My Late, (Very) Late, Autumn Update!

Some of my choices for my hurricane evacuation reading — hastily assembled but a little haste is warranted, don’t you think, when a Category 4/5 storm is headed your way?  How many of these did I actually read? Well . . . .

You know what they say about being late, don’t you?  That it’s better than “never”?  I’m certainly putting that adage to the test, dear readers, by offering a September/October update as November is breathing down my neck.  I’m starting off slowly here, as the next few paragraphs are about non-bookish matters, accompanied by a few of Mr. Janakay’s photographs.  If you’re not interested, just skim on by to the portion of the post where I briefly discuss a novel or two.

That delightfully ambiguous word “interesting” best describes my September, which was quite “interesting” in ways both good and bad.  The “good interesting” occurred early in the month, when I traveled internationally for the first time since the pandemic.  I’m a nervous traveler at the best of times (in my defense, I’ve been on many trips that have gone spectacularly awry) and I had halfway talked myself into staying home but — the fees were paid, the refund period was past, the cat sitter was booked so — off I, Mr. J and Mr. J’s camera went to the Asturias region of northern Spain, to hook up with a birding tour.  What can I say, dear readers, except that my misgivings were totally misplaced and that my trip, so dreaded in advance, was absolutely wonderful?  Lovely scenery, fascinating 9th century churches (none of that newfangled Gothic & Romanesque architecture) nestled in mountain valleys, wonderful food, and pretty good birds.  Not to mention the sheer wonder of viewing paleolithic wall paintings in a cave complex that sheltered humans as early as 33,000 years ago.  Since I don’t want to burden you with a travelogue, I’ll limit myself to perhaps my favorite of Mr. J’s photos:

Cabo Peñas (about as far north as you can get & still be in Spain) was one of my favorite stops. Aside from being a good place to see migrating birds, it also has a great old lighthouse (that Mr. J, alas, couldn’t get into his photo).

Oh, well, just one more, again courtesy of Mr. J:

The Picos de Europa, a large national park extending over several regions in northern Spain. We didn’t see too many birds when I was there (too windy) but with scenery like this, who cares?

Like all good things, my trip ended and it was home again, home again, to the (U.S.) Florida coast, with the biggest concern being unpacking the bags, doing the laundry and coaxing our feline masters back into a good mood (well, as good as it gets with cats.  That is to say — not very).  As I was doing the laundry, only half listening to the news in the trance state I use to get through such tasks, I did notice some weather person droning on about a hurricane causing considerable damage in Cuba but — hey, Florida’s gulf coast hasn’t had a major storm in . . . .   Oh, dear.  Times do change, don’t they, particularly in our era of heavy carbon emissions!

Have you ever, dear readers, prepared a house to weather a hurricane?  If so, you have a good idea of the physical and psychological strain of our day and a half before my county’s mandatory evacuation order kicked in and we departed for higher ground.  (Unlike many of my neighbors who stayed put, I ran.  This was my first real hurricane & I wasn’t taking any chances.)  Everything outside that could be moved — patio furniture, plants, flower pots, tools, you name it — went inside (my living room became a combination jungle and storage shed).  We did that anxious last minute check, before you lock the front door, departing for — who knows what and for how long?  Roof was new, nothing to do; ditto for lanai cage (these are screen & metal structures that cover an outdoor living area, useful for keeping slithery things with scales from becoming part of the household); windows have double panes, so no need (probably) to board them up (too late anyway to get plywood).  That pile of bricks, remnants of a summer project, stacked in the driveway?  The mental image of each one flying through the air in a 90 mph (144 kmh) wind gave me the energy to make the (considerable) effort to move them into the garage!

Finally, all was done that could be done; Hurricane Ian was projected to make landfall about 10 miles (16 km) from my front door; time to leave and hope for the best.  Mr. J and I scuttled away, accompanied by three furious cats and several hurriedly assembled bags of books (some of which are in my first photo).  In one of those twists of fate that work well for you and very ill for others, Hurricane Ian shifted course and ultimately made landfall further south, resulting in a far milder impact on my area than the devastation experienced by Naples or Ft. Myers.  My area did take considerable damage, mostly from wind rather than water.  My beloved butterfly tree was uprooted, along with a few other things, and the yard was a mess (did you know that hurricane winds literally strip all the leaves from deciduous trees?) but my house survived unscathed.  My neighborhood itself experienced no flooding and, unlike many others, only relatively brief outages of power and internet.  My relatives a little further south, where Ian first made landfall, weren’t so lucky.  While I was sitting in a nice dry hotel room, albeit one with no electricity (thanks to the storm), they were clearing out attic space “just in case” the rising storm surge made it into their house (thankfully the waters stopped just short of the door, but they & their neighbors are still cleaning up flood damage).  So that was my “bad interesting” September!

This photo of a street a few miles from my house was taken a couple of weeks after the hurricane, when clean-up efforts were well underway.  As you can see, these rather large trees didn’t make it through the storm.

If you’re still reading, I can sense your impatience (I do rattle on, don’t I?) through the ether; whenever will I start discussing the  the only thing we all (passionately) care about, i.e., books!  So enough of birding trips and hurricanes and on to the book piles!  To begin with the question posed in my first photograph, i.e., just how many of those books did I manage to read?  Well . . . not many, and TBH, not really during the hurricane itself.  In my defense, dear readers, it IS difficult to read in a strange hotel room, located in a building with no electricity, and one, moreover, whose walls are shaking in gale force winds (I wasted valuable reading time gazing out the window, wondering how many of those palm trees were going to be snapped in two!)  Still, I did manage a page or two of Bernhardt’s Extinction between gusts, and dipped into Cavafy (one of my favorite poets) a bit.  Not much more than that, I’m afraid, for the last few days of September and early October, which was a rather exhausting “clean up the damage” time.

Before nature interfered, however, I did manage to get through four or five books in September, albeit things on the lighter side, for the most part, and read primarily during my trip in the earlier part of the month.  The standout among these was The Weekend, by the Australian author Charlotte Wood, which I found via a (highly deserved) glowing recommendation from Cathy at 746books (thanks, Cathy!  I would have missed this one otherwise).  In Weekend, three women who have known each other for the better part of their lifetimes come together for a few days to tidy up the belongings and clear out a beach house belonging to their recently deceased friend, the fourth member of their group.  During the course of their weekend, the reader learns their back stories and sees their complicated and sometimes problematical relationship with each other; among many other things the novel’s an interesting portrayal of group dynamics, of how survivors adjust (or don’t) to the loss of a vital member of their set.

Although there are some outstanding novels of female friendship floating around the bookish world (Simon has an interesting discussion of a few at stuckinabook), I can’t think of any that focus on women in the latter stages of their life and few that display Wood’s psychological acuity and realism.  As with any halfway realistic novel revolving around characters of a certain age, Weekend does have some bleak moments.  These are balanced, however, by a wonderful sense that despite their looming mortality these three won’t go gently, that they will continue to struggle, to enjoy, to face difficulties and that their lives still contain possibilities, even if their choices must be recalibrated.  Wood is a very skillful writer and keen observer; her setting, a trendy Australian beach town, is lovely (and for this U.S. reader enticingly exotic) and there are some very, very funny moments.  While I do have a few  minor quibbles (there’s some rather obvious symbolism and, perhaps, an overly dramatic situation or two) these are very minor blemishes on a really great read.  If you love character driven novels and aren’t very demanding vis-á-vis action sequences (no shootouts or high speed car chases in this one, I’m afraid) you may very well want to give The Weekend a try.

In addition to The Weekend, I spent what could have been a tedious airport layover pleasantly absorbed in Evgenia Citkowitz’s The Shades, thanks to a recommendation from Tony’s Book World:

Do you like creepy Gothic novels with a psychological twist?  A hint of the strange, underlying the rational world?  If so, you might enjoy this elegantly written novel, in which a mother grieving the loss of her teenage daughter becomes enthralled by a young stranger who shows up at her door.  If you’ve ever listened to Gluck’s Orfeo (in one of the novel’s key scenes, two of the main characters attend a performance) you know the basic plot, but it’s still fun to follow the twists. 

Since I adore horror fiction (the “Shirley Jackson Haunting of Hill House variety,” not the “chop up the body parts” kind) I quickly downloaded Lauren Owen’s Small Angels for a travel read as soon as I read the New York Times’ very favorable review.  The novel was well written, atmospheric and employed some of my favorite horror tropes, i.e., the ancestral curse, the magical forest and stubborn village folk in deep denial regarding their complicity in the evil surrounding them.  Action is sparked when Chloe, an outsider to the village & unaware of its history, decides to hold her wedding at Small Angels, a deserted chapel closely tied to the evil haunting the forest.  Using multiple points of view, Owens gives a neat spin to the traditional ghost story, creating some strong female characters along the way.  So I liked this novel, didn’t I?  Well . . .  yes and no.  The first half really held me enthralled as I soaked in that wonderful spooky atmosphere and teased out the story line.  When the action moved into contemporary times, however (Chloe’s perilous wedding; the sibling tension between her village boyfriend & his sister, the modern love stories, etc), my interest diminished, my reading speed picked up and I was quite content for the whole thing to end.  Still, unless you share my perhaps unrealistic & overly stringent expectations for horror fiction (after all, there’s only one Shirley Jackson), this could be quite a satisfying read, as the days darken and the spirits return for their visits!

Beware, beware of Mockbeggar Woods, particularly if you’re a member of the Gonne family, whose fate is ruled by an ancestral curse tied to this sentient forest.  Although it was beautifully done in many respects, my overall reaction to Small Angels was a bit tepid. 

I’ve been a big fan of Emily St. John Mandel’s work since reading Station Eleven several years ago.  Her next novel, The Glass Hotel, was (IMO at least) even better.  (If you’ve read either or both of these books, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.)  It goes without saying that I took the unusual (for me) step of pre-ordering her latest, as soon as I learned it was coming out last spring:

Like the two novels that immediately preceded it, Tranquility involves multiple story arcs and weaves backwards and forwards in time.  What is the link between a British aristocrat, exiled in 1917 by his family to the Canadian wilderness; a contemporary teenager with a video cam; and a 23rd century writer born and reared in one of the lunar colonies, who’s flogging her latest book during a visit to earth?  Two centuries after the writer’s time, an investigator named after a character in one of the writer’s books attempts to put the puzzle together, adding yet another layer to Mandel’s complex structure.  Mandel deftly uses the tools of speculative fiction to focus on the real subject of the novel (IMO at least), i.e., the seemingly random events that link lives and the patterns that connect human existence over the centuries.  All this is done in Mandel’s beautifully lyrical prose and with the added bonus of cameos from a couple of the characters I first met in The Glass Hotel (although these appearances add a sparkle, you need not have read Hotel beforehand to enjoy Tranquility).  Although I enjoyed Tranquility a great deal, I was just the teeniest bit disappointed, for no reason that I’m able to articulate very clearly. Perhaps it was because that, like many novels told from a multiple point of view, some plot strands are inevitably more to one’s taste than others.  In this case I found many of the events involving the investigator less than compelling; also I felt that, to some extent Mandel was repeating many of the themes from her previous work.

The remainder of my September reading was devoted to Thomas Bernhard’s Extinction (tr. David McClintock), one of my selections for 2022’s European Reading Challenge.

Extinction purports to be a first person account by one Franz-Josef Murau, an expatriate Austrian aristocrat living in Rome in self-imposed exile from his family.  Clocking in at 326 pages in my edition (Vintage International), it was a bit long but, really, how much time can it take to read 326 pages when you’d rather read than go out to dinner with your group and there’s a long plane ride home?  I assure you, dear readers, that it can actually take quite a bit of time when  those three hundred odd pages (no paragraph  breaks, mind you!) are an impassioned rant about Austria’s Nazi past; the evils of the Catholic church; opera; German literature (Murau/Bernhard hates Goethe); the corruption of human civilization by the invention of photography; and the fact that Murau’s sisters as young women purposely ruined his green socks by darning them with red wool (or was it the other way around? must check my notes).  Oh, and those sisters “hopped” about a lot as children, which was very, very annoying to Murau!  Extinction, in short, was a fascinating, exhausting and challenging read; and one that I didn’t actually finish until early October, after I’d completed clearing out the hurricane damage in my yard (I believe the U.K. term for this area is “garden”).  Because I haven’t given up all hope of doing some real reviews this year, particularly of my Challenge books, I’ll reserve my thoughts about Extinction, particularly as it provided me with a great deal to think about.

Since I always seem to take forever to post anything (good heavens! Is the first of November actually next week?), I thought I’d  give just a quick little glimpse of what I’ve been reading in October:

I’ve only read the books on the right (the ones standing upright), all selected to fit categories in my Challenges.  The others are books I’ve been “dipping” into as the mood strikes.  The bottom two (Paula Rego & Clouds, Ice and Bounty) are exhibition catalogues; I never read the text of these things, I just look at the pictures!

After a bumpy start, October’s been a pretty good reading month in which I’ve mainly concentrated on finishing a few more Challenge books.  I finally got around to Diana Athill’s short story collection, Midsummer Night In The Workhouse (Persephone ed.), part of my Classics Challenge.  I also made a bit more progress on my Reading Europe Challenge books, finishing Alina Bronsky’s debut novel, Broken Glass Park; Peter Stamm’s On A Day Like This; and Domenico Starnone’s Trick (with a great intro by Jhumpa Lahiri).  Hopefully at least one or two will end up getting a real review in the next two months.

I usually regard these round-up posts as great opportunities to inflict a couple of cute cat photos on any long-suffering readers who’ve hung with me this far.  Today, however, I thought I’d do something a little different, by showing you some nice photos (thanks again, my beloved Mr. J) of a Painted Bunting, a shy little bird that’s one of the most colorful North American songbirds imaginable.  Although Painted Buntings are plentiful right now, as they winter in Florida, they like to hide and they’re hard to see.  Luckily for us, there’s a nice nature reserve (located close to  our thankfully undamaged home) where the local chapter of the Audubon Society maintains a blind and bird feeders the birds find most attractive:

It’s a little hard to see in this photo, but even his (it’s a male painted bunting) eye ring is bright red!
This gives a good view of his back. Again, the light isn’t great, or you’d see that the green is actually very bright.

That’s all for now (and aren’t you glad?); I’m off to check out what everyone’s been reading.

28 thoughts on “My Late, (Very) Late, Autumn Update!

  1. Hi Janakay,
    Some people find Thomas Bernhard quite depressing, but I have liked his work a lot. ‘Extinction’ is actually one of my Bernhard favorites. Two other Bernhard winners for me are ‘The Loser’ and the very short ‘Wittgenstein’s Nephew’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Tony! So glad you dropped by and thanks again for the recommendation for Shades (it kept me from being very bored during the slow part of my trip!).
      I’m glad to find a Bernhard enthusiast; I’ll definitely put Wittgenstein’s Nephew on my TBR. I don’t find Bernhard depressing; say, rather, I find him “intense.” Very intense. I think it’s the first person narrator & the de-emphasis on any physical action, which places all the attention on the narrator’s thoughts/opinions, that for me at least lend such intensity to the work. I found many of these quite interesting (I poked a little fun at the photography thing in my post, but Bernhard/Murau’s views on the subject were really quite thought provoking). I’m very glad I read Extinction and plan on furthering my acquaintance with the author, but, about halfway through the novel, I really could read only a few pages at a time. Next time I’m going for something shorter; I suspect Wittgenstein will fit the bill.
      Have you reviewed any of Bernhard’s novels? If so, I’ll click on over!


      1. For the two Thomas Bernhard novels that I have reviewed on my site, ‘Walking’ and ‘Gargoyles’, I did not give very positive reviews. I did write ‘The Art of the Angry Rant – The Fiction of Thomas Bernhard’ which is a post highlighting his work in general. I do believe ‘Wittgenstein’s Nephew’ is a good choice, because that is the one that got me liking Bernhard.


  2. I love the sound of your bird-spotting trip to Spain’s Asturias region. Not an area I’m particularly familiar with, but it seems well worth checking out. Gorgeous photos too – kudos to Mr Janakay for those pics!

    Lovely to see that you’ve been reading Domenico Starnone’s Trick. I read it a few years ago and was very impressed, so I’m interested to hear your take on it. The relationship between the grandfather and his precocious grandson is beautifully portrayed.

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    1. Hello JacquiWine! I’ve just spent a pleasant hour or so enjoying your recent posts (think I have one left to read).
      I’m glad you enjoyed the photos; Mr. J has really improved since the early days, which things tended to be — ahem — just a bit out of focus.
      This was my first trip to Spain (hopefully not my last). The Asturias region really is quite beautiful and, although I regret not spending some time in Madrid (can’t do everything) the gorgeous landscape really was what I needed at the time.
      Isn’t Starnone’s Trick wonderful? I almost went for a Natalia Ginzburg work instead, but decided on Trick as Starnone was less familiar to me. The grandfather/grandson relationship was indeed beautifully portrayed (and very, very funny, at times). Did your edition have Jhumpa Lahiri’s introduction? It’s brilliant but — I made the mistake of reading it first, and it almost scared me off from the novel itself!


  3. I am so glad you wrote extensively about September and October. Happy to hear that my country did you well, Los Picos de Europa, the caves, and the 9th century churches. And I agree that those churches are bold and powerful and a respite from the ornate ones of later centuries.
    I know about hurricanes and devastation. For us Harvey was traumatic while I can’t help but recognizing that it didn’t take an inordinate amount of lives. It’s always so hard to write about it, since how many lives are “many”?, and I remember evacuating and not knowing if our house will be there after, the damages were brutal, and bouncing back was not easy.

    Your reads are always fascinating, and I am slowly coming back from a period of not reading at all. It’s happened to me two or three times in my life, that I find myself unable to concentrate. But I am starting to come back, and reading The House of Mango Street for school and Moon Tiger. Hopefully I will blog soon too.

    The pics and bird pics are beautiful. Thanks for a post so rich, I traveled with you, and heard you discuss all these varied titles, and it’s always a pleasure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Silvia!!! Delighted to hear from you and so glad you enjoyed the post. I adore your country and really, really want to go back, with a focus next time around on your native city and its stunning museums. The Asturias region did have a surprising amount of art; there was a good regional museum, half of which was devoted to 19th century Spanish painters, the other half to Old Masters, Spanish and non-; Oviedo also had a very nice cathedral in Spanish Gothic style. I actually preferred the older, more “primitive” churches, however, many of which had some wonderful murals and mosaics. I was beyond thrilled when I realized that many of them were constructed as part of the medieval pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.
      I remember the time when Harvey inflicted itself on Houston and am only too thankful that I was spared an ordeal similar to yours (much, much worse than what I went through). It’s a tough moment, when you lock that door and leave your house, not knowing when, or if, you’ll be returning and/or what the damage will be. We had a busy (very) couple of days picking up the mess but it wasn’t really that awful, primarily because we were spared any flooding.
      I know what you mean about not being able to read, as I’ve gone through a few such dry spells; they’ve felt almost like a spiritual sickness, if that doesn’t sound too presumptuous. I’m sure it will pass (I can’t imagine Silvia without a book in her hand!) and hope that it’s soon. I miss your blog and hope that you’ll have time & energy to resume it soon.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Janakay, thanks for the reply, it brought a smile to my face. I do not find it presumptuous in the least, it feels like a spiritual crisis to me as well. Thanks for the good wishes, I intend to reconnect with the bloggers and post soon.


    1. Hey, Yeah! Good to hear from you. I haven’t read much Faulkner in the last decade or two but The Reivers did cross my path way back yonder (I grew up next to Faulkner country and at one point had many of his fans among my friends). I agree it’s an excellent novel and much more accessible than lots of Faulkner’s other work. Did you know there’s an old Steve McQueen movie based on it? I liked it at the time; not sure, however, how it would hold up these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Feline masters. That is a phrase that rings so true and one I shall use infinitely, having two feline masters.
    Thomas Bernhard. He wrote my favourite flash fiction story ever: Hotel Waldhaus. Any writer who can bring Nietzsche into a story is such a sympathetic way has my undying devotion.
    Loved Athill’s Midsummer Night in the Workhouse for the title alone, although the stories are delightful too.
    Notice you had another Ditlevsen in the photo, although no note about it. Did you read it?
    Having had a cull of my books and schlepping 6 boxes to the charity shops (one cannot tolerate dross, but how it amasses), my bookcases are up for new arrivals. So thank you for this.
    P.s. Miss the feline ending. Not being one for birds, being a lot feline myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Michelle! Hope all is going well with you. Thanks for the tip about Bernhard’s Hotel Waldhaus. As I told Tony in a previous comment, I intend to explore Bernhard a little more, but next time I will definitely head for something shorter than Extinction.
      Isn’t Athill’s title for her collection WONDERFUL? That alone would have hooked me into the collection, which I am so glad Persephone reissued. I enjoyed Athill’s memoirs enormously (although I didn’t read all of them, I did read at least one after Stet.) and I’d been curious for quite some time how Athill the writer stacked up against Athill the editor. Quite well, I concluded; I totally agree with you that the stories were delightful (my own favorite, in addition to the title story, was “The Return”). I actually have a copy of Athill’s novel (I think she only wrote one) which I’m eager to read, although at my glacial pace it will probably take me years to get to it.
      Speaking of which, no, I didn’t get to the Ditlevsen in my photo! It’s so frustrating at time, to see so many great books and have so little energy/time to tackle them. On the other hand, isn’t this what heaven is supposed to be for?
      Did you find culling your books a traumatic experience? I had to do something similar when I made my long distance move shortly before the pandemic and it almost sent me over the edge. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I actually re-acquired some of my discards! On the other hand, you’ll have the wonderful experience of filling up those now empty shelves with exciting new possibilities!
      You comment about the bird photos is noted and filed, along with similar objections from my feline overlords (we serve harsh masters, don’t we?). You need not fear for the future Michelle–my computer’s hard drive is brimming with adorable pics of those who must be obeyed!

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      1. What shocked me most about my bookcases was how much rubbish was in them. Nothing to do with me of course. My husband must have put them there!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I, too, found some rather unpleasant little surprises when I cleared some bookshelves (“so THAT’s where my coffee mug got off to!”) As long as it’s not organic or multi-legged, I didn’t worry too much about it . . .


    1. Hi Kaggsy–so glad you enjoyed the bird! Although they’re not rare, they ARE difficult to see and the one in the photo was the first I’d had a chance to look at in a very long time. I’m always amazed at just how gaudy they are — I love that over the top color combo!
      The reading was pretty slow there, but it’s slowly starting to pick up (I loved Starnone’s Trick; it packs quite a wallop for such a slim book). I’m afraid my TBR stack, however, is getting a few additions since I’ve been catching up on your recent posts (just spent 30 minutes or so looking for a folio copy of Cocteau’s Enfants thanks to you, naughty girl).
      Drama is good in novels, not so good in real life. Thankfully things are now back to the dull as ditch water household routine, marked only by the turn of a page, the click of a shutter or, sad to say, the occasional feline tantrum!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. OMW: you have indeed gone through Interesting times! I’m delighted that you have emerged unscathed. I enjoyed Mr J’s pix, especially the painted bunting. Aptly named.
    I have The Sea of Tranquility on order. I loved Station Eleven, but didn’t enjoy The Glass Hotel. Fingers crossed for my upcoming read.
    Next time please treat us to a pic of your gorgeous cats. Maybe they will recover their sang froid after recent traumatic experiences. Remind them that you have recovered yours, and what’s their problem? Brandishing your tin-opener in a stern manner. That should restore their manners.


  6. Oh, Alison — that tin opener remark was precious; it gave me a great laugh as I head out for my exercise class, which is a very grim business indeed! It’s also a perfect read of my cats’ nature; they’re very, very food oriented (my time for getting maximum feline attention is early morning, which is their breakfast time). Never fear about future feline appearances; one of them is a natural ham (if he were human, he’d be lead dancer for the Chip ‘n Dales or something) and we’ve hundreds & hundreds of photos. You will regret your request.
    I think your reaction to Mandel’s Glass Hotel is probably shared by many. I know I was reluctant to read it, based on its subject; I obviously ended up with a very different opinion. I think I liked the richness of character & the insights into human nature; these were present, of course, in Station Eleven but I thought even better developed in Hotel. I was also quite interested to see Mandel display the same skill in a non-sci-fi setting. If you read Sea of Tranquility, I’ll be very curious to learn your opinion.
    Thanks for the good wishes; I did indeed escape very lightly from Hurricane Ian. I spent a day or so quite concerned about my relatives, who really were in a dangerous situation and largely out of touch.
    Glad you liked the Painted Bunting, but I imagine you see much more colorful birds in your front yard!


    1. It’s really a lovely region, isn’t it? I’m so glad, like you, that I had a chance to experience it. I knew the countryside would be scenic but I was still taken by surprise by the sheer beauty of it. Did you spend much time there? Was your focus general sightseeing, nature or art? Or food? (I thought the food was super!)

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      1. We spent a couple of weeks walking. I loved the contrasts, the heat at the bottom of the mountains and then at the top when the mist comes down and all you can hear are the bells around the necks of livestock it could be Austria! I loved everything about it and would happily return!


  7. You’ve had such an eventful few months. Glad to know the hurricane did not affect your area too badly. The Spain trip sounds enthralling. And you seem to have accomplished quite a bit of reading despite the adventures. I am definitely putting “ The Weekend” on my list. Thank you!


    1. Hello LT! So glad you dropped by, particularly as I’ve been dipping a bit into your blog, in an effort to catch up. This HAS been a challenging year for me, although nothing compared to your sad loss.
      My reading definitely picked up in October, now if I can only get some reviews posted!
      If you try The Weekend, I’d be very interested to hear your reaction.


  8. I have a confession to make: I never read ‘what I read in #InsertMonth’ posts because I always have more lit-bloggers to read than I have time for, and I figure that I’ve already read the reviews that the blogger has posted in that month. So I missed this one, and now is the time to say that I am glad you were spared the worst of the hurricane. We in Oz have had our share of extreme weather events this year, but familiarity does not breed contempt. I feel for all the world’s humble folk bearing the brunt of stupid decisions made by the rich and powerful not to do anything about climate change while there was still time.
    To matters bookish: IMO the most memorable character in The Weekend was that dear old dog Finn. I think of him whenever I see another dear old dog that totters up and down its street with its fit and hyper-active owner slowing his pace down to a dawdle, for the dog’s sake. The love of a dear old dog that is, for all intents and purposes, completely useless, is the most pure love there can be, and Wood nailed it perfectly in her novel.
    Extinction is on my wishlist. I find Bernhard exhausting, but I do love a good rant!

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    1. Ohhh Lisa — what a terrible, awful, career-threatening confession — just for that you lose your least favorite bookmark! (LOL, of course).
      Thanks for your good-weather wishes. Living as I do in an extremely vulnerable (to tropical storms) area, I suspect I’ll need them. I DID think of such things before I moved here and took some simple precautions: I don’t live in a flood zone or on a barrier island, my house is on high ground & I’m reasonably close to an evacuation route. In our glorious days of environmental degradation/destruction, however, I suspect that’s a good as it gets. The U.S.’ western states are rapidly running out of water & face increased fire damage, the eastern seaboard’s going to sink into the north Atlantic and the interior states have flooding, tornados and blizzards. In other words, no one is safe (and how I wished this realization would sink in) from the horrible decisions made by the governing powers. You’re quite correct, however, in saying that the poorest will suffer the most.
      You are also spot on about Finn, in The Weekend; he’s a wonderful character and Wood nailed him perfectly. Aside from that, his inclusion really reinforced the themes of aging, of “how does one cope (or not).” I loved Finn and felt huge sympathy for him (who couldn’t? We’ve all had aging pets). In one sense I almost wonder if the characters’ reaction to Finn mirrored how they would, or wouldn’t, be able to cope with their increasing mortality. Finn’s devoted owner (forgot her name) is feeling the years, but still goes on to produce a significant scholarly book. Jude can’t stand Finn and — whatever Jude is destined for, one suspects it’s not a happy & tranquil old age.
      If you want a good rant, well, Extinction’s your book! (although it WAS exhausting). Everything from very astute judgments about art/literature (you might not agree with them if you’re a fan of Goethe), to the Austrian government’s complicity with the Nazi regime, to the vulgar excesses of the new rich, to the iniquity of darning green socks with red thread (or was it the other way around?). It was definitely a worthwhile read but next Bernhard will be a shorter work!

      Liked by 1 person

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