Introducing #bookmatchartwork – the pairing of a unifying theme in literature and art

Today I am posting about two things I am very passionate about- books and paintings. So by incorporating a hashtag #bookmatchartwork I will be trying to pair two otherwise unrelated creative bodies of work. This Instagram post befriends Peter Mayle with Van Gogh- in the beautiful location of sunny Provence.

View this post on Instagram

Do you hear the word 'Provence' and immediately think of purple lavender fields, succulent grapes bursting off their vines, weekend summer markets and long, balmy evenings, languorously eating cheese and sipping red wine? There is no need to exert the imagination when you have Peter Mayle's 'A Year in Provence' at hand. Through his lively, year long diary, we glimpse a vision of Provençal beauty that exceeds our imaginative expectations. (This book made it to my top 10 books list of 2015 on my blog). To add to that, we have the beauty of two of Van Gogh's most famous paintings: The Starry Night and Wheat Field with Cypresses. Both were painted during Van Gogh's stay at the asylum in Saint- Rémy-de-Provence. A key feature common to these paintings are the diagonal line created by the low rolling hills of the distant Alpilles mountains. Don't you love it when a book or a piece of art takes you to a faraway place? I'm creating a tag called #bookmatchartwork . If you would like to pair a book that you think thematically or visually matches a work of art please use it. I am tagging a few friends who I think might be interested in doing this tag. If you are interested in art and books I tag you!

A post shared by Arpita Bhattacharya (@bagfullofbooks) on

200th Anniversary of Austen’s Emma

Just a quick little post. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and received lots of bookish favours. A gift from my husband included the 200th anniversary edition of Jane Austen’s ‘Emma’, which I am excited to re-read as part of my classics challenge next year. I will see you again in a few days with what will most likely be the last post of this year.

View this post on Instagram

Emma was first published in December of 1815. This month marks its 200th anniversary. On Christmas Eve, my husband took me to our local bookshop to choose a book and I plumped for this anniversary edition. Besides having a gorgeous cover, it has beautiful deckled edge pages, contextual essays, maps of Austen's England, tips for reading the book, along with photographs of the first edition. Emma is not my most endearing Austen heroine; she annoys me with her meddling ways. But so many people have been discussing Emma recently and it has shed new light on the way I view the novel. After twenty five years I will read it more objectively and hope it will improve upon renewed acquaintance. This book marks the first book in my classics challenge for next year.

A post shared by Arpita Bhattacharya (@bagfullofbooks) on

Top 10 books of 2015

0001-104945757

In terms of the number of books read, 2015 was a disappointing year for me. We are in the first week of December and I am yet to reach my yearly goal of reading 50 books. Things were progressing fairly well, I was reading a book a week and then summer came…

Here are my excuses: we went on a long summer vacation to meet family in India after five long years. There, I also met my brother and his girlfriend whom I saw for the very first time. They were visiting from Europe.

I caught up with school friends, met aged relatives, did a little bit of sightseeing in Kolkata, where I had lived for 18 years, dealt with my daughter’s severe bout of diarrhea (too much information, I know) and dutifully visited our local dentist several times. My summer was hence, bookless.

In 2015, I started this blog and it took me a few months to find my feet (I still am!). I was also involved in managing and writing content for a few online projects. It was a busy but interesting year.

I have a few other excuses but I’ll shush now. At the end of the day, I try to remind myself why I read. And I feel personally, it shouldn’t be about me chasing after a random number. Questions I should be focusing on are: did I learn something from the books I read? Did they inspire me? Did they cheer me up when I was having a bad day, week or month? Did they make me passionate about reading more? The answers to these questions are a resounding yes.

So at the end of this long monologue, I should mention that despite the paucity of books read, I was lucky enough to pick up several great books in 2015. Coincidentally, all the books described in this blogpost are written by authors who I have read for the very first time, excluding HE Bates. Here in no particular order are my Top 10 Books of 2015. All of them are exceptional reads.

1) They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple

Three sisters marry three very different men. Lucy, the eldest is happily married to William. Charlotte, is besotted with Geoffrey who is a cruel, dominating husband and Vera, the beautiful youngest sister marries caring, wealthy Brian, whom she marries for  security. The story deals with the fact that choosing a life partner can have far-reaching consequences, and that this decision can dictate to a large extent a person’s individual happiness and the happiness of their families.Whipple delivers a masterful plot and powerful cast of characters. She creates extraordinary drama and turbulence within the boundaries of everyday domestic occurrences. For a full review see here.

FullSizeRender-2

2) 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

This is an account of the correspondence between Helene Hanff, a freelance writer in New York and Frank Doel, an employee of a used antiquarian bookstore in London. The correspondence is spread over the years 1949 to 1969, documenting the lively dialogue between two people, with nothing in common but a knowledge and love of good books. Set in the years after World War II, the reader is treated to an insight of the reality of what it was like to live in the aftermath of the war. The book is funny and poignant and shows how people separated by great distance and circumstances can nonetheless, touch each others lives and create the most beautiful of relationships.For a full review click here.

 

 

 

3) Illyrian spring by Ann Bridge

This book is a part travelogue, part love story set in 1930’s Croatia, along the picturesque Dalmatian Coast. World-renowned artist, thirty-eight year old Lady Kilmachael, the wife of an eminent economist and mother to three grown-up children, leaves her family and all that she holds dear and escapes to Venice and Croatia’s remote Dalmatian Coast. She fears for her marriage, suspecting her husband of embarking on a possible affair and also is saddened by the strained relationship she has with her daughter. In Venice she meets a disillusioned young man, Nicholas, a man on the verge of being coerced into an architectural career by his parents but desperately yearning to paint. By chance, Grace and Nicholas find themselves on the same cruise to the Dalmatian Coast. Grace is persuaded to guide and train Nicholas in his artistic endeavours and together they spend several idyllic weeks together painting and enjoying each other’s company. However, when young Nicholas falls in love with Grace, she finds she must choose between following her better judgement or her heart.

illyrian-spring

4) The Eye of Love by Margery Sharp

This is an unusual, quirky, humorous fairytale romance story. An unlikely hero (portly, middle-aged Henry Gibson) and an unlikely heroine (angular, past her prime Dolores Diver) meet at a Chelsea Arts Ball dressed as a brown paper parcel and Spanish dancer respectively. Thus springs an unusual decade long love affair that is threatened by economic situations. Enter an unemotional orphaned niece with a large appetite for food and drawing random objects, a few unusual characters and situations, lots of candor, romance and intelligence and you have the makings of a fine novel. ‘The Eye of Love’ by Margery Sharp is a fantastic read. For a full review click here

IMG_1980

5) The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford is her fifth novel published in 1945. It is the first novel in a trilogy of which Love in a Cold Climate and Don’t Tell Alfred form a part. The Pursuit of Love was the first novel that brought Mitford popularity and is semi-autobiographical. The time frame of the story is set in between the two world wars. The threat of impending war and its repercussions play a major role in the unfolding of the story. However, at the heart of the tale is the story of a young woman’s lifelong quest to find love.

IMG_0049

 

6) Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons

This is a feel good Cinderella-esque love story set in 1930s rural Essex. What sets it apart from any other frothy romance novels is Gibbon’s exceptionally witty writing style, her simultaneous interweaving of several plots and her sometimes very profound observations about life.

 

IMG_0374

7) Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

Four English women seek respite from their personal troubles during a month-long holiday in a rented medieval castle in Italy.  The change of scenery strikes an indelible change in each of these women. They find themselves embracing circumstances and causes they had long given up on. The book positively resonates with the beauty and warmth of the location. Elizabeth von Arnim supposedly visited an Italianate castle perched high up on a cliff, in the location of beautiful Portofino and the place inspired her to write Enchanted April.

 

8) A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

This is Peter Mayle’s year long diary-style narrative of moving to and spending a year in a small village in Provence. Each month chronicles not only the events taking place in the author’s personal life, but also the events typically occurring in a small Provencal village. The weather, seasonal produce and farming, summer markets and festivities are all deliciously captured through discerning descriptions. The writing style is simple yet descriptive. This is a beautiful travelogue. I tried to read a chapter a month this year, corresponding to the month described in the book. For a look at my art journal entry based on the cover illustration look here.

 

9) Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey

This is the most unusual book I have read this year yet so very wonderful. This is a Persephone Classic. It describes at length the wedding day of a young girl who is reluctant to get married. The bride takes to glugging a bottle of Jamaica Rum in her bedroom to quell her fears whilst downstairs a strange collective of characters have assembled to participate in the wedding celebrations. There are eccentric relatives, friends, a former beau who wishes to propose and yet is not certain of himself and a bevy of peculiar servants who help in the wedding preparations. The book is interspersed with memorable dialogues. I highly recommend this book!

10)The Darling Buds of May by HE Bates

This book is just ‘perfick’ to read in the summer if you should choose to use Pop Larkin’s (the protagonist of the book’s) favorite adjective. A young tax collector comes to Pop Larkin’s Essex farm for an audit only to find himself totally carried away by the love, laughter and excesses of the Larkin family. He falls in love with Mariette, the eldest Larkin daughter, Ma Larkin’s cooking and also Pop Larkin’s philosophy of living life to the lees. The descriptions of nature, summer and especially food make this an exceptional book.

What were your favorite books of 2015? Do you have a yearly goal of reading a certain number of books?

12 New Authors I Would Like to Read in 2016

0001-102946156

Now that I’m approaching my fourth decade of life, I feel more confident about the choices that I make in life. For example, I know when I enter a Starbucks, to be confronted by a bewildering array of choices, that I am NOT a green tea latte type of person. Most definitely not. For me, it is the subtle aroma of the simple cappuccino, made with a hint of sugar, that gives me pleasure.

Similarly, I have accepted the fact that I will never be the ‘skinny jeans wearing type of gal’ with the permanently furrowed brow. Give me the comfortable boyfriend jeans and I will sink comfortably into my favourite couch, to reach for that reassuring book.

When it comes to book choices too, I have finally reached that beautiful place, when I am able to appreciate in advance, exactly what kind of book I will enjoy reading, even when I have never read a single line written by that author.

Most of them are modern classics, written in and around the twentieth century and deal with stories related to the home and society.

Here in no particular order, are the twelve authors whom I have never read, but I expect (and hope!) will give me many hours of unadulterated reading pleasure in 2016.

1) E.M. Delafield-  The Diary of A Provincial Lady

2) Elizabeth Jenkins-  The Tortoise and the Hare

3) E.F. Benson- Mapp and Lucia

4) D.E. Stevenson- Mrs Tim of the Regiment or Miss Buncle’s Book

5) Monica Dickens-Mariana

 

 

6) Penelope Lively- Consequences

7) Muriel Spark-The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

8) Beryl Bainbridge- The Bottle Factory Outing

9) Winifred Holtby- South Riding

10) Barbara Comyns- Our Spoons Came from Woolworths

11) Elizabeth Taylor- Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont

12) Josephine They- The Franchise Affair

Please let me know if you enjoy reading these particular authors and which books you have enjoyed reading by them.

Which books do you look forward to reading in 2016?

Here’s to a great year of reading ahead!

 

November, 2015 Book Wrap Up

FullSizeRender-3

Here is a round up of book related favourites for the month of November, 2015. For a glimpse into October, 2015’s Bookish Favourites please see here.

1. Books

 I  read a total of seven books in November. Two of these books, Emily of New Moon and Little House on the Prairie were part of the #ReadKidsLit read along .

1) Emily of New Moon (4/5*) by LM Montgomery. This is the heartwarming tale of a young motherless girl called Emily who has recently lost her beloved father. Emily’s mother’s side of the family draw lots to decide who will have the responsibility of taking care of the young child. Emily goes to stay with her strict Aunt Elizabeth, loving Aunt Laura and friendly Cousin Jimmy at the idyllic location of New Moon Farm on Prince Edward Island. Despite her immense sense of loss, Emily draws comfort from her beautiful surroundings, the friendships she makes at every turn and ultimately her new family.For a full review see here.

2) Martha, Eric and George (4/5*) by Margery Sharp. This is the third book in Margery Sharp’s ‘Martha’ trilogy. In this book we follow the lives of Martha, Eric and George a decade after where ‘Martha in Paris’ left us. We learn of George’s upbringing in the hands of his grandmother, of Eric’s disillusionment at being unable to progress in both the personal and professional spheres of his life and of Martha’s tremendous success as an independent artist. Martha’s success prompts her to show her paintings at an exhibition in Paris. In Paris, Martha, Eric and George meet one another and this book deals with the circumstances and repercussions of the meeting between a mother and a child who have been distanced for a decade.

3) They Were Sisters (4.5/5*) by Dorothy Whipple. Three sisters marry three very different men. Lucy, the eldest is happily married to William. Charlotte, is besotted with Geoffrey who is a cruel, dominating husband and Vera, the beautiful youngest sister marries caring, wealthy Brian, whom she marries for  security. The story deals with the fact that choosing a life partner can have far-reaching consequences, and that this decision can dictate to a large extent a person’s individual happiness and the happiness of their families.Whipple delivers a masterful plot and powerful cast of characters. She creates extraordinary drama and turbulence within the boundaries of everyday domestic occurrences. For a full review see here.

4) Little House on the Prairie (4/5*) by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This story recounts the brave migration of a small family of five, on a small cart and horse laden with all their worldly possessions from the Woods of Wisconsin to the heart of the MidWest. It also describes the trials and difficulties of setting up house as a pioneer family in a land inhabited by wild animals, and unknown dangers, a land they must share with the Native American people.

5) Illyrian Spring (4.5/5*) by Ann Bridge. This book is a part travelogue, part love story set in 1930’s Croatia, along the picturesque Dalmatian Coast. World-renowned artist, thirty-eight year old Lady Kilmachael, the wife of an eminent economist and mother to three grown-up children, leaves her family and all that she holds dear and escapes to Venice and Croatia’s remote Dalmatian Coast. She fears for her marriage, suspecting her husband of embarking on a possible affair and also is saddened by the strained relationship she has with her daughter. In Venice she meets a disillusioned young man, Nicholas, a man on the verge of being coerced into an architectural career by his parents but desperately yearning to paint. By chance, Grace and Nicholas find themselves on the same cruise to the Dalmatian Coast. Grace is persuaded to guide and train Nicholas in his artistic endeavours and together they spend several idyllic weeks together painting and enjoying each other’s company. However, when young Nicholas falls in love with Grace, she finds she must choose between following her better judgement or her heart.

6) Family Roundabout (4.5/5*) by  Richmal Crompton. This Persephone book looks at the complex relationship between two neighboring families, the Fowlers and the Willoughbys,  whose outlooks on life, are on one hand in opposition to one another, but on the other hand, find their paths unavoidably intertwined. Both the matriarch’s of the families, keep a close eye on the fates of their beloved families, but employ different styles. Mrs Willoughby, has control of the family fortune, and dictates the actions of her family members by way of controlling the money she bestows upon them. Benevolent Mrs Fowler, watches silently, as her children fall in and out of their individual problems. Most of her children appeal for her help when they require it. But despite, however, much the mothers’ try to resolve their children’s problems, new troubles, recur in cyclical events, almost like a roundabout.

7) The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay. In this vintage crime fiction novel, a large family gathers together in their large family home, in the country during the Christmas season. The head of the family, wealthy Sir Osmond Melbury, is found dead on Christmas Day by a guest, dressed up as Santa Klaus. Everyone in the house has a motive for committing the murder except Santa Klaus himself. However, Santa Klaus is the only person, in the entire house, with the opportunity, or so it would seem…

2. Blogposts

 I published eight blogposts excluding this round-up post this month. Three were reviews of children’s books: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Green Eggs and Ham and Madeline. The rest included reviews of the books-  Martha in Paris, They Were Sisters, Emily of New Moon and Cheerful Weather for the Wedding. I also published The Thoughtful Holiday Gift List for the Booklovers in Your Life.

I wrote a blogpost for Budgettraveller.org describing Fifteen Books that Made me Fall in Love with Europe. In doing so I was able to read and re-read a number of delightful travelogues.

3. Movies

We watched Jim Carrey’s ‘A Christmas Carol‘. This is such a delightful movie to watch around the festive season! The special effects are just magical and conjure a beautiful image of Dickensian London during yuletide. We also watched ‘Cheerful Weather for the Wedding‘. I saw the film soon after reading the book by Julia Strachey. As a consequence the dialogues in the book were fresh in my mind and were not faithfully repeated in the screenplay. This rather disappointed me, but if watched independently of the book, this is not a bad film. We also commenced watching Season 1, part 2 of the dramatization of Diana Gabaldon’s  ‘Outlander’ series. There is so much drama in this series and very entertaining to follow.

4. Audiobooks

 I listened to the excellent BBC dramatization of Dodie Smith’s ‘I Capture the Castle’ on BBC radio this month. I am also slowly listening to the BBC dramatization of CS Lewis’s excellent Narnia novels. Starting with ‘The Magician’s Nephew’. I also was quite interested in the discussion about Jane Austen’s Emma in an episode of ‘In Our Time‘ hosted by Melvyn Bragg.

5. Miscellaneous

 I indulged in purchasing a few audiobooks this month. These include a series of readings from Anthony Trollope‘s Barsetshire  novels. I also have the recording for  ‘War and Peace‘ at hand. I hope to embark on a reading challenge of sorts next year, centered around either one of these books.

I did a few paintings for my art journal on Instagram. You cnd some examples below.

6. Next Month

Next month I hope to make a dent in my TBR pile. Books that I am looking at are the Mystery in White, Sweet William by Beryl Bainbridge and the illustrated copy of Harry Potter.

Wish you all a happy and bookish, festive December!

Please tell me what you have been reading this month?

 IMG_0404

IMG_0405

The Thoughtful Holiday Gift List for the Booklovers in Your Life

For the Mystery Lover


For the Relaxation Seeker


For the Picture Book Lover


For the Movie Lover


For the Older Child


For the Childlike Adventure Seeker


For the Poirot Lover


For the Poetry Lover


For the Literarature Lover


For the Romantic Escapist


For the Charming Vintage Romance Novel Lover


For the Classics Lover


For the Person Who Has Little Time to Read


For the Music Lover


For the Anne of Green Gables Fan


For Yourself


Or If You Prefer Something More Contemporary