Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, December 6, 2021

The Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little - 2020

 The Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little - 2020

In July of 2015  I read and was fascinated by Mademoiselle Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History by Rhonda Garelick.  For sure Coco Chanel (1883 to 1971)  is one of if not the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century. Worldwide her influence on fashion is tremendous.  When I started reading Garelick's superb biography I knew very little about Coco Chanel.    Upon reaching the end I felt I had been taken deeply into the psyche and life of an incredibly creative woman, a business genius who created from nothing a fashion and perfume empire worth billions of dollars, a woman who began life as an orphan and ended it atop the fashion universe.  I also saw a complex, deeply troubled and very much a flawed woman.  I admired her to a degree but found her often very selfish, insecure and I find her anti-Semiticism despicable.  I am convinced by the information in this book that Chanel did not just collaborate with the Nazis but tried to use the antiJewish laws they put in place to cheat the Jewish family that bought ninety percent of the rights to her famous perfume, Chanel # 5 from her.  

Coco (Gabrilla) Chanel is the most influential fashion designer of all times.  In the side bar of my blog there are four writers wearing Chanel inspired clothing.  She, as vividly 

potrayed in Judithe Little’s marvelous histotical fiction, rose from the depths of poverty to incredible wealth based on her talent, drive and creativity.  

I greatly enjoyed Reading The Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little.

The Three Chanel Sisters - abandoned by their father, their mother deceased were left in a Pensionnat, an orphange/ School run by Catholic  nuns.  

September 11, 1882: Julia-Berthe Chanel is born 

August 19, 1883: Gabrielle Chanel, later known as Coco, is born 

June 14, 1887: Antoinette Chanel is born

1902 (est.) Coco and Antoinette leave the Pensionnat and begin to work as seamstresses, for which they were trained.  From this humble start, with the help of a very wealthy man, Coco will build her huge  fortune.  She learned  the hard way to never rely totolly on anyone else.  Men will leave you, just as her father did her and her sisters, marry somone else or die. She liked her men tall, rich, thin and with a title. She never married.

There is a very useful timeline included at the close of The Chanel Sisters, from which the dates above are taken.

The story is told from the point of view of Antoinette Chanel.  Unlike Coco, not much is known about her  personal life.  Little  creates romances she might have had from what might have developed from the wealthy men she met through working as Coco’s second in charge.  It was exciting to see the sucess of Coco, starting out as just a hat maker and getting wealthier by the day as she expands into clothing.  

The story ends  just after May 2, 1921: Antoinette Chanel dies in Buenos Aires at the former Majestic Hotel. The cause of death is listed as “intoxicación,” or poisoning.  Little creates a very exciting but tragic account of why she was there.

We do miss out on the further huge sucess of Coco, her rise to international super star status as well as her possible flirtation  with The Nazis during World War Two, her post year time living in Switzerland and her return to France. 

“Judithe is the award-winning author of two historical novels, The Chanel Sisters and Wickwythe Hall. 

She grew up in Virginia and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. After studying at the Institute of European Studies and the Institut Catholique in Paris, France, and interning at the U.S. Department of State, she earned a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law where she was on the Editorial Board of the Journal of International Law and a Dillard Fellow. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and three children, where she is working on her third novel. When she’s not writing or practicing law, Judithe enjoys riding horses, reading, scouring the fields during Round Top Antiques Week, and volunteering. “ from judithelittle.COM 

Sunday, December 5, 2021

The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher - forthcoming January 11, 2022


The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher - forthcoming January 2022

Sylvia Beach 

March 14, 1887 - Baltimore Maryland 

1901 Family moves to Paris

1914 - starts Shakespeare and Company

July 1920 - Meets James Joyce

1922 - publishes Ulysses 

I loved this marvelous book.  Based on the Paris experiences   of Slyvia Beach, founder of the very famous book store Shakespeare and Company it is a story of Slyvia’s love for Paris, for literature, for her book store, for Adrienne Monnier, owner of a French language book store and for helping the many expatriate writers in Paris. 

Among writers we meet in Slyvia’s store, featuring books in English for sale or loan, were James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot.  Joyce, as potrayed by Meher was an almost daily visitor to the shop.  Joyce was a “challenging” genius. Beach tried to help him with his marriage and eye problems as he worked on Ulysses. Meher really brought Joyce to life for me.    Sylvia worked very hard to get Ulysses published and fight American regulators  who had declared it “obscene”.  There is a lot of detail about court battles and clandestine distributions of the book.  Slyvia helped Joyce financially in his hard times, paying for his eye treatments.  We see his stormy relationship to Nora.

The Love story with Adrienne Monnier is very central to The book .  The erotic scenes are very powerful.  Same sex relationships were made legal during The French Revolution so things were more open there. Natalie Burney comes in for a mention which delighted me.  Of course Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas are featured.

I learned a lot about The day to day operations of the 

 store, often an operational and financial Challenge.

There is a bibliography of works Maher suggests at the close.

I totally endorse this book.  There is much more in it than I have mentioned.

There is bio data and information on The author on her website

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Adventurism and Empire The Struggle for Mastery in the Louisiana-Florida Borderlands, 1762-1803 By David Narrett

 In December of 2018, in consultation with Max u, it was decided that there should be an annual post in observation of our Father's December 2, 1914 birthday.

Our Father served four years in the United States Army during World War Two.  He was a junior officer serving under General Douglas MacArthur.  He was stationed in New Guinea and shortly after the war in the Philippines.  For the initial observation  I posted on a wonderful book, Rampage MacArthur, Yamashita and The Battle of Manila by James M. Scott .  Shortly after I posted, the author, a great speaker, did a book tour in Manila.  My wife and I attended one of his talks. Afterwards we had a lovely conversation with Mr. Scott.

In 2019 I came upon a perfect book for the second annual birthday observation, War at the End of the World: Douglas MacArthur and the Forgotten Fight For New Guinea, 1942-1945 Book by James P Duffy

Our father was born in Georgia, in the southern part of the state just north of Florida.  Our ancestry goes way back before the American Revolution so in December of 2020

I posted upon a biography of a pre-Revolution governor of the then colony of Georgia, James Edward Oglethorpe by Joyce Blackburn.  Our father, with our grandparents, moved to Florida around 1921.

This year I was happy to find a very interesting book on Florida history.   Adventurism and Empire The Struggle for Mastery in the Louisiana-Florida Borderlands, 1762-1803  By David Narrett 

Narrett begins his study in 1763 with the close of the Seven Year War to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.  Narrett details how a rivalry deveoped with Spain in the Mississippi Valley and on borderlands between Georgia and Florida.  He tells us the stories of traders and schemers involved in cross border trade including slavery.  He details numerous military conflicts.  We see the impact of the American Revolution as well as the French Revolution.  He expanded my understanding of how these matters impacted greater Atlantic area.

David Narrett is Professor of History at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he has taught since 1984. He received his B.A. at Columbia University in 1973—and his Ph. D. at Cornell in 1981.


Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The Reading Life Review - November 2021

The Reading Life is a multicultural

book blog, committed to Literary Globalism 

November Authors

Column One

  1. Brian Kirk - Ireland - his work has been featured 11 times
  2. Nalo Hopkinson - Jamaica to Canada. Great S/F writer, genius at creating worlds
  3. Jennifer Cody Epstein - USA - author The Painter from Shanghai. First appearance - I hope to read her two other novels next year.

Column Two

  1. Lizzie Collingham - UK- wonderful food historian. 
  2. Eric Maria Remarque - Germany 
  3. Margaret Atwood - Canada

Column Three 

  1. Barbara Pym - UK. I am hoping to finish my read through of her novels next year
  2. Freya Sampson - UK - I loved her debut novel, The Last Library. First appearance. Hopefully many more to come
  3. Hiromi Kawakami - Japan . - Multi-awarded writer

Current  Countries of Authors 

  1. UK - 3
  2. Canada - 2
  3. Ireland - 1
  4. Japan - 1
  5. USA - 1
  6. Germany - 1

Seven works by women were featured, two by men.  Two authors are no longer living.  Only two authors were featured for first time, both will hopefully  return .

I read two non-fiction works upon which I did not post

  1. Black Spartacus - The Life of Toussaint Louverture by Sudhir Hazareesingh 
  2. The Taste of Conquest:  The Rise and Fall of Three Cities of Spice by MICHAEL KRONDL

Blog Stats 

Our posts have been viewed 

6,536,254 times

The top countries of origins of visitors are

  1. USA
  2. The Phillippines 
  3. India
  4. Romania - first time with such a high rank
  5. Canada
  6. Germany
  7. France
  8. Russia

The top five viewed posts were all concerning Short stories

Future Plans and Hopes - to Blog on through to The  end of The pandemic after 660 days of lockdown in Metro Manila.

I offer my thanks to Max u for his kind Gift Cards

To my fellow book bloggers, keep blogging, we are in ugly times but The World needs you.


Monday, November 29, 2021

The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson - 2021 - 331 Pages

The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson - 2021 - 331 Pages 

I totally loved The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson.  I think anyone with a deep passion for reading will totally identify with June Jones, the lead character.  It helped me at least for a while stave of the pandemic blues  brought on by 660 days of lockdown in Metro Manila.

June Jones, thirty, has never left the small sleepy English village where she grew up.  She lives in the house in which she grew up.  Her mother, passed away eight years ago, was the town librarian.  She got June a job as library assistant and she is still doing that.  She loves books reading above all else.  She embodies the reading life. On a weekend all she thinks about is the precious reading time.  Then one day disaster looms.  Because of budget cutbacks, the library maybe closed.  She slowly begins to emerge into the larger world, banding with a lovable group of library lovers to fight the closure.  The fight to keep it open was as exciting to me as any thriller.

Now, for the first time since her mother passed, June begins to open herself up to other people and new experiences.  There are lots of twists and turns.  The Last Library has marvelous secondary characters, a perfectly  realized cat, villains out to profit from the close of the library and many many references to the books June reads and suggests to patrons.  Her literary taste is exquisite.  There are even food references.

I don’t want to give away much. There is real sadness In The Last Library but I cannot imagine anyone able to identify with June even a bit not being thrilled by the final results.

“Freya Sampson works in television as a creator and executive producer. Her credits include two documentary series for the BBC about the British royal family and a number of factual and entertainment series. She studied history at Cambridge University and in 2018 was short-listed for the Exeter Novel Prize. She lives in London with her husband, two young children, and an antisocial cat. The Last Chance Library is her debut novel.” .from the book

I hope I get the opportunity to read more of her Freya Sampson’s work and I thank her for this perfect for these ugly times book.

Mel u

The Reading Life 


Friday, November 26, 2021

The Green Man and The Fool - A Short Story by Brian Kirk - published in Fictive Dreams - October 17, 2021

 The Green Man and The Fool - A Short Story by Brian Kirk - published in Fictive Dreams - October 17, 2021

You may read today’s story here

Gateway to Brian Kirk on The Reading Life.  Included is a wide ranging Q and A session on Ireland, short stories and more.  There are links to nine short stories by Brian Kirk in my posts 

I first encountered the work of Brian Kirk in March of 2013.  Since then I have posted on nine other works by Kirk and was honored by his participation in a Q and A Session.  Obviously I would not follow a writer so closely if I did not have great respect for their talent and insight.

My main purpose today is to let my readers know he has a new story that can be read online and to continue my voyage through his work.

This story focuses on a long married couple.  The husband was a solicitor, they always lived in City but now are renting a home in the country. He has retired.   They had one child, a son, who died quite young. The wife often wonders what he would be like if still alive.  As most anyone long married knows time changes things, the passion of youth fades, if there are children they become the focus.  There has been no sex in a long time in the characters marriage.  The wife broods on the past more than the husband.

Kirk is a Master at depicting relationships.  His prose is exquiste.

Brian Kirk is a poet, short story writer, playwright and novelist from Dublin, Ireland. His work has appeared in the Sunday Tribune, Crannog, The Stony Thursday Book, Revival, Boyne Berries, Wordlegs and various anthologies

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The Painter from Shanghai: A Novel by Jennifer Cody Epstein - 2008 - 416 Pages

The Painter from Shanghai: A Novel by Jennifer Cody Epstein - 2008 - 416 Pages

I offer my great thanks to Elaine Chiew, author of The Heart Sick Diaspora and other stories for recommending The Painter of Shanghai.

I suggest anyone interested in contemporary literature by Asian authors follow The Asian Book Blog

Exquisite Video Collage of works by Pan Yuliang 

Website of Jennifer Cody Epstein 

The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein is historic fiction done at the highest level.  Based on the life of Pan Yuliang (June 14, 1895 Yagzhou, China - July 22, 1977 Paris) who was the first woman from China to paint in a western style.  In 1930s her work drew severe criticism in China for her nude portraits of women and for deviating from tradition.  She moved to Paris in 1937 and spent forty years there painting and teaching.  She produced over 4000 works.

Epstein begins the work with Pan Yuliang at age 14.  Her mother has passed and she lives with her uncle.  She learned embroidery from her mother.  Her uncle tells her he is taking her to Shanghai to do embroidery but he sells her to a brothel keeper to pay his debts to opium dealers. The brothel is a place of great cruelty, nothing but a commercial value is put on the girls. Pan Yuliang was innocent of the nature of sex but was indoctrinated by the “number one  girl” of the  brothel.  The girls can buy their way out but records are kept and padded. There are vivid descriptions of sex in the brothel. The workers seek methods of preserving a sense of self-worth.  Escape is virtually impossible.  A few lucky girls meet a client who buys them out to be a  personal concubine.  I do not want to go into much detail on her brothel times  but as I empasized with her so much, as others I think will, it was painful to read.

There is a new customs Inspector in Shanghai.  In an effort to corrupt him and get “dirt on him” a group of merchants whose income depends on low customs duty, sent Pan to his house, without telling him first. Pan is told not come back without “his seed inside her”.  He is not interested in this, being married to a wife in another town, but he likes Pan and asks her to show him around Shanghai.  This encounter will change her life.

It was wonderful to see Pan learn about Chinese politics but thrilling to watch her develop a passion for painting.  

There just is so much Chinese political  history in this book.  We sit in on Pan’s art lessons.  Her relationship with the customs Inspector, who bought her out, is complicated. They develop passion and perhaps love.  He has mixed feeling about her art which some conservatives call pornographic.  

We follow her on her first trip to Paris.  

There is so much detail I felt I was in Shanghai in the 1930s.

This is a great novel.  I loved it.  

From the author’s website

“I am the author of the USA Today bestseller Wunderland, now out in paperback. My prior works include The Gods of Heavenly Punishment, winner of the 2014 Asian Pacific Association of Librarians Honor award for outstanding fiction, as well as the international bestseller The Painter from Shanghai. I have also written for The Wall Street Journal, The Asian Wall Street Journal, The Nation (Thailand), Self and Mademoiselle magazines, and the NBC and HBO networks, working in Kyoto, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok as well as Washington D.C. and New York. I’ve taught at Columbia University in New York and Doshisha University in Kyoto, and have an MFA from Columbia, a Masters of International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a BA in Asian Studies/English from Amherst College.

I currently live in Brooklyn, NY with my husband, filmmaker Michael Epstein, my two amazing daughters and an exceptionally needy Springer Spaniel.”

Epstein has published two other works of historical fiction, I have added both to my Amazon wish list.