Friday, 30 May 2014

An award and my answers

Riv over at Bookish realm nominated me a couple of weeks ago for the Liebster award. Due to all the things going on at work (final exams etc) I was not able to answer her questions sooner, but finally I have found the time.

First of all, thank you very much, it is so kind of you to mention my blog. Here are my answers. 

11 random things about me.
1. I hate the colour yellow. I own nothing that is yellow, and I have absolutely no yellow clothes. 
2.  Last week my mother taught me how to crochet. I never thought I would like it, but I really enjoy it and I intend to make a totebag with all the little squares I crochet.
3. I have no sense of smell and I never had it. I was often ill when I was a child, so I think I lost it then. I do not really miss it, but it can cause a few problems sometimes.
4. I make an amazing vegetarian lasagna, if I say so myself. I have a great recipe with goat's cheese, aubergine and courgette.
5. When I was a child I was terribly shy. I still can be, but experience and being older taught me how to handle it.
6. I love driving in my car. I have a Citroen and since I was a child I liked those cars. I vowed never to own a car that is not a Citroen.
7. I have started an Italian course a few weeks ago. I always wanted to learn Italian because I think it is the most beautiful language in the world, but I never managed. With this new course I have high hopes!
8. I do no like team sports and never played them.
9. I like country music, Kenny Rogers, Jesse Coulton, Dolly Parton etc.
10. My favorite flowers are violets.
11. I am terribly afraid of spiders.  

Riv's questions, my answers are in blue
1. Do you read magazines? Which are the ones you are subscribed to, or buy (fairly) regularly?I have a subscription to two magazines, one is about Italy and one is about yoga. I really love it when they come in the post and usually when they arrive I spend the first hour just glancing and reading through the magazines. 
Often I buy the Grazia, I do not know if this is a magazine that is also available in other countries, but it is about fashion and celebrities etc. Every now and then I like reading about the marriage of Brangelina or the latest Hollywood diet.

2. Those of you that eat ice cream - what is your favourite flavour? Those who don't (if there are any) - why don't you eat ice cream? I only eat Italian icecream and I love stragiatella icecream and pistachio icecream.
3. Do you have any pet peeves? Name some. I hate standing in line and usually get cranky the moment I have to get in line. I utterly dislike self-made postcards (sorry!).
4. From pet peeves to pets - do you have any pets? Please introduce them, and feel free to add your favourite photo of them. (Or talk about pets you have had in the past. Or pets you'd like to have in future.) I have two cats at the moment. When I was young we had cats but when they died my parents refused to get another cat. The moment I was living on my own, I had a cat. My first cat was called Floortje and she was really sweet. A handful, but sweet. When she died I got two cats from the shelter and they have been with me ever since. They are called Corrado and Silvia. Corrado is a scared cat but can be brave when he wants to cuddle and Silvia is a very laconic cat, although she wants to cuddle more and more. They have been abused in their past, but I hope they have a good life with me now. 

5. Choose your preferred one among the following: a handbag, a tote bag, a sleeping bag, a tea bag, a punching bag. Why did you choose the one you chose? A totebag, I think. I really like them and I never have enough. Then again, a teabag is also something that I like, I love my cup of tea every day (several).
6. Do you keep (or have ever kept) a journal or a diary? I had a journal when I was a child (one with a lock, you remember them) and since a couple of years I have been keeping a journal again. I write almost every day, what I did, books I read, things that happened etc. I really enjoy it. The best part is having these amazing little notebooks to use as journals. I like notebooks.

7. Do you read any other type of blogs aside from book blogs? Feel free to link your favourites, if you feel like it. :) I read mostly book-blogs, but also some vintage blogs and some lifestyle blogs. You can find the blogs I read in my bloglist on the right.
8. Do you have a favourite nail polish brand? (I hope none of you is a man hiding behind a female profile :) ) I hardly ever use nailpolish since I never manage to apply it well, but when I use it I use colourless polish (how do you say that in English?)
9. When was the last time you were on a plane? Summer of 2013 when I was going to Rome on holiday.

10. If there was a hashtag to describe your life, what would it be? #ClearlyRunningOutofQuestionsFast #MakeYourOwnLifeAsGoodAsPossible would be it, I think.
11. Jan Special: If you could time travel, where would you go and why? Nice question. I would go to two places. I would go to Russia somewhere before the Russian Revolution and try to advice tsar Nicolas II about the situation so there would be no Revolution.
And I would go to Rome when Julius Caesar was almost murdered to warn him.

My questions:
1. What is your favorite movie or series made from a book?
2. When was the last time you went on holiday and where did you go?
3. What was your favorite subject in school?
4. If you had 100.000 euro's (or dollars, or pounds), what would you do with it?
5. If you could host a dinerparty with historical and/or authors and/or literary characters, which four people would you invite?
6. Have you ever wanted to be a writer yourself, if not why not and if so, what kind of books would you like to write?
7. Do you like to cook or not?
8. Who is your favorite actor/actress and which movie/series/play did you like him or her best?
9. Are you a morning or an evening person?
10. What is your profession and do you like it and why? If not, what would you like to do for a living?
11. Ebook or paper book?

Who do I nominate?
Well, I am afraid I do not follow the rules here, I am suppose to nominate 11 blogs, but right now I only can think of two blogs I would like to nominate, since others already got nominated on other occassions on other blogs. Of course, if there are other people who like these questions and want to answer them, go ahead!

Jade of Bits and Bobs Bits and bobs
Lark of Lark writes about books and life

If you do not want to answer the questions because of time or just because you do not like to, that is fine, there is no pressure!
But if you do, these are the rules:

1. Thank the blogger that nominated you and link back to their blog.

2. Display the award somewhere on your blog.
3. List 11 facts about yourself.
4. Answer 11 questions chosen by the blogger who nominated you.
5. Come up with 11 new questions to ask your nominees.
6. Nominate 5-11 blogs that you think deserve the award. (or less, as you can see, I only nominated 2 blogs)
7. Go to their blog and inform them that they've been nominated.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Four sisters, Helen Rappaport

When Nicolas II became tsar of Russia in 1894, he and his wife Alexandra had one goal: to preserve the throne and the dynasty.

In 1895 their first child was born, a girl, Olga. Nicolas and Alexandra were happy with their healthy baby, but after four daughters they were not so happy anymore. After all, they needed a son to inherit the throne, since women could not reign according to the Russian laws.

Although they loved their daughters, they also became a bit desperate, when would they have a son? In 1904 their wish was finally granted, Alexei was born. Threehundred gunshots announced his birth to his people. Everybody rejoiced. Only soon the happiness of the family turned to grief, it became clear the tsarevich was ill. He inherited hemophilia, the incurable disease that prevented his blood to clot. In the fourteen years to come all attention would be on Alexei and on his health.

In 1914 World War One broke out and this did not go very well for Russia. In 1917 the tsar abdicated. In July 1918 the whole family would be shot in the cellar of the house in Jekatarinaburg. Olga was twenty-two at the time, Alexei thirteen.

Many books have been written about the Romanov family, but Four sisters tries to focus on Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia. This is refreshing, since they take second place in most books, as they did in their lives.

From the moment Alexei was born, the girls became less important. All the attention of the family was focused on him, as the heir to the throne and because of his health. The girls were seen as a group of four, often dressed the same way. The different personalities of the girls were often overlooked.

Alexandra never liked the Russian court and wanted nothing more than to spend time with her Household and her family, like a German Hausfrau. She did not introduce the girls to the court or prepare them for meeting the higher circles. The girls were almost never allowed to go to balls or parties.
Most people who met them noticed how sweet they were, but also realized they had almost no clue how to behave in court circles.  

There were not many possibilities for the girls to have their own life. An independent position at court was of course out of the question, although Nicolas once considered naming Olga his heir when Alexei was particularly ill.

During WWI Olga and Tatiana followed their mother and became fully trained nurses in the army hospital. Despite the horrible things they saw there, this was also a time for them where they experienced freedom and a sense of the world, outside the narrow-minded environment their mother guarded.

Tsar Nicolas II and Alexandra, with their children.
Getting married would be the best possibility to live their own lives, but who could they marry? The only young men they met and felt comfortable with were the young officers of the Imperial yacht the Standard, but they would never be considered suitable as husbands for the daughters of the tsar. Marrying a foreign prince, like prince Carol of Rumania or prince Louis Mountbatten would be an option, only then they would have to leave Russia, a horrible thought.
The marriage talk never became serious and the war put an end to all of it. 

Helen Rappaport wrote an excellent book about the murder of the Romanovs. In Four sisters she focuses on the four girls. Letters and diaries have been used to find their voices, but because they led such sheltered lives, it is difficult to hear. They still remain at a distance, still remain a group of four.

Although the book did not have a lot of new information for me, I do think it is a very good addition to any Romanov-library.

Original title: Four sisters. The lost lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses.
Published in 2014
Pages: 386

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Quote Paulo Borsellino

He who is afraid, dies every day.
Paolo Borsellino (Italian magistrate, 1940-1992)

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Il canto di malavita

In 2000 a controversial cd came out. When you hear the music for the first time, it seems to be nothing more than great Italian folkmusic, but when you listen to the lines (difficult, since it is in dialect, but there are translations on the internet) you hear the songs are about honour, murder, keeping quiet and how difficult life in prison is.

On this cd La musica della maffia, Il canto di malavita (songs of the bad life) are the songs sung by the Calabrese mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta. This music is played when they have a wedding, or a baptism of when they have a party when somebody is released from prison.

Some people say this cd is a unique piece of music history, but in Italy it is forbidden since the music glorifies the mafia and their criminal activities.

Friday, 23 May 2014

People who fought against the mafia

Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino
Fighting the mafia has never been easy. People who tried to investigate or spoke out against them often ended up murdered
Also there was not much known about the mafia, not about the organization nor the way they conducted their business.

Giovanni Falcone was born in Palermo in 1939. He studied law and became a prosecuting magistrate in Palermo in 1980. At that moment a large case against the Inzerillo family was investigated. The prosecuting judge Gaetano Costa signed 55 arrestwarrants against members of the family. He was the only one who signed, since all his colleagues refused.

Giovanni Falcone realized that they did not know enough about the mafia and how it worked and thought the best way to investigate them was to follow the moneytransactions. Without computers he analyzed all the data he got from the banks in Palermo.

Giovanni Falcone
An old friend of Giovanni Falcone, Paolo Borsellino, had also been working as a magistrate in Palermo since 1975. He was born in 1940 and he had worked all over Sicily. He had been a close friend of Emanuele Basile, a police inspector who was killed by the mafia in 1980. Paolo Borsellino had been one of the first persons who had round the clock police protection.

Both men realized how often their investigations ended up with nothing and how often they were obstructed.
The next problem the magistrates noticed was that all the mafia cases were investigated separately. They came up with the idea of an anti-mafia-pool; a couple of magistrates who specialized in mafia cases, combining all their knowledge. The other positive effect was that there was never only one person responsible for warrants or arrests. The idea of the pool was constantly obstructed, until Pio Le Torre and Carlo Dalla Chiesa were murdered and public outrage was so high the law was finally changed.

Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were in the anti-mafia pool and they began to prepare the so called ‘maxi-trial’; a trial against hundreds of Mafiosi  that lasted almost a year from 1986 to 1987. Many of the Mafiosi were sentenced to years in prison, many even for life. Some were sentenced in absentia, like Totò Riina or Bernardo Provenzano.

Paolo Borsellino
Despite the successes, there were of course still people who tried to obstruct them. It would have been the logical choice to give Giovanni Falcone the position of chief prosecutor in Palermo, but he was denied.

The threats, the constant police protection and the obstruction he encountered finally made Giovanni Falcone take a job in Rome. He wanted to try to change the laws and fight against the mafia from over there. Some people saw this as a capitulation and accused him of being a coward.

Of course Giovanni Falocne still visited Palermo regularly. Mafia leader Totò Riina wanted to have his revenge for the damage that was done to the mafia in the maxi trial and he ordered the murder of Falcone.
On May 23 in 1992 Giovanni Falcone and his wife drove over the motorway from the airport to Palermo. A bomb under the motorway blew up the car and the policecar that followed them.

Front page of La Repubblica after the murder of Falcone
There had never been such an outcry of public rage and mourning. Thousands attended the funeral and parliament declared a day of public mourning.

Paolo Borsellino wanted to investigate the murder of his friend, but he was not allowed to do so.
He did do some investigations and found out people within the magistrates department were linked to the mafia and they were obstructing the investigation.
On July 19, 1992 Paolo Borsellino was murdered by a car bomb, fifty-seven days after Falcone. The five police officers who were there to protect him were also killed.

Front page of Corriere della sera after the murder of Borsellino
Very sad is the story of Rita Atria, a girl from a mafia family who had worked with Borsellino as an informer. Because there was no-one left she could trust, she killed herself, she was only 22 years old.

Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino are now seen as the front figures of the anti-mafia movement. It was their courage strength that inspired people to stand up against fear and intimidation.
Schools and public buildings are named after them, and there is a large monument near the airport of Palermo that is now called Falcone-Borsellino airport.

Their real legacy is their courage and the example they gave in their battle against the mafia. They are true role models, they and the other brave men who gave their lives in this battle.

Very incomplete list of people murdered by the mafia.
1979: Mario Francese, journalist
1979: Boris Guilliano, policeinspector
1979: Cesare Terranova, magistrate
1980: Piersanti Matterella: Christian Democratic politician who had started an investigation into corruption.
1980: Emanuele Basile, police inspector after Guilliano
1980 Gaetano Costa, magistrate
1982: Pio la Torre, leader communist party, made laws against the mafia
1982: Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, general of the Carabinieri
1983: Rocco Chinnici, magistrate after Terranova
1985 Antonio Cassera, police inspector
1992: Giovanni Falcone, magistrate
1992: Paolo Borsellino, magistrate
And all the brave bodyguards and policemen who died during their duty: trying to protect people against the mafia.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Gomorrah, Roberto Saviano

This is one of the most famous books about the mafia, written by somebody who managed to come very close.

Journalist Roberto Saviano was born and raised in Napels. This is where the Camorra has the power. Of course they deal with drugs and other criminal things, but they also have their influence on the trade, construction, politics and every aspect of public life.

Roberto Saviano went undercover to write about all this. He writes about the deals that are made, the arrangements, the murders and the extortions. He met the people active in the camorra, the people at the top and the soldiers at the bottom of the pyramid. He names them all and the camorra was not pleased when this book came out. Roberto Saviano has lived under police protection ever since.

Original Italian title: Gomorra, Viaggio nell’impero economico e nel sogno di dominio della camorra.

Published in 2006

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Corleone, Il capo dei capi (2007)

Another great Italian mafia series, although this one is a bit more recent.

In six episodes of 90 minutes each the story is told of the Corleone clan and their rise to the top of the Sicilian mafia . It focuses expecially on Totò Riina and how he managed to become Capo dei Capi, boss of the bosses.

The story begins in 1943. Totò Riina and this friends are very poor and they live in Corleone. The boss of the village is doctor Michele Navarra, who belongs to the mafia. It is his godson Luciano Liggio who sees how the boys can be useful and he often hires them to do certain jobs for him. Finally Liggio murders Navarra and from that moment Liggion runs the show. They want to expand to Palermo and they need to find a way into the organization. The mafia families of Palermo do not take the peasants from Corleone serious in the beginning.

Liggio becomes older and is more preoccupied with the good life and from that moment it is Totò Riina who calls the shots. He stops at nothing to play the families against each other to his own advantage and even orders the murders of anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

Claudio Gioe as Totò Riina
Biagio Schiro is another boy from Corleone, only he took another path. He joined the police and in the fifty years that follow he constantly tries to capture the Mafiosi.

Almost everything is based on true events. Only the character of Biagio Schiro is invented, he was made out of all the brave policemen who fought against the mafia. In this series it makes sure you have a good balance. The lives of Totò Riina and Biagio Schiro are parallel in so many ways, but so different at the same time.

The problem I have with the mafia films and series like the Godfather or the Soprano’s, (good as they might be), is that your sympathy lies with the bad guys. In this series there is no sympathy at all for the bad guys. It mainly shows how ruthless the mafia was and is and how much influence it has.

A scene that makes a lot of impact is when Biagio and his boss are in his kitchen and they drink to all their friends who died. The list of names is long, but we, the viewers know the murders of Falcone and Borsellino are still to come.

Daniele Liotto as Biagio Schiro and behind him his boss,
Boris Guiliano played by Pietro de Silva
Corleone, il capo dei capi is an amazing series. It glues you to your seat with its storylines and acting. Claudio Gioe plays Totò Riina and captures his ability to do the most terrible things, but not like a raging lunatic but almost like a reasonable person. Daniele Liotti plays Biagio Sciro and he is also amazing. He will make you love Biagio.
Other good roles are Pietro de Silva as Boris Guilliano, Andrea Tidona as Giovanni Falcone and Gaetano Aronica as Paolo Borsellino.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

La piovra (1984-1999)

This is a great Italian series about the mafia.

In the first four seasons Michele Placido played commissarion Corrado Cattani. He is send to Palermo to deal with the mafia, but in the end it will cost him his family and even his life.

The mafia is called La piovra in this series, the octopus, because her tentacles stretch everywhere. It is an uneven battle for the police, everytime they think they can talk to somebody who will help the, the mafia beats them and usually murders that person. It also becomes clear how ‘normal’ people like solicitors and bankers and politicians are bound to the mafia.

In series 5 en 6 the leading role is taken over by Vittorio Mezzogiorno who plays Inpector Davide Licata. It must not have been easy to step into the shoes of Michele Placido, but he also did a great job. Other amazing actors were Patricia Millardet who played judge Silvia Conti and of course Remo Girone as banker Tano Carridi. Bruno Cremer played Espinoza and I never could see him in another role again.

I remember when I was young I watched this series with my mother when it was broadcasted on Dutch television. I did not see all of it and I did not understand all of it, I was too young for that, but I do remember the feeling of helplessness everytime the mafia won another fight.

Michele Placido as Corrado Cattani and Patricia Millardet as Silvia Conti
And yes, I named my cats after them!
A couple of years ago I found the entire series on dvd and this was the first series I bought. I knew I had to have it.
And despite the fact the first series is 30 years old, the acting, the excellent storylines and of course the music by Ennio Morricone makes La Piovra amazing to watch, every time again.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Mafia Republic, John Dickie

Since the 19th century there have been three criminal organizations in the south of Italy. On Sicily there was the mafia or the Cosa Nostra, in Naples there was the Camorra and in Calabria there was the ‘Ndrangheta. The word mafia is used here as a name for all three the organizations.

The government could never really do something against these criminal organizations. Mussolini had big plans, but he also failed. His solution was to forbid the newspapers to write about the mafia, so the people had the idea it did not exist anymore.

When Italy became a republic in 1946, the mafia managed to use their invisibility and to tie itself to the politicians and the government.

In the years that followed the mafia became more visible again, and during the fifties people could no longer ignore that the mafia never really went away.

The mafia was involved in smuggling cigarettes (blondes), building fraud during the sixties, kidnappings and eventually the heroin trade in the seventies. Every time there was a new opportunity, the mafia adapted itself.
The Mafiosi also learned from each other, they traded secrets and it was not uncommon for a Mafioso to belong to two or even all three organizations.

The problem for the state and the police was that they did not really know how the different organizations worked. Only when there were some Mafiosi who made a deal with the police and told them how things worked, it became clearer.
Despite the evidence many politicians maintained that there was no such thing as the Mafia and they tried to delay or stop investigations. The ties the mafia had with the politicians came in handy.

Inside the mafia things were not always as they should be. On Sicily there was a war during the sixties, in Naples different Camorras fought with each other and in the seventies Totò Riina killed all his adversaries to become the leader of the Cosa Nostra.

He also tried to murder all his opponents outside the mafia, the brave men who tried to fight against the mafia, like Boris Guilliano, Cesare Terranova, Pio la Torra, Dalla Chiesa, Ninni Casserà, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

In the years after 1992 it became clear many politicians are tired of the mafia and they try to ignore it, while the mafia is reaching out to other countries. The mafia is no longer an Italian problem, it has become a European problem.

John Dickie is a professor at the University College in London and he wrote several books about Italy and the mafia. Mafia Republic is full of facts, but most of all full of anecdotes, people and events. John Dickie clearly know his subject and he knows how to write, because it is interesting from the first page to the last. He covers the history of the Cosa Nostra, the Camorra and the ‘Ndrangheta and with every chapter you wonder how all of this is possible. He gives a lot of attention to the years 1979-1992, and rightly so.

Extremely interesting for everybody who wants to know more about the history of Italy in general, or the history of the mafia specifically.

Full title: Mafia Republic, Italy’s criminal curse; Cosa Nostra, Camorra and ‘Ndrangheta from 1946 to the present.
Published in 2013

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Quote: Giovanni Falcone

He who is silent and bows his head, dies everytime he does so. He who speaks aloud and walks with his head held high, dies only once.
Giovanni Falcone (Italian judge 1939-1992)

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Coming week

Coming week it will be Italian Mafia week here at Impressions notebook. It is a bit like Discoveries 'Sharkweek',  only my week is about the mafia in Italy.

Every day I will post about books, series and even music that have to do with the mafia. And of course I will pay attention to the brave people who fought against the mafia, like Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

Friday, 16 May 2014

The barefoot queen, Ildefonso Falcones

It is 1748. A black woman leaves a ship in Sevilla, Spain. She used to be a slave at a tobacco plantation on Cuba, but her master died at sea and now she is free. There is one problem, she has no idea what she can do with that freedom. Without work, money or any knowledge of the foreign country she now is, her freedom is of little use to her.

Caridad only has two things, a voice to sing with and a knowledge of tobacco. The gypsy Melchor finds her and takes her to his family. In her singing he recognizes her pain and her tobacco knowledge he can use. He is, like so many gypsies, involved in smuggling tobacco.

Melchors family are Vega’s, a group of proud gypsies who do not bow to the laws of the Spanish king or the Church. They are gypsies and they are free. There is also a group of gypsies who do follow the rules of the civilians and there is no love lost between these two groups.

Caridad becomes friends with Melchor’s granddaughter Melagros. Melagros is in love with gypsy Pedro Garcia, who belongs to one of the gypsy families who forget their own way of living.

In 1749 there is a decree from the king that all gypsies must be arrested. Men and women are brought to different prisons. The goal was to break the gypsies and to get rid of them for good.

Melagros’ mother, Ana, keeps her dignity and her pride as a gypsy, despite the fact she will be in prison for five years. They cannot break her and she keeps fighting for what she feels is important.

In the five years that follow, Melagros, Melchor and Caridad are separated from eachother. Melchor and Caridad go to Madrid, but here Melchor has to flee and Caridad ends up in prison. Melagros escapes the mass-arrests, and marries Pedro Garcia. She becomes a dancer and singer in a theater in Madrid, but then she realizes her husband is a vile man.

The barefoot Queen is a rich tale of friendship, revenge, love, music, pride and freedom.
Ildefonso Falcones, who previously wrote Cathedral of the sea, does not spare his characters anything, often you think the situation cannot get worse, but it always can. Especially when the characters are separated from each other their circumstances are horrible and almost without hope. Only when they find each other again, their luck also changes. Ana is released from prison, Caridad finds her freedom and even love and Melchor gets his revenge.

The barefoot Queen is an amazing read, it is over 700 pages, but it does not bore for a moment. And when you read it, you also get to know the gypsy-community, you understand how the smuggling of tobacco worked, you learn about the situation in the theatres of Madrid and you feel the music the gypsies and the slaves make in your bones. Because they sing until they taste blood.

Original Spanish title: La reina descalza
Published in 2013
An English translation will be available in August 14 2014.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

That forties style

In the past weeks I have been enjoying myself with Foyle's war, a great British series set in the forties. I also really enjoy watching the clothes of that era.  It is an easy style to copy.
If you have a skirt, with a blouse and/or a cardigan, or a dress with a cardigan and a pair of shoes without too high-heels, you are almost there. A little dash of red lipstick can finish the look, and you don't even have to do your hair up in victory rolls!

Here are some examples of  forties clothing from Foyle's war, especially from Honeysuckle Weeks who plays Sam Stewart.
 I love this hat. I would totally wear that!

 Cute cardigan.
 Great pair of trousers with a blouse and a cardigan/jacket. Lovely combination
Lovely cardigan again, this time with a pink blouse.

Monday, 12 May 2014

The golden egg, Donna Leon

Commissario Guido Brunetti gets a phonecall from his wife Paola. She tells him the man everybody thought was a bit retarded and who worked at the dry cleaners died suddenly. It looks like a simple overdose (sleepingpills), but was it an accident or something else? Brunetti finds out the name of the man was Davide, but that is all he can find. Nowhere in the entire city is there any record of the man.

Upset by the fact that this man was somebody who did not exist officially and who had been invisible for his entire life, Guido Brunetti wants to solve this case. What role did Davide’s mother play and what was her connection to the rich Lembo family? Why did Davide not speak and how and why did he die? Slowly Brunetti finds out the truth, and this is even more horrible than he could have imagined.

You read the books by Donna Leon for the atmosphere. You read them for the beauty of Venice and the Italian customs. You read them for the light criticism of society nowadays and the descriptions of Italian meals.
Brunetti is a kind and intelligent man. His family is a bit irritating, but in this book it is not as bad as it could be.

The golden egg deals with a theme that is quite disturbing, but does not give you the gruesome details. And that makes the story have even more impact.

Police enquiries in the books by Donna Leon mostly consists of talking to people, Brunetti thinking about the case, Venice and life in general while he walks through Venice or takes the boat. That might not be for everyone, but as far as I am concerned, The golden egg is a very good edition to the series.

Published in 2013

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Quote: Dalai Lama

Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn't anyone who does not appreciate kindness and compassion.
The Dalai Lama

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Simply Italian

It cannot be a secret that I love cookbooks. Books not only with great recipes, but also with a great atmosphere. Last week I found a  new cookbook that ticks all the boxes for me.

Simply Italian, family cooking with the Chiappa sisters is written by Michela, Emanuela and Romina Chiappa. The family originates from a small town in the north of Italy, but the sisters grew up in Wales.

All three of them have busy lives and jobs. One sisters has her own coffee and pizza bar in Cardiff and works for a large company, the other works as a nanny and has her own business and the third works for a fashion company. They are not professional chefs, but they do not pretend to be. They just love cooking. Each sisters has her own specialty, the quick and easy basics, the time-consuming and elaborate recipes and baking. This is the mix you find in this book. How to make your own pasta in such an easy looking way you want to start immediately, amazing sauces, soups, potato, meat and vegetable dishes, difficult looking filled pasta, salads and delicious cakes.

The recipes are explained well and are easy to follow. Often there are tips included to change the recipe or to execute the dish better. The photographs make the book, because they make it clear how enthusiastic the Chiappa sisters are about their food.
I love to have this book in my collection!

Published in 2013

Friday, 9 May 2014

The root of all evil, Roberto Costantini

We met Michele Balistreri in Roberto Costantini’s last book The deliverance of Evil. Here we had a policeman who made a great mistake during a case in 1982 and who tried to solve this years later. In this books there are sometimes references to Michele’s childhood in Tripoli, but nothing much more is told.

In this second book of what is to become a trilogy, we get to know Michele Balistreri better. We meet him in the sixties in Tripoli, when Libya was still an Italian colony. Michele’s father was one of the richest businessmen in Tripoli and this gave Michele quite some influence with his peers. Still, he does not really like his father and the way he thinks money is the most important thing. He feels contempt to the shady deals his father makes and the way he even betrays Italians if he has to. Michele feels better connected to his grandfather and mother, who still believe Mussolini was betrayed by his own people.

In 1969 Michele has to deal with three things. Nadia, the sister of his two friends Achmed and Karim is found murdered, his mother dies and Khadaffi takes over the country, expelling all Italians. Michele has to go to Italy, although he does not want to be there. He vows it will only be for a short time, then he will come back to Africa.

However, in 1982 we still find him in Italy. He is by then a police officer in Rome. The first case that went so spectacularly wrong is from the previous book is just over. Michele is completely fed up, he hates all fathers, all women, all priests, all politicians, all communists, all Italians and especially everybody who is stupid enough to get murdered so he has to spend time solving the case.

Then a girl from Argentina is found murdered and there are similarities with Nadia’s murder, all those years ago. To solve the cases, see the connections and find the root of all evil, Michele must dive into the past again.

Roberto Costantini managed to make Michele Balistreri a very unpleasant person, you still feel for. Despite his indifference and his anger he still had certain character traits that you can admire, such as a strong sense of honesty and justice. Michele Balistreri doesn’t bullshit and he does no deals. And when he is convinced he should do something, he is determined to do it, despite the danger for himself. And you understand where his anger comes from, even though the anger takes a not very pleasant form.

The root of all evil gives an interesting insight in the way of living in Tripoli in the sixties. I especially liked how it makes you understand Michele better. His background and youth is told in detail, but it never gets boring. This is because it not only describes the case, but also the main character. The case itself was also quite good, until the end I did not know what had happened.

In short, a very intelligent and well written thriller again, and I am very happy there will be a third book to look forward to.

Original Italian title: Alle radici del male
Published in 2012
An English translation will be available in August 2014.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Foyle's war (2002-)

Sam, Miller and Foyle
I love historical series and I love English detectives. It makes me very happy when these two are combined. Poirot, Miss Marple, Brother Cadfael, Mrs. Bradley and Father Brown, I love them all.

A great series is also Foyle’s war. Michael Kitchen playes Christopher Foyle, a policedetective in Hastings. The series starts when WWII just broke out and during all the episodes you see the war progress.

Foyle is a widower and his son Andrew joined the RAF.
Foyle has two trusted people who help him, his sergeant Miller, who lost his leg during the landing in Norway and Samantha (Sam) Stewart who drives him. (Foyle does not have a drivers license)

I really like how this series shows the changes during the war. In the first episodes people are afraid the nazi’s might invade and a little bit later the RAF is fighting the Battle of Britain. In 1941 you hear the Germans invaded Russia and so it continues. You also get to know about supplyrations, bombardments, landgirls and the blackout. The producers tried to make this series as authentic as possible. Of course there are little mistakes, Foyle for example has a rank that was not installed until 1949, but these are small things. The fashion and the props, the events and the atmosphere really give you a great idea of life during the war. And the cases are thrilling as well!

Foyle is an honest and decent man, who has to solve crimes under difficult circumstances. Often he hears people use the war as an excuse for what they did, but for him a murder is still a murder, even if there is a war going on.

Great actors play the lead roles, Michael Kitchen as DCSI Foyle, Anthony Holden as DS Miller and Honeysuckle Weeks as Sam Stewart. Other actors who play guestroles are for example: Charles Dance, David Tennant, Peter Capaldi, Stella Gonet, Rosamunde Pike, Cheryl Campell and Sophia Myles.
I treated myself to the dvd box with the first 22 episodes, so I have been really enjoying myself ever since it arrived!

Monday, 5 May 2014

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Quote: Mother Teresa

If you can't feed a hundred people, then just feed the one.
Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

Saturday, 3 May 2014


Last week I also bought a new Bougainville. I always love the vibrant colours, and it reminds me of Italy. It is  bit early in the year, but the winter has been so mild here I am willing to take the risk.
My snapdragons survived the winter and are in bloom again.
The colours match beautifully, as always.
Aren't flowers amazing?

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Journey by moonlight, Antal Szerb

Mihály and Erzsi just got married and they are on honeymoon in Italy. Mihály is expecting quite much of this trip, when he was young he read a lot about Italy. When he is honest, he knows he is not sure if marrying Erzsi was the right thing, despite the fact she left her first husband for him. He feels like she does not really understand him and never really will.

After they meet one of Mihály’s friends from his youth, Mihály is mostly busy with his own memories about the friendship he had with the eccentric siblings Tamás and Éva. They took him out of his bourgeois surroundings and showed him a completely new kind of life. Later, Tamás would commit suicide and this has followed Mihály ever since.

When the honeymoon continues, Mihály steps out of the train that will take them to Rome to buy a cup of coffee at the station. He almost misses the train when it leaves the station again, but he manages to jump into one of the last wagons. Only the train was divided at the station and the first part of the train, with Erzsi in it, will go to Rome, while Mihály has no choice but to travel to Perugia. He comes to terms with the fact that he is now separated from Erzsi after all, their marriage would never work anyway and he decides to hide completely. When he gets a nervous breakdown, he is forced to look for the ghosts from the past, Éva and especially Tamás.

Journey by moonlight is written by Hungarian author Antal Szerb. He wrote several novels and a non-fiction work about literature. He was from a Jewish family, who became Catholic, although that did not help them when WWII broke out. In 1945 Antal Szerb would die in a workcamp.

Journey by moonlight is a beautiful book. It is written very well, with sentences that are so beautiful or witty you have to read them a couple of times.

The marriage between Mihály and Erzsi was doomed from the beginning. This is clear in the first pages when Mihály walks all night through the streets of Venice, instead of staying in the hotel with his new wife. He married her because it seemed like the best solution, but in the end their marriage is just a little stray from their real life-path.
Neurotic Mihály and the people he meets will all have to find their path in life, despite the attraction of death.

Mihály and Erzsi are in Italy and notice that Il Duce and fascism are present everywhere, but they do not know yet where it will lead to. Of course, Antal Szerb did not know this himself at the time. Knowing that this book was published in 1937 and knowing what happened to the Jews in Europe and to Antal Szerb makes reading this book even more special.

Original Hungarian title: Utas és holdvilág
Originally published in 1937
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