Reading Summary Feb 2023

It’s been a busy month, although it started with a delicious little respite in my old ‘stomping ground’ on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. I have 17 books listed on Goodreads for the past month, although two of them were abandoned at the 40% mark. Seven of the books fitted into my #FrenchFebruary personal reading challenge – and in fact, all of them ended up being French from France, as the only Swiss author I attempted (Joel Dicker) ended up being one of the abandoned books. Eleven of the books were written by women writers (and none of them were in the DNF category), 12 were written in another language. Three I read for (Corylus) ‘work’, one was non-fiction, one will be reviewed for #ReadIreland in March, two were Book Club reads (Blood Sugar for the Virtual Crime Book Club, Embers for London Reads the World), and seven can be approximately put into the crime fiction category (although two of those I did not finish). Six of the books I read were from independent publishers, although I didn’t review all of them for the #ReadIndies challenge.

Please ignore Antoine Wilson’s Mouth to Mouth, which shouldn’t be in this screenshot, because I read it in January (and have already largely forgotten).

Here’s a quick recap of the books I reviewed (most of which also fell into the #ReadIndies category)

My favourite reads this month were probably Romain Gary and Violette Leduc, but Audrey Magee’s The Colony was very, very good as well. I’m still not quite sure about Embers by Márai Sándor – on the one hand, I interpret it as a beautiful example of self-delusion, yearning for a mythical past which never existed and the damage caused by bearing pointless grudges (and I can see historical/political parallels in that). It reminded me a lot of Browning’s My Last Duchess. On the other hand, I am not entirely convinced that Márai intended it to be read in this way: he may have actually shared some of Henrik’s beliefs and regrets for the old order. Anyway, I intend to review it together with two other novels about old mansions that I am currently reading.

I watched a few TV series this month: Wednesday with my younger son (which was entertaining enough, but rather predictable and forgettable), Borgen (watched Season 4 with oil in Greenland, then rewatched the first season, which reminded me why I stopped watching it back in 2013, because it was getting a little too close to the problems in my own marriage, despite my distinct lack of prime ministerial qualities and being considerably less busy than Birgitte Nyborg). It was quite eye-opening watching the documentary Fight the Power: How Hip-Hop Changed the World, with many political and social details which were either before my time or which I had forgotten.

For most of February, I barely watched any films, but then my older son came back for the last week and we more than made up for it. I thought Tár and Whiplash complemented each other well in their portrayal of bullying behaviour, problematic geniuses and the idea that art has to come from a place of suffering (it takes great pressure to create a diamond etc.). I can never resist films about artists and creators – and they also worked together well with the novel about ballet (and a lot else) that I read by Meg Abbott: The Turnout, which I really enjoyed. Claire Denis’ Beau Travail is a fascinating rare example of toxic masculinity but also the beauty of the male body perceived by the female gaze – with a breathtaking performance by the always watchable and enigmatic Denis Lavant. I also saw Barry Lyndon (one of my older son’s favourite films) in the cinema at the BFI, which is a very different experience from seeing it on a TV screen.

I don’t want to praise either myself or him, but I just wanted to say how delightful it is to have a grown-up child with whom you can spend a lovely day in London, having lunch in Chinatown, discussing drugs, political philosophy and film music while walking down to the Embankment, trawling the second-hand book stands on the South Bank, going to the Poetry Library mini-exhibition on clothes of women poets, watching Barry Lyndon at the BFI and then reading on the train on the way home in companionable silence.

March is going to be Nordic Reading Month for me, with a fairly broad definition of Nordic: Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Canada. Of course, if I can fit any more into the #ReadIreland tag, I will, but it promises to be an extremely busy and tiring month at work.

17 thoughts on “Reading Summary Feb 2023”

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed Colony. I thought it was an inventive riff on the colonialism theme. I’ve also been revisiting Borgen, going right back to the beginning, and am now on Series 3. It’s been our comfort viewing given the current politics of the UK

  2. Sounds like the perfect day out! We really enjoyed Borgen but we did find the latest series so very different in so many ways. She’s a great actress and our new word was ‘tack’.

  3. As a Canadian, I have not thought of our literature as Nordic, but I guess to a European it seems logical. So I will be very interested in your views on Canadian “nordic’ in contrast to European Nordic.

  4. I’m very glad, Marina Sofia, that you enjoyed your time with your son. It’s wonderful that you can share some interests with him. And as for your book summary, you had some interesting reads this month! And only a relative few went to the DNF pile, so that’s great, too.

  5. I’m not a Stanley Kubrick fan but Barry Lyndon must have been stunning on the cinema screen, lucky you for taking that opportunity. I have a similar relationship with my Mum to your own with your son. We really lucked out having so much in common and similar outlooks, it’s fantastic.

  6. I also watched Wednesday this month. I just enjoyed it while I was watching, not being blown away. But since finishing it, I cannot stop thinking about it… I’m even now eager for the second season.

  7. Yes, indeed, it feels sad at first when the cuteness fades from The Offspring and they morphing into grunting adolescents, but then they turn into real people and make the best of all companions.

  8. Glad you like The Colony, Marina, one of my favourite reads from last year. I was hoping to see it on the Booker shortlist but it just missed the cut.

  9. Ha, you apparently read four times as fast as I do! Sounds like a good month overall, and I’m excited to hear about your kind words for Leduc (a writer I’ve become interested in of late) and to learn more about your conflicted feelings about Sándor Márai (almost everybody I can recall who have read Embers seemed to love it). Envious that you got to see Barry Lyndon at the BFI as well–I haven’t seen it on the big screen probably since the year it came out (VHS/DVD/BluRay only). Happy reading to you this month!

    1. I did like Embers, but I can see how this nostalgia for a glorious past can be quite dangerous – and I’m not entirely sure if this was indeed what the author was trying to convey. But I’m OK with ambiguity in literary works.

  10. Your comment on the closeness of Borgen to your own marriage issues made me laugh – not the marriage issues of course but your comparison of yourself to Birgitte.

    I loved The colony too, as you know. I have yet to see Tár, as life is a bit overwhelming at the moment, but your matching it with Whiplash makes sense.

    I’m impressed by how much you manage to read – and I loved the description of your day with your older son. Those times are really special and make all that hard yakka of bringing them up so worth it.

    1. I was not for a moment suggesting I was as smart and diplomatic as Birgitte – simply that when I was staying at home to help the children settle in a new country, language and school, I was told that I was not bringing any money into the household and what was I doing all day… and that when I started working and travelling as a freelance consultant and trainer, I had complaints that I was leaving all the household stuff to him.

      1. Oh Marina, I realised it was something like this. Sounds very unreasonable. I’ve done that – new country and school with kids (though not language) and there was never any of that. Indeed we agreed that I would put a stop on my loved career so we could have this experience.

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