Monthly Favourites – June 2020

June is coming to an end, thus it’s time for another instalment of my monthly favourites. I’m about to share with you the book, TV show, blog post and YouTube video that I enjoyed the most during the last thirty days.

I have only finished one book this month. The reason why is that I’ve been reading Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb for at least three weeks now and still haven’t finished it. It would have been terrible if I hadn’t enjoyed the only novel that I read in its entirety. But unsurprisingly I loved rereading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and remembering why it’s one of my favourite classics. It was wonderful to get reacquainted with a story that is full of interesting characters, brilliant dialogues and that is written in an engaging and witty style. Elizabeth and Mr Darcy’s interactions are often amusing.

The third (and last) season of Dark became available on Netflix during the weekend and is also one of my favourites from June. It is a German science fiction thriller that features time travel and various families trying to deal with loss, grief and love. As with previous seasons, it requires full attention from viewers. I highly enjoyed it! All parts were linked together effectively and engagingly. Some aspects, however, could have been further explored, such as the state of mind of some characters in certain instances. I also have the feeling that some revelations happened too hastily, but that sensation may be a consequence of me binge-watching the episodes in a space of three days and not a fault of the series itself. Continue reading

2020 Mid-Year Resolutions’ Evaluation

Before revisiting the blog post that I wrote about my bookish resolutions for this year, I was certain that I wasn’t on the way to achieving the majority of them. That is not the case, thankfully. But I’ve still read fewer books than I was expecting to so far.

One of my resolutions for this year is to read at least 35 books. I was hoping to surpass that number or at least read more pages than last year. I’ve only read 12 books so far, though, which means that I’m significantly behind schedule. I should have read 16 or 17 books by now. There are still full six months left in 2020, and I’m hoping to spend more time reading than I have so far from now on.

I was also eager to finish three of the book series that I was reading. I’ve already completed two – The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan and As Areias do Imperador (Sands of the Emperor) by Mia Couto.  I’m currently reading Royal Assassin, the second book in the Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb, but I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the last one until the end of the year (it’s massive!). Maybe I’ll read the last two books in The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante instead. Continue reading

Films I Watched Before Reading the Books

Many people favour reading the books before watching the film adaptations. I don’t have a strong preference. While sometimes I make sure to read the book beforehand, other times I just watch the film and then read (or not) the book afterwards. In fact, I discovered a couple of my favourite books thanks to their adaptations. There are at least four films that I watched before picking up the books.

 

Atonement

Directed by Joe Wright and released in 2007, Atonement was the film that introduced me to the work of Ian McEwan. I read the book (more precisely the Portuguese translation) shortly after watching the film at the cinema. Set in different time periods, the story starts in 1935, when Briony is rehearsing a play. She misunderstands the relationship between her older sister Cecilia and Robbie, leading her to want to atone for her actions.

 

Pride and Prejudice

I also watched the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen before reading the book. I know that not everyone is a fan of this film, directed by Joe Wright, but I love it and have watched it many times, since a friend recommended it to me more than a decade ago. The plot is well known. Mrs Bennet is eager to marry her five daughters. Elizabeth, the second eldest, is intelligent, playful, witty and believes that she is a great reader of characters, although she sometimes judges people without knowing all the facts. One of them is Mr Darcy, who struggles to overcome his pride. Continue reading

‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen

My rating: 5 stars

It was an immense pleasure to finally read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen in the original language more than a decade after first falling in love with it thanks to the Portuguese translation. The convincing characters and the engaging plot may be my old friends, but turning the pages of this wonderful classic felt like making a brand-new discovery.

Mrs Bennet was eager to marry her five daughters – Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine and Lydia. So, it was with great satisfaction that she learnt that a single young man, Mr Bingley, who had a large fortune, was to live at the neighbouring Netherfield. Although Mr Bennet told her that he did not wish to pay Bingley a visit, he had always intended to go to his new home and, in fact, he was one of the first to do so. Elizabeth was Mr Bennet’s favourite daughter, reason why he was convinced that she would be the one to catch Mr Bingley’s attention. He was wrong, though.

Mr Bingley attended a ball where he danced more than once with Jane. He thought that she was the most beautiful woman there. And Jane admire him also, since he was handsome, lively and had good manners. Bingley was there with his sisters and his friend Mr Darcy, who, despite being a handsome man, was deemed horrid and arrogant. He refused to dance with anyone whom he didn’t already know and was overheard saying that Elizabeth’s looks were merely tolerable. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – May 2020

This edition of my monthly favourites is significantly shorter than the latest ones. It consists only of a book and a song. May obviously wasn’t a fruitful month, although I highly enjoyed taking part in the Daphne du Maurier reading week and in two of the Lauren and the Books’ cosy reading nights.

My favourite book from the ones that I completed in May was The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier. Two men, one English and the other French, meet at a station buffet in France. What is unusual is that they look exactly the same. They have some drinks together and, in the following day, the French Jean de Gué disappears taking with him the narrator’s clothes and wallet. When Jean’s driver arrives, he fully believes that the narrator is his employer. As the resemblance is so irrefutable, the narrator ends up assuming Jean’s place. I enjoyed discovering progressively more about the past of the characters, who are presented for the first time not only to the readers, but also the narrator. This is a compelling novel, full of convincing dialogues and written in an absorbing style.

Music-wise, I kept listening to one of HAIM’s newest songs, ‘Don’t Wanna’. I’m looking forward to listening to the new album in its entirety when it’s released. Continue reading

‘Afirma Pereira’ (‘Pereira Maintains’) by Antonio Tabucchi

My rating: 4 stars

Certain books are set in such distinguishable periods in history that their authors needn’t have mentioned a particular year in order to create a sense of time. Afirma Pereira (Pereira Maintains in the English translation) by the Italian author Antonio Tabucchi is one of those novels. Set in Lisbon in 1938, it is a criticism of totalitarian states, censorship and repression.

The main character of this book is a journalist named Pereira, who had just become the editor of the cultural page of a third-rate newspaper. As he needed a contributor to help write anticipated obituaries, he contacted the young Monteiro Rossi, who had written a dissertation about death at university, a topic that was of particular interest to Pereira. Since the passing of his wife, Pereira was constantly musing on death.

Monteiro Rossi accepted to work for the newspaper. The articles he wrote were not what Pereira had in mind, though. His first obituary was about García Lorca, a writer that was considered to be subversive not only by Franco in Spain, but also by Salazar in Portugal. Therefore, it couldn’t be published. As Monteiro Rossi was counting on being paid to have money for food, Pereira invited him for lunch. Pereira was old enough to be his father. Maybe for that reason he started caring about what happened to him and to his girlfriend, Marta, who was too outspoken for a country oppressed by a dictatorship. Continue reading

‘The Scapegoat’ by Daphne du Maurier

My rating: 4 stars

Even if two men look exactly the same, the way in which they interact with other people is bound to be different. The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier offers an interesting perspective on how such disparities in behaviour have consequences in the lives of others. The main allure of this novel is to discover more about the past of the characters, which explains their current behaviour, at the same time as the narrator, particularly because they wrongly believed that he had the same knowledge as them.

The narrator is a lecturer on French history and language from England who at the beginning of the book was travelling around France. While at a station buffet, he saw a man, Jean de Gué, whose appearance and voice were exactly like his. The resemblance was undeniable. It was like looking straight into a mirror. They drank and had dinner together. Jean de Gué was eager to know more about the narrator’s life and was particularly interested in him not having a family, something that he considered to be freeing.

Jean decided to rent a room for the night and they had a few more drinks there. When the narrator woke up the next day, Jean was gone and had stolen his wallet and clothes. Jean’s chauffeur was there to pick him up and was fully convinced that the narrator was his employer. After unsuccessfully trying to explain that he was not Jean, he gradually ended up deciding to also assume the place of his doppelgänger. But it was only when they were getting close to Jean’s house that he completely realised the full extent of what he was doing. Continue reading

Favourite Characters by Daphne du Maurier

Many of Daphne du Maurier’s books stand out thanks to a magnificent creation of atmospheres. The characters that she crafted are not less remarkable, however. Some of my favourites are not necessarily the most perfect human beings or ones that I identify with, but they feel real and live off the page. They are characters that are not easy to forget.

 

Mrs de Winter

The first name of the narrator and main character of Rebecca remains a mystery for the entirety of this outstanding novel. At the beginning, she is an exceedingly insecure and timid young woman, who lives in the shadow of Mr de Winter’s deceased first wife, Rebecca. She becomes much more confident by the end, though. Despite her diffident personality, Daphne du Maurier managed to make her relatable.

 

Mary Yellan

Jamaica Inn also has a great main character. Curious, feisty and determined, Mary Yellan reveals great complexity. Although she is brave, she occasionally succumbs to fear. She has good intentions, but doesn’t always address her aunt with kindness, something that she is aware of, as she reconsiders her behaviour. I loved her interactions with Jem Merlyn. Continue reading

‘Hard Times’ by Charles Dickens

My rating: 3 stars

Patchy and uneven, Hard Times by Charles Dickens is a novel whose main purpose is to criticise the glorification of utilitarianism. For a long while, the characters and, to a certain extent, the plot are only used to convey that condemnation, instead of being critical elements of a gripping story. Although almost all of the characters and the apparent inconsequential parts of the plot end up being relevant, that only happens close to the end of the book.

The headmaster of the Coketown school, Mr Thomas Gradgrind, required his pupils to only be taught facts. His own children had the same type of education. Any activity that required imagination, emotions and creativity was forbidden. Once, when he found two of his children, Louisa and Thomas, watching a touring circus, he was appalled. Louisa had been curious to know what it looked like, though.

Sissy Jupe, a new girl at the school, was the daughter of a man who was a performer at the circus. So, Mr Gradgrind and his friend Mr Bounderby went looking for him to inform him that she couldn’t attend the school anymore. But, as Sissy’s father had disappeared, Mr Gradgrind made her a proposal instead – she could continue going to the school as long as she left the circus and he became her tutor. With great sadness, Sissy accepted. Despite not knowing many facts, reason why she was led to feel inadequate, she revealed an interesting perspective on social issues. Continue reading

Books in Portuguese to Read this Year

Last year, UNESCO proclaimed the 5th of May as the World Portuguese Language Day. Although Portuguese is my mother tongue, I’ve recently been reading more books originally written in English than in Portuguese. There are some books written by lusophone authors that I definitely want to read until the end of the year, however. The list features writers from Portugal, Brazil and Angola.

 

Lillias Fraser by Hélia Correia

Hélia Correia won the Camões Prize (a literary career prize for authors who write in Portuguese) in 2015. Lillias Fraser is a historical fiction book about a Scottish girl who was part of a clan that lost the battle of Culloden against the English. She then ran away and moved to Portugal.

 

O Irmão Alemão (My German Brother) by Chico Buarque

The Brazilian author Chico Buarque is the latest winner of the Camões Prize. This book is a combination of fiction and reality. When he was 22 years old, Buarque discovered that he had a brother in Germany, so he decided to write a book about that. Continue reading