Thursday, 19 February 2009
This book is neither about Paris nor set in the fifties, for the most part. I rarely consider giving up on a book, but in the first few chapters, I was sorely tempted. It seemed to be nothing but a recital of all the celebrities and intellectuals that Stanley Karnow had met during his time as a foreign correspondent in Paris.
I'm really glad I didn't put it down though, because it improved immeasurably after those first chapters. Most of the paragraphs have a theme, such as the history of the guillotine, Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam, Algeria, and as a whole gives an interesting and readable view of France and French culture.
Saturday, 14 February 2009
A light and easy read, perfect for a holiday in Spain and Andalucia in particular. Chris Stewart, one-time drummer with Genesis, has a pleasant style and brings alive his search for his dream of a different lifestyle in the heart of the Spanish countryside, well away from the coastal "ex-pat" areas. There is plenty of local colour without its being sentimental.
This is not great literature, nor does it pretend to be. Definitely one to read when concentration might be difficult. When I come to look back on the book, it's quite hard to say a great deal about it. It's not entirely unlike Peter Mayle's "A Year in Provence" but I find the humour less at the expense of the locals than Peter Mayle's.
There are two follow-up books - "Parrot in the Pepper Tree" and "The Almond Blossom appreciation Society". I probably wouldn't want to read them in quick succession, but I will read them over time.