My 2018 Euro Summer Reading List (+ mini reviews!)

Hello there. It’s been a while. But though I haven’t been posting up book reviews over the last 3 months it doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading! I spent June-August this year in Europe reading to my heart’s content. Laying on the beach in Nice, France, listening to the waves lap while reading books will forever be a treasured memory 🙂

While I couldn’t blog while I was travelling, I did take the time to make a few notes on each of the books I read to do some mini reviews, so here goes!

 

The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery

This book has been on my radar for a while, so I picked it up cheap at an op shop. It is a strange, quirky, enjoyable book. After reading Barbery’s The Life of Elves a couple of years ago, I thought her writing was really interesting and unconventional, and reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog confirms it.

Reneé is a curious concierge in a Parisian apartment building full of rich families. She’s intelligent and cultured, yet tries to hide it. Our second protagonist is 12-year-old Paloma who lives in one of the apartments with her stifling family. She is bored with life and fed up with it so vows to kill herself on her 13th birthday if she can’t find reason to live before then.

The two ladies cross paths and both become interested in a charming, new Japanese resident to the building. There are lots of philosophy and literature references, and (**spoiler!!**) Reneé dies at the end! But it’s a beautiful ending that gives Paloma reason to live.

 

Split – Tara Moss

Moss is very easy to read, perfect for travel. The storyline here was a bit far-fetched but it gripped me nonetheless.

A Canadian supermodel and university student Makedde Vanderwall is deep in her studies while trying to recovery from an incident in Sydney where she was held hostage by a serial killer and nearly murdered. Yep. Now there’s a serial killed in her home town, an old love interest is back in town and has his sights set on Mak again…

She lives.

 

The Apricot Colonel – Marion Halligan

Another op shop find, this story is about a freelance editor, Cassandra, who suspects a serial killer is on the hunt for her. She starts work for a Colonel who wants to tell his experiences of the Gulf War, and who also makes amazing marmalade.

It’s an odd, abrupt book with strange pacing and (at times) nonsensical events. There were lovely food descriptions (my fave) and I enjoyed the book overall.

 

The Labours of Hercules – Agatha Christie

I’m 26 and I’d never read an Agatha Christie till this! And I loved it! Her writing is so simple, neat and quaint. I loved the adorable little Belgian character Hercule Poirot. So harmless, elegant and good.

This book is split into 12 mini detective stories, as Poirot takes on selected cases to replicate the 12 labours of his namesake, Hercules. It’s clever, predictable and easy to read and has made me want to read more Agatha Christie for sure.

 

No Country for Old Men – Cormac McCarthy

I’ve heard good things of Cormac McCarthy, and once read about 11/12ths of The Road – but never got to the end! I didn’t realise this book was a Western… so that was interesting.

I’m not quite sure Westerns are for me, but it was cool to delve into the genre briefly anyway. Violence, shootings and slurry language… ugh. But, I did enjoy the long musings on life. I think this book had some deep things to say.

It’s set in the 70s. A guy finds a bunch of dead guys and a bag of cash. So he decides to steal the cash and make a run for it. Anyway, the bad guy finds out he took it pretty quickly and is after him. Nearly everyone dies int he end.

All the actions was interestingly set against the commentary of Sheriff Bell, a war veteran and long time county sheriff. He illustrates the degradation of society in America.

 

Three Daughters of Eve – Elif Shafak

I really liked the subject matter of this book. It’s set in Turkey and Oxford as we follow the life of Peri, a girl torn between the devout Islam following of her mother and the laid back views of her father. I love the insight into the societal and economical struggles of Turkey, an awkward country stuck between modern Europe and the old-school Middle East.

Peri is on the fence about God. So when she goes to Oxford (due to her father’s encouragement), she takes a class taught by an unconventional and controversial professor, Azur, on God.

Unfortunately the book glazes over some important details, like Peri’s experience at university outside of her God debate (?) and like the fact that Peri contributed to her twin brother’s death… that was weirdly explained.

I like Shafak’s writing a lot and I love the idea of this book, but it didn’t entirely satisfy me.

 

On the Shortness of Life – Seneca

Travel always makes me think about the feebleness of life and how quickly it passes us by. I hoped this book would shed some light on the situation.

There are certainly some pearls of wisdom in this book, like:

But life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future.

And,

Let us… aim to acquire riches from ourselves rather than from Fortune.

It’s a bit hard to fully appreciate the words of Seneca when his time is so different to ours. He didn’t have to deal with computers, social media or TV. He’s actually be appalled at how we waste our time now. But essentially his advice is to live humbly in the here and now. Don’t let good or bad luck sway your life – be self sufficient and ready for anything.

He also encourages us to deal with death. See it as a natural part of life and don’t be scared of it – otherwise you’re wasting valuable time living being worried about dying.

 

The Enchanted April – Elizabeth Von Arnin

Four snarky British ladies hire a castle in the Italian Riviera for a month and proceed to get irritated be each other. But they learn to live together, and even enjoy each other’s company! Haha, it’s kind of a funny book but I’m not sure if it’s meant to be. I much enjoyed it after enjoying travelling the Italian Riviera myself 🙂

 

Tales of the Jazz Age – F. Scott Fitzgerald

I can’t resist a bit of Fitzgerald. I found a bilingual version of this in France and decided it would be a great way to practice reading in French.

I love Fitzgerald’s simple, quirky style so was charmed by these four little stories.

 

For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway

Okay, it’s official. I’m not much of a Hemingway fan. I tried to be! But I’m not really. He’s a bit hard to read. Like, this was a pretty slow book. It’s set during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, and follows an American soldier who is charged with demolishing a bridge.

The dialogue is all really weird (I presume because they are meant to be speaking a kind of old form of Spanish, so the translation is odd?), and it’s all set in the same location over the course of 3 days.

Spoiler: the main character gets injured and probably dies. His thigh bone snaps. Yuckkkkk!

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