The poisoning Angel by Jean Teule

 

The poisoning Angel by Jean Teule

French fiction

Original title – Fleur de Tonerre

Translator – Melaine Florence

Source review copy

I live in a town called Millhaven
And it’s small and it’s mean and it’s cold
But if you come around just as the sun goes down
You can watch the whole town turn to gold
It’s around about then that I used to go a-roaming
Singing La la la la La la la lie
All God’s children they all gotta die

My name is Loretta but I prefer Lottie
I’m closing in on my fifteenth year
And if you think you have seen a pair of eyes more green
Then you sure didn’t see them around here
My hair is yellow and I’m always a-combing
La la la la La la la lie
Mama often told me we all got to die

I choose the curse of milhaven , as lottie is a bit like Helene from NIck Cave’s wonderful album of murder Ballads ,source 

I struggle with historical fiction , I was one of the few people who didn’t really like Wolf Hall , so when this arrived from gallic books I wasn’t exactly jumping over the moon , but a quick read of the cover and I was caught by the tagline , She came , She cooked , She killed .Who couldn’t resist finding out more .I also want to try Jean Teule ,I know one of his earlier books Suicide shop is highly regard ,a multi talent man who also illustrates , makes films and is a Tv presenter , he has written ten novels and is married to the well-known French actress Miou-Miou .He is currently making a film of this book starring his wife .

Oh no,don’t pick that Helene , it’s a thunderflower .Goodness , that’s what I should call you from now on :”Thunderflower “. And don’t pull on that stem either ; it belongs to a viper flower .Don’t you know that a woman picked up a bunch of those and her tongue split in two ? You’re seven years old – when will you ever learn ?

Seven Helene gets her names and so much more !

The poisoning angel is based on the true story of Helene Jegado  , she was a french servant in 19th century France  .She is from  the Breton region of France , she was schooled via her mother in the old traditions of this region ,so this beautiful young girl grows up in the old world  .She starts working in households , we know her as thunderflower in the book ,which happens to be the original french title  .She travels around from household to household , doing various domestic servant jobs but mainly as a cook people love her cooking  , but what is she adding toi the pot as she cooks ! Now this is the twist in the tail Helene Jegado is one of the most notorious serial killers , as she travelled around in early 19th century France from town to town  , she is thought to have killed up to  36 people .We see her story , a mix of an ancient world of traditions and superstitions .It also shows how in a time when the end of people’s worlds tend to be with in their eyesight how some one could easily get away with murder .

“Helene Jegado is an excellent cook .My one regret is that I was unable to keep her until I die …. ” That’s what I call a glowing recommendation! This missive from the abbe … Lohro has no date .So since then ?

The humour is subtle at times in the book .

This book mixes  dark murder with comic touches so well . This for me is how true crime should be Helene comes to life as more than a woman who killed to more of a woman who by a stroke of fate and misguide sense of tradition want to be deaths henchman .It is a book like version of the murder ballads of the deep south of the US , where we hear the story of the murderer .Has it made me want to try more historic fiction ,well I think I will have more of an open mind next time one comes my way .AS for Jean Teule i have another of his books I was sent that will be jumping up my TBR pile .Jean conjures a world of ancient myths and traditions , and a young girl that thinks she is haunted by a ghost ,that becomes a killer .

Have you a favourite True crime novel ?

 

 

Winstons music Spike Island

On sky this week was the film Spike island a fictional take on four young lads in a band taking the trip to see the legendary Stone Roses gig on Spike Island , I could have gone to this gig back in 1990 a number of my friends went , I was a fan of them , not a big fan then as I was till a mad smiths fan back then .I did have a few stone rose t-shirts at the time , also the baggy jeans and Joe Bloggs sweatshirt that were the fashion .The film brought back the times for me , I remember hearing the stone rose for the first time at a friend’s house who had recorded them on a Tony Wilson show on  tv , i think it was called after dark , which at this time he had all the up and coming bands from Manchester the Happy Mondays and inspiral carpets were also both on it .I enjoyed the remind of my teen years , any fans of the music or growing up at the time will love the film it is steeped in the time and of course has loads of stone rose songs in it .I like being on the very edge of this time the Madchester scene , I had a friend at college that wrote the fanzine for Inspiral carpets for me the most underrated of the madchester bands , closely followed by the new fast automatic dafodils , that burnt out to soon .

Where you a fan of the madchester scene ?

Winstons books Translated Non-fiction

Well only two books arrived this week , that said I only read two books myself this week , had a busy week and a bit of a cold has led me not to read as much as usual .

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The first book to arrive was from istros book , Susan asked me if I’d like to try their latest a non fiction work by the leading intellectual and political voice in Albanian life Fatos Lubonja , the book follows the fall of the communist system with in Albania and the chaos of corruption pyramid schemes that followed it .This is also a reminder that I should add a few more Translated works of NON fiction to this blog , my big hope is that someone will translate Thomas Bernhard’s letters to his publisher from German this is one book I would love to read .

IMG_1978

The other book is the finished hardback edition of the new book by Cees nooteboom letter to Poseidon , I can’t wait to share this with you Cees is fast becoming one of my all time favourite writers and also I feel he should be a Nobel winner one day soon ,especially after Modiano won he is very much like him memories mean a lot to Cees .

What books did you have arrive this week ?

The Eagle’s throne by Carlos Fuentes

 

The Eagle’s throne by Carlos Fuentes

Mexican Fiction

Original title – La silla del águila

Translator – Kristina Cordero

Source – Personnel copy

 

Here we are, seeking out the Reds
Trying to keep the communists in order
Just remember when you’re sleeping in your beds
They’re only two days drive from the Texas border

How can a country large as ours be scared of such a threat
Well, if they won’t work for us, they’re against us you can bet
They may be sovereign countries but you folks at home forget
That they all want what we’ve got but they don’t know it yet

We’re making the world safe for capitalism

Billy Bragg wrote this song , The marching Ballard of the covert battalions ,the song is a satirical take on US foreign policy .

This was one of the first books I brought around the time I started the blog with the idea of  52 books from 52 countries , well of course that has long since been past and this book has sat on the shelf for over five years , I was attracted by both the fact it was a Fuentes novel , but also the great cover on this book a linocutout of an eagle is very eye-catching .Carlos Fuentes is probably the best known Mexican writer in his time a member of what is called the latin American boom ,he wrote over thirty novels , and was always a writer tipped for the Nobel prize .He supported Castro and was at one time investigated by FBI .I had thought i reviewed him before on the blog , but no this is the first by him on here .

Our modern communications system has suffered a grave paradox .On the one hand ,we strived to become part of the largest global communication network in existence .On the other hand , we have wanted to monopolise access to information for our Government’s benefit.

They put all their eggs in one basket so ended up getting cut off , when US struck back at them .

The eagles throne although written twelve years ago and set in 2020 , seems more apt now than it did at the time it was written .We are told the story in a series of letters , yes letters as the premise of the book is the the Mexican president and government in 2020 , has angered the US government  this has led to the US effectively removing all the modern communication tools from Mexico .So with letters are the only way contacting and keeping in touch .We see a change in life as people start to open up more in letters .The topic of course on the mind is how will take over The Eagle’s throne (the name of the seat of the president !) .So what we get is the inner workings of the Mexican government laid bare in letters as we see the leading figures and powerbrokers jostling for power and trying to get the throne and the blackout sorted .Also what secrets will be let out in the letters .

Ex-president Cesar Leon came to visit me .At first I didn’t even recognise him .That young man with wavy black hair is now a mature man with wavy white hair .Those matinée idol’s wavy locks are what define him for me , politically and morally as well as physically .They remind me of that old song “The waves of the lagoon” some waves come ,while others go .

I was struck by the opening of this letter it is so true , leaders do age when in power .

Now I said this is more meaningful now than twelve years ago , imagine the  present with out the chance to use smartphones , laptops etc .I doubt even Fuentes could see how much the world would move on and really even more on wireless communication , this is like the millenium bug happening a country thrown back to a time when the written word was the only way to contact one another .Another thread to this book is of course the relationship between mexico and the US , this strangely has changed as well (from the totally uniformed view of me ) it seems Mexico is growing and is often mentioned as one of those countries along side Brazil , China  and India that will one day hold more power in world affairs ,whereas the US has seen the world power shrinking in recent years .So Fuentes wrote this after fifty years of writing , it isn’t as epic as some of his other books but is said a unusal future take on the epistolary novel .I must not wait five years to have another book by Fuentes on the blog .

Have you read Fuentes

 

A song and album that have caught the eye

I still get two music magazines every month Mojo and uncut like I have for the last decade or more .I tend to mainly read the articles these days as there seems to be very little new that appears that really grabs me by the horns and makes me want to run out and listen to it but this one album has caught my eye in its reviews in this months Mojo and uncut it is a solo album from Steve Gunn , he has in the past been a member of kurt Vile’s backing  band an artist who’s work I have enjoyed .So i download onto my phone via spotify his album way out weather and am loving it , a mellow mournful album of blues songs .

What albums and singers have you enjoyed recently ?

 

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo

 

Pedro Páramo By Juan Rulfo

Mexican fiction

Original title -Pedro Páramo

Translator – Margaret Sayers Peden

Source – Library copy

Have you got just a minute
Are you easily mad
Let me show you the back room
Where I saw the dead
Dancing like children
On a midsummer morn
And they asked me to join
They asked me to join
But my body was stubborn
Wouldn’t let me give in
So I offered a good deed
In return for a sin

I thought of this song even as i read this book I saw the dead by the underrated Irish band the villagers source

Now I ask myself a couple of years ago when the right time to read and put this book on the blog would be and I decide to wait as it is considered one of the most important books in Latin American fiction as it has influenced some of the biggest names in Latin American fiction .Juan Rulfo had lost both his parent before his tenth Birthday , he carried on to complete his schooling but due to university being on strike he ended up in Mexico city at the military academy ,which he left after three months worked as a clerk managing to study literature at the university in between .He started to write ,publishing a literary journal , then from getting a fellowship he got time to write his first two novel which where a huge hit and in 1955 this book his second book came out .

I came to Comala because I had been told my father a man named Pedro Páramo , lived there .It was my mother who told me .And I promised her that after shee died I would do it .She was near death , and I would have promised her anything .”Don’t fail to go see him ” she had insisted .”Some call him one thing , some another .I’m sure he will want to know you “

Juan completes the promise he made his dying mother .

Pedro Páramo   is the story of a son returning to his home town , after his mother death to find his father , but also to find out more about his father  .The son Juan Preciado sets out to the town of Comala .Now this is the point where the story starts getting odd because he gets to the town and finds it is full of ghosts of his fathers past and the present , so the story drifts between his father  Pedro Páramo time in the village , his father as a boy falling for a girl called Susana .Her life is one of death and madness .Pedro own life takes many a turn he is a womanizer , tyrant and quite a cruel man .But Juan is in the present where this town isn’t the vibrant place it once was now it’s a dying town .THis is a small part of what are many threads Juan sees in his time in Comala .

If was as if time had turned backward .Once again I saw the star nestling close to the moon ,scattering clouds .Flocks of thrushes .And suddenly , bright afternoon light .

Time is very fluid in this book it is almost as thou the past and present are one place at times .

It’s hard to grasp this book without giving to many bits and side stories away  as there are a number of small threads in this book .The book although 120 pages long feels like an epic russian novel by the time you have finished it you feel as thou it was a real epic journey not a short novella .You feel part of Juan Rulfo own story is in this  book , parents dying ,young family torn apart .His greatest influence as  a writer is on the generation that follow just after him .Marquez said he saw how to write after he felt blocked in his first four books , so yes this is the book that gave birth to magic realism , but is a book of Magic realism  , for me no it owes more to its writers homeland mexico where the dead are celebrated and death sometimes isn’t  the end of someones life these are echoes of what was once a more vibrant  place juan sees at times  .The book also shows how sometimes thwarted love as in the case of Pedro and Susana can lead people down different paths .For me the time was right to read it just after a burst of Marquez , but also Fuentes and Llosa in recent years you can see how this slim book had maybe pushed each of these writers to write in turn as I have also read the other great Mexican book that came out five years before this labyrinth of solitude by Octavio Paz a collection of Essays about mexico and its love of death and myths !

Have you a favourite book from Mexico

Winston’s books a tale of two cities !

Well there was four books arrive this week at Winston towers .

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First up is two more in the series Tales from the OUP press , this time they are visiting Copenhagen , with stories from Hans Christian Anderson , Jakob Esersbo , Soren KIerkegaard and Karen Blixen on the back it says it takes you from the narrow twisting streets of the old town centre to the shady docklands ,captures the essence of Copenhagen and its many faces .Next we are off to Vienna and a few more familiar names to me Arthur Schnitzler , Joseph Roth , and Veza Canetti it says about Vienna tales , situated on the cusp of West and East ,between the foothills of the Alps and the mights “Blue Danube ” Vienna has long presented authors with a wealth of material for stories that entertain and intrigue .I love these snapshots of a cities writers and how a place has influenced a writer .

IMG_1974

Next up is a novel by one of Algeria’s most controversial writers Boualem Sansal set in a crumbling mansion in the old quarter of Algiers we meet two women one young and rebellious ,the other is a recluse Lamia whose world is turned upside by the arrival of the young Cherifa at her home .Frank Wynne has translated this novel so I am rather excited about this one .

IMG_1976

The last book is one I have reviewed ,but will mention here as it has been made into a series for Radio four in the UK it seems , The boy from Aleppo who painted the war ,is the Debut novel of Sumia Sukkar , is one of the first works of fiction to cover the recent war in Syria .

What books arrived at your house this week ?

Nobel Literature Prize 2014 Patrick modiano

The Search Warrant (eBook)

Another year waiting in front of the youtube channel for the live cast of the Nobel literature prize winner 2014 waiting for a rather splendid pair of wooden doors to open and for the world to be let in on this years winner and the winner this year  is Patrick modiano   here is an interview with the winner from France today ,I also reviewed his book The search warrant the other day , which for me is a perfect example of what they said in the announcement about memory as it is about his own family and Dora Bruder’s memories mixed together .

The Mahé circle by Georges Simenon

 

 

The Mahe Circle

The circle by Georges Simenon

Belgian fiction (Roman Durs)

Original title – Le Cercle des Mahé

Translator – Sian Reynolds

Ah wanna tell ya ’bout a girl
You kno, she lives in Apt. 29
Why… that’s the one right up top a mine
Ah start to cry, Ah start to cry
O ah hear her walkin
Walkin barefoot cross the floor-boards
All thru this lonesome night
And ah hear her crying too.
Hot-tears come leaking down
splashing thru the cracks,
Down upon my face, ah catch’em in my mouth!
Walk’n’cry Walk’n’cry-y!!!
From her to eternity!
From her to eternity!
From her to eternity!

Well this is Nick cave song about obsession with a  neighbour source  

The first non Maigret novel ,I’m review here is the first to be reissued from the other type of fiction Simenon was known for his Roman Durs (means hard novels – they are more complex in the storylines than his other books and often darker ) .As it is Nobel week I decide to look at Nomination database that is on the Nobel site to see if he was ever nominated for the nobel prize it shows he had 6 nominations up til 1963 which is as far as the database goes up to so it looks like he may have had more in the years after that .

“She is dead isn’t she ?”

The eyes of the girl in the red dress were still starring at him through the darkness and he hesitated to answer the woman ,who went on :

“The last hour , she was trembling all over , I had to hold her … sweating too … bad smell  … I can still smell it on my hands

The woman dies just as the doctor gets there to see to her .

 

The circle is the story of one man  Dr Francois  Mahé  and his obsession with a women ,after he caught a glimpse of her this is on his holiday with his family on the small island of porquerolles of the southern coast of France , whilst their he also attends to a dying women as he is called into help whilst fishing with some local men .He returns home ,but then he drags his family back for the following three summers as he has a growing sense of attraction to this younger women Elizabeth  even getting a young family member to start trying to date her .

Already last year , she was much changed .She had still been wearing the red dress, as she was even this year , it was as though the dress was growing with her .And she was still just as thin , but her breasts had formed and now showed through the fabric

The girl has grown more into a women over the years he has visited the islands .

Well this is different to Maigret , there is a very sparse nature to Simenon’s story we only get what is need , he is never one to over load his writing with too much detail .The story could be viewed as one man’s mid-life crisis in a way , Francois is a man who has reach a point in his life he is a doctor ,has kids and a life ,but at some point he wants a different life .That is the main point of the book it is the battle of Francois  between the life he has and the life he sees on the small islands , worlds classes apart its a dark look at what happens when a rich chap looks over the other side whilst on holiday , I was reminded of the film Shirley Valentine , where a housewife falls in love on a greek island ,well imagine if that film had a male and was made by David Lynch and you have the Mahe circle , love here is really obsession , this obsession is also mirror in his obsession to catch a certain fish in the book .The island leaps of the pages at time , but all that sun and easy living as it seems isn’t all it is cracked up to be .

Bilbao – New York – Bilbao by Kirmen Uribe

Bilbao – New York – Bilbao by Kirmen Uribe

Spanish Basque fiction

Original title – Bilbao – New York – Bilbao

Translator – Elizabeth Macklin

Source – Review copy

I wish I was a fisherman
Tumblin’ on the seas
Far away from dry land
And its bitter memories
Casting out my sweet line
With abandonment and love
No ceiling bearin’ down on me
Save the starry sky above
With light in my head
You in my arms
Woo!

Well it could only be the song Fishermen blues another hymn to being a fisherman from The Waterboys -source

Well I originally set out to write this review a month and half ago and then saw the book wasn’t out yet , it was a book i read and just wanted to write about and even after a month I still feel the same .This novel was a real event when it came out in spain as Kirmen Uribe is seen as one of the brightest stars in Spanish/Basque writing .He grew up in a small fishing village an hour from Bilbao ,his father was a trawlerman , Kirmen started out as a poet and has done spoken word performances to music in the past ,this novel was his debut novel and won the Spanish literature prize in 2009

Fish are always growing .Not us , we start shrinking once we’ve reach maturity .Our growth stops  and our bones begin to knit together .The person shrivels up .Fish , though grow until they die .Faster when they’re young , and as the years go on more slowly ,but fish always go on growing

The world of the fishing village is like men grow n and now shrinking , unlike the fish they catch

So Bilbao – New York -Bilbao , is a novel that to me as a reader was like getting really into the head of a writer for the first time , the plot follows Kirmen Uribe as he takes a flight from Bilbao to New York , whilst on this flight we see Kirmen drift into his own world ,his families world , he is in the middle of writing a novel about three generations of a fishing family , the family in the book is his own family from his grandfather to his father , uncles  and their years as trawlermen , the folklore of being a fishermen , his own life , the progress of the flight .

A monster , a monster that roars .In the old Irish legends Rockhall island is called Rocabarragh .The rock that roars according to Celtic tradition , the third time the rock comes to light ,it is said , the end of the world will be at hand .It’s visible only in the summer , in winter the waves cover it ,until they’ve hidden it completely

I love the small snippets of fishermen folklore we see in this book .

Well that is all I’m giving you plot wise  on this  book as I feel it is one you really  have to discover yourself  .For me this book is almost in words, the working of the inner mind of a writer we see how Kirmen could have used all  that is in this book , the  memories ,folklore and dairies  to write another  novel ,an interesting novel within a novel or is the novel he was writing in the book I  am reading the book ? or is it another book at some  later point I as a reader will meet from him  .Is the kIrmen Uribe  in the book the KirmenUribe that wrote book ? What we see in the book is a real hymn to a dying world the world of his father and uncles ,the dying world of small trawler men in the Basque region .The world he writes about reminded me of the people I knew in the small fishing port where I worked twenty years ago .The world isn’t just dying the people in the world are looking beyond the boats , but also looking back at the boats ,as the world of small boats supporting families giving them a living is dying out as this sort of fishing is being driven out by bigger boats with smaller crews and thus less work in the small communities around the ports where these boats were based , this is the world we see in Kirmen’s book is  not quite gone but disappearing quickly .Th e other thing that comes across in the book is the sea , fishermens respect for the sea ,the folklore they build around the sea ,man being drawn to the challenges of the sea-going in boats round places like St Kildas ,were the world comes down to man against nature so much and although he is flying over this world maybe trying to escape it he in his own way as a writer is still drawn to this world , as thou you can’t escape the shadow of ones own past .I’ve not read any book that has touched me in  so may ways such as this book has , having  lived around fishermen for a few years and also spent a lot of my youth around the small fishing ports of the East Neuk in fife , spending my summers with my gran doing the fishing boat trail learning about the fishermen and their lives ,I admire Kirmen’s longing for this world at times .Kirmen Uribe cast his own net not a real net no a net of ones mind a drag up memories poetry and a truly unique book for us as a reader , I hope Seren discoveries the publisher publishes his other novel ,either that or I may have to teach myself Spanish to read it .

What was the last book that left you totally knocked back ?

 

 

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