Friday, 29 June 2018

Small country, Gael Faye

Gabriel lives with his family in Burundi. His father Michel is French and his mother Yvonne is a Tutsi from Rwanda. The family is well off and lives in a good neighbourhood in the capital, surrounded by other expats.

Gabriel, or Gabe as he is known, enjoys his childhood. He is ten years old and liked to play football with his friends, or visit family friends in Zaire. He has a penpall in France and he writes her that he would like to become a mechanic someday, so he can repair things.

But not everything is a good as it seems at first. The marriage between Michel and Yvonne is getting worse and they seperate, and Gabe and his sister Anna stay with their father.

The difference between their relatively rich situation and the poverty that surrounds them also becomes very clear in some situations. And of course the political situation is not very stable. When a political party wins the elections, but does not have the backing of the militairy, Michel knows something will happen.

And soon after there is a militairy coup and the racial tensions between different groups, like the Hutu's and the Tutsi's grow, just like in the neighbouring country of Rwanda. Old scores are settled with a machete and the government does nothing to prevent it.

Gabriel now sees things no child should see and does things no person should do.

Small country is written by Gael Faye, who is both French and Rwandese. He grew up in Burundi and then in France and after working in the financial sector, changed to making music and now writing. He lives with his wife and children in the capital of Rwanda.

I really enjoyed this book. I read it a couple of weeks ago in Dutch, but there is now also an English translation.

It is well written and I like how Gael Faye wrote Gabe. It is very authentic, as a ten year old boy who is intelligent and sees a lot, but also does not understand everything that happens. Sometimes he crumbles under peer-pressure and makes bad mistakes. But he is very lucky with his neighbour mrs Economopoulos who gives him boosk to read and teaches him how literature can be a solace and a place of refuge.

Despite the horrible events this is not a sombre or depressing book, nor is it gruwesome for the sake of being gruwesome.
The humour makes it light and very readable, as does the heartwarming main character.

A great book.

Original French title: Petit pays (2016)

Friday, 22 June 2018

Jan Altink, an artist I love

In 1918 a group of artists in the nothern city of Groningen came together. They wanted to paint in a modern way and not follow in the footsteps of the 19th century painters. This group called themself De Ploeg, meaning The Plough. They wanted to plough the country to make it fertile for a new beginning. Their inspiration came from Vincent van Gogh, but also from German expressionists like Ludwig Kirchner.

Since it has been a hundred years ago De ploeg started, there is a huge exhibition in Groningen. I visited this a couple of weeks ago and I really loved it. It was very divers and huge, over 250 works could be seen.

I really like De Ploeg and how they painted portraits, the landscape of Groningen (I was born there), and citylife.

My favorite painter is Jan Altink (1885-1971). He was one of the founding members of the group.

In the exhibition, I always liked his paintings the most.
Here are a few examples to show you his work.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Daphne du Maurier by Margaret Forster

Daphne du Maurier is one of my favorite authors. I first Rebecca and for a long time this was all I read, but in the past years I read more of her books and I enjoy them very much.

I wanted to know more about her and although I read the book Manderly forever by Tatiana de Rosnay, but this is of course a fictionalized biography.

So I wanted a real biography! Margaret Forster had access to the letters Daphne du Maurier wrote and interviewd people who knew her and her children.

The result is an excellent biography, well written and interesting and it really gives an insight into Daphne du Maurier.

Daphne was not always an easy person to live with. On one hand she could be charming and funny, but she had a deep need to be alone and to write.

She married Frederick Browning and together they had three children. But for Daphne, motherhood was never as important as her writing, and although she loved her children, taking care of them and making sandwiches or other mundane tasks were not for her. Fortunately she was in the position to hire nannies.

Daphne hired Menabilly, the house in Cornwall she desperately loved. She was never able to buy it and when the owner died, his heir wanted to live there himself. Although she put up a fight, she lost and in the end Daphne had to move to another house.

After the war her marriage to Frederick was in trouble, but divorce was never an option. He lived in London and worked at the royal palace, and Daphne was in Cornwall, and was writing her books. Her marriage was also not helped by the fact that they were both very private persons who did not know how to talk about their feelings and Daphne was terribly conflicted about her feelings. A couple of times in her life she fell in love with a woman, but she refused to consider herself a lesbian (being bisexual did not exsist in those days I imagine) and thought she was completely unique in her feelings.

She was always afraid that one day her books would not sell anymore, or worse, that she could not write anymore.

Margaret Forster has written a very good biography which has both the details to make it a rich story and the perspective it needs. It has dept and loads of interesting facts, but it is still very compact and readable, you do not drown in details. It gives pychological insight in her personality, but also in her books.

If you want to know more about the woman who wrote Rebecca, My cousin Rachel and haunting stories like The birds and Don't look now, read this biography. It is the only one you need.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Beach cat

A cat on the beach, what does he want?
Why does he risk getting sand between his toes? 

He is looking at some birds, sitting near the seaside. 

The birds do not know the cat is there, but the moment he starts running towards them, they all fly up

The cat walks back, trying to look like this is what he has been planning all along. 

The other cats are not fooled, and learn their lesson. Stay off the beach. 

Friday, 8 June 2018

Jane Seymour, Alison Weir

When king Henry VIII of England divorced his first wife and beheaded his second, he needed a new wife. He still needed a son to succeed him.

His third wife was Jane Seymour, and she gave him the son he so despirately wanted, the later king Edward VI. Unfortunately, Henry and Jane did not create a huge dynasty, since she died a couple of days after the birth.

We do not know much about Jane Seymour, ans somehow she always seems a bit forgotten when we talk about the wives of Henry VIII, there are others with so much more drama.

We do know Jane was not a religious reformer like her brothers were. For example she asked Henry to leave the monasteries alone. She had an ambitious family and had a lot of respect and love for Queen Katherine. Also she tried very hard to reconcile princess Mary with her father.

Alison Weir used these facts to built a story about a young woman who becomes queen because she loves the man who is king. In her story, the third of the books about the Tudor Queens, Jane is no longer a mousy girl in the background of history, but Alison Weir brings her to life.

Jane grew up in Wiltshire, and became maid of honour to queen Katherine. Even after Henry divorced Katherine, she stayed in her service, until her family told her to come to court and serve the new queen. After all, there was no gain in serving a queen who was pushed aside.
Reluctantly Jane served queen Anne.

Jane's kindness and quietness were like a balm for king Henry after all the drama Anne put him through, but initially Jane refused the king. Especially when queen Katherine was still alive. Only when she died and the proof of Anne Boleyn's infidelities became clear, Jane felt free to say yes to Henry.

After she became queen, she tried to model herself on queen Katherine, but it was hard for a modest woman who never thought she would become queen.

Alison Weir is a great historian who knows her subject very well. And again she has managed to write a very interesting story about the wives of king Henry. As usual she tells what facts she used and how she took some liberties with some things that are not clear. Very interesting is that she asked people from the medical profession what Jane's cause of death could be and it sounds very plausible.

I love this new book in the series about the Tudor queens, and I am already looking forward to the fourth book!

Published in 2018

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Inspirational art, The port of Saint Tropez

Charles Camoin, The port of Saint Tropez (1925)
I do not know how things are in the rest of the world, but the weather over here has been very warm: tropical temperatures even! (above 30 degrees centigrade). So when I saw this painting, I thought it fit perfectly. It is the port of Saint Tropez in the south of France and you can see the difference between the cool room (with gorgeous red shutters) and the sunfilled port outside. I love this.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Roses at the Santa Chiara

 I saw these beautiful roses in the garden at the Santa Chiara convent in Napels.

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