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Reading

23 March, 2017 at 10:12 pm by belgianwaffle

Pomegranate Soup” by Marsha Mehran

This was a bit twee for me but I can see why it was a success. It’s about three Iranian sisters who flee the revolution and set up a café in the west of Ireland. The Iranian author was briefly married to an Irish man and died very tragically in the west of Ireland which gives the basically feel good story added poignancy.

“The Glorious Heresies” by Lisa McInerney

This work of literary fiction is set in Cork and has been very well reviewed. The author uses language very inventively and definitely has talent. Unfortunately, I hate this kind of thing. It’s all very gloomy – it doesn’t end well for anyone. It’s set in the most hopeless, despairing of environments and it feels like there’s no hope at all, ever. Also the language fizzes and sometimes, I don’t like fizzing language. I can see why it did well but not one for me.

The Yellow Dog” by Georges Simenon

My father gave this to me, he said that I might like it as it was set in Concarneau in Brittany where I have been on holidays a bit in recent years. In fact, the Concarneau of 90 odd years ago is pretty different from the very touristy town we have today. However, I mildly enjoyed the story which was reminiscent of Agatha Christie type detective offerings and might try another Simenon. Happily, if I like them, there are plenty of them.

Casting off” and “All Change” both by Elizabeth Jane Howard

The last of the Cazelet books about an upper middle class English extended family between the late 1930s and the 1950s. Gutted to have finished them. What a fantastic series of books. I might give it a couple of years and go back and read the lot again.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A bit twee – an epistolatory novel about how a group of people in Guernsey got through the occupation during the second world war. It did make me want to visit Guernsey though.

The Trespasser” by Tana French

I think Tana French is incapable of writing a bad novel but I thought this one was not quite as good as her other detective novels. The sense of place which is so wonderfully brought out in her other novels isn’t quite as clear in this one and it’s just a bit less good. Still very, very good though.

Hillbilly Elegy” by JD Vance

This apparently explains Trump’s America. The author grew up poor in the rust belt and became middle class; he works like a translator, explaining his former life to the middle classes. Although he does refer to some research, it is basically a well-written autobiographical book. I am not convinced that I understand Trump’s America any better but my view that it is particularly unpleasant to be poor in the US is confirmed.

The Hungry Grass” by Richard Power

Originally released in 1969 – the year I was born – this book takes an inside look at the clergy in rural Ireland and the changes that are coming from the point of view of a cranky priest. It didn’t do it for me. I did learn the expression “the hungry grass” though, apparently it’s a spot where someone who died in the famine was buried/died and if you walk over it you will always be hungry.

Knights of the Borrowed Dark” by Dave Rudden

Daniel and Michael have been at me to read this. They’ve seen the author live twice in the library and they loved this book. I’m not above reading children’s books at all but I was a bit put off by the cover and description. I am delighted the boys persisted. What an excellent book. Great plot but also a really wonderful, inventive, clever writer. He writes beautifully. I will definitely read the next installment (due out shortly) and I would love to see the author write a book for grown-ups.

Postcards from the Edge” by Carrie Fisher

I thought that this was a slightly fictionalised account of Carrie Fisher’s relationship with her mother but it’s not. It’s funny in places but basically episodic and inconclusive. I suppose it does give an insight into what it was like to be famous in Hollywood in the 80s if that’s your thing. Not mine.

The Closed Door and Other Stories” by Dorothy Whipple

Dorothy Whipple is great, short stories are great. Win, win, really although a certain amount of female misery seems to be par for the course for Ms. Whipple.

The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Drama, intrigue and romance with a happy ending from the woman who gave the world “A Little Princess” what’s not to love? Not as good as “A Little Princess” though.

Culture

3 March, 2017 at 7:44 pm by belgianwaffle

I booked myself and Mr. Waffle into “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” at the Gate. This is the only place I can go where I bring down the average age so it is always a thrill. I can’t help thinking it might go to the wall in 20 years once the majority of the current patrons die. Anyhow, usually, it is reliable but not on this occasion. I did not enjoy the show. In fairness, it may have been me – I was expecting something like “Mamma Mia” only with Jacques Brel songs. I did not get that, it was pretty straightforward singing of the songs with actions but no dialogue or particular logic it seemed to me. There were four singers – two men and two women- and, really, the men were only alright. Alas that I should have chosen so poorly for one of our rare cultural outings.

I have been to see a great deal of cinema, by my standards. I saw “La La Land” which I did not enjoy much. Lego Batman didn’t do it for me either but I did enjoy “Hidden Figures” (I went with herself who enjoyed it also but couldn’t help pointing out to me how the white man had to save the black woman). Could be worse. I should try another play, I suppose. I think I need to feel stronger.

L’Actualité Dans Toute Sa Majesté

12 January, 2017 at 6:16 pm by belgianwaffle

When we lived in Belgium, I used to occasionally buy and read “Royals” magazine. The clue is in the title; it goes large on the Belgian royal family but all of the European royals feature from time to time (the Grimaldis are my absolute favourites; what a family) and sometimes more exotic royals from Asia or the Middle East. I used to read it in a post-modern, ironic way and, because it’s in French, it’s clearly not the same as reading, say, “Hello” magazine which I am obviously too lofty to read.

Mr. Waffle goes to Brussels for work from time to time and on his return he often picks me up a (post-modern, ironic) copy of “Royals” magazine. Inspired by his success he got me a subscription to 12 months of “Royals” magazine last Christmas. I have to tell you I was not delighted, I felt I’d tipped over from post-modern, ironic to weird middle-aged Belgian royalist lady. Anyway 12 months later, my subscription has finally expired. If you need to know anything about the Belgian royal family, ask me now. While I have to say that I enjoyed it more than I expected to, I am glad to have reverted to being an occasional consumer of Belgian royal family news rather than the Irish expert on Prince Laurent’s latest quirk.

Untitled

Definitely Maybe

30 November, 2016 at 11:37 pm by belgianwaffle

The residents’ association met for their AGM this evening and Mr. Waffle retired as chairman after two years of faithful service. Unfortunately, no one volunteered to take his place. So it is to be considered again at the next meeting. Do you think this will end well?

In other news, it is the end of November. I have made it through another NaBloPoMo. If you have stuck with me, thank you. I have to tell you, I see quiet times ahead on the blogging front in the immediate future.

And, no, I still haven’t done that 1,500 word essay. Thanks for asking.

Percentages

29 November, 2016 at 10:25 pm by belgianwaffle

Over at the other Belgianwaffle’s blog (which I nobly encourage you to read, I say nobly, as it is very good and I am very envious of her talent) she often describes herself in percentages. Let me give you my own percentages for this evening:

20% Absolutely unable to come up with anything for a blog post
20% Continuing to avoid writing my essay for this course
10% Nobility
10% Mounting anxiety about lack of Christmas preparation
20% Wishing NaBloPoMo would end
10% Keen to get back to watching “Location, Location, Location” (yeah, ok, judge me)

Tomorrow is another day.

Reading

28 November, 2016 at 7:55 pm by belgianwaffle

House of Mirth” by Edith Wharton

If you are hoping for actual mirth, go elsewhere.  A description of Lily Bart’s descent of the social scale.  It didn’t encourage me to try more Edith Wharton.

“A Dance with Dragons” by George RR Martin

If you like this stuff, it will keep you going.  I am not a massive fan but I find fantasy stories moderately entertaining in general and this falls into that camp.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” by JK Rowling

It’s a play.  If you can get over that, it’s alright.  Better on stage than on the page, I imagine.

The Light Years“, “Marking Time” and “Confusion” all by Elizabeth Jane Howard

I am loving this series of books about an upper middle class English family, the Cazalets. The first book begins in the mid 30s and I’ve just got as far as the end of the war.  I am feverishly waiting for the library to contact me and tell me that they’ve got in volume four.  I cannot recommend this series highly enough and don’t know how I managed to miss it until now.

Vinegar Girl” by Anne Tyler

This is a retelling of “The Taming of the Shrew”.  I like Anne Tyler’s books very much but this one is, frankly, a bit forgettable.

The Taming of the Shrew” by Shakespeare

I went back and reread the play after reading “Vinegar Girl”.  If you ask me, it’s nothing to write home about.

Love and Other Man Made Disasters” by Nicola Doherty 

This is a sweet, funny romantic tale for teenagers.  I really enjoyed it; not my normal cup of tea and I should caveat that the author is nearly related to me but that would not make me lie to you.  I am told it would make an excellent stocking filler for the young teen in your life.

Bedsit Disco Queen” by Tracey Thorn

A surprisingly entertaining autobiography by one half of the band Everything but the Girl.

Sic Transit or Slightly Glum Sunday Night Reflections

13 November, 2016 at 9:48 pm by belgianwaffle

This year for the first time in years, we didn’t go to the Dublin book festival – the children are getting just a little bit big for it. They’ve been to the book doctor (great service) loads of times. All of the events seemed to be aimed at younger children and even last year, they felt a bit old. And then, this year, culture night didn’t quite hit the spot – maybe because I had to bail out early to travel to Cork but maybe because they’re getting bigger. I am, however, forcing them all to go on a 1916 tour so some family culture is still available. Also, herself wants to go to the Nutcracker at Christmas. I am hesitating; I’m just not sure that it will be a winning family outing. A couple of weeks ago, at her request, I took her to see a thing on Shakespeare at the Royal Irish Academy. It was tough going for me but she seemed to really enjoy it. Can’t see it ever being a family outing though.

And then we are finally replacing our car which we bought in Belgium in 2005 – yes steering wheel on the wrong side but not as awkward as you might expect. As we were looking at makes, we found ourselves reflecting that this might be our last family car, if we hang on to it for 6 or 7 years as at that stage the children will all be in college which is a terrifying prospect. Looks like it does go by quickly after all.


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