Tuesday 7 June 2011

Can you tell me about...

...any of the books I bought on Saturday? All of them appealed, as I was browsing the Oxfam bookshop after work, but I don't know anything about any of them, except what I was able to glean from the blurbs. I figured that Oxfam would benefit from my monies, even if I eventually decided not to read the books....

A Dark Strange by Julien Gracq

This one is the one which most intrigues me. It's a beautiful Pushkin Press edition, a translation of a French novel from 1945. Here is the blurb:

Two lovers arrive at a seaside hotel in 1920s Brittany; the other guests soon become obsessed with the man, the equivocal unsettling Allan. One by one they realise who he is - that death has come to spend the summer with them.

Amid the ceaseless thunder of the waves, the August heat and the wild and often surreal Breton landscape, the group that gravitates around Allan - an uncannily contemporary figure - gradually disintegrates.

My Phantom Husband by Marie Darrieussecq

I've just spotted that both those authors' names end with '-cq'. That can't be all that common. Another novel from the French, this 1998 work has an appalling title, but I was again pulled in by a surreal element. One more blurb, if you will:

What would you think if your husband, one day, with no word of explanation or warning, completely vanished? When would you begin to panic - the first hour, the first night? Or the moment you realise you cannot even remember his face?

Lucy Gayheart by Willa Cather

This one comes with no information at all! So I bought it because I've been meaning to read more Cather, and because I'm a sucker for tatty old green hardbacks - which once, if my eyes do not deceive me, had a Boots Book Club sticker on the front.

If you know anything about these, then get commentin'! And, if you don't, perhaps you'd like to comment anyway...


  1. Lucy Gayheart is exquisite. And very short. You could whip through it in a couple of hours, but it will stay with you for weeks. I adored it.

  2. Oh there goes Rachel again ... :)
    I have Lucy Gayheart on my Virago shelves, but have yet to read it. Here's the description from the back cover:
    Lucy Gayheart is a talented pianist, a woman of grace and vitality with "that singular brightness of young beauty". It is 1901 and she is studying music in the magical smoky city of Chicago, returning occasionally to provincial Haverford, the town of her birth. She meets and falls in love with a middle-aged opera singer, a man whose influence will change the course of her life forever. First published in 1935, this resonant novel is much more than a simple love story. For, rejecting the commonplaces of small-town life, Lucy seeks the splendour of an "invisible, inviolable world" glimpsed through her music. In contrasting the possibilities of each, Willa Cather has produced a novel of clarity and quiet distinction.

    Oh darn it, now I'm sorely tempted.

  3. I read my first Cather just a couple of days ago and did I love it. Three not so short stories in one book. These are all new to me too.

  4. I love Cather and will second other positive opinions here! But I've also read the Marie Darrieussecq. I found it fascinating - it's not a plot-driven novel, despite the thriller-ish premise. Instead, it's more of a meditation on loss and how it might be handled by someone in extremis. What I remember about it were the amazing descriptions, which draw on quantum physics, using the newer concepts of science in quite a fantastic way (and I mean exploring their fantasy dimension rather than just being good!)

    I have to add as a caveat that I read it in French, and that might make a difference. French can do all sorts of ostensibly poncy things and get away with it where English can't. But I hope you enjoy it - it's certainly a very different sort of read.

  5. I haven't read any of them but they all look good.

  6. I haven't read any of these, nor any other works by the authors (including Cather - must get to one day). However, I do have the Gracq languishing on my bookshelves. Fancy another readalong? It'll need to be July .....

  7. Rachel - oo, will add to the list of short books to read on my next short-book-marathon weekend.

    Laura - she's a menace, isn't she! ;) Thanks so much for the description of Lucy G - I feel much better informed now. One always has to take a gamble with anonymous-looking old books...

    Mystica mid-length short stories are the hardest things to get right, I reckon, so if she can do those well...!

    Victoria - good grief! I'm not sure I'll cope with the latest thoughts in quantum physics... And, although I can't read French, I'm tempted to agree with what you say. I think some languages translate better - Scandinavian lit does, but I often find books from the French and German tricky.

    Sakura - I was pleased with my mini-haul! :)

    Lizzy - oh, I do, I do! Let's do that - July is fine for me too. Maybe midway through July for posting? x

  8. Simon (Savidge Reads)7 June 2011 at 22:06

    Nope, I know of none of these so can't really help. Phantom Husband sounds rather brilliantly dramatic, and like it would be a good mactch with th brilliant 'Before I Go To Sleep' which only just came out recently.

  9. Lucy Gayheart is simply lovely. I jumped in to say that I remember Rachel writing a very good review some time ago, but see that she has beaten me to it. The Professor's House, if anything, is even better. (Although how do you choose a favourite Willa Cather, they're all perfect.)

  10. I read the novel by M. Darrieussecq and I liked it. I look forward to read your review.

  11. I don't know anything about those, but I still want to comment. :)

    I was thinking that if the first two books were contemporary novels, they'd probably have tacky covers and overall they'd be less appealing to read.


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