Monday, 31 October 2011

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

Larry Cook is an aging farmer who decides to incorporate his farm, handing complete and joint ownership to his three daughters, Ginny, Rose, and Caroline. When the youngest daughter objects, she is removed from the agreement. This sets off a chain of events that brings dark truths to light and explodes long-suppressed emotions, as the story eventually reveals the long-term sexual abuse of the two eldest daughters that was committed by their father.
The plot also focuses on Ginny's troubled marriage, her difficulties in bearing a child and her relationship with her family. (wikipedia)

I came across this Pulitzer price winning novel while I was searching for a topic to write my paper in a "King Lear" seminar for uni. For anyone familiar with King Lear, this novel follows the plot very precisely. The Lear plot, the Gloucester plot, updated and re-valued versions of them are the core of this 1997 novel.
Is it worth reading even when you couldn´t care less about Lear and just want an exciting read? I would say yes, but it´s not an easy read. The language itself is easy and comteporary but the the plot and the dense descriptions of Ginny´s awful life are sometimes so plastic that you suffer with her and get soaked into the whole misery they are all on. So maybe not something if you want to cheer yourself up or feel the need to laugh out loud. But if you like family dramas and as an added bonus know your Shakespeare well then give it go!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Mousetrap

Sometimes my shopping behaviour can be quite rational, controlled and grown-up (the rare moments I successfully convince myself that I really don't need another t-shirt, when I buy waterproof real leather boots in Clarks or when I buy a sports-bra instead of something pink, frilly and sparkly).
Sometimes though the little girl in me takes over...and NEEDS mouse ballerinas like this. In the cheap average import 100% plastic quality.

That side of me doesn't mind hunting the cute little things down on ebay for hours, fighting its way through all the "Angelina Ballerina" fan stuff aiming at a target group young enough to be her daughter...
I love this side of me and I love my mouse shoes :-)

Wayne´s World

Do you believe it, I´m a child of the eighties and still watched "Wayne´s World" for the first time 2 weeks ago! To be honest...I don´t remember lots about it and it is way to strange and not me to become an all-time favourite, but:
At least I can say that I have finally seen this favourite scene embedded in the film:

Not much more to say really...;-)

Thursday, 27 October 2011


If you are a experienced London shopper I probably don´t tell you anything new here, but anyway.

I want to tell you about the shopping wonderland that is called "Liberty".
The business dates back as far as 1875 and is now easily spotted just of Regent Street as it is in a impressive fake tudor building and looks a bit like the Globe Theatre.

Strangely I heard lots about it and was aware that they are especially famous for a huge collection of typical floral and ornamental fabrics - but I always walked by.

Finally I went in and was smitten, enchanted and overwhelmed at the same time. The beautiful old building with it´s wooden interior. The exquisite smells coming from the cosmetic and scented candle departments. The busy quietness. The handpicked, classy items. The immaculate presentation. And the complete absence of pushy and snooty sales assistants...heaven.

An experience for all senses that is so worth it even though their prices are definitely high. But I happily only look around and end up buying only a handkerchief when the whole experience is so marvellous and inspiring.
The perfect place to find special things and to escape the uniformity of all chain stores, something like a shopping spa in the middle of the typical London West End hustle. No ostantatious high end shopping but true class and charme.

So, if you haven´t been yet, make sure you go and find out yourself when you are in London again...

One Day by David Nicholls

Somewhere I read that this apparently is Britains "best loved book"...I had seen it in the bookshops for quite a while and when I read that it finally had been turned into a film, I thought it was time to read it (thanks to Oxfam I could get it for 2£).

Here is the plot (taken from wikipedia):

Dexter and Emma spend the night together following their graduation from Edinburgh University in 1988. Though they do not become romantically involved, they become friends and in subsequent years, their lives take them in different directions, but they keep in contact. The novel visits their lives on July 15 in successive years in each chapter for 20 years.
Emma becomes a waitress in Kentish Town at a horrible Tex-Mex restaurant, while Dexter becomes a successful television presenter. Gradually, Emma fulfills her ambitions, first as a teacher and then as a bestselling novelist. Conversely, Dexter's career collapses, going from presenting a mainstream television show, to cable TV, to being fired from a late-night video games review show.
Each of the main characters have relationships with others, such as Emma with an unfunny stand-up comedian boyfriend Ian, and Dexter with a fellow TV presenter. By 2001, Emma has broken up with Ian, and Dexter has divorced wife Sylvie with whom he has had a daughter, Jasmine. The cause of the divorce is Sylvie's infidelity with Callum, one of Dexter's university friends. After the divorce Dexter goes to Paris to visit Emma, where she is writing her second book.
When they meet in Paris, they confront their relationship and whether becoming lovers is the right choice, after all the years they have been friends and with all the complications such a transition would make.

The structure is what makes this book so exciting to read. In each chapter the situation for Emma and Dexter was sort of new again as a whole year had passed. Sometimes I was hoping for them to finally come together, sometimes I thought it would be best if they would end their realtionship. Sometimes I thought Dexter was a complete asshole, sometimes I found Emma highly annoying. But always believable and always convincing.The language is beautiful (in my opinion) and there were more than one passage were I thought "I have to copy that, that is exactly how I feel!". Those are the magical moments when reading a book, aren´t they?
A truly marvellous novel with an upsetting end. But so worth reading and I promise you - even after finishing the book the characters will still haunt your mind every now and then.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


Just have seen that my blog has 20 followers now - thank you very much, hope you will stay with me and see where the road leads us to...and as I don´t like all the songs youtube recommended when I searched "celebrate", I picked a random favourite of mine which never fails to spread some good mood :-)

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Monsieur Propre est un personnage de fiction...

I love shopping for food and everyday stuff in different countries. The joy is only diminished as nowadays you find the same brands pretty much everywhere in the world. How boring! I guess I´m something like an anti-globalisation shopping addict.
Anyway, if you search hard enough and have an eye for the detail you can still find unusual items.On my roadtrip from England to Germany I had plenty of opportunity:

Mr. Propre, the well known cleaning brand in the smell "Savon de Marseille". I don´t know why I wanted to sniff this one (although I seem to be the one constantly sniffing on fabric softeners, cleaning products, shower gels, etc...) but: the most perfect of scents! Smells lemony and like a pine tree at the same time. Smells like I want to bath in it not just clean my flat. So from now on call me decadent: If I need to stock up on a universal cleaner I will always travel to France now first ;-)

15 questions... found at Miss W's wonderful blog

1. Have you ever shared a duvet in bed?
yes, in good old English tradition we only have one duvet

2.Can you watch horror films?
no, and I don't want to. Watched "The Ring" once...without sound and with my eyes mostly covered...still haunting me so I don't see the point in watching things that make me feel bad

3. You find it awkward to get complimented on something?
sometimes yes. I don't like being in the centre of attention...but I hate being ignored too. Guess I'm complicated ;-)

4. Did you have a bad dream last night?
fortunately not. But I dream nearly every night and only the most weird, upsetting, surreal and repetitive things...could talk for hours about all the dreams I remember

5. Do you have a song in your head right now?
yes, the last song I watched on youtube

6. The way you look right now, could you go out?
If the house would be on fire, sure. But for any other event tracksuit bottoms, fluffy slippers and panda eyes wouldn't be a good look

7. Would you like to have a small pet dog to carry around in a bag?
no, don't really fancy having a dog in general. I'm a cat lover. But I would take the LV bag those dogs seem to come in ;-)

8. Are you friendly towards everyone? have my moments ;-) If I don't wanna talk, I don't wanna talk. But I always say thank you and mean it if e.g. someone holds a door open.

9. Do you eat meat?
yes, but I often think about stopping.

10. Nutella or peanut butter?
both! but not on the same slice of bread of course

11. You have something at home which you don't actually own?
library books, my husbands iPod cable which I took with me by mistake

12. Last time you consumed alcohol?
dinner, when I used white wine for making a mushroom sauce

13. Are you  a singer?
not really. Not that many wrong notes but just not a singer's voice. Doesn't stop me from karaoke or Singstar though...

14. Do you want kids?
yes! Fairly soon and not just one

15. Why are filling in this questionnaire?
in order to avoid working on my urgent uni paper

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The devil is in the details...

A while ago when browsing through a duty free shop I witnessed a memorable scene. In front of me was a priest, dressed in the obvious black suit with the white little thingy instead of a tie...he looked through the men's perfume range and: decided on a bottle of Calvin Klein's "Obsession"...what an interesting choice that was!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Second Hand Treasure III

In the Oxfam bookshop on Marylebone High Street (thank you Miss W for making me aware of this charming street so central and still so non-touristy) I found this gem a few weeks ago. A Baedeker travel guide for Northern Germany from the year 1890 (!!!). A few pages are lose and it is not in the best condition but who cares. I'm not a collector, for me it's the history and the inside that counts.

So if you were planning to travel to anywhere north of Frankfurt you had found the perfect guide full of helpful tips, folded maps and adresses so you know what to do, where to eat and where to stay.

"..the fact that German railways are generally well organised..."

"A slight aquaintance with German is indispensable for those who desire to explore the more remote districts of Germany..."

"A waiter's mental arithmetic is faulty, and the faults are seldom in favour of the traveller."

"Large popular gatherings take place at Sternecker's Schloss Weissensee, but it is hardly advisable for ladies to encounter the crowd."

There are thousands more sweet, innocent, historically significant and entertaining facts to explore. I would have never known e.g. that already there were vegetarian restaurants and a tapas bar in Berlin, that there was a fashion for traditional Bavarian beer halls and that you needed a passport to travel in case there was the "minor state of siege" (kleine Belagerungszustand) existing...

A book to lose yourself in for days...makes you wanna time-travel, makes you dream...and makes you sad and uncomfortable when you read about a sight like the synagogue or shops called "Benjamin" and think that back then they all were unaware of all the horror going to happen 45 years later...

A wonderful find that will keep me reading again and again. Travelling through Berlin now with this book as a companion, that would be amazing.
Looking out for the Southern Germany edition now...

where: Oxfam Books, Marylebone High Street, London
price: 5£

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Tea for Two

Sometimes you see slightly odd things during the day.
On monday I sat in the local Costa and wrote in my diary while enjoying my coffee.
A young woman, slender, with dark longish hair, modern glasses and on crutches sat on one of the window tables. She had two small portions of tea on her tray. First she poured the tea of the one pot into her cup and drank it...and then she drank the tea out of pot number 2 in cup number 2. A completely insignificant and harmless scene probably not overlooked by anyone else but me. But I wondered: Did she expect someone who didn't turn up? Did something with her order got messed up and she got one pot too much? Was she just in the mood for maybe two different sorts of tea? Or is it even some sort of ritual to always drink for two in memory of something or someone?
I will never find out...but it reminded me a bit of the story in SATC series 6 episode 6 when Carrie does the jury work and watches the old man having a fruit which you can't eat as a snack in his suitcase.

"Hey, you're never going to believe it. Do you know the mango guy?
He pulled out... / A pineapple?
A coconut."

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

That really is a tricky one. After having absolutely adored "The time traveller's wife" and being inspired by my recent visit of Highgate cemetery I finally started reading Niffeneggers second novel "Her fearful symmetry". First of all a plot summary taken from

When Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer, she leaves her London apartment to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. These two American girls never met their English aunt, only knew that their mother, too, was a twin, and Elspeth her sister. Julia and Valentina are semi-normal American teenagers--with seemingly little interest in college, finding jobs, or anything outside their cozy home in the suburbs of Chicago, and with an abnormally intense attachment to one another.
The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders Highgate Cemetery in London. They come to know the building's other residents. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword puzzle setter suffering from crippling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Marjike, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including--perhaps--their aunt, who can't seem to leave her old apartment and life behind.
Niffenegger weaves a captivating story in Her Fearful Symmetry about love and identity, about secrets and sisterhood, and about the tenacity of life--even after death. 

I finished the book late last night and I hardly ever feel/felt so much in two minds about a novel as this time. The atmosphere, the setting, the writing - it all convinced me and made me wanna read on and on. The descriptions of Highgate itself are a bit as if you would be on a tour again. In front of my inner eye I have a clear image of Vautravers House and I can't wait to explore more of Highgate and the cemetery again. 

The characters are more or less the first big letdown. They are often one-dimensional (especially the heroines) and seem to be too unreal and cold to allow the reader to sympathise with them. I'm sure it would have helped if e.g. Robert would have had some "real" young and ordinary friends out of flesh and blood, the twins would have had jobs and hobbies and if Elspeth would have been presented as a bit more friendly and likeable character. They all seemed so out of this world but lacking colour and life to be convincing.

It is next to impossible to criticize the plot without spoiling it for future readers. Just saying so much: It starts ok, has some interesting twists, starts some threads without dealing with them proper, comes to some rushed and weird conclusions and towards the ends results in a big knot of implausible, naive and stupid facts and twists. Do the twins have friends in the US? Why is Julia interested in helping Martin?? Why does Elspeth give in to Valentina's wish??? Why does it end as it ends????
Why on earth no one of the editors involved saved Niffenegger from that crashlanding we will probably never know... I'm sure the friends of Highgate don't wanna see her about as a tourguide after that again...let's wait for novel number 3.

Strangely I quite enjoyed reading it and never was at the point of giving up on it but what was roughly the last quarter of the story left me wondering "wtf?!?" more than once...A shame to have wasted the eloquent descriptions and dense atmosphere for a plot like this!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Going to the chapel...

...gonna get married!

After shooting my first wedding last september quite succesfully (I'm not bragging - just got some very positive feedback and if the couple likes them, what more do you want!?) I got another chance this year. Together with my also photographing husband we took loads of photos at my friends church ceremony and had the honour of accompanying them all day long .
Hoping for many more weddings to come...what a shame though that not every bride will be as photogenic as my dear friend and namesake :-) What a great day it was...