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 What are you reading currently? 
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Post Re: What are you reading currently?
I am ashamed to say I do not know anything about her. I did not even see the film starring Audrey Tautou. It is a shame because I am very interested in fashion. I am fascinated with the 20/30s, and the artists of that time (namely the singer Maurice Chevalier, who used to be hugely popular in the States...

I remember having a discussion on this very thread with Delicate Fleur, and I was apprised of Chanel's controversial involvement with the French colaborationist authorities, which, as wrote Délicate Fleur, forced her to flee France subsequently. I also know she was very much fond of men -German, French ... It reminds me of the French singer Minstinguette's notorious retort, as she was blamed for having carried on with various German soldiersra during the war "my soul is for France but my ass is international". Not that I approve of this kind of behaviour, but that is pretty funnily put.

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Wed Jun 06, 2012 2:51 am
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Post Re: What are you reading currently?
That's hysterical!!
Chanel is a pretty interesting character. This is only the second book I've read about her, so my knowledge isn't extensive. She lied about her background for most of her life, telling several different stories as it suited her.


Wed Jun 06, 2012 3:33 am
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Post Re: What are you reading currently?
I tend to double-team and read a work of nonfiction while also having a novel on hand. When I get sick of one and dive for the other.

Right now for nonfiction I'm reading George Henry Lewes' The Life of Maximilien Robespierre. It's a piece of history in itself because it is (allegedly) the first biography of Robespierre that had ever been published in English. Hoorah!

Fictionwise, I'm still dabbling in the historical. I got my hands on Juliet Gray's new Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow: A Novel of Marie Antoinette. I know many people here frown on novels about their favorite French queen, but so far it's not bad although I sometimes feel like Marie Antoinette, although a fascinating woman to read about in a biography, fails to make a good literary character. To me powerful fiction is driven by a decisive protagonist, whose decisions directly influence the next twist of the plot. The tragedy of Marie Antoinette is that she didn't really have many decisions to make, and that the world sort of just bubbled around her. A novel has to be exceptionally well written to overcome this pitfall. Juliet Gray doesn't quite meet the challenge, but she doesn't completely fall flat on her face. I'd recommend it to read when you're not in the mood to do some heavy thinking, to just sit back and enjoy.

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Sat Jun 16, 2012 6:19 pm
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Post Re: What are you reading currently?
Vive wrote:
I tend to double-team and read a work of nonfiction while also having a novel on hand. When I get sick of one and dive for the other.

Right now for nonfiction I'm reading George Henry Lewes' The Life of Maximilien Robespierre. It's a piece of history in itself because it is (allegedly) the first biography of Robespierre that had ever been published in English. Hoorah!

Fictionwise, I'm still dabbling in the historical. I got my hands on Juliet Gray's new Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow: A Novel of Marie Antoinette. I know many people here frown on novels about their favorite French queen, but so far it's not bad although I sometimes feel like Marie Antoinette, although a fascinating woman to read about in a biography, fails to make a good literary character. To me powerful fiction is driven by a decisive protagonist, whose decisions directly influence the next twist of the plot. The tragedy of Marie Antoinette is that she didn't really have many decisions to make, and that the world sort of just bubbled around her. A novel has to be exceptionally well written to overcome this pitfall. Juliet Gray doesn't quite meet the challenge, but she doesn't completely fall flat on her face. I'd recommend it to read when you're not in the mood to do some heavy thinking, to just sit back and enjoy.


I would not frown upon a novel just because it is a fiction - you can definitely grasp a few interesting elements and writers usually have a knack for depicting the past in a very vivid way. In any case, the borderline between history and literature is sometimes blurred, if you judge by what a few biographers dare to write.

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Sun Jun 17, 2012 4:31 am
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Post Re: What are you reading currently?
Well you happen to be preaching to the choir. I was just covering my bases because I do recall a flush of posts complaining about MA novels. Meanwhile, historical fiction is my favorite genre. I'm taking a 50 book summer reading challenge, which I know I won't complete because life, and if a work on my list isn't a memoir or biography, it's probably historical fiction. I think as long as the reader is aware that what they're reading is a work of fiction and not a legitimate source of information they're just harmless fun.

Edit: I finished the Marie Antoinette novel, hoorah. It was enjoyable and light. If I was pressed to nitpick, I'd have to say that I think the novelist sat down, concluded that the Revolutionaries sputtered propaganda, and concluded that therefore everything that they ever said was lie. Don't get me wrong, a lot of things were. But lemme give you an example: We all know the story of the Tennis Court Oath, where the Assembly, locked out of their normal meeting place, just went to a gaming court and there swore to the Constitution. In this book, it was all a huge misunderstanding you see. And before any of you try to argue that the author has a point, and it is highly likely the court was closed due to the mandated grieving for the dauphin --- I concede that as entirely 100% possible. If that was the contention presented, I wouldn't have batted an eye. But this wasn't the argument the author brought to the table.

Instead, the monarchy was doing renovations that had to be done in order to make the chamber more bearable for the new Assembly. The monarchy just wanted to make the people who were threatening to strip the throne of some of its power more comfortable. Yes, this is reasonable! Why wouldn't that have happened? Such a little thing, but it made me coil a little. I liked the book, but I'm a little concerned what the author's going to do for the final book in the trilogy. If the pattern holds I bet Marie Antoinette doesn't write to her Austrian Emperor brother for assistance, but just to see how he's doing.

And this isn't just my unapologetic and bias talking here. I love Marie Antoinette, hence my presence. But some of the revolutionary charges, if true, don't damn her to infamy - actually they give the queen a respectable backbone. From her perspective, jarring the wheels of Revolution is what is best for the country and her family. We don't need to whitewash anything she or Louis does to meet that goal. Quite the opposite.

Oh, and the novel said that Robespierre was one of the rabble rousers in the Estates General and I was just like "Oh, no, they haven't even realized his name isn't Robert yet, let alone think he is of any importance whatsoever" but that's just me nitpicking to the hyper-extreme. Which I do. All the time.
---

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Sun Jun 17, 2012 8:54 pm
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Post Re: What are you reading currently?
I have finally gotten round to reading Susan Nagel's book on Marie Therese. I'm also reading a book called The Wisdom Of Crowds (about group decision-making and thinking), but I'm not finding it as interesting as the first time around. I rarely read fiction these days, it's sometimes hard for me to get into it.

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Mon Jun 25, 2012 10:33 am
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Post Re: What are you reading currently?
Queen Margot wrote:
I have finally gotten round to reading Susan Nagel's book on Marie Therese.

I started that one and couldn't finish it. Not for any deep ideological reasons or dissatisfaction with the style, it just seemed as though the 'story' (if nonfiction can be given that moniker) was not as interesting after the Revolutionary furvor receded and the princess was delivered across the border. I feel guilty for citing 'attention span' as a reason to put down the book, but I to be blunt, once I saw Madame Royale safe and sound I didn't care anymore. But that's just me speaking with my low attention span and irreconcilable interest in the Revolution (Oh, you guys are done now? Well I'm going home then.) How are you enjoying it?

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Mon Jun 25, 2012 7:37 pm
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Post Re: What are you reading currently?
Vive wrote:
Queen Margot wrote:
I have finally gotten round to reading Susan Nagel's book on Marie Therese.

I started that one and couldn't finish it. Not for any deep ideological reasons or dissatisfaction with the style, it just seemed as though the 'story' (if nonfiction can be given that moniker) was not as interesting after the Revolutionary furvor receded and the princess was delivered across the border. I feel guilty for citing 'attention span' as a reason to put down the book, but I to be blunt, once I saw Madame Royale safe and sound I didn't care anymore. But that's just me speaking with my low attention span and irreconcilable interest in the Revolution (Oh, you guys are done now? Well I'm going home then.) How are you enjoying it?


I have just now come to the part where she arrives in Vienna, so I will see how things go from here. There have already been bits of the book that I thought were a little long-winded, but so far it's the writing style that kinda bugs me. I find it a little sensationalist at times and maybe too novel-like. So far so good though, I haven't experienced the burning desire to put it down yet :D

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Thu Jun 28, 2012 5:46 am
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Post Re: What are you reading currently?
Queen Margot wrote:
Vive wrote:
Queen Margot wrote:
I have finally gotten round to reading Susan Nagel's book on Marie Therese.

I started that one and couldn't finish it. Not for any deep ideological reasons or dissatisfaction with the style, it just seemed as though the 'story' (if nonfiction can be given that moniker) was not as interesting after the Revolutionary furvor receded and the princess was delivered across the border. I feel guilty for citing 'attention span' as a reason to put down the book, but I to be blunt, once I saw Madame Royale safe and sound I didn't care anymore. But that's just me speaking with my low attention span and irreconcilable interest in the Revolution (Oh, you guys are done now? Well I'm going home then.) How are you enjoying it?


I have just now come to the part where she arrives in Vienna, so I will see how things go from here. There have already been bits of the book that I thought were a little long-winded, but so far it's the writing style that kinda bugs me. I find it a little sensationalist at times and maybe too novel-like. So far so good though, I haven't experienced the burning desire to put it down yet :D


In regards to sensationalism I certainly didn't appreciate it repeating the propaganda that Robespierre was planning on marrying Madame Royale. "Oh, it can't be substantiated with any evidence aside from Robespierre's reluctance to execute one royal? I'll put it in my book on the princess anyway. The best way to honor the Bourbon dynasty is to spread propaganda like it's true. That is EXACTLY what the royals, especially Marie Antoinette, would want." It's a bit of a double standard some of these books have. They go out of their way to dispel every lie told about Marie Antoinette because they were made up by her revolutionary enemies, but since the royals said Robespierre had a skin factory, Lucile Desmoullins slept with literally every Jacobin, and Danton singlehandedly organized the September Massacres it must be true. Propaganda is propaganda and everyone does it, there isn't one side that is honest and one that's lying. They both lie about different things and we have to figure out just what those things are, not just throw them into biographies because it makes out subjects' plight more dramatic.

Anyway, since you hit 'Vienna' you've essentially reached my point of no return. I think you're right in regards to it being like a 'novel'. Usually this wouldn't trouble me, but novels have a tendency to be organized properly in terms of dramatic tension. Biographies, since they are about a life that rarely is organized 'action' 'rising action' 'climax' can be excused if they seem disjointed. But since it seemed like a novel, the replacement of the threat of death with 'who should I marry?' just seemed completely disjarring and after fretting about Marie Therese's life for half the book, worrying about whether she'd catch a suitable husband just seemed anticlimactic. If it hadn't been written like a Philippa Gregory steamfest it would probably have been excusable. Please tell me when you finish if it's worth picking back up again. :D

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Thu Jun 28, 2012 4:30 pm
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Post Re: What are you reading currently?
LOL. The sensationalism is supposed to make everything more dramatic, which in turn is probably an attempt to keep readers interested in what is essentially an unknown historical figure. The book is just not meant for well-informed readers, which I expected and that might be why I can still control my annoyance.

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Fri Jun 29, 2012 5:46 am
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Post Re: What are you reading currently?
Queen Margot wrote:
LOL. The sensationalism is supposed to make everything more dramatic, which in turn is probably an attempt to keep readers interested in what is essentially an unknown historical figure. The book is just not meant for well-informed readers, which I expected and that might be why I can still control my annoyance.


Yeah, but say someone wrote a book about Danton and to justify his support of the revolution they drew Marie Antoinette as an Agrippa who was literally spending her country into ruin because she wanted to crush France to initiate Austrian conquest. We'd be miffed, to say the least. But, the author could argue, they read it in a contemporary pamphlet. So that means it's fair game, right, right? No. Propaganda should be dismissed as such and not used to make for an entertaining work of non-fiction. :angry4: For that matter, it really shouldn't be used in fiction either but at least novels aren't passing themselves off as legitimate pools of information.

Gaw, maybe that was why I put the book down. I say it was because I got bored but maybe I was just indignant. I should talk to Freud about this...

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Fri Jun 29, 2012 6:57 am
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Post Re: What are you reading currently?
First off, it's been awhile I visited so I'm reading all the old posts...

I read Susan Nagel's book after it came out--borrowed it from the library. I found it interesting since I didn't know much about Madame Royale especially after the Revolution ended.
I'd like to point out there's an older thread discussing the book somewhere here...


Sun Jul 08, 2012 8:43 pm
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Post Re: What are you reading currently?
I'm now reading Alan Schom's Napoleon Bonaparte. It moves very quickly and I'm definitely enjoying it so far. However, most biographies I read these days tend to end (at the very latest) July 28th, 1794 with the culmination of Thermidor. It's sort of amusing to see Thermidor, an event I'm used to seeing explained in assiduous detail over twenty pages at the tail-end of a biography, happen almost incidentally on page 24, with more than 800 pages to go!

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Sat Sep 15, 2012 5:38 pm
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Post Re: What are you reading currently?
Amongst other things Decision points by George W. Bush.

Whether or not you like the guy, I found his style to be sharp and he at least finally proved that he was far from being a moron. A Yale and Harvard graduate, George Bush is in fact fond of History and reads a lot, even though the conclusions he draws from his various readings and travels lack nuances. His has that typical American worldliness I like: his style is witty, funny but never cynical or mean spirited.

So many moments I laughed at. When he dwells on his problems with alcohol : invited to a chic dinner, he sat next to a prim and proper lady and blurted out " so, how is sex like after 50 ?"

His vision of international relations cut no ice with me as he tends to believe they are based on relationships between individuals. I found it very 19 century like, and frankly the tale of his friendships with Putin, Blair and Merkel was over the top. So was his assertion that Guatanamo Bay was slightly worse than a holiday resort.

As a French person, I was obviously eager to hear about his relationship with Jacques Chirac. It is a well-known fact that France was at the forefront of the opposition to the war in Iraq, which was illustrated by Mr de Villepin’s flamboyant speech at the UN Security Council – the speech was applauded, in spite of the fact that applauses are generally frowned upon in such circumstances. Chirac was a staunch opponent of the freedom agenda and even on a personal level, it was patent that his relationship with President Bush were, to say the least, strained.

George Bush is very honest about it, and it is patent that he did not like the guy. He went so far as to mentioning a few throwaway comments made by Chirac with regards to Yasser Arafat, corruption in Africa, and Ukraine, which I found slightly embarrassing. I found Chirac, for all his distaste of George Bush, to be much classier when he dealt with him in his own Mémoires.

A funny moment though: "Jacques Chirac and I did not agree on much. The French president opposed removing Saddam Hussein. He called Yasser Arafat a man of courage. At one meeting he told me "Ukraine is part of Russia". So it came as quite a surprise when I found an area of agreement (...) In 2004 Chirac brought up democracy in the Middle East and I braced myself for another lecture. But he continued: "In this region, there are just two democracies. One is strong, Israel. The other is fragile : Lebanon." I did not mention that he had left out a new democracy: Iraq."

I was disappointed he said only a few words about Sarkozy, even though he invited him at his place. But all he said was positive, praising his dynamism.

Like any right minded politician, Bush gets away with more than a few white lies and half-truths. The funniest of which was that he spontaneously answered to the question “who is your favorite historical figure” by mentioning Jesus. I have always thought this answer was prepared and meant to pander to the ultra-religious wing of the Republican Party. It was also highly hypocritical to blame France and Russia for their friendly relations with Saddam Hussein, which were due to the oil contracts they had clinched, when it is blatant that the war in Iraq was at least partly due to the oil reserves the country is affluent in. Bush does have a point however when he bashes France soft position on Iraq : how on earth are you supposed to frighten Saddam Hussein if you do not have anything concrete in mind to back up your threat ?

All in all, Bush is not too critical of his administration; his style and political thought are clear-cut and sometimes verge on the caricature. I found it interesting however to shed a new light on his presidency, which was often said to be one of the worst in American history. Especially, with regards to the Middle East and the war in Iraq, the political line resorted to by the Obama admistration and the French government in Libya should in my book qualify the overall negative view of the policy of the Bush administration.

Also, I think it was nice that the guy was given a chance to underline the real successes of his presidency in terms of balance of budgets, improvement of the public school system (no child left behind), fight against AID in Africa, health care reform and tax cuts at home.

Whatever the Americans think about his administration -and I feel a final decision should be reached only after 20 years or so-, the Bush administration was one of the most controversial presidency in American history, so reading the opinion of the person in charge is not a luxury.

I liked his final word so much : " Whatever the verdict on my presidency, I am comfortable with the fact that I won't be around to hear it. That's a decision point only history will reach."

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Tue Sep 18, 2012 10:38 am
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Post Re: What are you reading currently?
Ooops. It cast a chill. :|

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Tue Sep 18, 2012 8:28 pm
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