Thursday, 29 September 2016

Reading update, September 2016

I am really lucky with the books I pick out at the moment. I have read some great books and am reading some even better ones.

What did I read? 
I read The sealed letter by Emma Donoghue. It was good, but not spectacular, I think.
I loved My cousing Rachel by Daphne du Maurier, and I really enjoyed reading it together with Lark. We both posted reviews. Mine can be found here.

I re-read Virginia Woolfs' Writers diary, and I thought it was really good again. I was amazed for the second time by how hard she worked and how much she thought about her writing and tried to be better at it.

I also read a good novel by Italian writer Cesare Pavese, a Dutch historical novel about captain Cook (or rather: his wife) and two beautiful French novels. Constellation by Adrien Bosc and An unfinished business by Algerian writer Boualem Sansal. These last two are also available in English translations and I will post reviews soon.

The same goes for the amazing book Van Gogh's ear by Bernadette Murphy, a book about one of my favorite painters Vincent van Gogh. I cannot wait to tell you what I thought about this, but I can already tell you I am very enthusiastic!!

Finally I read The old man and the sea by Ernest Hemingway. I loved it very much. It is perhaps a simple tale, but very powerful.

What am I reading now?
At this moment I am reading a Dutch biography about Charles de Gaulle, the French geneneral who led the Free French during WWII and who became president when the war was over. Really interesting. They do not make statemen like general de Gaulle anymore, sadly.

I also read The heart is a lonely hunter by Carson McMullers, in Dutch translation. I have not read much, just the first pages, but I have high expectations!

In the bus I am thorougly enjoying Street of thieves by French writer Mathias Enard. It is set in Marocco and I love this book so far.
The Dutch title of the biography of Charles de Gaulle is 'The man who said no'. 

What do I plan to read?
I have two very beautiful non-fiction books ready for me. One is Mad enchantment by Ross King, about the Waterlilies by Claude Monet. I was stunned by those paintings when I saw then in Paris last May, so I really want to read and learn more about them.

The edition is absolutely breathtaking, so very very beautiful. Some books you just want to have on your shelves and this is definately one of them.

The second book I cannot wait to begin in is Hold still. A memoir with photographs from photographer Sally Mann.
I will certainly post reviews of these books when I have finished them!

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Rooms with a view

When I looked through my photographs of Venice, I noticed I took a few from windows, and I must say I really like the effect!

So here are just a few views from Venice. The first and the last are taken at the Accademia, the others at the Ducal palace.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

My cousin Rachel, Daphne du Maurier

Philip Ashley grew up with his uncle, Ambrose on a large estate in Cornwall. There were no women in their lives, Ambrose did not need a wife, Philip did not need a mother. All he needed was Ambrose, who was father, brother and best friend to him.

When Ambrose got older, he went abroad for his health and this is where he met their cousin, Rachel. Philip was not too pleased when he received a letter that Ambrose married Rachel, that is the last thing he expected.

But then the letters from Ambrose grew darker and it seemed he was suspecting Rachel of something, and he begged Philip to come to Italy. Only when Philip arrived in Florence, he learned Ambrose just died a couple of weeks before and Rachel took refuge somewhere else.

Philip returned home, feeling hatred towards the woman who stole his uncle from him. And when she came to England, he was more than prepared to make her feel as badly as he did, only when he met her, he discovered she was nothing like he imagined. Rachel seemed kind and wise and humorous and within a short amount of time Philip was prepared to give her everything she might want and even more. 

The only question is, is Rachel a temptress who ruined Ambrose and is not determined to ruin Philip as well? Or is she as innocent as she claims to be?

The genius of Daphne du Maurier is that she leaves this question hanging over the entire book. It never gets answered. 

For every clue that Rachel might be a scheming woman who is out to ensnare poor Philip and to get her hands on the money, there are as many counter clues telling us Rachel is an innocent woman and Philip is a controlling and possessive man who gets more and more paranoid.

I really, really loved My cousin Rachel, much more than I ever thought I would. I loved how it made me keep guessing, and how my ideas shifted after almost every chapter.

Well, here are a few of the questions and ideas that came into my head while I was reading.

First of all, when Philip meets Rachel, he compares her with the beggar-woman he saw in Florence. And in a sense Rachel is in the same situation, since Ambrose did not provide for her in his will. He left her with absolutely nothing.

Secondly, we are meant to dislike Rinaldi because we only see him through Philip and Ambrose’s eyes, but it seems he is the only person who has Rachel’s interest at heart when he inquired about the will.

Thirdly, there is a lot of talk about Ambrose dying because of a braintumor, and there are also other family members who died because something was wrong in their head. Philip is not exactly a stable man, and he turns out to be more and more controlling and paranoid when time continues. His whole upbringing has not been normal and his actions and reactions are not within reason.

Fourthly, When Philip provides for Rachel, he expects her to stay with him in Cornwall, but why should she stay there when she has a life and friends and a house in Florence?

And finally, Rachel’s actions speak louder than words. She returned the jewels and when Ambrose and Philip were ill, she took care of them and nursed them back to health, while she could have left that to other people.

So on the whole, I am on Rachel’s side, but then again, I could be wrong. 
Lark also read this book, so you can read her review over HERE

Published in 1951

Saturday, 17 September 2016

The last year of Vincent van Gogh

Last week I made a quick visit to the Vincent van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. There was a small exhibition there about the last 18 months of Vincent's life.

In 1888 he went to the Provence, to Arles in the hope other painters would join him there. Only Paul Gaugain came and this was not such a good companion for Vincent. They had different ideas about art and they had a lot of rows. After one of those rows, Vincent sliced of his ear.
He was committed to a hospital, but no official diagnoses was given.

After two weeks he seemed fit enough to go home again.
Stilllife with onions. He painted this when he first got home. Januari 1889
But this was just the beginning for poor Vincent, and he headed into a downward spiral of working too hard, feeling ill and not being able to work.

In april 1899 Vincent was committed into the asylum of Saint-Remy. He stayed here almost a year, but became more and more convinced he would never be well again.
The garden of the asylum in Saint Remy. December 1889
After a year he left the asylum and moved to Auvers, near Paris. Here he shot himself almost two months later and died in July 1890. His brother Theo was with him.

I am usually on the verge of tears in this museum, and this time was no exception. I just think the story of Vincent van Gogh is so sad and I wish he could have known how much people would become to love his paintings and that he would be considered one of the best painters ever. To know he died thinking he was a failure is heartbreaking.

I loved the little exhibition, with paintings, photographs and letters and together it gave a good idea of the last year of Vincent van Gogh.
Treeroots. Last and unfinished painting by Vincent van Gogh. July 1890
It was not permitted to make photographs, so these are photographs of the postcards I bought.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

A colorful island: Burano

About 30 minutes north-east of the isle of Murano is the isle of Burano. You can immediately spot this island by the church tower which is not exactly straight, and the colorful houses.

Most of the men were fishermen and their boats had the same color as their house. So if something happened at sea, they immediately knew to which house they needed to go to deliver the bad news.

While the men were at sea, the women made lace. The lace was admired throughout Europe. During the 18th century the art was almost lost, but nowadays you can buy anything lacey you would ever want here. Not all lace is from Burano itself, but the real Burano-lace can be recognized because it is a little bit more expensive.

How do you get there?
Vaparetto nr 12 goes from Venice to Burano and stops on the way on Murano. Expect a really crowded Vaparetto, espcially later in the day, but Burano is well worth a visit. Do not forget your camera or telephone, because you do not often get somewhere more beautiful and special, especially if you wander off the smaller streets.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Who is behind the plants? UJB September 2016

The theme for this months Urban Jungle Bloggers was: Who is behind the plants? A chance to get the know not just the plants, but also the person behind them. Well, as you can see, I took it a bit literal :-)

Urban Jungle Bloggers (here) is an initiative from Judith (here) and Igor (here), who show their love for plants in every way they can!

Friday, 9 September 2016

Royal fruit

In one of the gardens of palace 't Loo there was a secluded part of the garden, were they grew fruit. This was a perfect spot, with lots of sun. There were apples, pears, oranges, peaches and figs in different varieties.

I loved the combination of fruitbranches, brick and wooden trellis and thought it made for great photographs!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Reading update

At the beginning of the vacation I published the Not my Summer reading list,  a list of books with plenty of choices, that I might read, or not read during the Summer vacation. Being a teacher, I have six weeks, so there is plenty of time to read, but I do not like the idea of a fixed list, hence the choices.

So how did I do, and what did I read?
In total I read 27 books this vacation, which is not bad at all. But did I read the books from my reading list? Well, yes and no. There were 19 books on that list, and I read 10 of them.  

I read: Katherine of Aragon by Alison Weir, The Romanovs by Simon Montefiore, What are you looking at by Will Gompertz, The plague by Albert Camus, Venice by Jan Morris, The Dutch travelguide about Venice, Everybody behaves badly, Lesley MM Blume, The novel by Cesare Pavese, The stories by Anton Chekhov, Gertrude Bell, desert queen by Janet Wallach

So as you can see I read a book from almost all categories on my list, except for the Southern Literature, I did not read one of the books by Flannery O’Connor or William Faulkner. Somehow I was not in the mood for either, but I think I will read one of these books somewhere during the autumn-months.

Other great books
I read many more great books during the vacation and last week, but these three deserve a special mention.

11-22-63 by Stephen King is a huge book, it has 870 pages. And I read those in 1 ½ days. If you talk about books you cannot put down and are real page-turners, this is one of them. 
It is the story of a teacher who travels back in time to the year 1958 and tries to stop the murder of President Kennedy. I will not post a review, but I can tell you it is one of King’s best books in my opinion!

Augustus by John Williams is a beautiful novel about emperor Augustus. John Williams only wrote three books, and all of them are absolutely beautiful. I will post a review of this book later.

The last book I really want to recommend is the newest novel by French author Delphine de Vigan. The French title is D’après une histoire vraie and I do not think it has been translated into English yet. The moment there is an English translation, I will review it, because it is a beautiful book. Delphine de Vigan is an amazing writer and I just could not put this book down this weekend.

What am I reading now?
Yesterday I started in My cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier. I am reading this book with Lark and we will post a review of it on the 21th of September! I am looking forward to reading this book together, especially since we both love Rebecca very much. 

And I also started in The sealed letter by Emma Donoghue. Previously I read Slammerkin by her and I liked that book. 
This is also a historical novel and I hope I will enjoy it. I bought this book for just 3 euro’s in the Supermarket, how about that!

Saturday, 3 September 2016

The island of glass: Murano

Murano is an island in the lagoon north of Venice. This is where the glass-blowers of Venice lived. The Venetian glass-blowers were renowned in the whole of Europe for the beautiful glass they made and nowhere they could make it better.

Venice tried to keep the secrets of the trade and prevented the glassblowers from leaving the island. Any glassblower who left the island, faced the death-penalty.

When king Louis XIV of France wanted a Hall of Mirrors at his palace of Versailles, he had Murano glassblowers kidnapped, because they were the only artisans in Europe who could make mirrors of that seize.

Nowadays it is a very nice island and a lovely place to visit and of course: to buy glass.
The main street (a little Canal Grande) is where the expensive shops are, a glass bowl starts from 300 euro's or something like that.

Now, I must warn you that real Murano glass is more expensive than glass 'made in China', and as a responsible tourist you do want to buy real Murano glass and support the local economy.

It is however possible to buy Murano glass that is still affordable, but you have to leave the main street and look a little bit further in the smaller backstreets.
The main street
Even better: visit a glassblower, because here the glassware is made directly on the side and this cuts the costs considerably. And watching a glassblower at work is absolutely fascinating!

Apart from visiting glassblowers and buying glass, it is a lovely island to stroll around and look at things. There is a beautiful church and even a glassmuseum where you can learn about the history of glass and see over 4000 pieces of glass.

Murano's lighthouse
How do you get there?
The easiest way is to buy a daycard for the public transport, it will allow you to travel on each Vaparetto line during the whole day. One day will cost 20 euro's, a card for two days is 30 euro's. (Summer 2016).
The nothern lagoon seen from Murano
You take Vaparetto nr 3 from the Piazzale Roma and the trip only takes 20 minutes.
Advice: try to be early in the morning, so you can avoid the hords of other tourists who will probably come later during the day.
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