Book Beginnings: This House Is Mine by Dörte Hansen

Not only does Gilion host the European Reading and TBR 22 in 22 on her Rose City Reader blog but also Book Beginnings on Friday. While I’m no stranger to her European Reading Challenge, only recently I decided to participate in Book Beginnings on Friday. This week I’m back with another post.

For Book Beginnings on Friday Gilion asks us to simply “share the opening sentence (or so) of the book you are reading this week, or just a book that caught your fancy and you want to highlight.”

MY BOOK BEGINNING

Some nights, when the storm came in from the west the house groaned like a boat tossed back and forth on a heavy sea. Gusts of wind squealed before being deadened by the old walls.
That’s what witches sound like when they’re burning, Vera thought, or children when they get their fingers caught.

Last week I featured the 2016 biography True Believer: Stalin’s Last American Spy by Hungarian-American writer Kati Marton. The week before it was the 2021 novel The Wrong End of the Telescope by Lebanese-American writer Rabih Alameddine. This week it’s the 2016 novel This House Is Mine by German writer and linguist Dörte Hansen.

This House Is Mine is yet another one of those books I discovered because a helpful librarian recommended it by propping the book upright with its cover prominently displayed. Noticing its lead character is a wartime refugee from former German East Prussia I figured Hansen’s novel could make a good follow-up to Svenja O’Donnell’s 2020 family memoir Inge’s War: A German Woman’s Story of Family, Secrets, and Survival Under Hitler. Instead of me blathering on, here’s what novel’s page on Amazon has to say:

All her life Vera has felt like a stranger in the old and drafty half-timbered farmhouse she arrived at as a five-year-old refugee from East Prussia in 1945, and yet she can’t seem to let it go. Sixty years later, her niece Anne suddenly shows up at her door with her small son. Anne has fled the trendy Hamburg, Germany neighborhood she never fit into after her relationship imploded. Vera and Anne are strangers to each other but have much more in common than they think. As the two strong-willed and very different women share the great old house, they find what they have never thought to search for: a family.

Library Loot

With a tall stack of library books by my bed I should be content with what I’ve got and continue reading my way through it. But after returning several books to the library the other day I felt reckless and borrowed more. Will I ever learn? Probably not. 

 

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading to encourage bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write-up your post, steal the Library Loot icon and link your post using the Mr. Linky on Claire’s blog.  

Sunday Salon

For over a month I’ve been taking part in The Sunday Salon hosted by Deb Nance at Readerbuzz. So far it’s been a huge success and I’m striving to make it a regular feature. So here’s another post. 

Last week I started and finished the 2021 novel The Wrong End of the Telescope by Lebanese-American writer Rabih Alameddine. Currently I’m still reading Lawrence Durrell’s Bitter Lemons of Cyprus: Life on a Mediterranean Island and Dzevad Karahasan’s Sarajevo, Exodus of a CityLike I mentioned last week all three of these books are for Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge

Articles. With my nose buried in several books last week I managed to read just two articles. This week I’ll try harder and hopefully read more. 

Listening. Like I’ve said before, with so many things going on in the world there’s no shortage of material for my favorite podcasts. 

Watching. Right now I’m watching just one TV show and it’s Mr. Robot. Like I’ve said before it just gets crazier and crazier thanks to insane plot twists, great writing and superb acting. It’s been one hell of a wild ride. Unfortunately for me, I have only two episodes left to watch. 

Everything else. Friday, instead of indulging in my weekly ritual of fine wine and conversation at my favorite local winery I drove up to Portland. After a quick trip to Powell’s Books I proceeded to my friends’ place for an evening of beers, fun and frivolity. Our wonderful hosts fired up the grill and put on the soccer game. After watching the home team come from behind to beat our hated rivals the Seattle Sounders a few of us stayed up past our bedtimes conversing on the porch. Saturday on my way home I hit a massive church yard sale and walked away with small stack of books, almost all of which were free. Among the treasures are Pulitzer-Prize winners American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. 

Book Beginnings: The Wrong End of the Telescope by Rabih Alameddine

Not only does Gilion host the European Reading and TBR 22 in 22 on her Rose City Reader blog but also Book Beginnings on Friday. While I’m no stranger to her European Reading Challenge, only recently I decided to participate in Book Beginnings on Friday. This week I’m back with another post.

For Book Beginnings on Friday Gilion asks us to simply “share the opening sentence (or so) of the book you are reading this week, or just a book that caught your fancy and you want to highlight.”

MY BOOK BEGINNING

He was my people—he and I kneaded by the same hands. He was on the shorter side, my height, not in the greatest of shape. His hair had less gray than mine but was the same shade of dark. We had similar facial features. I would have recognized that he was from the Levant even without the Palestine Red Crescent Society vest he sported.

Last week I featured the 2012 Kindle release of Lawrence Durrell’s 1960 travel memoir Bitter Lemons of Cyprus: Life on a Mediterranean Island. The week before it was Life of Pi author Yann Marte’s 2016 novel The High Mountains of Portugal. This week it’s the critically acclaimed 2021 novel The Wrong End of the Telescope by Lebanese-American writer Rabih Alameddine.

Alameddine’s novel caught my eye back in June when I spotted a copy at the public library as part of its Pride Month display. Sucked in by its cool cover art, upon closer inspection I noticed it’s set on the Greek island of Lesbos during the 2015 -2016 refugee crises. Recently, I was in the mood for even more international fiction and remembering I could apply it towards Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge I grabbed the book during one of my library visits. Once again I’ve deviated from my original 20 Books of Summer but since the challenge is ending in less than a week who cares. LOL!

Earlier I was going to read James Angelos’s The Full Catastrophe: Travels Among the New Greek Ruins to fulfill the Greece requirement for the European Reading Challenge but decided to go with The Wrong End of the Telescope and return The Full Catastrophe to the library unread. But a few days ago I learned Robert Kaplan has a new book out entitled Adriatic: A Concert of Civilizations at the End of the Modern Age so I placed it on hold with the library. While I’m impatiently waiting my turn I’ll be reading additional books about this part of the world, including stuff on the former Yugoslavia, Greece and Italy. Because nothing takes the sting out of waiting for a good book than killing time reading other good books.

Like I mentioned earlier, The Wrong End of the Telescope received widespread critical acclaim, including winning the 2022 PEN/Faulkner Award. I didn’t remember until this morning the author also wrote my favorite essay from The Best American Essays 2020 entitled “How to Bartend.”  Instead of me blathering on, here’s what novel’s page on Amazon has to say:

By National Book Award and the National Book Critics’ Circle Award finalist for An Unnecessary Woman, Rabih Alameddine, comes a transporting new novel about an Arab American trans woman’s journey among Syrian refugees on Lesbos island.

Mina Simpson, a Lebanese doctor, arrives at the infamous Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, Greece, after being urgently summoned for help by her friend who runs an NGO there. Alienated from her family except for her beloved brother, Mina has avoided being so close to her homeland for decades. But with a week off work and apart from her wife of thirty years, Mina hopes to accomplish something meaningful, among the abundance of Western volunteers who pose for selfies with beached dinghies and the camp’s children. Soon, a boat crosses bringing Sumaiya, a fiercely resolute Syrian matriarch with terminal liver cancer. Determined to protect her children and husband at all costs, Sumaiya refuses to alert her family to her diagnosis. Bonded together by Sumaiya’s secret, a deep connection sparks between the two women, and as Mina prepares a course of treatment with the limited resources on hand, she confronts the circumstances of the migrants’ displacement, as well as her own constraints in helping them.

Sunday Salon

For over a month I’ve been taking part in The Sunday Salon hosted by Deb Nance at Readerbuzz. So far it’s been a huge success and I’m striving to make it a regular feature. So here’s another post. 

Late last week I finished Yann Martel’s The High Mountains of Portugal and posted my review. Currently I’m reading Lawrence Durrell’s Bitter Lemons of Cyprus: Life on a Mediterranean Island and Dzevad Karahasan’s Sarajevo, Exodus of a CityLike I mentioned last week all three of these books are Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge

Articles. Even with my nose buried in several books I read a number of excellent articles last week. Inspired by Paula Bardell-Hedley’s outstanding weekly feature “Winding Up the Week” on her great blog Book Jotter I’ve started incorporating article links into my Sunday Salon posts and will continue to do so in the future. 

Listening. Like I’ve said before, with so many things going on in the world there’s been no shortage of material for my favorite podcasts. But with the recent week’s FBI raid on Trump’s Florida residence many of my usual podcasts have been abuzz with commentary and speculation. This has made for some interesting listening.

Watching. Right now I’m watching just one TV show and it’s Mr. Robot. Like I’ve said before it just gets crazier and crazier thanks to insane plot twists, great writing and superb acting. It’s been one hell of a wild ride.

Everything else. In what’s becoming a Friday ritual I met my professor buddies on Friday at our favorite winery for wine, conversation and a killer view. I’ve been drinking coffee in the mornings, but in the evenings I’ve been known to enjoy an adult beverage or two with my books and articles. On Saturday I took in a football scrimmage at the local university.

Book Beginnings: Bitter Lemons of Cyprus by Lawrence Durrell

Not only does Gilion host the European Reading and TBR 22 in 22 on her Rose City Reader blog but also Book Beginnings on Friday. While I’m no stranger to her European Reading Challenge, only recently I decided to participate in Book Beginnings on Friday. This week I’m back with another post.

For Book Beginnings on Friday Gilion asks us to simply “share the opening sentence (or so) of the book you are reading this week, or just a book that caught your fancy and you want to highlight.”

MY BOOK BEGINNING

This is not a political book, but simply a somewhat impressionistic study of the moods and atmospheres of Cyprus during the troubled years 1953–6.

Last week I featured Life of Pi author Yann Marte’s 2016 novel The High Mountains of Portugal. The week before it was Dzevad Karahasan’s 1994 account of a city under siege Sarajevo, Exodus of a City. This week it’s the 2012 Kindle release of Lawrence Durrell’s 1960 travel memoir Bitter Lemons of Cyprus: Life on a Mediterranean Island.

Wanting something representing the island nation of Cyprus for Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge I borrowed a copy through my public library’s Overdrive portal. Once again I’ve deviated from my original 20 Books of Summer but this late into summer I really don’t care. LOL!

While I’d rather read a book dealing with 1974 Turkish Invasion and/or the subsequent division of the island this book should do. If anything it’ll provide excellent background on those historical developments. The book’s Amazon page describes it as such:

In 1953, as the British Empire relaxes its grip upon the world, the island of Cyprus bucks for independence. Some cry for union with Athens, others for an arrangement that would split the island down the middle, giving half to the Greeks and the rest to the Turks. For centuries, the battle for the Mediterranean has been fought on this tiny spit of land, and now Cyprus threatens to rip itself in half. Into this escalating conflict steps Lawrence Durrell—poet, novelist, and a former British government officia

Library Loot

With a tall stack of library books by my bed I should be content with what I’ve got and not borrow more. Therefore, I didn’t get carried away the other day at the public library and only grabbed two. One of them, Imre Kertész’s semi-autobiographical novel Fatelessness I hope to apply to both Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge and Introverted Reader’s Books in Translation Reading Challenge. Interestingly enough, both books are by former residents of Hungary. 

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading to encourage bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write-up your post, steal the Library Loot icon and link your post using the Mr. Linky on Sharlene’s blog.  

20 Books of Summer: The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

The other day while wandering the shelves at the public library I came across a copy of Yann Martel’s 2016 novel The High Mountains of Portugal. Needing something representing that particular country for Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge and having loved his 2001 mega-best seller Life of Pi I decided to give it a chance. After a week or so of frustrating fits and starts I finished it early this morning. Keep in mind Life of Pi is a tough act to follow. Therefore, even after adjusting my expectations accordingly The High Mountains of Portugal felt like a disappointment, albeit a minor one.

Arguably less a novel and more a collection of three subtly connected novellas, The High Mountains of Portugal begins in Lisbon in 1904. The discovery of a centuries old journal sends young archivist Tomás on a journey via early automobile to the mountains of Portugal in search of a holy artifact that could upend history. 35 years later Eusebio, a middle-aged pathologist and Agatha Christie aficionado receives a mysterious visitor late New Year’s Eve whose unusual request challenges his deeply held beliefs, both religious and scientific. Lastly, things can’t get any stranger when, 50 years later a Canadian senator, grieving and directionless after the death of his wife relocates to the village of his birth with his recently acquired companion – a chimpanzee.

Like we experienced with his earlier Life and Pi, Martel’s novels don’t just entertain but prompt us ask profound religious and philosophical questions. When Eusebio’s wife Maria comes to visit him in his autopsy lab late on New Year’s Eve what begins as a simple visit from a loving wife to her late working husband quickly evolves into a college-level theological presentation on the Gospel message, and for that matter the meaning of Christianity. Like a skilled lecturer equally comfortable in the contrasting worlds of academia and pop culture, Maria illustrates her points with examples taken from the mysteries of Agatha Christie, of which the couple share a common love. Well read, of sharp mind and possessing an inquisitive spirit, Eusebio saw sees her as “Legion, that teeming within her were all the prophets, and apostles of the Bible, besides a good number of the Church Fathers.” Alas Maria was born a half century too early to fully exercise these gifts. Theology, in the 1930s was a man’s calling, sadly off limits to even the most talented and intelligent of women.

Unlike Life of Pi, The High Mountains of Portugal wont be on my year-end list of Favorite Fiction. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad novel. While there ‘s no shortage of enjoyable passages in The High Mountains of Portugal, I felt the whole wasn’t greater than the sum of the parts. Unlike Life of Pi.

Sunday Salon

For over a month I’ve been taking part in The Sunday Salon hosted by Deb Nance at Readerbuzz. So far it’s been a huge success and I’m striving to make it a regular feature. So here’s another post. 

I’m happy to report this week I finished Stuart Jeffries’s Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School as well as David Gilmour’s The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, its Regions and their Peoples. Impressive works of nonfiction,  both books are strong contenders to make my year-end list of Favorite Nonfiction

 With Jeffries’s and Gilmour’s books under my belt, I’ve gone back to reading Dzevad Karahasan’s Sarajevo, Exodus of a City and Yann Martel’s The High Mountains of Portugal. I also started Lawrence Durrell’s Bitter Lemons of Cyprus: Life on a Mediterranean Island. As you probably guessed all three books are for Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge. 

Articles. Even with my nose buried in several books I read a number of excellent articles last week. Inspired by Paula Bardell-Hedley’s outstanding weekly feature “Winding Up the Week” on her great blog Book Jotter I’ve started incorporating these into my Sunday Salon posts and will continue to do so in the future. 

Listening. Like I’ve said before, with so many things going on in the world there’s been no shortage of material for my favorite podcasts. But with last week’s FBI raid on Trump’s Florida residence many of my usual podcasts have been abuzz with commentary and speculation. This has made for some interesting listening which I’m sure will only intensify. 

Watching. After finishing up season 4 of Stranger Things it’s been all Mr. Robot. Like I’ve said before it just gets crazier and crazier thanks to insane plot twists, great writing and superb acting. It’s been one hell of a wild ride. I also caught on YouTube a special installment of the Lincoln Project’s The Breakdown, devoted mostly to the FBI’s recent raid on Trump’s Florida residence. “So much ‘criming’ as co-host Tara Setmayer described Trump’s ongoing attempts to subvert democracy and proclaim himself President for Life. 

 

Everything else. In what’s becoming a Friday ritual I met my professor buddies on Friday at our favorite winery for wine, conversation and a killer view. I’ve been drinking coffee in the mornings, but in the evenings I’ve been known to enjoy an adult beverage or two with my books and articles. 

Book Beginnings: The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel

Not only does Gilion host the European Reading and TBR 22 in 22 on her Rose City Reader blog but also Book Beginnings on Friday. While I’m no stranger to her European Reading Challenge, only recently I decided to participate in Book Beginnings on Friday. This week I’m back with another post.

For Book Beginnings on Friday Gilion asks us to simply “share the opening sentence (or so) of the book you are reading this week, or just a book that caught your fancy and you want to highlight.”

MY BOOK BEGINNING

Tomás decides to walk.

From his modest flat on Rua São Miguel in the he ill-famed Alfama district to his uncle’s stately estate in leafy Lapa, it is a good walk across much of Lisbon. It will likely take him an hour. But the morning has broken bright and mild, and the walk will soothe him.

Last week I featured Dzevad Karahasan’s 1994 account of a city under siege Sarajevo, Exodus of a City and the week before it was Icelandic author Ólafur Ólafsson’s 2019 novel The Sacrament This week it’s the 2016 novel The High Mountains of Portugal by Life of Pi author Yann Martel. So far it’s been nice to read with coffee in the morning and gin and tonic in the evening.

Yet another book I found by wandering the shelves at my public library, I’ll be applying it towards Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge since the novel is set in Portugal. Once again I’ve deviated from my original 20 Books of Summer but at this point I really don’t care. LOL!

I was also drawn to the book because it’s by the same author who wrote the international mega-seller The Life of Pi. It’s been almost 20 years since I read Life of Pi and I still remember it fondly.  The book’s Amazon page describes The High Mountains of Portugal as such:

In Lisbon in 1904, a young man named Tomás discovers an old journal. It hints at the existence of an extraordinary artifact that—if he can find it—would redefine history. Traveling in one of Europe’s earliest automobiles, he sets out in search of this strange treasure.

Thirty-five years later, a Portuguese pathologist devoted to the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie finds himself at the center of a mystery of his own and drawn into the consequences of Tomás’s quest.

Fifty years on, a Canadian senator takes refuge in his ancestral village in northern Portugal, grieving the loss of his beloved wife. But he arrives with an unusual companion: a chimpanzee. And there the century-old quest will come to an unexpected conclusion.

The High Mountains of Portugal—part quest, part ghost story, part contemporary fable—offers a haunting exploration of great love and great loss. Filled with tenderness, humor, and endless surprise, it takes the reader on a road trip through Portugal in the last century—and through the human soul.