All posts tagged: Paris

Honoré de Balzac

Honoré de Balzac was born in 1799. Balzac came from an up and coming family. His father was a self-made man who married for wealth. Balzac was privileged in many ways, but from what I have read, he did not seem content in his youth. After studying at Sorbonne, he was apprenticed in law, but gave it up as it was too much of a grindstone. He proclaimed he wanted to be a writer. On his way, he thought up and participated in a number of business ventures that left him in debt. The early works are of varied quality. Today he is revered as one of the founders of realism in European literature with his monumental La Comédie Humaine and is compared to Charles Dickens. Parts of his life do read like a novel. In February 1832, Balzac received a letter from a stranger in Odessa. He replied through a classified ad in Gazette de France – and that sparked a long, passionate correspondence between Balzac and Ewelina Hanska. After the death of her …

What French Women Know – Debra Ollivier

What is it about French women that seems so sensual, intelligent, beautiful, sophisticated, and above all French from an Anglo-Saxon (American or British) perspective? That is what American-born, French-wed Debra Ollivier explores in this tongue-in-cheek book with the catch phrase: about love, sex and other matters of the heart and mind. Despite the fact that “What French Women Know” does include reference to scientific studies around the differences between French and American mindsets, the book is a broad generalization about women on both sides of the Atlantic in chapters about men, mystery, rules, perfection, nature, art de vivre, and body. A witty pearl, written without scruples, “What French Women Know” works because of the generalization. The epitome French woman is so clearly defined that it is easy to see her positive and negative facets, and compare and contrast her the Anglo-Saxon woman. Debra Ollivier has lived in France for a number of years and experienced the cultural clash between French and Anglo-Saxon women first hand, so the caricature is not without factual observations and truth …

The Alchemy of Murder – Carol McCleary

1889 – The World exhibition held in Paris with Eiffel’s tower as a beacon. Louis Pasteur has revolutionizes science with his study of “animals so small that they cannot be seen with the human eye”. Thoughts of equality and anarchism in the air, especially in Montmartre, the melting pot of café politics, fanaticism, culture, and crime. Enter: Nellie Bly – reporter, amateur detective, strong-headed and independent woman searching for a murderer, she encountered while on assignment at a women’s madhouse. Add several historical celebrities such as Louis Pasteur, Jules Verne, and Oscar Wilde. And you have the background for “The Alchemy of Murder“. Certainly Nellie Bly is another in the long list of strong-headed and independent woman in the Victorian era, but she is believable, neither a modern woman dropped into the Victorian era nor a femme fatale simply waiting to be swept off her feet, but a well-rounded character set in a fascinating and again believable storyline. Believable is an applicable term regarding “The Alchemy of Murder” and I count that as high praise …

Half-blood Blues – Esi Edugyan

“Half-blood Blues” is one of those on-the-beat, award-winning, must-read books and this time I actually read it while it was on-the-beat and did not leave it to mature in my library, but I was not completely blown away. The story is unfolded in two tempi: up to and during World War II, when the musicians of a jazz band flee Berlin and come to Paris and in 1992 when two of these musicians return to Berlin to attend a festival for a fellow musician, who was taken by the Nazis in 1945. I did not find the story that compelling. Furthermore, the two main characters in the 1992-plotline really tested my patience, albeit in two different ways. I do agree in the novel’s must-read status nonetheless. “Half-blood Blues” is definitely original; I have never read or heard of another novel about the struggles of jazz musicians during the Reich or the plight of blacks or half-bloods regardless of their nationality during the Nazi regime. This was the eye-opener for me. Also the narrative style deserves …