[ARC] The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

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New York, end of the sixties. The four Gold siblings, as a game, to show their courage, decide to visit a sensitive able to tell when a person will die.

From this point of the novel, on, we will follow singularly the lives of Simon, Klara, Daniel and Varya, in a sort of passing the baton game.

The four of them start completely different paths, and this allows the author to describe different lifestyles and historical events: the AIDS, the life as con artists, USA post 9/11, the animal used in research, OCD syndrome.

The theme that connects all the stories, and that is the backbone of the whole novel, is the opposition between destiny and free will: the Gold’s lives would have been different if they did not visit the sensitive? With respect to this thematic, the most interesting story is Klara’s the one who wants to be more powerful than destiny, her being always balance between reality and illusion.

The immortalist is a nice novel, in which some episodes are way better than the other ones because they are more focused on the main theme and not “distracted” by other events.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.


* The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin ★★★☆☆

*I read this book in english

[ARC] Killer Fashion by Jennifer Wright

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In Killer Fashion the author shows a series of episodes in which fashion caused also violent deaths: flammable dresses, toxic substances, strangling scarves are only some of the cases referred in the book.

All episodes are also represented by an illustration and a rhyme.

The text is more a collection of curiosities than a historical analysis: the episodes are brief and not very well examined.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.


* Killer Fashion by Jennifer Wright ★★☆☆☆½

*I read this book in english

How to be both by Ali Smith

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How to be both by Ali Smith is a strange novel: it consists of two parts named “camera” and “eyes” and the paper edition half the copies were printed with the part in an order and the other half with opposite order.  The cover was the same, so the book itself is a demonstration of how a single thing is two different ones.

The parts are set in different times, “eyes” is set during Italian Renaissance (circa 1460) and the main character is Francesco del Cossa, a painter we know very few about and who painted three of the months on the internal walls of palazzo Schifanoia (Ferrara). The eyes are a reference to the act of looking and to the Saint Lucy’s painting, in which the Saint holds a flower made by two eyes.

The absence of information about the painter allows the author to imagine him as an artistically skilled woman forced to disguise herself as a man to work as a painter (also here a reference to the title: the painter is one but he is both a man and a woman). “Camera” instead is set nowadays in England, the main character is Georgia (called George), a young adult who has lost her mother and who is trying to overcome the loss.

The sections could seem unrelated, but it is not so: George remembers the last trip with her mother to Ferrara, to see a palace and its frescoes and the discussions about their painter, while Francesco Del Cossa is presented as a spirit busy partly in remembering his past life he has only few flashes about and partly in remembering the modern world and the boy (but maybe it’s a girl?) observing one of his painting in an art gallery.

How to be both provided me materials to thinks about, also after finishing reading it: it provides information and hints about art production and observation, and, by building a possible identity for Francesco del Cossa, it also deals with the role of women in art in the past and proposes an interesting historical reconstruction of the Renaissance period.  Concerning the narrative side I think the idea of creating two sections that could be read in either order is brilliant. The reading experience will be different depending which part comes first, and once ended the book it would be impossible to grasp the other experience, since the story is already known. The novel is one but provide two different experiences.

I waited some time before reading this novel because I did not know what to make of the summary and the cover (the one here with the two French singers), now I absolutely suggest it to art and book lovers.

The novel was listed for different prizes, and among them it was shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize.


* How to be both by Ali Smith ★★★★★

*I read this book in english

[ARC] Atlas of Cursed Places by Olivier Le Carrer

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Nel libro Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Frightful Destinations l’autore ha evidenziato alcuni luoghi realmente esistenti che possono essere definiti maledetti per via di una serie di eventi storici drammatici.

I luoghi sono divisi in funzione dell’area geografica in cui si trovano, e per ogni punto questa viene descritta insieme agli eventi che hanno portato a guardare con sospetto la località.

La grafica dell’edizione è molto curata, sono presenti diverse mappe dalle fattezze antiche a scala differente per evidenziare la posizione dei luoghi descritti, che viene anche sottolineata a inizio pagina da una barra che riporta la longitudine.

Le pagine sono poi arricchite con illustrazioni di teschi e scheletri utili per creare atmosfera.

E’ un libro sicuramente originale che attrae per la peculiarità del tema trattato; immagino (ho avuto accesso alla versione digitale) che nella versione cartacea possa dare il meglio di sè anche dal punto di vista grafico ed estetico. L’unica pecca è l’assenza di foto della zona come si presenta oggi.

Ringrazio l’editore per avermi fornito la copia necessaria per stendere questa recensione.

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In the book Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Frightful Destinations the author selected some existing places that can be defined as cursed for a series of dramatic historical events.

The places are classified in function of the geographic area where they are located, and for each of them their history is described to point out the event that made these places different.

The graphic of the edition is well done, for each point different maps are provided (different scales and ancient appearances) to point out the position of the described destination, that is also pointed out at the beginning of the page by a longitude bar.

Some pages contain also illustration depicting skulls and skeletons to enforce the mysterious atmosphere.

It’s an original book that arise interest for the peculiarity of the thematic; I think (I had access only to the digital arc) that it will provide the best experience in the hardcover edition, concerning graphic and aesthetical experience. The only fault I found is the lack of photos depicting the places described.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.

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Atlas of Cursed Places by Olivier Le Carrer ★★★☆

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

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[…] Two magicians shall appear in England.
The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me;
The first shall be governed by thieves and murderers; the second shall conspire at his
own destruction;
The first shall bury his heart in a dark wood beneath the snow, yet still feel its ache;
The second shall see his dearest possession in his enemy’s hand.
The first shall pass his life alone; he shall be his own gaoler;
The second shall tread lonely roads, the storm above his head, seeking a dark tower
upon a high hillside.
I sit upon a black throne in the shadows but they shall not see me.
The rain shall make a door for me and I shall pass through it;
The stones shall make a throne for me and I shall sit upon it.
The nameless slave shall wear a silver crown,
The nameless slave shall be a king in a strange country.

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The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

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Wilhelm e Jacob Grimm, by Elisabeth Maria Anna Jerichau-Baumann

The Grimm brothers are famous for having collected fairy tales and popular tales, always told by voice, in written edition that was updated and modified during their lives.

The editions of their collections are in fact very different: the first edition contains cruel and violent tales, for the following the tales were modified to make them more suitable to children and less a philological work. Some examples are the fact that snow-white evil queen was in origin the girl’s mother, that Rapunzel gave birth to a couple of twins and so on.

All the fairy tales were not collected during travels in Germany, but they were told to the Grimm brothers by well-educated women who heard them from their mother or household. The novel by Kate Forsyth gives voice to a key person of the Grimm history, but in the shadow of the two brothers: Dortchen Wild, before neighbour and then wife to Wilhelm Grimm and voice of various fairy tales.

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Short fiction – ep. 1

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I decided to collect in one post the brief comments about short fiction: there is no relation between these stories a part from being shorter than a novel.

  • Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx
  • The letter by William Somerset Maugham
  • Xingu by Edith Warton

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