Sunday, April 20, 2014

I've An Uncle Ivan by Ben Sanders

I've An Uncle Ivan by Ben Sanders has been shortlisted for this years Children's Book Council Crichton Award for New Illustrators which is the perfect award for this book to be in, as the illustrations are far better than the text (sorry Ben).

I'm a bit fussy with my rhyming texts and I need something more than the opening page,
"I've an Uncle Ivan
 who's drivin' a pie van."


But the retro cartoon style pictures are fun & groovy.
The mayhem of colour and action increases with each added relative and form of transport.



Friday, April 18, 2014

Banjo & Ruby Red by Libby Gleeson & Freya Blackwood

Some picture books catch you by surprise.
Banjo & Ruby Red is one of those.

When I opened it up, I immediately thought "oh, another story about farm animals chasing each other around the farm."

Which is how the books start - with Banjo, the very busy, dedicated dog chasing all the chooks into their pen. However, Ruby is stubborn and only goes when she wants to go.

One day, when Banjo is rounding up the others he realise that Ruby is missing. When he eventually finds her the story takes a very different turn.

A farmyard clash of personalities becomes a touching story about friendship, caring, tenderness and kindness.

Banjo & Ruby Red has been shortlisted for the 2014 Children's Book Council Early Childhood Award.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I'm A Dirty Dinosaur by Janeen Brian & Ann James

I'm a Dirty Dinosaur is a fun, rhyming romp with a little dinosaur who likes messy play.

Each play session is finished off with a colourful action page that will encourage every reader to follow suit with sniffing, stomping, shaking & sliding!

The illustrations are simple and filled with carefree playfulness.

This is a lovely story to share with your toddler at bath time as the final page sees the very dirty dinosaur splash, splash, splashing & wash, wash, washing in the tub! I can't wait to share this book at storytime.

I'm a Dirty Dinosaur has been shortlisted for this years Children's Book Council Early Childhood Award.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

CBCA shortlists 2014

The Children's Book Council shortlists for 2014 were announced last week.
I haven't read many of the titles so far this year, but will hopefully add a few more links before August.

The shortlisted titles in each of the categories are:


Older Readers:
  • The Incredible Here and Now (Felicity Castagna)
  • Life in Outer Space (Melissa Keil)
  • The First Third (Will Kostakis)
  • Fairytales for Wilde Girls (Allyse Near) 
  • Wildlife (Fiona Wood)
  • The Sky so Heavy (Claire Zorn)

Younger Readers:
  • Violet Mackerel's Possible Friend (Anna Branford, illus by Sarah Davis)
  • Song for a Scarlet Runner (Julie Hunt)
  • A Very Unusual Pursuit (Catherine Jinks)
  • My Life as an Alphabet (Barry Jonsberg)
  • Light Horse Boy (Dianne Wolfer, illus by Brian Simmonds)

Early Childhood:
  • I'm a Dirty Dinosaur (Janeen Brian, illus by Ann James)
  • Baby Bedtime (Mem Fox, illus by Emma Quay)
  • Banjo and Ruby Red (Libby Gleeson, illus by Freya Blackwood)
  • Kissed by the Moon (Alison Lester)
  • The Swap (Jan Ormerod, illus by Andrew Joyner)
  • Granny Grommet and Me (Dianne Wolfer, illus by Karen Blair)

Picture Book of the Year:
  • The Treasure Box (Margaret Wild, illus by Freya Blackwood)
  • King Pig (Nick Bland)
  • Silver Buttons (Bob Graham)
  • Parachute (Danny Parker, illus by Matt Ottley)
  • The Windy Farm (Doug MacLeod, illus by Craig Smith)
  • Rules of Summer (Shaun Tan)

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books:
  • Jeremy (Christopher Faille, illus by Danny Snell)
  • Ice, Wind, Rock (Peter Gouldthorpe)
  • Jandamarra (Mark Greenwood, illus by Terry Denton)
  • Yoko’s Diary: The Life of a Young Girl in Hiroshima (ed by Paul Ham)
  • Meet... Captain Cook (Rae Murdie, illus by Chris Nixon)
  • Welcome to My Country (Laklak Burarrwanga and family)

Crichton Award for New Illustrators:
  • Big Red Kangaroo (Graham Byrne, text by Claire Saxby)
  • The Bloodhound Boys Book 1: The Great Blood Bank Robbery(Andrew Cranna)
  • I’ve An Uncle Ivan (Ben Sanders)
  • The Nerdy Birdy (David Snowdon, text by Danielle Wheeldon).

The winners will be announced on Friday 15 August during Children’s Book Week on 16-22 August. 

The theme for this year’s Book Week is ‘Connect to Reading’.

My Life As An Alphabet has already won the Victorian Premier's Young Adult award this year. It is also shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Award, as is The Incredible Here & Now, A Very Unusual Pursuit, Wildlife & Jandamarra.

Alison Lester (our current Australian Children's Laureate, has already won the Children's Indie Booksellers Award for Kissed By the Moon.

Do you have any favourites this year? 

I have yet to read any of the teen or junior fiction titles (mentally slaps self on wrist!) but of the others my preferences go to Kissed By the Moon, Rules of Summer, Big Red Kangaroo & Jeremy.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Big Red Kangaroo by Claire Saxby & Graham Byrne

I haven't seen all the book shortlisted for the CBCA Crichton New Illustrators Award yet, but this one is firming as my personal favourite.

Big Red Kangaroo is beautifully illustrated by Graham Byrne.

The kangaroos are realistically set into their natural environment. Byrne uses a lovely ochre palette - typical of inland Australia.

His use of charcoal and digital collaging also creates a pleasing, earthy storyboard for Saxby to weave her words through.

Her story is part fiction, part non-fiction.

Big Red Kangaroo would be a fabulous school resource or a lovely present for family & friends overseas.


Zola Reading List

In the Introduction to his last novel, Le Docteur Pascal, Zola gave a recommended reading order. Although it is not required, as each novel stands on its own.
Zola's recommended reading order
  1. La Fortune des Rougon (1871)
  2. Son Excellence Eugène Rougon (1876)
  3. La Curée (1871-2)
  4. L'Argent (1891)
  5. Le Rêve (1888)
  6. La Conquête de Plassans (1874)
  7. Pot-Bouille (1882)
  8. Au Bonheur des Dames (1883)
  9. La Faute de l'Abbé Mouret (1875)
  10. Une Page d'amour (1878)
  11. Le Ventre de Paris (1873)
  12. La Joie de vivre (1884)
  13. L'Assommoir (1877)
  14. L'Œuvre (1886)
  15. La Bête humaine (1890)
  16. Germinal (1885)
  17. Nana (1880)
  18. La Terre (1887)
  19. La Débâcle (1892)
  20. Le Docteur Pascal (1893)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay

This is my kind of fiction.

The Railwayman's Wife is heart-achingly sweet.

Hay has created an emotional world that is absorbing and very tangible. She see-saws between loss & grief and love & hope. Her writing is tender & lyrical and full of the wonder & healing power of nature.

I devoured this book in two days. I could barely put it down.

Anikka Lachlan's world of post WW2 Thirroul became one of my parallel universes of existence. The first night, I hugged Mr Books close as Anikka's grief engulfed me.

Whilst driving to soccer yesterday, I was really walking along Thirroul beach with Ani and Isabel.

At half time, I read another chapter. With the first sentence I was back inside Hay's emotional bubble. The hard, cold stadium seating, the cool, autumnal wind and the smell of teen spirit disappeared completely.

At a dinner party last night, I kept feeling Ani's presence beside me. And I woke this morning aching to be with Ani, with fingers crossed for happy endings.

I love books that take me on an emotional journey. A journey that feels authentic - without histrionics, extravagance or manipulation. A gentle journey of the interior of a gentle, sensitive woman.

The Railwayman's Wife is a beautifully nuanced & bittersweet journey that has left me wanting more story by Hay. For me, it doesn't get any better than this.

Image of Hay at Thirroul courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Railwayman's Wife has been longlisted for this years Miles Franklin and shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Literary Awards.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd Jones

Is it Werewolf in London for young readers or is it Sherlock Holmes for kids?

Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd Jones is a little bit of both.

It's part freak show with a Dickensian twist & part orphan boy overcomes all obstacles in his way.

It's also lots of running around ye olde streets of London trying to solve a murder mystery.

Jones refuses to talk down to his audience. In places, therefore, the story is dark and cruel. But friendship, determination & standing up for yourself and what's right is at the centre of the story.

Put it all together & you have a ripping yarn, full of adventure, curiosities and mayhem for mature 10+ readers.

I know you shouldn't pick books by their covers, but Walker have done a splendid job with both the hardcover book (on the left) and the paperback (on the right).

Friday, April 11, 2014

Longlists and Shortlists.

It's that time of year again when our favourite books are categorised, judged and pitted against each other for first place.

In Australia we have...

The Stella Longlist

• Letter to George Clooney - Debra Adelaide 
• Moving Among Strangers - Gabrielle Carey
• Burial Rites - Hannah Kent *
• Night Games - Anna Krien *
• Mullumbimby - Melissa Lucashenko *
• The Night Guest - Fiona McFarlane *
• Boy, Lost - Kristina Olsson *
The Misogyny Factor - Anne Summers
• Madeleine - Helen Trinca
• The Swan Book - Alexis Wright *
• The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka - Clare Wright *
• All the Birds, Singing - Evie Wyld 
The Stella has now been whittled down to 6 (those highlighted in red with an *) with the winner to be announced on the 29th April.
The Miles Franklin Longlist was announced this week with some familiar names....




The shortlist will be announced on the 15th May and the overall winner on the 26th June.

The NSW Premier's Shortlist was also published. It's a HUGE list and covers lots of different categories like poetry, non-fiction, new writing, scriptwriting, playwriting and multicultural writing. Today I will simply share the fiction and children's shortlists and if you would like to see the rest, please click here.


CHRISTINA STEAD PRIZE FOR FICTION
The Secret Lives of Men, Georgia Blain 
Questions of Travel, Michelle de Kretser 
Game, Trevor Shearston 
The Swan Book, Alexis Wright

PATRICIA WRIGHTSON PRIZE FOR CHILREN'S LITERATURE
A Very Unusual Pursuit, Catherine Jinks 
Refuge, Jackie French 
Stay Well Soon, Penny Tangey 
The Girl Who Brought Mischief, Katrina Nannestad 
The Big Dry, Tony Davis 
Jandamarra, Mark Greenwood and Terry Denton 

ETHEL TURNER PRIZE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE'S LITERATURE
Wildlife, Fiona Wood 
My Life as an Alphabet, Barry Jonsberg 
Sultan's Eyes, Kelly Gardiner 
The Incredible Here and Now, Felicity Castagna
Black Spring, Alison Croggon 
Zac and Mia, AJ Betts 

And in the UK, the formerly known as Orange but now known as Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction have published their long and shortlists with the winner to be announced on 4th June.



*Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Americanah
Margaret Atwood - MaddAddam
Suzanne Berne –  The Dogs of Littlefield
Fatima Bhutto - The Shadow of the Crescent Moon
Claire Cameron –  The Bear
Lea Carpenter - Eleven Days
M.J. Carter - The Strangler Vine
Deborah Kay Davies - Reasons She Goes to the Woods
Elizabeth Gilbert - The Signature of All Things
*Hannah Kent - Burial Rites
Rachel Kushner - The Flamethrowers
*Jhumpa Lahiri - The Lowland
*Audrey Magee - The Undertaking
*Eimear McBride - A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing
Charlotte Mendelson - Almost English
Anna Quindlen - Still Life with Bread Crumbs
Evie Wyld - All The Birds, Singing

I'm beginning to think I'm the only person in Australia who hasn't got around to reading Burial Rites yet. I've flicked through it and it looks promising, but it's hard to get excited about a book that already has so much excitement surrounding it!

Richard Flanagan's Narrow Road to the Long North has already won the Australian Indie Book Award this year.

The Dublin Literary Awards also have a big shortlist this year with the winner announced on the 12th June...
  1. The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker(Dutch) translated by David Colmer. 
  2. Questions of Travel by Michelle De Kretser (Sri Lankan / Australian) 
  3. Absolution by Patrick Flanery (American) (First novel) 
  4. A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard (NorwegianTranslated by Don Bartlett. 
  5. Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye (French) Translated by John Fletcher. 
  6. Traveller of the Century by Andrés Neuman (Argentinian) Translated from the original Spanish by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia. 
  7. The Light of Amsterdam by David Park (Northern Irish) 
  8. The Spinning Heart  by Donal Ryan (Irish) (First novel) 
  9. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (Malaysian) 
  10. The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Colombian) Translated from the original Spanish by Anne McLean.
The Australian/Vogel shortlist also comes out this weekend with the winner to be announced on the 22nd April.

Books highlighted in purple/green are linked back to my reviews on this blog.

Which ones have you already read and loved (or not, as the case may be)?



Thursday, April 10, 2014

This Is The Life by Alex Shearer

Hmmmm. I'm not really sure what I'm going to say about this book.

I like the way Alex writes.

I loved the only other book of his I've read - his children's book - The Cloud Hunters.

So I approached This Is The Life with high hopes.

It's a touching story about two middle-aged brothers - one living in Australia; one in the UK. One has been diagnosed with a brain tumour, so the other comes out to help. They discuss treatments, their childhoods and their differing philosophies on how to live a good life.

There were some lovely moments and insights. And there were lots of truisms on the nature of life, death and sibling relationships. But ultimately, I came away feeling underwhelmed.

Which is a pity.
Because when you get to the end, Alex explains that the book is based loosely on the passing of his own brother. "I returned home after my brother's funeral and felt that somehow it was wrong - it was wrong that he should go, should disappear, should vanish without a trace. And so I began to write."


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spoonerisms

Wikipedia: A spoonerism is an error in speech or deliberate play on words in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched.

It is named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930), Warden of New College, Oxford, who was notoriously prone to this mistake. 

A spoonerism is also known as a marrowsky, after a Polish count who suffered from the same impediment. 

While spoonerisms are commonly heard as slips of the tongue resulting from unintentionally getting one's words in a tangle, they can also be used intentionally as a play on words. Spoonerisms are commonly used intentionally in humour.

Most spoonerisms were probably never uttered by William Spooner himself, but rather made up by colleagues and students as a pastime.
  • "Three cheers for our queer old dean!" (dear old queen, referring to Queen Victoria)
  • "Is it kisstomary to cuss the bride?" (customary to kiss)
  • "The Lord is a shoving leopard." (a loving shepherd)
  • "A blushing crow." (crushing blow)
  • "A well-boiled icicle" (well-oiled bicycle)
  • "You were fighting a liar in the quadrangle." (lighting a fire)
  • "Is the bean dizzy?" (Dean busy)
  • "Someone is occupewing my pie. Please sew me to another sheet." (occupying my pew...show me to another seat)
  • "You have hissed all my mystery lectures. You have tasted a whole worm. Please leave Oxford on the next town drain." (missed...history, wasted...term, down train)
Over the years I have also become famous amongst my family and friends for accidental spoonerisms.

It started as a child when I used to say "key cars" "web cobbers" and "hanger coats".

During my teen years, a game of tennis with my friends turned into an hysterical laughing session when I "bashed the dayling livelights" out of the ball!
I was also caught making my bed with "double shed beats" and using "oderarm deunderant" after a shower!

I once had a beer at the "Hoach and Courses" (Coach & Horse pub) with my sister's friends "Lunar and Ark" (Arna & Luke). And I have a friend with two boys called "Finn and Qualim" (Quinn and Fehlim).

During my teaching years, I created so many spoonerisms that most have thankfully disappeared into the ether forever.
But my trusty Assistants kept a record of their favourites...!

"Hornamental Oods" when I was trying to explain to a class about the little statues on the front of some cars!
"Stee-bings" (bee-stings)
"Is this a staff wheeting meek" (meeting week)
"cot calling the petal black"
"Nosie's rotes" (Rosie's notes)
"colour and cough" (collar and cuff sling)
"Tea of Seymour" (Sea of Timor)
"Crucky-sawly" (sucky crawly)
And I introduced two visiting musicians as "Garol and Carry Crees" (Gary & Carol Crees)!

Imagine my delight when I recently discovered that Shel Silverstein has created a book for people like me called Runny Babbit.

It was a labour of love for Silverstein.

He worked on it for over twenty years & it was eventually published posthumously in 2005.

Silverstein's website says "witty and wondrous, Runny Babbit is a poetry collection of spoonerisms, which twist the tongue and tease the mind!"

Way down in the green woods
Where the animals all play,
They do things and they say things
In a different sort of way –
Instead of sayin’ “purple hat,”
They all say “hurple pat.”
Instead of sayin’ “feed the cat,”
They just say “ceed the fat.”
So if you say, “Let’s bead a rook
That’s billy as can se,”
You’re talkin’ Runny Babbit talk,
Just like mim and he.

As a final aside, 2014 is the 50th anniversary of Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. Click here to read my review from a couple of years ago.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Ultimate High Tea

  Joy @Joy's Book Blog is hosting a new meme that celebrates all things British.

Her first British themed post involved a Downton Abbey tea in Missouri...which brought to mind my time in the UK in 1991.

I was a young 23 year old exploring the world for the first time on my own. It was scary & exhilarating. It also left me with a lifetimes worth of wonderful memories.

One of the amazing adventures I experienced was a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.

There are no photos from this visit though as camera's were not allowed. Everything that happened at Buck Palace is pure memory.
In hindsight, I wish I had asked a friend to wait for me out the front so she could have snapped a pic of me leaving via the front gate!!
Instead, I will quote a few pieces from my travel journal at the time...

"What a magnificent day! 
It turned out to be a lot more special than I thought. But then I barely thought 
about today at all until I was on the train to Bank and realised that I was really 
going to a Garden Tea Party with the Queen! 


"I wore a deep purple calotte suit, with black trim around the square top. 
Also a black hat; both borrowed from Kerrie. Diana lent me a black bag, 
gloves and a black and white necklace. I actually wore my own underwear and shoes!!
I put my hair up and I must say I felt good."

My friend, Jo nannied nearby. Her family were very excited about my trip to the Palace and they asked me to drop in on the way.     They snapped lots of photos of me all dressed up, they poured over my invitation and the sheet detailing arrival procedures, use of gloves and other proper protocols for the day. By the time they were finished with me, I was in a lovely state of anticipation and excitement too!                                                                                                                                                                                 I met up with Paula and her friends at Bank station and we proceeded to one of the side entrances. We had been forewarned that everyone tried to arrive by the front gate and it took a long time to get through the security process. Whereas the side gates were much faster. The side entrance also brought us through some of the gardens and lawns that wound up to the back steps of the Palace. It was a lovely way to arrive.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The area in front of the steps was a huge expanse of green lawn dotted with striped marquees and garden chairs. The marquees were full of tables with afternoon tea and discreetly dressed wait staff. Three lines began to form out from the back steps.                                                                           Officials randomly selected about 5 people to stand in the centre of the three aisles. These people were asked to don their gloves, instructed on how to address the royal family and to wait patiently. The rest of us milled around balancing delicate tea cups and cucumber sandwiches.
"The gardens of Buckingham Palace were glorious. There were several ponds overhung 
with trees and shrubs. One pond had a dozen or so gorgeous pink flamingoes. 
Ducks were also abundant.
The flowerbeds were very colourful - gardenias, daisies, lilies, geraniums, lavender, 
hollyhocks, sweet peas and lots more I couldn't name. It was a profusion of colour.

The Queen, Duke and Queen Mum came down the stairs right on 4pm.
They each proceeded in a leisurely fashion to the royal tea tent, talking to people
who had been pre-selected. The rest of us just watched on.

The afternoon tea was delicious. Tea, coffee, iced coffee or juice for drinks.
For nibblies we had dainty sandwiches, sponge rolls, fruit slices, chocolate gateaux,
lemon cake, fruit tarts, savoury buns & ice-cream - mouth watering!

We entranced by the Grovsner Place gate, but exited through the front gate!
I actually got to go into Buckingham Palace! Obviously only the
foyer and main entrance areas, but one had glimpses of red carpeted staircases, gilt framed mirrors, chandeliers & huge portraits of royals past and present.
To say I was thrilled is an understatement.

On our way out, we saw the Changing of the Guard...from the inside!
It was quite thrilling to see all the tourists peering through the gates - at us!!

What an experience. What a day. What a memory."

This post is also a part of Jenny's Alphabe-Thursday 'U' meme.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Most Influential Books in My LIfe


Jillian at Random Ramblings has challenged us to list the ten most influential books in our lives...without any supporting commentary!


She says "I love a lot of books. However, I've learned that the favorites list and the most influential list are two completely different things."

Without any further ado, here is my personal list of influential books.


1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
2.To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
4. Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth by Gitta Sereny
5. The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
6. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
7. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
8. Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
9. The Great World by David Malouf
10. It & The Stand by Stephen King

Some of these books have been reviewed elsewhere on my blog, so you can find out the how & why of their influence on me by clicking on the links.

The rest if for you to guess :-)

What books have had a profound influence on you over the years?

I found that my favourites, childhood favourites, the books that have stayed with me and the books above share many of the same titles.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Odyssey - Finale

Finishing The Odyssey has been...well, an odyssey!

I started (re)reading it July last year (see previous posts here), which is the middle of our winter months. I enjoyed dipping into it a chapter at a time as our dark wintry evenings drew in. I reveled in the poetry - often reading sections out loud to savour the sounds as well.

But then I got stuck in the Kingdom of the Dead!

The roll call of names did my head in and I lost my way. My momentum was disrupted and the story slipped from my grasp.

Now - a New Year - a renewed resolution - a new Classics Club Spin #5.

I sneakily added The Odyssey to the end of my spin list in an attempt to help me finish it...and its number was drawn. I thought it was a sign from the ancient gods - it was meant to be!

However February and March, in Australia are the end of our summer months. It's still very hot & sultry. Our evenings are lovely long twilights suffused with the scent of frangipani and the sounds of mating fruit bats!

Personally, we're also very busy with the start of a new school year & pre-season soccer training and friendlies. February & March also sees a last flurry of end of summer BBQ'ing opportunities with family and friends!

As a result, I found it very difficult to find time to sit down and enjoy the slow pace of storytelling that is the second half of The Odyssey.

I finally got out of the Kingdom of the Dead, only to hit my own personal doldrums!
I was bored. I wanted things to hurry up. I got tired of all the tricks and strategies of the gods and Odysseus.
I got tired of the repetitions (necessary, I know, for an oral retelling, but tiresome to read).

I was ready to move on long before Homer was prepared to stop!

I cant help but think, that I would have been one of the buffoons nodding off to sleep over my mulled wine 3000 years ago long before the story ended!

The Odyssey is a boys own adventure from start to finish. It's a world of gods & men doing their share of great & dastardly deeds.

Robert Fagles translation is certainly a beauty. I highly recommend his verse version over the prosaic prose of E. V. Rieu's Penguin Classic text that I read twenty years ago.

I also recommend time - slow, leisurely time - to do this story justice.

My final suggestion is to source a quality audio version.
Listening to this story allows the language to weave its magic the way Homer meant it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb

I can't believe I've let this gem of a book languish on my TBR pile for two years.

Parisians is a wonderfully rich, engaging, engrossing stroll through the lesser known stories that populate the history of Paris.

I say stroll deliberately.
Robb has chosen stories that highlight the streets and buildings of Paris.

We see a young Napoleon visiting Paris on family business, strolling around the Palais-Royal and losing his virginity.

We see Charles-Axel Guillaumot and his work (obsession) with the Catacombs - the map of under Paris was more complete & accurate than the one above ground at that time!

We see Marie-Antoinette wandering around lost, trying to find the rendezvous point for their infamous near-escape from Paris.

We see the real life story behind Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo.

And we see Madame Zola view Paris from atop the brand new Eiffel Tower & learn of her husband's affair.

Each story is a snapshot. A fleshed out, personal glimpse into one small section of a life, a street, a house, a quartier. Robb's storytelling abilities brings each vignette to life - full of the complexities, uncertainties & messiness of real life.

The only problem I have with the book is the double page map at the beginning - it's too small to read the names of the streets and building properly! (And I have the original HB from 2010, not the smaller PB that came out later).

I like to know which area of Paris each chapter is set in. I want my fingers to stroll down the streets and around the buildings along with all the people who populate this book.

I started this book a few days ago in anticipation.

I have been counting down to Zoladdiction hosted by Fanda @Classiclit!

I was very tempted to start one of my books, but decided to do some 'setting the scene' reading instead.

When I discovered that one of the chapters in Parisians was 'Madame Zola', I knew I had found the book to tide me over and get me in the mood.

My knowledge & understanding of Zola is limited to the few introductory bio's in the the few Zola books I have on hand.

I know that he was born April 2, 1840 & given the moniker Émile Édouard Charles Antoine Zola! I know that he wrote the Rougon-Macquart series of books as well as the famous J'accuse letter in defence of Alfred Dreyfus.

He married Alexandrine, but had an affair and 2 children with Jeanne. In one bio I read I was informed that Alexandrine forgave him his indiscretions and helped to raise the 2 children.

Which made the final paragraph of Parisians: Madame Zola even more interesting.

Robb finished this chapter with an excerpt of a letter from Alexandrine to Jeanne after Émile's death...


"The demonstrations of homage to our dear great hero were 
truly magnificent. The future bodes well for the father 
of our dear children. One day, they will want to find 
out all they can about the labours to which he devoted 
his life before it was cut short. I hope they will 
understand that by the manner in which they comport 
themselves they will help to preserve the glory of the 
name Zola. You will be there to direct them and to t
each them many things - unfortunately far fewer than I 
might have taught them, for you did not know him as well 
as I, who lived at his side for thirty-eight years.

His violent death has struck us both a cruel blow, and 
in our suffering, the affection of his children has been a 
great happiness to me. I feel as though their affection
comes from him, and this makes me cherish them even more 
than I would have thought possible."

Ouch! That bitch-slap still reverberates 112 years later!


On that note...which Zola to get stuck into?


I have pb copies of Nana, The Ladies' Delight (Au Bonheur des Dames) and The Dream. I also have Germinal on my epad partially read (I dislike reading the screen which is the only reason I haven't finished it.


Any suggestions?


Parisians also counts as a book from my TBR pile, Around the World & Books on France Reading Challenges.