The Ladies’ Paradise

ladiesparaThe Ladies’ Paradise
by Emile Zola
1883/ 480 pages
rating 9.5  classic – French
(Introduction, Notes and translation by Brian Nelson)

Zola knew what he was talking about when he wrote page after page of busy and boisterous narrative about a department store, based on the first such store in Paris and the biggest in the world for awhile - Bon Marché.   He was there for the hedonistically bourgeois times of Napoleon III,  for the redesign of the Paris streets, for the establishment and growth of of Bon Marché. According to Nelson, Zola’s notes say he wanted to present all of Parisian society within the model of a department store.  This  book was to be a ” ‘…poem of modern activity… conclude with its continual labour, the power and gaiety that comes from its productivity … >>>>MORE>>>>

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The People on Privilege Hill

Tprivilegehe People on Privilege Hill
by Jane Gardham
2008 (Europa)/ 196 pages
rating 8 / short stories

First,  only the eponymous first story in this book is related to the Old Filth trilogy.  Many of the other stories have been published elsewhere and prior to this volume.   The  story entitled “The Milly Ming” is about a situation found in Gardham’s novel,“The Queen of the Tambourine.”  The other stories in this volume are about different characters with varied settings scattered throughout Britain (I think).

Moving on >>>>MORE>>>> 

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Last Friends

lastfriendsLast Friends
by Jane Gardham
2013 / 213 pages
rating 8.5 / contemp fiction
(9.25 for the trilogy)

I  have just needed to read this book ever since it came out.  I loved the prior two in the “Old Filth” trilogy and I’ve read others by Gardham – why did I wait so long?  Oh well … I’m enjoying now.

Once upon a time in dying Imperial England (and this is a VERY British novel) there were three friends, well – friends, lovers, enemies.  This trilogy is the story of their lives and loves.  >>>>MORE>>>>

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The Lowland

thelowlandThe Lowland
by Jhumpa Lahiri
2013/ 354 pages
rating:  8.75 / contemp – India

This looked and felt like promising from the end of the very short first chapter where it says:

Certain creatures laid eggs that were able to endure the dry season. Others survived by burying themselves in mud, simulating death, waiting for the return of rain.

Already I could sense the themes and this was validated in the following chapters; connections between brothers,  the differences between them when they plant themselves in different environments,  etc.  >>>>MORE>>>>

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Still Life With Bread Crumbs

stilllifewithStill Life With Bread Crumbs
by Anna Quinlan
2014/272 pages
rating 5 / romance

This is a pretty “fluffy” type book for me to read, but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be … otoh, it’s a lot worse than I expected. Yup, it’s a love story and I used to be allergic to them pretty much but I’ve got to where classics and other works are okay if the romance part is definitely secondary.

The plot:  Rebecca Winter, is, or was actually, a very famous >>>>MORE>>>> 

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Revolutionary Road

revovlutionaryRevolutionary Road
by Richard Yates
1961 / 355 pages
rating – 8 (probably a 10 in 1961) – classic

I guess this is a classic now as it’s older than 50 years – I used to say a classic was older than I am, but there really does come a limit and I passed that marker more than a decade ago.

So here, in the tradition of The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, The Winter of Our Discontent and The Recognitions  - Revolutionary Road is about the conformity, disillusion and decay of America and its males in the late 1950′s or early ’60′s. Sloan Wilson, John Steinbeck, William Gaddis, John Cheever and Richard Yates were all so dissatisfied with something about America, their jobs, the flighty women
>>>>MORE >>>> 

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Ragtime

ragtimeRagtime
E.L. Doctorow
1975 / 336 pages
rating – 10 / classic (?)

Back in 1975 this was a genre changing book and I think historical fiction was never quite the same again.  I read it when it was newly released – 1975 or so,  and absolutely loved it – I loved the playfulness of it and the era of the history. I didn’t really pay too much attention to the details of the plot but still,  it shot up and stayed one of my all time favorite historical fictions >>>>MORE>>>>

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