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willoyd

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About willoyd

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  • Reading now?
    Almost certainly!
  • Location:
    Wharfedale, Yorkshire
  • Interests
    birding, cycling (mainly touring), running, walking, family history.

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  1. Read that last year for book group - will be interested in reading what you think of it. I've not read any Krailsheimer translations - I gather that's a relatively new one from Oxford World's (relatively, as I know he died in 2001).
  2. Willoyd's Tour of the States.

    #25 Wisconsin: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld **** (copied across from my reading blog thread) My first book of the year, a book group choice, but one that nicely satisfies one of my aims this year, to read some bigger books. At over 600 pages it certainly counts as one of those! Having said that, it proved a fairly rapid read - more to do with the readability than any physical aspect of the book! With the main character, Alice, modelled on Laura Bush, the wife of George W Bush, it opens with the couple in bed in the White House, and Alice contemplating her marriage: she's betrayed the President (we don't know how) and is not certain how her marriage is going to progress - we then move into flashback and Alice tells the story of her life and how she got to this point. Whilst Alice is modelled on Laura Bush, it becomes fairly quickly apparent that Alice is not actually Laura Bush: there are enough differences, not least that the story, until it reaches Washington, is set in Wisconsin rather than Texas - which meant that rather neatly but unexpectedly, I found I could slot it in as my Tour of the USA book for that state!. However, there are some key aspects where the 2 lives coincide, aspects, or events, which inevitably impact massively on the women's respective lives. It would be too much of a spoiler to itemise them all, but one which has been well-flagged in reviews, and occurs early on enough not actually spoil, is that it's well documented that Laura Bush, at the age of 19, drove through a stop sign one evening, and collided with a car coming along the other road, killing the driver, a boy who she knew well. A similar incident occurs to Alice, but the circumstances and the aftermath are pure fiction. I initially thought that a lot of this book would be about the rise to the Presidency, but in fact that barely features. Three quarters of the book is about the Alice's life before Charlie (her husband) runs for political status, whilst the last quarter (there are 4 parts) jumps to a couple of years after they reach the White House. But the parts are all strongly connected. What the book does focus on is Alice's relationship with Charlie: they love each other, but they are political opposites - Alice is a signed up Democrat. There social background is also very different (as were the real-life couples'). So, how does Alice work this, how does she compromise her political beliefs and principles to handle that relationship. Or does she? I have to admit, I did find the book quite hard going at times, not because of its readability (as we know), but because of of the extent of the navel-gazing, or internal monologue, and, to be honest, some of the repetition. The challenge and its resolution, the moral hurdles Alice has to negotiate make for fascinating reading, but a good editor would have made this even better (interesting to hear only the other day the presenters of the Book Club Review podcast saying exactly the same about Sittenfeld's latest, 'Rodham', another alternative history biography). I never felt the desire to abandon the book, but I did find myself skimming on occasions. When we came to the book group discussion, I think I was the most positive about the book. Most felt it overlong, a good proportion found Alice frustratingly annoying ('Why was she such a doormat?' was one's question that summed this up neatly), but I have to say that I never once thought that: rather the opposite: this was very much a woman trying to balance her obvious love for her partner with the fact that they were such diametric opposites in so many areas - how did she handle this. It may have been the life of an American First Lady, but so much of it reflected the questions pretty much every couple must face at one time or the other. In her own way, I found Alice to be a rather strong character. In summary: a generally engaging read, with a few patches of longeuse that would have benefited from a stronger editor, asking some very human questions. It certainly made for a good book club read. A promising start to the year, with the added bonus that I've taken my Tour of the USA score up to 25 - one off half way! : 4 stars out of 6.
  3. Willoyd's Reading 2022

    American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld **** My first book of the year, a book group choice, but one that nicely satisfies one of my aims this year, to read some bigger books. At over 600 pages it certainly counts as one of those! Having said that, it proved a fairly rapid read - more to do with the readability than any physical aspect of the book! With the main character, Alice, modelled on Laura Bush, the wife of George W Bush, it opens with the couple in bed in the White House, and Alice contemplating her marriage: she's betrayed the President (we don't know how) and is not certain how her marriage is going to progress - we then move into flashback and Alice tells the story of her life and how she got to this point. Whilst Alice is modelled on Laura Bush, it becomes fairly quickly apparent that Alice is not actually Laura Bush: there are enough differences, not least that the story, until it reaches Washington, is set in Wisconsin rather than Texas - which meant that rather neatly but unexpectedly, I found I could slot it in as my Tour of the USA book for that state!. However, there are some key aspects where the 2 lives coincide, aspects, or events, which inevitably impact massively on the women's respective lives. It would be too much of a spoiler to itemise them all, but one which has been well-flagged in reviews, and occurs early on enough not actually spoil, is that it's well documented that Laura Bush, at the age of 19, drove through a stop sign one evening, and collided with a car coming along the other road, killing the driver, a boy who she knew well. A similar incident occurs to Alice, but the circumstances and the aftermath are pure fiction. I initially thought that a lot of this book would be about the rise to the Presidency, but in fact that barely features. Three quarters of the book is about the Alice's life before Charlie (her husband) runs for political status, whilst the last quarter (there are 4 parts) jumps to a couple of years after they reach the White House. But the parts are all strongly connected. What the book does focus on is Alice's relationship with Charlie: they love each other, but they are political opposites - Alice is a signed up Democrat. There social background is also very different (as were the real-life couples'). So, how does Alice work this, how does she compromise her political beliefs and principles to handle that relationship. Or does she? I have to admit, I did find the book quite hard going at times, not because of its readability (as we know), but because of of the extent of the navel-gazing, or internal monologue, and, to be honest, some of the repetition. The challenge and its resolution, the moral hurdles Alice has to negotiate make for fascinating reading, but a good editor would have made this even better (interesting to hear only the other day the presenters of the Book Club Review podcast saying exactly the same about Sittenfeld's latest, 'Rodham', another alternative history biography). I never felt the desire to abandon the book, but I did find myself skimming on occasions. When we came to the book group discussion, I think I was the most positive about the book. Most felt it overlong, a good proportion found Alice frustratingly annoying ('Why was she such a doormat?' was one's question that summed this up neatly), but I have to say that I never once thought that: rather the opposite: this was very much a woman trying to balance her obvious love for her partner with the fact that they were such diametric opposites in so many areas - how did she handle this. It may have been the life of an American First Lady, but so much of it reflected the questions pretty much every couple must face at one time or the other. In her own way, I found Alice to be a rather strong character. In summary: a generally engaging read, with a few patches of longeuse that would have benefited from a stronger editor, asking some very human questions. It certainly made for a good book club read. A promising start to the year, with the added bonus that I've taken my Tour of the USA score up to 25 - one off half way! : 4 stars out of 6.
  4. Willoyd's Reading 2022

    After quite a lot thought, I've decided to go ahead with a new challenge this year, even if I haven't finished (and am really enjoying) my Tour of the United States. In some ways, they could be regarded as complimentary. So, I've set up a new thread in Reading Challenges, Willoyd's Read Around the World, the aim being to read a book (preferably novel) from every country in the world (plus one or two places that might not be regarded as 'countries' in their own right) - 202 in total. It's a bit daunting, and indeed it may never be finished, but just as my American tour has hugely helped diversify my reading, so my main aim is for this to do that even more. A couple of book group choices in the past year or two have really made me appreciate how narrow my reading was getting, and how much I have enjoyed the variety and different insights these new authors and books have provided. I suspect that it won't be long before I add non-fiction books to the challenge, which really would sort out my reading for the next few years! On a slightly different tack, I'm going to keep a record here also of books acquired for reading this year. Just a prompt to me to actually read some of them, rather than let them merge into my overlarge TBR shelves. To that end, I've acquired the following books since New Year, not all for immediate reading admittedly, as one or two are adding to series or sets of which I'm reading earlier books Ice Rivers by Jemma Wadham Restoring the Wild by Roy Dennis Mistletoe Winter by Roy Dennis Matrix by Lauren Groff Beak, Tooth and Claw by Mary Colwell What Is History Now? by Suzannah Lipscomb and Helen Carr The Devil's Cathedral by David Fairer The Malice of Waves by Mark Douglas-Home J.B. Priestley by Vincent Brome
  5. I'm both pleased and relieved you enjoyed it! I can also recommend her other ghost novel, Dark Matter, although a word of warning, in that several reviewers feel the two books are far too similar. I can certainly see why, but actually found I enjoyed them both, Dark Matter perhaps slighly more than Thin Air. But then I'm a sucker for anything set in the Arctic, or in the Himalaya for that matter! I'd suggest it worth a try anyway.
  6. Willoyd's Read Around The World

    South America (0/12) Argentina: The Tango Singer - Tomas Eloy Martinez Bolivia Brazil: The Violent Land - Jorge Amado Chile: The House of Spirits - Isabel Allende Colombia: One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez Ecuador Guyana Paraguay Peru: Red April - Santiago Roncagliolo; book by Maria Vargas Llosa Suriname Uruguay: Who Among Us / The Truce - Mario Benedetti Venezuala Oceania and Antarctica (0/15) Antarctica: Antarctic Navigation -Elizabeth Arthur Australia: Oscar and Lucinda - Peter Carey; Cloudstreet - Tim Winton; Voss - Patrick White Fiji Kiribati Marshall Is Micronesia Nauru New Zealand: Owls Do Cry - Janet Frame; Potiki - Patricia Grace (Maori) Palau Papua NG Samoa Solomon Is Tonga: Tales of the Tikongs - Epeli Hau'ofa Tuvalu Vanuatu
  7. Willoyd's Read Around The World

    North America (0/23) Antigua and Barbuda Bahamas Barbados: In the Castle of My Skin - George Lamming Belize Canada: Alias Grace - Margaret Atwood; short story collection by Alice Munro Costa Rica Cuba Dominica: Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys Dominican Republic: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz El Salvador Grenada Guatemala: The President - Miguel Angel Asturias Haiti: The Dew Breaker - Edwidge Danticat Honduras Jamaica: Augustown - Kai Miller (2016) Mexico: Down the Rabbit Hole / Quesadillas - Juan Pablo Villalobos; The Death of Artemio Cruz - Carlos Fuentes Nicaragua Panama St Kittsand Nevis St Lucia St Vincent and Grenadines Trinidad and Tobago: A House for Mr Biswas - VS Naipaul; The White Woman on the Green Bicycle - Monique Roffey United States: The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck; Beloved - Toni Morrison
  8. Willoyd's Read Around The World

    Asia (0/50) Afghanistan: The Patience Stone / Earth and Ashes - Atiq Rahimi (2008/2002); The Wasted Vigil - Nadeem Aslam (2008) Armenia Azerbaijan: Ali and Nino - Kurban Said (1937) Bahrain Bangladesh Bhutan Brunei Cambodia China: The Garlic Ballads - Mo Yan (1988) Georgia Hong Kong India: A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry; The God of Small Things - Rohinton Mistry Indonesia: The Earth of Mankind - Pramoedya Ananta Toer (1980) Iran: Reading Lolita in Tehran - Azar Nafisi (NF) Iraq Israel Japan: Snow Country - Yasunari Kawabata (1937); Kobo Abe, Shusaka Endo Jordan Kazakhstan Korea, North: The Accusation - Bandi (2014) Korea, South Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Laos Lebanon: The Prophet - Khali Gibran Malaysia Maldives Mongolia Myanmar Nepal Oman Pakistan: Basti - Intizar Husain (1979), The Wandering Falcon - Jamil Ahmad (2011) Palestine Philippines Qatar Saudi Arabia Siberia: Dreams of My Russian Summer / The Archipelago of Another Life - Andrei Makine (1995/2016) Singapore Sri Lanka Syria Tajikistan Taiwan Thailand Timor-Leste: Eyewitness - Seno Ajidarma (1994) Turkey: Orhan Pamuk Turkmenistan UAE Uzbekistan Vietnam Yemen
  9. Willoyd's Read Around The World

    Africa (0/54) Algeria: What the Day Owes the Night - Yasmina Khadra (2008); Fantasia - Assia Djebar (1985) Angola: Transparent City - Ondjaki (2021), The Book of Chameleons - Jose Eduardo Agualusa (2004) Benin Botswana: A Question of Power - Bessie Head (1973) Burkina Faso Burundi Cameroon Cape Verde: The Last Will and Testament of Senhor da Silva Araujo - Germano Almeida (1988) Central African Republic Chad Cormoros Congo, DR: Before the Birth of the Moon - Valentin Y Mudimbe (1976) Congo, Rep: Broken Glass - Alain Mabanckou (2005) Cote d'Ivoire Djibouti Egypt: Palace Walk (Cairo Trilogy v1) - Naguib Mahfouz (1956) Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Eswatini Ethiopia Gabon Gambia Ghana: Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi (2016); The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born - Ayi Kwei Armah; Search Sweet Country - Kojo Laing (1986) Guinea Guinea-Bissau Kenya: A Grain of Wheat / The River Between - Ngugi wa Thiongo'o (1967/65) Lesotho: Traveller To The East - Thomas Mofolo (1906) Liberia Libya: The Bleeding of the Stone - Ibrahim al-Koni (2002); In the Country of Men - Hisham Matar (2006) Madagascar Malawi Mali: The Fortunes of Wangrin - Amadou Hampate Ba Mauritania Mauritius Morocco Mozambique Namibia Niger Nigeria: Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe (1958) Rwanda Sao Tome and Principe: Equator - Miguel Sousa Tavares (2009) Senegal: So Long A Letter - Mariama Ba (1979) Seychelles Sierra Leone: The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar - Syl Cheney-Choker Somalia: Crossbones / From A Cracked Rib - Nuruddin Farah (2011/1970) South Africa: The Promise - Damon Galgut (2021) South Sudan Sudan: Season of Migration to the North - Tayeb Salih (1966) Tanzania Togo Tunisia Uganda: Kintu - Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (2014) Zambia: The Old Drift - Namwali Serpell (2019) Zimbabwe: The House of Hunger - Dambudzo Marechera (1978)
  10. Willoyd's Read Around The World

    Europe (0/46) Albania: Broken April / Chronicle in Stone - Ismail Kadare (1978/1971) Andorra: The Teacher of Cheops - Albert Salvado (2012) Austria: The Exiles' Return - Elizabeth de Waal (2013); The Tobacconist - Robert Seethaler (2012); Peter Handke, Beware of Pity - Stefan Zweig Belarus: King Stakh's Wild Hunt - Uladzimir Karatkevich (1964), Svetlana Alexievich (NF) Belgium: The Sorrow of Belgium - Hugo Claus (1983) Bosnia and Hezorgovina: The Bridge on the Drina - Ivo Andric (1945) Bulgaria: Under The Yoke - Ivan Vazov (1893), Bai Ganyo - Aleko Konstantinov (1895), East of the West - Miroslav Penkov (2011, shorts), Elias Canetti Croatia: Our Man in Iraq - Robert Perisic (2011), The Ministry of Pain/Baba Yaga Laid An Egg - Dubravka Ugresic (2004/2007) Cyprus: Margarita's Husband - Andriana Ierodiaconou (2007?), Ledra Street - Nora Nadjarian (2006 shorts) Czech Republic: Closely Watched Trains - Bohumil Hrabel (1965) Denmark A History of Danish Dreams - Peter Hoeg (1988); We The Drowned - Carsten Jensen (2006), The Angelic Avengers - Isak Dinesen (1946) Estonia: The Autumn Ball - Mati Unt (1979), Border State - Tonu Onepalu (1993), Treading Air - Jaan Kross Finland: The True Deceiver - Tove Jansson (1982) France: Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (1862); La Curee - Emile Zola (1872); Life, A User's Manual - Georges Perec (1978) Germany: The Tin Drum - Gunter Grass (1959); Buddenbrooks - Thomas Mann (1901) Greece: The Murderess - Alexandros Papadiamantis, The Scapegoat - Sophia Nikolaidou, Why I Killed My Best Friend - Amanda Michalopoulou, Zorba the Greek/Report to Greco - Nikos Kazantzakis Hungary: The Door - Magda Szabo (1987) Iceland: Independent People - Halldor Laxness (1934) Ireland: Dubliners - James Joyce (1914) Italy: The Leopard - Giuseppe di Lampedusa (1958); The Garden of the Finzi-Continis - Giorgio Bassani (1962) Kosovo: How To Be A Kosovo Bride - Naomi Hamill (2017) Latvia: The Book of Riga - various (shorts), Flesh-Coloured Dominoes - Zigmunds Skujins (2014) Liechtenstein: Die letzte Reise der Hindenburg - Armin Ohri (2016); Stamping Grounds - Charlie Connolly (2002 - nonfiction). Lithuania: White Shroud - Antanas Skema, Tula - Jurgis Kuncinas, Vilnius Poker - Ricardas Gavelis, The Last Book Smuggler - Birute Putrius Luxembourg: The Pleasure of Drowning - Jean Burlesk (2019) Malta Moldova Monaco Montenegro Netherlands: The Dark Room of Domocles - Willem Hermans, The Assault / The Discovery of Heaven - Harry Mulisch, The Evenings - Gerard Reve North Macedonia Norway: The Ice Palace - Tarjei Vesaas (1963) Poland: Flights - Olga Tokarczuk (2017) Portugal: All The Names / The Stone Raft / The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis by Jose Saramago (1980s) Romania: Nostalgia - Mircea Cartarescu (1989) Russia: Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1866); Life and Fate - Vasily Grossman (1980) San Marino: The Republic of San Marino - Giuseppe Rossi (c1990) Serbia: The Tiger's Wife - Tea Obreht Slovakia Slovenia: Alamut - Vladimir Bartol Spain: Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes; Nada - Carmen Laforet (1944) Sweden: The Red Room / The People of Hemso - August Strindberg (1879/1887); To Cook A Bear - Mikael Niemi (2017); The Saga of Gosta Berling - Selma Lagerlof (1891) Switzerland: I Am Not Stiller - Max Frisch. The Assistant - Robert Walser Ukraine: The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov United Kingdom: The Expedition of Humphry Clinker - Tobias Smollett (1771); The Good Companions - JB Priestley (1929) Vatican City: When In Rome: A Journal of Life in Vatican City - Robert Hutchinson (1998, memoir)
  11. As June said in the first post of her trip round the world's nations, I've been thinking about this for some time. Given that I've only just reached the half-way point of my Tour of the USA, it's probably a bit precipitate to start a new challenge, but I think I can handle too, and having seen June complete her journey recently, I'm inspired to get going on mine, so two challenges it is! In terms of places I've decided to start with: + the 195 countries recognised by the United Nations (including 2 non-members: Palestine and the Vatican City); +.including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Kosovo + allocating 2 slots to Russia, one for its presence in Europe (Russia) and the other in Asia (Siberia) + one for Antarctica, as the only continent not otherwise included which takes me to 200, a good starting point, although that may well change as things progress. As for criteria in choosing each book, I'm going for aims rather than rules, simply because I suspect, from reading others' challenges, it would be nigh on impossible to find books which I can read (eg most will need to be available in translation) that satisfy similar conditions to those I used in my Tour of the USA. So, my main aim is to read an example of adult literature set in the country with an author born in or a citizen of that country (or resident as next best) - books regarded as 'classics' (modern or older) preferred. I will generally go for fiction,but, again unlike my Tour of the USA, non-fiction is allowed. Last resort would be a book about the country written by someone who is neither from nor a resident (eg, a history of...). As well, whichever 'criteria' are satisfied, it will have to be a book I haven't read before.- this is about expanding my literary experience after all! To keep posts manageable, I'm splitting countries up by continents in the checklists below: Europe; Africa; Asia; North America; South America and Oceania/Antarctica. Books in blue are those that have been read. Books in black are suggestions. Read to date: 0 / 200
  12. That's interesting, because he's quite a well-regarded fiction writer too. It's good to see night trains making a comeback: we've long used trains as our main means of transport in Europe, and it was really saddening to see all the overnight routes that we used to use being struck off one by one. They were/are particularly useful for us as cyclists! That was particularly so as the ferry routes were being destroyed too - and they've not started coming back, rather the reverse continues, the latest being Hull-Zeebrugge.
  13. Completed I Belong Here by Anita Sethi - her account of walking (parts of) the Pennine Way as part of her therapyafter a traumatic experience of racial abuse whilst travelling by train. I so wanted to like this, but....whilst she has important things to say, and some valuable insights, I found her writing dreadful: a real chore to read. Interestingly, it's had some rave reviews in the press, featuring in end of year recommendations (which is how I came to it), but now browsing Good Reads reviews, I see I'm definitely not alone. I read it to the end only because there were those important moments, and almost felt I ought to, but all it did was convince me that this was in desperate need of a good editor. 2 stars out of 6 (it would have been 1 star for the writing alone). Continuing with The Burgundians, which I am thoroughly enjoying. Finding that I'm enjoying it most in relatively small bites and then reviewing what I've read - so much to take in!
  14. Finished American Wife this morning. A fascinating book, 4/6 stars. Most of the book was set in Wisconsin, so have replaced the incumbent title(The Art of Fielding) that I was going to read for this state, with this, a worthy replacement. Takes my Tour of the US to 25 states now. Have moved on to a Christmas present: The Burgundians by Bart van Loo, a chunky history tome. This could take some time!
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