Sunday, December 28, 2008


I found this one at Cherie's, too, and the Sunday after Christmas, when many of us might be opening the books we received as gifts, seems a good time to do it:

What was the last book you bought?
Estasi culinarie, about the dying days of a famous food critic. He's not a very endearing character and the story is told through the viewpoints of people he is related to or has come into contact with. It is the first novel of Muriel Barbery, a French novelist who has been translated into Italian. Her second novel, L'Eleganza del riccio, is selling well here.

Name a book you have read more than once.
I recently reread How Green was my Valley by Richard Llewellyn. I read it for the first time when I was 16. A few weeks ago, I felt I wanted to hear some Welsh voices and , in rereading this, I could hear them in my head! Of course, it portrays a Wales that has long gone. I remember my father's favourite line from the book was, "How beautiful is sleep."

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life?
I'm sure that many have but two that come to mind are La Peste by Albert Camus, which I first read for French A level and The Last of the Just by André Schwarz-Bart. I remember reading the Camus just after the Aberfan disaster, when I had already begun to doubt the existence of god. The second book made me realise how important it is to fight prejudice the moment it begins - and it begins insidiously.

How do you choose a book, eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews?
Usually by reviews or personal recommendation but jacket blurb influences me if I am browsing in a bookshop.

Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
Mainly non-fiction, especially biography. The most fascinating biography I've read this year is Daughter of the Desert - The Remarkable Life of Gertrude Bell by Georgina Howell. I had heard Bell's name but confess I knew nothing about her until I read this book. She was instrumental in the founding of the country we now know as Iraq and, whatever you think of imperialism, it has to be admitted that she foresaw many of the problems of today's Middle East.

What's more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?
I think the quality of the writing just has the edge! For instance, I can't normally stand detective fiction, but can happily read a Sherlock Holmes story or a Camilleri. I'm not very keen on descriptive writing.

Most loved / memorable character
I can't name just one!
Jo in Little Women; Miss Wilberforce in South Wind; Sarah Burton in South Riding; Jess in A Long Way Down. Oh, dear, that's all women! Professor Bhaer in Little Women; Bertie Wooster because he is such a chump that you can't help liking him; Mr Micawber because his attitude to money is like my Dad's [and my own]; Bertie, the 6-year-old with the awful mother in Alexander McCall Smith. But I think my favourite character of all time is Aunt Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield. [Another woman - sorry, James!] If ever I want cheering up, I just turn to the passage where David tries to introduce himself: "Go along! No boys here!"

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
Dickens - The cricket on the Hearth
Márquez - Living to Tell the Tale [the first volume of his autobiography, which I am finding it difficult to get into.]
O. Cappellani - Sicilian Tragedi [a Sicilian "black comedy" which I can't wait to start!]
Estasi Culinarie [see above].
The Raymond Briggs Father Christmas books - because their gentle humour sends me to sleep happily.

What was the last book you read and when was it?
The Return, a very well-researched novel about the Spanish Civil War, by Victoria Hislop. I couldn't put it down and I finished it last week.

Have you ever given up on a book half way through?
Very rarely. Last year I did give up on The Pale Horseman, the second volume in Bernard Cornwell's Alfred series. I'd enjoyed the first one, but this sequel was just too "masculine" for me!

I cannot finish this without mentioning the whackiest book I have read all year. It is To Noto by Duncan Fallowell, the story of the author's drive from London to Noto, in Sicily, in the eighties. It is full of name-dropping [only I don't know any of the names], very funny in places and decidedly odd. And it ends in Palermo!


jmb said...

What brilliant answers you have given Welshcakes. I have been saving this meme until after Christmas but now I am intimidated by your excellent responses.

I think it is always interesting to read what other read and I get many good suggestion to follow up for my own reading.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thank you, jmb. Most kind of you to say so. I'm looking forward to reading YOUR responses so that I can get some more ideas for future reading, too!

CherryPie said...

Thanks for sharing this, more ideas for books to read :-) I think I would love Raymond Briggs on my book stand too!

Maria said...

Buon giorno! Agurri! I do hope you and Simi are well! Happy Holidays! Wishing you the very best of health happiness love joy and peace in 2009! M

Maria said...

I loved this post! Jo is so much a favorite but I have to say.. no matter how many times I watch the movie or read the book... I just wish should would have married Lory! lol ~M

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Cherie. I always think it's good to know what other people are reading so thank you for featuring this meme. Ciao, M. Auguri to you, too! I hope you have a wonderful 2009. I know - the first time I read LW I cried because Jo didn't marry Laurie! Simi sends love, as do I. xx woof!


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