Monthly Favourites – February 2020

March has already begun, but this post is still about February. During the shortest month of the year, I spent some of my free time reading books, watching TV series, listening to music and perusing through amazing blogs. And the time has come to share with you my favourites!

My favourite book from the ones that I read in February was Ensaio sobre a Lucidez (Seeing in the English translation) by José Saramago. It is an allegory that explores the complexities of democracy through an engaging prose. In the capital of an unnamed country, 83% of voters decided to vote blank in the local elections. As a result, the government isolated the city, whilst trying to uncover a reason behind the “epidemic” of the blank vote. While many of the characters are purely symbols, others feel like real human beings.

I had been waiting for the release of the second season of My Brilliant Friend for a while. Not only wasn’t I disappointed, I also enjoyed it more than the first one. As in the books by Elena Ferrante (I’ve only read the first two so far), the story of the friendship between Elena and Lila is gripping. The acting is also flawless. The only aspect that I’m not a huge fan of is the voice-over narration, which, nevertheless, annoyed me far less than in the first season. It helps the adaptation to be faithful to the books, but it’s something that I don’t tend to like on TV. Continue reading

‘Ensaio sobre a Lucidez’ (‘Seeing’) by José Saramago

My rating: 4 stars

Various books by José Saramago can be categorised as allegories. Ensaio sobre a Lucidez (Seeing in the English translation) is certainly one of those. It delves into the complexities of democracy, how people need to find a way to express their dissatisfaction and how even democratically elected governments don’t always treat citizens with the respect they deserve. Set in the same location as Blindness, it pulls readers in thanks to an engaging prose, even if some of the characters are not fully fleshed out.

On a day of local elections, rain was heavily pouring down in the capital of an unnamed country. As no one was appearing to cast their votes, the people responsible for the polling station number 14 decided to call the ministry. They were informed that the same was happening at the majority of all the other polling stations in the city. When the rain started to stop, they became confident that voters would finally appear. And they were right. After four o’clock in the afternoon, there were long queues to vote. It was almost as if everyone had decided to vote at the same time.

Although abstention wasn’t as high as first feared, the counting of the votes revealed that more than 70% of the people in the capital had voted blank. For that reason, the government decided to repeat the election a week after. When the day came, long queues quickly formed. In order to understand if voters were planning something, spies were deployed to the polling stations. The votes were counted – 83% voted blank! Continue reading

Book Haul – January 2020

My first book haul of 2020 consists mainly of books that I either have been wanting to read for a couple of years or that are the last instalments of certain series. There is no common theme or genre between the five of them. As I plan to read them all in the following months, you won’t have to wait long to know my opinions about them.

 

Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan

The last book in The Memoirs of Lady Trent series focuses on Isabella’s most famous adventure, which is partially set in the tallest peak in the world. It will surely share some similarities with the other books in the series. I’m expecting it to continue to delve into social and scientific problems, while painting an anthropological picture of the world it’s set in.

 

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The main character in this short book refuses to be subdued by married life. When it was first published in 1899, The Awakening was considered to be sordid and immoral. I’m not expecting to find it so in the 21st century. But I’m eager to discover what shocked people so much back then. 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

Monthly Favourites – July 2019

The July instalment of my monthly favourites may be a bit later than usual, but I do have a few sources of joy to share with you. These include two books (they are both worthy of a mention), two specific episodes of two very different TV series, a documentary and music from a band that I hadn’t listened to in ages.

Last month, for the first time in probably two decades, I finished rereading a book. O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis (The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis in the English translation) is one of the books that I wanted to reread, since I remembered it as an old favourite. And I’m so glad that I loved it as much as the first time! It is a fantastic example of intertextuality, as Ricardo Reis, one of Fernando Pessoa’s heteronyms, is turned into a real person. After 16 years living in Brazil, he returns to Portugal at the end of 1935. In Lisbon, he interacts mainly with three people: Lídia, a chambermaid at the hotel he is staying in; Marcenda, a young woman whose left hand is paralysed; and his deceased friend Fernando Pessoa. Although not much happens in terms of plot, this is still an engrossing and mesmerising work of literature, which also delves into the fascist regime in Portugal.

Another book that I also highly enjoyed reading in July was Circe by Madeline Miller, a retelling of an Ancient Greek myth. Circe is the daughter of Helios, god of sun, and the nymph Perse. She was sentenced to exile on a deserted island for using witchcraft against her own kind. Her emotions throughout the novel, which reads much like a fictional memoir, are palpable. It focuses on what she learnt during her life and explores the meaning of love and the fear of losing someone. The prose is almost always gripping. Continue reading

José Saramago: The Gifted and Uncompromising Portuguese Nobel

The Portuguese author José Saramago was a man of strong convictions. He didn’t shy away from bluntly expressing his views, often causing controversy. But his work and talent shined brighter than any outcry, ideological difference or political disagreement. He published his first novel, Terra do Pecado, in 1947, and until 1966 it remained his only book. Born on 16 November 1922 in the village of Azinhaga, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998, being the only Portuguese writer to have had that honour so far.

When he wasn’t yet two years old, his parents moved to Lisbon, where he grew up. For economic reasons, he had to do a vocational course at a secondary technical school, and his first job was as a car mechanic. It was in a public library that he continued to learn and to cultivate his love for reading. Later, he also worked as a translator and a journalist. He died on 18 June 2010 on the island of Lanzarote (Spain), and his ashes were laid to rest beneath an olive tree near the river Tagus in Lisbon.

He wrote novels, non-fiction, short stories, poetry and plays. His novels challenge genre boundaries, as they mix elements from magical realism, historical and literary fiction. Many are allegories about the human condition and delve into a variety of social and moral issues through stimulating and funny considerations. His characters and narrators lose themselves in their thoughts. Their asides replicate, in a way, how we communicate orally. Continue reading

‘O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis’ (‘The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis’) by José Saramago

My rating: 5 stars

A mesmerising and compelling book doesn’t always have to be action-packed. In O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis (The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis in the English translation), José Saramago turned one of Fernando Pessoa’s heteronyms into a real person to create a gloriously ingenious novel that doesn’t require a thrilling plot to shine. I read this book for the first time around 12 years ago, and it was a pleasure to rediscover it recently. It mixes magical realism with existentialism, literary and historical fiction, while paying homage to great names of Portuguese literature.

Ricardo Reis arrives in Lisbon at the end of 1935, on a rainy day, after spending the last 16 years in Brazil. He is a 48-year-old doctor who writes poetry and was born in Porto. He decided to return to Portugal after receiving a telegram from Álvaro de Campos informing him that their friend Fernando Pessoa had died. Around the same time there was also a (failed) rebellion in Brazil. After a journey on board of the Highland Brigade, he takes a taxi at the port, and the driver suggests that he stays at the Bragança Hotel. Its manager, Salvador, is eager to discover everything he can about his clients. But Ricardo Reis isn’t sure about how long he will stay at the hotel. He could either rent a house and practise medicine in Lisbon or return to Brazil.

During his stay at the hotel, Ricardo Reis becomes interested in a young woman whom he sees at the dining room. Her left arm is paralysed. He learns from Salvador that her name is Marcenda and that she and her father have been staying at the hotel three days every month for the last three years. They are from Coimbra and apparently go to Lisbon to see a doctor because of her condition. Continue reading

Writing the Seasons with Books: Summer

I’m a true believer that books don’t have to be read at specific times of the year. As long as the story is immersive, it doesn’t matter if it’s hot outside and snowing in the book. So, instead of recommending books that are appropriate for each season, this year I’m writing the four seasons with books. For that purpose, I take a look at my shelves and select books with titles beginning with the letters of the name of the season that is just starting. After doing that for spring, the time has come to welcome summer!

 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This novel focuses on five connected characters – an actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend and a young actress who is a member of the Travelling Symphony. The plot moves back and forth in time, before and after the spread of a deathly virus. Despite all the negative aspects that resulted from it, some cultural activities managed to subsist.

 

Uma Vida à Sua Frente (The Life Before Us) by Romain Gary

The only book that I’ve read by Romain Gary so far is narrated by Mohammed, a young boy who was being taken care of by Madame Rosa, a Jewish woman who was a former prostitute and Auschwitz survivor. It delves into their relationship and strong bond. Continue reading

Writing the Seasons with Books: Spring

I don’t consider myself a seasonal reader, meaning that I don’t tend to read books in a way that agrees with the season we are in. I usually read more fantasy and adventure books than normal during summer. And Halloween is generally my favourite time of the year to read unsettling novels. However, I’m also known to read books set during the winter in the summer and gothic, creepy novels while the flowers are blooming with the arrival of spring. Thus, I won’t be recommending you books to read during this spring. Any book is a good one!

Instead, I’ve decided to take a look at my shelves and select six books with titles beginning with the letters of the word ‘spring’. This wasn’t as easy to achieve as I first thought. And I had to cheat slightly! But below are the books with which I’m writing ‘spring’.

 

Sonetos by Florbela Espanca    

Florbela Espanca was a Portuguese poet who lived during the early 20th century. Her sonnets generally delve into the topics of love and passion. But they also convey pessimism and suffering, complemented with a pinch of sensuality. Continue reading

Reactions to 1-Star Reviews of Books I Love

A few months ago, I watched a video on the YouTube channel Mercys Bookish Musings in which Mercedes read 1-star reviews of books that she loves. I found the idea so interesting that I decided to also have a look for negative reviews of some of my favourite books on Goodreads and write my reactions to a number of them.

I chose five books from different genres and selected a review for each one of them that pinpoints the reasons why the person basically hated it. I’ll now quickly explain why I respectfully disagree with such opinions. It’s normal to have dissimilar views on books, so it’s not my purpose to be offensive towards other readers.

 

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca was the first book that I read by Daphne du Maurier and remains my favourite after having read other three (Jamaica Inn, The King’s General and My Cousin Rachel). I was aware that not everyone is a fan of this novel, but I didn’t think I was going to find so strong negative views, such as the one below. Continue reading