors asked for contributors, I thought “Sense” would be the one for me – which it was!

I absolutely loved the book: Barnes’ prose is just wonderful and it’s a novel that lingers in the mind. You can read my (brief) thoughts on it here, and if you haven’t read the book I can highly recommend it. I’m not a person who follows book awards much any more, and I kind of lost touch with the Booker after Margaret Atwood won it (I can remember being *so* excited!) And looking through the list of titles, I would *definitely* choose a different “Golden Booker” selection than the ones chosen!

Nevertheless, I’m so glad to have been prodded into reading “The Sense of an Ending” which I do feel was a really worthy winner. I’d highly recommended popping over to Shiny New Books and checking out all the fabulous posts – you just might find an idea for your next read! 🙂

Pioneering female fiction – @shinynewbooks @laurakanost @stockcero

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One of the delights of the Internet and social media is the ability to stumble upon books you might not have otherwise come across. “A Dead Rose” by Aurora Cáceres is a case in point: I saw it mentioned on Twitter (and I’m sorry I can’t remember who pointed it out) and after checking it out thought it would be a book I definitely should read.

The publishers, Stockcero, were kind enough to provide a copy for me to review for Shiny New Books and it makes fascinating reading. I’d not heard of the modernista movement before, and Cáceres was obviously a real pioneer, not only with her writing but also with the way she lived.

“A Dead Rose” is moving and memorable, with multiple layers, and definitely worth checking out if you want to explore pioneering women’s writing in translation. My review is here – do check it out! 🙂

British Library Crime Classics – and trains!!! @shinynewbooks @BL_Publishing

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Ahem.

As you can see, I am a little behind on my reading and reviewing of the latest releases in the wonderful British Library Crime Classics series….

However, I *have* read one title in the series recently, a rather wonderful collection of short works featuring (you’ve guessed it!) trains and entitled “Blood on the Tracks”. Put together by the excellent Martin Edwards, it’s a really strong entry into the series and absolutely unputdownable.

The book has the added bonus of a Sherlock Holmes pastiche and Lord Peter Wimsey (not in the same story, of course…) I can’t recommend this one highly enough and you can read my full review over at Shiny New Books! 🙂

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