This is Mantel's second book about Thomas Cromwell, after the magnificent Wolf Hall. When Bring up the bodies was published, in May last, I immediately set out to read it. The huge cast of characters had mostly stayed the same, making this new novel instantly recognizable. Also the same was Mantel's writing. Her style is hard to describe: fluid literary language that somehow feels genuine for the period of more that 450 years ago. A lot of dialogue as well; sometimes it almost reads like a play. One of the challenges with Mantel, though, is determining who is speaking. After a while you learn that an undetermined 'he' always refers to Cromwell. She has a few more peculiarities, but you can get used to all of them. That is, if you can get in the flow and stay there. For some reason I couldn't do that at my first try back in May. I put the book away and left it by my bedside a few months. But lately I've been in a mood to clear up some of my books in the 'still to be read'-pile and that included Bring up the bodies. This time I was able to get into Mantel's groove and finish it in a few days. Like Wolf Hall it feels like a warm bath, the period of Henry VIII that Mantel sets up so brilliantly. Bring up the bodies reads like a political thriller, although you mostly know how it will end. It's about all the scheming and intrigue that precede that ending. So, Mantel again wrote an excellent novel about Thomas Cromwell, but slightly below the level of Wolf Hall. It does make me curious about the third and final book in this trilogy.

3 September 2012

Fourth Estate, 2012


Some of the last books before my break were two Bryson books so it's perhaps fitting to start again with another one from him. I read At Home in the meantime and really liked that and now I had this one in mind for some time, about the English language. Luckily my favourite bookshop in Berlin (Dussmann's) had it so I could start it straight away. It's another very good read by Bryson, although I liked this one a bit less than the other three so far. Perhaps you can tell this is one of his first books. The humor is there, the crazy anecdotes (about weird scholars mostly), and the overall great quality of his writing (it looks so simple, it reads so well, but I think it's pretty difficult to actually do that!). But some parts and chapters were a bit boring because of too much summing up. This made the book less coherent. Maybe it used to be some articles first, added together to make a book. Anyway, I liked it, especially as a reminder what interesting things I've learned in my studies. Bryson always makes you enthusiastic about a topic! I quite like that.

27 July 2012


Ik ken mensen die auto’s, boten of andere vervoersmiddelen hun huis in slepen, meestal voor restauratie. Maar een heuze T-Ford in de huiskamer, gewoon voor de lol, daar had ik nog nooit van gehoord. Dit is slechts één van de objecten die in de loop van dit boek het enorme huis van Homer en Langley Collyer vullen. E.L. Doctorow schreef een fascinerende roman over deze excentrieke broers uit New York. Hun huis fungeert als vrijplaats voor allerlei mensen en objecten die de 20e eeuw  heeft voortgebracht. Het is mooi op zo’n manier te lezen hoe snel het leven is veranderd in slechts enkele decennia. Homer en Langley maken het allemaal mee, tot de onverbiddelijke vooruitgang ze beetje voor beetje boven het hoofd groeit.

13 April 2010

Random House, 2009


An important link in improving my drama backlist, inevitable after Death of a salesman. Actually liked this one better, maybe because it's an historical play rather than comtemporary. I sometimes seem to lose myself more in historical settings than settings from modern life. I read this one in one day, which might also have helped. It's a rather exhausting, but irresistable ride and left me quite impressed in the end.

6 March 2010


Took me a while, no, it took me longer than any other book in a long time. It was struggle, but worth it. I really enjoyed reading Wolf Hall, both because it's a longer book than I usually read and because it's a full-blown historical novel, something I don't do regularly. Although it is thoroughly embedded in the context the writing is remarkably playful and the language modern. An excellent feat I'd say. I'm certainly glad with all the weeks I spent with Mantel's novel and will await new work from her with interest.

22 December 2009

Fourth Estate, 2009


Een andere verassing dit jaar was The suspicions of Mr Whicher van Kate Summerscale. Ik had het fraaie, ouderwetse omslag al voorbij zien komen en toen een collega me bezweerde dat dit boek mij als anglofiel op het lijf was geschreven besloot ik de proef op de som te nemen. Volgens mij is een boek wat je enthousiast kan maken over andere boeken altijd de moeite waard. Na lezing van Mr Whicher kreeg ik spontaan zin om weer eens een klassieker van Dickens of Conan Doyle open te slaan. Dit door een gedetailleerd verslag van een 19e eeuwse moordzaak in Engeland, gebaseerd op ware feiten. Het klungelige werk van de lokale politie komt naar voren, maar ook een historische beschrijving van de opkomst van de eerste detectives in Engeland, verweven met vele verwijzingen naar bekende literatuur van die tijd. Vermakelijk en inspirerend, ideaal.

12 August 2009

Bloomsbury, 2009
Originally published 2008


A long, rich work; full of excerpts of (Victorian) poems, letters and diaries. All brilliantly devised by Byatt, who didn't forget to include a good plot as well. It's an excellent mockery of a number of scholarly pitfalls, such as overzealous biography hunting or poststructuralist cynicism; liked that quite much, especially coupled with the exciting literary mystery. A very nice historical novel (I think I should call it), albeit a bit long.

4 November 2008


Quite absorbing, this postmodern historical novel. Absorbing and intriguing. It's long, full of authorial asides, footnotes and epigraphs and has a catching story as well. The story is Victorian, the narrator is Victorian á la Dickens, but the whole novel reads like a parody of all that, a postmodern gimmick. But it's funny, thought provoking and reads like a train, albeit a long train. Excellent novel. (I like the ending confusion and author-as-character).

11 September 2008


Het eerste Vestdijk boek sinds ruim drie jaar. Zou ik toch vaker willen lezen, want hoezel z'n taalgebruik ietwat ouderwets is, lezen z'n boeken uitstekend. Ierse Nachten is een compacte historische roman, die zich volledig afspeelt op één plaats. En dat is helemaal niet erg. Het werkt prima, leest lekker en je steekt er nog wat van op ook. Ik hoop binnen nu en een jaar bijvoorbeeld De Koperen tuin of De Kellner en de levenden te lezen.

2 Juli 2008


It's witty, it's elusive, it's remarkable and it's probably a novel. Orlando is one of those books that refuse to be categorized; it mocks categories simply. Although radically different from Mrs Dalloway, the style is somehow still Woolf's. It's certainly a style I like. Here comes The Waves.

19 March 2008

Oxford University Press, 2000
Originally published 1928


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