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, September 28, 2020

Sunita - A Short Story by Chibundu Onuzo - from New Daughters of Africa- 2019

 Sunita - A Short Story by Chibundu Onuzo - from New Daughters of Africa- 2019

Among the insidious lingering aspects of colonialism are the scars left in the descendents of people once ruled by those who denigrated the normal skin tone, hair texture and traditional modes of dress of their ancestors.  Here in the Phillippines there are frequent TV commercials aimed at young women advertising products claiming  to “whiten your skin”.  All of The female media personalities and women in TV commercials have skin tones significantly lighter than typical.

“Sunita” by Chibundu Onuzo in just a few pages shows us a young woman struggling to overcome this colonizing of the mind.  In the process we learn about women of color from Africa are viewed in posh London.  Her family is from Nigeria and rich.  They sent her to London in the care of an aunt.  She attented an almost all white girls schools.  She bought a weave for her hair.  She  tried out an Afro.

As she approaches graduation she is assigned a mentor, another woman of color, to prepare her for job interviews.  Her mentor works for a company that helps businesses fill their diversity  quotas.  Dolapo wants to get a job in investment banking,

“Dọlapọ loved the afro now hidden under her weave, loved its untameable, uncombable sprawl, loved the extra inches it added to her height, loved the mushroom silhouette of her head in photos, loved hair that grew up instead of down, gravity-defying, extra-terrestrial hair. “That’s fine if you want to work in advertising or publishing, or media, or fashion, or maybe even engineering, but certainly not banking,” Daisy said. “My friends like it.” “White friends or black?” “Does it really matter?” “White or black?” “Mostly white.” “They think its funky, edgy and cool, don’t

they?” “What’s wrong with that.” “Never elegant, chic, glamorous; these are the adjectives we use for women in banking. These are the adjectives for success. As a black woman, let me be honest, when you walked into this room, what I saw was unprofessional, unkempt and unserious.” She had been paired with Daisy by Diversity Unlimited, a recruitment firm that helped companies fill up their ethnic minority quota. Daisy had worked for seven years in an investment bank. Daisy carried a red leather bag with slim, curved handles, discreet, silver, letters spelling out PRADA under the zip. Daisy wore structured dresses, thin black heels, milky pearls, minimal lipstick.”

We see Dolopo is at first torn.  She wants the job that would plesse her parents and insure her future but she wants to be herself, to be proud of her heritage.

I loved these lines so much:

“Dọlapọ’s more modest purchase came in a black cardboard box, edged with gold curlicue. The hair lay lustrous on a bed of crepe, folded into itself like a small, sleek creature, a sable or a mink. Her aunt had gone with her to the salon, leafing through magazines as they wove Dọlapọ’s afro into lines and then stitched the human hair to hers, tight-running stitches that made her eyes water. She skyped her parents in Nigeria once she got home. “Ọpẹ o,” her mother sang, her face large and happy on the screen. “Thank God you’ve finally gotten rid of that bush. Darling, come and see your eldest daughter.” The tablet was passed to Dọlapọ’s father.”

Of course she story takes a turn to a more independent Dolapo.  

This is a wonderful story 

Chibundu Onuzo

Born in Nigeria, she moved to England when she was 14. She began writing her first novel, The Spider King’s Daughter (2012), at the age of 17 and it was published by Faber and Faber when she was 21. The novel won a Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Commonwealth Book Prize. 

It was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize and for the Etisalat Prize for Literature. In 2014 she was selected for the Hay Festival’s Africa39 list of 39 Sub-Saharan African writers under 40 with the potential to define future trends in African literature. In 2018 she was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in its 40 Under 40 initiative. Reviewing her second novel, Welcome to Lagos (2016), Helon Habila wrote in The Guardian: “. . . her ability to bring her characters to life, including the city of Lagos, perhaps the best-painted character of all, is impressive.”  - from New Daughters of Africa.

I liked this story so much I acquired yesterday her novel Welcome to Lagos.  

Mel u

Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Living and the Dead - A Short Story by Namwali Serpe - from New Daughters of Africa - 2019


The Living and the Dead - A Short Story by Namwali Serpe - from New Daughters of Africa - 2019

“I dream of Victoria, said J. The English name was steely in his mouth. My black hand in her white hand. The Queen’s smile, true and full. Her crown like the sun, with jewels and gold. I ask: Will you honor us, Your Majesty? She nods. It will come to you when you accept it. Christianity, Commerce, Civilization”

A few days ago among my Google Card Announcements there was a story about Namwali Serpe 

the 2020 Winner of the Arthur C. Clark award for best science fiction book of the year for her debut set in Zambia novel The Old Drift.   I was pleased to see she has a story, “The Living and the Dead”, included in New Daughters of Africa, so I decided to start my reading of Namwali Serpe there.

The story begins in Gabon, not far from Lambaréné.  A powerful man has just died.  He is tended by slaves he has freed.  It takes a while to understand that it Albert Schweitzer.  It seems his medicine box was missing, some of those in his entourage think the box was stolen in order to cause his death.  We learn that Schweitzer is called “Bawana”, a Swahili term for “master”.  We learn Schweitzer tried to force Victorian era values on those he freed, not being above striking someone in the face with a whip.  

We see how the body of Schweitzer is treated according to the traditional ways of his followers.  There is at first a dispute over what to do with his body but the group leader, Abdullah, decides the body should be taken to England for burial.  Numerous of his followers accompany the body to England.  They are taken around and shown off in fancy affairs.  They don’t like the food and miss their homeland.

The story is a very thought provoking work on colonial rule, not just of territory but of minds.  I liked this story so much I ordered her debut novel, The Old Drift.

Namwali Serpell was born in Lusaka and lives in New York. Her first novel, The Old Drift (Hogarth, 2019), won the  Anisfield-Wolf Book prize for fiction “that confronts racism and explores diversity,” the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction, and the L.A. Times’ Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction in 2020. It was short listed for the L.A. Times’  Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction and long listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown in 2019. It was named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2019 by the New York Times Book Review, one of Time Magazine’s 100 Must-Read Books of the Year, and a book of the year by New York Times Critics, The Atlantic, NPR, and BuzzFeed.

She is a recipient of a 2020 Windham-Campbell Prize for fiction. In 2014, she was chosen as one of the Africa 39, a Hay Festival project to identify the most promising African writers under 40. In 2011, she received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award. Her first published story, “Muzungu,” was selected for The Best American Short Stories 2009 and short listed for the 2010 Caine Prize; she went on to win the 2015 Caine Prize for “The Sack.” 

She is a Professor of English at Harvard University. Her first book of literary criticism, Seven Modes of Uncertainty, was published in 2014 by Harvard University Press. Her second book of essays, Stranger Faces, is forthcoming with Transit Books in Fall 2020. Her nonfiction book, American Psycho Analysis, is forthcoming with Columbia University Press.  From

Friday, September 25, 2020

The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women and The Artists They Inspired by Francine Prose - 2002

 The Lives of the Muses:  Nine Women and The Artists They Inspired by Francine 

Prose - 2002

After recently Reading Reading Like a Writer - A Guide for People that Love Books by Francine Prose i recalled I had snother of her books on my E reader, The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women and The Artists They Inspired.

These  are the Muses and their Artists:

Hester Thrale - Samuel Johnson 

Alice Liddell - Lewis Carroll

Elizabeth Siddal - Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Lou Andreas Salomé - Rilke and Nietsche

Gala Dali - Salvador Dali

Lee Miller - Man Ray and other photographers

Charis Weston - Edward Weston (photographer)

Suzanne Farrell - George Balanchine 

Yoko Ono - John Lennon

Prose begins with an account of the place of the Muses in ancient Greek Mythology.  Each chapter on an individual Muses also begjns with a lead into her account of the relationship of the Muses and their Artists through a digression into ancient Greece.

Of  the artists covered I am most familiar with Samuel Johnson whom i first began to read about fifty years ago.  Once on a two week excursion to London I visited fhe Johnson House Museum.  While there i read his poem London” everyday.  I stopped and had lunch at the historic Old Chedder Cheese Pub where he often dined.

Of course like every one else I have read the two Alice books. In 2014 I read a biography by a leading authority, Lewis Carroll The Man and His Circle by Edward Wakeling.  Like his subject Wakeling is an Oxford Don.  Carroll’s muse was about ten when he met her. The relationship ended when she turned 13, as directed by Alice’s mother.  Prose deals with the big question here- what is up with the nude and erotic photographs of pre-adolescent girls?  

“He was very into photography for many years and now the big question about Carroll comes up.  What is behind the many, about 1500 photographers of young girls, including nude photographs.  Why did a mature Oxford Don love to socialize with young girls?” Edward Wakeling

Wakeling tries to defuse the long raging controversary concerning whether or not Carroll was sexually interested in young girls by telling us several times he also photographed young boys and socialized with them also. I found that a tremendously poor defense

The answer is still unknown.  Carroll never married and never had any sex of any kind.  He took a vow of celibacy on becoming a Don. No one suspected him of being a pedophile, just odd, though he made Alice’s mother uncomfortable.

I have been to the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida and read a bit of Rossetti and have viewed jmages of pre-Raphalite art.

On the rest i have no knowledge.  I was never into post Beattles John Lennon music.

I found her thoughts on Johnson and Thrale to challenge my conception of their relationship.

One issue is of course do  the Muses sleep with their artists?  The modern answer would be “it’s complicated”.  The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women and The Artists They Inspired was consistently fascinating.

I was left with a question- are there any male muses to well known female artists ?



Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon - 2007


The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon - 2007

Winner of The 2007 Hugo and Nébula Award for Best Novel

In February of last year I read Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavilier and Clay.  I got bored with it about half way through but because of the creative power of Chabon I completed the work.  

This year I decided to read his Multi-Awarded alternative history novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.  I have been Reading in Yiddish literature and associated history for almost eight years now.  I was intrigued by idea of Alaska having been turned into a refuge for Jews during the early years of World War Two, the premise of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.  Because of this four million mostly Yiddish speaking Jews were saved from from the Holocaust.

The Jewish state was initiated in 1941 with a sixty year mandate after which time unless the American government makes it a state ths Yiddish capital, a Yiddish speaking city with, in 2001, several million residents, will become part of Alaska.

Chabon mentions in brief allusions other changes in history.  In 1942 The Germans defeated Russia, in 1946 the war ended when Berlin was totally destroyed by nuclear bombs.  The state of Israel was wiped out in 1948.  

The plot line centers on a detective plot, a murder mystery.  The detective is a member of the Yiddish Policemen’s Union.  Chess plays a big part in the story line.  We encounter lots of sorts of individuals.  We see how the Yiddish speakers and Alaskan Indians interact.  They even marry.  There are a lot of Yiddish words employed.  There is even a glossery included.

This seems to me a book for those intrigued by the alternative history presented.

Michael Chabon (b. 1963) is an acclaimed and bestselling author whose works include the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000). Chabon achieved literary fame at age twenty-four with his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1988), which was a major critical and commercial success. He then published Wonder Boys (1995), another bestseller, which was made into a film starring Michael Douglas. One of America’s most distinctive voices, Chabon has been called “a magical prose stylist” by the New York Times Book Review, and is known for his lively writing, nostalgia for bygone modes of storytelling, and deep empathy for the human predicament.  .from Goodreads

Friday, September 18, 2020

At Mrs Lippincote’s by Elizabeth Taylor -1945

 At Mrs Lippincote’s by Elizabeth Taylor -1945

Short listed for the Booker Prize 

July 3, 1912 Reading,  England

November 19, 1975 Penn, England 

At Mrs. Lippincote’s was Elizabeth Taylor’s debut novel.  Prior to this I first read her A View of the Harbour and then Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont, my favorite so far.  I have also read and posted on four of her short stories.  

I hope to read in the next few months these additional novels:

A Wealth of Roses 1949

The Sleeping Beauty 1953

The Soul of Kindness 1964

Blaming 1976. Published posthumously

Set during World War Two in a rooming house owned by Mrs Lippincote, Julie, her husband Rodney, and their son Oliver are kind of riding out the war there, not sure who will win.  Rodney is an officer in the Royal Air Force.  The social atmosphere of the British Air Force is very rank conscious.  With her lovely understated comic sense Taylor has produced a very interesting book.  You can see everyone is trying to keep an “English Stiff Upper Lip” while hiding their fear of the future.  

Taylor’s sentences are sometimes just such a joy to read, pure happiness on a page.

I loved these lines about the son Oliver:

“OLIVER DAVENANT did not merely read books. He snuffed them up, took breaths of them into his lungs, filled his eyes with the sight of the print and his head with the sound of words. Some emanation from the book itself poured into his bones, as if he were absorbing steady sunshine. ..... If this passion is to be called reading, then the matrons with their circulating libraries and the clergymen with their detective tales are merely flirting and passing time. To discover how Oliver’s life was lived, it was necessary, as in reading The Waste Land, to have an extensive knowledge of literature”.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Mo Laethanta Saoire: Up In Smoke - A Short Story by Billy O'Callaghan - 2020


Mo Laethanta Saoire: Up In Smoke - A Short Story by Billy O'Callaghan - 2020

Published in The Irish Examiner - September 6, 2020

You may read today’s story here 

Gateway to Billy O’Callaghan on The Reading Life, including two Short stories by Billie O’Callaghan

Billy O’Callaghan loves and is deeply read in the genre.

I am pleased to be able to present his Q and A session to the Reading Life World.

I have been following the literary career of Billie O’Callaghan since March 10, 2013. My main purpose today is to let people know they can have the pleasure of reading a new short story of his recently published on in The Irish Examiner.

Today’s story is set in Cork in 1984 on Bonfire Night.  Bonfire Night has very old roots in Cork, Ireland going back to pre-Christian times, as I learned from Wikipedia:

“On the city of Cork and many rural parts of the Republic of Ireland "Bonfire Night" refers to 23 June, St John's Eve night. It has its origins in a religious celebration and originally featured prayers for bountiful crops. The night is linked to the summer solstice or Midsummer's Eve. Originally fires were lit to honour the goddess Áine as part of a Celtic celebration; the Catholic Church took over the pagan festival and linked it to the birth of St John.In the city of Limerick, "Bonfire Night" is held on May Eve, 30 April, on the eve of the Celtic festival of Bealtaine.”

In 1984 in Cork Bonfire Night is now just a reason to set a huge fire.

Young men spend weeks collecting material for the fire.  The story is narrated by a young man very into preparing for the fire.  Part of the tradition includes a burning man figure.

I love how this story shows us how very old ways still inform contemporary Irish life.  I don’t want to relay much of the plot action but in order to set the stage and give you a feel for the elegant prose of O’Callaghan I will share the opening of the story

“By the time I was nine years old my grandfather's suit, a chocolate-brown pinstripe with big shoulders and baggy legs, had already gone a lifetime past its prime, the elbows and knees turned paper-thin, the cuffs frayed, the seams beginning to split. 

For all its many and obvious flaws, though, it remained his most treasured possession – ripe, he liked to claim, with the flavours of every significant moment he'd ever known, the gloriously sunlit days as well as the most tearful ones.

My mother hated the sight of the suit, and was forever at him about getting rid of it.

“We're the talk of the place,” she used to say, shaking her head in exasperation. “Tramps don't look as far gone as you do. There can't be anything more than dirt holding it together.” 

But such arguments were lost on him. 

He'd worn it to a dozen weddings over the years and to a hundred dances; had it on him the first time he stole a kiss from the woman who'd become his wife, and when each one of his six children (my mother being the last) were dragged into the world, and he'd stood broken-hearted in it at gravesides for the burials of his parents, siblings and friends.”

Billy O’Callaghan was born in Cork in 1974, and is the author of three short story collections: In Exile (2008, Mercier Press), In Too Deep (2009, Mercier Press), and The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind (2013, New Island Books, winner of a 2013 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award and selected as Cork’s One City, One Book for 2017), as well as the bestselling novel The Dead House (2017, Brandon/O’Brien Press and 2018, Arcade/Skyhorse (USA)).

His latest novel, My Coney Island Baby, was published by Jonathan Cape (and Harper in the U.S.) in January 2019 to much acclaim.

Billy’s latest short story collection, The Boatman and Other Stories was released in January 2020.

Billy is the winner of a Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award for the short story, and twice a recipient of the Arts Council of Ireland’s Bursary Award for Literature. Among numerous other honours, his story, The Boatman, was a finalist for the 2016 Costa Short Story Award, and more than a hundred of his stories have appeared or are forthcoming in literary journals and magazines around the world, including: Absinthe: New European Writing, Agni, the Bellevue Literary Review, the Chattahoochee Review, Confrontation, the Fiddlehead, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Kenyon Review, the Kyoto Journal, the London Magazine, the Los Angeles Review, Narrative, Ploughshares, Salamander, and the Saturday Evening Post.

I look forward to following the work Billy O’Callaghan for many years.  I predict one day people in Dublin, London, NYC and beyond 

may wonder who was this book blogger who predicted great success for him long ago.  

Mel u

Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Extraordinary Life of A. A. Milne by Nadia Cohen - 2018

The Extraordinary Life of A. A. Milne by Nadia Cohen - 2017

Alan Alexander Milne

January 18, 1882. - Hampstead, London, England

Winnie the Pooh - 1926

The House at Pooh Corner - 1928

January 31, 1956 Hartfield, Sussex, England 

The characters created by A. A. Milne in his two Winnie the Pooh books, Winnie-the-Pooh, Christopher Robin, Piglet, Eeyore (my favourite), Kanga, Roo, Tigger, Oslo  and Rabbit have obtained the status World Wide of folk characters.

  Millions have these characters as their first remberances of stories.  Many a senior Oxford Don still smiles when she thinks of The Hundred Acre Woods just like ten year olds all over the world do when they watch the Disney Cartoons.  Six year olds scream when they get a stuffed Winnie The Pooh character at Christmas.  Some sixty Plus year olds still have theirs on display.  As Cohen tells us, the books made Milne very rich.  Long after Milne’s passing huge revenue is still generated from merchandise, book sales (now translated into a growing multitude of languages), film rights.  Disney hit the Jack Pot when they bought the rights to the books.

“The rights to the characters were sold to Disney in 1961 and boosted profits for the US conglomerate more than anyone could have predicted. Alan knew Pooh was popular but he had no idea the vast scale of what imagination had created. Disney merchandise sales still continue to rake in an astonishing $3 billion a year today and rising – second only to Mickey Mouse. In 1966, Disney artists animated a Pooh story for the first time, called Winnie The Pooh And The Honey Tree. It smashed box office records, and scores of films and television adaptations have followed.” From the book

The characters are kind, gentle, and loving.

Milne based the stories on the stuffed animals of his son Christopher Robin.  Cohen explains the extreme popularity of the books bothered his son throughout his life, he never accepted everyone being curious about him.  This created a lingering rift between  Christopher  and his father.  Milne was a very prolific multi-genre writer and a highly succesful playwright.  He fought for England during World War One, seeing intense battlefield action in France.  From this experience he wrote works condemming war.  Cohen shows us how his growing awareness of the atrocities of Hitler changed his mind.  It was very interesting to learn that he never forgave his one time close friend P. G. Woodhouse for doing prooganda broadcasts from France for the Nazis.

Cohen goes into problems in Milne’s marriage.  He and his wife both had long term affairs, Milne with an actress in several of his plays.  There was big money from plays and Milne made more money than he knew what to do with.  They stayed married partially out of internia but they lost any sense of intimacy.

Milne half way resented the success of the Winnie the Books, no one paid any attention to his many other works.

If you loved the stories then The Extraordinary Life of A. A. Milne then this is a biography for you.  I am glad I read this book.

“Nadia Cohen is an author who has written more than a dozen historical and contemporary biographies. 

The Real Beatrix Potter will be the latest in a series of fascinating in-depth biographies about apparently whimsical children’s story tellers who actually hid a darker side behind the public facade. Others already published include The Extraordinary Life of AA Milne, The Real Roald Dahl and The Real Enid Blyton. 

In a previous incarnation as an entertainment reporter she worked at various newspapers and magazines in London including Grazia, The Daily Mail and The Sun, covering showbiz news, film festivals, premieres and award ceremonies around the world. She was headhunted to join the launch of US magazine In Touch Weekly and spent several years working in New York and Los Angeles before returning to London to produce a series of documentaries for ITV.

Nadia lectures in Journalism at University of Winchester and is the editor of digital lifestyle magazine Box Ibiza”. -

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Graceful Burdens - A Short Story by Roxane Gay - 2020

Graceful Burdens - A Short Story by Roxane Gay - 2020

This story is include in the Kindle Unlimited Program or can be purchased for $1.95.

This is the third short story by Roxane Gay I have had the pleasure of reading.

In this story women are tested  at age 16 to see if they are genetically suited to bear children.  Only those who past the test are allowed to have children.  In this world women still have an urge to have children.  That is why public libraries have babies, up to three years old, that women can check out for two weeks.  It is never made clear where the babies come from.   After age three the babies are either sent to the Center for Disease Control or, for a purpose you are better off not knowing, turned over to the government.

In a way women  declared unfit to give birth have more freedom that the elected.  They are free  to have sex with men declared unfit fathers.  No one really cares what they do.

We follow Hadley during her two weeks with a baby.  We learn of her frustrations.  Her temporary borrowed life launches her on a journey of self-discovery.

Graceful Burdens is a lot of fun and made me think.

Monday, September 7, 2020

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara - 2016 - 832 Pages


A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara - 2016 - 720 Pages

“A Little Life: The Great Gay Novel Might Be Here- 

Hanya Yanagihara’s novel is an astonishing and ambitious chronicle of queer life in America.” From The Atlantic 

A Little Life is a very powerful work, a work to stay with you for a long time.  

The novel focuses on four men who met while attending a college in  Massachusetts.  They move to New York City to seek their future. In The group are Malcolm, an architectural student from a very wealthy biracial family.  JB is a painter of Hatian descent hoping to establish himself in the art world, and Willem, an aspiring actor.  The central figure in A Little Life is Jude, who grows to become one of highest regarded attorneys in the City.  Like Willem, he is an orphan. Jude and Willem share an apartment after graduation.   Jude’s early life history and ethnic background are at first veiled in shadows.  Jude  has serious health issues.  In the gradually evolving account of the life of Jude before he reached college a horribly painful long drawn out we learn of sixteen  years of sexual abuse at the hands of the Christian Brothers who run the orphanage.  

Jude does very well in his law practice.  His friends obtain  great success also.  

At age thirty a Professor who was his mentor, Harold, in law school, along with his wife, adopts Jude.  As close as he is to his three friends, June cannot begin to tell his friends sbout his years of abuse.  

The novel goes into great depth treating the evolving relationships of the four friends. Jude’s health gets worse, he has been cutting himself, mostly on his legs, for years.  We see how Jude struggles to cope with the impact of years of abuse on his life.

A Little Life is a work of great depth.  It may become an LGTBQ classic.  It is not an easy to read feel good book.  I highly endorse this work. It deserves all the praise it has gotten.

The novel swiches points of view among the friends, Harold, and an omiscient narrator.

There is a very good essay on why A Little Life is a great work  about being a Gay man in America in The Atlantic.

A very good interview in Electric Literature

I hope to read her first book The  People in The Trees soon.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Hitler and the Hab­s­burgs: The Führer’s Vendet­ta Against the Aus­tri­an Royals by James Longo- 2018

Hitler and the Hab­s­burgs: The Führer’s Vendet­ta Against the Aus­tri­an Royals by James Longo- 2018

This book is the story of intersecting lives of people very different from each other, Adolph Hitler and the Hapsburg family. 

Like many popular works of non-academic non-  fiction, telling the story of the impact of Hitler on the ancient Hapsburg dynasty involves telling of events that the most likely readership of the book already know in order to convey some information that will be new to them.

The book begins with Hitler’s pre-World War One years in Vienna.  He was greatly traumatized when he could not get into art school.  He saw that Vienna, capital of the Empire was highly cosmopolitan, Jews were accepted more there than anywhere else in Europe. (Longo often quotes Stefan Zweig and writes about his deparature for Brazil, driven out of Austria by what he sees as the decay of European culture.). Hitler lived in abject poverty, ever outraged by wealth of others, especially the Hapsburgs.  Longo tells us the assasination of Arch-Duke Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the Hapsburg throne (June 28, 1914, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina).  This event precipitated World War One.  Hitler fought in the war.  He would come to see the Jews of Austria and their puppets the Hapsburgs as to blame for Germany’s defeat, as Logno details.

One of the sons of Arch-Duke Ferdinand scandalized the royal family by marrying a German woman of insufficient nobility to be a Hapsburg Queen or royal mother.  The marriage was accepted but only as morganatic.  Somehow this made them outsiders in the very inbred Hapsburg family and gravely offended Hitler who was highly offended by what he saw as the personification of the “mongrelization” of the Aryan race.  

When Germany took control of Austria in 1938 the two sons of Ferdinand were arrested by the Gestapo and became the first Austrians sent to the Dachu Concentration Camp.  They were assigned to latrine duty and treated in a savage fashion.

The women in the family, including the Archduke’s only daughter,Princess Sophia Hohenberg, declared war on Hitler.  In the face of torture, near starvation and betrayal they sustained the family.

Longo  very movingly tells us what happened to survivors after the defeat of Hitler.

I purchased this book during a flash sale for $1.95.  It is now back up $12.95.

I think anyone interested in the Hapsburg, the end of dynastic rule in Europe, World War Two in Austria will find this book fascinating.  It deserves a place in Holocaust literature.

James Longo is a professor and chair of the Department of Education at Washington & Jefferson College. He is a former Fulbright Scholar and Distinguished Chair of the University Centre for Women's Studies and Gender Studies at Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt in Austria. He has lectured throughout Europe and America and has written eight books..from the publisher 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Non-Fiction Reads for The Next Six Months


In order to keep myself looking Forward to The future rather than being apprehensive I decided to list The non-fiction books I hope to read in the next six months.  My list Will be updated periodically and new works Will be added as listed works are completed.  

Just wondering if other members make lists ?  

There is no signifigance to position on The list.

Entangled Entertainers Jews and Popular Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna by Klaus Hödl

Hitler and The Hapsburgs by James Logon

Budapest 1900 by John Lucas

Holly Neaves - A Life by Kelly Phipps

The House of Morgan by Ron Chernow

A Nervous Splendor Vienna 1888-1889 Frederic Morton



The Sun and her Stars : Salka Viertel and Hitler’s exiles in the golden age of Hollywood by Donna Rifkind.


Lost Kingdom Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Adventure by Julia Flynn Siler

The First American:  The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by H.W. Brands

The Last Palace:  Europe’s Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One House by Norman Eisen

Hawthorne: A Life by Brenda Wineapple

The Peabody sisters : three women who ignited American romanticism by Megan Marshall

Hans Christian Andersen :  A New Life by Tiina Nunnally

Red Famine:  Stalin’s War on The Ukraine by Anne Applebaum

South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War by Alice Baumgartner

Jerusalem on the Amstel The Quest for Zion in the Dutch Republic by Lipika Pelham 

I Belong to Vienna: A JEWISH FAMILY’S STORY OF EXILE AND RETURN by Anna  Goldenberg

The House on Henry Street The Enduring Life of a Lower East Side Settlement by ELLEN M. SNYDER-GRENIER

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

My Hopes and Plans for Novels for The Next Six Months

 In order to motivate myself to keep looking Forward in Life I have made a list of some novels I hope to read over The next six months.i Will track my results periodically and add new works as I finish some.

I Will do seperate posts on my plans for non-fiction and possibly one on Short stories.

There is no significanance to place in The list.

Novels I hope to read in The next six months

Life in the Trees by HANYA YANAGIHARA

A Little Life:  A Novel by HANYA YANAGIHARA

Recognitions by William Gaddis

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh

The House of the Seven Gables by William Hawthorne

Darkness and Day by Ivy Compton-Burnett

The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil

Four novels by Marilyn Robinson

All the Beautiful Liars by Sylvia Petter

The Annotated Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Sepharad by Antonio Muñoz Molina

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

The Mancini Family by Natalie Ginsburg

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

The Dragon Riders of Pern (a trilogy) by Anne McGafffrey

Five Novels by Elizabeth Taylor

At Mrs Lippinrte’s 1945 her first
A wealth of Roses 1949
The Sleeping Beauty 1953
The Soul of Kindness 1964
Blaming 1976. Published posthumously

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Mary Ann by Daphne du Maurier

The Glassblowers by Daphne du Maurier

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin

Lempriere’s Dictionary by Lawrence Norfolk

The Virgin in The Garden by A. S. Byatt

The Diary of a Provencial Lady by E. M. Delafield

Moby Dick by Hermann Melville

The Commissarat of Enlightenment by Kenneth Kalfus

The Human Voice by Penelope Fitzgerald

Savage Poets by Roberto Bolano

The Secret Lives of the Four Wives by Lola Shoneyin

The Riders of Gor by John Norman

In Polish Woods by Joseph Opatoshu

Cain and Abel by Gregor Rezzori

The People of Godlbozhits by Leyb R. Ashkin

Motke The Thief by Sholem Asch

The Reading Life Review - August 2020


August Authors 


 Column One

1. Adrien Goetz - France - Villa of Delirium - First Blog appearsnce
2. Heather Dune Macadam - USA- holocausf Historian - first appearanceJo Walton - UK to Canada - highly awarded fantasy writer
3. Sholem Aleichem - Russia
4. Jo Walton - UK to Canada - Multi Award winning fantasy writer - first appearance. We Will return to her work

Column Two

1. Maria Ampuero Eduada - Ecuador - debut Short story Collection Cockfight - first appearance
2. Roxane Gay - USA -highly regarded Multi genre writer
3. Mavis Gallant - Canada to France
4. Sarah Hamer-Jacklyn - Poland to USA - prolific Yiddish language Short story writer - actress in The Yiddish Theater

Column Three 
 1.  Y. Y. Zevin - Belorussia to USA - best known for short stories about the lives of immigrants to New York City - first appearance 
2. Marilynne Robinson- USA - Pulitzer Prize Winner. First a
         First appearance.  A read through of her fiction is planned 
3. Elizabeth Taylor - UK - a read through of her work is planned
4. F. Scott Fitzgerald- USA - 

Column Four

1. Mosh Asch - Poland to USA - highly regarded Yiddish Language Author
2. Ivy Compton-Burnett- UK
3. David Reich- USA - author Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past - first appearance 
4. Ernest Hemingway-USA

In August six male and eight female authors were featured.  The mix of the living and the dead was 50/50.  Seven of 16 writers were initially featured in August.

Birth Countries of Authors

1. USA. 6
2. Canada 2
3. UK 2
4. Poland 2
5. Ecudor 1
6. Russia 1
7. Belorussia 1
8. France 1

Five August authors were immigrants 

Blog Stats

Page views since inception 6,097,048

Home countries of visitors for August 

1. USA
2. India 
3. Phillippines 
4. Germany
5. Russia 
6. Dominican Republic (first time on list)
7. Indonesia 
8. Canada 

Most viewed posts for August

1. The Flowering of May by Francisco Arcellan
2. The Office of Missing Persons by Akil Kumorasamy
3. A Piece of Bread by Francois Coppee
4. The Reading Life Review March 2020
5. The Indigo Terror by Satyajit Ray

The Reading Life is a multicultural book Blog dedicated to goals of Literary Globalism 

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 our Interests

I am doing a seperate posts on my Reading Life hopes and plans, covering the next six months. 

Our thanks to Max u for his very kind provision of Amazon Gift Cards.

To those who leave comments, you Help keep Mel motivated 

To our fellow book bloggers, among the  world’s greatest readers, especially Americans, these are dark times.  Ugly truthes about America have been revealed.  Keep blogging.  Teach your children to love Reading.

Ambrosia Bousweau
Managing Director