All posts by Hélène Wilkinson

I live half an hour South of Paris in France, with my gorgeous family of the husband and two children variety. My gene pool is made up of quite a lot of French and English, a bit less Polish and some Irish. I am a translator.

What I read in November and December 2009

The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This was one of my first Kindle content purchases and I really really enjoyed it, which is a lot more than can be said of:

Midnight in Madrid by Noel Hynd, which I don’t think I’m going to finish.

I selected them using a lazy but simple criterion: they were both high up in the Amazon fiction bestseller rankings. I ended up being delighted by the one and very disappointed by the other.

Somewhere along the middle of that loved/hated spectrum was my third Kindle purchase: A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore. I really liked bits of it, but I didn’t enjoy the feeling I got that there were several pretty unconnected stories going on here.

Les contes de la Bécasse de Guy de Maupassant que j’ai lus plusieurs fois – la première fois en cours de français en 4ème ou en 3ème, c’est à dire il y a une éternité, et je les ai relus depuis plusieurs fois, pour resavourer (si c’est le terme) la cruauté si bien vue.

The lost symbol by Dan Brown. Mmmm, well, maybe the breathless dash through a city solving clues is reaching its limit as a concept here; it was pretty obvious to me where Robert Langdon and his equally dim female acolyte of the moment should be heading for from the start! And I probably missed the whole deep philosophical point the book was perhaps trying to make, but I got a real “so what?” feeling at the end of the book and felt completely cheated out of a decent thriller ending. Sorry, Mr Brown, not your best effort by a long chalk.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. A lovely cozy read.

Dial M for Merde by Stephen Clarke – much like the others by him. I would probably enjoy these books more if the Paul West character (and the author?) didn’t make it quite so clear he thought he was God’s gift to all women…

What I read in September and October 2009

White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. Gripping and disturbing. I hope his depiction of India is a deliberately shocking one…I would like an Indian person’s opinion on how much of an exaggeration it represents. Mind you, if 10% is true to life, it’s pretty dire anyway…

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. I would have been a lot more entertained by this classic children’s book, for which I had high hopes, if sailing or boats held any real interest for me… Recently, there was quite a lot in the news of Ransome’s life as a spy. I enjoyed reading about that rather more than reading this book. Malcolm Saville was seen as following on from Arthur Ransome but he is to my mind a much more exciting children’s book writer. Mind you, I’ve read dozens of Malcolm Saville’s books and only one of Arthur Ransome’s…

Les champs d’honneur by Jean Rouaud. Not sure about this one. Some of the descriptions were a bit wordy, but I didn’t mind that too much, or the rather disjointed construction, even though I kept losing track of who Joseph was. It’s just that I couldn’t be bothered to go back and check how he related to everyone.

Mr Pip by Lloyd JonesMmm. OK but not a gripping read. The rhythm picked up at the end when the violence, which was clearly latent throughout the story, started. Although the book had its moments for me, overall, my impression was that it was a bit flat and colourless.

Oedipe roi by Sophocle
Ah, the force of destiny.

What I read in July and August 2009

La petite pièce hexagonale and La Mer by Yoko Ogawa. Reading these two books and discovering this author was one of those moments when you think “Wow! That’s what writing is all about.” I absolutely adored these and am really looking forward to reading La formule préférée du professeur. I’ve read all these in French, Actes Sud published them and my respect for this publishing house increases all the time. If I ever try and learn Japanese, one of the major reasons would be to read these books in the original version (and if I ever learned Russian, I just wouldn’t know where to start: Gogol, Tolstoy or Turgenev??)

A Harlan Coben, Long lost I think. Good holiday read. Enough said.

The one about stealing eggs in Leningrad in WWII and a few other things. A page turner but I hope/trust all the atrocities of that awful time were concentrated in one story…

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates – my book of the summer. Loved, loved, loved this. For once I’d seen the film first and I must say that the film was a very faithful adaptation and that the lead actors both did outstanding jobs. I’m very grateful to this film (despite having chosen a Valentine’s night to go out with my husband on one of our rare cinema trips – I can’t think of a less suitable Valentine’s night out, really… All the disillusionment of broken dreams in one fraught couple and a tragedy…) because I’d never heard of the novel and it really is wonderful.

Hoped to be as enthused by The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, on the grounds that Kate Winslet might have starred in two films based on exceptional books. I enjoyed it but nowhere near as much, mostly because I guessed what the heroine’s problem was early on, and I thought it a little unbelievable that the hero/narrator hadn’t. I haven’t seen the film, so can’t compare it with the novel.

Mal de pierres by Milena Agus. This was highly recommended to me but I was a little disappointed. I think that by this point I was a little fed up with neurotic women…