Sunday, November 19, 2017

Condor trilogy: the "Lord of the Rings" of Chinese literature

Louis Cha's acclaimed trilogy to be translated into EnglishFrom Quartzy:
The world imagined by Chinese writer Jin Yong is one which celebrates loyalty, courage, and the triumph of the individual over a corrupt and authoritarian state—carried out by no less than heroes who fly through trees and deliver deadly blows to their enemies with a single finger.

Now his Condor Trilogy (1957),arguably the most celebrated of the 93-year-old writer’s works, is finally getting translated into English.

This trilogy was is set in 1205 in the Southern Song Dynasty of China, at a time when the Han Chinese population faced continuous attacks from the northern Jurchen Jin dynasty, as well as from Genghis Khan’s Mongols.

read more here @ Quartzy and @ China Daily
see more here @ youtube
read online here @ archive dot org


Three Chevrons Red by Paul R Davis

Three Chevrons Red: The Clares: a Marcher Dynasty in Wales, England and Ireland by Paul R Davis is a comprehensive study of the Clare family, a Marcher dynasty, owning lands in Wales, England and Ireland and becoming involved in the politics and wars of the Welsh border. From their origins in Normandy, they amassed great wealth and privileges becoming one of the richest and most powerful families in the Middle Ages.

Anne Davies reviews "Three Chevrons Red" for the Clare Ancient House Museum

read more about the de Clare family here






The Good People by Hannah Kent


Foreboding builds from the get-go of "The Good People," Hannah Kent's haunting historical novel about a rural Irish community gripped by sudden death and suspicion.
It's 1825, and the people in the hills near Killarney strike an uneasy balance between the sacred and the superstitious: rosary beads in one pocket and cold embers to ward off evil spirits in the other. When Martin Leahy drops dead at the crossroads where suicides are buried, neighbors are set on edge. The fact that his daughter died not long before and left a strange grandchild behind fans the fear of otherworldly interference.

Although "The Good People" is fiction, it faithfully represents the hold of ancient Celtic myths on generations of Irish. It also lays bare some hard truths about human nature and leaves you thinking about belief, suspicion and what happens to a community when fear takes hold.

read more here @ Pueblo Chieftain

Diary Lost in Translation

Raja Todar Mal's diary, considered one of the rarest among the 5 crore documents stored at the Bihar State Archives, rests unread because no current generation scholar can translate it.
"This diary of Todar Mal is actually on land records and settlement of Bhagalpur during the Mughal times. It was found lying in the record room of Bhagalpur and was transferred to us. It is in old Urdu and Persian and we have been unable to get it translated as we don't have any scholar of these languages with us," said archives director Vijay Kumar.

Vijay revealed that he had contacted a few scholars "to get the diary translated. They agreed to do so, but did not turn up. I showed it to a Muslim scholar in Patna City and he said that the diary was invaluable as it contained the names of localities of Bhagalpur over 400 years ago and information about landholdings".

read more here @ Telegraph India

Why are children’s authors eccentric?

Image resultAs new parents and anyone who’s ever gone rummaging through their old childhood libraries quickly realises, much of the best literature for kids is bonkers. It all makes divine sense when you’re four or five or 10, but return as an adult to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or The Cat in the Hat, and what’s striking is that so much sublime whimsy and exuberant creativity could have been conjured up by our fellow grownups.

Then again, there’s a theory that children’s authors – the best of them, at any rate – never really grow up. Lewis Carroll famously – notoriously from today’s perspective – preferred playing games with children to adult conversation. Kenneth Grahame amassed a vast collection of toys – in his 20s. And Dodie Smith, a fascinating writer best known today for her children’s novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians, used to say she never felt quite grown up. (At under five feet tall and with a high-pitched, perpetually girlish voice, she perhaps had more excuse than most.)

read more here @ BBC - Culture
  • Kay Thompson, Eloise
  • Theodor Geisel, aka Dr Seuss,
  • EB White, Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web
  • Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
  • Margaret Wise Brown, The Runaway Bunny and Goodnight Moon
  • Dodie Smith, The Hundred & One Dalmatians


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Review: The Sun King Conspiracy

Paris, 1661. Cardinal Mazarin, who has been the prime minister of the country for twenty years, has only a few weeks to live. Between Mazarin's closest confidant Colbert and Finance Minister Fouquet, a fierce battle ensues over his successor. With the help of the beautiful Louise de la Vallière, for whom the King is also aflame, Gabriel tries to reveal the secret that has been guarded for centuries. The fate of France and the Sun King depends on it.

What we have in "The Sun King Conspiracy" by Yves Jego and Denis Lépée, is a novel of mystery and intrigue set in the court of Louis XIV in 1661 (which was one of the original titles of the book - also published as The Sun King Rises).  There is the usual cast of characters: Moliere, Mazarin, Fouquet, the Mancini Sisters, Colbert, d'Artagnan, who cross the stage as the story unfolds.

A secret society will stop at nothing to obtain a secret document held by the dying Cardinal Jules Mazarin, and to this end they employ one Gabriel de Pontbriand, an actor in Moliere's troupe, to retrieve the document. But now, Gabriel has become a target as those who employed him now seek to recover this mysterious document. Gabriel finds himself under the protection of Nicholas Fouquet, little realising Fouquet is not what he appears. A meeting with his father, and the secret is partly revealed (hence another alternate title of this book - The Fifth Gospel).

It helped that I was somewhat familiar with this period in history, so the cast was not unknown. The pace was certainly maintained and my interest did not wain, despite the length of the novel. The fact that both authors are politicians may have enhanced the heightened elements of political courtly intrigue that feature so prominently at the French court at this time - a veritable hornets nest.  

Will there be a sequel ..... the reader was certainly left with questions unanswered so I hope so.

See review @ Euro Crime

Review: Books by Fabrice Bourland

Fabrice Bourland, a French writer,  has produced a series of entertaining and yet mystifying novels featuring Canadian detective Andrew Singleton and his American friend, James Trelawney.  The first in the series sees the duo confront, literally and figuratively, to the great figures of the literary pantheon of the end of the nineteenth century and between the two world wars.

The Baker Street Phantom (Singleton & Trelawney Case # 1)  by 
When they set up their detective agency in 1932, Andrew Singleton and James Trelawney could hardly have expected that their first client would be the widow of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, nor that she would commission them to investigate an apparent haunting at the house that had only recently been allocated the number 221 Baker Street.

The world of 19th century spiritualism collides with the modern world of the early 20th century. Here two men undertake a journey to investigate the appearance of a ghost at the abode of a famous fictional detective, and encounter more than they bargain for when murder, mysticism and make-believe take centre stage.

Having read the first installment of the pairing of Singleton and Trelawney - "The Baker Street Phantom" - I eagerly embarked on this second journey and was not left disappointed.

The Crystal Palace Devil (Singleton & Trelawney #3)
November 1936, and for nearly a week, Alice Gray's fiancé, Frederic Beckford, an entomologist at the British Museum, has disappeared without a trace. The only clue is a snippet about an accident in the middle of the night between a taxi and a wildcat, whose reading, it seems, greatly troubled Beckford. 

The Fire Serpent (Singleton & Trelawney #4)
While the streets of London unfurl all their finery for the coronation of George VI, Singleton and Trelawney find themselves in the footsteps of a mysteriously missing mummy.

Hollywood Monsters (Singleton & Trelawney #5)
December 1938 - the holidays are not going as planned, and our detectives come face to face, in the middle of the night, with a creature looking straight out of a scary movie.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Review: Weycombe

Weycombe by G.M. Malliet
Lost a star due to the excruciating slow build up to what was a rather surprising outcome. 

"what the villain always knows, ultimately, is not why, but why not?"

A tale of murder, lust, revenge, love, money and one woman's desire. Very cleverly written if not slightly over indulgent in the finer detail, this first person narrative is the story of a bored Stepford-Wives style housewife from a small gated English community who finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation.

Unfortunately the story is rather long in the telling before finally picking up the pace and delivering a twist in which all is revealed in the final pages.

Very clever reference to observations made by Agatha Christie's Miss Marple: "one does see so much evil in a village ..."- and very applicable in "Weycombe" by GM Malliet.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Horse-Riding Librarians: Bookmobiles of the Great Depression

The Pack Horse Library initiative, which sent librarians deep into Appalachia, was one of the New Deal’s most unique plans. The project, as implemented by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), distributed reading material to the people who lived in the craggy, 10,000-square-mile portion of eastern Kentucky. The state already trailed its neighbors in electricity and highways. And during the Depression, food, education and economic opportunity were even scarcer for Appalachians.

When materials became too worn to circulate, librarians made them into new books. They pasted stories and pictures from the worn books into binders, turning them into new reading material. Recipes, also pasted into binders and circulated throughout the mountains, proved so popular that Kentuckians started scrapbooks of quilt patterns, too.

In 1936, packhorse librarians served 50,000 families, and, by 1937, 155 public schools. Children loved the program; many mountain schools didn’t have libraries, and since they were so far from public libraries, most students had never checked out a book. ”‘Bring me a book to read,’ is the cry of every child as he runs to meet the librarian with whom he has become acquainted,” wrote one Pack Horse Library supervisor. “Not a certain book, but any kind of book. The child has read none of them.” 

read more here @ The Smithsonian