Category Archives: Books

Wonderful encounters

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Sometimes all you have to do is open a door. 

Last week, I opened the door into the world of a French artist. His name is Rachid Madani. His studio is in Strasbourg. I often passed by his studio and admired the pastel, warm colours of his creations. I wanted to buy some of his wonderful cards. I love to have a stock to give them to friends to say thank you or just mark a moment. 

I pushed the door and was greeted with a warm pastel voice. My daugher joined me so he spoke to us about the book he wrote "Le turban du sultan" and about his culture. 

I did not have cash with me so had to borrow some from my kid's pocket money. "I did the same this morning", he told us in a moment of complicity.  He offered her one of his cards "Le jour se leve". 

If you are in Strasbourg, open the door to l'atelier d'Art MADANI, 16, rue Sleidan. 

More info on the artist, in French https://www.petitfute.com/v458-strasbourg-67000/c1168-shopping-mode-cadeaux/c408-galerie-d-art/242980-l-atelier-d-art-madani.html

Books for children (and not only): “Mercy Watson” by Kate diCamillo and Chris Van Dussen

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I picked the book in a library in Chisinau about five years ago. The cover looked funny and promised a good laugh. It was a promise kept. I read it to my kid on many nights. It was part if her initiation in Russian.

The series has many stories with Mercy, a joyful pig, a "porcine wonder" who lives with Mr and Mrs Watson. The book we have in Russian has two stories "To the rescue" and "Mercy Watson goes for a ride". Mercy is a sweet trouble maker and has such an appetite for life I envy.

Last month i bought "Mercy Watson to the rescue", Kindle edition, in English. It is still a bed time favorite story. We give characters funny voices and it offers a relaxed transition to sleep.

Read your kids, grandchildren, siblings! Even if they can read by themselves.

“Baltazar and Blimunda” by Jose Saramago

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My “To read all authors on the Nobel Prize for Literature list” brought me to 18th century Portugal. Jose Saramago was awarded the Nobel Prize for literarure in 1998. 

“Every man follows his own path in search of grace, whatever that grace might be” is the central idea of his “Baltazar and Blimunda” book. The book narrates in details the times of King Dom Joaa and of Padre Bartolomeu Lourenco de Gusmao, a historic figure and a pioneer of aviation. It is the story of “one handed solder who ironically became a manufacturer of wings”. Phrases like this had me spellbound from the first page. 

I was mesmerised by the central feminine character – not the queen, but an extraordinary ordinary women – Blimunda. Her mother was burn for witchcraft and she had a special gift of seeing what others do not see and the ability to collect the wills of dying. When the “wings” – the flying machine they built together with Padre Bartolomeu – took him away from her into the unknown she keeps looking for him, to find him in Lisbon, after nine years of continuous search throughout the entire country, in a procession leading to a fire burned by the inquisition. 

The book demands patience. It took me months of reiterated reading and putting it down. The “search of grace”, as we know it, is a painful process. Or at least humans are skilful at making it painful. Due to this and very long phrases, it is a challenging reading. It was the first time i read a book written in this style, and it was worth it every single page. 

“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

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One of the few books i wanted to keep reading. Every page of the book has a gem on it. It is superbly crafted. Its’ words are enchanting and poignant in a sweet and precious way.

It’s a story of a girl whose adolescence coincides with the times of Nazi Germany. She lost her brother, her mother, her home and gained a new foster home with a father who taught her to read and instilled a love of books to last a lifetime. The books saved her from daily ordeal. The books saved her from death.

The story is narrated by Death. It made me shiver at the beginning to read his words. By the end of the book I got to like this very wise character: “I am all bluster- I am not violent. I am not malicious. I am a result”.

The book is transformational as it makes you see the Other Germany, which had people who would risk their lives by feeding and sheltering the persecuted Jewish.


This anniversary edition comes with insights of the author on the process of writing. Very valuable for writers beginners. There is also a movie by the same name, directed by Brian Percival. Enjoy!

“Fifty weeks of green Romance and Recipes” by Linda Watson

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The book is a light reading. I finished it on and between two flights. 51hikbthydl__sx322_bo1204203200_

It has a little bit of:

romance, with hints to the other “Fifty shades” book,

a recipes book for easing the way into home cooking,

campaigner guide for the “buy local” and community supported agriculture, known as CSA.

The parody to of the “Fifty shades of grey” starts with the main female character – Sophia – falling down tangled up in a leash at a farmers market. It was the start of the romantic story between Sophia, a woman who just lost her job in political campaigning, and a farmer named Roger. As the romance unfolds, the author skilfully takes the reader to the world of agriculture, related politics and real life of people and their communities.

“Cooking is life. Like eating and love” pretty much summarise the book.  On a personal note, I was doing CSA for three years and it was an excellent investment in both our health and the prosperity of the local farmers we supported.

“The high mountains of Portugal” by Yann Martel

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25489094This magic realism novel has three parts – Homeless, Homeward, Home, which, at first, seemed unrelated. Each chapter has a main character: Tomas, Eusebio, Peter. Again, they seem at first unrelated. Page after page, feelings of surprise, sadness, compassion, wonder, despair and of a relentless quest accompanied my reading. “What is this character looking for?” kept popping up on my mind. And on their journey, each of them chose to object.

The first character – Tomas   – objected to the loss of dear ones by back walking in “Homeless”. Another character – a priest – objected to slaves’ life injustices  by having a monkey on a crucifix he donated to a church. In “Homeward” the objection is less explicit until the coroner sews a body shut with the deceased’s wife inside. In “Home”, a senator objects to his wife death by finding companionship in an ape he buys from a research center. They both object to the civilisation by taking refuge in his parents village in the high mountains of Portugal. They all object to the grief which took them away from home, as each understand it.

The multidimensional concept of home appears to me like a bridge between the seemingly unrelated parts. It made my understanding of the trilogy whole and complete. It still left many questions unanswered. But who said magic realism is about answering it all?

“The Gospel by Coco Chanel” by Karen Karbo

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“The Gospel by Coco Chanel” by Karen Karbo

I live in France and wanted to learn more about the country. What better way than learning about its people. Luxury makes top ten French exports. And when you say luxury in France, and pretty much globaly, the name of Coco Chanel will pop up. She is also a woman of exceptional success, an additional reason to learn a bit about the whys and hows. Pity the ghosted memoirs commissioned by Mademoiselle Chanel were never completed or published. So will have to rely on others telling her story. 
This book is presented as a biography but also as a self-help book, an aspect I overlooked at the beginning. But if you want it, the life lessons might be a bonus. Especially, as the author tries to make it fun and easy to digest. The book is a pick into Coco’s rich life, written around 12 life lessons or rather some of her phrases and quotes. 

It was a good reading as it rose many other questions i want to further explore for professional purposes. I will next go for some of books recommended here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/8838863/Coco-Chanel-Five-books-about-the-fashion-designer-review.html.