July 31, 2010

Farewell To Paris In July

We have come to the end of our Paris In July journey for this year and Tamara and myself would like to send out a huge thank you to all of you who have joined in or read, cooked, watched and listened along with us. Tamara and I caught up for lunch together today and we spoke about how much we have both enjoyed hosting the month - and we had some discussions about running it again next year. We would love to hear from everyone about what they think of this idea and also any suggestions you might have for what you what like to see done differently etc... to improve the event.

In the meantime, some of the wonderful posts we have had during this final week include;

Amy finished reliving her trip to Paris.

Anni shared some French art.

Audrey wrapped up her Paris In July journey.

Bellezza shared her Christmas wish!

Chasing bawa reviewed a book that many have enjoyed and I am yet to read.

Chat Noir shared a gorgeous photo with her thoughts.

Claire continued to keep my interest in Zola.

Electra did an amazing wrap up post.

Joan shared another great quote before she heads to actual Paris!

JoAnn shared her thoughts on Colette.

Mel reviewed some French literature.

Sara reviewed a French classic.

Tamara took us on a journey for our taste buds.

The winner for this weeks prize, randomly drawn, is Sara from Wordy Evidence of The Fact and we also have a special end of Paris In July prize which has been drawn from every person who contributed to the journey over the course of the month and this prize goes to Frances from Nonsuch Book. Could Sara and Frances please leave a comment on this post with your email address so that I can get in touch with you about your prizes.

Thank you so much everyone - it has been a wonderful month in Paris!

July 29, 2010

The Outcast - Sadie Jones

I had read Sadie Jones' second novel, Small Wars, earlier this year and while I had some problems with it I was still keen to read her debut novel, The Outcast.

I'm so glad I did because I found The Outcast to be a much better book and one that I connected with so much more.

The Outcast begins in a small village outside London at the end of the Second World War when 7 year old Lewis waits with his beloved mother, Elizabeth for the father he hardly knows to come home from the war. When Lewis's father, Gilbert, does arrive home things change in their household - while his parents clearly love each other they are from very different worlds and Lewis starts to see changes in his life because of this. The close bond he has developed with his mother starts to be torn away a little by the new intrusion of his father into their world.

An event occurs when Lewis is 10 years old that changes his world even more dramatically and the way in which people relate to him after this occurrence affects his development and relationships into adulthood.

This is an author that clearly like to take on the heavy topics! While there are certainly moments of joy and happiness in the book it is pain and tragedy that take the focus but unlike in Small Wars I think The Outcast deals with all of this pain in a much more realistic and connected way. I felt for Lewis through the telling of his story and the way in which it was told made me want to reach into the pages at times and shake people who were doing stupid things!! I wanted to be able to affect the action - to me this is always a sign that I am involved in a book and I care about what is happening to the characters.

The Outcast of the title could clearly be Lewis but there are many other characters within the story who would fit the title perfectly and this was another aspect of the book that interested me - who wasn't an outcast in some way?

I loved this story and the way in which it was told - looking forward to her next novel.

July 27, 2010

The Imperfectionists - Tom Rachman

The Imperfectionists would have to be one of my favourite reads of 2010 so far - I don't think it is a perfect book by any stretch of the imagination (the title takes care of that!) but it was a perfect read for me.

The book centres on the life of an international newspaper located in Rome. The story of the newspaper is told in a series of chapters by different employees and readers of the paper with alternating shorter chapters covering the history and development of the paper which began as the idea of a wealthy American businessman wanting to keep hold of a connection with an old flame.

Each of the characters had a distinct voice and story to tell about their role in, and connection to, the paper. I thought each character could have easily had the whole book devoted to them and their point of view so while I loved how the book was structured I'm also left yearning to know more about the individual characters!

My father is a journalist and I have grown up in the world of newspaper production and the media and it is a world that holds a lot of interest for me so I especially loved the sections of the book that delved a little deeper into the production of the news. Having said this though, I don't think the author gets bogged down in detail - it is very much a character driven novel with the main character being the paper itself. I thought one of the main messages in the book was how print media is a dying breed - and how this impacts on the people working in this career but also on how we receive and pass on the news of the world.

A fantastic read - hope there is much more to come from this author.

July 26, 2010

Paris In July - Week 3

We are now in the home straight of our Paris In July journey. Make sure you head over to Tamara's blog for the Week 3 wrap up and announcement of the weekly prize.

July 24, 2010

One Day - David Nicholls

One Day is a book that was recently reviewed on ABC's First Tuesday Book Club - it is very interesting to read the presenters different views of the book although I didn't read the transcript until after I had finished the book myself.

One Day follows the main characters of Emma and Dexter, two people who meet at university in Edinburgh and although knowing each other vaguely through their education they only really come together on the night of their graduation - the 15th July 1988. Drunkenly they end up at Emma's flat talking until the early hours;

'I suppose the important thing is to make some sort of difference,' she said. 'You know, actually change something'.

'What, like "change the world", you mean?'

'Not the entire world. Just the little bit around you.'

They lay in silence for a moment, bodies curled around each other in the single bed, then both begin to laugh in low, pre-dawn voices. 'Can't believe I just said that,' she groaned. "Sounds a bit corny doesn't it?'

The book continues to follow the lives of Emma and Dexter on the same day each year and we see them follow their own paths, sometimes coming together and sometimes leading off in completely different directions.

I absolutely loved this book - I believed in the characters even though I didn't always like them - I believed in their believability if that makes sense??!! They were flawed in so many ways which made them so human for me - I cared about what happened to them and their stories. The book is painful and sad in so many places but it is also incredibly funny - both in some of the experiences of the characters but also the writing style and a lot of the dialogue. Above all this is a just a great story of two people living their lives - so simple and yet so effective.

July 22, 2010

The Library

On our recent trip to Koh Samui, Thailand we came across the most amazing resort simply called, The Library.
The resort is an ultra modern construction set on Chaweng Beach in Koh Samui which plays homage to all things about the printed page. There is an actual library within the resort where guests can check out books to take with them as they laze by the pool or beach and the rooms are called "Pages" instead of rooms! I was just in love with the whole concept.

We weren't actually allowed to take photos while inside the resort but we did have dinner at the resort restaurant, The Page on our last night in Thailand and it was the most beautiful dinner experience of our whole trip - both for the food and the atmosphere the restaurant creates with its gorgeous location right on the beach.
I wish our town had its own version of The Library!

July 20, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest - Stieg Larsson

I read the final book in the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest while on my reading binge in Thailand - and I have to say that I think Thailand saved this book for me in some way - given that if I had been reading it at home I don't think I would have finished it.
I was really disappointed in this final book in the series - I guess I should have probably known this was coming from my less than enthusiastic response to the book before but that book ended with a bang for me and I was really keen to read the last one.
I felt the third book really just went over and over territory and material already covered extensively in the first two books. I didn't feel as though the last book progressed the characters in anyway for me - sure, Lisbeth became a little more personable and we got some "resolution" (however unrealistic and Hollywoodised that may have been) but by that stage I just didn't care. I kept reading away hoping that something new and exciting would happen as it did in the first two books - but it just never happened.
I have heard some people say that this was their favourite book of the series but for me the fun ended with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and after that all that was really needed was a really good editing.
I did get to read the book in this setting though so I guess it wasn't all bad!

July 18, 2010

Paris In July - Week 2 Review

We are now half way through our Paris In July journey and I am starting to panic about how much I want to cram into the rest of the month and so little time in which to cram! Maybe I will just have to linger in Paris through August...

Some of the amazing posts we have had this week include;

- Amy continues re-living her journey through Paris

- Anni shares a beautiful art work

- Audrey reviews a French movie that I really want to see!

- Brenda went dancing

- Buried in Print has been reading aplenty

- Chat Noir shared some French memories

- Electra shared some information about Napoleon

- Frances was living the sweet life in Paris...

- Joan shared a beautiful quote

- JoAnn makes Zola sound very much like an author to try

- Marie shows us just how many great French books there are in the world

- Mel u shares more Zola impressions

- Mrs B made me salivate!

- Sabrina gave us a recommendation for French reading

- Sara reflected on a writer's darker experience of Paris

- Tamara became a fashionista!

- Tea reviewed a novel of a famous and wonderful French artist

I have been so amazed by the wonderful variety in the type of activities people are engaging in to celebrate Paris in July - keep it coming!

Now, for the weekly winner - it is (randomly drawn) Sabrina!! Congratulations Sabrina! When you get a chance could you please leave your email address in the comments section of this post so that I can send you your prize.

Happy Paris In July everyone - 2 more weeks to go!

July 16, 2010

The Postmistress - Sarah Blake

The Postmistress is the book I chose for our Book Club this month and I honestly don't know what reaction/s I am going to get at our discussion next week.

I find it a big responsibility to chose a book for a wide range of people to read - the pressure is on to find something that (hopefully) everyone will enjoy or get something out of in some way. Another consideration was that a condition of our Book Club selection is that the book has to be readily available in our shops - easy to access is a big plus. With those things in mind I chose The Postmistress because it was a fairly new release and it was a book that although I was hearing mixed things about I thought the premise sounded like a story most people could get into in some way - and I was hoping it was a book I would enjoy!

The Postmistress is set during the time of World War 2 just prior to the Americans becoming involved in an active way. In the small Cape Cod town of Franklin we are introduced to Iris James, the local postmistress who at the beginning of the book is on a day trip to Boston for an appointment with a doctor to have her virginity certified - an hilarious and telling opening scene in terms of characterisation. We are also introduced to the young wife who has newly married the doctor in Franklin - Emma Fitch - who comes into contact with Iris on the bus ride back from Boston.

The other main character in the book is Frankie Bard - a female American journalist who is currently in London reporting back on the bombing taking place in the city. It's difficult to see how it will happen but the lives of these three women are brought into contact with each other and it is this contact that plays out one of the major themes in the novel.

After having finished the book earlier this week I find that I am still pondering it and trying to work out what I actually think of it. Ultimately I think it is a well written book with a good backbone - I think the number of characters and the way the story jumped from settings was a little disconcerting for me though. I found myself wanting to stay with Frankie's story in London and Europe more than I wanted to be taken back to Cape Cod. I felt this way even more when I read the author's notes at the end of the book titled "The Story Behind The Story" which describes how she first came up with the idea for the book and the research she did around female journalists and reporters during World War 2.

So, I will see what my Book Club think of this one next week. It was an enjoyable read for me but one that I think will grow on me more after I have heard what others think.

July 14, 2010

Marie Antoinette

Paris In July is giving me the opportunity to re-visit some of my most favourite movies, one of which is definitely Sofia Coppola's version of Marie Antoinette. The doomed Queen of France has always been an interesting and beloved historical legend for me - the accuracy of my knowledge is probably not great but I love, love, love the story of her personality, actions, thoughts, fashion and life.
This movie version of Marie Antoinette is one you either love or hate I think - and I am definitely in the former category. The movie is visually stunning - from the location of Versailles to the costumes, food, drink and locations consumed by Marie Antoinette and her entourage in vast quantities.

July 13, 2010

Paris In July Purchases

I certainly don't need an excuse to purchase new books but our Paris In July experience has led me to find some new items for the bookshelf with a French flavour...

A Studio In Montparnasse by Penelope Little wasn't a book I was looking out for (or even one I had heard of) but when I was in Borders yesterday I saw it on their bargain table for only $5!!! It is such a gorgeous hardcover book that I probably would have bought it even if we hadn't been in the midst of Paris In July. The book is the story of the life of Australian artist Bessie Davidson (1879-1965) who moved to Paris in 1910 to live and work.

Thérése Raquin by Émile Zola is a book I have heard a lot of people mention over the past couple of weeks and another one I spotted in on my recent Borders trip.

Mrs Harris Goes To Paris by Paul Gallico is a book I ordered from The Book Depository when I knew Paris In July was happening - too hard to resist all that beautiful pink!

July 11, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire - Stieg Larsson

I had read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo last year and had mixed reactions as you can see here. However, I was still keen to read the rest of the series - I just needed a little break from the violence for a while! I ended up taking the second book in the series, The Girl Who Played With Fire with me on our recent holiday to Thailand - what better place than a tropical island paradise to read about death, murder and violence in Sweden??!!!
I was gobsmacked by how many people at our resort were reading the books from this series - I swear nearly every second person had one in their hands - in every language - it even inspired people to come up to me when I was reading by the pool to share their thoughts and to see how I was liking it. Whatever you think of the books themselves I think you have to stand in awe of the reaction they have elicited from readers (and probably a lot of non-readers) from around the world.
It took me a while to get into The Girl Who Played With Fire - I read past my normal test of 100 pages in the hope that I would get inspired - I eventually did but it took a rather brutal murder to get me interested which is a bit of a worry! I found that the first section of the book took a lot of time (way too much in my opinion) to set the scene and go over information again, and again and again - I was getting bored. Once the action took place though the pace picked up and I was hooked until the end - even chasing down a copy of the third book in a rare English language book shop in Koh Samui so I could read the conclusion to the series.
What did I think of the third and final book? Stay tuned...

July 10, 2010

Paris In July - Week 1

Just a reminder to everyone to head over to Tamara's Blog for a wrap up of the first week of our Paris In July journey. What a journey it has been so far - looking forward to three more weeks of French flavour...

July 08, 2010

One Of The Greatest Cities In The World...

I am loving travelling to Paris this week via all of your blogs as part of Paris In July - I kind of feel like I'm there - at least in spirit! I am also noticing a lot of Paris or French themed things in my local city - Paris is everywhere, you just have to look!

One of my own Paris experiences this week has been to watch the episode on Paris of the series Greatest Cities In The World hosted by Griff Rhys Jones. If you haven't seen this show already I definitely recommend tracking it down. I actually watched the episode on Rome first (wonderful too) but the episode on Paris is just as enlightening and interesting to watch. Jones has an entertaining and often comic way of presenting which engages you straight away but you can tell he also has an amazing passion for travel and people which is wonderful.

The show follows a period of 24 hours in Paris and Jones covers some of the expected landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe but in different ways, focusing on lesser known facts or stories about the places he visits. He also connects with locals from the city and in that way makes it a personal story of travel and experience.

If I can't be in Paris right now this is a very good second option - it made fall in love all over again...

July 04, 2010

The Opposite Of Falling - Jennie Rooney

The Opposite Of Falling was another one of my holiday reads, I had bought it based on two things - firstly the gorgeous cover but mainly for the reason that I had read, and loved, the author's first book, Inside The Whale.

The Opposite Of Falling is a quite an ambitious novel in terms of subject and geographic material. Ursula Bridgewater is a woman of the upper classes living in Liverpool in the 1860's. She has experienced the calling off of an engagement and is seeking inspiration for what to do with the rest of her life. Ursula feels quite different to the other women of her class and era - she does not feel the need to get married and raise a family and she has a strong desire to "do something with her life";

All her life, Ursula Bridgewater had been building up to something. She felt it as a bubbling restlessness inside her, a straightness along her spine that occasionally came across as terseness, but which she did not really intend. She was of the opinion that one really ought to do something with one's life, especially if one had the necessary resources, but she had not yet fixed upon what this should be".

Ursula begins to explore her life's purpose through extensive travel, firstly through the UK and Europe and then over the seas to America. It is this trip to America which leads Ursula to employ a young female companion - Sally Walker, a young woman who has spent the majority of her life in a restrictive Catholic orphanage after the sudden death of her mother.

Sally and Ursula are two very different women - in both character and upbringing - but their combination is quite magical and I wish they had been brought together much earlier in the novel.

Once they arrive in America Ursula and Sally meet Toby O'Hara who runs hot air balloon rides over Niagara Falls during the day but is also working on a very different flying machine in his spare time as a way of maintaining a connection with his parents who are both deceased.

The Opposite Of Falling does feel like a very different book to Inside The Whale at first - there are more characters and settings to fit into the formula so it wasn't really until half way through the book that I felt I was in a Jennie Rooney novel in terms of the story (or stories) of the relationships. However, even though it took a little while to get into it it was well worth it once I did - the second half of the book is beautiful and the story of the connection between the main characters and the decisions they make in relation to their lives is one I will go back and read again.

July 03, 2010


As part of Paris In July I decided to take the opportunity to watch one of my favourite French films with my favourite French Actress, Audrey Tautou - Priceless.
I just adore this movie! I know it is not one of the "classics" of French cinema but it makes me laugh and smile every time I watch it.
Audrey Tautou plays the role of Iréne, a young, attractive, sassy gold digger on the hunt for a permanent rich older man to play the part of provider so that she can continue to live in the manner to which she has become accustomed. At an exclusive hotel on the French Riviera Iréne meets Jean - a hotel employee who she mistakes for rich prey. The confusion leads to the start of a very funny relationship as Jean is forced to take on an unfamiliar, and not entirely comfortable role, in order to woo Iréne.
The film is gorgeous to watch - beautiful sets, locations, clothes and people and the two lead roles have a wonderful chemistry together. Pure French fun!

July 02, 2010

Chéri - Colette

I am definitely being inspired by the imagination and input of bloggers who are participating in Paris In July - I'm not sure a month will be long enough to get through all of the reading, listening and watching I want to do!

My first read for the month was Chéri by Colette. I had watched the recent movie version of the book earlier this year and while I had enjoyed the visual aspects of the film the content left me a little disappointed. The book has changed that for me though - I obviously needed the skill and magic of Colette's writing to convey this story to me.

Chéri is a young man who has been involved in a relationship with a middle aged courtesan, Léa, for about 6 years when his mother (another courtesan and acquaintance of Léa) arranges his marriage to another woman. It seems that Chéri and Léa do not realise their true feelings and need for one another until they have been pulled apart and the novel focuses on the outcomes of this for them as individuals and for the other people in their lives.

Chéri and Léa are both quite spoilt and self-obsessed characters in many ways - the type of characters I wouldn't normally be able to generate a lot of empathy for - but I did feel empathy and compassion for these characters as they expressed their feelings of loss and grief over the end of their relationship.

Colette's writing style is divine - a little more emotional and descriptive that I had imagined it would be for some reason but so beautifully emotive, it was probably her writing style that made empathy for such characters so easy.

I am keen to read more Colette now - any suggestions?

July 01, 2010

Welcome To Paris In July

On behalf of my co-host Tamara and myself I would like to welcome everyone to our "Paris In July". We are really looking forward to a month of exploring anything and everything French through our blogs and connecting with others who share our passion.
It is never too late to join in so please read our initial Paris in July post here if you are interested in learning more. Tamara will be writing the first wrap up post for the month on the 10th July so please drop by to either myself or Tamara before then and let us know if you have posted about your Paris In July participation so that we can include you in the draw for the prize for that week.
In preparation for the month I have been reflecting on my very first trip to Paris last September and looking over the photos we took there. As anyone would be I was excited about the visit but unlike many others I did not have a burning desire to visit the city - I had always felt more of a passion and an interest in Italy and its cities. But the drive into Paris from the airport changed my mind in some ways - I'm still desperate to visit Italy but Paris just blew me away. The streets, the architecture and the history in particular captured my interest and my imagination - I didn't want to leave! Since returning from our trip I have sought out literature about Paris - wanting to learn more about the city - in particular it's history and development. I'm going to use this month as a way of exploring that further. Looking forward to sharing with and learning from you all!