Manderley Forever – Tatiana de Rosnay

daphneAfter reading Manderley Forever, I put a photo of Daphne du Maurier on my desk. I think Daphne and I would’ve been good friends. At least, I’d like to think so. Or maybe I would have just trailed behind her like a puppy, begging for a modicum of her affection. Tatiana de Rosnay’s biography shows her admiration and her respect for Daphne, too. I think if I had been able to meet Daphne while she was alive, I would have been enamored but also somewhat intimidated.

The biography de Rosnay has created is enthralling. Daphne du Maurier was a complex, non-conformist, reclusive writer who eschewed contact with fans and the media. I enjoyed reading about her life with the backdrop of the development of her novels, how her love for Cornwall, or her travels abroad, affected her writing or inspired various storylines. I played a game while reading trying to guess which novel was coming next. I learned a lot about Daphne – what inspired her, what motivated her, who captured her heart.

De Rosnay handles Daphne’s various loves, those fulfilled and those unrequited, with grace and compassion. Manderley Forever gives insight into the life of this beloved novelist who was often written off by critics as only a best-selling romance writer. She was enigmatic, and her novels were darker and more complicated than she was often given credit for. Her alter ego, Eric Avon, was Daphne as her most genuine, and de Rosnay explores that side of Daphne with wonder.

I appreciated the multi-faceted character de Rosnay gives her readers. She shows Daphne’s darker side, her temperamental personality, but also her loyalty and devotion to family and life-long friends. Her peccadilloes are all there in the open, which only serves the book’s legitimacy. Daphne had an obsessive personality, often inexplicably drawn to places or people that she would cling to tenaciously, but she also suffered from social anxiety, hiding from fans who came to Menabilly seeking autographs. Her life story was well-researched, but more importantly, it was written with care and love, which shows on every page. Manderley Forever has inspired me to read all the du Maurier novels I haven’t yet read, now that I know the story and inspiration behind the tales.

Highly recommended for du Maurier fans, and for those just beginning to discover her.

My gratitude to Netgalley, Tatiana de Rosnay, and St. Martin’s Press for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Let’s all embrace tolerance . . . of literary genres

blog1When I’m book-browsing, this often happens: skip past romance section, point kids in direction of YA (but I don’t need to look there),  ignore mystery section that’s in the way before I finally get to good ol’ literary fiction shelves. Breathe sigh of relief and settle down into my genre.

But recently, I’ve had a suspicion . . . an inspiration . . . a shock that perhaps I’m cheating myself by allowing a closed-minded attitude to book categories. For many genres, I’ve tried them and they just don’t do it for me. I find most mystery novels to be 250+ pages of build-up for 3 pages of Big Reveal. YA (that’s “Young Adult”) usually makes me cringe with puppy love stories and overly-ambitious misunderstood manic pixie girls. I’ve read my fair share of both of those genres, and they’re not my go-to, but I’ll make exceptions if a book really intrigues me or is recommended by someone whose tastes I trust. But the others? I don’t just like them because I think I don’t like them. There are some genres I have renounced without a reason:

  • Romance? Like kissy-kissy, swoon, oh-his-biceps-thrill-me? Is that what those are about? Probably not. But I’ve never allowed myself to find out otherwise.
  • Graphic novels? I don’t like comic books. At least, I don’t think I like comic books. Okay, I’ve never read a comic book. Is that what those are? I read Maus and liked it . . . Does that count?
  • And those punny-titled cozy-mysteries set in bakeries? Are those really a thing? I thought they were just memes.

I NEED TO STOP BEING NARROW-MINDED ABOUT MY READING CHOICES.

Step 1: I’m going to the library today to get Persepolis, a graphic novel recommended by numerous readers that I trust on Litsy. I think I can find graphic novels that I may like. And I don’t want to miss out. This may turn out to be a slippery slope.

persepolis

Step 2 (completed): I branched WAAAAY out there and got not only just a romance novel, but a historical male/male romance novel. And ya know what?! It was really good! It wasn’t silly, it wasn’t bodice-ripping (or the male version of bodice-ripping). It was historically well-researched, romantic, and unpredictable. Shame on me for taking so long to find these. I’m getting more, and I don’t care if you tease me about them. england

Step 3: Cozy-mystery assignment underway. The husband and I have formed a two-person book club to read the most ridiculously-titled punny-cozy-bakery-mystery we could find: Gluten for Punishment. (BlueBuried Muffins was a runner-up). I’m game. And honestly, I think I may enjoy myself. I’m going in with a positive attitude expecting to have fun.

gluten

Would love to hear what genres you eschew  . . . maybe I can convince you to join me in my transformation?

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow is a beautiful, engrossing story of Count Alexander Rostov, a Russian aristocrat conscripted by a Bolshevik Tribunal to live out his days under house arrest in the Metropol, a luxury hotel within view of the Kremlin. Rostov, however, no longer is allowed to inhabit his sprawling suite, but must instead hole up in the small attic amongst the looming heirloom furniture. Rostov maintains his dignity, never forgetting his ancestry or the honor of a gentleman.

moscow
Find it here on Goodreads

Spanning the decades following the Russian Revolution, this is the story of Rostov as he experiences the changes in politics and society from the time of Lenin to Khrushchev. He maintains his sophisticated lifestyle; although he can never step outside the hotel. The characters within the Metropol show Rostov what life is like on the outside, and many become as close to him as family, especially a certain 8-year-old girl, who is both precocious and adoring, who changes his life forever.

This book is delicate, subtle, full of humor and pathos. Every small, seemingly insignificant detail has ramifications as the story progresses. This is an exploration of the changing political and social climate of Russia as it affected individuals, the importance of tradition, and the bonds that can form over the treasures of a shared past. Towles’ descriptions made the book come alive. I smelled the delectable bouillabaisse prepared with black market ingredients, I tasted the tartness of the whiskey sipped in the hotel bar after closing, I chuckled at the sharp retorts to uninformed politicos.

I absolutely adored this story. I hung on every word, every description of Russian delicacies, every anecdote of the Russian gentry. I recommended this book highly. Watch out 2017 Booker committee, you need look no further for your winner.