Monday, 22 August 2011

More Quotations

It is a man’s duty to have books… A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessaries of life.  H W Beecher

Books are the windows through which the soul looks out. H W Beecher

Except a living man there is nothing more wonderful than a book. Charles Kingsley

Give me books, fruit,
French wine and fine weather
And a little music out of doors
Played by somebody I do not know.

Few books bear second reading - comb your bookcase for salvage. Second World War government injunction.  (I hope not too many people did this!)

A good book is the best of friends, the same today and for ever,
Martin Tupper "Proverbial philosophy"

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Books can be dangerous

Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labelled “This could change your life”. = Helen Exley

Saturday, 13 August 2011


…..Anyway, a book will tell you if you want to find out. The whole world is in books.

libraries are full of Books –
old books and new books
red books and blue books
sad books and gay books
work books and play books
- Waiting for you to read them,

For more quotations from Murray McCain “Books” see my earlier posting.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Some Quotes about Literature

Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man.
Vladimir Nabokov

Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.
C. S. Lewis

Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.
Helen Keller

The reason that fiction is more interesting than any other form of literature, to those who really like to study people, is that in fiction the author can really tell the truth without humiliating himself.
Jim Rohn

Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.
Gilbert K. Chesterton

It has become almost a cliche to remark that nobody boasts of ignorance of literature, but it is socially acceptable to boast ignorance of science and proudly claim incompetence in mathematics.
Richard Dawkins

Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress; when I get tired of one, I spend the night with the other.
Anton Chekhov

Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.
Henry Miller

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Review:- David Mitchell – “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet ”

Year Published: - 2010
Where the book was from:- My own copy - Thousand Reader’s Edition
SBN: - 978 0 340 92158 6
Pages: - 560pp
Genre: - Historical fiction
Location:- Nagasaki, Japan 1799
How I came across it: - Sent it free by “We Love This Book
Rating: - ***** *****

One sentence summary:- I’m not especially interested in the history of Japan or Dutch colonists and 1799 is between my favourite periods but this book is so excellent that one becomes absorbed in Jacob’s story from the first pages.

The Blurb:-
The back cover of my edition reads as follows:-

In your hands is a place like no other: a tiny, man-made island in the bay of Nagasaki, for two hundred years the sole gateway between Japan and the West. Here, in the dying days of the 18th century, a young Dutch clerk arrives to make his fortune. Instead he loses his heart…
“A new book with its pristine pages and smooth spine is a beginning. Anything can happen, and some of it will. Provided your tastes and my writing are compatible, and assuming I’ve done my job properly, the slinky cat of fiction will now (I hope) settle on your lap and persuade you that Jacob, Orito and Ogawa are real people and that de Zoet’s lodgings in Dejima, the cells of Mount Shiranui and Penhaligon’s cabin aboard the HHMS Phoebus are as real as the rooms of your house.”
David Mitchell

Who could fail to read a book that introduced itself in such a manner?

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- The year is 1799, the place Dejima, the "high-walled, fan-shaped artificial island" that is the Japanese Empire's single port and sole window to the world. It is also the farthest-flung outpost of the powerful Dutch East Indies Company. Jacob de Zoet, a young, devout and ambitious, but very honest, clerk must spend time in the East to earn enough money to deserve the hand of his Dutch fiancée. But Jacob's intentions are thrown into doubt when he meets Orito Aibagawa, the beautiful but badly scarred daughter of a Samurai, trainee doctor and midwife Nagasaki’s magistrate. In this world where East and West are linked by one bridge, Jacob sees the gaps shrink between pleasure and piety, propriety and profit.

General comments:- The latest good book one has read tends often to ‘the best read for ages’ and so this has proved to be. One sign of a good book is that you miss it. Days after finishing it you want to carry on reading about the characters and enjoying the style. You want a sequel, even if it has to move on to the next generation and events of later years. Brilliantly written in a unique and compelling style, a superb mix of historical research and imagination, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a big and unforgettable book that should be on everyone’s ‘to read’ list. It was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2010 and would have had my vote.

‘”Aiba” is “indigo”, her pride in her name is plain, ‘and “gawa” is “river.’

I wish, he thinks, spoken words could be captured and kept in a locket.

‘My pronounce,’ Miss Aibagawa asks, ‘is not very good?’
‘No, no, no; you are perfect in every way. Your pronounce is perfect.’

Jacob reverberates with the parts and entirety of Orito, with all the her-ness of her.

‘We have a proverb.’ The interpreter pours himself a bowl of tea. ‘”Nothing is more costly than item that has no price.”’

‘The soul is a verb… not a noun.’

The wind passes through Flag Square, soft as a robe’s hem.

‘I have performed upwards of fifty lithotomies and lost four. Two were not my fault. The two were… well we live and learn, even if our dead patients cannot say the same.’

Once, Shiroyama’s father taught him, nobility and samurai ruled Japan…. But now it is Deception, Greed, Corruption and Lust who govern.

If only, Shiroyama dreams, human beings were not masks behind masks behind masks.

AUTHOR Notes:-
David Mitchell was born in 1969 and grew up in Worcestershire. After graduating from Kent University he spent several years teaching in Japan before settling in Ireland with his wife and two children. His first novel, ‘Ghostwritten’, was published by Sceptre in 1999 to great acclaim and won the Mail on Sunday / John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. His second novel, ‘Number9dream’ (2001) was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. He was chosen as one of Granta's 20 Best Young British Novelists 2003.

Jung Chang – Wild Swans

Helen has just finished reading Jung Chang’s ‘Wild Swans’, a book I read not long after it came out in the early 1990s and which GB read a couple of years ago in one go on a plane from New Zealand to England (or vice versa). It’s the one book which inspired me to write the author (and I got a very pretty reply despite her no doubt having an inordinate correspondence to deal with – it sold 10 million copies in 30 languages despite being banned in China).

It has reminded me that I really must do a list of the best non-fiction – my perception of the best, of course, which may differ entirely from everybody else’s. One day…

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Review:- Elizabeth FERRARS – “The Cup and the Lip ”

Year Published: - 1975
Where the book was from:- mine
ISBN: - 0 00 231146 1
Pages: - -186pp
Genre: - Cosy Crime
Location:- England
How I came across it: - Charity stall
Rating: - ***** *

One sentence summary:- Typical Elizabeth Ferrars easy-read with guessable conclusion but the usual fun en route.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- Why, on a wet and stormy night, did the not only old, but very ill novelist Dan Braile decide to take a walk? The problems really begin when he doesn't come back. Most of his family wouldn't be sorry to see him disappear. Added to that are claims he'd made about someone trying to poison him.

General comments:- Good old-fashioned cosy crime.

“Nobody really wants to be a cabbage.”…
“Oh, such joy! But to remember joy can be a great sorrow. I would very happily be a cabbage. A cabbage without knowing it, that would be best of all.”

AUTHOR Notes:- Elizabeth Ferrars was a pseudonym of Morna Doris MacTaggart Brown. She was born in Rangoon, Burma in 1907. She died in 1995. .

Review:-M C Beaton – “The Skeleton in the Closet”

Year Published: - 2001 (USA); 2011 (UK)
Where the book was from:- Mine
ISBN: - 978-1-84901-608-7
Pages: - 262pp
Genre: - Cosy crime
Location:- Worcestershire
How I came across it: - On offer, Waterstones
Rating: - *****

One sentence summary:- Rather dated in both ideas and style, this was not up to M C Beaton’s usual standard.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- When Fellworth Dolphin inherits an unexpected fortune from his miserly, cold-hearted mother, he sets out to discover the source of the money, which could be linked to a train robbery in which Fell's late father may have taken part.

General comments:
- Disappointing and uninspired but adequate for a brief read when not in search of anything taxing.

Quotations:- nil

AUTHOR Notes:- A pseudonym used by, Marion Chesney, M C Beaton is the author of the highly acclaimed Hamish Macbeth mystery series. Born in Scotland, she now lives in the Cotswolds.