Friday, September 30, 2016

Germinal by Émile Zola

This book!  Where do I even start??

With a label... Émile Zola's style is classified as naturalism, a form of literary realism. And let me tell you, Germinal is nothing if not realistic! Brutal, in-your-face realism. There is dire poverty and suffering juxtaposed with the bourgeois life of ease and plenty, but Zola portrays the characters with such respect and humanity, the reader somehow sympathizes with everyone.

Germinal is about mining, politics, and labor relations. Sounds incredibly boring, right?  Yet boring is the last word I would use to describe this book. The women (and animals) especially broke my heart... such horrible lives. And the incident - OMG!! Can there be anything else in all of literature like that riot scene?

Zola's descriptions of physical surroundings are incredibly vivid. I could practically feel the moisture from the dripping water and melting snow. My feet seemed mired in the thick mud. The scenes in the mines made me nervous and anxious... my heart was pounding. Germinal is the most realistic piece of literature I've ever read. No wonder it is considered Zola's masterpiece!

This is not my first experience with Zola. I read Therese Raquin several years ago and thought it was excellent. [It's a perfect starting point if you're inclined to give Zola a try.] Not long after, and before the television series, I enjoyed The Ladies' Paradise. I've also read several of his short stories.

Germinal is the thirteenth novel is Zola's famous Rougon-Macquart series. I have considered reading them all, but can the others be this good? I've added the first book, The Fortune of the Rougons, to my current Classics Club Spin list. We'll see what happens on Monday...

A few more details...

As usual, I approached this classic as a read/listen combination. I purchased the Penguin Classics edition (pictured above) translated by Roger Pearson. Initially, I downloaded the audio version narrated by Frederick Davidson, but didn't like the translation. Audible has the best customer service and let me exchange it for the Leighton Pugh narration (pictured below)... much better, although the translation was still differed slightly from the print. I wish they would include translation information on their website.

Finally, a big thank you to Melissa and Care for organizing and hosting #GerminalAlong. Classics are always better with friends - great conversation and photos (!) on twitter, Litsy, and instagram. And, of course, the postcards :)

Overall, a grueling, but truly memorable reading experience.

My rating:


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Another Classics Club Spin

The Classics Club Spin has been a huge success over the years and now it's time to play again - round 14! I've missed the last couple of spins, but since I have no classics commitments at the moment, it might be fun to choose my next one by chance.

The rules are the same, only the dates have been changed.

Here's how it works:
- Go to your blog.
- Pick twenty books that you’ve got left to read from your Classics Club list.
- Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog by next Monday. (10/3)
- Monday morning a number from 1-20 is announced. Go to the list of twenty books you posted, and select the book that corresponds to that number.
- The challenge is to read the book by December 1, 2016.

In the past I've come up with fun categories and themes, but this time it's purely alphabetical. Time is running short. The original purpose behind joining the The Classics Club was to challenge myself to read 50 classics in 5 years. My five year deadline is coming up in April... and I've read 43 so far. The pressure is on to 'finish strong'!

My Spin List

  1. Bronte, Anne - Agnes Grey
  2. Bronte, Charlotte - Villette
  3. Cather, Willa - A Lost Lady
  4. Collins, Wilkie  - Jezebel's Daughter
  5. DuMaurier, Daphne - My Cousin Rachel
  6. Forster, E.M. - Howards End (reread)
  7. Gaskell, Elizabeth - Wives and Daughters
  8. Hardy, Thomas  - The Return of the Native
  9. Hemingway, Ernest - The Sun Also Rises
  10. Keyes, Daniel - Flowers for Algernon (reread)
  11. Mitford, Nancy - The Pursuit of Love
  12. Powell, Anthony - A Dance to the Music of Time (first movement)
  13. Pym, Barbara - A Few Green Leaves
  14. Steinbeck, John - The Winter of Our Discontent (reread)
  15. Tan, Amy - The Joy Luck Club
  16. Taylor, Elizabeth - A Game of Hide and Seek
  17. Trollope, Anthony - Miss Mackenzie
  18. Whipple, Dorothy - The Priory
  19. Zola, Emile - The Belly of Paris
  20. Zola, Emile - The Fortune of the Rougons

Check back on Monday to see what I'll be reading...

 The spin landed on number one, so I'll be reading Agnes Grey by Ann Bronte.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Sunday Salon: More Reading, Less Blogging

Without really meaning to, I've settled into a weekly blogging routine over the past couple of weeks... reading more, but blogging less. Instead, I've been posting quick updates/photos on litsy, instagram, and twitter. That worked well for the Germinal  readalong - lots of 'contact', but not a lot of blogging. It also seems to suit my life at the moment. We'll see what happens post-readalong...

Finished this week//

Germinal by Emile Zola
I loved it! This is one of the most intense novels I've ever read... consuming, actually. Hard to believe a novel about coal miners could have such an effect. Germinal is truly Zola's masterpiece. I'll write a proper readalong wrap up/review post soon.

Current reading//

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes
This novel is proving to be the perfect follow-up to Germinal. Exactly what you would expect from the man who gave us Downton Abbey, I'm enjoying every page. As an added bonus, I borrowed the audiobook from the library (because it's narrated by Juliet Stevenson and she's the best) to make it a read/listen combination.

Up next//

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
I'm reading this with Athira and had planned to start right after Germinal, but needed the palate-cleansing of Belgravia first. I'll start within the next few days.


I finished Doctor Thorne and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's based on a favorite Trollope novel, so naturally I was nervous about the liberties Fellowes took with plot... especially in making Miss Dunstable an American. I decided that made her more of a 'type' and easier for viewers unfamiliar with the novel to understand. Have you seen it?

I've moved on to Indian Summers, but only watched one episode and am not hooked yet.

In the kitchen//

The novelty of the spiralizer has not worn off. I made these lemon garlic zucchini noodles on Tuesday and added some halved grape tomatoes - delicious. But the hit of the week was Ginger Roasted Salmon and Sweet Potato Noodles with Miso-Maple Dressing from (pictured above).  I had to buy a couple ingredients, but will definitely use them again. We grilled the salmon instead of roasting, and I cooked the sweet potato noodles a little too long... they started to break up.

Today my relatives will help us take the docks out (we're early this year!) and are staying for dinner. Since temps were in the 30s this morning, I feel justified in taking action on my pumpkin pie craving. I'll make one this afternoon!

New this week//

Are you familiar with Litsy? It's a new social media app for readers... like a cross between instagram and  goodreads... and the android version launched this week. The bookish community there is really something special. Check it out! Look for me, lakesidemusing.

That's it for me today. How was your week? What are you reading?

This post will link to It's Monday, What Are You Reading?  hosted at Book Date.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Sunday Salon: September 18, 2016

Aaah, Friday!

Good morning, friends. It's a warm, mild morning... the windows are open, coffee is poured, books, newspapers, and of course, laptop are at my side. Today I am thinking of family and friends in Manhattan. The bomb that shook Chelsea last night was just around the corner from my daughter's old apartment. Thankfully, there were no fatalities, but it is disturbing to see those images from a neighborhood I know so well...

Where did the week go? I haven't even posted since Monday. Every spare moment has been spent reading and listening to Germinal by Emile Zola.

This book!! It is brutal. It is riveting. It is SO real... and it is emotionally exhausting. But reading with friends is the best - search #GerminalAlong on twitter, instagram, and litsy.  I am past 80% now, and there is no question of picking up another book until I reach the bitter end.

Up next//

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan... with Athira (and maybe Care?) Want to join us?

I'm also at the top of the library hold list for two books on the Man Booker prize short listHot Milk   by Deborah Levy and Eileen  by Ottessa Moshfegh. One should arrive this week, but is either the type of book I need after Germinal? We'll see...

In the kitchen//

With an abundance of sweet corn and zucchini, how could I not try the Sweet Corn and Zucchini Pie Bookchickdi shared last weekend? It comes from Pinch of Yum and was indeed yummy. I used Baby Bella mushrooms for even more flavor.

Do you spiralize? I've started buying spiralized zucchini and sweet potatoes at Wegmans... so convenient, but a little pricey if purchased on a regular basis. Yesterday I bought a gadget of my own and will experiment this week. Tips and recipe ideas welcome :)


Doctor Thorne... Julian Fellowes' recent project. The book was a favorite last year (the entire Barsetshire series, actually) and I'm loving the television production, too. Definitely binge-worthy, but not today. It's too nice outdoors!

The week ahead//
Today we're celebrating my mother's birthday. It's been a long couple of months and we're all ready for a little party!

We pick up my new car on Wednesday. With 2017 models already on the lot, we got a great deal on a 2016. My old car will reside in FL now... nearly 100,000 miles but still going strong. It will be nice to have a second car this winter, and one available for off-season visits.

How was your week? What are you reading today?

This post will link to It's Monday, What Are You Reading?  hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

Monday, September 12, 2016

September 12, 2016: It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday and it feels like fall! At last. The heat and humidity have vanished and I'm enjoying the cooler days and almost chilly nights. This could be the week to break out the fall decorations and maybe even bake an apple pie.

Current reading//

Germinal by Emile Zola
I'm nearly halfway through this chunkster (596 pages, nearly 20 hours on audio) and it is excellent! The blurb talks about "a brutal depiction of the poverty and wretchedness of a mining community in northern France under the second empire", but I'm impressed with the respectful, humane tone Zola employs in his portrayal of the miners. I'd love to just sit and read for hours on end, but it will probably take another week, at least, to finish. Meanwhile, it's fun to chat with other readers on twitter, instagram, and litsy. #GerminalAlong

Up next//

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
This book has been on my shelf for years, so I'm happy to be finally reading it with Athira toward the end of the month. Feel free to join us!

New books//

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
The ebook is only $2.99 right now, plus this is one of the original books on my Classics Club list. And since RIP XI is here...

Realistically, it will take me the rest of the month to read Germinal and Amsterdam. Plus I'm also dying to read A Gentleman in Moscow  and Commonwealth, so this will likely be my only book for  RIP XI.

On the blog//

Book Brief: Dinner with Edward  by Isabel Vincent
#GerminalAlong: The Adventure Begins
It's Labor Day, and I'm Reading Again!

The week ahead//
With the cooler temperatures, I feel like getting back in the kitchen again... soups, apple and pumpkin treats, and some new dinner recipes, too. Hopefully I'll discover a few winners.

Did you hear about the Charlotte Brontë exhibit at The Morgan Library & Museum? It opened last week. As we begin planning a trip to NYC to see our daughters next month, I've already placed it near the top of my list.

What's new with you this week? Have you read any good books?

This post will link to It's Monday, What Are You Reading?  hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Book Brief: Dinner With Edward

Dinner with Edward: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship
by Isabel Vincent
Algonquin Books, 2016
224 pages
source: purchased

I love to visit independent bookstores when I'm traveling and was thrilled to stumbled upon Off the Beaten Path in Steamboat Springs, CO this summer. Of course I didn't need  another book, but still wanted to do my part to support a local indie!

I selected Dinner with Edward, a delightful memoir of a friendship between a middle-aged woman in a failing marriage and a ninety-something widower trying to find meaning in life after the death of his beloved wife. Edward also happens to be a gourmet cook. Each chapter begins with a dinner menu and, naturally, includes Edward's tips and secrets for preparing that dish.... though no recipes are included.

I read the book on our flight home. It turned out to be just as much about life, love, and sharing as it is about food.  It also made me want to visit Roosevelt Island the next time I'm in New York City.
"It's just cooking, darling," he said, when I asked why he didn't use cookbooks. "I  don't ever think of what I'm doing in terms of recipes. I just don't want to bother looking at recipes. To me, that's not cooking - being tied to a piece of paper."
Bottom line: A sweet, enjoyable read, but ultimately not that memorable.

My rating:

Weekend Cooking, hosted at Beth Fish Reads, is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

#GerminalAlong: The Adventure Begins

Out on the open plain, on a starless, ink-dark night, a lone man was following the highway from Marchiennes to Montsou, ten kilometers of paved roads that cut directly across the fields of beet. He could not make out even the black ground in front of him, and he was aware of the vast, flat horizon only from the March wind blowing in broad, sweeping gusts as though across a sea, bitterly cold after its passage over league upon league of marsh and bare earth. Not a single tree blotted the skyline, and the road rolled on through the binding spume of darkness, unswerving like a pier.
by Émile Zola

And so another readalong begins...

During the month of September, Melissa and Care are co-hosting a group read of Germinal by Emile Zola... and calling it #GerminalAlong. There is no formal schedule, and we are using the hashtag to chat on twitter, instagram, and litsy, as well as our own blogs.

Zola is considered a naturalist (is that the correct term?) and this novel is about a family of miners. Although I have read a couple of his novels, I was still unprepared for the horrifying descriptions of work in the mine. This one, referring to the pit after the workers' descent, was especially striking:
And LeVoreoux, crouching like some evil beast at the bottom of its lair, seemed to hunker down even further, puffing and panting in increasingly slow, deep bursts, as if it were struggling to digest its meal of human flesh. 
The tone is unmistakable as Etienne, the newcomer, reflects on his first day in the mine:
Was it possible that people could work themselves to death at such terrible labour, down here in this mortal darkness, and still not earn even enough for their daily bread?
As Care mentioned, I'm beginning to think Germinal qualifies for RIP XI!

My preferred approach to longer classics is a read/listen combination. With Germinal, I have the Penguin Classics ebook, Pearson translation, and the audiobook narrated by Leighton Pugh. The translations are slightly different and there is no whispersync, but the combination still seems to be working.

It's not too late to join our readalong... find more information here.
Have you read Zola? Germinal is touted as his masterpiece.

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

Monday, September 5, 2016

It's Labor Day, and I'm Reading Again!

Happy Labor Day... it's hard to believe summer has come to an end. The last few weeks have been stressful and, with my ability to focus gone, it seems like I haven't finished a book in ages.  I have sampled a few though. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi was especially good, and I would also like to return to The Door by Magda Szabó.

Today Mom and Dad are back in their own home, my oldest daughter will board a train to NYC soon, and I'm in the mood for a fresh stack of books!

Current reading// 

Germinal by Emile Zola
It's been too long since my last classic! This one was already on my Classics Club list, so when Melissa and Care decided to host a September readalong, I cleared my schedule. I'll have more to say soon. In the meantime, it's not too late to join us.

Book Club//

We met last week to discuss Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. Everyone seemed to enjoy the book and we had a lively discussion. I listened to the audio version and was especially taken with Lisette Lecat's narration. She did an excellent job with  The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series, too. Our next book is The Children Act by Ian McEwan.


This month's new releases! A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is at the top of my list since his debut novel, Rules of Civility, was a favorite a few years ago. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett is right up there, too.

RIP - XI... Hosted once again by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings, this has become the fall event  around the blogosphere! Have you made your list yet? I'm working on mine and will share it soon. After five chapters, I'm starting to think Germinal may actually qualify...

Later today//
After dropping Daughter #1 at the train station, we'll drive out to see a Viking longship on the Erie Canal, then stop for a cookout at my sister's house on the way home.

I plan to get back into a blogging routine this week, too.
How are things with you? What are you reading today?

This post will link to It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.


Related Posts with Thumbnails