The World of Yesterday by Stephan Zweig is his autobiography, finished two days before his and his second wife’s joint suicide. It’s a lament for a lost world, a love letter to creativity and artists and an eloquent analysis of events that led up to both the first and the second world wars. The parallels with aspects of our own turbulent times are hard to ignore. Zweig, an Austrian Jew whose wonderful novellas (The Royal Game, Amok, Letter from an Unknown Woman, Twenty-four Hours in the Life of a Woman) many of you will know, was the world’s most popular author in the 1920s and 30s, until Hitler banned his books. Highly recommended.
Ingenious Thrillers for Teens
I shed a tear as I finished The Hummingbird by Sandro Veronesi, an Italian writer whose books keep winning prestigious Italian book prizes. Veronesi’s writing was new to me and that, it seems, has been a mistake. The life story of ophthalmologist Marco Carrera had warmth, humanity, universal truths and provided the perfect holiday read.
Considering its description by Thomas Mann as one of the six most significant novels ever written, and rumoured to have moved Samuel Beckett to tears on even his fourth reading, Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane remains a remarkably little known novel outside of its native Germany. Set in 1880’s Prussia, Effi treads the well-worn path of the nineteenth century literary heroine. As an unworldly young woman in a status obsessed male-dominated world, her story tells of a stifling marriage of convenience. Prepare for adulterous downfall and a classic interpretation of the expression ‘pistols at dawn.’
Stan’s philosophy has always been to firmly decline anything resembling an adventure. There are just too many things that could go wrong. To date, he’s managed to avoid such horrors as bungee jumping and dancing in public, but now, at the age of twelve, the worst has happened. He’s going on a totally unwanted holiday to Italy with his friend, Felix, and family. In Worst. Holiday. Ever. by Charlie Higson, we join Stan as he grapples with a lengthy personal list of holiday fears, including octopuses, weird toilets, and being beach body ready.
On paper, Martha should be happy. She’s a talented writer and married to a man whose love and patience know no bounds. So why is Martha so troubled and in conflict with everyone? And why can she never hold down a job? In Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason, we go inside the mind of a woman suffering from undiagnosed mental illness and get to feel the darkness and self-loathing. As devastating as this sounds, Sorrow and Bliss is more than tragedy, Mason’s acerbic wit and portrayal of a sweet on-off love-story make this read more than a sad one.
I feel it’s time to speak up for historical fiction which, in my opinion, has an undeservedly bad reputation. True, there are some pretty trashy ones out there but there are also quite a few stunningly good ones. Besides being well-written and with an interesting storyline, a good historical novel takes you to a different time and place, perhaps one you didn’t know much about, and leaves you simultaneously entertained and a wiser person. We’ve reviewed quite a few on this blog which you now can find on the blog under ‘Reviews’ in the main menu.
What to read when you’re not watching the Olympics
Children’s Literary Gems You May Not Know
Welcome to our guest reviewer Agnes who’s about to embark on her A-level studies in English. Agnes is passionate about reading and, despite her young age, has read more books than most people do in a lifetime. Her first reviews are of two modern classics, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, incidentally two books I very much enjoyed myself.