Unexpected Pairs of Books

Books can be of completely different genres, tell an incomparable story, feature characters with overall contrasting personalities and still have at least one element in common. The following three pairs of books are unexpected, because at first sight they couldn’t be more dissimilar. However, there’s one characteristic that unites the books in each pair. What can connect three classics or modern classics to three fantasy books? While you are about to discover the correlation between two of the pairs, regarding the other one you will have to read the books!

 

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin + Os Maias (The Maias) by Eça de Queirós

I cannot directly tell you what the connection between A Game of Thrones, a fantasy novel, and the Portuguese classic Os Maias (The Maias in the English translation) is, because it is a massive spoiler for one of these books. I’ll just give you a brief summary of their premises instead. At the beginning of A Game of Thrones, Robert Baratheon is the king who sits on the Iron Throne. After the death of his Hand, he invites Lord Eddard Stark to assume the role.  However, since the lords of Westeros are playing dangerous power games, families want to keep secrets hidden, the exiled Targaryen’s want to retake their father’s throne and a legendary threat is lurking behind the Wall, peace may be at an end.

The classic by Eça de Queirós, as the title suggests, revolves around the misadventures of the Maia family. After the end in tragedy of the relationship between Pedro da Maia and Maria Monforte, Afonso da Maia becomes responsible for the upbringing of his grandson, Carlos, who later becomes besotted by Maria Eduarda. Besides being a family story, the book also shines a light on the vices of the higher classes and the cultural discussions of the 19th century. Continue reading

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Book Recommendations Based on Other Books

After enjoying a book, it’s common to want to read similar ones. They don’t have to necessarily have an almost equivalent plot or include characters who have the same personalities, but it’s appealing when they share a couple of features. Wanting to read comparable books is also a good opportunity to discover ones that are not as renowned. Having three worldwide famous books as a starting point, I have three book recommendations for you. They are not necessarily unknown or obscure, particularly not in the countries that their authors are from. However, they are not as universally celebrated.

 

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante ⇒ Nada by Carmen Laforet

The first book in The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend, is well known and loved by many. It explores the first years of Elena and Lila’s convoluted friendship. They are two underprivileged girls who met at primary school in a problematic neighbourhood in Naples. As we are being presented with their story, we also learn more about the Italian society of the time, since Elena Ferrante explored themes connected with equality, class, social mobility and the role of education.

Other novel that isn’t only character focused, but that also delves into social issues is Nada by Carmen Laforet. The main character is Andrea, a young woman who is trying to lead an independent life in Barcelona, the city she moved to in order to attend university. She struggles to reconcile her family’s poverty with the way of life of her new friends. It is an involving read about female friendship and a broken family. Continue reading

First Books to Read by My Favourite Authors

The first book we choose to read by some authors may end up having a significant impact on whether we decide to continue to explore their work or not. When someone asks us to recommend a first book to read by one of our favourite writers, we surely want to mention one that will make that person want to continue to read their books. Which should we recommend? The first one we read? Our favourite? Or some other? I tried to answer these questions regarding my current favourite authors: Daphne du Maurier, Jane Austen, José Saramago, Eça de Queirós, Jessie Burton and Margaret Atwood.

 

Daphne du Maurier: Jamaica Inn

When we fall head over heels in love with the first book we read by an author, it’s difficult not to keep comparing our subsequent reads by them to it. That’s what happened to me with Daphne du Maurier and the magnificent Rebecca. For that reason, if you still haven’t started exploring Du Maurier’s work, I recommend starting with Jamaica Inn instead. It’s a great novel that will make you want to continue reading her books, while still having her best book (in my opinion) to look forward to.

Jamaica Inn is atmospheric and mysterious. After the death of her mother, the main character, Mary Yellan, went to live with her aunt Patience, who was married to Joss Merlyn. He was the new landlord of Jamaica Inn. Mary soon realised that her uncle was involved in some kind of criminal activity. Throughout the book, there are various instances which shine thanks to a tangible sense of menace. The believable characters and realistic dialogues make the book captivating. Continue reading

‘Os Maias’ (‘The Maias’) by Eça de Queirós

My rating: 5 stars

As the title suggests, Os Maias (The Maias in the translation into English) by Eça de Queirós focuses on the misadventures of the Maia family. However, this Portuguese classic, which I read for the first time around nineteen years ago, has much more to offer, since it’s also a superb portrayal of the vices of the higher classes in the 19th century and of the cultural discussions of the time. The ironic tone and some of the behaviours of the characters make this a recurring funny novel, despite it not lacking sadness as well.

The Maia family went to live at Ramalhete, a house at the Janelas Verdes neighbourhood in Lisbon, in the Autumn of 1875. Ramalhete had remained uninhabited for years, but now that Carlos was finishing his studies at the University of Coimbra, his grandfather Afonso wanted them to move there. They were the last two members of their family. Thanks to a valuable flashback, readers learn why.

When he was younger, Afonso da Maia, who was a supporter of liberalism, lived for a while in exile in the outskirts of London, as the absolutist King Miguel I had taken over the Portuguese throne. While he cherished living there, his wife struggled. Being surrounded by Protestants only made her Catholicism grow stronger. She started to hate everything that was English and sent for a priest from Lisbon to be responsible for their son’s education. The family ended up returning to Portugal when absolutism came to an end. The health of Afonso’s wife had been deteriorating, though, and, when she eventually died, their son, Pedro da Maia, was shaken by sadness and mourned her with intensity, behaving erratically. Continue reading

Favourite Authors of All Time

There are authors whose work we, as dedicated readers, want to continue to explore for years to come. We treasure almost all of the books that we read by them and, thus, cannot wait to pick up again a few more of the novels, poetry or short story collections that they wrote for our enjoyment.

My favourite authors of all time are those whose work I’m constantly recommending to other readers, even though I didn’t equally love all of the books that I read by them and don’t think that all of them are perfect. I have read three or more books by the authors below, and their work has a special place in my heart.

 

Daphne du Maurier

I fell in love with Daphne du Maurier the moment I read Rebecca, my favourite book by her followed by Jamaica Inn. Her work doesn’t fit neatly into one genre, comprising both historical fiction and sci-fi, for example. But both her novels and short stories tend to be atmospheric, enthralling, gripping and slightly mysterious. The characters that she created are vivid and many unforgettable. I’ve read nine of Daphne du Maurier’s books so far! I haven’t finished exploring her work yet, though. I still have at least eight of her other books on my wish list. Continue reading

Favourite Books by My Most-Owned Authors

In past years, I wrote a blog post listing all the books that I had on my shelves by my most-owned and read authors. The plan was to publish such a post every year, in order to evaluate if there were any changes. As the differences weren’t that significant from one year to the next, I discarded the idea of doing it annually.

My shelves look slightly different now, since I’ve unhauled not only many books from my childhood, but also more recent ones that I didn’t enjoy that much. However, instead of just listing the titles of the books that I read by my most-owned authors, this time I decided to reveal my favourite book by each of the most prevalent writers on my shelves. The list below features seven authors. Four of them I read and own six books by, the others more than that.

 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

I read and own eight books by J.K. Rowling. A number that increases to nine when adding the work that she wrote under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. My favourite is still Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. In the third book in the series, Harry, Hermione and Ron investigate Sirius Black, whom they believe is an ally of Voldemort. It also explores Harry’s family history. Continue reading

‘A Capital’ (‘To the Capital’) by Eça de Queirós

My rating: 3 stars

Symbolic characters are an integral part of the novels written by Eça de Queirós. In A Capital, To the Capital in the English translation, the Portuguese author used them to criticise the high society of Lisbon from the 19th century. Although the book features a couple of great moments of irony and social commentary, I was never fully enthralled by the ordeals of the main character, Artur Corvelo, which were to an extent self-inflicted.

At the beginning of the novel, 23-year-old Artur is at the train station in Ovar, the town where he grew up, looking for his grandfather, who was supposed to be on its way to Lisbon. He didn’t find him, though. Then the narrator goes back in time, and we learn what happened in Artur’s life up until that moment. His parents had sent him to Coimbra to attend university. While there he spent most of his time engaged in philosophical and literary discussions. After the death of his parents, he lacked the financial means to continue his studies.

He left Coimbra and moved to the house of his aunts in Oliveira de Azeméis. But he quickly grew bored. He missed the conversations that he had with his friends and lacked the inspiration to write poems as he used to do. Life there was tedious. While his desire was to become a poet, he ended up accepting a job at a pharmacy in order to earn some money. He didn’t give up on his dream, though. He showed some of his work to Rabecaz, whom had lived in Lisbon. He believed that Artur should go live in the capital, since he would certainly achieve notoriety there. Continue reading

Books Waiting Too Long to Be Read

I always try to keep my TBR pile under control. Thus, I generally read the majority of the books that I buy in the subsequent months. Occasionally, however, some of them are left waiting as I decide to pick up newer additions to my shelves. I’ve recently realised that there are five books on my shelves waiting to be read since 2017. I’m still interested in reading almost all of them, but my enthusiasm has waned since then.

 

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

I bought this book back in January 2017, I believe, but for reasons unknown never got around to reading it. This is a crime novel written by J.K. Rowling under a pseudonym. Private detective Cormoran Strike investigates the apparent suicide of a troubled model. This will be the year that I’ll finally read it!

 

Vozes do Vento by Maria Isabel Barreno

This book by the Portuguese writer Maria Isabel Barreno is the one that I’m least eager to pick up. I read about four pages soon after buying it, but as I couldn’t get into it I decided to put it down and give it another try in the future. It is a family colonial saga set in Cape Verde. Continue reading

Favourite Book Settings

When choosing a new book, the setting of the story is by no means my primary concern. However, with the passing of time, I’ve come to realise that there are certain locations that tend to appeal to me. Generally speaking, I’m more interested in books that are set in cities than in those that take place in the countryside, for example, and I’m also keen on fictional locations. There are four book settings, some real and others fictional, that I particularly love.

 

London

London has always been one of my favourite cities, strangely (or not) even before I ever visited. Thus, a book set there is bound to catch my attention. I love reading the descriptions of the city and recognising the names of the streets. I have read plenty of books solely or partially set in London, after all there are no shortage of them.

Saturday by Ian McEwan is not one of my favourite books, but the various mentions of the streets of London stood out to me. It takes place during one day in February 2003. A demonstration against the Iraq war makes the main character, Henry Perowne, muse on personal satisfaction, the meaning of his life and the protest itself. Continue reading

Favourite Portuguese Authors

Do you want to start reading (more) books by Portuguese authors, but don’t know by whom specifically? I have some recommendations for you! Before deciding to write about this topic, I had never reflected on who would make their way onto a list about my favourite Portuguese writers. So, I was surprised to realise that all of them had already passed away. This doesn’t mean that I don’t read and enjoy books by more contemporary Portuguese authors. I just didn’t like all of the books I read by them, as it’s the case of the following four so far.

 

Eça de Queirós

If you are a fan of classics, then Eça de Queirós (also spelt ‘Queiroz’) may be the author for you. Born in 1845, he wrote some of my favourite Portuguese classics – Os Maias (The Maias) and O Crime do Padre Amaro (The Crime of Father Amaro). His books are rich in instances of social criticism and irony. Some of the thoughts he put onto the page are still quite relevant today. In case you want to know more about his work, I wrote a more in-depth feature on him when I first started this blog.

 

José Saramago

José Saramago is the only Portuguese writer to have won the Nobel Prize in Literature so far. His writing style is pretty recognisable. In the majority of his books, you won’t find any quotation marks. The dialogues and the characters’ thoughts are differentiated from the rest of the text by using a comma followed by a capital letter. But as soon as you get familiar with the style, his books become quite readable and flow really well. Continue reading